Pil-Im, of course, stands for "Pilipino immigrant," and it's a play on "Pil-Am" (Pilipino-American).

The Pil-Im Perspective: Then as now, Mayon Volcano bewitches with its charm

By Lorenzo Paran III

One disadvantage of coming over as an adult to live in the U.S. is that it makes adjusting to a different culture just a tad difficult. When you grow up to be a certain age, you get used to doing certain things and dealing with certain people in a certain way. Moving to live in a different country throws everything off. That is why migrating (whether it’s to the U.S. or elsewhere) is not for everyone. It takes a special breed of people to thrive in new surroundings.

One advantage of coming over as an adult to live in the U.S. is that you don’t miss the Philippines too much. When you grow up to be a certain age, you feel as if you have seen the Philippines. This is how I feel. I came here when I was in my early 30s, and by that time I had done much traveling in the Philippines—though, truthfully, not enough. But the thing is, when it comes to traveling—whether it’s in a different country or the homeland—it’s never enough. I doubt if anyone can visit all the places worth seeing in any one country. Well, maybe if you did that full time, you can—but, tell me, who can afford to do that? Even hosts of travel shows on TV must move on to other places.

But, yes, the Philippines.

I consider myself lucky to have woken up each day of my life until I graduated from high school next to a window that looked out to the beautiful Mayon Volcano, often said to be the world’s only perfect cone volcano. It’s easy to see why. On a clear day, it really does look like a perfect cone, more than any other volcano does, at least. Although a 1984 eruption left a deep gash on its eastern slope, from certain angles, it’s retained its signature shape and ability to take one’s breath away.

This was the view from my hometown of Daraga, Albay, a small but bustling municipality about 15 miles from the foot of the volcano. The town is far enough that it doesn’t have the large boulders spewed out by the volcano in past eruptions, which other closer towns have, but it’s close enough to get a sprinkling of ash whenever Mayon wakes up from a slumber. And it’s close enough for one to see at night the glow of a lava flow, still one of the best sights one could ever have anywhere, ever.

And as if that weren’t enough, just a hop over to Legazpi City, there’s a hill famous in the local community because it offers an even closer and higher vantage point for looking at Mayon. It’s called Lignon Hill.

Looking back, it really does seem serendipitous that the city that offers the best view of the volcano would also have a hill, the only one for miles in any direction, that provides the perfect viewing platform for sight-seers—as if it was all preordained. It’s as if nature said: here, if you want an even better view of this volcano (“Mayon,” by the way, comes from “magayon,” the Bikol word for beautiful), just climb this hill. And take all your guests here, too, that they may see just how beautiful the volcano is.

I climbed this hill with my friends when I was young, and a majestic view of the volcano waited for those hardy enough to make it all the way to the top. Incidentally, this hill, since the idyllic days of my youth, has been developed into a fully functioning tourist attraction. A winding road has been carved all the way to the top, where now there is not only a café but also a zip-line for the “adventurous.” I was there in 2010, during a trip to see my hometown, and I thought, Lignon Hill as it stands now, is a far cry from the muddy, lonely hill I climbed in my youth. But then I thought it was but one sign that many things have changed since those days. Another was that I was there not as a young scraggly boy looking for adventure, but a man full grown, visiting from a distant land.

But the view up to now is the same. Finely chiseled, blue-gray and majestic in its sheer size, Mayon enchants all lookers and turns them into admirers in a split-second. Incidentally, it’s often said that Mayon doesn’t always show itself to anyone. True enough, like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, there are days when it sits shrouded in clouds, and tourists wish they would have more luck the next day.

(To be continued)

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The author, Lorenzo Paran III, writes about the Filipino-American life on his blog, http://pinoyinamerica.blogspot.com.