To conduct a journalism seminar in Goa, Camarines Sur on a Thursday, we flew in through Legazpi, drove north to Goa, and then took the return flight, the following day, from Naga.
The Legazpi airport must have the most impressive welcome mat in the entire archipelago: the always-coy Mayon volcano. It was — how shall I say this — an irresistible sight, even on my third visit to the city. While waiting for our luggage, I couldn’t stop looking at it. On the way to Goa, we stopped at a popular eatery, famous for its tasty dinuguan. I am certain the fact that right across the street stood a busy-looking funeral parlor was merely one of those wish-you-were-here-to-see-this coincidences.
The Philippine Science High School – Bicol Region Campus is a top-flight school, judging from the quality of its students. Judging from the unfinished infrastructure, it looked anything but (apparently, the money for capital expenditure had run out, although operational funds, I was assured, flowed steadily). We met at the multi-purpose assembly hall, which served as the hub of school activity, and were feted with a full-blown program, including an opening prayer performance. During the seminar itself, the select audience was keen and attentive — and threw rather interesting questions. "If journalists are engaged in the pursuit of truth, why do you have libel suits?" Easy enough to answer, but you could quickly see there was a lot of thinking that went into it. (Not for nothing did the eight-year-old school top the last Philippine Science Olympiad.) The school is nestled on the slopes of Mt. Isarog; it is a bracing location, but also vulnerable to the elements. When typhoon "Milenyo" struck, the school found itself without electricity and cellphone signal for eight days. In the middle of a clearing, right before the first school building, we could see another of the storm’s casualties: a broken tree.
Afterwards, on the way to Naga, I was happy enough to be able to catch the exact quality of afternoon sunlight on my trusty F10. This is exactly the way it looked, and it reminded me then of the way late afternoons in my childhood looked, whether it was in the playgrounds of Cagayan de Oro or in our backyard in General Santos or in the school quadrangle in Davao.
Thursday night, I met Willy Prilles for dinner; he was still a bit under the weather, and if you click on our photo, taken at the same hotel where I stayed two years ago when I covered the FPJ campaign rally, you can see the glass of lemonade he had ordered. But he was positively crackling with electric excitement, when he answered my many questions about his work in education. I went back to my hotel, about three short blocks away, all charged up.
The view from the Naga airport is not as breathtaking as the one from Legazpi, but it isn’t bad either. I’ve found that mountains have a pulling effect on me, and Isarog was no different. Not much later, when we took off, I caught sight of bustling, high-flying Naga, spreading its wings.