At Perfection's Feet

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

mayon skyline

Like the bottles of soda in the back of the multicab, my nerves were a-rattle. There was a nagging thought at the back of my mind as yet to be fully formed, but already it was frustrating me.

I scowled at the windshield. Beyond the glass, the road stretched. It was flanked by swaths of farmland from where the roadside piles of cabbages and squash had likely come from. A verdant hill loomed in the distance – I could just make out the teeny white of a dome almost lost among the green. Beyond the hill, thick clouds gathered. The haze seemed to spill into the road as we approached, descending with a startling chill which did nothing to help me make sense of my thoughts.

After what felt like a long time, the truck's engine finally shuddered to a stop. I stepped out of the vehicle and there it was – that nagging feeling again. 

"I think I've been here before," I told my bestfriend Tophee as we climbed up a set of stone steps, towards the white domed building that was the Mayon Planetarium.
tabaco albay

We did not go inside, however, merely settling on one of the several observation decks around the Science Park. We were 854 meters above sea level, right at the foot of the country's most active volcano. Within its six-kilometer "permanent danger zone", to boot. 

What I said merely went over Tophee. Ignoring me, he proceeded to take pictures of what was before us. I really couldn't blame him. The sky was brimming with clouds but it was still quite picturesque. The whole of Tabaco spread out in a grid – order in chaos. Cast like an astronomical spotlight was a ray of sun, and wisps of vapor softened the edges of things. I noticed he was angling his camera towards a massive silhouette and, all of a sudden, like a flash of bright light, it all came rushing in. I understood what the annoying, persistent feeling was. I could finally scratch the proverbial itch.

Deja vu. I have been here before.

The click of Tophee's camera jilted me from my thoughts. 

"That's not Mayon," I blurted out, almost obnoxiously.

He blinked. "What?"

I knew he took the cloud-covered mountain in the distance for the volcano. I was sure of it, by the way he was hoisting his camera. I pivoted and pointed up.

"That's the Mayon," I announced with pride. The volcano was not at the distance. We were at its feet. It was right behind us. 

But Tophee did not look impressed. I followed his gaze and saw why. Just like most of our view, Mayon was shrouded in clumps of clouds. All we could see were bits of its perfect cone.
mayon skyline tabaco albay

Perhaps I was wrong. Perhaps it was not deja vu I felt; maybe it was a sign of impending disappointment. 

The last time I was here – I could remember it clearly now – Mayon was also a no-show. In fact, of the many times I'd went to see the volcano, I had only seen it in all of its unobstructed glory a couple of times.

But I never did take it personally. 

Proximity isn't a guarantee. You may be standing right next to the thing you desire but that does not equate to you possessing it. In the grand scheme of things, you being there does not really amount to much. Attendance does not get you good grades. Effort does. And dedication. Sometimes, even these would not be enough. Sometimes – and this one's a little hard to take – it all boils down to pure dumb luck. 

"Let me take photos of you instead," offered Tophee.

I smiled. I guess it all comes down to perspective. Most may brand geological symmetry as perfection. Some even see it in a pretty face. But what is perfection, really? Is it not as subjective as beauty? Is its definition not as relative?

Maybe that was what I was feeling, a reminder that Mayon's perfection should be taken as a lesson. Everything else dims in comparison in its presence, yes, for it is grand and indomitable. But for the same exact reason, it knows how to yield, to be self-effacing. It is secured enough to not mind being in the background. After all, when it shows up, boy does it show up
celine reyes travel writer

Storytime is a series of  stories about my most memorable travel experiences. Read more here.

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