The Restorative Power of Mount Mayon

What is the longest period of time you’ve gone without a shower? A day? A week? A month? (Kudos to you!) Do you remember how you felt? Do you remember how it felt when you finally felt clean?

No? Let me describe it for you.

It was a warm morning when we got over the hilly mountain roads out of Caramoan. I slowly navigated narrow “city” streets clogged with jeepneys and slow-moving trikes. It took about four hours to finally reach Legazpi, another more sprawling congested city.

I’m feeling lethargic with illness. It was as if a nasty cold, hay fever, and seasonal allergies all conspired to have a baby and that baby was my illness, which I carried with me the entire first half of the trip. My hair was dark with grease; it hadn’t been washed properly since we left Manila. My pores were so clogged with DEET and sunscreen that I probably didn’t need to reapply it every morning.

Our road trip soundtrack still featured Macklemore, now punctuated with hearty sniffles and the occasional lung-hacking cough. Sarah was probably thrilled.

As we turned a corner, following the GPS to the Oriental hotel, I wondered what this accommodation had in store. Hotels sprung up occasionally along the street, low squat buildings that didn’t make any promises. I wasn’t expecting much at this point, but the GPS seemed to be directing us out of town, toward a hill where a few flags flapped in the breeze in front of a grand establishment.

“Sarah…do you think that’s it? On the hill?”

The road curved up, and we stared, agog.

“No way…”

Our GPS announced we’d reached our destination as we pulled into an actual paved parking lot behind the hotel, complete with bright modern art and a majestic view of both sprawling Legazpi and the perfectly symmetrical Mount Mayon.

Our room featured two separate double beds and – be still my heart! – a real bathroom! (In fact, we’d been so taken by the bathroom that as we drove, Sarah said, “The only thing I remember about this place is the toilet. It’s square.” To which I replied, “And it has a lid.”)

“There’s a shower door! The shower has a door!” she squealed.

Indeed, the shower nozzle did not point directly at the sink. In fact, the shower was big enough to walk in.

“I might be a while,” I told her. “I might pace back and forth for bit just because I can.”

To cap it off, our sliding glass doors opened onto a spacious balcony which offered stunning views of Mount Mayon. Glimpsing down onto the hotel property, we spied an infinity pool.

Forget showers. We quickly changed into our swimsuits and jetted down to the pool, which was clean, warm, and allowed us to float around while staring at Mount Mayon.

You might be wondering what’s so spectacular about Mount Mayon. It’s a perfectly formed volcano often featured on Philippines travel guides. It’s also the default background for my iTyphoon app, which tracks typhoons. (Weird choice of a background for an ocean storm-tracking app, I know.) It’s still active, last erupting in August of 2014, but you can sign up for risky excursions like ATV-ing or hikes – though you can only hike so far before they turn you around because of sulphuric gases. Sign me up!


Stunning symmetry.


I am in awe of the splendor of Mt Mayon! (Photo by Sarah)


Friends, cold drink, great view.

Two gin and tonics topped our relaxed moods. Almost immediately, I felt a change in attitude. Swimming and chatting and not driving around or cooking breakfast in a sweltering sun really kicks relaxation up a notch.

The shower did not disappoint. I stepped underneath the rain shower and felt my sticky hair – which contained a surprising amount of sand – warming up under the water. It was the best shampoo/conditioner/soap scrub I could’ve asked for. I was in there for quite some time, but when you haven’t showered in five days, you’ve got your work cut out for you.

I ventured down to the hotel restaurant to write for a while, since I hadn’t found time at any other point on the trip. Sarah joined me for dinner, nothing spectacular, but the musicians and the overall ambiance warmed our weary hearts. After dinner, we headed to the spa for foot massages. We both fell asleep.

When I fell asleep for the last time that night, it was not in my standard cocoon of bed sheet and DEET, but one of clean, fuzzy joy.

And when I awoke the next morning, my cold had vanished, leaving behind nothing but a nasty chest cough.


View of Legazpi City from our hotel


Sarah captured this twilight view of Mt Mayon before dinner.

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