A possible lost passport couldn’t stop the Hero’s Journey, nor could an extra-long bureaucratic nightmare of a process at the airport. Fourteen kids and three teachers from China arrived in Manila last week, tired but relieved, ready to take on the adventure. Despite the usual setbacks, these proverbial flies in the soup won’t matter since everyone is bound to have a great time!
This is our fourth Hero’s Journey – an English immersion program for kids coming from China. They soak in an English environment with five camp counselors from the Philippines, having loads of fun outdoors, trying Filipino food, doing art, improvisation, shadow play, National Geographic lessons, island hopping and this year, we added a jungle survival course.
We have three favorite places for our troopers – Prado Farms in Lubao, Pampanga, Casa San Miguel and Crystal Beach, both in Zambales. Prado Farms and Casa San Miguel are brain children of creative geniuses and artists, Reimon Gutierrez and Coke Bolipata respectively. In Prado Farms, ordinary objects take on extraordinary form while in Casa San Miguel, music and architecture are evolving works in progress. In Crystal Beach, “glamping” is the word. Their glamp tent comes with light, electric fan and you don’t have to worry about charging your devices. When you come out to greet the morning or brush your teeth, the sea and sky are your infinite windows.
But as in any camp, more than the place, it’s the relationship built among the kids and facilitators. We celebrate nature but at the same time, it’s an excuse for bonding – trekking through a forest, crossing a river, cooking your own food in bamboo, waiting for the boat to fetch us from an island, assisting young swimmers reach the platform a considerable distance from the shore. Sunsets, surfing, building sand castles, movie by the beach, roasting hotdogs and marshmallows, boodle fight — naturally fun stuff are balanced with output — printing using recycled styrofoam covers from the packed lunch eaten on the island the day before, silkscreen printing your own shirt, creating artwork from found objects on the beach, weaving spontaneously a story with puppets presented as a shadowplay, learning about Marine Protected Areas from a teacher working towards his National Geographic certification. You can imagine how full a week can be but there’s room for free time, quiet contemplation, making friends, playing, laughing and horsing around with the counselors and kids doing what they do best being kids.
Often, school takes out the fun in childhood and we need to give it back to them. A week may not be enough but it’s enough to remind us and re-fill ourselves.
We look forward to the next Hero’s Journey. For the next one, we want to try what has always been at the back of our minds, brewing at the back burner — a camp with kids from abroad together with local kids. Watch out for that!
At Prado Farms, you can grab a bike and explore to your heart’s content.
At Casa San Miguel, you can step inside the mind of an artist and celebrate art yourself.
At Capones Island, you are loved by the sea, salt, sand and sky.
At Crystal Beach, you can surf and glamp.
At Pamulaklakin Trail in Subic, the kids learned how to start a fire and cooked their own food using bamboo.
At Camayan Beach, master the art of R & R.