But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 2Peter 1:9
Challenge: How to compress a week’s worth of mountaintop experiences in one blog.
The harvest is rich indeed, and nowhere is this more evident than in the mountains of Ifugao. Last sembreak, a weeklong leadership camp for college students was held in Lagawe, an hour away from Banaue ad its famous Rice Terraces. We stayed in tents in the freezing weather, with clouds hovering over and through the campsite. I was blessed to be invited as a counselor, special events coordinator, session leader and a speaker.
These phrases echo in my head whenever I think about the camp:
1. It’s a cultural thing.
During the precamp, we were served steaming bowls of what I thought was champorado (chocolate rice). It turned out to be arrozcaldo, or chicken rice soup, made with black mountain rice. Delicious,but weird;one of the counselors ended up commenting, “It’s a cultural thing!”
This became our tagline throughout the camp, which was very culturally diverse. Campers came from Tuguegarao,Â Tarlac and various municipalities of Ifugao, while the counselors came from Metro Manila, Ifugao, and even Batanes! One can hear a babel of Tuwali, Kapampangan, Ilocano, and dialects of Tagalog from the 40 delegates. They also came from different socio-cultural backgrounds and we even had several higschool students and young professionals thrown into the mix. Given all these differences, it was surprising how well everyone got along. Despite the language, age and social gaps, friendships developed while washing dishes and life-stories shared during small group meetings.
The ice really broke during the third night, when the campers had an impromptu praise and worship jamming time (think mosh pit). As we were jumping around and singing “I’m trading my sorrows,” one of the Ifugao campers leaped to the middle of the hall and danced in their traditional way. Wow. Pretty soon, there were two circles on the floor – one for the guys and one for the girls – enthusiastically copying the Ifugao dance steps. The Lagawe and Lamut youth also presented an Ifugao dance during the session on “Being a Filipino Christian.” That session, and an AVP titled “Lupang Hinirang,” also reminded to affirm my culture and stop being a copycat of Western worship.
2. It’s a generational thing.
The age differences were minimal among the campers, but there was a generational chasm (hahaha!) amongst the 14 counselors. We had two distinct age groups: young adults (18 to 27 years old) and the not-so-young, old-enough-to-be-our-parents adults (aka as LT, secret ang meaning neto). Still, I was blessed by how well the team worked together and complemented each other. We youngsters supplied the energy and burned the midnight oil; they provided insights, ideas, years of experience and rose at an inhumanly early hour to sound the bugle for wake up call. I hope that I am still as active in the ministry when I’m that old mature. Okay, confession time: I was the oldest female counselor; the ate, atchi, nanay. And I loved it.
3. It’s an interactional thing.
I can count on one hand the number of times we had a purely lecture-type session. Most of the lessons were taught through games (think water balloons flung into the air), rope activities, buzz groups,artwork,and tent-hopping. Often, we learned more from the campers during discussions. We were also blessed with great speakers and facilitators who made the Word come alive and were able to connect with the campers.
4. It’s a spiritual thing.
We were undermanned, rained on, rushed, bath sleep-deprived, changed schedule several times and pressured by the fact that it was the first time to have such an activity in Ifugao. Yet the testimony time moved me to tears, as each student testified about how they encountered God and heard his calling. Also, the camp nurse ended up being the storekeeper since she had almost no patients, there were no fights, and everything just flowed. As my fellow counselor said, the Holy Spirit really moved during the camp; with us, in us, despite us.
Other memories: hypothermic bus ride with bibang and kuya manolo, going to my dream house, the free and gorgeous Banquet Night decorations, JACO’s songs, kuya M’s furry jacket that kept me from freezing, 3am bath (never again), going to greenview lodge again, the rice terraces, julie, riding on a jeep topload, sleeping in tents, my brand new sleeping bag, coffee mixed with rice wine, honey-dipped suman, giant kawayan, popped pant button (okay, I overate again), bugle made of a pvc pipe, bubuli, fog, pink socks, ratio of 3 guys to 1 girl camper, the ten-hour trip home, etc. etc. etc.