During 4-7 April, the young people from Metro Manila, Aklan, Baguio, Cavite, Cebu, Davao, Dumaguete, Masbate, Tacloban, Tarlac, Palawan, and Rizal gathered together in Tagaytay City for a different kind of adventure. As they left the comfort of their hometowns and distanced themselves from technology, they braved the challenges of facing diversity and opted to be in touch with nature, while making new friendships from across the islands. With the theme “The other… an Other me,” they were exposed to four full days into discovering what living in unity must be like through a life led by love.
During the “Let’s Colour Our City” activity, the youth campers visited various social institutions like orphanages and the local prison. They also went to remote villages in the city of Tagaytay, where youth campers planted about a hundred trees in coordination with local village leaders. The whole exercise was a concretization of the very theme of the Youth Camp, especially in living the Gospel phrase, “Whatever you do the least of your brother, you do it to me” (Mt. 25:40).
The “Let’s Colour our City” activity left an indelible mark on the campers, as one of them commented, “I understood how much I am taking for granted the privileges and gifts that I have”, after he had served persons with cerebral palsy in the San Rafael Hospital for the Disabled. After spending a few hours with the orphaned children residing with the Augustinian Sisters, a camper commented: “In the short time spent with these children, I felt that I had become a father to the child who had no parents”.
At the Tagaytay City Jail, those who visited the prisoners were very touched by the testimonies of the inmates who were striving to pick up their broken lives; they even advised the youth campers to lead a moral life and to avoid major mistakes so as not to end up in jail and destroy other people’s lives. Workshops were provided as campers engaged in arts, theatre, dancing, music, journalism and sports. Moving life experiences were also shared like that of the family of Lito Bulan: in spite of difficulties like the illness of his wife, he had faced life with much love and perseverance, and so did his daughter who tried to live the art of loving, by being the first one to love in the family so as to keep their unity in the family intact. She affirmed that trials in life serve like filters for a stronger and deeper bond of love in the family.
An Amazing Race type competition took place during the camp. Actually, it was a race to test the unity and teamwork of the 15 groups as they played the various games, the most challenging of which was the mudslide which proved to be a great lesson in trust and courage in life, and the obstacle course which was a real test in perseverance.
The last day was dedicated to prayer, reflection, and to the sacrament of confession. It was a moment to recollect and to ponder on the four-day camp, as well as to integrate all the learning experiences of these meaningful and adventurous days. As in every youth camp, held over the past 5 years, it was always hard to say goodbye to one another but the challenge to love our neighbour and to colour the dark corner of our cities was stronger in most participants. Echoes in the social media had filled the Facebook pages of the campers exchanging pictures, stories, and experiences which described and expressed that this was “the most unforgettable and memorable summer” of their lives! Now, 300 young Filipinos will transpose the experience of unity lived at the Youth Camp within their own environment.