For a teacher to be called a real one, he/she must be rich. He/she needs not be a much-moneyed individual but one who is abundant in experiences -- be these the most humiliating, the most threatening or the most exciting. After all, teaching and learning does not only concentrate on a single side of an angle. It's multi-dimensional. If it's, indeed, true that experience is the best teacher, so a teacher must experience...
Inspired by this idea, the faculty and the staff of HNU have always set enough space for retreat and occasional tour in every school year's calendar of activities, realizing their goal of spiritual upliftment and social enrichment. This has usually been held every summer, but since life is full of surprises, certainly, we were surprised when we heard the news that our annual retreat and educational tour for school year 2008-2009 would be in the month of December.
Through the effort of the HNU-HS Faculty Club, with consent from the High School Principal, Dr. Remedios U. Cardino and the support of the administration, it was agreed that we would be going to our destination by plane. This must be another thrill for those first time aerial voyagers. Then the long wait was over. Luggages were readied and we took off.
We took the Cebu Pacific flight bound for Manila on December 5. Upon setting foot at NAIA, we were immediately picked up by our contact travel agent from the ABBA Educational Tours and Services. We were transported to Camp Aguinaldo not to hear military briefing but to respond to the invitation of Mrs. Pajo's brother, Rev. (Capt.) Raul Pajo. After taking lunch courtesy of our newly found host, we directly took another trip from Camp Aguinaldo to the colder Tagaytay. We spent our first out-of-town night at the SVD territory - meeting some figures who were once connected with HNU namely Frt. Jong Biton and Fr. Jonathan Letada who would be ordained the following day and whose ordination became one of our itineraries.
The Ordination Day. The ceremony lasted for several hours. It was about noon when the newly ordained Fr. Letada was able to have the chance to talk to us. After receiving his blessings, we started to prepare for the next plan - a late afternoon tour.
First in our target was the Palace in the Sky. It was not a structure built up high in the sky nor a giant flying saucer but a rendezvous situated on a hilltop. As our first tour guide who asked us to call him Kuya Omar would say, the place was constructed during the Marcos regime as the late US Pres. Ronald Reagan's hide-away had it happened that he was able to pay a visit to the Pearl of the Orient Seas -- our dear Philippines.
As Omar continued his account, the said planned visit wasn't pushed through, leaving the said "palace" to hang in limbo. Later on, it became one of Tagaytay's tourist attractions.
Next in our list was the Picnic Groove and Residence Inn. There we got close and personal with variety of faunas and other exotic creatures.
Some even dared to try horseback riding to see what it would be like to deal with a real horse. It was such a delightful scene watching Mrs. Belderol, Ms. Dolotina, Mrs. Viñalon, Ms. Adem, Ms. Barcial, Ms. Delgado, Ms. Goloso, and Mrs. Capili to name a few become instant cowgirls. We enjoyed, but why was it that the horses were teary-eyed while they were carrying us? Were they touched or just suffering from a fractured backbone? We continued to explore the animal planet with unconcealed amazement when suddenly, our wonderful smiles turned into a scream of shock. A caged chimpanzee went wild and shot at us, the terrified onlookers, his "dangerous" arsenal -- his saliva. Unluckily, one of us got hit point-blank. Bull's eye! Or was it monkey's eye? Though fuming with anger towards the animal's show of disrespect, we tried to divert our burning temper to the bright side of the spitting incident. Somehow the chimp was just innocently overjoyed and wanted to hug and kiss long-lost Kapamilya and Kapuso but couldn't fulfill his desire since he was behind bars.
We called it a day and went back to the SVD quarters, spending our last night there. While alone on my bed, I couldn't help recall the fun, suspense, and the action-packed scenes of the day. More than this, I was sure that each one anticipated the event scheduled for two days -- the Retreat.
Morning of December 7. The biting coldness seemed to stop us from getting up but the warmth of the religious call overpowered the winter-like early morning breeze. It was just 3:00 a.m. when we began out trip from Tagaytay to Christ the King Seminary -- the venue of the two-day retreat. Upon arrival, we were given a breather then right after, our retreat-master Rev. Fr. Lito Geangan formally opened the annual spiritual event. Seriously, it was one of the most solemn, most creative and most dramatic retreat I've ever attended. It wasn't monopolized since we were requested to show maximum participation as supporting speakers. From time to time, we acted out some significant situations, and let me not forget to mention the newly-dicovered talents in Mr. Jala, Ms. Barcial and Ms. Delgado.
By the way, let me clarify that the scenes the trio depicted did not revolve around the story of love triangle. Even though there were several instances that we burst into laughter, and tried to get the update of the megafight between our very own pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao and the Golden Boy Oscar De la Joya, who visibly lost his golden touch, these concerns did not overshadow the essence of the retreat. To sum up everything in a few but fully-loaded words, I would say that everyone was once again reminded of the value of genuine prayer, sincere sense of gratitude and forgiveness.
The Bus in Waiting (December 9). Getting inside, we were again surprised to behold a new hunk in the person of Kuya Ryan whose family name I couldn't recall. For those who are interested, just ask Ms. Glovasa, Ms. Barcial and Ms. Delgado. I'm sure they have personal knowledge about the guy. When we were told that he would be our guide for the last few days, everybody roared in approval although the voice of the female generation was more dominant The charisma of Kuya Ryan must be hard to resist. While on the way, he was busy sharing to us the historical background of certain landmarks we passed by. But what stole the show from our guide was the group of, again, monkeys which likely greeted us. Some were camera shy; others were spotlight-hungry.
We reached Subic Bay and were met by Aeta peddlers carrying their wares. After buying souvenir items, we proceeded to where the Ocean Adventure is. By word, it is one of most fascinating spots. There, we got acquainted with the sea lions whose stage names were humanized. They performed acts upon the orders of their handlers. By then, I could say Holynamians shine wherever they are when unexpectedly Ms. Barcial became the partaker of the show. Among the stunts that one of the sea lions did was to plant a wet and salty kiss on Ms. Barcial's Belo-touched and rosy cheeks -- to the dismay of the large crowd of male spectators. The kissing scene might push someone to say a silent wish to the gods in Olongapo to cast a spell on him so that he would become an instant sea lion to take that excellent opportunity.
Asked about the boys' chance on her lucky charms, Ms. Barcial, wearing her usual 'divalicious' smile said that she would choose to be the sea lions' lifetime queen rather than entertaining sea urchins and sea turtles. The next attraction was the heart-pounding, jaw-dropping performance of the dolphins. It was incredibly superb, making the audience to shout for "More" If Ms. Barcial was among the stars in the sealion show, Mrs. Balatero did her own breath-taking stunt by making a perfect dive to the dry land. For more details, see her coach, Mrs. Pajo.
The Thrill in Another Animal Kingdom-Zoobic Zafari. We were instructed to get inside the protected vehicles which would take us around the trail. The thrill? We were to be chased by hungry tigers which were just hiding nearby. Mixed emotion crept into our system. Of course, never did we dream to be the big cats' instant noodles, but since we were thrill-seekers, we bought the idea and began to imbolden ourselves as real contenders in Pinoy Fear Factor. Vamos! The vehicles began to move slowly as if taunting the tigers in-waiting to attack. One or two tried to check what was inside the car then left. That was not what we expected. Then we asked, Are they that kind to us because of father (our retreat master) and the sisters and the fact that we are teachers? Or are they just avoiding bad cholesterol?
December 10. Our original itineraries were Manila Ocean Park, Fort Santiago, and National Museum. However, a certain decision came in at the most unexpected time. The HS principal relayed to us a message that Cong. Edgar Chatto invited us to be present in the House of Representatives. For me, at first, it was not a big deal. For what reason must I be there? I didn't have any plan of making myself one of Bohol's political kingpins in the future. Even then, I must follow the leader.
While inside the House of Congress, my silent protest disappeared because of the heart-warming reception of our three congressmen. We ere given a glimpse of the life of our law makers and what we saw were very educational and informative. Likewise, we came across with known personalities such as the whistle blower Jun Lozada, Ces Drilon, Carmelita Valdez of ABS-CBN and other TV correspondents plus a once-in-a-lifetime bonus to shake hands with the People's Champ Manny Pacquiao who at that time had just beaten black and blue the Golden Boy. Let me not forget also to mention that Cong. Chatto was our dinner sponsor that evening.
After our encounter with those personalities, we headed directly to the Star City, buckled up and engaged in the different rides whose speed might cause one to lose his or her treasured poise.
Some, though terrified, insisted that they enjoyed, but for sure, the Star City's offers made blood pressure rise to tremendous level. Mrs. Bongcac and Dr. Cardino can share their personal testimony. To add, Mr. Sajonia, who was in a 'Star Flyer', kept on calling the Lord's name, Mr. Hontanosas, still profusely sweating after giving the 'Star Flyer' a try, said, "I'm done. Why should I take the risk when I still have my beautiful wife and chidren waiting for me in Bohol?"
The next day, December 11 was not anymore risky for it was intended for a studio tour at the famous ABS-CBN. As we did studio hopping, we met personally Gloria Romero, Billy Crawford, Tommy Abuel, Mariel Rodriguez, Pokwang, Bentong and a lot more...
Prior to the retreat and educational tour, there were concerns, worries and frustrations. Yet, everything went just fine despite the odds because we were one in prayer. We were able to go back to our respective families with high hopes, renewed determination and rejunivated spirit to carry once again the load cast on our shoulders as among the future carvers. In our journey, we will still fail, become frustrated and broken. But borrowing the favorite line of my brother, "Let us not forget that a minute of success can pay years of failures if we keep on believing in Him.