For seven days, Xaverians from both Nuvali and San Juan campuses, together with some of their teachers, went out of their comfort zones and immersed themselves in the wonders of Cebu.
It was early September when select Grade 9 students of Nuvali–myself included–were first informed of the upcoming trip that would eat up our semestral break. Although the details were still vague, as it was the first time Nuvali would do this, we were excited nonetheless, and we got even more excited as the days passed by and more details were given to us through orientations.
On October 24th, the day before the trip, a mass was held, and we students were blessed for our trip. Afterwards, we had our final orientation, wherein we were filled with both anticipation and fear as we listened to our teachers’ reminders, tips, and stories of their own immersion experiences.
As early as 2:30 A.M. the following day, we students were already in school waiting with our parents. A lot of us had no sleep the night before because of last-minute packing and preparations since we had been quite busy studying for our quarterly tests that week. Some of us were also not feeling well. However, that did not stop us from being so thrilled at whatever awaited us. At around 3:00 AM, we boarded the coaster van bound for the airport and said our goodbyes to our parents whom we won’t be able to see for a week.
Although we had seen each other before leaving for Cebu, the Nuvali and the San Juan students only got to talk to each other upon arrival at the Mactan International Airport. There we met with our assigned groups and did introductions before hopping onto the bus. The ride took an exhausting five hours, which was mostly spent talking to friends, listening to music, or catching up on sleep. Fortunately, the subsequent ferry ride was a great relief, as it was refreshing and very comfortable. Many took this opportunity to get to know the other XPlorers better.
After an hour at sea, we were again divided into groups at the port and rode multicabs, our last ride before finally reaching our destination: the Gawad Kalinga (GK) site at Ticad.
We had a feast for our late lunch, especially prepared by the families in the GK site. We were all so hungry and tired, so we ate our hearts out with some even going back for seconds. After the fantastic meal, we were dispersed and sent off to our assigned families who were very welcoming and hospitable. At 6:00 P.M., we had a dry mass led by Bro. Arman Samonte, S.J., followed by dinner with our own family. We ended the day with our groups for a group reflection. Afterwards, since the sky was also visibly filled with stars, some didn’t waste the chance to go stargazing until the 10:00 P.M. curfew. It was a beautiful first night.
For our second day, we did construction work. Before we started, we first warmed up with some simple exercises to get us ready for work. Then, a group of GK kids taught us the Unity Dance, which we danced along to the song “Umawit Muli.”
The groups were divided into three teams, each with a different job: marker construction, house painting, and cement filling. During a break, we switched tasks then continued working until lunch. We were given a few hours of rest before we did our final tasks, which is watching over and entertaining the children for the girls and finishing the construction work for the rest. We worked until 4:00 P.M. We ended the day with another dry mass, dinner with our host families, and another group reflection session.
The third day has been planned for mangrove planting. After preparing and eating our breakfasts, we gathered at The Bar—a makeshift tent where meetings are usually held—before proceeding to the planting site.
The place was like a mix of mud and quicksand, with worms and other creatures swimming through the puddles of water. Our white shirts got dirtier and dirtier with every step; meanwhile, we fell ever so gradually in the muddy, muddy sand. However, we all had our fun and enjoyed the morning.
We had lunch back at our host families’ homes in GK Ticad. In the midst of eating, we were interrupted by a surprise visit from the mayor, Ian Christopher Escario.
By 2:00 P.M., we again assembled at The Bar for our next activity: the feeding program.
We were divided into two groups this time: one to go to GK Tugas and the other to GK Mojon. My group was assigned to Tugas. It was different from the site in Ticad where we stayed. There were less families and houses in Tugas, and it seemed to be not as developed or developing.
For this feeding program, we were tasked to prepare a simple rice porridge for the families there and do a short program to entertain the kids.
It was rather difficult preparing the porridge, as there weren’t enough knives and chopping boards for us to use. Some were also not used to cooking, but everyone tried their best for the community. While the cooking group was busy chopping away, the group assigned in entertaining the kids was performing a short role-play about a pair of prince and princess who speaks Filipino-English slang. The performers enjoyed it as much as the kids did.
After preparing the ingredients for the porridge and narrating stories to the kids, we gathered together to play the Category Game. It rained for a while and we had to stay in the shed, so we played for a few rounds.
Before we left, the kids prepared a short song number for us, and we ended the activity with a quick photo op. Then, we rode the bus and continued our game.
We arrived back in Ticad at around 6:00 P.M. and had dry mass shortly thereafter. We finally ended the day eating dinner, participating in a short program, and surprising one of the kids who was celebrating her birthday that same day.
Our fourth day was our last day in the GK site. After another reflection and a much-awaited boodle fight, we would be on our way to Cebu City and we would be continuing our trip from there.
Before we had our group synthesis, Mrs. Elisa Magtibay of Xavier Nuvali shared her thoughts about the first four days of the trip regarding magis, commitment, and finding God in all things. The stay in GK was a perfect opportunity to exercise those three things through our activities, reflections, and interactions with one another.
Before we had our boodle fight, we each gave our foster family a gift as a token of our appreciation for receiving us warmly and generously, providing us with whatever we would need, and tried their best to keep us comfortable in their place. Our gift was nothing compared to the love they showed us.
There is no better way to end our GK journey and prepare for the city than by having a boodle fight. We surround the tables as the food was being placed: a delicious selection of scallops, shrimp, fish, rice, pancit, vegetables, mangoes, and of course, with courtesy from the mayor, lechon.
After eating more than our fill, we each took our bags, said our goodbyes, and rode the multicabs. Sad songs were played, and some were holding back their tears. In our four days of stay in GK Ticad, we were able to connect and form a bond with our foster families. This bond gave us a deeper understanding of life and of them who live lives so different from ours.
We had another ferry ride going back to the city, and then a bus ride to Sacred Heart School – Ateneo de Cebu, where we stayed. We arrived late in the afternoon and we were given some time to rest before a mass. We then went out for dinner at Matia’s Barbeque. We enjoyed a wide variety of grilled food, to go along with a similar variety of fresh fruit shakes.
After dinner, we went to Tops, a popular observation deck. The view was marvelous, with the lights of the cities shining like stars. It was a perfect place to relax and unwind, especially after a tiring day.
We were on the road most of the time during our fifth day for a city tour, either in the bus or walking the streets. We visited Magellan’s Cross, different churches, Fort San Pedro, a Taoist temple, and Shamrock, a popular store for pasalubong. For lunch, we ate at A.A. Barbeque. We attended the evening mass at the Chapel of San Pedro Calungsod, capping the day off with dinner and shopping time at SM Cebu.
For the morning of our sixth day, we had an interaction with the students of Sacred Heart School – Ateneo de Cebu, the Ateneo Hearters. They were also divided into groups and were assigned to which group they would accompany. We toured around their campus, played some games, and took photos at various spots around the school.
We ended our interaction at the theatre. The president of their student council played a beautiful piece on the piano. Then, we had a short photo op before saying our goodbyes and leaving.
After having our lunch at the house of Aaron Tan, a current Grade 10 Xaverian in San Juan, we continued on with our trip. We went to the 1730 Jesuit House, Yap-Santiago Ancestral House, and to the Archdiocesan Shrine of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus to attend the evening mass. Finally, we had the most amazing last dinner at Casa Verde.
We ended our day and trip by having our last group reflection. However, unlike the first group reflections with the assigned group, this time we Nuvali students had our own group, separated from the San Juan students.
Before we left for the airport, we stopped by the Lapu-lapu Shrine first. There was also a souvenir shop there where we would buy our last-minute pasalubong.
Every participant would agree: the trip changed their lives, even in the smallest way. Through this trip, we were able to not just explore the beauty and wonders of Cebu, we were also able to learn about others, acquire and put into practice values essential in life, and find God in all things. Other realizations would include (according to some participants themselves):
The XPlore trip was a very humbling experience which opened my eyes to what was really happening in the world around us. — Rv Uy (XSSJ student)
I was able to see the beauty of the Philippines — Jacob Lim (XSSJ student)
I have opened my eyes to some of the most beautiful things life can offer – company of your best friends, families that teach you how to find joy in the simplest things, mother nature’s beauty, new friends – all because of this trip. — Margaret Golpe (XSN student)
The Cebu trip taught me to be more independent, and has showed me that there are a lot of more things to learn about. — Jef Fajardo (XSN student)
XPlore Cebu 2014 was an immersive opportunity for Xaverians, both from San Juan and Nuvali, to explore Cebu and, most importantly, open themselves to the call of service to our brothers and sisters in Bantayan Island affected by the tragic typhoons of recent memory. — Mr. Marck San Juan (XSN CLE teacher)
As much as we want to go back to Cebu and do these activities again, we could never fully relive an experience. However, the things that we learn from them can be carried on to our daily lives.
For meeting other people and gaining new friendships, for strengthening already existing bonds, for sunrises and sunsets, for views, mountains, buildings, for the beautiful Creation, for courage to get out of our comfort zones, for opportunities to show this courage, for strengths and weaknesses, for tears and laughs, for finding Him in all things, for letting us see Him in all things, for these memories:
thank You, thank You, thank You.