I don’t think I initially understood the immensity of this event.
A few days before the 13th of January 2015, I admit, my excitement for the upcoming Ignatian Youth Camp rooted from the sheer fact that three regular school days would be cancelled; I was so eager to get the school week through because frankly, my body was still on vacation mode. When the actual day arrived though, when I got over knowing we’d have school days postponed, I suddenly couldn’t make up my mind if I felt truly enthusiastic for the general event, the activities to come, or the efforts that had to be shed in interaction with different schools. But the moment I grabbed hold of my luggage and set foot on our bus, a shift in feeling proved me wrong.
We arrived at the Ateneo de Manila High School grounds at around 4pm and the realization that we were part of a bigger body had begun to sink in. Groups of students in respective school shirts spilled everywhere we looked, and sights of fellow schoolmates greeting people they were familiar with already offered a sense of unity among the crowd we’d later be acquainted with. In the covered courts where we were gathered, the total population of over 800+ students were split into 4 big clusters namely Favre, Jorge, Javier, and Ignacio, which also had 4 subgroups under each. These were to be our families for the next five days.
Searching for my group (Favre) in the large crowd and getting temporarily separated from usual company made me quite nervous, but it all died down when these teams were introduced and we cheered in high spirits in the program that kicked off the night. And this was the portion where it was made clear: I am a part of history. This is the first ever Ignatian Youth Camp conducted in the nation, and I participated in it. Knowing this made me all the more enthusiastic to join in the activities prepared for us and to make the most of it. A mass followed, then an opening concert showcasing the different abilities of each school and area, then we had the nigh conclude with a DJ setting the scene and students dancing to the beat. Despite an exhausting day, we couldn’t change the fact that it was an exciting one, or that even though lights-off was at 2am, we had to be up two hours after—for teams Javier and Jorge at least.
The schedule for Day 2 differed for half of the teams: Javier and Jorge were to go on a pilgrimage for almost the entire day, having to leave early for the travel. For Favre and Ignacio on the other hand, the Amazing Race, an Advocacy Run, and various workshops were on their agenda. By 8 am we were already up and sweating as we walked in sub teams under the sun, back and forth the Ateneo campus to accomplish tasks and earn flags for the team. Fortunately, the sun wasn’t scorching our skin too badly and the light January breeze helped pacify us. Above it all though, it was the new acquaintances and team bonding that fuelled us despite hurting feet and great distances to tread. In the afternoon, each subgroup was distributed to a specific workshop (singing, dancing, or theatre) to prepare performances for the last day’s concert. Again, we had a mass by 6pm, had dinner, had team bonding and watched plays which finished around 11pm for the rest of the night remaining. After a hectic day, lights-out was at 12am, and call time was marked four hours later.
We woke up on day 3 as early as 4 am to bathe and eat breakfast, then departed at 6:00 sharp. It was more than an hour’s trip to arrive at our first church in Cavite, but we didn’t mind since the drive bought us time to sleep (what almost every participant longed for at this point!). After our first church though, our group, Favre 3, had to switch buses since it broke down. Just to share, our team had a total of four bus changes for various reasons, and in the end we reached 2 out of 5 churches on the list before lunch time. We had to rush to beat traffic and avoid getting stranded since that day, January 15, 2015, was the arrival of Pope Francis in the country, and all major roads had to be closed when afternoon arrived. The travel back to ADMU spanned at least 4 hours from that point, and we enjoyed the rest of the bus ride playing games and sharing laughs and blurting team cheers with new found friends. When the night was settling in, after the daily mass and dinner, Favre took the rest of the time left before lights out to further merge into the large group and widen our ties, so we were not simply limited to friends in the subgroups. I wanted the night to last longer, but unfortunately, time ticked quickly and soon enough we were off to our sleeping quarters to wash up for bed.
Day 4 was the day when I felt least pressured—for the call time at least. Unlike the past days wherein my wake up and shower time was before 5am, now I woke up at 6:00, and yet felt no rush. What was in store for our final day were just last rehearsals for the theatre performances and music and dance showcases for the afternoon and forth. This is only when the pressure entered the scene since the upcoming events were rather huge. Every team had their chance to present their abilities and magis in action—for even though the type of performance wasn’t in some people’s field of expertise or familiarity, everyone still participated enthusiastically and pushed themselves beyond comfort zones to offer their best. When afternoon arrived, despite the nervousness that settled in the air, everyone enjoyed performing and watching, for we knew opportunities like these happened only once in a while—to share laughs with new people, to watch each other grow in different aspects; those kinds of things. The final blow out was a surprise fireworks show held in the field just outside the covered court, where everyone gathered and watched the night light up in different colors and bursts that peaked the elation we all supposedly felt throughout this trip. Going back to the quarters was not as gloomy as it should’ve been since there was no lights out for all. It was the final push for bonding.
Majority discarded sleep the night before to lengthen the time we had left. So when we were asked to gather in the covered court at around 4am, we all dragged our luggage in a rather sluggish stupor despite the snappy commands given to each school. For those who remained through the night (for some had already gone home the night before), a portion of the crowd was trying to force down the fact that we were about to put an end to the memories of this journey, and the rest were just trying to battle sleep with the best of their abilities. Not long after we had breakfast, the participants already had to part ways. It was inevitable, but the memories made weighed more than the goodbyes hopefully.
Before the first ever Ignatian Youth Camp, I wasn’t that eager to build friendships nor be hyped about the activities provided. But I couldn’t help myself from volunteering as a player in games and opening my mouth to pick up conversations as my stay lengthened. I thought that the number of people present would give me a hard time interacting or fully participating for the events in store, but certainly, these only gave the opposite effect. So yes, I did enjoy Iggy Camp 2015, and I’m looking forward for more to come annually. And by the end of it all, on my part, I began to understand how much this event had to offer—and that was what made it great.