It was announced during the third quarter, amid Investigation Projects and Carol Fests and the many triumphs of Literacy Month. It looked like just another activity that we didn’t know much about, announced on a seemingly unimpressive circular with a reply slip to be handed in a few weeks later. Yet “it” would prove to be an event that didn’t just blow itself to gigantic proportions, but left all with memories lasting a lifetime.
It was the Ignatian Youth Camp.
The premise was simple enough. This camp was an opportunity for students of Jesuit schools from all over the country to interact and learn about the different Jesuit ideals taught to them in class.
Here is my perspective on the Youth Camp and on the activities I took part in during the 3-or-so days that we set aside for it in Nuvali.
Almost immediately after the circular regarding the Camp was released, it became a hot topic among the high school Xaverians. Indeed, the next morning and for several thereafter, my friends pitched me a question: “Are you going to the Youth Camp?”
Yet the question faded away. Preparations for the Youth Camp gave way to those for the challenge of the Carol Fest and the even more daunting prospect of our colloquially termed “Hell Week” (aptly named since most of our projects were due that week) immediately after the Carol Fest. The idea of the Youth Camp faded even further, almost vanishing over the Christmas break, but still mentioned in passing once or twice.
Things changed in January.
The question rose again with a vengeance. This time, the idea of the Youth Camp rapidly gained ground among us high school students. All of a sudden, there it was again: I was being hit with “Are you going to the Youth Camp?” over and over on a daily basis. All that time, I had only one answer: “I’m not sure.”
I really wasn’t sure. My usual tendency to indecision was really beginning to unsettle me; I wanted to go to the Ateneo de Manila and join my friends for the camp, but at the same time I felt I needed to stay in school for reasons I will not specify.
Emotions about the Youth Camp became more and more intense as the day of departure approached. Excitement pervaded among my friends and classmates since more slots were opened and thus allowed most of the high school (this including friend groups) to join. Some of us, 38 to be exact, weren’t joining for whatever reason, yours truly included. I was left to wonder: So what’s left for us to do back here? We’re not going. What’s in store for us?
Then came January 13, D-Day for all of us in the high school, joining or not. I could sense a growing level of anticipation among my participating classmates, who were trying their best to hold it together for just four measly class periods. And yet, despite their best efforts, words gushed forth from their mouths at recess and at the end of the day when they were scheduled to begin preparing to leave for the Ateneo.
So it begins, I thought to myself as I trod, sluggishly, heavy bag on my shoulders, towards a crammed Grade 9A classroom full of the (technically) non-participating 38. I sighed. Let’s get this over and done with, shall we?
Boy, was I wrong to think that.
None other than Mr. Frederick Perez welcomed us to the Nuvali version of the Ignatian Youth Camp. Wait, I thought, so it’s really supposed to emulate what those in Ateneo will do. Okay, that’s mildly interesting. He proceeded to give us a very concise orientation (interspersed with a couple of his trademark quips here and there) as to our activities during the following four days: an “Amazing Race” the next day, then a Mass and some “iView” or other on Thursday, and a “talent showcase” on Friday. What’s this about a talent showcase, Mr. Perez? Oh well, let’s cross that bridge when we get there.
And that was it. We were dismissed at 1 pm and I headed home, apprehensive, worried, and—okay, I admit it, but only by the smallest possible fraction—excited.
The next morning, I headed to school in my PE uniform. That’s unusual for a Wednesday, I thought to myself. Well then. Another unusual part of this Wednesday was that we were told to proceed immediately to the canteen instead of the classrooms and wait there for further instructions.
7:30 came, and we were told to head to the Chinese Basics room beside the Accounting Office. Mr. Perez was waiting for us there, and he began the day by leading us in prayer. Then came the (embarrassing, to say the least) introductions, where we had to introduce ourselves in front of the entire group by using an adjective that began with the first letter of our name and also described us. One blink of an eye later, we had been splintered into six different groups with names inspired by notable Jesuits and Jesuit saints and forced to get acquainted with people we barely knew. Yet through it we all went, gritting our teeth and bracing for the next activity: the AmaXSiNg Race.
We groaned after we saw what the challenges were. They were, in order, walking around the playground with our legs tied to each other; blowing flour out of a bowl to find puzzle pieces to complete a picture; solving a nearly impossible tangram; inventing something useful out of limited materials and pushing for it to be bought; washing a certain amount of dishes and utensils in a certain time period; and transferring water from one pail to another using plastic cups with holes in them. A truly “AmaXSiNg” part of this Race, however, was that each station was based on a certain Jesuit ideal. In order, they were: spiritual direction, finding God in all things, cura personalis or personal care, the magis, being persons for others, and being contemplatives in action.
We pressed forward.
In the end, my team finished second to last, but honestly, I didn’t care who was winning, as long as we had fun. Isn’t that the idea? I asked myself.
The day wasn’t over, though. We still played what ended up being a notorious round of Pinoy Henyo, since it was in that round that we discovered four new “facts” about the world: first, that Brazil was in Europe; second, that Argentina was also in Europe; third, that Paris was not a city, but a country; and fourth, that a teacher is an inanimate (though holy) object. I’m dead serious about this. People actually guessed these during the game.
Thus passed the second day of the IYC-Nuvali. Well, that was certainly more fun than yesterday, I thought. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?
Tomorrow ended up bringing, first, a Mass in which I read the First Reading, then five guests of honor who would be in the first-EVER Ignatian View (iView) talk show, hosted by none other than the eloquent High School CLE teacher Mr. Marck San Juan.
Powerful ideas and truths of Ignatian spirituality were brought to us that day; we witnessed how these ideas could be used to shape our lives as the guests shared experiences where these ideas affected theirs. We left the MPH that morning enlightened and inspired by the strength of the message that the guests delivered.
When we were just about ready to call it a day, the moderators hit us with “Wait! We still have more games after your recess!” We emitted a collective, audible groan and resigned ourselves to another round of Pinoy Henyo and a round of “The Singing Crab”, a Xavier School reimagining of the popular game show “The Singing Bee”.
We were really ready to call it a day after the games and the lunch break, but then we got this: “Okay, now we’re going to release you to practice for your talent showcase tomorrow, called Got to Believe in Magis.” We asked ourselves: Talent showcase? What talent showcase? The atmosphere suddenly turned anxious. Tension built as groups frantically tried to figure out what talents they were going to showcase. My team sat quietly outside, no one wanting to bring up any ideas. I got everyone started by suggesting we do some music numbers. I even proposed we do a magic act, which got a “yes” from my groupmates.
Suddenly it was time for our dismissal, and we all parted ways. I went home, worried and concerned about our routine the next day.
It was Friday.
The day started as usual, with everyone sitting in the canteen, waiting until 7:30. This time, however, there was tension in the air, as if we were still hung over from the practice yesterday. Maybe it was the fact that the talent show was that day and we were all worried about what we had practiced and whether or not it would pay off.
We were told to proceed to the MPH. Just like on the first day, Mr. Perez was waiting for us there. He led us in a trademark Jesuit reflection, the Examen, in which we were invited to reflect upon what we were grateful for and what we had learned during the past two days.
Our hearts having been uplifted and refreshed anew by that reflection, we were released to practice our respective talents. We all splintered, not by group this time, but by individual act. In my group, we had already figured out the order of our performance; all that was left for us to do was practice whatever needed refinement individually. I had managed to recruit my friend to be my assistant for a magic act. In no time at all I had taught him the tricks, and in less time than that he was able to pull off the acting we needed for the performance. We were ready.
Each group performed; the acts came and went. Some stood out, like an unconventional basketball field demonstration, a K-pop dance number, and displays of skill at singing and playing the guitar or piano. My group did well, serenading the audience with Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” and a recorder rendition of “Bahay Kubo”. Thankfully, my magic performance went almost without a hitch.
Before we knew it, it was time for the agape, or food sharing with friends. Afterwards, we bid goodbye, first to the teachers, then to one another, and headed home, souls uplifted, tired but happy.
Looking back on the IYC-Nuvali today, I can see it really did drive the Ignatian ideals home, particularly this idea of the magis. This was a central topic of the January 15 iView. I walked away from that talk with the knowledge that the magis, according to Mr. Calasanz, is “not just about doing more and giving oneself for the sake of others, but it is giving oneself for an Other”. The magis justifies this giving of oneself and all the other Ignatian ideals. We give because God is in all things. In giving we become persons for others, and by keeping our eyes fixed on God we are contemplatives in action. Of course, we do everything ad maiorem Dei gloriam: for the greater glory of God.
It might be slightly cheesy for me to say this, but I speak from the heart: Truly, the Ignatian Youth Camp is an experience I will carry with me for the rest of my life.