By Zander Sy (6I)

Road trip. Exploration. Discovery. Fun. Friends. Food! These are the thoughts that came to mind when I found out about the first ever Grade School Xplore Katagalugan in Laguna, Batangas, and Cavite. The same words flashed through my mind when I reminisced my experiences of the four days and three nights that I spent with 31 other grade 6 students last March 6 to 9. So, what makes Xplore so great? Well, here are few reasons why.

First, in Xplore, you get to go on road trips with friends and teachers who share your interests in travel and adventure. Some are already your friends, while others will become new friends. When you are with them, you are guaranteed to have fun chatting and laughing, especially during the long bus rides. Waiting to get to our destination was never boring.

Second, this trip fosters a sense of independence. For most of us, this trip was our first time to be away from home for more than a day. Our teachers and our fellow Xplorers made up our new family. You gain a new sense of freedom that also comes with a deeper sense of responsibility.

Next, you enjoy the food in every place you go. The food we were served was very delicious! From breakfasts of garlic rice, tapa and sausage in Nuvali to the steaming bulalo in Tagaytay. Since it was cold in Tagaytay, the hot soup and tender beef tasted so heavenly. I felt the warmth running down my throat and into my stomach! We even had a picnic at the Makiling Botanical Gardens in UP Los Banos and a “boodle” lunch set on banana leaves at the Goco ancestral house in Taal.

Then, our accommodations were homey and “familiar,” so if you are scared that you might be homesick, Xavier Nuvali has comfortable rooms and a clean and nice environment. From my bedroom window, I woke up to a view of the beautiful Oratory of St. Francis Chapel. You will not get this in any hotel in Laguna.

Last and certainly the best, are the places that the journey will take you. We began our exploration in Taal, Batangas. We visited ancestral houses, the Basilica of Taal which is known as the oldest in Asia and Our Lady of Caysasay Shrine. We learned that the Chinese played a significant role in its construction. In Laguna, we went to UP Los Banos where we enjoyed feeding the huge carabaos and marveled at the wild bulls at the Philippine Carabao Center. We also planted trees and got to know different kinds of plants at the International Rice Research Institute. Then, we proceeded to Cavite where we went to Bonifacio Trial House in Maragondon where Andres Bonifacio, the Supremo of the Katipunan, was charged and wrongfully convicted of treason. The light and sound show brought us back to that sad day in 1897. After that, we went to the Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit where we stood at the balcony where he declared Philippine independence from Spain in 1898. This was also where the Philippine flag was first raised and the National Anthem was first played. The house of Emilio Aguinaldo, the first President of the First Republic of the Philippines, was interesting to explore with its many rooms, hidden passages and secret openings.

Undoubtedly, we all had fun in this wonderful journey of learning and adventure. The 2016 GS Xplore was headed by Mrs. Ivy Enaje with the following teachers: Ms. Pristine Cuerdo, Mrs. Joyce Alvarez, Mrs. Jocelyn Isidro and Mr. Jan Vincent Ong as team mentors and Mr. Kristian Mark Gallardo as our student supervisor. Along with the security personnel and drivers, they all made our trip enjoyable, safe and memorable.

Our Xplore experience helped us have a better understanding of our history and culture. Our textbook and classroom discussions came alive with our immersion in these different places. It also made us appreciate the richness of the Philippines and its natural resources. We are more proud now of our identity as Filipinos and Chinese-Filipinos by how our ancestors lived and sacrificed for our country. So, the next time you are invited to join GS Xplore, do not think twice. Sign up right away for a guaranteed great experience!

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