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Travel and Tourism

Family fun in Silang

- Joy Virata -
Parents certainly can’t complain that there isn’t anything for children to do in the summer. There must be a hundred workshops for everything under the sun from theater to dance, to art, to writing, to cooking, to swimming, tennis, football, ice skating, modeling, languages, etc., etc., etc. (For some unlucky ones, there are also special classes in Pilipino and Math.)

For parents, there are beach houses or resorts, or golf courses and tennis courts, or travel here and abroad. But is there something that both parents and children can enjoy together? Something to do that is really different and will mean a real shift in lifestyle for a few days? An experience that may mean a whole new beginning for both parent and child?

Two things led Steven and Mia Virata and their partner in crime Raffy Reloza to think up a really crazy summer project:

One, friends – no matter what other alternatives they had – always seemed to enjoy coming to Silang on weekends.

Two, they learned (from a youth study conducted by NFO Trends on behalf of Global Filipino Foundation, The Philippine Province of the Society of Jesus, The Grade 7 Parents Council 1998-99 of the Ateneo de Manila Grade School and the One Dream Foundation) that happiest moments for young people are those spent doing activities with the family. This was a study done for ages from seven to 21 years crossing all economic levels throughout the Philippines. The study also stated that children from Class AB see less of their parents than those from the other economic classes.

For the past few summers Steven, Mia and Raffy have conducted summer camps for children from ages seven to 12. Mia is a Certified Riding Instructor (BHSAI) and the camps are called "Riding and Nature Camp" with specialist counselors brought in for science, art and nature under the general direction of Raffy who is a much sought-after child psychologist. Parent volunteers are also a big part of the camp. The camp is held at Rancho Leonor which is – except for the family home, stable, paddocks and coconut trees – an almost undeveloped piece of land located in Silang, Cavite. Concessions to civilization include lavatories, shower rooms, a kitchen and a concrete square over which a huge piece of canvas is strung that serves as a dining room and activities center.

This summer, during the whole month of April, Mia has opened day camps (9 a.m. to 4 p.m.) which focus on riding (although this is not required) but which include nature study, art and science and a special three-day Riding and Nature Camp from May 10 to 12.

However, this summer Rancho Leonor will also open an overnight Family Camp on April 20 and 21 designed specially to give parents (one parent or both) the chance to spend concentrated, fun, quality time with their children.

Fun? For parents? Nature hikes? Beach volleyball? Games? Swimming? Camping? Sleeping in a tent? Cold showers? Crafts? Riding? Eating al fresco? Campfires? Concentrated attention?

Well, Mia and Raffy say parents can do as little or as much as they want. There will be no rigid schedules. There will be no pressure, no requirements – except for cold showers, sleeping in tents and eating outdoors. But this will be a chance to literally get away from everything connected with city life – for two days. It is rare these days to find a place that is convenient, safe and accessible and where everything is organized for you and yet where one can still enjoy nature at its rawest best. True, some of the sports activities will be held at nearby Rivera Golf Club which will also be supplying the food, but at the end of the day it will be supper and socializing, sharing and perhaps informal talks about parenting with Raffy around a campfire and in the morning waking to nature in its purest form and breakfast accompanied by nature’s sounds. And the best part of it is this chance for focused attention on both sides without the distraction of television or telephone calls, or whatever interrupts communication between parent and child – just for two days – and a chance for bonding.

"Above all," says Raffy, "there will be shared memories." After the first experimental Family Camp which was held last summer but which was open only to families from Leap School, a pre-school which he founded, parents reported that throughout the year something would suddenly remind their children of a shared activity – a shared moment – and their faces would light up with pleasure as they continued to share that moment with their parents. As the survey said, children treasure time spent with family more than anything.

So Steven, Mia and Raffy together with art teacher Elmer Alforque and volunteer counselors, all who themselves love nature and the outdoors, sports, art and children and who are aware of the importance of family values, are embarking on this risky project.

Will it succeed? Will they be able to get enough parents to try it out? That question won’t be answered until the end of the summer. But there is something else that Steven, Mia and Raffy share – that is the eagerness to try something new. They hope at least some parents will feel the same way.
* * *
Inquiries about Rancho Leonor camps can be directed to Mia Virata at 842-08-20 or 807-06-63 or 0917-5276110.

CERTIFIED RIDING INSTRUCTOR

CHILDREN

FAMILY CAMP

MIA

MIA AND RAFFY

NATURE

PARENTS

RAFFY

RANCHO LEONOR

RIDING AND NATURE CAMP

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