A milestone of a book for Cebu scouters

The Cebu Boy Scout Council, headed by scouter Hernando Streegan, recently launched the book "A Mountain to Climb" during the annual Council assembly. Although poetically titled, the book is actually an account of the scouting movement in Cebu starting in the early 1900.

Extensively researched, the book is a treasure chest of information for people who are interested in Boy Scouting as a co-curricular activity in schools. Names of people you used to hear mentioned repeatedly during your grade school days surface in the book. You get a close look of their faces or see them in action. So that’s the guy, you say to yourself. So that’s what happened, you react as you leaf through the 210 pages of the material.

Going through the book is like taking a trek in the old Cebu when life was simpler and idealism ran high. It’s like meeting the old folks and getting a sprinkling of their dreams and longings especially on youth upbringing. The pictures generously splashed on every spread, all colored and printed on glossy paper, are eloquent in portraying the people and events in the local scouting scene. You cannot help but feel nostalgic as, for instance, you see the kids doing their thing before a camp fire or hiking in a mountain trail. You remember of course the wild joy of youth and the magic moments when you savored the wind with your buddy scouts or splashed in complete abandon in the sea or in water holes. To a perceptive reader the book is more than a record of events. It is a testament of youth - his own included - when life was good and beautiful.

How did this rare book come to be written? (I said rare because this is the first documented narrative of the scouting program in Cebu and is reportedly the only one of its kind in the country among scores of BSP councils). The initiator is of course no other than Council Chairman Hernando Streegan. Always an innovator, Streegran conceptualized this book as early as four years ago when he assumed the Council chairmanship. Amidst the skepticism of some Council members, particularly on the difficulty of collecting the necessary data and information, Streegan never lost hope. It can be done, he told his colleagues.

So it was done despite the odds. The first problem was the absence of a capable writer-researcher among the BSP personnel. Fortunately, after a long search the Council found the writer it needed in the person of Dr. Romola Savellon, a faculty member of the Cebu Normal University. Backed by ample experience as a museum curator and as a freelance writer. Dr. Savellon started working on the book in the early part of 2005. She went through old files in the headquarters, spending hours scanning paper after paper and culling from these relevant information. She browsed through dozens of books and magazines on Philippine scouting, then did a field work on missing pieces of facts by visiting various individuals who were once connected with the movement. For deceased scouters she interviewed their close kin.

It was a cat-and-mouse game of sorts, because some respondents were not keen on disclosing certain information for one reason or another. However, tact and persistence paid off, and the book gradually took shape. Once the draft was completed editing followed. A board of editors worked on the manuscript and decisions were made on content and format, but on the whole there were little changes on these. Little changes too were made on style, syntax and rhetoric because the material was so well-written that the editors found their job almost superfluous.

While the writing and editing were in progress, the Council had to crack its brain on the problem of funding. At P400 per copy 5,000 copies would need quite a substantial fund. Here chairman Streegan’s Midas touch again played its part. Solicitation from business colleagues plus a donation from the Aboitiz Educational Foundation (through Mr. Eduardo Aboitiz) solved the problem. Thus "A Mountain To Climb" had its launching day last week.

In the ceremony I was asked to give the rationale of the project. I told the group that every organization worth its being is always in search of meaning in its lifeblood. Meaning however cannot be deduced only from the day-to-day concerns of the body nor even from its current projects, but from the sacrifices and dedication of its members and leaders past and present. "A Mountain To Climb" serves as the show windows of such sacrifices and dedication. Is there a more compelling rationale?









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