What if we include “Outdoor Ethics” in the Curriculum?

It’s good to be back, Osmena Peak!

BMC has waged war amongst outdoorsmen. While the sole purpose of this outdoor course is to establish standardized dos and don’ts guidelines, there are some who find this unnecessary… and expensive. Debates highlight more on the qualified personnel to give the lecture-workshop and the process of assessment to ensure that learning did take place. For someone who has long figured out that no one wins in social media argument, I have long   kept my peace in this controversial issue. But for some unknown reason, a private message came and challenged my silence.

Hey there, campsite!

My circle of “Facebook” friends have grown bigger ever since I started traveling. Facebook became the means of communication for those people you met during hikes and other adventure. And even if you only you’ve only seen each other once, because of the common interest you share, you become instant close to each other. However, not everyone is as active as I am. There are those “low key” friends who silently read your travel posts, never hit any of the reactions, never leave comments, but have always been updated with your whereabouts. This became one of the reasons why is stopped limiting my friends to 400. Yes, two years ago, my goals was not to exceed from that number to avoid nuisance on my feed. But well, people change and so do I. So imagine my surprise when I received a message from Mark – a friend we met during the Kawasan Canyoneering several years back – asking me to share insights about hiking and camping. The immediate reaction was, of course, to decline. I don’t want to be bashed. The last thing I would want to happen on social media is to be questioned for the things that I can and can’t do. But he insisted and emphasized that the activity wouldn’t center on BMC but rather on the view of outdoors from an academic perspective. He got me there.

So he brought his class for a camping and hiking activity to Osmena Peak. I was quite adamant about the venue. First, it’s quite distant from the city and would require a big budget for transportation. Second, ever since the local government implemented the entrance fee, camping fee, and guide fee order, I never did set foot again on the said place. Third, because of its altitude, I feared that the students might not appreciate the unpredictable weather on top. But with all guidelines set and waivers signed, there was no way that the activity was the best method of assessing their lesson on survival.

When Sir Mark gave the topic, I thought it would just be a piece of cake; but when I started organizing the flow of the sharing, I realized how difficult it was. It was no walk in the park! There was no scope of until how much should I share and a prior assessment on the students’ level of knowledge in order to avoid redundancy. I was forced to research and to do a refresher on this course.

For preliminaries, I gave Sir Mark the list of things that the students should bring for the camp, highlighting the importance of lightpacking as we are going to embark on a long hike the day after. On the lecture proper, I did a short diagnostic on the common outdoor equipment and vocabularies related to outdoors. This then led to an introduction of the sharing: 10 Outdoor Essentials, Process of Camping and Hiking (Pre-During-Post), Basic Emergency Care, and Outdoor Ethics with emphasis on the Leave no Trace Principles. An open forum was held after before concluding the night.

Before succumbing into my tent, I had a short interaction with other hikers who were as well invited by Sir Mark to assist for the smooth flow of the activity. My lips went shut upon hearing their stories of adventure – individuals who have almost completed all mountains with 9/9 difficulty level in the country and scaled several alpines outside the Philippines. They never had any BMC or groups to go with. They have settled with themselves and only if necessary join events. They also emphasized their lack of equipment deemed necessary for some “hardcore” mountaineers and how they survived with bringing only the essentials. I couldn’t exactly recall how it ended, I just found myself slipping inside my sleeping bag, staring blankly at the apex of my tent, thinking about everything that have been encapsulated on that single night. I couldn’t stop thinking how unworthy I was of a speaker when there are better and more capable individuals who could have been on my shoes. I felt so undeserving. *insert cold wind whipping my tent to add more drama HAHAHA*

Traverse to Kawasan Falls (c) Dakilanglaagan

Body clock woke me up by four in the morning. The weather’s fine but like my first visit, capturing sunrise seemed impossible with the thick fog hanging around the corners. Some groups started to hike the recognized “highest” peak in the area and began capturing photos of themselves. A weak smile crossed upon my face. It didn’t feel normal but that time, I no longer wanted to chase summits. The mere sight of those students enjoying the area stroke a different feeling inside me. But what made that morning exemplary was when we heard some of the boys shouting because they’ve seen fireflies for the first time! But instead of catching them, two of them pacified the group and said, “Let’s just leave them alone. Remember what Miss said yesterday? Respect wildlife.” Not only that, during the hike, some of these students refrained from throwing their trash on trails and have maximized the use of their trash bags for collecting garbage along the way. Since there were a number, the group was divided according to pace. I was near bottom, assisting a beginner who was a self-confessed chain-smoker. Obviously, the trek caused so much discomfort towards him. Moved with his dilemma, one of his classmates (not even close to him), offered to carry his bag. But instead of blaming others for his anxiety, it even led to him to appreciate and give more importance to life and the environment. He began to recollect how those wasted nights and packs of cigarettes caused his knees and lungs to suffer. By then, he promised to stop with those practices and I could only hope he has lived with his words by now. HAHAHA. What do they say about bad habits being difficult to break?

We have our own version of teenage rebel days – of submitting to curiosity and trying out all those practices considered taboo by society: piercings, tattoos, liquor, and other worldly vices. These moments would then lead us to question the truth of Jose Rizal’s words: the youth is the hope of our nation. Well, if opportunities such as these activities are introduced to the younger generation (say, a milder version of BMC), surely it’d not be difficult for them to open their eyes on the reality of life; beyond what they see on the screens of their gadgets.The activity wasn’t perfect, but surely it served its purpose and to that, I hope the academe would provide meaningful activities that would teach students not only how to deal with life, but most especially on how to survive with it.

Hope to see you soon on trails! (c) Dakilanglaagan

To Sir Mark, thank you for allowing me to share my experiences with the mountains and for trusting that so much reflection could take place all through the hiking journey.

To all NSTP students of CATS, may you put to good practice what we’ve shared and what you’ve discovered through the six hours traverse.

Hoping to see you on trails one of these days!