AS THE Department of Education announced the cancellation of major school events this school year, I felt some degree of sadness for the high school students of today. After all, it was these major school events that served as a doorway for some of my early travels.
Travelling in my younger years had always been with family or a relative, that is, until I qualified in regional and national writing events for secondary students. Some of these trips were not really novel ones for me, like the ones from our home in Bohol to Cebu or Manila, but sans family, these unfolded into fresh adventures. My parents, initially prohibitive, eventually relented as my school gave assurances of safety and sufficient coverage of travel costs.
Even back then, Cebu was the top choice for Region 7 events and for good reason: its accessibility. I thus laid eyes on the Queen City of the South for three successive years apart from family. And while it had been exhilarating to win contests, experiencing the island independently somehow felt like the bigger prize.
There was that year though, that mysterious Siquijor was the venue for the regional event. My first time on this enigmatic former Kingdom of Katugasan (Siquijor’s pre-colonial name for its teeming tugas or molave trees) also meant encountering its lavish history, its unspoiled slice of nature. Indeed, if one wants to step away from city humdrum and take a leisurely, even reflective pace for a change, this bliss of an island can be the answer.
Further joining a couple of national writing events led me to my first experience of Urdaneta, Pangasinan and Baguio City. Getting to the City of Pines with its cold air like a constant shawl wrapped around me still stands out in memory. It was my farthest trip from home, from family then. While some recent visitors may claim the city’s cool temperature is but a past treasure, I say the country’s summer capital has kept its distinct charm just waiting for the curious eyes and feet.
Thanks to those student writing events, I was handed the unexpected but welcome gift of travel. And that gift opened up pathways towards unfamiliar places, new friendships, a lifelong desire to keep learning, growing. For these and more, I lift my head heavenward in gratitude.
To the young person reading this today, who has been deprived of school events and travels, my wish is that you remain hopeful. This is not the end. There is more yet ahead. And to a number of us, who may still be limited from crossing air, sea or land to get to a destination, let’s be reminded: there is a time and season for everything. While this may be a season to disengage from travel, the time will come when we shall be able to fully hold its hand again.