I shall begin with the drums. Right now, the low throbbing of djembe drums cloaks the entire place. The sound – primitive, steady as a seasoned hiker’s footsteps, wild, necessary like heartbeat – wakes me from my doldrums and infuses my blood with a vision of how it had been in those times when grandma and grandpa Homo sapiens still had winter homes in prehistory’s prime real estates: caves and forests.
Other visions come spilling in: A necessary hunt before the start of winter so that the whole tribe does not starve during the cold months, and drums are beaten as the hunters depart to find the animals who are willing to give up their current existence so that others may live. And there’s a war council being called in the heart of the forest. Through the grave summons of the drums, the neighboring tribes are reminded of their alliance. They will come with warriors, of course. And they will be on the warpath.
But the drumbeats I hear today have nothing to do with war. The intentions are peaceful. Outside the room where I am writing this, I can see a group of students having their Asyano class in one of the bamboo huts that serve as alternative classrooms in this alternative school. Palms beat solemly on instruments with ancient origins. Goathide stretched taut across a rounded piece of wood and embellished with beads and carvings. The djembe. And it is just another afternoon in the school where I now teach. I will go off-tangent for a while so we’ll have a clearer picture of what’s going on. Imagine Percy Jackson.
Okay, if you haven’t heard yet about Percy Jackson, I will allow you leave the room to look him up. Considering that you’re reading this post online, you can open a new tab on your browser and let good ol’ Wiki and Google help you out.
So, where were we? Let’s say that the place where I am at right now is a school. But not a “normal”, strait-jacket bastion of institution that has somber buildings that have peeling paint and disintegrating pieces of furniture. Hmmm. Imagine Percy Jackson in Camp Half Blood. I am now in Camp Half Blood, where they teach demigods all they need to know in order to survive the world where monsters hunt them down and mortals always get in the way. But in my case, it is a group of kids from across the sea, from a country north of this country, whose telenovelas and fashion statement have absolutely infected (I mean that in a good way) Philippine culture. And I am part of a group of teachers who “impart knowledge” that the students would have otherwise missed had their parents enrolled them in the strait-jacket educational institutions that are in abundance in their country.
So, aside from the basics of speaking and writing English and the nitty gritty of Science, Math, and Social Studies, the kids learn how to cook; make musical instruments made out of a grass varietal abundant in this part of the archipelago (read: bamboo); make fashion accessories that they designed; dance to the groove of hip-hop; swim like dolphins and other marine creatures; and basically get in touch with their artistic slash creative sides that otherwise would have been lost if they had their education in a totally competitive environment. Oh, and the drum lessons are integral, too.
This Camp Half Blood espouses peace instead of war. Acceptance instead of discrimination. Free meals instead of hunger. Cooperation instead of individualism. Free breakfast, lunch and dinner (including snacks) instead of starvation. So, if you stay tuned in the coming days, Dear Reader, you’ll be getting sporadic reports of how I’m faring in Camp Half Blood. Right now I have to pack my gear because the school is going on a quest ot speak with the Dolphin Oracles in the southern part of this island. Ciao, then. Till next time and thank you for dropping by.