(This is Part 1. Succeeding posts will be published in the following days.)
“Oh dear lord, we still have 3 nights to go,” Kat said.
Like me, she was shivering from the cold. Underneath the Day-Glo orange blanket wrapped around her, Kat wore three layers of clothing. She’s wound a scarf around her neck, too. She had a pair of socks on, and like a topping on a sundae, she had a crocheted cap that was unintentionally color coordinated with her entire getup. Fashionably toasty warm, you’d think. But the cold was relentless in its attack, seeping through the very marrow of bones used to the stifling heat of the city. And Kat was from the city. And I don’t think she’d make it through the night. And she was right, we still had three nights to go in this place where the fog easily kisses the ground any time of the day and the rains beat down mercilessly on everything and anything that stood on its chosen trajectory.
We were in the heart of Mt. Kitanglad, the fourth highest peak in the Philippines’ host of mountain ranges. We were there not by active choice. We were there because of the nature of our work. This time, the goal was for the campers to intensely experience village life in this country, and the camp administrators chose this place smack in the center Mt. Kitanglad as the ideal spot for our grand vacation.
I’ve heard some say that working as camp counselor for Camp Half-Blood is a dream job. But that evening while I searched for ways to avert the frostbite threatening to attack my toes and while monitoring Kat’s condition (mentally reviewing my knowledge of CPR and the Heimlich maneuver, just in case…), I wondered if being camp counselor is the stuff from which nightmares are made.
I actually shared Kat’s apprehension. Three more nights of watching over a herd of hyperactive campers. The conditions were not optimal. It has rained non-stop since we got there. We had to walk some distance to take our meals. Meandering through the village could have been a walk in the park if the rains let up. I’ll give you keywords to help you to visualize our daily situation: mud, slippery, slide, dark, rain, curses, growling stomach, faulty flashlights, pitch black, cold, screams, howls, thuds.
“You know, the more you count the days, the more you’d want to extend your stay by the time you’re supposed to leave,” I told Kat. I’ve overheard that line somewhere, and I wanted to cling on to that idea, so I passed it on to my fellow counselor who I really assumed would not last through the night.
Ah, Mt. Kitanglad. There were rainbows here. We just had to find them.
It turned out, I wasn’t wrong on both counts.
(To be continued…)