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Higher Ground Adventure (HGA)
My Higher Ground Adventure: A Timeless Tale
By Coco C. #6

I opened my drawer and saw my soiled vest with number 6 imprinted on it, with messages written by some of my co-participants already smudged with ink. The blindfold looked as if it had not been used. The poem handouts with dry droplets of water from the rain and stains of soil on its edges. The yellow envelope, with the number 6 on it, where in it are congratulatory messages from my co-participants and the HGA staff. I took a breath and in a flash, all the Higher Ground Adventure memories streamed like timeless scenes from a movie in my head. Looking back at those moments, there was a gush of indescribable emotions altogether. I remember the rainy weather, the muddy tracks, and the whistle blows.

When my mom asked me to join as a participant of the Higher Ground Adventure, only one answer came to mind, no way! With little time to think, my mom’s persuasive tactics and being a little intrigued about the training paved way to me agreeing to it eventually, not knowing what exactly was I getting myself into. I have had all kinds of access to the HGA activities through pictures and tips from here and there, but I wanted to know as little as possible since all the buzz I heard made me even more anxious and extremely petrified.

At the HGA briefing, It was given emphasis that we expect “spartan conditions” and always “expect the unexpected”. I looked around and noticed my co-participants acting so excited about it while I was telling myself “Uh oh! I’m doomed.” I haven’t even gone camping or set up a tent on my own at the very least.  Also, I was so worried that I would feel like an outcast with the group since they already knew each other and I was just a newbie. I was thinking about backing out since my brother was telling me all sorts of things about the training that got me even more panicky and nervous. He told me, “Bawal maarte don!” and I immediately said to myself “Oh no! Maarte ako.” I thought of all kinds of excuses for backing out like I might have an asthma attack to I take a bath too long to I’m not the sporty /outdoor type to I can’t possibly survive that kind of training and come out alive. It was as if I was going to have an anxiety attack without even reaching Day One.

After a not-so-good-night-sleep, the inevitable day came. It was Higher Ground Adventure time. I came in as “the daughter of Kuya Ed and Ate Chit” and it just felt too awkward at first. Then I was given my vest which had number 6 imprinted on it. I was no longer “the daughter”, I became number 6, a part of the group, one of the fourteen. I learned that I am no different from my co-participants. In many ways than one, we were the same. We take wrong turns in life, and although we may not have similar stories to tell, I was able to relate to each one of them somehow. I remember one of them say, “No, You’re part of the family.” It was a great feeling to be part of the group, part of the family. More than anything else, I gained new friends and lasting memories I will forever cherish. It was the very first time that I truly felt a part of Seagulls, a part of what my parents have been passionate about for all these years.

The moment I put on my vest with my designated number, I had no idea I was taking on a new challenge to be a better person. And so it seems, that’s not something that happens overnight. Before I experienced the HGA, I thought I was “okay”. Having gone through the rigid three days, I began to realize that there is something better out there than just “okay”. Just like Jonathan Livingston Seagull who didn’t want to be just like every other seagull, I do not want to be like everybody else.  I don’t want to settle for what is readily available but rather rise up from a struggle and cherish the journey.

I fell several times. Not once, not twice, not thrice, but a little bit more than that. And I’m glad I did experience falling. Falling and rising up after felt so refreshing. Falling does not mean defeat neither failure rather a reason to hold on to the rope, hold on to your life, and never let go. Sometimes we lose hope when something unfortunate and terrible happens to us, we lose ourselves. But sometimes all we need is to make a wrong turn to get right back on track, no matter how ironic it sounds. It’s a test of faith to rise up to challenges, try again and never say “never”.

I have never felt so alive. I saw life from a different light, the kind that makes me want to wake up every morning with a smile on my face and enthusiasm in my heart. No matter how unpredictable and strange life can be, having gone through the HGA, it’s as if I can do anything if I think I can. There is nothing too far, nothing too difficult, and nothing impossible to reach.

I think no one ever does understand why life is the way it is, and we may never even find answers to all our questions. But not knowing what might come my way is a beautiful thing. The first time I was blindfolded, I was so scared. I have always dreaded blindfolds and total darkness. It makes me feel helpless and weak. I slowly grew into it and learned to trust the people around me and most importantly myself. I know for a fact that I have not always been responsible and independent. And I discovered that I can be if I wanted to. There is no one else who can take charge of my life but me. Indeed, I am the captain of my own flagship.

As the three days flew by like bliss, number 6 became “me”, probably a better version of me. Time flew fast from Day One to Day Two, and before I knew it, it was Day Three and I reached the end of tunnel --- Graduation. I could not believe it, I made it. The wounds and bruises on my arms and legs were gone about two weeks after the training but the lessons I have learned will forever remain in my heart. It did not matter if I bruised my arm, broke a nail, cried a bucket of tears or hurt my back. The struggles and hardships during the HGA were all worth it, especially when I heard these two very familiar voices, my mom and dad, say “I love you Coco” when I found my number, when I found my life. It was simply priceless. Family makes me hold on and never let go of my life. Things may not be perfect all the time, but nonetheless, we carry on.
The Higher Ground Adventure is over, but it is definitely not an ending. It is rather just the beginning of something brighter and better. I will forever remember and cherish the memories, the friendship, the challenges and triumphs, and everything I learned. Ink may fade on paper but my HGA experience will remain a lasting imprint on my heart, like a timeless tale that never gets old.




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