Saturday, January 27, 2007

"A School in a Garden" (a very large garden!)

Getting into the Baguio campus means a picturesque ascent into the mountains (5,000 feet above sea level) as a salubrious pine breeze greets any traveler. In a time and place where a question of limited space and a shortage of natural surroundings abound, there are two distinct qualities that Brent Baguio prides itself of: a campus resting on a scenic sprawling thirty hectares of green, green and green and an intimate parallel history with the city that houses it. Imagine these: Hundred-year old towering pine trees, birds resonating blissful chirps, soft, lush lawns, fields and hills; thriving gardens and vivid winding trails. In fact, the campus has been affectionately described as a “school in a garden” for it seems as if the school was so designed that the buildings be in concord with its distinct landscape. In addition, more than just the fact that the campus is nearing its one hundred years of existence, a number of its buildings was earmarked for their priceless historical worth. The recent structural and design improvements of classrooms, offices, and residences have been realized in such a way that the historical designs of the buildings were ingeniously preserved. Such is a priceless heritage the campus bestows to the many batches of students that have passed through. Many would recall heeding the call of the outdoors to capture some inspiration for various subject tasks: art projects, creative writing, group discussions, adventure education activities and even reflective thinking. Undoubtedly however, one compelling force has served impetus to the school’s near-centennial flourish: It is its strong sense of community spirit and unwavering service. Like trustees of a priceless gem, such individuals— students, administrators, teachers, staff and parents alike have fostered a tradition of excellence, earnestness, and a love for work—a tradition passed on from two and up to three generations of steadfast commitment. Akin to this tuneful balance among nature, infrastructure and spirit, much of this reflects the school’s aspirations. From providing students a curriculum that supports an all-round development to engaging them to an assortment of activities, the Baguio campus, consistent with the other campuses, aims to facilitate the molding of global citizens who take to heart leadership skills; who hold a multicultural and international perspective; and who are well equipped for entry and success in colleges and universities throughout the world. All these encompass a Brentonian. Nurturing a well-equipped and compassionate global citizen is best encouraged with the various activities the school imparts — such is reminiscent of a seed sown on fecund ground. Needless to say, what is special about the different undertakings the school offers is an impressive following of parent, teacher, professionals, and staff who constantly support all activities. Such is the community spirit that is the heart of every event in the school; this is the very fiber that weaves all people together even with varying roles. There are four main theme events in the school that represent efforts into furthering Bishop Brent’s threefold character- physical, mental and spiritual development United Nations Day elicits a coming together with the unifying understanding that each citizen is a crucial factor in preserving and caring for the world. Despite cultural diversities, the awareness of global citizenry and responsibility are key understandings impressed on to the Brent community. The whole day affair works its way into the core of a student’s cultural, emotional and spiritual perspective. Usually held in the third week of October, around 200 enthusiastic students, teachers, administrators and parents, don cultural costumes to celebrate United Nation’s Theme of the Year. Even prior to the actual day of the celebration, students across all grade levels engage in a study unit on the said theme in their Social Studies classes. Thus, after a ceremonial UN Day flag ceremony, students proceeded to showcase different class presentations. An annual speech competition is also held. A popular favorite is the community picnic held at the Neutral grounds. As many as 500 individuals converge in this festive commune. Reflective of the community spirit, the picnic is made possible through the tireless efforts of the PTA. Members of the community: artists, musicians, residents, foreign visitors come together and share a meal amidst the trees. Live music rendered by visiting musicians literally makes the hills come alive. Lessons and Carols in December ushers the community spirit of giving. This activity, unique to this campus, has been a time-honored tradition of involving all sector of the Brent community to come as a family and solemnly mark the season of benevolence and service. The crisp chilly weather, the soulful carols, the warm woolen sweaters, and the cozy feeling of generosity literally overflow to the outside of the quaint wooden chapel. Lessons and Carols sets the mood a string of Christmas-inspired community projects. To be a global citizen, one starts with significant steps out into the immediate community. A series of year-round community service programs elicit authentic participation from students across grade levels. The Lower School partakes in extending the Christmas cheer to more than a hundred children from the surrounding barangays. Dubbed as “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, the students piece together a brown bag-full of goodies. Beyond this joyful accumulation is its Community Day where the LS children offer and receive gifts of time, love, friendship. Santa arrives riding in style—no, not on a reindeer sleigh but on a booming fire truck. Yes, a fire truck. Santa’s corner is fully equipped with a fireplace and cookies with milk just perfect for “Santa Time”. A cheery distribution of the bagful of goodies follows next. Meanwhile, Middle with the help of Upper School initiate the TLC project: “Toys for Joys, Books for Learning, and Clothes for Warmth.” This project responds to the needs of the children from the surrounding day care centers. In this particular activity, Santa, along with his Middle School elves, visit the daycare areas and spread the Yuletide cheer. Apart from the yearly Christmas-inspired projects, students volunteer in the annual medical and dental outreach program that usually happens at the end of May. The recently-held session at the Griffith’s theater served around 500 individuals from 50 barangays. Parents, professionals and students took time off a weekend to cater to the needy. On an individual basis, the students become mindful of the global tragedies that struck unfortunate places recently. Fund raisers such as non-uniform days successfully gathered amounts turned over to charitable organizations. A spirit of community evokes a spirit of compassion. The students here at Brent learn from a most powerful teaching tool – that of example from parents, professionals, teachers and administrators. Though clearly marked as an activity that requires the entire physical prowess one could muster, the wheels of life lessons are churned during Field Day. While races of all varieties are set for the students, an internal race happens within them. The physical race calls to mind competing against one’s own mental limits of self doubt vs. self confidence; of cut-throat battles vs. valued sportsmanship. And as tradition has it, an influx of parents, family member, faculty and staff engage in staging not only a memorable sporting event but also, to set a standard for life skills. The Baguio campus, though possessing a significantly smaller population of students, boasts of its zealous and competitive teams. Within the school year, teams are sent all over the country to take part in inter-school and national competitions. It is often without fail that the teams manage to bring home a sporting award. The campus, being a favorite vacation spot, becomes a much requested host for the ISAC. As of this year, the school, with the indispensable volunteerism of parents became home for 7 International Schools. That’s 175 athletes and 21 coaches. Imagine the ties that the students establish through such activities. If Sunday is the usually dubbed as family day, Bishop Brent Day is the ultimate Brent Family Day. While it is a solemn recollection and thanksgiving for the central role the founder has set for the countless lives and generations that have been so dearly touched, it is also a day that particularly celebrates the importance of every sector of the Brent community. An International Food Festival, a Cultural program and children’s games are crowd choices. For the past two years, Brent Day keeps getting better with the addition of climactic, jaw-dropping fireworks. An unforgettable trademark for this fireworks show is the background song played. This song, personally handpicked by the Headmaster, encapsulates a simple yet enduring message: “Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow!” An experience at Brent Baguio is incomplete without witnessing heart-warming school productions. Traditional to all Brent Schools, a Lower School production is always held at either end of each semester. In a production like this, every student is given a part to perform. In enthusiastic anticipation, parents, teachers, staff and administrators are in awe as students take center stage and do their magic. This year, the school has embarked on a first—a Lower-Middle School Production featuring excerpts from “Oliver”. Each production is absolutely unique in every possible way. All who watch relish every enchanting moment to one’s filling delight. While all these events characterize what this campus is like, one other essential quality stands out. It is a tradition that spans across a hundred years of being—it commonly could be a “home away from home” feeling or a “caring” atmosphere, but it all comes down to one word: FAMILY. A Brent Family where each one carries an equally valued role; where each one is accorded concern and love; and where each one builds a part of their home here. So whether the experience for a student, a parent, a teacher, a staff or an administrator in Brent Baguio is a short and sweet semester or a lingering and endearing fifty years, the campus’ physical distinctiveness, life-learning experiences, character building endeavors, and above all its unstoppable current of family spirit altogether leave an indelible imprint to many who have learned to “know life’s dust and strain” the “magic mountain” way.

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