Life lessons on higher ground

Kool Adventure Camp in Balamban takes team building to a new level

THE things people learn in the newly opened Kool Adventure Camp do not come easy. The campers scale walls for them, cross bridges that wobble while suspended 20 feet above ground, or leap into empty air to reach for targets hanging just beyond their grasp. They take “stretch targets” seriously here.

CLIMB OF THEIR LIVES. These inclined climbing walls dominate the first of four clusters of challenge ropes courses at Kool Adventure Camp. While climbers ascend, their teammates belay and cheer for them at ground level. These activities are meant to create “powerful, life-transforming experiences that will positively change the way our participants see themselves,” camp officials said. (SUN.STAR FOTO/ALEX BADAYOS)
CLIMB OF THEIR LIVES. These inclined climbing walls dominate the first of four clusters of challenge ropes courses at Kool Adventure Camp. While climbers ascend, their teammates belay and cheer for them at ground level. These activities are meant to create “powerful, life-transforming experiences that will positively change the way our participants see themselves,” camp officials said. (SUN.STAR FOTO/ALEX BADAYOS)

In one of 28 challenge ropes courses, small groups must climb an inclined wall while tied to one another. This is meant to teach them to trust others, while becoming trustworthy themselves, able to talk and overcome difficulties as a team.

These courses, divided into four clusters, dot the 10-hectare property in Barangay Cansomoroy, Balamban, about 42 kilometers from the Capitol. But these are not the only challenges here. One training program takes campers on an eight-kilometer trek up a mountain, which usually lasts five hours and hones the participants’ survival skills. Another involves kayaking off Balamban’s coast, visible from the camp’s landscaped hills.

CHALLENGE HALL. In this indoor course inside the Challenge Hall, participants, working two at a time, must get to the top of this difficult course together. (SUN.STAR FOTO/ALEX BADAYOS)
CHALLENGE HALL. In this indoor course inside the Challenge Hall, participants, working two at a time, must get to the top of this difficult course together. (SUN.STAR FOTO/ALEX BADAYOS)

For the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI), the adventure began more than 15 years ago, when some officers and employees went on a team-building course that left a strong impression on them. Earlier versions of the camp took place in Punta Engaño, but in organizing the Balamban facility, the foundation amplified their “opportunity to turn ordinary people into spirited leaders, with a passion for life and a drive to excel,” RAFI president Roberto Aboitiz told the inaugural crowd that included Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III and Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes. Both have reportedly attended programs for local government teams in the Kool Adventure Camp (KAC).

The KAC resembles a resort, with its youth bunks, corporate cabins and meeting spaces arranged in a way that lets campers take in the grand view. The facilities will enable the camp’s staff to work with as many as 12,000 persons in one year, but the adventures here are not for corporate parties or thrill-seeking tourists.

ROOMS WITH A VIEW. The corporate cabins can accommodate 64 participants, while the youth bunks can hold up to 156 on any given day. A tent area for camping, located near one hill dotted with wildflowers, can hold up to 50 campers. (SUN.STAR FOTO/ALEX BADAYOS)
ROOMS WITH A VIEW. The corporate cabins can accommodate 64 participants, while the youth bunks can hold up to 156 on any given day. A tent area for camping, located near one hill dotted with wildflowers, can hold up to 50 campers. (SUN.STAR FOTO/ALEX BADAYOS)

“This is a fully dedicated experiential learning center,” said the camp’s director, Edvan Loh. “It is the first facility of its kind in the country.”

Course fees start at P6,000 per person, per day for corporate or professional development programs, which covers the training design, facilitation, accommodations and meals. Part of the fee supports public high school campers, who qualify for a subsidized fee of P600 per person.

In exchange, participants get to climb, plunge (in some cases, blindfolded) and rappel down an indoor or outdoor rock wall. If these “constructive levels of anxiety” threaten to engulf them, they can always gaze at a large outdoor installation designed by Kenneth Cobonpue — three white structures that bring to mind birds in various stages of flight. These stand for character, competence and citizenship, the lessons and inner resources that KAC’s team hopes will sustain their campers for the rest of their lives.

(For more information, call 260-9000 or visit www.kac.rafi.org.ph)

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