By Gina Abuyuan
Previously, I mentioned the amount of parent involvement non-traditional schools may require—self-imposed field trips, for once, have been de rigueur for me since my twins started a blended school program. But even if you don’t feel obliged to organize little jaunts for you and your kids, taking a simple trip to a restaurant (and I’m not talking the usual fastfood joint), or a much bigger production such as an out-of-town weekender, can still be both education and not just fun.
Now that summer’s here, you can have more reasons to make every moment a moment of learning for your kids. It’s not difficult—all it takes is a little effort, time, money (but not so much as you would spend going to, say, Boracay), and the readiness to venture beyond the comfort zones of the malls.
Here are some suggestions:
* North of Manila, try Bulacan. In Plaridel, there is the memorial to Juan Evangelista, Pablo Maniquiz, and other Filipino revolutionaries that resisted the U.S. army that annexed the Philippines a century and a decade ago. This is a favorite of author Red Constantino and wife, Kala, and their kids Rio, 12, and Luna, 10. A history essayist, he’s big on historical sites, especially those that celebrate national pride. He also suggests Malolos, which has the Barasoain Church. Malolos also has Casa Real, which houses the printing press that published revolutionary papers during the days of the Philippine Republic. You can also visit the Bautista home on Kamestisuhan Street, a grand old house built during the Spanish period.
(Within Manila, there is Casa Manila in Intramuros, where I took my own kids, where I spoke myself harsh reading the markers to my seven-year-old twin boys, and encouraging them to imagine how life might have been like in those times.)
* Bulacan also has Biak na Bato National Park in San Miguel and the historic Real de Cacarong in Pandi.
* Southbound, try the Viaje del Sol route (viajedelsol.org, a tour that covers Laguna, Quezon, and Batangas). You can cover Ugu Bigyan’s pottery studio and garden (although if you have rambunctious, hard-to-handle kids, you might want to skip this) or go to Café San Luis at the foot of Mt. Banahaw for trekking, a visit to the waterfalls, and coffee. You can spend the night in either of those places or drive back towards Laguna and check in at Casa San Pablo (casasanpablo.com), run by the genteel Alcantara family.
* Liliw, Laguna is only an hour away. If you’re churchgoers, you can hear mass at its great old church or go shoe-shopping. Everything is priced rock-bottom and made well. I once bought a pair of slippers there that were pretty enough to wear to a beach wedding, and they lasted me a couple of years.
* Closer to Manila is Pinto Museum in Antipolo (formerly Pinto Gallery, a beautiful place and collection of artwork lovingly put together by renowned patron Dr. Joven Cuanang). As with all museums, noise and boisterous play is discouraged, so brief your kids first before entering.
As I said, anything can be a learning experience for kids, particularly a trip to an art gallery. The Pinto Museum presents talking points about art of all kinds—installation, sculpture, modern, mixed media. Allow them to be slightly creeped-out by the antique wooden icons in the small chapel; overwhelmed by those in the big works gallery (built around equally-gigantic stumps of ancient boulders); and question Elmer Borlongan’s take on the human figure.
* You can also try Seven Suites Hotel and Observatory in Hollywood Hills, Sumulong Highway, Antipolo. Its resident astronomer, Ramon Acevedo, is eager to teach and talk to kids about the stars and planets, and there’s nothing that gets him sadder than seeing cloudy skies and kids’ faces fall when they’re told the giant telescope won’t work under zero visibility.
I guess the important thing for parents to remember is that no matter where you go—your favorite mall, your own garden, Disneyland, the beach—show interest so they too, will gain interest. Keep judgments and biases to yourself; allow them to express their own opinions. Let the conversation and questions flow. I guarantee you, the fun and learning experience will be shared by both you AND your kids!