The Campus Based program started the school year strong with the Execom Retreat (EXERT) held last June 5-7 in Don Manolo Resort, Pansol, Laguna. This year, the retreat was held out of town to achieve a true “resting atmosphere” for the retreatants. The YFLs of Campus Based Laguna hosted the event and managed the logistics, and around 60 campus execoms from various schools and districts participated in this year’s EXERT.
Some of the schools in Metro Manila that were represented include the following: University of Santo Tomas, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Adamson University, Quezon City Polytechnic University, De La Salle University, San Beda College, Our Lady of Fatima University, Far Eastern University and College of Saint Benilde. In Laguna, YFLs from University of the Philippines-Los Banos Campus and Letran also attended.
After dinner, the retreat formally started with an orientation talk given by DR Arellano, the program servant of Campus Based, followed by games and an opening worship. Allan Sy, former campus area servant of Laguna gave the first talk: “Guardians of the Vision”. In this session, he reminded the execoms three essential things: to believe the vision entrusted to them as leaders; to live the vision through concrete acts with faith; and to leave the vision to their successors.
After the evening program, there was also a short surprise program for one of the participants, Ren Apallin, who celebrated her 18th birthday that day. Eighteen brothers acted as her “eighteen roses” and afterwards everyone joined in a pray-over for her.
On the second day of Exert, Mok of YFL Don Bosco Laguna gave an empowering start by leading the morning worship. After some games, ate Ayana de Ocampo, program servant of Campus Based gave the second session: “More than Conquerors”, imparting the right attitudes and behaviors we as campus servant leaders should have. She also reminded everyone that the service that we said yes to won’t be easy, but we will be able to serve excellently because we have God in our hearts. As she perfectly phrased it, “Mahirap, pero kaya. Kaya, dahil Diyos ang kasama.”
After a short break, Carmela Blanco, district campus servant of Antipolo gave the third session: “The Greatest of These”. In this session she reiterated that as servant leaders, we’re called to be excellent in many ways, but excellence won’t have meaning unless we learn how to truly love. That is, we must learn to love our service, our members, our fellow servants and to remember to put love first in all the work that we do. Inevitably, our love will be tested in many ways, but God calls us to still choose to love in all circumstances. For as Carmela said, “Totoo ka lang na nagmamahal kapag nagmamahal ka pa rin kahit mahirap.” Love can make us do crazy, wonderful things; love will bring out the best in our members and in ourselves; therefore, we have to endure everything for the sake of love.
In the afternoon, Cesar Arellano, campus servant from Laguna, led the afternoon worship, and afterwards there was a Strategic Planning Workshop (led by Ivan Samaniego, district campus servant for Manila) for the participants. The execoms gathered per campus and per area to assess the current situation of YFL in their campuses and to discuss their long-term and short-term goals for the upcoming school year. Late afternoon was recreation time for everyone—time for karaoke, swimming, rest and fellowship, and the campus servants of Metro Manila also got the chance to interact with the campus servants of Laguna.
At around 8pm dinner was served, and once again everyone gathered for the evening worship (led by Karlo Brania, district campus servant of Antipolo), games and the last session of the day. The fourth session of Exert, “Be Still”, was given by ate Kim Viray, also a former campus servant in YFL Laguna. She recalled the story of the Feeding of the Five Thousand to remind us that if we just surrender everything to the Lord, He will bless us abundantly, in measures beyond our imagination. We need only to be still, because it is God who will fight for us, work through us and help us make heaven real on earth together with our fellow servants. After an activity wherein the participants were asked to write down on a piece of paper the things they wanted to surrender to God, Gian Bigornia, 1:7 campus servant, led everyone into an empowering praisefest, formally concluding the program of the second day.
On the last day of Exert, the participants woke up early to attend the morning mass at the nearest chapel and after breakfast gathered again for final games and for the final session. Session 5, “On to Battle, Off to War” was given by kuya DR Arellano, and in this session he enumerated the ways in which we will be challenged in serving the Lord. There will be conflicts among members, lack of support from parents, relationships will be tested, factions may be formed, but at the end of it all, we must remember to deny ourselves, carry our crosses, and follow Jesus’ example, who still chose to love in the face of trials and hardships. After all, relationships are more important than the work that we do, and so we must always strive to love one another and be united. Josh Mallabo, mission volunteer for Campus Based then led everyone first to a pray-over session, where the execoms gathered per district/campus and prayed together, and then to a closing worship.
After some final reminders and announcements from the campus program servant, lunch was served and the participants headed home. EXERT may have ended, but the battle for the students in the various campuses has just begun again. As Kuya DR said, “Campus Based is for the brave, and this year, we will all be brave as we bring Christ to our campuses and to our districts.” We have been empowered once again and now we are ready for our respective battles. In all that we do, we will be brave, for we know that truly, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
News-ed by Jeanne Peralta
District of Novaliches