Dream climb tests Cebu Boy ScoutsBy Bernadeth S. Rosales
Philippine Daily Inquirer
At a glance, he looks like a typical 11-year-old boy who loves to watch cartoon shows, read fantasy books, and eat good food.
But L-rej Awit is no ordinary boy.
He is the youngest Filipino Boy Scout to reach the summit of the 4,095-meter Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, considered the tallest mountain in Southeast Asia.
“Climbing Mt. Kinabalu was awesome! Up there, you can see the whole island of Borneo,” exclaimed L-rej, a Grade 6 pupil at Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu (SHS-ADC) in Barangay Canduman, Mandaue City, in Cebu.
It had been a dream of his unit since 2009 to become the first Filipino Boy Scout team to reach the mountain peak. That came true in June.
After a two-day climb, the
11-person Boy Scout team from SHS-ADC reached the top of Kinabalu on June 6.
Aside from L-rej, the team members were Jacques Gonzales, 15; Zac Lim, 15; Timothy Villabert, 15; Roy Racaza, 16; Mary Roble, 14; Elmer Teves, 14; BG Abellanosa, 15; Cesar Hortellano, 16; and Hannah Magallanes, 14. They were led by Glen Lao, scoutmaster.
While he may be the youngest in the team, L-rej was the driving force of the group, especially during moments when most of them wanted to give up.
“L-rej didn’t quit. Just when I was about to quit, seeing L-rej, although tired but still slowly climbing his way, inspired me. So I followed and eventually reached the summit,” said Abellanosa, program staff of
SHS-ADC Scouting Unit.
L-rej admitted that during the climb, he had doubted himself. But like a true scout, he persevered. “I never thought I can make it … Reaching the summit is, for me, a great achievement because I was able to conquer myself, my fears, and my limitations,” he added.
But quitting has never been his motto—not in schoolwork or even in sports.
“What I love about him is that he does not quit,” said Jerome Awit of his youngest and only son. Jerome, an engineer, and wife Liezl, a businesswoman, have two other children—Rejzl, 19, and Jerzl, 15.
Jerome pointed out that even in taekwondo competitions,
L-rej would never back out even when his opponents were bigger or better than him.
L-rej, a black-belter, plays for the varsity team.
Jerome said he wasn’t surprised when he learned that his son pushed on even when his scoutmaster wanted him to rest and stop the climb to Kinabalu’s peak. After all, L-rej always gives his 100 percent in anything that he does.
His week is usually full, except on Sundays. From Mondays to Saturdays, he is preoccupied with his duties as president of Magis Society-Grade School Student Council of SHS-ADC and assistant senior patrol leader of the Boy Scout unit.
Although he has taekwondo practices, L-rej studies his lessons and does schoolwork from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. from Sundays to Thursdays.
Despite his extracurricular activities, he continues to do well academically. He is a consistent gold medalist for academics and the top storyteller of his batch since first grade, where he always represents his school in competitions. He ranks seventh out of more than 200 students in his grade
L-rej acknowledged that he had little time to play. “In fact, I had only one day of summer vacation because I had to train for the leader’s council of Boy Scout right away,” he said. “But I still love to play PS3, though, whenever I got time.”
He said it was also difficult for him to focus because he has many activities to attend to. Fortunately, his parents help him balance his activities and make sure that he still has time to study.
It is also a big factor that his family has always been supportive of him and his plans. “I am not afraid to fail because they are always there to comfort me,” he added.
Jerome explained that he and Liezl always made sure that they could support any activity that could help build L-rej’s character.
One of these was the Kinabalu climb, where the goal was to conquer oneself by teaching the Boy Scouts teamwork and perseverance.
The climb was steep. They had to use ropes for support. But after four hours of “very hard climb,” the team finally made it.
To “freeze the moment,” the group took photos, displaying the flags of SHS-ADC and the Boy Scouts of the Philippines. They stayed for a few minutes to relish the breathtaking view.
As he was walking down, a realization hit L-rej: No matter how great the challenge can be, it can be overcome by taking one small step at a time.
“It is better to move slowly to get things done, than to think of great things and not do anything at all,” L-rej said. The boy wants to be an engineer and build houses for the poor.
Bernadeth S. Rosales is a third-year AB Mass Communication student of the University of the Philippines College Cebu (UPCC). She is features editor of “Tug-ani,” official student publication of UPCC.