Isti Baker from Michael Hall Steiner School was Tuburan’s games teachers for a while in 2015.

During his stay at Tuburan, Isti Baker quickly became everyone’s favorite Englishman. The children easily recognized him from a distance because of his beard and blonde curly locks tied in a ponytail. They couldn’t get enough of this kind and talented graduate of Michael Hall Steiner School who has been working in the United Kingdom teaching young and old single pitch climbing, kayaking and canoeing, mountain biking, raft building, clay pigeon shooting, archery, high ropes, team problem solving, gorge walking and mini highland games. When he’s not in the woods leading tours and camps, Isti works as a gardener.

Just before coming to Davao City to volunteer at Tuburan, Isti cycled around 6 countries in Europe for fun. “I was on the road alone for weeks at a time. Rain or shine. I would spend weeks alone talking and singing to myself,” he recounts. “When I did meet people I often got offered some food, a shower, and a bed. I made a lot of friends this way.”

Isti cycled from England through Belgium, Holland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. His most memorable experience? “Oh there were many,” Isti says. “In Norway I met someone whose son had been my father’s student! The guy offered me his house and I stayed with him and his family for ten (10) days. He told me my father inspired him to become a teacher.”

Then from September 2015 to January 2016 Isti continued his adventures in Davao City. Every day he biked 35 km to volunteer at Tuburan as the games teacher of class 1 and 2. That was just the beginning. Isti’s other gift has been helping Tuburan increase its potential as a nature camp site where young and old can come to experience a one-day fun and non-competitive outdoor activities to expand their creativity, cultivate curiosity, independence, and cooperation.

During his stay, Isti helped organize three nature camps with over 180 participants grouped into 5-7 years olds, 8-12 years olds, and 13 years old from the Philippines, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, and India.

Quite a number of students also joined – from the Davao Medical School Foundation, SPED Bankal, Brainworks, Ateneo de Davao University, and Mintal Elementary School.

The camp’s special participants came from Field of Dreams Orphanage, Talikala Inc.’s Balay Sophia, Padre Pio Home for Children, and SOS Children Davao.

Participants shared how amazed they are that there are so many different ways to be in nature and enjoy it. They appreciated bringing their own water bottles, cups and utensils to not add more waste. They enjoyed eating lunch wrapped in banana leaves which were locally sourced from backyard gardens and organic farmers.

“Unity in diversity,” said Isti, “is one of the best things about the nature camp.” During every sharing at the end of the camp, participants express they had a really good time. He mused, “They’re always surprised about how much fun it is to make friends with participants from different backgrounds though at the start they didn’t think they had much in common”.

Testimonials

My name is Alexi. I joined Into the Forest last Sunday in Tuburan. The experience was nice and good. I never thought I loved nature that much. I heard many stories and played many games and activities. We had a lot of fun. I also made 3 friends. The first thing we did was to know each other and then we started the games. We had to catch balls and not drop them. Then we played the ‘move maker’ where somebody had to guess who was making the moves which everyone else followed.

We played the ‘thief and the police’ and the ‘fairy and the little boy that can only open his eyes for 10 seconds’ We also made fairies and gnome homes out of mud, sticks, leaves and flowers. We played ‘tigso’ and the ‘witch and the children.’ We also had fun with ‘the blind owl and the foxes’ and the ‘granny and the child who keeps playing.’ The last thing we did was repeat the catch the ball. It was so much fun!

– Alexi , 9 year old participant

I enjoyed learning how to use storytelling to introduce and segue from one nature game to the next.

Marco Hatico, a college student and mountaineer who joined Tuburan’s four days of training for 15 volunteer camp mentors

Growing up I joined the boy scouts where we learn so many team building and survival skills. That’s why I was amazed to learn from Isti that there are so much more creative ways to engage participants to practice their speed, strength, creativity, problem solving, balance, flexibility, and memory!

Jon Edzel Gaitano, a college student and former member of the Philippine Boyscouts Association.

I’m happy to have learned how to teach some bush crafting techniques like building a raft, a gnome home, a mud fairy, making a piece of jewelry from a branch, crafting a piece of bamboo into a knife, fork or spoon, building a sturdy waterproof shelter, purifying water, and making fire by friction! Of course I’m still not good at everything but with practice I hope to improve!

Justine Tajalangit, a camp mentor who is also a ballet dancer and mother who works online from home.

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