Pinky Concha Colmenares

Camping, once the outdoor activity sought only by adventurers, has become popular among families, many of them first-timers.

Once upon a time in elementary and high school, boys and girls scouts went through some form of camping like a growing-up rite.  Around the campfire, many of them shared that it would be their first time to be away from their parents.  I’ve seen my children grow up with a camping trip here and there.  Camping should have been part of my grandchildren’s school activity last year but the pandemic shifted their classes online.  (My granddaughter said she had dreaded the thought of camping because she would be sleeping without her mom beside her.)

I grew up camping.  My parents loved to “rough it up” in a farm or a mountain cottage every long weekend.

I was amused at the way people took to camping recently.  They are like travelers discovering a new destination and like children finding new toys to acquire. And now I am one of them. I joined a Facebook group called Car Camping PH (started in December 2020) and to this day, it’s the posts there which I read first thing in the morning.

I’ve interviewed Alexander Gonzales, one of the people behind that Facebook account, chatted with other car campers online, and visited campsites.  Camping – the old way or the car camping way – is definitely the new leisure activity.

Camping offers what everyone now longs for –open space and fresh air where one can take off the mask; time with the family; and the feeling of being with other people (the other campers are meters away).  And you can feel safe.

People are social beings and they seek the company – or even just the sight – of other people. The road to putting campsites on the tourism map is already there.  A Google search will show the top 10 campsites in many provinces, starting with those nearest to Metro Manila, its facilities, rates, and location maps. If you join a camping group, you’ll get more information from the members.  You’ll be amazed at how many options you have, you will need more than a few days to decide which campsite to visit first.

SETTING CAMP at Treasure Mountain Sea of Clouds in Tanay Rizal.

Be aware that campsite managers follow the government community quarantine restrictions.  We’ve cancelled a trip a day before we were to go because of a surge in new COVID cases and the barangay where the campsite is located declared a lockdown.

SETTING UP camp at Treasure Mountain Sea of Clouds in Tanay Rizal, with the trailer built by Gonzales beside his reliable FJ Cruiser named ‘Pumpkin.’

A few weeks ago, my son brought me to Driftwood Park in Indang, Cavite.  It’s a lovely campsite which deserves another column.  So, I’ll tell you more about it next time. For now, think of the campsite as your next destination.  And here’s what to expect:

1) An entrance fee is charged per person; some campsites charge a fee per vehicle in addition to the number of persons who enter the place. The fee is per day.

2) There is a separate fee for pitching each tent and other things you will set up and use on the property, like a griller.

3) Some campsites charge for pets you bring along.

4) Always ask about the road condition going to the place; can a sedan make it; do you need a vehicle with higher ground clearance? How is the road when it rains?

5) Some campsites offer the adventure of being in the middle of nowhere, so there will be no electricity and a limited number of toilets.  But usually, the view at those places will be awesome. And you can fall asleep watching a million stars!

6) There are campsites developed beside an existing resort so you can opt to rent a room (for family members who can’t sleep in a tent) and you can have a private toilet.

7) Bring everything you would like to have with you – charcoal, food stuff, cooking oil, garlic, onions, tomatoes, etc.  Ask if there is a store in the property selling basic things for cooking.

8) There’s a wide array of camping gear now available in the market.  Start buying the basic gear – tent, sleeping bag, air mattress, lamps, cookware  – because those are things you would not want to rent or borrow from the campsite manager. Then move on to the more expensive items that will make the weekend more comfortable.

9) Before you bring the speakers, ask if the campsite allows loud music.  Most have rules to keep silence as a main feature of the place.

Camping is not something you do once.  After you’ve watched the day go by under the trees, awakened to a sea of clouds, or just listened to silence – you’ll be back in a campsite again. (pinkycolmenares@yahoo.com)