Brightwoods School is a privately-owned educational institution located in the province of Pampanga, on the central part of the Luzon Island of the Philippines. Established as a pre-school in 1993, Brightwoods has grown into a full K-12 school today.
In late April of 2019, ten students from Brightwoods School and two accompanying teachers took a 12-day trip to New Zealand’s North Island - a first for this region of the Philippines!
Kicking off the journey in the Auckland business district, the group took an urban stroll from the ports of West Haven and the esteemed Auckland Fish Market to busy bustling Queen St. before landing base at a student-led tour in the University of Auckland. The students were acquainted with urban university culture, student life in a city campus, and the facilities surrounding the top-ranked university in New Zealand. Albert Park was another great stopover with large coniferous trees playing host to a relaxing picnic in the autumn breeze. Visiting the Sky Tower was an Auckland must. The students were at awe with the option of bungee jumping and would often try to coax their schoolmates and teachers into having a go. The visit did lend itself to some awesome sights and proved to be a perfect cap to the Auckland tour.
The drive to Cambridge was a scenic one, with large highways and well-populated bits of urban sprawl slowly replaced with vast farmlands and grasing cattle. Deciduous trees around the area formed gorgeous, warm-colored foliage amidst the township. The word “picturesque” was mentioned more than once, and for good reason. The dorm-type accommodation at Cambridge, with a more integrated communal space, was a crowd favourite among others. The kids said that they were able to develop a heightened awareness and consideration for others in a shared living environment. Cooking, cleaning, and initiative with chores were focal throughout their whole stay.
The HQ at Cambridge also provided the group access to other activities in the central region of the North Island. Students were in high spirits to visit farm animals and hike the trails along mountain ranges and conservational reserves. By the end of the hiking spree, the students have deemed themselves experts at scrubbing their shoes before entering and exiting protected New Zealand forestlands. Hobbiton was also a crowd pleaser, as movie buffs and LOTR newbies alike roamed the set of one of the most popular film franchises in all of cinema.
This second host city lends itself to one of New Zealand's most prestigious high schools, St. Peter's School. With it's massive campus having its own golf and equestrian course, this school has everything it needs to nurture its elite students' extra curricular interests, while the high end science laboratories and enticing library keeps them motivated to study.
A stone's throw away from Cambridge is the small quaint town of Tirau, where a local primary school opened it's doors to our group. The older Filipino students spent one morning teaching the kids about their culture and even performed a dance for them in their national costume.
During their time at Cambridge, the group were able to take day trips to Tauranga, a coastal city on the east side of the North Island. Here the students saw an even more laid back setting of NZ, with families taking their kids hiking, and surfers hanging out by the beach.
Tauranga was also home to one of the high schools visited, Te Puke High School. The school welcomed the Filipino visitors with a traditional Powhiri, or Maori welcome, and the spent the entire day learning about each other's culture.
The road trip out of Cambridge eastbound to Rotorua drove up the pace substantially. Home to adrenaline junkies, campers, cross-country cyclers, sky divers, and practically anyone who’s out for anything adventurous, Rotorua had an energy of its own – more specifically, one of the geothermal kind. The students were able to take a load off and steam their worries away at the nearby hot springs and geothermally heated pools by their lakeside accommodation. They seem to have been fans of Hangi as well during their visit to Tamaki Maori Village.
Apart from its naturally free-spirited atmosphere, Rotorua also happens to be home to the group’s favourite host school by far. Toi-Ohomai Institute of Technology offers excellent applied courses and a full range of polytechnic skillsets for premium entry into the local and global workforce. Its warm and welcoming staff, cultural diversity, and devotion to student care has made it a top choice for students in the group who have been considering studying abroad.
As the programme came to an end, the group took a road trip to Taupo, a township known for sky diving and having NZ's largest lake. It was a treat to see mother nature's extreme power after a visit to Huka Falls, one of NZ's most impressive waterfalls! This location summarised the entire trip and was a great way to cap off the Kiwi Adventure.