If there are those who believe the appeal of scouting in the Philippines is waning, the number of participants to this year's National Scouts Jamboree hosted by the BSP Central Luzon Region might be enough to change those doubters' minds.
Almost 25,000 scouts and scout leaders descended at Camp Kainomayan in Botolan, Zambales as the 17th National Scout Jamboree was held from Dec. 1 to 7.
The event attracted more than 19,000 young scouts along with more than 6,000 adult scout leaders and support staff from 105 local councils throughout the Philippines to form the largest gathering of the Boy Scouts since more than 34,000 delegates joined the 1998 Centennial Jamboree hosted by the Province of Bulacan.
And several international scouters from South Korean and Boys Scouts Association of America are among those in attendance.
This year's National Jamboree has the theme 'Saving Lives, People, Nature and Nation,' NOT JUST AN OATH.
Usec. Diosdado San Antonio, representing DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones, tackled the significance of the Scout Oath and Law in making a better nation for and of Filipinos.
"If only we Filipinos will love and apply in our daily lives the scout oath, our country could be like paradise—less problems with more competent, disciplined and responsible citizens," explained San Antonio.
The former Regional Director of Region 4A also made a pitch for the Education Department's revitalized thrust to ensure quality learning, noting that "Filipinos should not only know how to read, but to read well and fluently."
Former Bulacan Governor Roberto M. Pagdanganan, National President of the BSP, echoed San Antonio's message, and challenged the youth of today "to be better than their predecessor generations as future leaders of the nation."
"Scouting is dedicated to preparing the young for these eventual (takeover of) leadership roles," said Pagdanganan, who declared Zambales as the second capital of Scouting in the Philippines, next only to Makiling in Los Banos, Laguna.
Pagdanganan also rallied the participants to the 3 Flagship Programs of the BSP namely, improved membership, saving lives and road safety education.
"I ask all scouts to plant at least two trees this year," Pagdanganan urged the participants. "This is our simplest act to help restore ecological balance."
Zambales Governor Hermogenes E. Ebdane Jr., made a pitch to revitalize values among Filipinos and urged the delegates to help conserve and properly use the gifts of nature.
"Embody the scout life lessons and apply them in your daily life. Always choose to do what is right," said Ebdane, a former Chief of the Philippine National Police.
Ebdane, honorary Camp Chief of the Jamboree, also advised the scouts the value of networking, saying "do your best to remember the people you meet here. Chances are you will work with them again in the future," Botolan Mayor Doris E. Maniquiz, Camp Chief of the 17th National Scouts Jamboree, shared the excitement and challenges of being given the task to host the event during her welcome address.
"All the efforts and preparation to earn the approval of the BSP National Council is worth it," Maniquiz said.
Among the well-wishers during the opening program is Dr. Nicolas T. Capulong, Zambales Schools Division Superintendent who reminded the delegates to "learn and weave beautiful experiences and friendships from this national jamboree and bring the lessons back" to their respective homes and communities.
According to David Dominic Lanuza, Public Relations Officer of the National BSP Office, the number of officially registered delegates has reached 24,871 as of December 1.
The three biggest groups are composed of Central Luzon with 7,016, the National Capital Region with 4,552, and Southern Tagalog which combined representatives from Calabarzon (4a) and Mimaropa (4B) totaled 2,791.
The Ilocos Region had 2,267, Northeastern Luzon group 2,200, Western Visayas 1,460, Eastern Visayas 1,388, Bicol Region 1,379, Western Mindanao 1,025 and Eastern Mindanao with 743.
The presence of foreign scouters added interest among the participants. And South Korean Eunjin Yang, a scout leader from Suncheon Asia Pacific Scout Center, said her team is impressed with the camp.
Yang, who teaches English subjects in South Korea, visited the 17th National Scouts Jamboree with her delegation of six adult scout leaders as part of the Quezon City Council's international networking program.
"We look forward to building stronger relationships with our Filipino scout counterparts, to develop 'wonderful' leaders and share good memories," she said
"We hope to see you in 2023 when we host the Saemangum International Jamboree," Yang said.