SILANG, CAVITE, April 15, 2004  (STAR) By Joy G. Virata - A leader ... one who climbs the tallest tree, surveys the situation and yells ‘wrong jungle!’" says Stephen Covey, international lecturer on leadership principles and management skills and author of the best-selling The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. So how does one develop this kind of brave leadership?

"Well," says Steven and Mia Virata, founders of Camp du Cheval in Silang, Cavite, "one way is by providing stimulating experiences involving interaction with horses."

Why horses?

"Because," they say, "horses are effective partners in enhancing personal talents and skills such as non-verbal communication, assertiveness, creative thinking, problem solving, teamwork, confidence and interpersonal skills. Besides, it’s fun."

With this in mind, Steven and Mia have opened Camp du Cheval – a series of two-day, overnight sessions where children can interact with horses in such activities as grooming, feeding and learning to handle them as well as learning to ride, playing games on horseback and going on trail rides. To augment this experience with horses, other camp activities include arts and crafts, outdoor exploration, campfire cookouts, hiking, team games, nature and science activities.

Camp du Cheval is a 10-hectare, fenced property located at Km. 47 on Aguinaldo Highway in Silang, Cavite. It has hiking and horse trails, stables and paddocks, a covered activity center, a prepared tent pitching area with outdoor lighting, basic kitchen facilities, an independent water supply and a bath house with separate showers and toilets for boys and girls.

Besides the fun of sleeping in tents, cookouts, and outdoor meals which make every meal a picnic, the children’s days will be fun-filled with such things as a visit to a bee farm, a scavenger hunt, going on an archeological dig, exploring a real cave, leather working and paper marbling, and stargazing – loosely structured and subtly supervised by a team of pro-child, fun-loving experts.

Raffy Reloza has been conducting camps for over five years, is a child psychologist with an MA in Child and Family Development, and the founder and president of LEAP school. Elmer Alforque is a painting major from the University of the Philippines, is currently an art teacher and has been handling the art activities for the Virata camps for four years. Gerardo Lazaro is a holder of a master’s degree in Developmental Education from the University of Asia and the Pacific. He is a math teacher at the Southridge School for boys. Mia Virata is a certified British Horse Society riding instructor with 25 years’ teaching experience. Steven Virata is steeped in the child-centered philosophy of education pioneered by his grandmother, the late Doreen B. Gamboa, has had extensive camping experience, and is himself an accomplished rider. Steven and Mia have operated camps for over 10 years at this and other locations.

Camp du Cheval is coeducational and open to children from ages 7 to 13. Three camp dates have thus far been set as follows, with each camp emphasizing different activities although all camps include all activities: Riding Camp, April 16-17; Science Camp, April 29-30; Nature Camp, May 21. Each camp session will have a maximum of 30 participants. Camp fees include meals, snacks, riding lessons, saddlery, materials for art and science, and transportation for the trips. Riding is encouraged but not mandatory. Children may concentrate on other camp activities if they and/or their parents so choose. Previous riding experience is required.

"Camp du Cheval," say the Viratas, "is about growth. It is about discovery. But most of all, it is about having fun."

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For information or to reserve a space, call 842-0820 or 0917-5276110 or 0917-8117268; e-mail or

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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