September 23, 2017

Speaking Out To Win

Courtesy photo by Ribo HolganzaMANILA, Philippines — At the recent World Schools Debating Championships (WSDC), touted as the Olympics of debate, Team Philippines was the most watched and was considered one of the best and strongest teams to beat, alongside European countries which have long dominated the tournament.

It’s because six Filipino high school students made history by emerging among the top four teams, alongside Scotland, Wales and England in the WSDC tournament held last month in Cape Town, South Africa.

The team was composed of Mariella Antoinette Salazar from International School Manila, Joaquin Maria Bonoan Escano from PAREF Southridge School, Donald Felbaum and Nico Lorenzo Flaminiano from Xavier School, Rico Rey Francis Holganza, Jr. from PAREF Springdale School in Cebu, and Sanjeev Parmanand from Ateneo de Zamboanga University High School.

They breezed through eight preliminary rounds of debates with six wins, and then went on to defeat Team Canada in the first round of the finals with a two to one decision, and then Team Singapore in the quarter-finals with a unanimous vote or a 5-0 score.

The team, however, was narrowly defeated in the semi-finals by Scotland.

Making it to the semi-finals was the farthest place any Philippine team has gone to in the competition. The closest it got in past WSDC tournaments was the top 16 ranking in 2009, followed by the 20th slot last year.

Team member Mariella Salazar says Team Philippines also earned high speaker points during the quarterfinals from top caliber judges.

UNEXPECTED WIN ON A CONTROVERSIAL TOPIC

Despite giving their best performance, the members didn’t really expect to defeat the big teams Canada and Singapore, 2010 and 2011 WSDC champions respectively. In fact, they only realized they were winning when the chief adjudicator was already explaining the merits of their arguments, and announced their victory!

Among the motions or topics discussed during their debates include socio economic rights, the ban on religious parties from running, rural urban migration, Arab Spring, and a feminist movement’s ban on pornography.

For Rico Holganza, Jr. of PAREF Springdale School, what sealed their win against Singapore was the motion which was really close to home, about believing that the gay rights movement should out gay celebrities.

"Team Singapore which was in favor of this motion argued that these gay celebrities who are public figures don’t have a right to privacy because they use their personality to market their brand or products. It runs counter to their values to be closeted gays because it’s deceptive. It's like false advertising. They also said they want to out these celebrities so they can be a model for gay children in conservative societies," says Nico Flaminiano of Xavier School.

But the Philippine team, who cited Hollywood and local gay celebrities in their arguments, maintained that these persons should still have some level of privacy and that they be given the freedom to come out by themselves in their own time and if they want to.

"We argued that some people are successful in creating a dichotomy between their public and private lives. This is very important in trying to protect their party, their children, family and friends from harm. We told them it's also very dangerous to mix public and private life," explains Nico.

Mariella, on the other hand, raised the issue of fragmentation between the movement itself and how outing gay celebrities is counterproductive to the movement.

"Instead of finding inspiration in this gay celebrities and making them role models, what it actually does is alienate certain people. It's like a witchhunt! You don’t have that level of scrutiny with the straight people then why do you want to have that level of scrutiny with gay people? Besides, many celebrities are happy with their lives and don’t even have to come out because they're already accepted,” she adds.

More than the arguments though, Donald Felbaum of Xavier School believes their responsiveness to the issues was what really got the judges on their side. “Both teams were really good. We just edged them out on the criteria of responsiveness and I think that's what sealed the debate more than anything," he notes.

FROM UNDERDOGS TO TEAM FAVORITE

In the earlier part of the tournament, Joaquin Escano of Southridge School says they were among the underdogs. People didn’t expect them to make it that far.

Thus when they advanced to the quarters and semi finals, the other teams began to take notice of their performance. Everyone wanted to watch them perform.

“The best feeling I had there was when we got off the bus and everybody cheered, congratulating us for beating Canada. They told us that we were the talk of the tournament. They even compared us to the Cinderella story, like we were the giant slayers!” Rico enthuses.

For Mariella, the most memorable part of the debates was when the judges announced that they won and the whole room got wild. “Our friends from Peru and Argentina started shouting Filipino, Filipino! They said we were friends with the Philippines before they even got famous!”

Joaquin cited their friendly nature as another reason for the team’s popularity in WSDC. Contrary to perception that debaters are out for the kill, he says that even when they aim for the win, teams still engage in a friendly match. Competing against a team, he adds, is one of the easiest ways to make friends with them.

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Phil. Science High School holds ‘unique’ science-math quiz bowl

PHILIPPINE Science High School–Central Visayas campus (PSHS-CVisC) recently hosted a one-of-a-kind computer-based 5th Science and Mathematics Quiz Bowl in Talaytay, Argao, Cebu, attracting elementary students representing schools all over Region 7.

Usually quiz bowls use projectors to display questions on screen, but in this competition each team was provided their own computer monitor where questions were shown through networking.

Cebu City-based PAREF Springdale emerged as champion in Science quiz bowl, with a whooping 97 points, while West City Exceptional Child Learning Center in Dumaguete City was declared winner in Math with 50 points.

In the Science category, West City Exceptional Child Learning Center also ranked third or second runner-up with 74 points, while Cebu Eastern College in Cebu City was the first runner-up with 88 points.

Bethany Christian School and Minglanilla Special Science Elementary School had a neck-and-neck fight with only a point difference in their score of 38 and 39 points, placing them third and second, respectively in Math category.

They brought home trophies, medals, certificates and cash prizes. The champion got P5,000 while the first and second-runner up received P3,000 and P2,000 each.

“We hold this competition to make our school known in the entire region to attract students who will be taking the National Competitive Examination (NCE). This is also to give schools from far places a chance to experience a unique quiz bowl. It promotes interest in Science and Mathematics among pupils as early as elementary,” said Joseph P. Hortezuela, CViC’s Science, Math and Technology head and over-all event coordinator.

The NCE is a scholastic aptitude test made to measure scientific ability, quantitative ability, abstract reasoning and verbal aptitude of elementary students in order to be admitted to any Philippine Science High School (PSHS) campuses funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

The rest of the participating schools are Argao Central Elementary School (ES), Bayawan City Science And Technology Education Center, Binlod ES, Bogo ES, Casay ES, Cebu Normal University, Cordova District, Dalaguete Central ES, Danao City Central ES, David-Solomon Learning Foundation, First Assembly Of God Christian School Inc., First Chinese Royal Academy, Langtad ES, St. Michael Parish Montessori Learning Center-Argao, Naga City Division, Obong ES, Ocaña Learning Center Inc., Sabang ES, Sta. Filomena ES – Alegria, Tabunok Central ES, Talaga ES, Talaytay ES, Taloot Central ES, Tanjay City Division, University Of San Carlos – South Campus, West City Science ES and Tulic ES.

The observing schools are Sotero B. Cabahug Forum For Literacy, Oslob ES, Usmad ES and Tulic ES-Math Team. (Princess Rosery H. Cabotaje)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 23, 2011.

PAREF junior gets in national debate team

RICO Rey Francis Holganza, a 16-year-old junior, made it to the Philippine national secondary debate team after a weekend of gruelling tryouts.

The Team Philippines: World Schools Debate Championships committee came to Cebu last Dec. 18 and 19 and hosted a tryouts session at the University of the Philippines Cebu College campus.

Holganza, or Ribo as his friends call him, was chosen by Kip Oebanda and James Soriano, head coaches of the team, after several rounds of debate where six other Springdale students participated.

He will be sent to Dundee, Scotland, on August and to Cape Town, South Africa, on February to compete in two editions of World Schools Debate Championships.

Four of six slots in the team have been taken by Holganza, Joaquin Escaño from PAREF Southridge School, Sanjeev Parmanand from the Ateneo de Zamboanga University, Akshar Bonu and Mariella Salazar from the International School of Manila.

Practice was intense because it would last until four in the morning, but it was all worthwhile,? Holganza said.

The team has been competing regularly for the past few years, but this is the first time the committee hosted tryouts outside of Metro Manila, making Holganza's accomplishment an even bigger one.

Published in the Inquirer Global Nation on March 29, 2011.