Sweet victory for our language

Proud coach here.
Proud coach here.

The biggest story I wrote this 2013 was the dismissal of 3 high school students because they spoke Ilokano on campus. Run by foreign Christan missionaries, the school strictly implements an English-only policy.

As fate would have it (or is it destiny?), that high school’s best bet in oratorical competitions, now a freshman in the university where I teach, became one of my debaters. He is a prized find. Very diligent. Eager to learn. Fun. Charming. And respectful.

Recently, ehem, we emerged as champion in a debate tournament with Ilocano as the main medium.

And guess who was hailed as best debater?

More than the trophy and prize, and the bragging rights that go with it, I am happy that a student, previously barred from speaking his mother tongue on campus, could shine and show the world that wisdom is no monopoly of any language. And that Ilocano could, and, in fact, should, be used for intellectual endeavors.

Congratulations, John Marvin Galat aka Jamjam. We–I, your kuyas and ate in the MMSU Debate Society–are proud of you.

Agbiag ni Ilocano! Narambak a baro a tawentayo, kakabsat.

Debate!

NOVEMBER 20, THURSDAY—It’s three in the morning as I write this, and I, along with a team of student debaters, should be boarding a bus to San Fernando, La Union to join a regional debate championship.

Fate is not on our side, however, as Nestor Corrales, one of our debaters, had to be rushed to the provincial hospital due to severe stomach pains. Nestor’s absence paralyzed our team, and it was too late to change horses. We decided not to push through. So, here I am, yet again, glued in front of my laptop in consuming solitude.

The other team members, Jonalyn De Ocampo (BS Civil Engineering II) and Lester Toledano (BS Nursing II), already had their bags packed and were so excited to go. It would have been their first time to represent MMSU in a competition of such scale.

Quite interestingly, we are also holding this week our university Intramurals. And so, against a backdrop of athletes running, swimming, kicking and smashing, there we were engaging each other in training for what we consider as the “basketball of the mind”.

Elsewhere, COMELEC Commissioner Rene Sarmiento was so impressed at how debate has been made integral to the United States electoral process that he suggested a presidential debate for the 2010 Philippine polls.

Sarmiento said debates to be held in our country will “gauge the capacity, potential and eloquence of candidates.”

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines quickly volunteered to host the presidential debates. It seems odd to me, however, that the Catholic Church, an institution that mandates its faithful to always say ‘Amen’ in blind obedience, would offer to host an event that welcomes, respects, and celebrates differences in opinions. Their offer is good but it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. Thanks, but no thanks.

Media organizations and civil society groups were also warm to Sarmiento’s move, and for good reason. Our people are exhausted of candidates who sing-and-dance their way to public office. But Romeo Macalintal, La Gloria’s election lawyer, readily opposed the holding of mandatory debates, saying that it is unconstitutional.

It will be remembered that, in 2004, La Gloria refused to join a presidential debate. Instead, her team staged something even worse than the musical cheap shots employed by politicians during campaign rallies. The administration party organized a ‘Gloria look-a-like contest, where the contender with the biggest facial mole and the most conspicuous set of teeth wins. (The capacity to lie straight-faced should have been the biggest criteria). Continue reading “Debate!”