I am lucky and honored to be a delegate in the recently concluded National Debate Championships held at the University of the Cordilleras last October 24 to 30. The tournament, attended by at least 250 debaters and adjudicators (the judges in the debate; for judging is also a competition) around the Philippines, aims to determine the best debaters of the country, and to foster unity and camaraderie among the debating community.
The topics to be debated upon, duly chosen and scrutinized by seasoned past debaters themselves dubbed as the Adjudication Core, cover everything under the sun: politics, environment, international relations, social issues, technology, even humor. Thus, it is every debater and adjudicator’s role to beef up their matter, be aware of talked-about and legendary issues, strategize argumentation, and practice preparing rebuttals and counter-proposals.
For the few days left leading to the competition, we have to prepare for these. Matter loading and trainings were scheduled; law books and international journals are crammed, and strategies are anticipated. Personally, the adrenaline and nerves got me up at nights and I end up usually sleepless.
In the competition week, elimination is set out. There are seven rounds for the elimination, each under a different theme, and every debate team is going to be assigned to any bench to defend, either government (you are for the motion) or opposition (you are against it), to measure dynamism and versatility.
Some of the motions came up as shocks. For us, those issues are alien or unheard of. We ended up getting zero for these. As for the others we are quite prepared for, we got reasonable results. In the end, the number of points our team garnered is not enough to carry us through the semifinals.
There are 104 debating teams who joined, and for the 72 teams there who got eliminated, it seemed to be the end of the line. There is always a slice of dread and regret in the knowledge that you could have done better. Sometimes, losing certain endeavors break us, instead of making us. And in the course of the competition, I have to admit that I am one of those. If only I studied harder, if only we exchanged speaking roles with my partner, ad infinitum. If only—two words of false complacency.
I am reminded with what my father usually say, that every competition is not really to determine the winner and the losers. Rather, to teach each one of them a different something that they did not know before. I dismissed it as something preemptive, a loser’s defense of his defeat, pretending to be a winner himself.
But is he, really?
For like the things that usually befall on our everyday lives, we are all competing. We face our struggles either with fear or with fervor and we all have the rights to realize that there is something we should have done. I suppose our regrets should not be counted as defense mechanisms, I say, these are what makes us winners. That the realization of a mistake and a failure elevates you to be the best; because you will anticipate it the next time, and you knew what is already wrong that you will avoid it the next chance you get. Trial-and-error, remember?
Now, I look back at the debate championships and I regard myself as a winner. I knew what I missed, but I also win because I experienced something that will carry me through life, to make better decisions next time, and because I first got there with teammates and competitors, and we all ended up as friends. Sometimes, it’s in the way you see it. As you go on, I wish you take everything on your way the same way I did. You’ll be better, trust me. I’ve been there.
Since good luck is just temporary, I wish you the best. (Signed), A Fellow Winner.