Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Speeches of the FILIPINO CHAMPIONS in the English Speaking Union’s (ESU) International Public Speaking Competition, London, UK

Fish Mucus and Foot Fungus

by Gian Carlo Dapul (2008 Champion of the English Speaking Union’s (ESU) International Public Speaking Competition. He bested 57 participants from 35 countries in the 27th annual speaking competition last May 9, 2008).

(credits to Billie4Mozarella@youtube for the video)

Here's the speech. (credits to

When I was in 6th grade, I hated Mathematics. You would have, too, if you had my teacher. He would drop huge workbooks on our tables and croak, "Thirty problems, fifty minutes." A lot of these problems seemed unsolvable, so we complained: "Sir, there are no answers to these!" But then he’d reply, "To every question there is an answer, to every problem there is a solution."

Although I’m only sixteen years old and an incoming 4th year high school student, I know that my country has more problems than any Mathematics book. Strangely enough, the answers to some of our problems are fish mucus and foot fungus. These seemingly improbable items are products of what we call scientific research.

Research turns our guesses into real knowledge, serving as the sifting pan of our hypotheses. It challenges what we assume, because, as they say, if you only learn from what you ASS-UME, you make an "ass" out of "u" and "me".

In the early 1800s, someone warned that the streets of London would be filled with horse manure due to the uncontrolled use of horse-drawn carriages. Of course, that never happened. Combustion engines, products of research and invention, replaced horses, and the manure piled up in Parliament instead.Coffee and droppings

While on the subject, few people know that the most expensive coffee in the world is taken from the droppings of the Asian Palm Civet found in the Philippines and Indonesia. The small mammal excretes the coffee berries it eats, and forest trackers recycle the fruity feces to create what is known as Kopi Luwak in Indonesia or Kape Alamid in our country. Research has led to a synthetic process that simulates the droppings' exotic flavor and quality.

So, who’s had coffee with their breakfast? Well, soon nobody will have had coffee and breakfast if the looming global food crisis worsens. Are you all feeling fine? Well, nobody might be fine for long if some new disease creeps up on us.

Health can be enhanced and life can be extended. The nudibranch, a beautiful, soft-bodied creature unfairly called a "sea slug" — a favorite among underwater photographers for its marvelous colors and shapes — has actually been used in tumor research. Samples of fish mucus have also displayed certain antibacterial properties.

And as the Home Shopping Network would say, "Wait! There’s more."Science fair like Idol?

Certain types of infectious fungi that coat some of your toes here form beneficial relationships that support plant growth. The International Rice Research Institute based in the Philippines continues to develop ways to improve rice growth and help alleviate the current food crisis.

New challenges are coming, and they will always confront us. What we need is an army of scientific researchers that will help find the solutions in advance. I want to be part of that army that would cross the new frontiers first.

If only we could make science fairs and contests as popular as the thriving "Idol" franchise. Although I’m not sure if Simon Cowell’s sardonic comments will sit well with my peers. But we need the same hard-hitting passion in research and invention.

To conduct research is to be innovative; avant-garde. Researchers are like artists with test tubes and lab gowns instead of paintbrushes and smocks. When I graduate from the Philippine Science High School next year, I want to begin my "masterpiece" and apply for a university degree in Biochemistry. New frontier

But sometimes, I am discouraged by those who say that a researcher from a Third-World nation is like a Jesuit adhering to a vow of poverty, or worse, like a Benedictine monk observing the vow of chastity. It is indeed a challenge, but it’s also another frontier to cross, for me and many young people like me.

We Filipinos are well known for their dedication to service, in foreign homes, hospitals and hotels. In our hotel, I found three Filipinos working at the front desk. I want to be one of the pioneers that will make the Philippines known for its excellence in scientific research, as part of the driving force that will expand our horizons towards tomorrow. And I intend to have a lot of fun while doing it.

Going back to my math teacher, I eventually realized that, well, he was right. As he said, "To every question there is an answer, to every problem there is a solution." We just have to go looking for the right ones. Who knows? Maybe one day we’ll be answering the questions that haven’t been asked yet.


Blonde and Blue-eyes

by Patricia Evangelista - 2004 Champion and the first Filipino to have won the English Speaking Union’s (ESU) International Public Speaking Competition.

(credits to bonidos@youtube for the video)

Here's her speech.

credits to

When I was little, I wanted what many Filipino children all over the country wanted. I wanted to be blond, blue-eyed, and white. I thought - if I just wished hard enough and was good enough, I'd wake up on Christmas morning with snow outside my window and freckles across my nose!

More than four centuries under western domination does that to you. I have 16 cousins. In a couple of years, there will just be five of us left in the Philippines, the rest will have gone abroad in search of "greener pastures." It's not just an anomaly; it's a trend; the Filipino diaspora. Today, about eight million Filipinos are scattered around the world.

There are those who disapprove of Filipinos who choose to leave. I used to. Maybe this is a natural reaction of someone who was left behind, smiling for family pictures that get emptier with each succeeding year. Desertion, I called it. My country is a land that has perpetually fought for the freedom to be itself. Our heroes offered their lives in the struggle against the Spanish, the Japanese, the Americans. To pack up and deny that identity is tantamount to spitting on that sacrifice.

Or is it? I don't think so, not anymore. True, there is no denying this phenomenon, aided by the fact that what was once the other side of the world is now a twelve-hour plane ride away. But this is a borderless world, where no individual can claim to be purely from where he is now. My mother is of Chinese descent, my father is a quarter Spanish, and I call myself a pure Filipino hybrid of sorts resulting from a combination of cultures.

Each square mile anywhere in the world is made up of people of different ethnicities, with national identities and individual personalities. Because of this, each square mile is already a microcosm of the world. In as much as this blessed spot that is England is the world, so is my neighbourhood back home.

Seen this way, the Filipino Diaspora, or any sort of dispersal of populations, is not as ominous as so many claim. It must be understood. I come from a Third World country, one that is still trying mightily to get back on its feet after many years of dictatorship. But we shall make it, given more time. Especially now, when we have thousands of eager young minds who graduate from college every year. They have skills. They need jobs. We cannot absorb them all.

A borderless world presents a bigger opportunity, yet one that is not so much abandonment but an extension of identity. Even as we take, we give back. We are the 40,000 skilled nurses who support the UK's National Health Service. We are the quarter-of-a-million seafarers manning most of the world's commercial ships. We are your software engineers in Ireland, your construction workers in the Middle East, your doctors and caregivers in North America, and, your musical artists in London's West End.

Nationalism isn't bound by time or place. People from other nations migrate to create new nations, yet still remain essentially who they are. British society is itself an example of a multi-cultural nation, a melting pot of races, religions, arts and cultures. We are, indeed, in a borderless world!

Leaving sometimes isn't a matter of choice. It's coming back that is. The Hobbits of the shire travelled all over Middle-Earth, but they chose to come home, richer in every sense of the word. We call people like these balikbayans or the "returnees"-those who followed their dream, yet choose to return and share their mature talents and good fortune.

In a few years, I may take advantage of whatever opportunities come my way. But I will come home. A borderless world doesn't preclude the idea of a home. I'm a Filipino, and I'll always be one. It isn't about just geography; it isn't about boundaries. It's about giving back to the country that shaped me. And that's going to be more important to me than seeing snow outside my windows on a bright Christmas morning.

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