Once upon a time in 1999, the Ateneo de Manila hosted the first National Debate Championships, in the wake of hosting the first Worlds in Asia. It was around this time of year that this was held. Since then, without fail, teams from universities from all over the country have gathered to demonstrate their prowess in debating, and their accompanying adjudicators have joined them to show that they are fair, impartial, and competent in assessing that prowess.
This year’s tournament will be held at my paternal grandfather’s alma mater, the Philippine Military Academy. He never officially finished because he was part of the legendary class of 1944, the class that graduated on the battlefield defending our nation’s freedom in World War II. I was surprised when I heard about this at what is now the Philippine Schools Debating Championship. It still remains a bold move on the part of the Academy, and indeed the military, to present a new image of the Filipino soldier, to replace the one tarnished to this day by generals and admirals who have tasted power and continue to crave for it. Perhaps it is not far from the example set by my grandfather, who retired from the Philippine Air Force in the 1970s.
But it is not about the soldiers-to-be that Nationals represents. There is a value to what the late Ana Alano, a distant cousin to my friend Don and a debater, did at the end of her life, perhaps the same one that guides the debating community to this day, after all the rounds of debate and whatnot. It is the value of communion, of agape, that in sharing a common interest, they can build something much bigger than themselves that will hopefully last once they part for home. It is that agape that enabled her to save her father’s life. As we did on the day before Nationals, so now, on its eve this year, I hope you can all join me in remembering her, wherever you are.
requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei.
And I wish all the debaters and adjudicators in the 9th Nationals all the best. I will remember you in my prayers.