The debate correspondent

A debater from UP Manila, who shall remain unnamed for reasons best kept to myself, teasingly introduced me to many younger debaters last weekend as “a founding member of the Ateneo Debate Society.” Apparently, I told his teammate that his clerkship supervisor at UP Med, Dr. Victoria Ang (commonly called Toyang), was once the country’s second best debater and that I knew her. I am honestly not flattered; if you are looking for founding members, I can give you names!

But the ADS is a relatively young organization, and when I joined, in 1999, it was just five years old, or perhaps even less. In a sense, one could still find the founding generation still very much active then. For the record, I joined after the 1998 Manila Worlds, since Paolo Pasicolan, who was with the Heritage Foundation and is now a business lawyer in Maryland, seemed to think I was up for it. And yes, I tried out for the Asians contingent, and almost made the final cut. I can only say that it was a good experience, and I can also say that, even if I have always been an adjudicator since that Worlds tournament, I have had some experience debating.

I however think that as much as I recall debating and adjudicating during those heady years, I also had a good time reporting on the goings-on in Ateneo de Manila debate. Someone from my sister’s batch dug up an old handwritten primer I made on debate rules so that the Guidon’s news team would understand the jargon they would hear from me. And after that same Asians for which I unsuccessfully tried out, I wrote a report, very straightforward, about what had happened. I am trying to recall (since the damn archive is missing) whether I also wrote on that Worlds tournament in Sydney where the ADS was the first in the Philippines to make it into the quarterfinals. I am sure that I did not write on the first Nationals, because I was training with the Ateneo contingent. (The winner was UP Diliman, and that I remember because one-half of the winning team reminded me back in 2003.)

The only other debate-related thing on which I wrote as a contributor was not about debate itself but about a debater. In the same issue where the Manila Times closure formed the main headline, the bottom of page one had a brief story, written in the standard New York Times obituary style, on the death of Ana Alano. I knew that it was difficult to write, because I knew Ana from those first few months in the ADS, but it was already in the news elsewhere when we published it. Early next year, it was announced at the Sydney Worlds that the ESL tournament award be named in her honor, and I think the Philippine debating community has an award given at Nationals, as the ADS intended at the first one in 1999, for debaters who have served the wider community. (I think it may have changed since then; can someone please update me?)

I am writing this because I tend to reminisce around the time debate tournaments take place. And of course, I am out to debunk that falsehood that I was a founding member of the Ateneo Debate Society. I only happened to be there a long time ago.

*****

By the way, Paolo will always be remembered for a description that I have since adopted: “a surprise.” It is to him, to Ana, and to the debaters of their generation, that I dedicate this act of memory, history, and forgetting.

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