February 20, 2017
AHS Debaters

(L-R) Hans Gonzalez, Luigi Alcañeses, Julia Ocoma, Matti Tan
The teams of Julia Ocoma & Matti Tan, and Luigi Alcañeses & Hans Gonzalez represented the Philippines and Asia in the Finals Day of the Cambridge Schools Debate Championship 2017. It was the first time that teams from outside the United Kingdom were allowed to compete in one of the most competitive high school debate competitions in the world. And on their first try, both Ateneo teams excelled and were the only non-Western teams to qualify for the final rounds of the Finals Day.
Six hundred teams comprised of 1200 debaters have competed in regional heats since September 2016. The champions and top teams from Asia, Canada, Switzerland, Germany, Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales, and other regional legs competed for 50 slots on the Finals Day held in the historic Cambridge Union Building for the most difficult and prestigious final stage of the global competition.

In the Final Day, the team of Ocoma & Tan reached the Final Four of 600 teams and debated the Grand Finals against powerhouses from around the world. Team Canada--comprised of two students with vast international debating experience--took home the trophy and championship. The other two teams in the final were British teams Dulwich School (including Team Captain of the World Champion 2016 Team England) and Eton College (comprised of two debaters who have won multiple championships all over Europe)--two of the world's most elite and famous academic institutions.
Tan & Ocoma debated the finals motion, "This house rejects all laws that restrict any kind of speech." But more importantly, they debated in the Main Chamber of the 200-year-old Cambridge Union Building, the world's oldest debating society, and the venue where the original rules of debating were written over two centuries ago. The podium in which they spoke is the same podium in which Presidents, Prime Ministers, Supreme Court Justices, Nobel Prize Winners, Athletes, Authors, Military Generals, the Pope, the Dalai Lama, and more have all spoken in.
The team of Alcañeses & Gonzalez also qualified for the final rounds in terms of team points, but were listed as a reserve team on the basis of speaker points. At one point in the tournament, they were in contention for being the top breaking team overall with a near-perfect debate record Nevertheless, both Ateneo teams were the only Asian teams to come close to breaking. Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka were also in the competition.
The World Universities Debate Championship Best Speaker in the World 2016 Michael Dunn Goekijan from Cambridge University observed both Ateneo teams throughout the competition. Fondly known as MDG, he praised the Ateneans as being "brilliant," and said that the Ateneo Debaters were as competitive as top teams in the United Kingdom, where British Parliamentary Debating is a required subject in several schools from a young age. As a result, Ateneo has been invited to several other tournaments in the UK, such as in Oxford and Cardiff. The Ateneans are pioneers in breaking barriers, proving that teams in the Philippines and Asia--when given the opportunity--can stand with the best high school debaters in the world who have far more experience and resources.

On top of debating, the UK experience of the team has been comprised of fun and learning in tours around London, Oxford University, Stratford-On-Avon, Bath, Cottswold, and many more.

The Ateneo Debaters would like to thank sponsors Pru Life UK for their generous sponsorship of the team without whose financial assistance the trip would not have been possible. The team would also like to thank Dr. Carmela Oracion and the ASHS and AJHS administrations for their continued support of the team. The ASHS and AJHS teams are moderated by Mrs Fe De Jesus and Mr Joel Falgui respectively. They were accompanied in the UK by coach Henry Fernando, and were also trained by Mahar Mangahas, Miguel Ventura, and Tres Yap.

Cheers to the four Ateneans who have changed perceptions and transformed expectations of the rest of the world! The team is honored and privileged to represent the school, country, and continent in this truly global competition.