My school, Philippine Science High School, opened up many opportunities for me throughout my four-year stay there but a trip to Russia was certainly the biggest.
Our school holds an annual competition of all research projects by senior students, giving participants an opportunity to share their scientific interests with others.
After my group won first runner-up and Quinito Miguel Baula was awarded first prize, we were asked to represent our school in the Vernadsky Competition in Moscow, Russia. We were to present our projects to peers and experts.
My group had a lengthy discussion on who should go to Russia but, in the end, it was Baula and me who left for Moscow with our research adviser, Ana Victoria Lloren. My dad joined the trip as he was interested in exploring the city.
As the plane began its descent on Domodedovo Airport in Moscow, we saw something none of us had ever seen before. The land below us was blanketed in white.
When we landed, everyone experienced snow for the first time and we all loved it. It was really cold but it was a nice break from the sizzling weather we had just come from. Words cannot fully express the delight we felt upon seeing and touching snow and walking on it.
Moscow was a wonderful city with a rich culture, which was what we enjoyed most during our six-day stay. The competition lasted only two days so we spent the other four days going on tours and shopping.
The competition itself was enjoyable. Presenting the studies that we worked so hard on to experts in various fields was quite a memorable experience.
I was proud to hold up the name of our country while sharing the fruits of my group’s hard work with many people. Not only did we get a chance to study and understand different student projects, we also made new friends and shared experiences with them.
Eager to visit
We proudly promoted our country among our new friends. Some of them, after hearing our stories, became eager to visit the Philippines.
The highlight of our trip was a cultural tour of Moscow. We saw the famous St. Basil’s Cathedral twice during our visit. It was a marvelous structure that showed that Russians also believed in a higher being. And it was definitely more awesome than the photos in postcards.
We also saw the Kremlin, the hub of the Russian government, and all the cathedrals in the complex. The cathedrals, like St. Basil’s, were decorated with religious paintings that were surreal.
Even the metro stations had cultural themes, and no two stations looked alike. One station was hard to forget because it featured life-sized statues of Russian soldiers and people who seemed to be guarding the station.
We were also very impressed by the different museums, universities, galleries and laboratories throughout Moscow.
We did not eat a lot of Russian delicacies and always dined in a shopping center with fast-food outlets. But there was one meal I will never forget.
The evening before our return, we were invited to dinner by Philippine Ambassador to Russia Alejandro B. Mosquera.
With embassy officials and staff, we ate pancit and different kinds of barbecued meat— Filipino food we really missed.
Before dinner, we toasted with what the ambassador said was the best vodka in the country, known in English as Russian Standard.
It was my first taste of vodka so I would not know if it was really good although I did get dizzy during dinner.
It was refreshing to have dinner with our kababayan and talk to everyone in Filipino. It was such an honor to dine with our country’s representatives in Russia.
Meeting friends and sharing experiences are memories we will cherish forever.
We made great friends in the short time we were in Russia and knew we would miss them. We became close to fellow delegates from India, Iran, Slovakia and the Czech Republic and they were all great people. The Indians were the funniest. We spent evenings in their room watching movies until it was time to go to bed. We spent another evening playing games, listening to music and just having fun.
The Iranians always stayed together although I was lucky to meet one girl from the delegation. We talked for a bit and became friends. She was quite nice and I wish I could have gotten to know her and her friends more.
It took a while for the Slovaks to warm up to the rest of us but when they did, they made the group much livelier. I remember one time, I was whistling a tune and one of them picked it up and finished it. That was awesome.
The Czechs had happy personalities that anyone would love. They loved their country and they encouraged us to visit.
We enjoyed the company of every delegation and they became like family to us.
We were all very anxious when awarding day came but the Philippine ambassador and his consuls gave us moral support. We wore shirts in the colors of the Philippine flag that everyone absolutely loved. Even people we did not know asked to have their pictures taken with us.
We felt like celebrities.
My dad said we would probably see photos of the Philippine delegation on Facebook with all the people who had their pictures taken with us.
I remember the ambassador telling us how much he wanted the Philippines to have a good image among the Russians so we could have good relations with them. I think the science competition brought us one step closer to that.