Tourism big winner in ‘Worlds’ debate
Some sampled balut and other Filipino street food. Others took the chance to find holiday bargains in the various shopping malls. Many extended their stay to see the country’s beaches and other attractions.
No hometown team won in this year’s World Universities Debating Championships (WUDC), but the huge turnout of international participants proved to be a trophy in itself for Philippine tourism.
Creating early traction for the tourism industry this year, the weeklong WUDC which was recently hosted by De La Salle University (DLSU) was estimated to generate hundreds of million pesos in revenue courtesy of the roughly 1,400 participants from 41 nations.
The figure came from the Department of Tourism (DOT), which La Salle tapped as a partner to promote the global event. The organizers, for example, packaged the otherwise purely scholastic summit into a sort of holiday destination by coming up with a catchy poster that says “Take Me to Manila” and featuring the image of the iconic jeepney set against a radiant tropical sun.
More than 220 universities, including the world’s top-tier schools like Harvard, Princeton, Cambridge, Yale, Stanford, Tokyo University and the National University of Singapore, fielded teams in the gruelling competition which ran from Dec. 27 to Jan. 4.
Considered the Olympics of student debates, the 32nd “Worlds” was hosted by La Salle this year in line with the university’s centennial celebration. It was the second time the debates, launched in Scotland in 1981, were held in the Philippines after Ateneo de Manila played host in 1999.
DLSU beat University of Toronto in last year’s bidding to host the 2011 edition of the Worlds, which is traditionally held during Christmastime.
At the finals held Tuesday night, Australia’s Monash University beat Stanford, Oxford and Sydney, trading high-brow blows on the proposition: “This House supports nationalism as the best way to define collective identity.”
The Monash team, which lead the proposing side, argued that nationalism was the “best form of identity generation” in contrast to other forms of collective identity that may become divisive, such as class and religion.
The opposing team from Standford, however, countered that “states divorced from national identity can better cooperate with other members of the international community.” The government, it stressed, “should not have a role in creating the identity” of its citizens.
“It was amazing, so many good speakers, they are so clever and so persuasive and talented. That’s why we do this: to get to clash ideas with some of the smartest people of our generation,” said Amit Golder, a member of the winning tandem from Monash.
Golder’s teammate, Kiran Iyer, noted how the annual Worlds had been providing a venue for top students from around the world to meet and exchange ideas.
“It’s just an amazing opportunity for cross-cultural exchange. You meet some of the smartest people from all over the world with so many amazing insights to offer, so it’s a brilliant event and I really think the Philippines should continue to support debating,” Iyer said.
Nine Philippine universities competed in the debates, mainly in the category for countries that have English as their second language. These were the University of the Philippines (Diliman, Manila and Visayas campuses), Xavier University, De La Salle College of St. Benilde, Ateneo de Manila, Far Eastern University, Lyceum of the Philippines, and Mapua Institute of Technology.
“It has been held in Ireland, Turkey and Botswana. Now it’s in Asia. So I think many of (the debaters) wanted to experience Christmas in a tropical country that’s why many of them came a few days earlier and some are staying for a few more days to be able to see the Philippines,” said La Salle Brother Bernard Oca, chair of the DLSU Centennial committee.
Local street food
Indeed, after nine days of intellectual sparring, the participants have since fanned out to soak in the sights and sounds, the fiesta colors and flavors the host country had to offer, from the timeless Manila Bay sunset to exotic pickings on the streets.
“I really love shopping in Manila; it has so many stores that we don’t have. And I love the weather and the food. Last night people were eating so many Filipino street foods, like the duck egg (or balut, actually duck embryo). I tried a little bit but I couldn’t,” said Golder, a dual-degree student taking up Arts and Law at Monash.
“Everything was run perfectly. It’s been fantastic. I love it, the people are so friendly, it’s been very welcoming,” added his teammate Iyer, speaking to reporters after the duo was declared this year’s WUDC champions.
The fun didn’t stop in the capital: Golder said he was heading for the famous island resort of Boracay for a four-day break. Some participants from Australia’s University of Queensland also had plans to visit the island and another favorite beach destination, Palawan. Several students also checked out cool Tagaytay during a lull in the competition schedule on New Year’s Day.
Booked in 90 seconds
Oca recalled that slots for participants in the 2011 Worlds ran out in less than two minutes when DLSU opened the registration last year. “In less than 90 seconds, there were already 400 teams that registered from 200 universities,” he said.
“The world debating community actually always looks forward to the WUDC,” Oca added.
“The DOT estimates that just within this week, the Philippines will get P400 million just from the delegates, not including [revenue during their stay] before and after. So I think they want to see the country also,” said Oca, who is also vice chancellor for La Sallian Mission and Alumni Relations.
Organizers had a travel agency on hand at the delegates’ official hotel to help participants in their travel plans, he added. “I’ve heard some of them already wanted their families to come over because they love the weather,” he said.
“We wanted to show them that we are a hospitable and warm people. And one German delegate told me “you’re so friendly here, it’s heartwarming.” That’s a quote,” Oca told the Inquirer.