This is the kind of question and advice we always encounter from our well-meaning relatives in the province. They are right, with an operated heart and a legal public relations business that requires my firm Dean & Kings Legal PR to solve legal and media/communication crisis problems of company CEOs, presidents and politicians, the last thing I need is to be burdened by an advocacy where we are always short of funds and we end up financing it from our own pockets.
But then, when encountered with such advice, what always comes to mind is the memory of George Herbert Leigh Mallory, an English mountaineer who took part in the first three British expeditions to Mount Everest in the early 1920s. Mallory’s name entered the annals of history when he died during the expedition and his body was found near the summit only 75 years later. To this day, the mystery whether he did make it to the summit of the world’s tallest mountain remains unanswered.
Mallory is best remembered for his reply to this question: "Why do you want to climb Mount Everest?" and his answer was: "Because it's there".
I recalled this quote as I received this text from my 17-year-old daughter Arizza last Saturday night: “Hi mommy, daddy. I didn’t really go to a seminar today, I went to a speech contest. But I didn’t want to tell you because I know I would lose. I did lose. But at least I got second place and it was a close fight. It was a prepared speech contest. Around 60 really good college speakers went through three gruelling rounds. The one who beat me was already 20 years old and a seasoned debater. Sadly, whoever gets to win gets to represent the country in a London speech contest. But a lot of people approached me and told me that my speech was really good, even the judges, maybe I just lacked experience. I wanted to surprise you with a medal, but I didn’t make it. I’m very disappointed with myself. I hope I can make you proud next time.”
Arizz, a freshman at the University of the Philippines, landed 1st Runner Up in the 2012 Search for the Philippine Representative to the English Speaking Union’s International Public Speaking Competition (IPSC) held at the UP School of Economics in Diliman, Quezon City. Contestants in the day-long contest were first divided into six groups of eight for the morning elimination round, after which the top four of each group proceeded to the semi-finals. The semi-finals had two groups of twelve, where the top three of each group eventually advanced to the finals. Judges included Palanca Hall of Fame winner (with 33 prizes!) Edgardo Maranan, ESU Philippines president Dr. Ma. Luz Vilches (of the Ateneo School of Humanities), and former Ambassador to the UK Cesar Bautista. This year's nationals theme was "Wisdom of the Youth." The winner of the contest and this year's Philippine representative to the IPSC in London, May 14-18, 2012, was Bryan Chua from De La Salle University.
Reading the text, I felt first angry for Arizza’s decision not to tell it to us. Then anger turned to guilt as I recall badgering her through text during the whole day she was in the contest with other errands like tarpaulins and other stuff for last Sunday’s post-valentine with kids event at the Kristiyano-Islam Peace Library in Quezon City. Instead of preparing for the contest, she was busy whole Friday preparing for the Kris event along Kris Japanese volunteer Mari Yamamoto.
With my heart bleeding with pain and guilt, I texted her to congratulate her and telling her that although she lost the battle, she won the war to continuously improve herself through experience. Experience is a bitch but a damn good teacher. To cheer her up, I told her that as it is, we are already so much happy for her writing and speaking talents.
I told her it was already enough joy for us to have her making Philippine history by becoming the first Filipina to win the world-wide search for the Zonta International Young Women for Public Affairs (YWPA) Award, which carried a prize $4,000 (please read http://www.krislibrary.com/1/post/2011/08/young-muslim-donates-4000-p168000-zonta-award-prize-to-empower-muslim-womenchildren.html ). While studying at the Philippine Science High School, Arizza was also chosen as one of the country’s representatives to the 4th Community Development and Leadership Summit in New Delhi, India where she eventually was given the honor to give a valedictory speech for the Asian region (please read http://www.mb.com.ph/articles/228013/muslim-student-represent-rp-world-youth-summit-india ).
Later, I learned from Ms Yamamoto and friends who accompanied her that the only thing lacking in her speech was humor, a key component in public speaking so she may be able to establish rapport with the audience and the judges. Arizza acknowledged this, but said she had no regrets speaking with passion and all seriousness for the lingering bias for Muslims in the country and her experience growing up as a product of a Christian and Muslim marriage.
I then assured her that for choosing such kind of sensitive – if not provocative topic in a majority-Christian country – she had already made us proud for speaking out for her fellow mostly-voiceless Muslims. I told her she has yet a long way to go and her time to win such contest will come.
Still, I cautioned her from taking such contests seriously, lest she loses focus on her desire to land in honor roll in her five-year industrial engineering course, which they say is one of the hardest among engineering courses in UP where she is an Oblation Scholar (landing 7th out of 60,000 UPCAT examinees). I told her that her forte is really writing and perhaps she does not need to go into debating as it is far from her course, but she shot back: “But daddy, I know I can excel in speaking contests as well! There is no harm in going for it too!”
Then I realized that Arizza is just like her parents who went into the not-so-easy task of running the 11-year-old Kris Library literacy advocacy because they saw the need for books among their fellow Mindanaoans and because they have the connections in Manila to source out books and other donations from.
Arizza too saw her Mount Everest and climbed it; and almost reached the summit!