The Korean Cultural Center in the Philippines holds a Korean speech contest every year since 2011. Each year, they give out a free trip to Korea for the grand prize winner of the said contest.
I’ve always wanted to join the speech contest not mainly because I want to try my luck at winning the free trip to Korea, but it’s also because I want to stand on stage and tell my story to the audience. But since my Korean skills were still very 부족해 (lacking) to make a speech, I decided to wait a year or two.
After a couple of years, I finally had the guts and gathered enough courage to join. My friends from Araw Contingent and the Korean people who live in my city encouraged me to. And so I made my speech and submitted my application to join the regionals in Cebu. However, I was not notified on time that I qualified for the Cebu contest. I got a call a day before the competition, around 3 o’clock in the afternoon. I didn’t get to book plane tickets to Cebu and if I went by boat, I would have arrived an hour late. I sent an email to KCC explaining my situation and I’m glad it went well. I had to pay for my airfare but they offered to shoulder my accommodation. And because of this contest, I finally got on my first plane ride after 6 years.
When I arrived at the airport, my sister and I made a quick stop at the restroom just like all the other passengers. Normally, I can survive hours without feeling the need to pee and I don’t understand why I always have the urge to do so after a plane ride or when in the movies. It had been 30 minutes since they started loading the bags onto the conveyor. We waited around until there were no bags left. I panicked a bit because I thought we lost our bag but I was relieved to find out that the staff said she took it aside for safekeeping before someone else takes it by mistake. I had a mini heart attack. LOL!
The KCC events coordinator, Miss Paola, was already there to pick me up. Then I met the winners of the regional contests. She briefed us on our schedule as we headed to KCC. We walked from KCC to a nearby Korean restaurant. For normal and healthy people, it wasn’t that far but for someone like me, it was almost as if I went on a hike in the mountains. They were walking fast and I struggled to keep up because I didn’t want to get left behind because I was afraid of getting lost since I’m not familiar with the surroundings. I could already hear my stomach demanding to be filled with food.
As we filled our tummies with delicious Korean food, we had a chitchat in Korean with the KCC director, the senior manager and the junior manager. I told the director that I saw him a year ago in Tacloban during the Araw Dance Competition. I told him that the deputy commander of Araw Contingents says hi. Then the senior manager said that he already met me last year during the TOPIK exam in Tacloban and told me to send his regards to the interpretation officer of Araw Contingents. We had Korean ice cream for dessert before heading back to KCC where they gave us a tour.
I’ve been to KCC a couple times last year but I had no idea that the rooms have a concept. The kitchen where they hold cooking classes has the summer concept. The culture classroom with the hanok door has the autumn concept. The language classroom has the winter concept and the library has the spring concept. I wasn’t really interested with the classrooms because there’s nothing much to see. I was looking forward to go to the library and check out any new Korean language textbooks.
After the tour, we headed to our hotel. I shared a room with the contestant from Iloilo because we decided to let the contestant from Cebu and Davao share a room since they both speak Bisaya and BTS stans. The room was really nice and cozy. Too bad I forgot to take a picture because I badly wanted to lie down and stretch my legs. For dinner, I went to Kenny Roger’s with my brother and sister. Then went back to the hotel. I talked to my roommate before I feel asleep. It was the first time I stayed in a hotel with a person I just met.
The next morning, we woke up early, had breakfast and prepared to leave. The van arrived around 10 o’clock and we went to KCC. We were supposed to watch the screening for the Manila contestants but it was already over by the time we got there. Miss Paola let us pick a number. I was very unfortunate to get the paper that has 1 written on it.
We went to the contest venue and took pictures of the stage while there were still no people around other than the KCC volunteers and the contestants. We got a chance to talk to the other contestants over lunch. The food was delicious but we couldn’t finish it because we were too nervous about the contest.
It seems like I was the only one who had no formal schooling. Some got a short course on Korean language and the rest were students majoring in Korean language. Well, as you can see, it was a tough competition and I was on the losing side so I just prayed that I don’t forget my speech and that I get to deliver it well.
The program started and soon enough it was time for me to go on stage. I was so nervous, it was like I was next in line for the lethal injection. LOL! I stood in front of the microphone stand and just blabbered away. As soon as I started talking, I went stiff. I get nervous when I stand and talk in front of a crowd but oh well, at least I got to finish delivering my speech. Halfway through the speech, I could hear my voice faltering, feel my knees trembling and my palms sweating. I thought I was gonna faint. But I continued talking even though I was struggling with my faltering voice. When my speech came to an end, one of the judges asked me questions. This was the dreadful part of the contest because we had no idea what questions they will ask. I was glad I was able to answer all the questions he threw at me. Then I went back to my seat and heaved a huge sigh of relief. I didn’t like how I delivered my speech but I was just glad I didn’t forget my speech and that it was over.
As the contest went on, I wasn’t able to pay attention on the speech of the others because I was still shaking from having to stand on stage in front of people. One of the contestants had to stop halfway because she couldn’t remember the rest of her speech. She stood there for about 30 seconds or so before the KCC director told her that she could stop. We felt sorry for her. When everyone had delivered their speech, a famous group cover called Se-Eon performed on stage to entertain the audience while the judges tally our scores. Well, I wasn’t counting on getting into top 3 because I think I performed badly than the others. So when they announced the winners, I was shocked when they said the 3rd place goes to the contestant from Tacloban. I couldn’t believe it and I looked around and asked if any of them was from Tacloban too. LOL! I got up with a I-can’t-believe-it face. When I stood on the stage with my trophy and other prizes while they went wild with their cameras, I was actually waiting for someone to come out and say “Gotcha! You didn’t actually win. I’m sorry. We were just kidding.” Then I got off the stage with my brain still on the process of understanding the situation. And they laughed because the MC had been calling me to go back up and stay on the stage but I was so caught up in the moment and didn’t hear her.
I got off the stage with my prizes: a trophy, a LG bluetooth speaker and Sogang Korean 3 books. There was cash too but they sent it to our bank accounts. I didn’t get to say a proper goodbye to the other regional contestants because they were whisked away to the airport as soon as the contest ended. I got on the other van with the members of the cover group Se-Eon and talked about their performance at the Araw Kpop Dance Competition last year. I even took a photo with one of the members. We arrived at KCC then I changed clothes because I’m so not comfortable wearing a dress. Some of the judges talked to me and complimented me for being the only self-learner among all the contestants. He said I could have won 2nd place because the content of my speech was different from the others and it contained more complex sentences and grammar patterns. Oh well, at least I didn’t go home empty handed.
Then I went to the Jollibee branch near KCC where I ate with my friends while I waited for my brother and sister to pick me up.
Even though I didn’t win the grand prize, I’m still happy for placing 3rd. It’s the experience that counts and what I’m more excited about is I can ride a plane now! If it weren’t for this contest, I wouldn’t have gotten on that airplane and would probably still be scared of planes. Now that I know that it’s safe for me to get on a plane, I’m sort of planning to go to Singapore or Seoul next year. Saving up for it. *fingers crossed*