As I have mentioned in my previous post, I went to Cebu to compete in the semi-finals of the 2016 Korean Speech Contest hosted by the Korean Cultural Center in the Philippines and I got 1st place which automatically made me the representative for Cebu (even though I’m from Tacloban) to compete in the grand finals in Ateneo de Manila University.
On the day of the competition, I was nervous but I didn’t know whether it was because I was about to ride the plane to Manila or because of the competition itself. My near death experience in the plane in 2009 still scares me at times whenever I’m about to ride a plane. But I arrived safely and I was way less scared and more relaxed than my flight last year. I’m still trying to get used to it.
The KCC van was already there waiting for me and the other regional contestants. I was the first one to arrive so I was asked to wait for the others inside the van. The contestant from Davao arrived together with her mom. Imagine the surprise on my face when she said she was 14 years old. She speaks better than I do. I write better than I can speak. The contestant from Iloilo got lost and due to time constraints, we couldn’t wait for him so he was instructed to get a cab and meet us at the hotel. We had to pick up one more contestant before heading to the hotel so we dropped by a mall where the contestant from Pampanga and his family were waiting for us. The van was already crowded by then.
After checking in and dropping our bags at the hotel, we went to have lunch at Jollibee before heading to the contest venue. I couldn’t eat properly. It was a challenge to swallow my food when I was trembling.
I was excited to see Ateneo. I planned to walk around before the contest and take a few pictures but it was raining when we arrived and the place was huge, I didn’t want to risk getting lost so I didn’t get to take photos.
Once inside the hall, my hands and feet were ice cold. I could already feel the anxiety building up inside of me. I was greeted by Director Oh who recognized me for joining last year’s speech contest. We were then asked to sit according to sequence. They have already decided on the order and I was the 4th one to deliver my speech.
I was planning to wear a hanbok so I brought one with me but seeing that none of the other contestants were wearing a hanbok, I decided to present in my dress. I was worried that the hanbok would make me feel more uncomfortable delivering a speech in it.
Moments before the program started, I couldn’t help but call my sister to ask if I could have one more of the anti-histamine capsule to help me relax because my heart was pounding like crazy. But she didn’t allow me because I already had one before I got on the plane. So I just endured it.
When it was my turn to deliver my speech, I felt pressured when the MC introduced me as last year’s 3rd place winner because I was worried that it would make people expect more from me. Before standing in front of the everyone, I took my glasses off, thinking that not being able to clearly see the look on the judges face would help keep me calm or at least not make me even more panicked than I already was.
I stood in front of everyone and began my speech. I was surprised how not being able to see them clearly made me deliver my speech in the pace that I wanted, slow and dramatic. But unlike other contestants, I couldn’t walk around comfortably and make hand gestures because I was shaking. I even held the microphone with two hands and I gripped it very tightly. I stood there awkwardly as I delivered my speech. As I got to the end of it, I turned around to quickly put my glasses back on for the interview.
I was asked if I have been to Korea, if I had considered going to Korea for medical treatment, and if I had plans on going to Korea. And my answers were:
1. No, I haven’t been to Korea.
2. Yes, because Commander Lee told me to try to go to Korea to get treatment.
3. Yes, if I would be given the chance to go to Korea, I would. (They laughed because it was like I’m implying to make me win so I can go there. Believe me or not, that was not my intention. Lol.)
After delivering my speech and the interview, I went back to my seat and I just buried my face in my palms because even though I did better than last year, I was still not satisfied with my performance. But I just heaved a sigh of relief because it was over and I was already telling myself to accept whatever the result is. Yeah, I was already accepting my defeat, seeing how the others performed well and according to how they were coached.
When everyone got their chance to deliver their speeches, we were all asked to line up in front to get our KCC gift bags. A very little part of me was still hoping to get the 2nd or 3rd place. But when other contestants were announced as 2nd and 3rd place winners, I already began to think of a way to break the bad news to my parents. They’ve been very supportive of me and I could already hear them say “It’s okay, dear. You did our best.”
The MC, who was trying to prolong the suspense, asked the audience who they think would be this year’s grand prize winner. I was teasing the contestant from Davao to treat us. I was already congratulating her. Someone from the audience yelled “Tacloban!”. I was surprised because I wasn’t expecting someone, especially a person I don’t know, to cheer for me.
“Our 2016 Korean Speech contest came all the way from…”
Okay. All the way from… which only meant one thing. The winner lives in a place farthest from Manila and that place is Davao. Okay.
“All the way from TACLOBAN!”
What? What?? WHAT???
I had a Pia Wurtzbach moment, ladies and gentlmen.
I couldn’t believe I won and the contestants standing beside me gave me a little push because I froze in my spot, looking at everyone with a blank expression. While everyone took several photos, I couldn’t help but ask Director Oh (who stood beside me after giving the trophy) if it was a hidden camera prank. I was actually waiting for the MC to say that there has been a mistake but it didn’t happen. I felt like an instant celebrity as people took turns to have a photo with me. It’s kinda sad that I had no photo of me delivering my speech or getting the award so I just grabbed whatever photo was uploaded on Facebook.
The president of Philippine International College offered me to go to their school and someone from Ateneo asked for my contact information because they were interested on making a short film about my life. I was like… Wow.
As soon as we got inside the van, I called my dad to let him know that I won.
Dad: Anak, what happened? How was the contest?
Me: It was okay. I won.
Dad: Really? You won? What place did you get?
Me: I got the 1st place, pa.
Dad: That’s good. 1st place, right? Congratulations, anak. We are proud of you and we love you very much. We can’t wait to see you when you come back.
Me: Thanks, pa. I love you. Bye.
Dad: Okay, anak. Take care! We love you.
I wanted to cry but… there were so many people in the van. My parents couldn’t make it to the contest because they were busy with the campaign for the upcoming elections.
I stayed up all night that night because I still couldn’t believe what just happened and I was trying to relive the moments in my mind. When I’m at an event or just hanging out with friends, I usually post a status or a photo on Facebook as soon as possible but this time, I didn’t post anything about it until the next day, when KCC announced it on their Facebook page and my friends were already sharing the KCC’s post and tagging me with a short congratulatory message. Before then, I couldn’t bring myself to post anything about the contest because I was still in the process of convincing myself that it was not a dream. It took hours to sink in.
All of my friends were congratulating me through comments, private messages, statuses and some even called me. They knew how long I’ve waited for the chance to go to Korea and this is the chance that I’ve been waiting for.
Someone’s going to Korea in September. Thank you, Daddy God, for giving me this unexpected blessing. I was only asking to be able to set foot in Ateneo and maybe grab the 2nd or 3rd place but You have given me way more than what I asked for. You are amazing and I will never stop giving praise to You. Thank you for this new adventure I’m about to take in a few months.
Here are some articles about the contest:
Photos were grabbed from Korean Cultural Center in the Philippines fanpage