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Koronadal: A Journey of Self-Discovery

By Raphael Ryan Malilay (High 4-B), Stallion Features Editor, SY 2007-2008

airport-greeting.jpgThe National Secondary Press Conference - Regionals had been over a month ago, and I’d long forsaken – forgotten – any hopes of making it into Nationals. After weeks and weeks of pestering my moderators about the results, I realized the pointlessness of it all and, almost overnight, just stopped caring. Where the thought once bubbled up night and day, it now pretty much never surfaced.

mrs-abad-parade.jpgThen, I received the letter saying I’d be going to Koronadal pretty much out of nowhere. I don’t think anyone really knew what it was – it was delivered with as much aplomb as a green slip or a circular. To say I was taken aback would be an immense understatement: for quite some time, none of it was sinking in. It seemed like some horribly twisted joke, really. Several read-throughs later, the gravity of it all came to me – and thus does this begin.

host-school.jpgIt was clear that Nationals was a bigger deal for the other delegates. Stepping off of the plane, I was struck – more than by the blazingly bright sunlight – by the sheer number of people and families taking pictures at the landing area. I guess that was the moment when the idea of competition really sunk in. The people around me, laughing and smiling as they posed: I might very well be up against them. Suddenly, I was grasped by a severe sense of isolation.

Manila, Manila

I’d never considered myself spoiled. However, in Koronadal, I soon saw how my dependence on air-conditioning (and shade) bordered on the druggie – within minutes of the Grand Parade DepEd had planned, my sweat formed in buckets.

tricycle-2.jpgNeither did I imagine myself addicted to technology and the Internet. A week without a computer (much less a working connection) quickly altered this view. Initially, everytime our group (for we had made friends with other delegates also staying at the hotel) went out, the other delegates and I would search almost frantically for an Internet Café (this is the precise reason why I could not update live).

Delicate sensibilities? Not really. I guess I’d just taken a lot of what I had back home for granted. I was never uncomfortable in Koronadal, but staying there made me miss Manila more than I could imagine.

Paaralang Guang Ji

parade-2.jpgIn a twist I couldn’t predict in my wildest dreams, I ended up really thinking about my Chinese-Filipino heritage in Koronadal.

In Xavier, I find myself horrendously out-of-place when my friends and peers babble in anything outside of English and Taglish. Chinese – Mandarin, Fookien, or in the rare instance of Cantonese – is totally alien to me. Despite being Chinese myself, I’ve found myself nodding along on more than one occasion as Chinese is blathered around me. Yet, in Koronadal, this Chinese side of me – a side I’d long assumed dead – stood out. It’s not something easily explained; suffice it to say that I felt more Chinese than I ever had (or probably ever will, for that matter). Was it the prolonged lack of other Chinese people? Was it the distance from home, where my family and friends were? Was it the distance from school? I don’t know. All I know is that at one point, I taught (or tried to teach) others Chinese. And that at one point, I expended all my knowledge of Fookien. At least I can say that I once stood out for being Chinese.

fireworks-greeting.jpgSurprisingly, Filipino and English are not enough to get by in Koronadal. At least, not Tagalog. Despite being in Mindanao, Bisaya is incredibly widespread in Koronadal. From street signs and advertisements to normal conversations, Bisaya (or Cebuano, if you prefer) was very literally everywhere. Even the Mass was held in Cebuano, making it one of the longest hours of my life. I’m just thankful Mrs. Abad was Cebuana – otherwise, miscommunication would arise everywhere. Then Truth be told, only the NCR delegates were unversed: the other delegates tried speaking to us in Bisaya to no avail. More than anything, I guess it was a lesson on humility – suddenly, I realized that NCR (or Tagalog) was hardly the best representation for the Philippines. Come to think of it, it was all very sentro at laylayan (or post-colonialism). So much for the impracticality of high school lessons.

More than Gold

parade-9.jpgUnderstandably, the first question people asked on my return was regarding whether or not I’d won. And, always, I’d tell them that I won and I lost. This is true – I did win in an online writing contest (click here to see it in all its rushed glory). But, then again, I did, also, lose – in the contest I’d gone for, the contest I missed a week’s worth of school for.

I’m not particularly proud of losing. Bluntly, losing sucks – all I took consolation in was that, at the very, very least, one of the NCR delegates got into the Top 7.

parade-6.jpgSeeing my crestfallen look, Mrs. Abad sought to cheer me up, telling me that getting to Koronadal was an achievement all on its own. I, of course, shot this down with haste, saying that I’d gone there to win; since I didn’t, I pretty much wasted my time.

When I got to thinking about everything that happened Koronadal (as one might expect, the results were released somewhere near the end) I came to a rather scary question: between the two, would I rather have the trophy and medal, or the memories and experiences I’d made on my trip?

parade-5.jpgAnd then, looking back on everything I’d been through just that week, I realized that while I wasn’t bringing back the gold and going back empty-handed, this didn’t mean I was returning empty. What I lost in gold, I made up for in experiences and memories. While I might very well be empty-handed, I was certainly not empty-minded or empty-hearted. While I didn’t make a prize-winning Features Article, I did make invaluable insights. And while I didn’t “make” history, I did make friends – friends I could not and would not have met otherwise.

Would I really choose glory over all that? I knew then that I’d gained something more.

Warren said,

April 15, 2009 @ 3:32 pm

This is a nice post. Glad that you have gained (on psychic rewards, that is) more than what you have intended.
Just a minor correction though, I think in Koronadal, the center of South Cotabato, the mother tongue is Ilonggo rather than Bisaya or Cebuano.

Cheers,
Warren from Cotabato City

Mae Amor said,

April 14, 2008 @ 9:28 am

You are a WINNER! Your article was impressive. Congratulations! More power to you and celebrate your gift of writing!

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