The Philippines late Tuesday made history after it secured six spots in four grand final categories at the World Universities Debating Championship, the Olympics of debate, marking its biggest finals contingent yet since the competition began four decades ago in 1981.
Representing the country at the grand finals to be held Wednesday night are five teams and one individual from various universities, having emerged from a 380-team pool of participants. This year's debate championship is hosted virtually by South Korea.
Using the British Parliamentary Debate format, debaters battled their minds out one elimination round after another, arguing for and against pressing issues on international relations, technology, finance and economics, criminal justice, and religion, among others.
For the first time ever in the Open Grand Finals category, two Filipinos teams made it, both from Ateneo de Manila University. They will compete against each other, Croatia's University of Zagreb, and England's London School of Economics and Political Science.
For the ESL finals, a category for teams with English as their second language, two teams from the University of the Philippines Los Banos and De La Salle University will compete against each other and a team from Israel's Tel Aviv University and another team from Croatia's University of Zagreb.
In the Public Speaking Finals, Dianne Ablay from University of the Philippines Tacloban will represent the country.
At the Master's Cup Final, a category for debating non-serious issues intended by the competition for comic relief, a team from the University of the Philippines Manila also made it.
The only category where no representative from the Philippines made it (as no one participated) is the EFL finals, which is intended for those who consider English as a language foreign to them.
Pending final results, celebrations are underway care of the local debate community, as this is the farthest a Philippine contingent has reached in the world debating stage.
The last time a Philippine team won WUDC was in 2016, with DLSU in the English as a Second Language (ESL) category, breaking a 15-year drought. Prior to that was ADMU's ESL victory in 2001 and University of Santo Tomas' in 1999.
Apart from the debating participants, four judges from the Philippines also made it to the WUDC finals: JJ Pine (UPLB), Bea Cuizon (ADMU), Ethan Floro (DLSU), and Nico Lozano (ADMU).
Entire clips of WUDC, including the livestreaming of the grand finals, are available through the competition's Facebook page.