10A's Matti Tan becomes first Atenean and 2nd Filipino to win Asia public speaking tilt

June 15, 2016
AHS Debaters

Matti Tan, an Ateneo Junior High School student from the class of 10A, became the first Atenean and the second Filipino to win the top prize in the public speaking competition of the Asian Schools Debate Championship (ASDC) last June 11, 2016. Tan beat more than 100 students from all over Asia in the competition, which was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from June 4 to 11. Matti Tan
The Public Speaking Competition took place alongside the Debate Competition. This year, new adjustments added to the rules and structure of the event made it more intense and more competitive than ever before.
The first major change that was made was the rule for eligibility: other than high school debaters, college students and graduates participating in ASDC as adjudicators were allowed to join the competition as well. Over 100 participants—high school and college students alike—signed up for the three preliminary rounds. Whereas before there was only one preliminary round before the final, participants this year were tasked to speak thrice in front of several judges.
Moreover, comedic value was no longer held to be the most important criterion for scoring. Speeches were also scored based on content, substantial purpose, social relevance, organization, clarity, vocabulary, and delivery. Each speech lasted for a total of four minutes. This year, participants had to put more thought and precision into the content of their speeches.
For the first round, each contestant was allowed to make a speech about any topic of his choice. Tan decided to speak about his grade nine/ first year English Teacher, Dr. Onofre Pagsanghan (Mr. Pagsi). In his speech, he shared some of the jokes and fun memories he brought home from English class. He fondly recalled how special it felt to be the last class of A-Boys Mr. Pagsi would ever teach, given the changes of transitioning to the K-12 program. Tan’s insight was that, in retrospect, it is easy to believe that time in Mr. Pagsi’s class will last forever. But as the year came to a close, Mr. Pagsi’s lessons on compassion and love reverberated even more powerfully. Their challenge was to carry on the lessons they learned in his class, even after the school year ended. For Tan, a teacher’s impact lasts forever.
 For the second round, contestants were tasked to answer the question, “What does feminism mean to me?” Tan described it as a movement and force that gave women access to options they never had prior. Its power, according to Tan, lies in its power to “…stop branding feminine attitudes and traits.” He also described how this led to small improvements in the daily challenges that women have to face.
In the final preliminary round, Tan was asked a question that was designed to be answered humorously: “If you could go back in time and kill somebody, whom would it be, and why?” Tan decided to stand out, and unlike other competitors who said that they would eliminate tyrants and dictators, shared that he would put an end to Justin Bieber. His reasoning was that while we may not reinvent the tragedies of history, we can reinvent pop culture and “…make the kinds of songs that people listen to slightly more tolerable.” His answer drew laughs and cheers from a pleased crowd.
Only 20 Public Speakers out of over 100 were allowed to advance to the Semifinal. Tan drew a slip of paper at random from a box, and the paper read: “You are a secret agent of the CIA—you just walked into the files room and a box of never-before-seen documents fell on your head. You realize that ________...” Tan once more stood out by asking questions nobody else thought of asking: (1) Why would a box of files fall on my head? Isn’t the CIA supposed to be the most professional organization? (2) I am probably in an underfunded branch and am not much of a special agent if I have been assigned here. (3) There are probably government secrets which the state lies to the public about. Tan’s clincher was when he joked that “I would take photos of these documents and share them on Facebook and Snapchat. I’d be the most popular person because of all of the ‘Likes’ I would receive.”
In the Grand Final, the top nine contestants were asked to interpret a picture with Bernie Sanders dressed as Batman, Donald Trump as The Joker, and Hilary Clinton as Two Face (see video at the top of this page). Matti creatively interpreted the picture as a Halloween Party hosted by President Barrack Obama in the White House, and how the three presidential candidates would have traded insults and attacks on each other in their costumes. Tan drew the most laughs from the audience with his creativity and walked home with the trophy.
It was in this manner that an Atenean won the most intense Public Speaking competition in ASDC history. It is only the second time that a Filipino has won the competition, the first being in 2010.
Other Ateneans who reached the Semifinal were JC Cruz, Hans Gonzalez, and Phil Javellana—all Ateneo Senior High School Students. Luigi Alcañeses (Grade 12) was the other Atenean in the Grand Final, who finished Third Place in the competition.
Tan has received the respect and admiration of peers and adults alike for the skill and wit he displayed throughout the many rounds of public speaking. He is humbled and thankful for the experience and opportunity to represent and bring pride to the Philippines.