The 8th Annual HELP University College National Debate Competition. An invitation-only debate competition comprising 96 schools from across the country, going head to head to decide who would lift the Tan Sri Datuk Paduka Dr. Hajjah Saleha Debate Cup 2010. When the invitation letter arrived at our school, Hou Zhen, Serene and Alia jumped at the opportunity and signed up their names. However, each team required a fourth reserve speaker. Who was the first person they sought after? Yeap, you guessed it. I was really really hesitant at first. I've never done a debate my entire life, my public speaking 5 years ago may not be worth anything (as Serene would later prove to me, it's a skill that never dies). Hou Zhen offered, Serene pressed on, and Alia begged. I thought long and hard about this. On one side, mid year exams were coming fast, I wouldnt want to be left behind at this time. On the other, this is a NATIONAL competition I'm being offered to join. Who would want to reject this sort of opportunity? And think about all the new experiences I could obtain, and the new people I could meet. Sure enough, I filled in the fourth and final slot, thus the D-ASH (Deric, Alia, Serene, Hou Zhen) Debate Team was formed (or as we call it, D-ASH Airlines).
Firstly came the debate workshop, also by HELP. Really important that I went for it so as to gather as much exposure as possible to ready myself better (if at all) for the big event. And indeed I did, I got to watch a sample debate, observed how they spoke, get some tips, and most importantly the rules, regulations and the motions for the competition. After that, we had 2 weeks to prepare ourselves. We were told that our grouping and motions would be released on Monday, however it only came out on Wednesday/Thursday. So for the next 1.5 weeks, we brainstormed, researched, looked up, arguing even, and spent many hours at the computer digging from USA right through to China for any information on our motions; not knowing if we would be on the Government or Opposition side except for our first topic. However, we couldnt manage any time *at all* to actually practice debating. All the time we could find had to be used for research so that we could even have points for our speeches. The tension ran high, the pressure mounted, but soon enough, competition weekend dawned upon us.
We set off at 4.50pm with Pn Cheang taking us there. We took a wrong turn after the Jalan Duta toll, but we didnt waste too much time, and we arrived at Peninsula Residence All Suite Hotel in Bukit Damansara, my watch showing 8.50pm. We checked in, noticed our roommate Adam Syafiq had arrived first, and proceeded to our room A-8-13. Take it from me; it is a very very VERY nice place to stay. Ignore those reviews you might find on the Net. I think it's fantastic. Beds were comfy, place was clean, overall pleasing atmosphere. One drawback however was the bathroom + toilet sandwiched right smack in the middle of the suite. So any "business" that you do, no matter how big or small, even just letting out gas, is bound to be heard by anybody in the room. If you kena food poisoning and sharing a room, then sorry-lah. After washing up, just as me and Hou Zhen were about to walk over to Serene and Alia's room to discuss our first debate motion.....
I open the door to find 2 Chinese girls and a European.
"Eik? Who are they and what are they doing here?"
That's when a Malay boy walked in.
That's when the girls followed in, we shook hands, introduced ourselves, and met what turned out to be the SMK Derma Perlis team, comprising Adam, Chris, Sher Maine and Marissa (when rearranged, their initials spell MACS). Serene and Alia soon joined us, talked for a lil' bit, and then finding out we were in the same preliminary group B, doing the same motions, and starting our first debates as Opposition. And so started the D-ASH/MACS alliance that would soon form an inseparable bond of friendship. We spent the night discussing, at the same time chatting our mouths off and laughing our butts away. Could friendships kick off any better than this? I thinks not.
Day One of debate competition. D-ASH and MACS gathered outside our rooms before leaving together. I was shocked to see Marissa wearing a tudung! O_O (turns out she's German + Malay) We took the bus from the hotel at 9.15 and arrived at HELP where we were greeted by this giant poster which had all the participating schools at each side.
But hey, we werent here to admire a giant printed board, we were here to debate. We registered our names, had breakfast, had last minute discussions, then it was go time!
Round 1 - This house would completely ban smoking everywhere in Malaysia (Opposition) vs SMK Bukit Sentosa Selangor
We did rather well, we won by a 2-1 split decision from 3 adjudicators. I thought it was close because Bukit Sentosa did quite good too. Serene was commented as being too loud... Everything was good, but just a little less on the volume... xD She even mentioned our team name D-ASH and ended by saying "Thank you for flying with D-ASH Airlines". Nice one!
After that, we had lunch, and discussed. Tried hard to use the WiFi but traffic was so *toooooooooot* heavy it was barely usable. Our next match was supposed to be announced at 2.30, instead got delayed by 45 minutes... Tsk tsk tsk....
Round 2 - This house would mandate restaurants to attach calorie data on their menus (Government) vs SMJK Katholik PJ Selangor
I had to admit (and soon our whole team did) that we messed up this one. I couldnt keep track of the debate between the 2 teams. Both teams accused each other of saying things that werent said, and halfway through was just plain confused by the whole thing. There was one girl in particular from Katholik PJ was so rude! She never greeted anybody, instead she stood up and started by saying "I am SO disappointed that the Government team......" I mean like, what the hell? Her tone of voice, even her facial expressions were just as rude. At the end, as we were leaving the room, one of the girls even asked Hou Zhen "Have you EVER debated before?" No r-e-s-p-e-c-t at all. But in the end, they won because they had the slightly better case. Quote the chief adjudicator, "It was a good debate, but a rather below average debate" Lol.
Before we were informed of our 3rd match, we went to buy dinner first. Me, Hou Zhen and Adam bought Subway sandwiches. First time I've tried it, me and Houey both agreed it was well worth our RM12-13. They looked good in newspaper ads, but boy, they taste even better. =D After ta-pauing dinner, we went back to HELP, got our 3rd match lineups for the next day, went back to our hotel, wash up, eat, discussed some more (not before watching Chris and Marissa go nuts over Mr Hottie from Melaka Sebastian and hearing about Marissa flying off the bed while answering the phone xD). The 3 of us guys felt so left out we just laid in Chris' bed (polluting her pillow in the process) and pretended not to exist. Fun aside, we continued discussing right up till 2 in the morning. Alia however stayed up all night (LITERALLY all night- she only slept for 20 minutes) to prepare her scripts.
Our bus was late (or rather, didnt arrive at all), so instead Hou Zhen's brother (who joined us yesterday evening along with his sister) to take us to HELP. Good thing it was only a few minutes away. We just took a quick bite before discussing for round 3 (I skipped breakfast altogether actually, not even the hot tea that they provided).
Round 3 - This house believes that aid to reconstruct disaster areas should be exclusively given to local contractors (Government) vs SMK Taman SEA Selangor
I didnt pay attention to this one as I was rushing to prepare Alia's notes as first speaker for the final round. We won, by one. single. point. Our team really owes this one to me good friend Abby Lee who contributed a lot of points for us on this motion. Without her we would have lost this one. Thanks girl! *giant bear hugs*
Well, good news aside, this one had some controversies . The *only* adjudicator for the debate was talking about all these international debate rules and how "he does things differently". He criticized both teams for doing the entire debate completely out of format! WTHell? So what if he knows about the international rules? He still has to follow the competition's rules first! As if lah he's the chairman of the World Debating Organisation or whatever~ He then later pointed out contradicting rules in the competition rulebook which were then later dismissed by the.... I duno what position he holds, but his name is Abdul Latiff, and he just asked us continue debating as usual. And that adjudicator thought he had the power to change the competition format at his will.
After all that was over, me still scrambling to finish up the notes, Alia was completely drained. She even broke down and cried. Stress + exhaustion + competition pressure, all these will surely end up with the inevitable meltdown. There was no other option left.
I had to replace her. *Cue dramatic music*
Round 4 - This house would allow abortion during the first trimester based on the choice of the woman involved (Government) vs Victoria Institution Selangor
3.45pm, I walked in to room SR5. Palms dripping wet ala Chuah, my head throbbing from the sudden realisation that I would be performing my very first debate, as the first speaker, in a match that, if we win, would give us hope of advancing into the octofinals (Top 16), seeing how we only won 2 matches and we need at least 3 to even have the possibility to go through. As the chairperson introduced the teams, I felt my heart pounding. Literally, I could feel it wanting to break free from my rib cage, rip open my chest and run around the room. It wasnt a thumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthump
but more like THUMP...... THUMP...... THUMP..... THUMP......
"And now please welcome Mr Deric Chan Wai Lun from the Government bench to open this debate"
I stand up, take a deep breath, and off I go.
*7 minutes and 6 seconds later*
"Thank you Mr Deric Chan, he spoke for 7 minutes and 6 seconds. And now from the Opposition bench......"
During those 7 minutes, my mind was a complete blank. The only thing that kept me going were the very words I scribbled on my test pad. My mind didnt give a damn about everything else my eyes saw and my ears heard (except the one POI given). People walking outside, Pn Cheang, Alia, whoever/whatever it was, my brain didnt care. The only thing I was aware of was extracting those words from 2 pieces of paper, processing them, and spitting them out of my mouth. And also my left leg shaking like a magnitude 9.0 earthquake. I wasnt even sure what my hands were doing. But after all that was done, I walked out of the room, and let out the largest sigh of relief. NO stuttering, despite a rather dull tone, but I did it. My first successful debate presentation.
Went back in for the results..... and we.....
Lost. By 2 points. After the judge's comments and shaking hands with team VI, first thing I did was walk out of the room and just squirmed and cringed at the tiny margin that we lost. Good thing nobody was around though. The judge said I lacked content and some elaboration. But I suppose for a, quote Adam, " A banana in the fridge", and a last minute prepared presentation, and only losing by 2 marks, isnt that bad is it?
Went back to the foyer to meet the Derma team one last time (they won 3 and lost 1 btw), exchange numbers, and bade our farewells since we had to rush home for school on Monday. Adam later SMSed me saying that neither of us had advanced into the octofinals. Well, so it ends, our campaigns in the HELP University College 8th National Debate Competition. Despite not advancing, it has been an amazing experience, getting to work together with D-ASH, meeting those awesome Perlis friends, taking the first step into the world of debating, and everything in between. It's all part of the package. Will I miss the MACS gang? Definitely. Will I make a return to debating in the future i.e inter-varsity competitions? Time will tell.
The ASH in D-ASH