- For Men

Feb 022016

Remember that thrill  of competing in the  World Universities  Debating  Championship! You’ll need it when you  eventually attempt to debate your wife. And that’s a debate you’ll never win.

When I’m not slaving over a column that will elicit an occasional smirk from my three female readers, I’m a host and motivational speaker where my only puhunan is laway. For that puhunan, I have to thank four years’ worth of college (and a wee bit of graduate school) intervarsity debate.

Here’s my confession: I was a debate addict. I started my collegiate debate career with interschool debates. As a sophomore, I took it to a higher notch with the Australasian debates (a debate competition open to Australia, New Zealand and Asian countries). Then, as a junior, I went full-on with the World Universities Debating Championships. College life was a blur prepping for debating competitions in Malaysia to Australia to Singapore to the United States to Ireland. It was nerve-wracking. It was stressful. It was glorious.

Admittedly, I didn’t get too far in the global debating circuit as the local debating community was just starting to be exposed to the dynamics of international debate. But it was through debate that I learned a lot about the importance of wit and humor. I learned all about international relations (and the lack of them). And I learned about the differences between Australian, Irish and Singaporean beer. 

So my pink parts were bursting with pride when a team from my alma mater, De La Salle University, bested over 200 teams that qualified under the English As A Second Language (ESL) category to win the ESL Grand Finals in the recently concluded 36th World Universities Debating Championship held in Thessaloniki, Greece.

I met with debaters Mikee de Vega and Jason Dizon to find out how they prepared for the Worlds debate, what it was like debating against Haaa-vahd University, and what it was like debating in the ESL Finals.

 RJ LEDESMA: What is World Debating Championships all about? Is it all about traveling to another country to argue and drink and do things that your parents would not approve of and then posting it all on Snapchat?

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JASON DIZON: Pretty much. (Laughs) It’s a weeklong debating competition with nearly 400 teams from over 70 countries (where you debate about) internationally relevant and important topics.

MIKEE DE VEGA: The debates can be stressful as the competition happens over Christmas. So after (a full day of debates), people get really drunk.   

I’ve always suspected that the answer to world peace is beer goggles. What exactly are internationally relevant topics? Is it all about ISIS and Climate Change and AlDub?

We mostly debated “First World” issues. There were issues on feminism and racism and Marxist resolutions. And issues that parliaments might have to deal with, like how to treat labor, sunset clauses and having expiration dates on constitutions. 

Riveting stuff. No wonder you need the alcohol. So is there a specific format for the debate or is it a free-for-all talk to the death?

JASON: It’s the British Parliamentary (BP) format. It’s four two-man teams competing (simultaneously) in the room. During debate, you compete against three teams, two teams arguing against you while the other team is arguing on “your side”; but you have to come up with better arguments (than them). And you’re all speaking in turn.

That sounds as confusing as deciding who to vote for in the 2016 Presidential Elections.

MIKEE: There’s a time limit of seven minutes per speech. You can interject while someone is speaking for about 15 seconds, but you have to say “Point (of information)” and wait until it is accepted. So you can’t really butt into someone’s speech. It’s kind of like a gentleman’s court. 

So there is no punching or b*tch-slapping involved? How many times do you have to debate? Do you debate until you lose your voice or until you lose your mind?

JASON: (All the teams) debate in nine (preliminary) rounds. If you lose your voice or your mind, you still debate nine rounds. (Laughs) If you qualify for the higher rounds in the open break, you have to go through (assuming you aren’t eliminated) four more rounds and the finals. If you qualify for the higher rounds in the ESL, then (assuming you aren’t eliminated), you have to go through two more rounds and the finals.

Wow, you’re really giving your salivary glands a workout. Whether or not you qualify for the higher rounds of the Open Break or the ESL, you still debate nine rounds?

MIKEE: Yes. In the preliminary rounds, you can compete (against any of the 400 participating teams). It’s tiring also because you don’t know what to expect in each round. Your opponents (from different countries), the motions to be debated and the judges change every round. So every round you’ve got to do something different to try to win.

Walang swimsuit round?

The rounds also become increasingly difficult. When you gain more points, you go against people with the same amount of points. So it only got harder and harder from us with every succeeding round.

JASON: Our scores (in the debate rounds) were tracking towards qualifying for the open rounds. It’s just that we lost our last round when we went up against King’s College London (a eventual semi-finalist) and Harvard (the eventual grand champion of the Worlds). If we had other opponents for the last round, we might have qualified for the open break! (Laughs)

Must have been quite an experience to go toe-to-toe with the best English language debating teams in the world.

That’s when you understand why you are ESL. (Laughs)

MIKEE: I actually liked that last round because it exposed how much culture can have an impact in terms of understanding the debate. The debate was about the law and moral culpability being part of punishment. We’re both legal management majors, so we set up the debate to be about the judiciary. But the other teams wanted it to be a legislative sort of debate. Eventually, we got boxed out of the debate. Having said that, it was a high-level round. Our coach said that was one of the best debate speeches we had ever delivered. But I think it was only fitting if you went up against eventual champions. (Laughs

So it’s safe to say one of the toughest competitors in the Worlds was Harvard?

JASON: Yes! By far, it was Harvard. Filipinos are proficient in English. But the Harvard students’ command of the English language (was at another level). What took us a couple of sentences to explain, they could say in a few words. They were giving out more and more ideas in a lesser amount of time. Second, their grasp of concepts was just a lot more comprehensive than other teams in the tournament. During our debate, I was thinking, “Fine, we’re losing, but we’re also learning at the same time.”

You got your butt kicked, but you got your butt kicked by literally the World’s best debating team. So how do you prepare for the motions that you are going to debate?

MIKEE: They don’t give us the topics (ahead of time). You just have to be as well read on a variety of topics — feminism, LGBT movement, globalization, international law. For example, on feminism, you should have a general working knowledge of what feminism is, what it advocates and its current issues. That’s something we do all year round: read up.

Our congressmen might not survive the nine preliminary rounds of the Worlds debate.

JASON: To prepare ourselves, we also had argumentation and rebuttal drills and actual debates. There was also some emotional preparation because we had a heartbreaking quarterfinal loss in the National Championships (right before the Worlds) that grounded us prior to competing in the Worlds.

What was it like competing in the higher ESL rounds leading the Finals?

The penultimate rounds became more and more exciting because (I felt) it was a testament to how much we were growing as debaters. 

How did it feel when you were debating in the Finals? 

MIKEE: It was like a defining moment in your life. It was a very big theater and you could see everyone in the audience. It was overwhelming.

After the debate, did you feel that you guys won?

JASON: After the round, we weren’t sure how we did. But when we came down from the stage and proceeded through the audience, our friends were hugging us, shaking our hands, saying “Brilliant speech!” and congratulating us in advance. So we had an idea that we might win.

Looks like debate is going to be a life-long habit for both of you. What is it about debate that makes it so addictive?

MIKEE: I started debating because I thought it would be good preparation for law. But we’re taking legal management and the worst thing you can do is argue with your professor. (Laughs) Aside from the fact that I’m learning a lot (through debate), I like the adrenaline rush before the debate starts.

JASON: I enjoy the thrill of combining ideas and rhetoric to create good speeches. I keep on debating in tournaments because of the thrill before the results are released. It doesn’t matter if I win or lose. It’s the thrill.

Remember that thrill! Because you’ll need it when you eventually attempt to debate with your wife. And that is a debate you’ll never win.

* * *

For comments, suggestions or a tongue-lashing, email or visit Follow @rjled on Twitter and @rjled610 on Instagram.

Dec 082015
MBT shoes have got sole

MBT vice-president Jodi Lancaster shows MBT’s deconstructed sole that is the soul of every MBT shoe. MANILA, Philippines – The first thing you’ll notice about MBT footwear is the unusual shape of its sole. It’s not flat like most other footwear but curved, like the bottom of a boat or a rocking chair. Thus, they’re often referred to as round bottom or “rocker soles.” And herein lies the sole (pun intended) of your MBT footwear. It was a Swiss engineer named Karl Muller who developed the footwear technology that would mimic the conditions he observed among Masai warriors, whom he found to have excellent posture. Backaches, common to many urban dwellers, were unknown to the East African tribesmen who walked barefoot on soft, uneven ground. Their natural movement activated and strengthened the smallest foot muscles, which would otherwise be neglected when walking on hard, even pavements. The concept behind Masai Barefoot Technology (MBT) is “to transform a hard, even surface into a soft, uneven one,” explains Jodi Lancaster, MBT vice president for Australia, New Zealand, the Middle East, North Africa and the Pacific Rim. “The rounded sole creates some degree of instability that forces the natural reflex of certain foot muscles to help you retain your balance. It helps keep your body straight while standing or walking. It’s effective in reducing back, hip and knee pain as well as in reducing pressure at the foot joints.” A great deal of detail and workmanship is found in the sole of every Read More …

Nov 102015
Binge-watching in the ‘ber’ months

Best served cold: Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons are in the midst of bad stuff in Season 2 of the Coen Brothers’ Fargo, now on iFlix. Winter is coming. That’s the recurring phrase of doom on HBO’s Game of Thrones, and it applies to our late-season TV viewing as well. We wait a whole year to catch up with Jon Snow, Khaleesi and The Imp, and quick as a wink, the season is over. We plunge into Silicon Valley, Veep and other HBO series, and they wrap up by end of August as well. What’s the avid TV viewer to do when winter comes? Fortunately, there’s still plenty to watch in the “ber” months leading to Christmas. With returning series from HBO, as well as must-watch shows on AMC and FX returning for a second helping, the winter months won’t seem as bleak as the White Walkers would have us believe. • Those who tuned into Season 1 of The Knick (which premiered Season 2 on HBO’s Cinemax Oct. 17 and HBO on Oct. 21) will be eager to pick up the thread of the Steven Soderbergh-directed period drama about a truly bizarro hospital called The Knickerbocker in New York City, circa 1900. You think healthcare is troublesome for Americans today? Just drop into The Knick, where last season, Clive Owen’s Dr. John Thackery was still trying to develop a system for safe blood transfusion, all the while battling a cocaine addiction (a common self-medicating option for sleep-deprived doctors at Read More …

Oct 202015
Time to explore luxury

Montblanc SEA managing director Anouar Guerraoui welcomes guests to the men’s watch event at Smith Butcher and Grill Room. When you’re Montblanc, a 150-year-old company that’s etched its name in time by making to-die-for fountain pens, moving into the world of luxury watches must have seemed a grand leap. But Montblanc is now in the big leagues, spoken in the same breath as other luxury watches thanks to in-house Swiss movements that lift their Villeret and Heritage Chronometrie watches — shown off to great aplomb at Makati’s Smith Butcher and Grill Room during a steak luncheon with media — beyond newbie competitors to serious contenders for that targeted demographic: the obsessive male collector.  What Montblanc has noticed, in fact, is that people who collect fountain pens also tend to collect watches. (Montblanc customers tend to be 70 percent male, 30 percent female.) The whole “collecting” thing, in fact, is by and large a male activity (well, except for shoes and bags, maybe). And Montblanc just happens to be one of the few brands that focuses its luxury line squarely on… men. We sat down next to charming ladies, watch lovers, and the company of Montblanc South East Asia’s managing director Anouar Guerraoui, a Moroccan-born global citizen who loves the Miami Heat, especially their erstwhile star, LeBron James. Not surprisingly, Guerraoui said he admires athletes a bit more than, say, singers or even actors. And that makes sense, from a watchmaking point of view, because watches perform at a very high Read More …

Sep 222015
The Beatles' great rock bromance

The Beatles’ rooftop concert in Let It Be prefigures This Is Spinal Tap (inset). The Beatles rooftop concert in ‘Let It Be’ is a template for every great band reunion moment — and possibly every romcom — to come. Forty-five years ago, the Beatles were kaput, having called it quits in a flurry of torts and acrimony. A final studio album, “Abbey Road,” meant to show them as a functioning unit in 1969, was overtaken by “Let It Be,” recorded earlier but released later as a documentary and album, awash in Phil Spector strings and choirs. (It still won an Oscar for Best Song.) The documentary is one of life’s painful reminders that people — even Beatles — grow tired of one another. Directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg, Let It Be takes us behind the scenes as John, Paul, George and Ringo — but mostly Paul — try to pull an album together out of general ennui. At this point in time, after the death of manager Brian Epstein, the end of touring, John’s recent infatuation with Yoko Ono and George’s commitment to spiritual detachment, there were few cheerleaders left in the Beatles. Paul, the task-driven Gemini, still fit the bill, and he is the one that takes up the reins on this project. Lindsay-Hogg’s camera dotes on Paul. He’s there in the opening in a tight shot, vamping some Bach-like inventions on piano (just so you know he’s the “serious” musical Beatle); Paul also gets loving close-ups singing Let It Read More …

Sep 012015
B.C. (Before Cellphones)

“Say Vandelay!” Another Seinfeld plotline, made possible by the absence of cellphone technology. Hello! I can’t be the only one who watches reruns of old TV shows and notices that most sitcom plots wouldn’t exist if cellphones had been around at the time. It makes it hard to watch pre-millennial movies and TV shows; it makes you wonder how people solved even basic mishaps without the aid of a mobile device. I call it the B.C. — Before Cellphone — problem. For instance, there’s Seinfeld. A typical episode has Elaine, George, Jerry and Kramer trying to meet up for a movie. They arrive from separate locations, and end up stumbling around in the dark, packed movie house, whispering “Elaine??” or “Jerry??” — much to the annoyance of other movie-goers. That script would end up in the trashcan today. Nobody has to stumble around in dark movie theaters — first of all, your cellphone has a flashlight, and secondly, a simple text message would have set up a meeting point. It’s weird how so much of popular culture — movies, TV shows — relies on ancient technology to keep the old plots going. And how easily most problems on TV could have been solved with iPhones. Lifestyle Feature ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: Take a show like The X-Files. In the ‘90s, we recall Scully and Mulder did sometimes wander around with those huge, shoe-size mobile phones, usually when they were separated on their hunt for this or that Read More …

Jul 282015
The imitation game

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Mar 242015
Came in like a wrecking ball

Guitarist Tommy Tedesco and bass player Carol Kaye wait for the “go” signal in The Wrecking Crew. The Wrecking Crew were like pop ninjas, performing their mind-blowing moves in the studio then disappearing in a puff of smoke. We came in there wearing Levis, T-shirts, smoking cigarettes or whatever, and the old guys said, ‘They’re gonna wreck the business!” That’s Hal Blaine, session drummer extraordinaire, on how he and a handful of players became known as The Wrecking Crew — the most heard, if least famous, backing musicians in rock and pop history. Their story is finally told in a documentary of the same name — The Wrecking Crew was actually held up for release for several years as song rights were negotiated. This month, it gets a proper release, and it’s one of most illuminating documentaries on the golden age of rock ‘n’ roll. The story picks up with the surviving members in Los Angeles, where this loose affiliation of crack musicians was responsible for playing on just about every great pop hit you can name from the ‘60s: You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling by The Righteous Brothers. Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys. California Dreaming by the Mamas and the Papas. I Got You Babe by Sonny and Cher. Up, Up and Away by The Fifth Dimension. Windy by The Association. Everybody’s Talkin’ by Nilsson. MacArthur Park by Richard Harris. Even the theme from Hawaii Five-O. Lifestyle Feature ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: If you needed Read More …

Mar 102015
Extra pieces of Tahiti 80 sunshine

French connection: Xavier Boyer and the rest of French indie pop group Tahiti 80 perform this Friday at Green Sun in Makati City in a concert presented by Terno Recordings. Toti Dalmacion says the Tahiti 80 sound is ‘like everything good in the ’60s, ’70s, ‘80s and ’90s mixed in a blender with some fat grooves, sick beats and electronic sounds thrown in for some good measure.’  Adult issues. Heartbreak. New love. Lifestyle Feature ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: These are the lyrical themes lead singer Xavier Boyer explored in the latest Tahiti 80 album, “Ballroom.” Sonically, the album bears no resemblance to other landmark records of love and loss (such as Bob Dylan’s “Blood on the Tracks,” Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds’ “The Boatman’s Call,” or Beck’s “Sea Change”) but the sentiments are there — nakedly but with taste and restraint. “Not in a syrupy, clichéd way,” says Toti Dalmacion of Terno Recordings, which is bringing the French indie pop band to play for the second time in Manila. The guys from Tahiti 80 will perform this Friday at Green Sun.  “All these things you find out about when you reach a certain age,” adds Xavier. The band was formed in Rouen in the mid-’90s and is currently based in Paris, releasing six albums so far. According to the band bio, singer-guitarist Boyer and bassist Pedre Resende formed the pop combo as students at the University of Rouen, sharing an affinity for indie music, new wave and Read More …

Feb 032015
Hollywood at war

American Sniper surprisingly broke Hollywood box office records during Super Bowl weekend. You know it’s America in 2015, heading into an election year, when not even the Super Bowl can conclude without some brawl erupting in the end zone. Long after Katy Perry capped her halftime cheerleader routine, and just as the New England Patriots were within 20 seconds of another trophy, the fists started flying — Seattle and New England in a full-on rumble over an unexpected turnover. Yes, we truly are a nation divided. You can tell that by our war movies too, such as Oscar nominee American Sniper, which wears confusing camouflage at times — some see Clint Eastwood’s story of noted sharpshooter Chris Kyle as pro-American, some see it as an indictment of the military system. Others see it simply as a movie. Director Eastwood is better here than in recent efforts, and it’s worth remembering that the noted Republican is usually more critical about America than his right-wing cheerleaders tend to think. Gran Torino (2008) was about a racist Korean War vet who tries to diffuse violence between warring Hmong in a Michigan suburb; he takes a bullet rather than going full Dirty Harry. Even 2004’s Million Dollar Baby hid a liberal view on the right to die behind a conservative, come-from-behind boxer’s tale. So you never know with Clint. Of course, the bigger battle wages ahead at the Oscars, so it’s probably a good time to look at some recent movies that focus on Read More …