The grand finals of the much-awaited Korean Speech Contest was held last April 29 at the College of Engineering Theater, University of the Philippines (UP)—Diliman. The contest, made possible by the Korean Cultural Center (KCC) in cooperation with the UP Department of Linguistics and the United Korean Community Association of the Philippines, was a way to discover the best Korean speakers in the nation.
The contestants were gathered from six beautiful cities of the Philippines—Baguio, Pampanga, Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, and Manila—to showcase their ability and wit. The theme of this year’s speech contest was “My Treasure”, where the contestants talked about what they hold dear in their hearts.
Even before the start of event, the attendees were already filled with excitement and energy as they were able to enjoy various booth activities outside the theater, such as Hanbok wearing, Tuho Game, eating Korean food samples care of the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), and receiving free travel kits from the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO). These activities made the attendees more pumped up and enthusiastic as the minutes passed by.
Ms. Paola Ebora, Events Coordinator of KCC Philippines, hosted the event and started off with asking everyone to sing the national anthems of Korea and the Philippines. This was a great way of showing the continuously increasing partnership of both countries—that beyond the differences in languages and cultures, Filipinos and Koreans have shown optimism and respect to one another, creating an unbreakable friendship that will continuously grow over time.
Director Lee Jin Cheol, the new Director of the Korean Cultural Center and the First Secretary of the Embassy of Korea in the Philippines, gave his warm welcoming remarks to everyone. He expressed his gratefulness to be present in an event like this, which, for him, is not only a mere contest, but something that demonstrates how much the Filipinos enjoy the Korean language and culture. Director Lee then wished all the contestants the best of luck, and for everyone to enjoy the show.
The Korean Speech Contest doesn’t only have a good roster of contestants but also an incredible panel of judges—Director Lee Jin Cheol of the Korean Cultural Center; Director Park In Shik of the Korea Tourism Organization; Mr. Kim Jong Ho, Principal of the Korea International School; Mr. Bang Jong Ryeol, King Sejong Language Institute and KCC instructor; and Ms. Song Ah Reum, First Secretary of the Korean Embassy. They made the contest more exciting as they have prepared questions for the contestants after their speech—which helped exhibit their ability to converse well in the Korean language.
Once the judges have been introduced and criteria has been announced, it was time to meet the grand finalists. First up was Darla Joyce Dabu from Cainta, who expressed her love for her family and friends. Darla, in “My One Kind of Treasure”, talked about how no one is perfect and that it is okay to make mistakes. She holds her memories close to her heart as they give her strength to carry on with life, and that no matter what happens, we should all protect and cherish our own treasures.
The second contestant was Luxmie Jean Zacal who came from the province of Davao. Her speech titled “Our Family”, talked about how her 9-member family helps one another through the good and the bad, and that their days are always filled with dreams and love.
Next one up was Jezreel Gibaga from Pasig City. “Which of these Treasured Things?” expressed her love for her family, as they have provided her the gift of life and showed life’s purpose. She also said that people will only be able to treasure others if they know how to treasure themselves, thus, she should be strong and stable to be able to take care of someone.
The fourth one to take the stage was Ronil Carino representing the province of Pampanga. He walked the audience through his life with his speech titled “My Journey in Life”, and how he had persevered to overcome the challenges along the way. Despite the various hardships, Ronil did not quit because he is stronger than his failures. His advice to everyone is to never be discouraged and don’t ever hold back, and that we should always keep the spark burning within us.
The next finalist was Aubrey Ortega from Manila, who talked about her “Little Things.” She expressed how we should not be stressed out about the various happenings in our lives, instead, we should take a moment to appreciate what we have, even the small things. It’s easy for us to get carried away by the demands of our everyday lives that sometimes, we don’t notice the significance of little things and certain moments. Aubrey is grateful that she can enjoy and appreciate her treasures—the little things in life; and she is definitely making the most out of every moment.
Halfway through the contest, there was a raffle draw where randomly selected attendees won various things such as a KCC tumbler, a limited-edition K-Movie book, a Hallyu Tourist Guide Book, and an Easy Korean Cooking Book. Also, to give everyone a visual break, the beautiful ladies of the KCC Performance Team, NARA, performed a traditional fan dance. The audience was mesmerized with how NARA performed with elegance and grace, showcasing a part of the Korean culture.
After the visual break, it was then time to hear more from the remaining finalists. The sixth contestant, Anthonette Cantara, also known as Annyeong for some of her friends, came all the way from Cebu. She talked about her “One Dream”, and how her love for the Korean culture started. Anthonette shared that we will find our treasures if we follow wherever our hearts lead us.
The next finalist, Angeleen Lee, a student from the Ateneo De Manila University, expressed her treasure through “My Tall Height.” She shared how her insecurities get the better of her before, because she thinks that everyone is better than her. Angeleen has always been insecure about her tall height—it’s uncommon and was often made fun of when she was young; but now she has learned to accept the things that are out of her control, and appreciate herself more.
The eighth—and the second male—contestant for the day was Carl Kelvin “CK” Sabillo. Through his speech titled “My Music, My Treasure”, he was able to express his love for music and having his own sound. CK admire how he can convey emotions, thoughts, memories, and love through music; and how it helps him to connect to other people’s hearts.
The next finalist up the stage was Precious Ann Pendon from Iloilo, who is a nurse by profession and an English tutor by passion. Her love for her students was evident through her speech, “My Memories with My Korean Students.” Precious shared how she introduced the Filipino traditions to them and vice versa, and that no matter the distance, their great memories together will always be in their hearts.
The last but not the least contestant was Jerlyn Mercado from Baguio City. Her speech, “Now”, showcased her greatest treasure—this moment, today. There are a lot of things happening in our daily lives, but it is important for us to appreciate—and never take for granted—the people, things, and time that we have now.
After the amazing speeches of the grand finalists, a Korean Word Ending Game was played up the stage. It was fun to see how the connected the Filipinos are with the Korean language. Val John, a former representative of the Philippines at the 2015 KBS K-Pop World Festival who is now an artist under Star Music, gave a special and lively performance. He performed K-Pop songs and has also showcased his latest single, “Ikaw Pa Rin.”
The most exciting and nerve-wracking moment finally arrived—the announcement of winners. Before the Top 3 awards, special prizes were first awarded. The Popularity Award goes to Jezreel Gibaga, who has absolutely won the hearts of the aufience. The Best Content Award, on the other hand, was awarded to Jerlyn Mercado.
The audience, especially the supporters of the contestants, were already on the edge of their seats waiting for the announcement of the grand winners. The third place, who took home Php 5,000.00, a trophy, a scholarship package from KCC, and a goodie bag, was given to Precious Ann Pendon.
Aubrey Ortega was then announced to be the second place winner and received Php 10,000.00, a trophy, a scholarship package from KCC, and a goodie bag. At that moment, the whole theater was filled with cheers and support.
The grand prize winner of this year’s Korean Speech Contest took home Php 15,000.00, a trophy, a scholarship package from KCC, a goodie bag, and—here’s the fun part—a round trip to Korea courtesy of the Korea Tourism Organization, and it was none other than Angeleen Lee, who was truly surprised from the announcement.
The event has been a blast—a treasured moment for most of us. It’s always amazing to witness the increasing interest and love of the Filipinos towards the Korean culture and language. I believe everyone has also thought about what their greatest treasures are on their way home. This contest did not only showcase some of the best talents, but was also a way for us to reflect and realize the beauty of every given moment. To anyone who is learning or planning to learn the Korean language: get ready and have fun—you might be the one up on the stage next year. 🙂
Photos taken by Krew Member April Aquino
Written by Krew Member Nikki Harriet Cunanan