Monday, May 29, 2006

Manila Backlog

Tardy though it is, here's the run up of what happened post the break night party.

Tuesday, 23rd May: Free Day

I went shopping. Manila city is quite a fantastic place to go shopping if you have foreign exchange in hand and a lot of silly aimless desires. I went to the major shopping complex in a place called Greenhill.

The regular mall stores and multiplexes here share shopping space with gigantic flea and export surplus markets rivalling Sarojini Nagar both in size and price. Sadly, haggling is a little tougher when you can't speak Tagalog, but you can still work things down by at least 50 pesos, if not more. In addition, huge music stores existed, with CD's, VCD's and to my heart's delight, rock posters at dirt cheap prices. The country, as I observed, is crazy over rock music, and have exceptional taste. The radio's blare U2, Semisonic, Greenday and assorted other rock bands, and their local rock bands are exceptionally good. This is the country that Pop forgot.
I picked up a couple of posters, including a Pink Floyd Back Album poster, which is the most amazing looking thing ever to be hung up on any wall. We're talking better than the Mona Lisa here, I think you get the drift. Aside from that, I also purchased a pair of smiley shorts, which are...shorts with loud yellow smileys all over them. I was very proud. I nearly bought a spiderman tie (where in the world would you get that), but I relented. Not much opportunity to wear one of those, eh what. My shopping done, one moved on to grabbing a bite to eat, and one was again, not dissapointed.

I ate at Jerry's Grill, for a good taste of Filipino grilled food. I had a local fish called Bangus, the entire fish grilled for just 190 pesos. The fish itself is a milk fish, that is it's meat is white. It is the most brilliant tasting fish I have ever had. The fish is grilled, coated with Calamansi and garnished with tomatos and sprigs of green things. The fish itself is sublime, just flaky enough to break off well with a fork, and juicy enough to melt in your mouth. The best part, of course, is the Belly. The belly is the nice fatty portion of the fish, where you have the most delectable fish fat and meat which is all hopefully rich in good ol' omega three fatty acids. Even if its not, it was well worth it. To cut a long story short, I pigged out.

24th May: Break Day 1

On our octofinal round, facing University of Philippines Diliman, we lost in a very close round, with a split desicion dissenting against the chair going against us. I was crushed, I was sure we had taken the debate, and I really really hate losing, especially if its not a clear loss as it had been with NTU A. The other singaporean teams, NTU B and NUS A also got knocked out, leaving only the old brigade of NTU A in the quarterfinals. The QF's themselves took care of NTU A, leaving exclusively Filipino teams in the draw. A round later, it was down to only Ateneo teams, which was kind of sad. Takes the whole fun out of the competition. But one shouldn't complain, do better next year and beat them fair and square.

25th: Finals Day

Ateneo A vs Ateneo B. Ateneo A wins. That's called cutting a long story short, and I'd rather not elaborate on the politics of the affair.

Screwy Luck

Aside from the complete screw up with our tabs, in our third round, one of the adjudicators mistakenly gave us a 68 average for the round, which is...incredibly low. It was apparently another mistake, as the adj. believed it to be the average score for AUDC. Sigh...I really hope we don't have to go through so much contreversy in the next tournament.

After Party

After the finals and the results and the general prize distrubution, one left for the After Party at a pub called Ponticelli. The pub itself had an excellent live band, who kept performing the various and varied requests we set out for them, from Losing my Religion, to Bohemian Raphsody(The ultimate Drunk Singalong Song) to Elevation. The party itself was quite wild, a group of exhausted debaters getting drunk makes for an interesting night, especially if you're one of the few sober chaps around. A group of straight laced Tam Brams from NTU getting drunk makes for an even more interesting night, especially when one is slowly manouvered into a little guy on guy action. That wasn't of course, the only guy on guy or indeed girl on girl action that night. As I said, it was a very interesting party. Around 2 at night we all departed, heading back for the hotel to grab a final night's rest before flying out the next day.

Home again

I'm back home, which is why I had been a bit tardy with the update. Meeting friends and family after ages does take up a bit of time, and I am quite attached to this city, it's horrendous weather, its beautiful buildings and delicious food. I'm sadly vegetarian for a while, till my stomach recovers from the hammering it got in Manila with a steady diet of fried meat and rice.

I'll be putting up photos of AUDC soon, at my flickr (yeah, I created one) account.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Asian Union Debating Championships

Friday, 19th May.

This is an entry I've written over my few days here, so allow it time. Its going to be a long one.

Landing in Manila was almost like being at home. The same lines at immigration, the same white on blue signs at the airport, the same familiar grime around town, I was back in the third world again. And it actually felt great. Ten minutes into the cab journey to the campus hotel at University of Philippines Diliman, where we were being put up, I saw Gulmohar Trees and pretty much went into raptures of joy.

Manila, of the little I’ve seen of it so far is very similar to home. The houses are all low lying bungalows; the streets are nice and wide, with cracked concrete sidewalks and cars aplenty. The sidewalks really differentiate first and third world countries, when I come to think of it. Go to Singapore, and each is impeccably maintained, with not a crack uncovered, and defined edges. Waver away, to a regular street in the third world, and you see the effects of a lack of maintenance sink in.

What was also reassuring was the Filipino currency, the Peso, which is a little weaker than the rupee. If that isn’t amazing enough, things are actually a little cheaper in pesos than they would be in rupees, especially when one is eating out. You can pig out at a decent restaurant for less than 300 pesos, a fond dream now in Delhi.

Coming to the food. My first meal in Manila was at a restaurant called Max’s, A place that styled itself as the one stop shop for fried chicken. That pretty much sums up most Filipino food. It is fried. It is meat. It is usually pork or beef. Vegetables are in very short supply, and the few vegetarians at the tournament have been given wry smiles and been told to get a life. Well, its not that bad, but I’m sure that’s what they’re thinking, deep down inside. The flight had the option of a beef, or fish meal thus confirming what I had been told about what Filipinos consider to be vegetarian. Clearly, fish is not considered to be meat.

I, being one of adventurous persuasion, had some of the local foodstuff at Max’s, rather than wimp out and have something as boring as a Fried Chicken Set.

The first thing I tried was Kare Kare, a meat stew. The meat was oxtail and what I think was lamb, the oxtail was very chewy, but the lamb was nice and succulent. The stew was a thick peanut based curry, which tasted somewhat like satay sauce, but with a much smoother texture and consistency. The peanut base was offset by an accompanying shrimp sauce, and the combination of the two made for quite an enjoyable curry. However, the fact the entire thing was made out of a whole lot of peanut sauce, cooked in meat dripping with animal fat and topped over by a rich shrimp sauce, I don’t think the entire thing was the healthiest food experience of my life. But god knows I need some meat on me, I just hope it goes outside, and doesn’t clog up my arteries.

The other dish I tried was Chicken Sisig, which I was later told was a wimped out version of the real Sisig(Seasick), which is a bunch of pigs entrails deeply fried. Did I mentioned how everything seems to be deeply fried? So anyhow, it was deeply fried chicken, nice and crispy, in little bits. The thing was quite well flavoured and not exceptionally oily (I think they burnt off all the oil) and was well drenched in Calamansi.

Calamansi is a native Filipino fruit belonging to the lemon family. Its juice is like having the most ultimate Nimbu Pani (Lemonade) you will ever try, there’s pretty much everything right about it. I’ve got to pick me up some before I leave. But more on food in later posts.

The Tournament

Day one of the tournament was adjudication test day, so we laggardly debaters had officially nothing to do till the opening ceremony in the evening. This, of course, didn’t stop us from debating.

We, as I have mentioned, have been put up in the UP D Campus hotel, which is strange considering that the tournament is being held in Ateneo De Manila University. Oddities aside, it gave us the opportunity to spar with a few of the local teams, including UDP, and DLSU. One notices that the campus is similar in maintenance and design to Delhi University, and one realizes just how little publicly funded universities in these two respective countries have to get along on.

Sadly, the teams we were sparring with could not arrange for rooms, so we debated two rounds on benches in the corridors of the College of Economics. The temperatures range from hot to searing hot and the College for some reason didn’t have a single water cooler. Not the best of combinations, to cut a long story short. Two debates later, we were sweaty and dehydrated, and one realizes how spoilt one has got sitting in the air conditioned environs of Singapore. At any rate, it’s good conditioning for the hours of power cuts I’m going to have to face shortly.

With sparring done with, one attended the Opening Ceremony, which was quite a drag. Far from the wonton drunkenness one generally expects at a gathering of college students, it was quite a somber sober affair, because everyone is strangely sensible enough not to get sloshed the day before the first two rounds of debating.

20th May

It Begins

Day one of AUDC, 86 odd teams from a good few Asian countries; with representatives (debaters) from a myriad more. The CA, Jess Lopez announces the tabs and our first motion, predictably The Middle East. My team was thrilled; we had spent the night discussing the political situation in Israel, Palestine and Iran and were well set for the first round. We were also set for what was to be the second round of the debate, Pornography, because Alvin and Joey insisted on watching very disturbing Japanese Animation. It was at that point last night that I had to vacate my room and look for…less deviant pastures. But I digress.

The first team we faced was from De la Salle University, a very good Filipino institution.

To cut a long and arduous story short, we won. We also won the next one, and as I write on the 21st, we’ve won the third one as well. I’m now 3-0 up, and need to win at least 2 more rounds to break into the elimination rounds.


At the end of our third round, we discover that we’ve been given a loss instead of a win in our first round, due to a fuck up with the tallying of team scores. The initial diagnosis is that, to maintain the tabs instead of having to redo the last two rounds, they’re going to keep us on the loss, and the other team with the win. We’re suddenly faced with the realization that we’re now going to have to win pretty much all our debates to have any chance of getting into the top half of the break.

Bouncing back

Faced with the task of effectively being a loss down, and being in a weaker room than we should have, thus lowering our speaker scores, we go into each round needing to win. I hate to get clich├ęd and horrible sports movie like at this point, but our resolve never falters. We win our third and fourth rounds convincingly. In our fourth round, we’re back in a high scoring room, and meet Ateneo D. In one of the best debates I’ve ever had, we defeat them convincingly, by winning our principle issues. The adjudication, by Ateneo’s Sir Martin Cortez (the Sir is actually a part of his name, in Philippines it is not uncommon to have males called Sir and females called Princess) was the best I’ve ever had; it outlined each issue lucidly and succinctly.

An Old Bogey

We drew NTU A in round six of the tabs, the last round of a grueling 4 round day. NTU A between them has over 12 years of debating experience, their whip, one of the best in the tournament, has been for 6 international tourneys, and reached the finals of last year’s AUDC. To cut a long and simple story short, we were outclassed, and lost that round. We now were in a must win situation for the last round of the preliminaries, as 5-2 was the cut-off for breaking.

22nd May

Reprieve at last

Just before the final preliminary round, an ad-hoc council meeting was conducted to vote on whether or not we should be given our deserved win on the tabs. The tab-in-charge for the tournament, Kaushik, made the case that the unfairness of the tab would have corrected itself after one round, as a difficult team would have bumped our opponents lower, and meeting an easy team would have taken us quickly a level higher, thus removing the ultimate difference on tabs. 19 of the 30 council members bought the logic of the affair, and the vote fell in our favor, to much cheer. We were no longer cheated of our win, but we still had to prove ourselves. A win in the last round would seal our break, regardless of the extra point or not. With our final round against Assumption A (The Thai university where the 2008 Worlds will be held), we stamped a victory home by a clear margin, and broke on 6-1.

Break Night!

With the preliminaries over, we headed back to our “hotel”, to get ready to go to DISH, a nightclub where the Break Night Party was to be held. It incredibly started only an hour later than actually scheduled, due to the delay caused by the council meeting. The band performing was incredible, and did some excellent covers of Iris, One and…umm…Crawling(a band quite clearly with a wide repertoire). At half past eleven, the Chief Adjudicator took the stage to announce the break. Breaking sixth in the tournament, on 6-1, SMU-A.


On actual physical duress I was made to down a shot of tequila. I am never doing that again. Why people would subject themselves to a drink that actually scalds your throat and leaves it crying out for a lemon, or anything to take the pain away, I do not understand. The single shot also failed to get me high, forget drunk. For that, I thank my Punjabi constitution, for I’ve heard of people passing out on a shot, or at least being high enough to do incredibly stupid things. But then, there are those also who get tipsy on a glass of wine. Thus the entire point of the experience eludes me. Some of the NTU guys were getting high to loosen their inhibitions on the dance floor, and since I am naturally inclined towards making a complete and utter ass of myself, I have no such inhibitions in the first place. What I don’t have, sadly, is a fallback of liquor to blame it on.

On the point of NTU’s loosened inhibitions, one of the funnier sights one will see in life is a bunch of Tam-Bram engineers mildly drunk and attempting to dance. Sadly, I can understand why they need the hooch to blame it on. One realizes that Bhaiyya would have seen his fare share of the same at IIM-Bangalore. Gawd bless em’ all.

On Filipino Girls

A touchy topic best saved for another day.

That's all for now, folks. I have my Octofinals and maybe quarterfinals tomorrow, depending on how I do, and my free time is over. Must get back to prepping. Wish me luck, once more.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Leaving for Manila

In a few hours time, I shall be boarding a plane that shall hopefully deposit me unscathed in Manila. Thus will begin my first international t ournament, the Asian Univ. Debating Championships. One hopes to make an impression, one hopes the training wasn't in vain. One really hopes to break, in short. It's been a long summer of training, and lets see if it all comes together and pays off.

That said, its a whole new country to check out, an entire new adventure, and an exchange rate even weaker than the INR. From one of the most polluted cities in the world, Manila, to the beaches and hopefully a trip to Mt. Pinatubo, a volcano that produced one of the largest eruptions of the 20th century, it promises to be a fun trip.

Au revoiur, and wish me luck.

Monday, May 15, 2006

This and That

I've had a remarkably busy couple of weeks. Between debating and class, I haven't had much time for anything else, and when you spend at least three hours a day reading news and blogs for debates, it really saps your strength to write. A quick fill in on life, then.

Over the weekend, my team placed runners up at SMU Hammers, our inter-varsity debating championships. Lost out to NTU A, in a close and well matched debate. dissapointing, yes, but such is life. The level of debate puns took a new low, and challenges even the disturbed sense of humour that quizzers have. In a continuing trend of making fun of Ashwin, MM Shah compared water-spout boy to Iran's nuclear ambitions. "He has the uranium, but the delivery system is just not there". This was, of course, following Ashwin's continued failure in getting it up.

Another result of training is that entertainment is needed now and then, and since we have no life, this has to be provided inside a debate. Hence the invention of "Bonus Words", phrases to be included in your speech to fetch you brownie points with the adjudicator. Sadly, its not easy to shove in "I'm a fag hag" or "Dude, where's my car" into meaningful geopolitical debates, nor "Virgin Atlantic" contextualised to reforming the UN.

All said and done, I'm leaving for Manila on Thursday, putting an end to my year at SMU. I'm less than two weeks from home, and looking forward to it.
Oh, I also read an amazing book, which I shall proceed to review when I next have the time. It is, quite obviously, about food. The topic's been lacking for a while now, hasn't it?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

What Not to Do On A Rainy Evening

Step One: When you are quietly and calmly seated in the library, studiously avoiding distractions, IM conversations and are working like a good lil' girl, and it starts raining outside, do Not spend fifteen minutes staring at how pretty the trees look in the rain.

Step Two: After staring at the aforementioned flora for an extended period, do Not take the advice of a crazy senior and go for a walk in the (by now) thunderstorm, just to see what it feels like(again). Following which, do Not have long and extended converstaions in the canteen over hot coffee(with the aforementioned rain continuing outside) about the change in the temperature of pee with the change in weather conditions.

Step Three: Once you're done, do Not decide to not change your clothes and go sit in the library wearing wet vetements and 'dry off under the fan'. This is good advice for a number of reasons. For one, you are often more transparent than you think you are. For two, you will feel as Cold as if Hell Hath, indeed, frozen over.

Step Four: If, by chance, better sense prevails, and you Do, infact, go back to change clothes and be all warm, it is advisable that you wear All clothes. Do Not go around wearing a shirt and a towel, loudly yelling "I Dont want to wear pants". Unfortunate experience leads this chronicler to reveal that the result of such actions is generally an irate female coming out, slamming a skirt into your hand and telling you to get lost. As an addendum, it is probably advisable not to wear the said skirt and twirl around and generally enter rooms precdeding the entry with the loud yell of "Im not wearing pants". You may or may not get yelled at quite a lot.*

Step Five: (Admittedly, this has been added because the chronicler feels that five is a nicer number than four). It is probably best Not to insert sentences like "Unfortunately the researcher feels that pigs are fat" into the half-done projects of floormates whose laptops have been left unattended. Beguiling them into thinking that the said sentence has been added a number of times in their project, is again, not the Best of courses to follow.

But then again, you are open to make your own decisions when such situations arise. I sure did.

*- You really gotta love girls hostel.