PH wins first-ever World Universities Debating Championship title

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 4) — The Philippines is bringing home the World Universities Debating Championship (WUDC) title for the first time in the tournament's 42-year history.

The tandem of David Africa and Tobi Leung from the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) bested hundreds of institutions across the globe in the world's largest debate tournament held in Madrid, Spain from Dec. 27 to Jan. 4.

The duo defeated teams from Princeton University (United States), Tel Aviv University (Israel), and Sofia University (Bulgaria) in the grand final hosted by the Cines Callao movie theater Wednesday 1:30 a.m. Manila time.

They debated on the motion of whether or not it's preferable to have a world where all persons have a strong belief in the philosophy of Ubuntu or "I am because we are."

An information slide shown during the round stated that the idea of Ubuntu asserts that people's identities should be shaped by, and their obligations should be primarily owed to, their communities.

For Africa, a fourth year student of Bachelor of Science in Applied Mathematics with Specialization in Data Science, winning the WUDC is a dream come true.

"It means being able to proudly represent the school, country and continent on the international stage, and show the world that Filipino eloquence and critical thinking have always been world-class," Africa told CNN Philippines.

Africa, also the tournament's eight-overall best speaker during the elimination rounds, added that the victory is a culmination of a long period of heartbreak and struggle.

Since the tournament's inception in 1981, an overwhelming majority of winners and grand finalists came from English-speaking countries in the West like the United Kingdom, United States, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.

Only one Asian team, from Singapore Institute of Management, made the grand final in 2004.

In 2021, two teams from ADMU made the final round, one of which was led by Africa. That was the first time the Philippines broke into the grand finals of the tournament.

The Philippines lost that year, as well as in the same round in the 2022 edition, before finally bagging the ever-elusive WUDC title.

"The period of regaining the motivation and inner strength to try again was difficult, especially now that I would have to travel there in person. It means the world to give this journey the closure and the satisfaction of a job well done," Africa said.

His teammate Tobi Leung, a sophomore student in the same course and specialization as Africa, was hailed as the tournament’s second best speaker. This was the highest rank ever achieved by a Filipino in the WUDC.

The tourney uses the British Parliamentary format, where four teams (two members each) comprising the opening and closing sides of mock government and opposition benches will debate on a motion given only 15 minutes before the round.