Proudly Kagayanon: Gian Marlon Libot

Graduation and recognition ceremonies are here again. This is perhaps the most anticipated time of the year of students as they finally move on after years of homework and exams, not to mention many hours of research, and sleepless nights. This March, Tsadagyud pays tribute to students who excel in academics and extra curricular activities. That is why for Proudly Kagayanon, we have chosen one exemplary Atenean of Xavier University, the champion debater… Gian Marlon Libot.

Childhood years

Gian, as his friends fondly call him, is one of the pillars of Xavier University Debate Circle that has been one of the best debate teams in the Philippines. He was born on September 21, 1987 and is the eldest child in the family. Just like any normal child in his era, Gian had done silly stuffs and even described himself “lingas na bata.” Although, being the eldest he really had no one to play with and was pretty isolated. He found peace being alone more than doing other social stuffs. No, he is not autistic for Christ’s sake.

Family

He is closer to his mother. “It’s shameful to admit pero yeah, mama’s boy gyud ko growing up gyud.” In so far as who he talks mostly at home and confides his problem, it’s his mom. But of course, Gian emphasized that his dad is more of a father figure whom he wants to grow up to be. He consults intellectual and school stuffs to his dad. Plus, having been engaged in consultancy, his dad often travels and goes home usually on weekends only.

School 

Before he became an Atenean, Gian spent grade school at St. Mary’s in Mandumol. Then, he went to Xavier University for high school and college. Mind you, he was not an academic achiever during his primary and secondary school years. Although, most of his teachers would say that he’s a smart boy but lazy and does other things. He only did well in the subjects like Science and History. During PTA, his mom would always receive a remark from teachers saying “bright man siya pero dili siya gapaminaw.” They thought that he wasn’t listening because he would draw and wouldn’t take down notes. In short, although he is smart but he was not an honor student in grade school and high school.

2011 National Debate Championship Grand Finals

How did he get into debate?

Debate was introduced to Gian when he was in third year high school. There was a selection process at XUHS and he did join. Because he was not an academically identifiable student, no one believed that he would do well in debate. Even him, he was doubtful that he would make it. He just went through the screening and gave his views on certain topics. Surprisingly, he got in to the exclusive pool of debaters at XUHS. Within that pool, he started to learn the Oxford Oregon Format. He really did not like debate that then. For him, it was just more of an opportunity. 

When he had his first debate match, surprisingly he was not really nervous. He wasn’t really paying much attention to the pressure. He just did it for the sake of doing. Although he had won best speaker, he gave the credits more to his dad who helped him in the preparation. In Oxford Oregon, a debater would know the topic and could prepare a day before the match. So, during high school, he was not really that passionate in debate.

College debate 

He initially wanted to be an artist and join Circulo de Arte, the art club of Xavier University because he was more engrossed into drawing and making comic books. It just so happened that a friend of him who was already encouraged to join XU’s debate team dragged him along. Then, when they started training of the new format (parliamentary debate) he got the idea that debate might be something that he’s good at.

I asked Gian which among these debate teams that he’s quite intimidated to compete, he wittingly responded that he has no one in particular. Although when he started, he would hear stories of these certain personas and schools who had been into debating even before XU had established its own like the Ateneo de Manila and University of the Philippines Diliman. Those were the two strongest debate organizations back then. But generally, he does not look at the school but more on individuals whom he knows he would have a more challenging match.

Gian with other XU Debaters Albert Daba and Aries Paye in the 2011 National Debate Championship

 

The Xavier University Debate Circle

Gian clearly emphasized that although he is one of the veterans in debate in the country that has received multiple awards, he still extends the same level of respect to other debate teams. But, in so far as fear factor is concerned, that is no longer real to him and to his fellow debaters from XU. The Xavier University Debate Circle has cultivated its members to be champion speakers and the organization has its own fair share of achievements that have cemented them to be one of the best, if not the best in the country. “For us, it is also not healthy mentally to come into a game with a predisposition that you are going to lose,” said Gian.

Preparations, the Xavier Debate Circle way

Unlike the Oregon Oxford Format, preparation in the Parliamentary Debate Format is short. Debaters are only given the debate topic or they call it the ‘motion’ 30 minutes before the match. And they are not allowed to bring electronic gadgets with them that could give them information. They’re only permitted to bring printed materials. So, the basic preparation is to attend practices and read. Prior to a tournament, the XU team would always have daily practices and a selection as to who will be team mates.

Preparations, the Gian Libot way

The good thing with Gian is that during his childhood, he was glued on watching TV shows not typically seen by an ordinary child like history, science, and documentaries. He found those advantageous to him. Apart from those, he would watch videos of debate match here and abroad, take note of the topics or motions that they gave out from those previous tournaments, create what he calls a “theme bank” and allocate it in the list of general topics that would fall under it. For example, for the past tournaments, there have been topics related to environment. He would then break it down to more specific topics about the environment.

Sources of information

The internet has been the most useful tool for debaters nowadays wherein they could get most of the information that they need. Debate videos have been helpful too as it bridges the gap especially if a debater miss to attend practices. Seeing those videos especially reputable debaters abroad make them feel as if they’re there and give them the idea on how to attack certain issues, how they deliver their speeches, and the perspective that they have utilized.

L-R: Rene Gandeza (XU), Shiveena Parmanand (ADMU), Cecile Danica Gotamco (ADMU), and Gian Marlo Libot (XU) in the Macau-United Asian Debate Championships

What’s really with debate?

Other people may find it nerdy but for Gian, debate brings a lot of thrills, from preparation up to the adrenalin rush in a debate round when they’re confronted with issues that they may or may not believe in. “Daghan kaayo elements in it and you have to account for yourself and your state of mental health whether you are ready enough for a competition. You also have to account for your teammates whether they are ready as well,” said Gian. And another really attractive thing for debaters in general is just the idea that they get the chance to compete and interact with different people coming from different walks of life. And the learning that they get is really rewarding.

The most exciting part in a debate match

Winning a match is exciting. But, for Gian who has his fair share of losses also said that in general, the most exciting part in debate is just being there competing, getting a chance to go up against other speakers, sharing ideas with them, wrestling ideas with them, waiting for announcements to be called whether they’re gonna advance or not advance. “Those are the most gripping moments in your life nga kanang feeling nimo na ang isa ka minuto kay forever na ga take.”

Gian’s greatest achievements in debate

In so far as scope is concerned, Gian thinks that his personal greatest achievement is breaking into quarters in the 32nd World Universities Debate Championships which was held at De La Salle University last 2012. Together with Rene Gandeza Jr., they landed in the 15th spot in English as Second Language (ESL) Category out from the 100 ESL teams coming from universities all over the world. Another memorable victory for Gian was reaching the grand finals in the 2011 National Debate Championship (NDC). He has been chosen as one of the top 10 best speakers in NDC and Philippine Intercollegiate Debate Championship (PIDC) for three consecutive years (2010 to 2012). He was also chosen as the best adjudicator in the 2012 National Debate Championship and second best in the 27th Mindanao Parliamentary Debate Championship (MPDC).

What does it take to be a debater?

For Gian, the most important character that a person should possess in order for him to be a good debater is determination. “I think no matter how talented you are as a person if you don’t have any kind of determination you won’t succeed as a debater, not just succeed in a medal way or in an achievement way but even as an individual.” Apart from determination, another important trait is pride. Not pride in a boastful way but just confidence in oneself. That is something that is hard to teach. Lack of self confidence hinders a person to realize their own strengths. The last thing is open-mindedness especially to criticisms. In debate, criticisms aren’t ignored. They are well received in a constructive way. And open-mindedness to the reality that you might not be the best. If one has learned to accept that, then the more that he works harder, look further, and level goals higher.

English proficiency is not a requirement 

Some people may think that debate is exclusive to those who speaks English well. Gian disagrees to that. “Definitely not. When you want to learn debate, it teaches you that along the way. Ako man pod, me personally, I don’t think I started of with that degree of proficiency. It came about as a practice,” said Gian. He added that lack in English proficiency should not be an obstacle. It can be polished through constant practice.

Straight from the debater’s mouth

Tsadagyud did ask Gian on other things, some of them may be controversial and others may not be that related to debate.

Tsadagyud: What is the best debate team in the Philippines?

Gian: My team.

Tsadagyud: So, it means Xavier is also the best debate team in Mindanao?

Gian. Xavier. Definitely, Xavier.

Tsadagyud: Who is the best speaker in the Philippines?

Gian: I would probably say Sharmila Parmanand of Ateneo de Manila University. She was sort of my mentor before. 

Tsadagyud: The best adjudicator?

Gian: Maybe me for now because I got the award. For now, that changes man gud like every time….

Tsadagyud: If you’re not a debater, what are you?

Gian: I would have probably pushed for drawing siguro. Maybe, I would have even been a graphic artist na. I remember before in high school, I didn’t feel tired doing it. I would do it everyday, all the time, during the class and after class.

Tsadagyud: Did it come to a point that you were given a debate topic or motion that you didn’t know that much?

Gian: A lot of times.

Tsadagyud: How do you handle it?

Gian: Number one, do not panick when you receive these kinds of topics. I would compare it to a big problem in life that you do not have a solution for the moment. You take a step back, read the motion again, look at some of the words that are identifiable and you can understand then deduce to the most appropriate and realistic understanding from it. I don’t think there was a motion that we had zero idea. There was always something that we could extract from it. The same thing in life, when you face serious problems, you don’t dive at it right away or succumb to panic. You assess first, look at the things that you can solve at the moment. If you’re able to solve that, then you could probably find a way to give yourself a chance.

Tsadagyud: Give me an adjective of these debaters and debate teams that I will mention.

Gian: Sure.

Tsadagyud: Patricia Evangelista

Gian: Brilliant writer.

Tsadagyud: Leloy Claudio

Gian: Inspiring.

Tsadagyud: Ateneo de Davao

Gian: Respectable opponents (rephrased and far from his first answer).

Tsadagyud: MSU

Gian: From my memory of MSU, I don’t know this generation of MSU… Fierce.

Tsadagyud: Lastly, the XU Debate Team.

Gian: Family.

It is intrinsic to each one of us that we have our own views in life. But only few have the guts to assert and only the exceptional few have the brilliance to substantiate their thoughts well. In the intimidating world of debate where everybody is great, one has to stand out. Well, Gian has become who is right now simply because of how sees things. If he doesn’t know the topic well, he relates it to handling serious problems in life. He doesn’t panic. Instead, he assesses the situation and examines what he can solve for the moment. And to experience defeat is not the end. One has to be open-minded and learn to accept that. The beauty of experiencing failures or defeat is it enables a person to work harder and set his goal higher.

Gian is a good example of a blue blooded Atenean. If they’re in competitions or in everything they do in life, Ateneans are not only asked to do good or be the best, but better each time as he is always in a competition with himself in the path to self-improvement and the realization of his fullest potentials.

Gian Marlon Libot… a pride of Xavier…. a champion debater… PROUDLY KAGAYANON.