I can recount two experiences that I gave extemporaneous speaking a try. The first was during an English festival (or something related) in my senior year in high school, and the second was in my last semester in college at an event attended by communication majors from Davao City.
On both times, I was apprehensive when I was asked to compete.
In high school, I remember I was persuaded by my English professor to give this competition a try, saying she saw potential in how I wrote my answers in an exam that she gave. I was pressured, honored, scared, and angry all at the same time. I remember saying Yes to my teacher even though I knew I wasn’t ready.
True enough, on stage I wasn’t able to say anything. My voice was stuck in my throat and my mind couldn’t think beyond the eyes of the audience in a gymnasium filled with all students and teachers of my school.
I stared at the audience, said “Thank you,” and left the stage.
I have never been the kind of person to make vows and promises after a devastating experience, because I usually just let these things flow. But that day, I walked alone to the jeepney stop with my head hung low and I vowed to never join speaking competitions again, ever. The shame that I felt was nothing like I have ever felt before.
Fast-forward to four years later and I’m a few months shy from finishing my degree in mass communication. It was late, it was 9 or maybe 10 in the evening. If I remember correctly, I was about to sleep and I was surprised that my phone rang. My classmate was calling. Calls are commonly made in the day time, unless it’s urgent. Apparently, CMAD (Communication Majors Alliance of Davao) is having their Commvergence the next day, which is an interschool competition on many fields. The event was happening the next day, it was going to be held at our school, and Ateneo itself had no one to represent them for the extemporaneous dialogue.
It was Carly who called me, a classmate of mine. She was one of the major organizers of the event and she was asking if I could partner with Kate, another classmate, to compete in extemporaneous dialogue. Everyone else was too busy to participate. I remember Carly had me when she said “Ikaw nalang gyud among pag-asa bai.” (You’re out last hope). I know how hard my classmates work for all events and I know they would be broken-hearted if no one would be able to represent for the school. And I don’t know if it was Carly’s persuasion or some internal force from within who wants to do it, but I said yes.
Backstage I was openly speaking to our competitors about my fear and nervousness (which isn’t advisable by the way, it’s as if you’re belittling yourself) but I was just genuinely honest. Kate and I were the last pair to go out on stage. We were given a minute to understand our topic and 3 minutes to have a dialogue.
Afterwards, I lamented about how bad I thought I did. Our classmates were all cheering us up, saying we were sure to win. I said in my mind, well, they are our classmates. Of course they’d support us.
During the awarding ceremony, names were called one after the other. 3rd place, 2nd place, and still we haven’t heard our names. I squeezed Kate’s hand very hard.
I remember telling myself that it’s okay, I tried my best and conquered my fear and that’s all that matters.
To cut the story short, we bagged the crown.
I remember shooting off my seat like a rocket being launched into space when I heard our names called as champions. It was a teamwork and I couldn’t have done it without Kate, but I know in my heart that, finally, I’ve proven to myself that I can do it. I conquered my fear.