Pisay scholar from Iloilo wins int’l essay writing contest on Covid-19

A grade 12 student of Philippine Science High School – Western Visayas Campus (PSHS-WVC) won the Grand Prize in the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization Tropical Medicine and Public Health (SEAMEO TROPMED) Network 55th Founding Anniversary Essay Contest.

With the theme: “What COVID-19 means to me”, the essay writing contest focused on the integration and inter-relation between Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) # 3 “Good Health and Well-being” and SDG # 4 “Quality Education”. 

Altair Mizar Emboltura, editor-in-chief of PSHS-WVC’s school paper Banaag, bested 210 entries in the Senior High School Category from the member countries of the SEAMEO TROPMED. He received $200 and a certificate of recognition.

In his winning piece titled “A Thief, A Tyrant, A Teacher”, Emboltura presented his perspective on how the pandemic significantly redefined aspects of life. 

“Just like a thief, the deadly virus stealthily snuck into our society and stole millions of lives, jobs, hopes, and dreams. It even robbed some of us of our humanity, apparent in the rampant occurrence of prejudice, abuse, and discrimination amidst the pandemic,” Emboltura wrote.

He described COVID-19 as a tyrant and stated that “with a tight and suffocating grip, this cruel and oppressive ruler controlled and limited our lives. Most students were bound to a monotonous cycle of eating, studying, and sleeping. However, many still faced the threat of contracting the virus as they had to work to survive and to fund their education — revealing the ugly truth that we are not sailing the same boat in this storm.”

According to Emboltura, COVID-19 as a teacher taught us to be adaptable, resilient, magnanimous, and compassionate. 

“It also magnified the infinite potential of the youth in creating waves of positive change in the community through the increasing amount of student-led projects, advocacies, and organizations, especially on online platforms,” he added.

Emboltura plans to pursue either biology, public health, or an accelerated medicine course in college, but his ultimate goal is to be a physician for the Filipino people.

He hopes that the government will give more priority to our healthcare workers by providing them with the support they need, especially in terms of financial help through increased wage, hazard pay, and the like.

“Young people like me have been championing change in our fight against COVID-19 from the very beginning. As digital natives, social media became our biggest platform to speak up, to initiate and conduct countless community projects especially for the underprivileged and marginalized sectors of our society, and to advocate for noble causes such as the #NoStudentLeftBehind,” said. Emboltura

As a student leader, campus journalist, and public speaker, Emboltura also received distinctions such as Young Achiever Awardee by the Municipality of Oton, The Outstanding Student of Iloilo Awardee 2020 by JCI Regatta, and as one of the Ten Outstanding Junior High School Students of Iloilo for AY 2019-2020 by The Outstanding Students Circle of Iloilo (OSCI). 

“I believe in the power of the proactive youth. Our role in winning the battle against COVID-19 includes inspiring, impacting, and speaking up not just for our fellow youth but for our whole community as well. However, all of our dedication, effort, and active participation would be put to waste if our leaders won’t listen to us,” said Emboltura when asked about the role of young people in the battle against COVID-19.

“I call unto our leaders to not just hear us but also listen to us because our voice matters, especially in this unprecedented time,” said Emboltura.

The SEAMEO TROPMED Network 55th Founding Anniversary Essay Contest aimed to (1) gather information related to COVID-19 effect on students; (2) motivate students to write and discuss their perspectives about COVID-19; (3) promote listening to students’ voices; and (4) document these perspectives for further use in school programmes and policies.

About the Author

Aries Oliveros has written textbooks on grammar and creative nonfiction and is currently an executive assistant at the Office of the Executive Director of the Philippine Science High School System – Office of the Executive Director.

He was formerly Chief of the Curriculum and Instruction Division and adviser of the school paper The Central Scholar. He studied Bachelor of Secondary Education, Major in English at Philippine Normal University, Manila.

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