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  • Hyacinth Ashley Flores

Padunungan 2023: Of Blazing Battlegrounds

There is something incredibly enthralling about a flame that sits atop a battle torch–how its mercurial blaze burns rapidly and as soon as a spark births the powerful flame, that’s when everyone knows a daunting escapade is yet to come–a battle has begun. In most stories such as the tales of Trojan War and narratives from Civil Wars, it would rain flaming arrows and raging bullets, and the air would fill with the relentless cries of warriors, either screaming for help or shouting out of belligerence. It would be bloody and ruthless, unforgiving and atrocious. But this one particular battle is far from what storytellers write, for this is one of wits and talents, and of passions and advocacies—for it is a far more exhilarating thing to behold a battle of intellects sharper than mortuary swords and voices louder than battle cries. UP Ibalon paints this battleground in the guise of Padunungan.

UP Ibalon prides itself in igniting the spark that sets this scholastic battle ablaze, as it has been doing so since 1981. Padunungan, which is the Bikolano term for ‘battle of intellects’ is an annual competition for Bicolano high school students conducted by Ibalon as part of its continued service to the Bicolano youth in enriching these young minds to timely and pressing national issues. Every year, an overall theme is selected among the current issues, one which needs to be further discussed and understood in order to raise awareness and amplify calls for action. Through this academic affair, Ibalon aims to craft a foreground of the real world for the attendees where their knowledge, intelligence, and skills are challenged. High school students from across the Bicol region gather for an event that centers on said theme to participate in educational discussions, symposia, film features, and workshops, and compete in manifold knowledge dissemination events. It is through this flagship event that Ibalon aims to instill values and initiate change in the minds of Bicolano students, and speak to them in words that will resonate with them even when the competition ends.

Numerous issues pester the Philippines in manifold ways, especially since the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020, which exposed many preexisting societal maladies in the country. The global crisis created powerful adverse effects on the Philippine economy just as it did for economies worldwide. With the implementation of strict lockdowns, quarantine periods, and mobility restrictions, there were immediate irreversible consequences for business, employment, transportation, education, and various economic sectors. As the ramifications of the Philippine economic crises escalate in intensifying crescendos, Padunungan 2023 emerges as an intellectual battlefield for young Bicolano students to grasp a better understanding of the complex economic challenges impacting the lives of many Filipinos.

In an era of 30-second videos and soundbites shorter than a matchstick flame, there rises a need to transcend the surface and delve deeper into the maladies that taint society. Centered on the theme “Beyond the Headlines: Understanding the Complexities of the Philippine Economic Crises”, Padunungan returns to shed light on these issues. The battle of intellect returns after its three-year hiatus, setting the stage for a riveting battle of intellects for Junior and Senior high school students across the Bicol Region. As it rekindles the flames of curiosity and knowledge, Pad 2023 introduces a riveting exploration of the causes, nature, and potential solutions to the country’s economic challenges.


In the heart of Bicolandia, Pad 2023 gathered brilliant young Bicolano minds in Naga Parochial School for an intellectual battle that began on July 17 and ended on the 18th. Calls for action resounded in the halls of the school as it welcomed five participating schools, sending their best students to engage in a maze centered on the intricate web of the country’s underlying economic crises. As the battlefield enlivens with warrior strength and wit, students armored up and let out their sharpest swords for different contests such as quiz bees, debates, cultural presentations, and simultaneous individual events such as tigsik writing, poster making, essay writing, t-shirt design making, impromptu speech, infographic design contest, and short-form video making contests. In its conclusion, Sorsogon National High School emerged victorious once again and holds the defending champion title as the 4-year overall winner of Padunungan.


Beyond the two-day affair, UP Ibalon’s goal is to instill lasting lessons that will be manifested in their actions long after the event concludes. Even more, it aspires to initiate change amid society’s bleak situation. UP Ibalon recognizes the pivotal significance of the youth’s comprehension of economic woes and their repercussions in shaping the country’s future, and it is with Padunungan 2023 that it was able to serve as a beacon of knowledge and awareness.


The success of Padunungan 2023 stands as a testament to the organization’s unwavering commitment to nurturing the Bicolano youth, which will remain steadfast in the many more iterations of Padunungan. As the next year draws closer, UP Ibalon will once again set its battlegrounds on fire for Padunungan 2024. As UP Ibalon’s commitment to serving the people is a fire that can never be extinguished, it will continue to spark flames in the minds of the Bicolano youth for as long as the organization lives, for it’s a blaze that powers the heart and sparks the soul.


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