Pen Strokes

December 8, 2008

I Create Excellence! (BNT’s Return to the MSE Penthouse)

Finally, near the end of the year, we’ve returned to our usual meeting venue at the Penthouse of the old Makati Stock-Exchange (MSE) Building! While this venue was being refurbished, we have had to hold our meetings on the 4th Floor of the same building and in the, now famous, Rocci Café! Though I will miss our alternative venues, somehow, it feels right to be back here!

Our theme for the night, “I Create Excellence”, couldn’t have been more appropriate! Not because we had a perfect meeting… we all know that this particular meeting was far from being perfect… but because we witnessed once again how every member was eager to make this meeting another memorable and fun BNT meeting! The great artist, Michelangelo, once said “The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we hit it.” Our eagerness may have been the cause of some of our little mishaps that night; but we aimed high; and we still had one rockin’ BNT night!

The Table Topics Session…

Poor Christopher Siena! He was left holding the bag after I had passed off the duties of Table Topics Master to him. We felt that, since I would be giving a speech that night, it would only be fair to pass off my other duty to Chris! But like the trooper he is, Chris, bravely accepted the role on short notice. There is an ancient Samurai saying that goes “Warriors take chances. Like everyone else, they fear failing, but they refuse to let fear control them.” And, Chris proved to us that he was a true warrior of the old “Samurai” code!

Chris’ Table topics session was rather simple. Participants would simply complete a statement which began with our night’s theme “I Create Excellence…” and continues with a phrase that the participant would draw from a bag; phrases like “In the Work Place”, “At Home”, “Amongst my Peers”, etc. and ends with the participant’s speech.

First up to bat was Ton Villanueva who commented on “I create excellence at Home”. Somehow, Ton was able to divert his speech from the “home” to the perfect woman; or should I say three perfect women? What we all remembered about Ton’s speech was, when he described the three characteristics of his “perfect” woman, it sounded like he was talking about three different women! We all had a good laugh at this! But in the end, Ton still managed to bring it back “home”.

Next was Marlito Sy, who tackled the statement “I create excellence as a Filipino”! At first, I thought Mars was selling us insurance; but as his speech went on, I realized that he made a valid point. He made us realize that it was his patriotic duty to make sure that every Filipino should learn the value of being insured and that it was something we owed to our loved-ones.

I was the last to participate. Frankly, I volunteered because I was nervous about the humorous speech I was going to give that night and I needed to blow off some of that nervousness. My statement was “I create excellence in the office”! Since I didn’t have an office, this was a difficult subject to comment on. But I answered it the best I could. My point? I create excellence in the office by making sure I communicate effectively to each and everyone there… that is if I had an office.

The Prepared Speeches…

Our first speaker, Derek Dee, was a big hit with his Icebreaker speech “My Journey”! Indeed, he took us with him into the journey that was his life. Being a child of the seventies and eighties, Derek’s speech was delivered in the tradition of the sonnets and poems of that period. Some would comment that his speech was almost melodic! You could have placed some music from the band “Bread” as the background of his speech and its rhythm would’ve fit right in! Bravo Derek! That was a powerhouse speech!

Our next speaker, Dianne Tang, delivered another Icebreaker speech. But what was unique about it was that she was not scheduled to deliver a speech that night, yet she gallantly volunteered to deliver her speech anyway! This is not to say, however, that she gave her speech impromptu; Dianne actually had a prepared speech, she just wasn’t scheduled to deliver it that night. Nonetheless, her speech, which was a witty and humorous repartee about why she loved “Romance Novels”, captured our hearts! She dared to connect her life’s learnings with the novels she read and showed all of us that those romance novels, which we sometimes think of as cheesy, can actually be good for the soul!

Our third speaker was none other than the “braveheart” himself, Owen Cruz! With yet another powerhouse speech, Owen delivered the goods! At first, his opening had me cringing in my seat! Had Owen, somehow, been brainwashed by Karl Marx? His opening was almost like the Marxist preachings I remembered so well during my youth in the seventies (yes, Derek and I belong to the same era). Then, suddenly, Owen took it all back and delivered a powerful message; that we are Individuals, not automatons; and that we are what we make ourselves to be! His delivery and style were, at the very least, courageous! But isn’t this what the “braveheart” is all about?

Edwin Ebreo took the fourth slot with an advanced project speech! His evaluator, Fred Castro (who was also our General Evaluator), would pick among four topics given to him and Ed would have to speak on the selected topic “Off the Cuff”! The topic selected was “How to have Creative Ideas”. Ed began his speech with a powerful statement “We are all creative!” and followed this up with several tips on how to harness our creativity. By doing so, Ed proved to us once again that he is the “master trainer”! Though he was speaking off-the-cuff, his delivery was nearly flawless. In fact, he was so comfortable with the topic that he had one of his lowest “Ah” counts ever!

The last speaker was me. Sometimes, I look back at my speech and wished that I never volunteered to speak that night! Prepared humor was never one of my strong suits and it showed as I tried to deliver the third project from the “Entertaining Speaker” Manual which tasked me to “Make them Laugh”! I think that the only thing funny about my speech was its title “Why I couldn’t prepare my humorous speech”. Though you can accuse me of not being funny, no one can accuse me of being a coward! I delivered my speech and near the end, I finally got one “gut busting” laugh! Redemption is mine! That being said, I will continue to try to give more humorous speeches until I get it right or until everyone in BNT threatens to shoot me if I don’t stop!

The Evaluation Session…

I simply love this part of meeting! And again, we were treated to some really great evaluations! Ably led by General Evaluator Fred Castro, our evaluators that night came out swinging!

Table Topics Evaluation was done by Tisha Timbang. What I like about Tisha is the way she drives home her point. She uses simple and easy to understand words and her evaluations are always very practical and to the point. Tisha never goes for the theatrics; yet, she delivers one heck of an evaluation!

As in our previous meeting, our Prepared Speech Evaluators were, again, top-notch! Who could’ve asked for better evaluators than Sheila dela Cruz, Alvin Tan, Syril Tolentino (of Blue Swoosh), Fred Castro (of Managers for Christ) and Mike Jacinto! Again, they were all on the money!

Some notable evaluator antics would be how Sheila did a funny “tough-guy” routine while trying to imitate Derek’s mannerisms; or how Alvin couldn’t help but take pot shots at my speech even though he was evaluating Dianne’s speech; or how Mike was funnier in his evaluation of me than I was in my speech! And who could forget the “tell it like it is” evaluations of Syril and Fred? They all made for a lively and educational Evaluation session!

Leading off the Technical Evaluations was our Grammarian for the night, Club President, Gege Sugue. Another good thing about Butter n’ Toast is that we seem to have cornered the market on great grammarians! Gege, in particular, writes a blog called “Grammar-Pulis” wherein she enumerates and gives advice on the “Pinoy” grammatical norms and fallacies. With Gege as our Language Evaluator, how could we go wrong?

Christine Dapa and Ton Villanueva rounded off out Technical Evaluators roles as Timer and Ah-countant respectively. And in true BNT tradition, they played their roles to the hilt! No small roles for us!

Toastmaster of the Evening…

If you know Jun Roy like I do, you know that he takes any role given to him seriously! I saw him preparing rigorously for his role as “TM of the PM” before our meeting started. I’m also sure he had prepared for his role long before that. But nothing could have prepared him for the constant role changes and sequence changes that happened that night! Undaunted, however, this seasoned trainer showed a lot of dignity in handling his role in-spite of the confusion!

Jun is a class act! Not many people can carry a meeting, without panicking from the chaos happening in the background, like Jun can. He deserves a thunderous applause!

Round up…

We were excited! We wanted to give our best! We wanted to achieve excellence! For the past several meetings now we’ve witnessed, what could only be called, a true Toastmasters’ spirit sweeping over each and every member of BNT! Members lining up to deliver speeches, accepting any role given to them and making the most of Butter n’ Toast! But sometimes we make mistakes.

Famous LA Lakers coach Pat Riley said that “Excellence is the gradual result of always striving to be the best we can be…” and from my point of view, this is just what happened in our last meeting. In our excitement; in our quest for excellence, we made mistakes. But I am more proud of the mistakes we’ve made in our club than in the undeserved successes I’ve witnessed happen to other people in my life. For as we walk from mistake to mistake… WE CREATE EXCELLENCE! Rock on!

By: Enrique Salvador E. San Agustin

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