By Jerry E. Esplanada
DURBAN, South Africa -- Izindaba ezinhle. That means good news in the native Zulu dialect.
The 26-member Philippine team, composed of elementary and high school students from various public and private schools nationwide, has made the country proud by winning a total of 31 medals in the just-ended 2019 South Africa International Mathematics Competition (SAIMC).
The young Filipino numbers aces bagged one gold, eight silver and 22 bronze medals in the 27-nation contest, held August 1 to 6 in this coastal city on the southeastern tip of the African continent.
The math whiz kids, all wards of the Mathematics Trainers' Guild Phils. (MTG), also received five merit certificates and several trophies from group and team events.
With its medal haul, the Philippines placed ninth overall in the SAIMC, topped by Bulgaria, Thailand and Taiwan, which garnered nine, eight and seven gold medals, respectively.
The other teams in the Top 10 included China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Mexico and Malaysia.
Host South Africa got seven bronze medals while teams from the United States, Nepal, Tajikistan, Zimbabwe, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia failed to win any medals.
The Philippines' lone individual gold came courtesy of Filbert Ephraim Wu, a Grade 8 student of the Victory Christian International School in Pasig City.
The 13-year-old math wizard, a Taguig City resident, also got a silver and a bronze from group and team contests.
The silver medals were won by Raphael Adrian Galang from Manila Science High School, Adrian Soriaga from St. Jude Catholic School, Neo Angelo Gatlabayan from British School Manila, Mohammad Nur Casib from My Precious Child Learning Center in Marawi City and Luke Sebastian Sy from Grace Christian College in Quezon City.
The bronze medalists included James Martin Young from Philippine Science High School-Western Visayas, Ervin Joshua Bautista from Southville International School and Colleges, Tracey Lauren Lei from St. Jude Catholic School, Lance Chrysler de Jesus from Caloocan National Science and Technology High School, Miguel Cayetano from Tuguegarao West Central School, Patric Xamwell Legaspi from Vel Maris School, Gadriel Symone Dalangin from Stonyhurst International School-Malarayat, Cassidy Kyler Tan from Davao Christian High School, Keean Nathaniel Tang from UNO High School, Andrei Lenard Chan from Zamboanga Chong Hua High School, Enzo Rafael Chan from Bayanihan Institute, Sean Matthew Tan from Jubilee Christian Academy, Anika Gayle Tan from Zamboanga Chong Hua High School, Matthew Eugene Chua from British School Manila and Kristen Steffi Teh from Grace Christian College.
The following students were given merit certificates: Noel Stephem Dequito from Xavier School-Nuvali, Francis Rafael Flor and Muhammad Farouk Tan, both from Silangan Elementary School; and Casey Lauren Bernardo and Franze Micah Castaneda, both from St. Jude Catholic School,
MTG co-founder and COO Dr. Simon Chua lauded the team for "giving this year's IMC their best shot and for living up to enormous expectations from their various support groups."
Chua, also IMC secretary, said he was "happy for our team," adding he was "honored to know these young math wizards and for their passion for numbers as they inspire their fellow students to shine and excel in this field."
Science and Technology Undersecretary Brenda Manzano, who was part of the Philippine delegation, noted that "math contests like this help boost the skills of our youths as these improve the analytical and critical thinking of our students. More importantly, these cultivate the interest of many in mathematics."
"With the continued technological advancements happening around us, the problems we face are becoming more and more complex. In turn, these problems require even more complex solutions. Thus, we need to innovate and use science and technology to address them - and this is where mathematics comes in," she stressed.
In her remarks during the SAIMC awarding rites, held at Durban City Hall on August 5, she also told the 450 contest participants: "Regardless of how you fared in this competition, all of you are already winners. The fact that you have been chosen to represent your respective countries tells me that you are really. really good in math, that you have bested others for you to qualify in this international tilt. Not all students are given this very rare opportunity."
"Take a minute to feel good about yourself and give yourselves a pat on your back...Good job, dear students," she said.
She added the kids' parents are "lucky to have been gifted with children who are good in math. Their kids are the hope of the future. They could be future engineers, scientists and innovators who can give lasting solutions to the challenges we face or may face inn the future."
For his part, IMC executive board chair Wen-hsien Sun pointed out "this competition does not only provide children from different countries an occasion to compete among themselves."
"Unlike other contests, which consist only of pen and pencil tests, we also design problem solving activities which require good teamwork. This contest also includes a cultural exchange program, an opportunity for the kids to known other people, their cultures and traditions of all kids. Through this, they can broaden their horizons, learn to understand each other's cultural diversity and in that manner, they can help build a peaceful and better world," he added.
Durban acting Mayor Fawzia Peer said that during the SAIMC, "interactions were afforded our local math geniuses who were given an opportunity to share ideas and learn best practices from their international counterparts."
Next year's IMC will be held in Jakarta, Indonesia, according to Sun.
During the 2018 edition of the contest, held in Burgas, Bulgaria, the Philippine team won 18 medals.
Aside from Chua and Manzano, the other members of the country's delegation to the SAIMC included DepEd-Pasig City division superintendent Dominico Idanan, DepED-Taguig-Pateros chief supervisor Isidro Aguilar, also MTG president, and MTG trainers Robert Degolacion, Aldwin Sahirul, Renard Eric Chua, Minerva Bianca Avecilla and Joel Cardinal.
The non-government MTG, established in 1995, aims to institutionalize math education and training, as well as upgrade the discipline in the country and meet international standards.