Written by Vince Albarillo
Photo by PBO Documentations Team
The finals round of the 6th Annual Philippine Biology Olympiad (PBO) 2023: LUNDAG, hosted collaboratively by the Ateneo Biological Organization (BOx) and Biology Department was held onsite last April 15 to 16 at the Ateneo de Manila University campus. Invited were the top 55 participants from the elimination round held last February 4.
After an extensive training and testing period, the top 4 delegates, Chiarra Bernadette Tan-Gatue (Saint Jude Catholic School), Andre Gerard C. Aw (MGC New Life Christian Academy), Carlos Manuel C. Eusoya (Philippine Science High School Western Visayas Campus) and Ayisha Madeleine Ong (Saint Jude Catholic School), were chosen to represent the Philippines in the International Biology Olympiad (IBO), to be held in the United Arab Emirates.1
A brief timeline of events
After the elimination round, the top 55 semi-finalists were announced on February 15.2 They were invited to attend a series of synchronous masterclasses and workshops in Zoom that were held every Saturday, starting February 18.
These workshops were hosted by instructors from the Biology Teachers Association of the Philippines (BIOTA) and faculty from the Ateneo de Manila University Biology Department. Topics included Animal and Human Biology, Plant Anatomy and Physiology, and Biosystematics. These extensive activities were done in preparation for the semi-finals.
However, in light of events within campus, such as the Ateneo Employee’s and Worker’s Union (AEWU) strike during the last week of March, the organizing team deemed it too risky to hold the event. Thus, the semi-finals rounds was cancelled, and its activities merged with the finals round.
Lumundag Para sa Agham!
The finals were not just about selecting delegates for IBO, but also for building connections and reinvigorating their passion for biology, according to Olympiad Co-Director Oona Barnes (3 BS BIO). “What better way [to do this] than to give them hands-on experience?” she adds.
Thus, the first day was focused on onsite workshops in the form of wet laboratory work in Botany, followed by dry laboratory work in Systematics with software such as R studio. Participants found it refreshing to handle the laboratory work themselves, following the pandemic and an online mode for PBO.
Afterwards, a non-competitive teambuilding activity called The Amazing Race topped off the first day. Participants from different schools were grouped together and bonded in various games planned out by the organizing team. One participant remarked that the events for Day 1 “calmed” their nerves for the upcoming tests.
The second day started with practical examinations focusing on laboratory skills. Students were to rely on their abilities and training from the previous masterclasses and workshops to fill out various worksheets with the aid of a variety of software. This was held from 8 AM to 1 PM.
After a brief lunch, theoretical examinations started at 2 PM and ended at 5:20 PM. Programs Co-Head Andrea Peñaflor (2 BS BIO) noted that the high difficulty of the examinations eased the selection of the top 20 and the delegates.
Socials Night was held afterwards, starting at 6 PM all the way to 9 PM. The event was to allow the participants a relaxation period while examinations were being checked. Various booths were set up, including a photo booth and a dedication wall. VoiceBOx was also invited to perform, followed by a dance number by the PBO Core Team.
Near the finale of the event, IBO country coordinator Dr. Ronald Allan Cruz was called to announce the top 20 participants, followed by the delegates for the IBO; the top 4 finalists.
Unfazed by logistical challenges
Given the schedule changes, flexibility and commitment to the project became a priority, according to Peñaflor.
“It was really difficult to filter out which activities were of high priority,” she said in an interview. “[PBO is] not just about [the participants] taking the exams, workshops and lectures, but also about allowing them to experience a wide variety of activities that are not necessarily competitive.”
She emphasized the importance of remembering the reason for organizing the event in the first place. Barnes corroborated Peñaflor’s remarks stating that PBO wasn’t just about its label as the flagship project of the Ateneo BOx and the Biology Department but rather about the experience.
“It’s not just about [fueling the] participants’ love for biology, but [also for everyone else involved],” Barnes closed.
Logistical concerns aside, morale in the team was in high gear for the sake of respecting and acknowledging the hard work put in by the participants in one of their steps towards becoming fully-fledged biologists.
Aside from internal engagements and planning for the next PBO, the core team now rests and can let the Biology Department and other educators handle the training of the delegates.
Despite the scale and intensity of the event, Peñaflor noted the importance of camaraderie and its role in guiding the core team towards a successful project.
“[Even] when we encountered [many problems and] last minute changes, we were not intimidated [because] we [had] reliable people in the team [who could get things done],” she added.
Barnes supports this statement, stating that “the team was more prepared because [of prior experience already] and knew what to consider.”
She hopes that lower batches show interest in participating in PBO or being part of its core team.
“It really is a fulfilling experience,” she continued. “When you are part of something this big, you are bound to really fall in love with what you do.”
Watch the Same-Day Edit Video of the 2023 PBO Finals here.
To recognize their efforts, the Ateneo BOx congratulates the core team behind the project led by Olympiad Directors Oona Barnes and Isabelle Salazar.
The procurement of materials from Logistics headed by Jurik Villaseran and Mia Agudo, partnered with the events from Programs headed by Andrea Peñaflor and Nicole Nuguid
Creative activities from Entertainment headed by Natsumi Fukuda and Ysabel Mercado
Tests and workshops from Lab Skills headed by Prince Soriano and Daniel Dela Pena, in coordination with Quiz Bee headed by Andrew Tumulak and IJ Abrenica.
Publication materials and photos from Documentations headed by Aki Banguis and Danni Casicas, together with Promotions headed by Katrina Soho and Maxine Robles
External communications and form handling from Secretariat headed by Jenn Sampiano and Alfonso Bello, in constant collaboration with Communications headed by Anne Breechie and Maxine Rebadulla
Lastly, monetary handling and partnerships from Finance headed by Kate San Mateo and Betina Briones, alongside Marketing headed by Julia Go and Joy Paler
Philippine Biology Olympiad. Facebook. Philippines. https://www.facebook.com/pbolympiad.