A Marianas Baptist Academy eighth grader and a Tinian Jr./Sr. High School junior outdid their contenders in their respective categories at the 9th Annual Valentine N. Sengebau Poetry Competition held Tuesday night at the American Memorial Park Visitors Center Theater.
MBA's Yuuki Nishida bagged first place in the Junior Division with his reading of the poem titled Old Man and the World during the yearly contest hosted by the Northern Marianas Humanities Council.
Nishida and eight other Junior Division contestants were tasked to choose among Sengebau's literary pieces in Microchild, an anthology of poems composed by the late Palauan poet and published by the council in 2004.
“I like this poem because of the simplicity of its message and how true it is to almost everyone,” said the son of Tomohiko and Victoria Nishida of the poem, which talks about how Marianas Variety provided the author company through different periods of his life.
The 12-year-old Nishida, who won honorable mention in last year's competition, said he prepared for the contest but didn't expect to win. “I'm very happy,” he said, heaving a sigh of relief. “I like to thank everyone who helped me. I'm happy to be in this place and I'm most likely to join again next year.”
Nishida's coach, MBA teacher George Gomez, described his student as “very talented” and has brought honor to the school by joining other speech competitions, including the National Forensic League.
The panel of judges was composed of Emelinda E. Cabrera, Robert H. Hunter, and Catherine R. Perry. The criteria for judging the recital facet of the contest were eye contact, body language, voice quality, clarity of language, and overall impact.
Winning second place in the Junior Division is Leona Dela Cruz of TJSHS, third place is Mina Ito of Grace Christian Academy, and honorable mentions are Jayrald Mercene of Hopwood Jr. High School and Rachel Palijo of MBA.
Meanwhile, Kyle David Manuel Sandbergen's original piece titled Time Heals All won him first place in the Senior Division, which saw 13 other participants in the category that required contenders to read their own poems.
Content judges Reo N. Arriola, Viola S. Deleon Guerrero, and Maranda J. Smith evaluated the entries based on the poems' ideas, language and imagery, content and theme, and overall impact. Content counted for 60 percent while recital made up for 40 percent of the overall score.
Sandbergen explained his poem thus: “There's a lot of people pointing fingers, a lot of political leaders pointing at other people because of stuff they did wrong. I just noticed that in order to find the solutions to our problems, we have to be willing to compromise.”
The TJSHS junior, who was self-taught and joined the contest for the third time, revealed that he composed his winning poem a day before the auditions on Tinian.
Sandbergen encouraged other students who want to join the contest to expand their vocabulary by reading more books “and put it into your arsenal of words,” adding that he also plans to join next year's contest.
Both first placers received perpetual plaques, which now carry their names and their respective schools, from Humanities Council board director Michael White.
Other Senior Division winners were second placer Beda Mundo of Dr. Rita Hocog Inos Jr./Sr. High School, third placer Randee-jo Barcinas and Mona Manglona of RHIJSHS, and honorable mentions Frank Rabauliman Jr. of the Northern Marianas Academy, and Tiana Ranjo of MBA.
Council executive director Scott Russell said he was impressed with the students' talent, ability, and willingness to perform before a large crowd. “I'm very happy that the Council is able to foster and encourage the literary skills of our students through this annual competition,” he said.
Russell said he was also pleased that Tinian and Rota students took part in this year's event and thanked the Tan Siu Lin Foundation for providing the students with hotel accommodations while on island.