By Mr Nick Tan, Dr Faith Lagua, Dr Nestor Valera and Dr Jojo Andaya

Team Philippines 2020 took home one silver and three bronze medals in this year’s 52nd International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO). This is the Philippines’s best performance in the IChO since the country’s initial participation in 2017.

The 2020 IChO was hosted and organized by The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey and was held on July 23-29, 2020. Originally planned to be held in Istanbul and attended by 235 students from 60 countries, this edition of the IChO was conducted online instead, for the first time because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The victorious Philippine team is composed of silver medalist Michael Cole Tantoco (Philippine Science High School [PSHS] Main Campus), bronze medalist Nathan Wayne Ariston (PSHS Central Mindanao Campus), bronze medalist Ron Angelo Gelacio (PSHS Main Campus), and bronze medalist Stefan Marcus Ong (Saint Jude Catholic School). The four contestants answered nine challenging problems for ca. 5 hours on the evening of July 25 2020 in their own homes proctored (or “invigilated”) by their parents while being supervised by the Turkish IChO organizers via real-time video.

The other members of the 2020 delegation are: Dr Jose Andaya -PSHS-CALABARZON Campus (Country Coordinator and Mentor); Dr Faith Marie Lagua – De La Salle University (Head Mentor and Coach); Dr. Nestor Valera – Ateneo de Manila University (Mentor) and Dr. Hilbert Magpantay -De La Salle University (Mentor)

The success of this year’s team Philippines is also attributed to the shared expertise of its coaching pool. In the Organic and Biochemistry Coaching Cluster headed by Dr. Hilbert Magpantay, the members are: Dr. Irene Villasenor (UP – Diliman), Dr. Virgilio Ebajo (DLSU), Dr. Faith Marie Lagua (DLSU) and Mr. Laurenzo Alba (DLSU). The Inorganic, Analytical and Physical Chemistry Coaching Cluster is composed of Dr. Ian Ken Dimzon (ADMU), Dr. Raymond Malabed (DLSU), and Ms. Valerie Miclat (ADMU), and headed by Dr. Nestor Valera (ADMU).

The parents of the four students also played a major role in the competition by serving as the invigilators while the students are taking the examination inside their homes. This was the first time that this has happened in the 52 year history of IChO.

The competing team was assembled from the contestants who got the highest scores at the Philippine National Chemistry Olympiad (PNCO) held last February 1, 2020. The 2020 PNCO was hosted by the College of Science of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM) under the leadership of Prof. Jennifer Sy (PLM) and PNCO convenor Dr. Eric Punzalan (DLSU).

First held in 1968, the IChO is most prestigious annual competition in chemistry for high school students. The IChO aims to stimulate student interest in chemistry through the solving of creative yet challenging chemical problems, promote international contacts in chemistry, friendships among young scientists of different nationalities, cooperation among students, and exchange of pedagogical and scientific experience in chemistry. Team Philippines’ participation was made possible by the Philippine Federation of Chemistry Societies (PFCS). The Philippines first sent its competing delegation to join the competition in 2017 where it initially took home two bronze medals.