Parents would insist “it’s in the genes”. Teachers would say “determination and good study habits” are keys to academic success. The class clown would say “tsamba lang yan, nung naghagis ang Diyos ng katalinuhan, tulog ako kaya siya ang may honor”. The class under-achiever would say, wala naman pinag-kaiba ang 75% sa 95%, pareho namang pasado yan”. In the end, the only people who can shed light as to that rare, special, and unique trait are the honor students themselves. At the head of this year’s graduates are the following:
First in Excellence: Cyprene Keith B. Sibelius
Second in Excellence: Benjamin George P. Meamo III
First Honorable Mention: Rostom Niño B. Supsupin
Second Honorable Mention: Gabriel R. De Guzman
Third Honorable Mention: Jona Zendra Marie P. Ngalatan
Maricel L. Masing Racelle DJMZ P. Lizardo
Ada Mae M. Degay Karen Vera C. Saguilot
Dianne Marie C. Herrera Zyver Jonez G. Bul-long
Margarette Lauren M. Palaez Genard Aubrey B. Mangati
Haelynne Joy B. Repato Aurielle Marie A. Villareal
Russell N. Guadilla Germaine M. Tayaban
Here is an excerpt of an interview with some of the honor students before graduation and before they were even aware of their respective ranks.
Q: From the onset of your school life, did it instantly occur to you that you are intellectually gifted? When did you find out? How did you find out?
Gabriel: "In elementary I was not consistently in the honor roll. I graduated elementary without any academic award. I only realized that I could compete academically during my freshman year in high school. I was included in the list of students awarded academic recognition after the first quarter examinations. It dawned on me that finishing elementary without any accolade did not mean I was an average student. Perhaps, I only needed to strive more".
Benjamin: "Being consistently at the top in elementary, somehow I knew I was intellectually better than my peers. The impact fully registered when I graduated class valedictorian, since then not making it to the honor roll was out of the question. I feel that I have come a long way to just take my studies for granted now".
Rostom: "I was a consistent honor student since pre-school. But I only realized that I was academically competitive in High School. Back when I was in elementary, I was always being compared to my two older sisters and among the three of us I felt that I was the underdog".
Cyprene: "Since I was old enough to go to school, I was already aware of my giftedness. People around me, specially my parents and teachers would shower me with praise and compliments. It was very flattering but sometimes embarrassing to be singled out".
DJMZ: "I matured academically only when I started High School. In freshman year, I was surprised that I was included in the year end recognition for academic excellence. This inspired me to be more focused on my studies and to work hard to be in the honor roll".
Q: What personality trait/s you have, helped you excel most in school work?
Gabriel: "First, being responsible. Second is being friendly and kind. These traits allow for easier communication and team work with peers. Third is being focused. I totally immerse myself in school work".
Benjamin: "Optimism is one. I make sure that even if the others are better or are able to achieve more than I have, I am able to bounce back and surpass my disappointments. Of course devoting time to studies and projects or being studious or focused is something I really practice. Lastly, beyond academic achievements, I try to discern and grab opportunities that help develop my other interests".
Rostom: "Being jolly. Even when stressed by academic workload I find time to laugh with others and laugh at myself. Having faith in God, I usually pray for divine intervention especially when I know that I have not prepared well for an exam or quiz".
Cyprene: "Diligence and love for reading. Reading can broaden our intellectual horizon and contribute to our abilities to discover and understand different perspectives".
DJMZ: "Confidence, it helps me believe in myself and trust in my abilities and gifts. Second, leadership or maybe a strong personality allows me to take the reins when it comes to school work. I am sometimes mistaken for being bossy, but most of the time; it is just my initiative kicking in".
Q: What is your formula for success? Use an equation to illustrate your formula
Gabriel: “I + P3 A2 O + F = S; where I is inspiration, P is planning, perseverance and patience, A is action and ambition and O is other good values, F is failure and S is success”.
Benj: Ambition + Pressure x studying_____
Family & Friends
Rostom: Prayer (focus x enjoyment) + love (family+friends+self) = success
Cyprene: (praying x believing) + inspirations + actions = success
DJMZ: (confidence) (myself) dreams + (studies/pleasure)
Family + friends+God
Q: Are there rituals you need to do before an exam?
Gabriel: “I wear my lucky sweatshirt and jacket during exams. First day of exams, I wear my lucky jacket, the next day, I wear my lucky sweatshirt. There is really nothing to it”.
Benjamin: “I eat a lot the night before exams, and then I wake up at dawn to study. I also make it a point to pray for guidance”.
Rostom: “I wake up at dawn to review, I pocket a rosary and drop by the church to pray then I look for Cyprene and take some of her chocolates”.
Cyprene: “Prayer and no reviewing in between exams. I indulge in my comfort food (chocolates) during the stressful days of the exam and try my best to hide these from Rostom”.
DJMZ: “I do not sleep; I want my mind to be alert. I do not review not unless I have fixed the clutter in the house or my study area. I also eat a lot during exam days and I never forget to pray”.
Q: How do you review?
Gabriel: Time management, I read my notes, use keywords and use pneumonics.
Benjamin: I do a monologue. I discuss the lesson to myself. My siblings find this strange but in my case it is very effective.
Rostom: Before reviewing, I make sure that my mind is rested. A couple of hours sleep before studying helps a lot.
Cyprene: I read and explain the lesson to myself.
DJMZ: I tidy up our house, then I take a bath, then I study. I do image recall. When I answer my tests, I visualize the words I read from my notes, or how my teacher wrote the answers, solutions on the board.
Q: What subject is your waterloo? How do you deal with your difficulty?
Gabriel: I find Physics really difficult. What I do is to relate the concepts to daily activities so that I can understand the concepts better
Benjamin: Mathematics (with a sigh) – I devote more time to study math. I do problem analysis and practice solving in my spare time.
Rostom: Physical Education is really hard. I am not physically inclined or good in sports. I compensate through the written exams, quizzes.
Cyprene: I second what Rostom said. PE is definitely my weakness. Even though I am not physically capable to do the tasks I try and keep my fingers crossed.
DJMZ: Music, Arts, and PE. I compensate by submitting projects on time, and encouraging myself that I can perform tasks demonstrations during actual practicum.
Q: What is the best academic advice you ever received, and who gave you that advice?
Gabriel: “My dad. He told me that I should do my best but never to the extent of sacrificing my health or wellbeing”.
Benjamin: “My mom. She told me never excel to be boastful but rather excel to attain the best for one’s self and ambition in life. More importantly, to be available to help others in need”.
Rostom: “My mom. She told me never to underestimate myself and to believe that I can do what other people can do. To always remember that others maybe better than me in some aspects but I am unique in my own special way”.
Cyprene: “My mom. She said that being second means being the first loser. This is a hard fact to digest, but it has kept me motivated in my academic work”.
DJMZ: “My grandmother. She keeps reminding me to build upon my dreams and make these my inspiration to excel in everything I do”.
Q: Who is the most unforgettable academic mentor you ever had? Why?
Gabriel: “Mrs. Rhoda Buligon. She told me to strive harder to prove that I deserve to be in the top five. Grades are not enough to measure what you deserve. These are but numbers, but the effort is the one that counts”.
Benjamin: “I will never forget Mrs. Dagang. Motherly and very encouraging, she was always there to lend guidance and help me rectify my mistakes. Then there is also Ms. Lucero. Her belief in me helps me nurture optimism when I feel down or overwhelmed with school and personal issues”.
Rostom: “Ma. Salvacion Licudan Dagang. She told me once that I cannot solve a problem if I continue running away from it. This made me stronger, braver in dealing with difficulties”.
Cyprene: “For me, it is Mrs. Buligon…she pushes me to my limits especially in class participation and in exercising initiative and involvement.”
DJMZ: “My Grade V adviser. Until now, I can still hear her exact words –“Racelle Lizardo, you will never make it to the top, you cannot even remember to bring your own pencil, how poor”. I guess in a way, I am always trying to prove that teacher wrong. In high school I will always remember Mrs. Landayan. I forgot my ID and it is SOP to get an admission from the YLA. I thought I could get away with it, but she noticed that I was without ID in her class. She scolded me and said “ang galing mo, sa sobrang galing mo nakuha mong manloko ng tao”. I realized that I was becoming arrogant and was not playing fair, I felt shamed and it was a wake-up call for me.”
Q: Was there ever a moment you wished that you were an average student? Why?
Gabriel: “Yes, there are days I wish to be average Gabby. Somehow, being at the top brings more expectations from the people around you and therefore you tend to make more sacrifices so that you do not disappoint them.”
Benjamin: “There are days when I want to quit the race. I feel like I am always being observed, it’s like being encased in glass, people can see you from all angles and expect you to behave and achieve based on their notion of you, not on how I really want to act or behave.”
Rostom: “Yes, yes, yes! People often exert too much pressure. Having to answer questions on performance level like “why and what happened to your grades? Or How come your grades dipped low or How come your rank went notches lower?, can be psychologically tiring. I have moments when I experience academic fatigue. I also look forward to long vacation days and postponed quizzes just like any other student.”
Cyprene: “I sometimes try to picture myself as an average student. The demand for maintaining or even surpassing previous achievements can exert too much pressure. I really do not know whether I will be happier being an average student but I do know that I am lucky to be more than average and I know that being so entails more responsibility not only to myself but also to others.”
DJMZ: “Average Racelle can always be a welcome respite from being pressured to perform more than what I could do. It can be a respite from being criticized by peers or scolded first before being encouraged last by my parents. I am aware that these people mean well but sometimes I just want to run away from it all.”
Q: What has been the biggest tradeoff in your high school life? Was it worth the effort?
Gabriel: “Time for myself, time to be with family, and time to indulge in leisure or play. Sometimes I feel envious when I hear classmates talk about the trips they take, the outings they plan or even the movies they watch. Honestly, I do not have time to indulge in these. I just comfort myself by thinking about being able to do these things and more after achieving success. This makes it worth all the effort”.
Benjamin: “In my case, I have matured a lot in high school. I am cruising at high speed on a one track mindset. I have to become someone successful that my family cannot simply be proud of but also someone that they can depend on or rely on in the future. Therefore I have made sacrifices regarding time for myself and pursuing leisure. For instance, I rarely read for pleasure but instead, I read to study. I resist going out with friends. Every minute counts, every hour is valuable. Someday I know all my sacrifices will pay off”.
Rostom: “I do admit to sacrificing leisure time. Being able to sleep during longer vacation days is something I look forward to. I devote very little time to television, movies and social networking sites. However, I try to find time to have fun even just a bit. I feel alive having a simple good laugh with a close friend or family member. So far, four years of high school have proven that all my efforts have been worth it”.
Cyprene: “I consider it truly lucky that I am able to absorb lessons very quickly and therefore I do not really devote too much time studying or reviewing. However, I use my time to work on projects and requirements so that I can submit quality work all the time. So I guess, just like all the others, I too spend little time socializing. Any free time I have is time I spend with family instead”.
DJMZ: “I hardly have time for myself or for my family. I spend more time for my studies and I am aware that there are a lot of instances when I fail to do my responsibilities as a member of my family because of my studies, projects and school requirements. However, I have that desire to make it up to them, maybe not today but sometime in the near future. I know my parents understand this and I am truly grateful to them”.
Q: They say success is sometimes a form of compensation. What is the one thing you are trying to compensate for?
Gabriel: “I was very sensitive and easily became upset of little jokes and pranks. Being of light and average physical built, bigger classmates tend to pick on me. I decided to pull myself together and prove that I can also achieve something beyond how my classmates see me”.
Benjamin: “In elementary, I was very shy and also on the heavy side. Classmates would bully me just for the heck of it. I became isolated and I decided to prove myself by achieving in school work. This made my classmates respect me or recognize that I am good at something and eventually the bullying stopped”.
Rostom: “In elementary I was a victim of bullying because I was really fat, I felt invisible in class except when I was the butt of jokes, so studying became an outlet of my frustrations”.
Cyprene: “I felt the need to gain the attention of my parents. My parents are hardworking and totally engrossed in the respective careers. Being recognized intellectually made them proud and provided an avenue for them to notice me”.
DJMZ: “I was discriminated and at the same time I broken hearted. Instead of wallowing in self pity or fantasy, what I did was to throw myself entirely into school work and it paid off”.
Q: Have there been events or personal experiences that strengthened your resolve to be the best that you can be?
Gabriel: “My Dad is a caretaker of former President Joseph Estrada’s property here in Baguio City. I remember that in 2010, the former president and his guests came up to Baguio for a visit. My father was not around so I was the one who opened the gate for the guests. From where I stood, I failed to see the last car so started to close the gates. A blast of angry beeps startled me, making me realize my mistake. When the driver of the car alighted from the vehicle, he scolded me and called me tanga. I felt so belittled that time and I promised myself that I have to strive hard to fulfill my ambitions. I do not want to be called tanga ever again”.
Benjamin: "My father’s side of the family is well off and we grew up with our paternal grandfather. We stayed in the building he constructed in a compound that belonged to him. When my grandfather died we were saddened by his departure but more than this, we were surprised to find out that my grandfather’s property was transferred to my aunt’s name and sold without our knowledge. When this happened, I remember my sister taking me aside and saying “Benj, mag-aral tayong mabuti para sana mabawi natin yon property ni lolo”. My sister’s words echo in my mind every time I feel like giving up”.
Rostom: "My father is the eldest among siblings. He ran away from home at a young age because of physical abuse. He failed to get a university degree and he became a security guard. Our relatives look down on him because he earns very little. There was a time when my sister was very sick and we needed to bring her to the hospital. We were borrowing money from some relatives but they refused to help us. Life can be difficult but we can always find solutions. I think doing well in my studies is one solution I can do".
Cyprene: "In our family, we have been taught responsibility and simplicity. I sometimes wonder how some cousins of mine who are given both material and moral support tend to take their studies for granted, yet they are more favored than my sibling and I. This sometimes get to me but in the end I just continue to do well in my studies knowing that the effort I invest now will yield a bountiful harvest someday".
DJMZ: "I have an uncle who owns a business and employs my father (his half-bother) as an ordinary laborer. One time my father came home late and drunk. In his drunken state, he was crying and muttering to himself about his inadequacies, how he feels ashamed that he cannot do better for his family. As I listened to my father berate himself, I felt so sad. Immediately I knew that I have to invest in my education. Someday I will redeem my father and he will know that he did right by us no matter the circumstances. -glsiapno-
L-R: Racelle DJMZ P. Lizardo, Gabriel R. De Guzman, Benjamin George P. Meamo III, Rostom Nino B. Supsupin and Cyprene Keith B. Sibelius