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My UPCAT Journey

I know I’ve been neglecting my blog for quite some time now so here I am trying to compensate for it by persuading myself into writing another insightful and fresh blog post. (Naks, ipush na talaga ito hahaha 🙂 ) I know I’ve been a lazy ass lately especially this week wherein classes were suspended for the whole week, at least in Muntinlupa, so I was bestowed an abundant serving of precious time, giving me lots of opportunities to be productive. As a senior high school student, the word “time” is in line with the words food, clothing and shelter. Being given a handful of time is already a rare privilege for us so we always want it to use it to our own advantage by being extremely productive. Unfortunately though, I’ve been doing otherwise, well at least this week. This day I was off to my usual routine: sedentarily cramming watching movies, listening to songs, chatting with classmates, liking and commenting on my friends’ photos in Facebook and tweeting into a hefty ten hours of sitting in front of the computer screen. How I wish I have the ability to easily translate all those random and creative thoughts, insights and reflections that materialize in my persnickety mind every single day into a blog post. If only I was paid to write a blog. Oh well. Hahahaha joke lang.

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I want to be in U.P. Diliman so badly! It’s just simply my dream school and it is where I can best envision myself growing and developing as a college student. No matter how repetitious or annoying those other schools are in rubbing to our faces that they are the best school in the country, I still believe that U.P. is the premier and bona fide best university in the Philippines and no amount of advertisements, TV commercials or beautiful volleyball players can change that belief of mine. If I were to make a list of the best schools in the country, UP would certainly take the first to seventh spots as I think there is just a huge gap between UP and other universities in terms of quality. I want to study in a school that has produced forty National Scientists and thirty-seven National Artists. I want to be in a university where respected and well-rounded people who have excelled in their respective careers chose to spend their college years. I don’t think my college life would be as fun and complete if it won’t happen in a school that fosters great minds and where the sun kissed fields and trees that breathe air full of wisdom and love are juxtaposed with the elegant structures and halls that have stood the test of time. Well, there can only be one way (at least legally) for a senior high school student like me to enter UP after my graduation and that is passing the legendary and yes, dreaded UPCAT.

Last summer, I was immersing myself in forums where people talk about their respective UPCAT experiences and blog posts of people who have taken the mother of all entrance exams. Well I got different tips, a lot were contradicting but most were useful anyway. I remember someone saying that he did not review yet he still passed! That was really cool. Some wanted to be a little sure by enrolling in review centers. The idea of enrolling in a review center never crossed my mind and neither did my parents contemplate about it. Aside from being expensive and I didn’t want to have a commitment in the summer break (it was supposed to be a break from the tiring school year, for God’s sake), the idea of paying a certain amount of money to be taught things that one should have already learned in his last three years in high school and to be given a false hope of passing the entrance exams just seemed completely absurd for me. Some say it is effective though and I respect that. It’s still a matter of personal preference at the end of the day.

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I convinced my mom though to buy me two MSA reviewers which cost at least P750 if I’m not mistaken. Since I’m not the biggest fan of Math and Science, I only answered all the English and Filipino sub tests of the aforementioned reviewers. Hahaha. I remember I only gave attention to the reviewers for at least a week and didn’t mind it afterwards. The vacation spirit dominated in me and I thought that I’d only forget the things I reviewed when school starts. In short, tinamad na talaga ako. When the school year began, I forgot about the UPCAT for a while and focused more on the present. Being a senior student is really cut-throat! A day wouldn’t pass without a difficult quiz, a home work, an out-of-this-world project or a combination of all three. Nung traffic sa EDSA, 12 ng madaling araw na ako nakauwi at kinailangan ko pang gumawa ng mga assignments nun. Anyways, as days go by, I was becoming more and more paranoid so I asked my classmate if we can have a review session in a weekend. Since I didn’t join their summer review classes in school, I thought I can get something from his reviewers. As usual though, I only reviewed the English subtest of his reviewer. The following week, I was with my ex-classmates for what was supposed to be a review session for the UPCAT, yet it turned out be more of a pizza eating session.

Fast forward to August 2, 2013 (since this is getting lengthy and I’m not yet on the UPCAT day itself). The day before the UPCAT, I was already paranoid and nervous as hell! We were fresh from a retreat at Laguna Hills (I can’t imagine it was already our last seminar/retreat! 😦 ). I was off to my usual routine that day and since it was the first Friday of the month, we were supposed to have a student assembly by the afternoon. Whenever we had free time during that day, Daniel, Ian and I would sneak into the library to cram our Math notebooks from first year to fourth year! I was paranoid that Math topics such as ellipse, circle and all the trigonometric stuff would come out in UPCAT, and did I mention that on my way to school, I was actually memorizing mathematical formulas written on my worn-out Math notebooks while on the bus? Sure, I was really desperate and my mind kept on telling me that I should have reviewed last summer. I should not have been complacent and lazy. I should have used all the time in the world last summer to review. I was having last minute regrets!

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Like Joel in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, I also wished I stayed. I wished I listened. I wished I reviewed. But like him, I also realized that I couldn’t turn back the time.

I was telling my friends that I was already feeling a bit cold, and that I could already feel the air conditioner in the National Institute of Physics. Hahahaha. 🙂 Inside the school auditorium, all of us seniors were talking about the UPCAT, and since the speaker for the virtue of the month was our Filipino teacher, who happens to be a U.P. alumnus himself, we asked him some tips about UPCAT and he gave some vague advice. Luckily, our school principal, who is also an alumnus of U.P. and has already proctored the UPCAT, let us stay in the auditorium for a little while and gave some valuable advice about the exams. During that time, I was already feeling anxious as I was counting the hours left before the big day. I was in the first batch of examinees so I had to wake up really early! On my way home, I bought some baon at Market! Market!, most of it were Goya chocolates and Oreo. When I arrived home, I collected all my Math notebooks since first year, my Science, Biology and Chemistry notebooks and put it in a bag together with my baon, all the materials I need and a good old rosary. It didn’t help that I belong to the biggest batch of UPCAT examinees in history! I’m just one of the 83, 000 examinees who are fighting for the highly-coveted spots in the country’s premier university. I was anticipating the quantity though because I remember that our graduating batch in elementary consisted of 945 students. Beat that! 😆 So you see, I just contradicted myself big time in saying all those stuffs about people going to review centers, since there I was desperately trying to cram all those things just hours before the exam itself! So shame on me. Really.

“Bakit ka kakabahan eh magtetest ka lang naman dun?”

My mom was vexed of me cramming. I said I was just nervous, so after her litany about how I barely reviewed last summer, she told me, “Bakit ka kakabahan eh magtetest ka lang naman dun?” I said, maybe she has a point. I won’t go to U.P. to sing or dance or act or show some flesh. I’ll go there just to take a test. I carried that mantra the following day. So I woke up very, very early, took a bath, ate a very heavy breakfast and drank only a glass of water instead of the usual two, because I don’t want to go out of the room to pee once the exams start. So we waited for Ate Grace then rode a taxi to U.P. Diliman. Ate Grace also came with us last January when I took that AJSS exams in Ateneo. Originally, I was convincing my mom to just ride the MRT but since it opens at 5 am, she was worried that we might be late. We left at 4:15 am and was already at U.P. at around 4:45 am. So you see, all those notebooks I brought with me were left untouched. 🙂 Little did we know that another dilemma was waiting ahead of us. I didn’t know where National Institute of Physics was! Or I really did. Actually, a month before, me and my ex-classmates went to U.P. to check out our testing centers. It’s just that it was too dark that morning! We had to ask several people for directions and after a long and vigorous walk slash exercise; we finally arrived at the National Institute of Physics! Oh, I just love to say National Institute of Physics repeatedly. It just sounds so sophisticated! Hahahahaha. Well, my classmates were saying that our testing centers have some kind of connection to our course choices which is pure bogus, since my course choices were BA Journalism, BA Film (Diliman) and BA Sociology and BA Philosophy (Los Banos). Where was the Physics part in that? Or did I miss something? In a way, I was thankful that my mom wasn’t much of a stage mom when it came to my decision in choosing a course unlike those ultra stage moms who forced their children to take those heavyweight science and computer courses that their children didn’t really like.

Oh UP Map! Hahahaha

Oh UP Map! Hahahaha

So I was already wearing my sweater (anticipating the temperature inside the room) and eating some candies while waiting outside the venue. Little by little, lines were starting to form and people of different sizes, clothing and companions started to arrive. Some had their own cars while some rode a taxi. But we all have something in common, and that was the persevering dream of being an Isko or Iska. The strong family ties of Filipinos were very evident in the UPCAT. I noticed some examinees brought their whole families with them! Some even brought big food containers, water jugs and coolers. Nahiya pa ata sila ate, sana nagdala rin ng kalan, kawali at kaserola. Camping lang po ang peg? Hahahaha Kulang na lang buong bahay eh dalhin na rin nila. When the sun rose, we were asked to form two lines. As I was nudging my way, I was getting a bit emotional leaving my mom behind. Naks ang drama! Joke lang syempre! 😆 hahahahaha. It was more of a Hunger Games moment wherein Katniss was slowly walking forward while Prim was shouting from behind. From then on, I was armed with the determination, confidence and spirit to bring my A+ game on. I noticed a girl who was still holding on to her reviewers and was telling her father how hard the Math items were. I just ignored that and thought to myself that I had to face the consequences of my decisions. I still believe that if it is meant to be then it will happen.

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We were guided to our room. Ours was the one where a small plaque saying (nonverbatim) “This room was donated by Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago in her belief of strengthening the foundation of Science in the Philippines.” or something to that effect. For a while, her angry voice entered my mind. I took my seat and I’d say that the room was very nice and beautiful. The chairs where arranged like those in a theater, actually the room seemed like a small theater itself. Thank God I was kept warm by my pangmandirigmang sweater. Some girls in the room were wearing those really short shorts! I wonder how they stayed focused on the exams despite the temperature inside the room. We were given those instructions booklets and we were told to write our names then shade the corresponding circles, like all those stuffs that we do in NAT. We had three proctors, two females and one male. Well, I shouldn’t have brought a pencil because the proctors will give you one in case you need it. But anyways, A+ for me for bringing all the necessary materials. 😀 Our proctors were very kind, at least during the exams. We were also told that UPCAT is right minus one-fourth wrong. Ihing-ihi na ako nung mga panahong yun at kating-kati na akong lumabas ng room.

I was at number 5 or 6 in the Language Proficiency test when I raised my hand, gave my test permit to the proctor then ran my way to the comfort room! Since I was paranoid as hell, I ran my way back to the room and continued my exams. Fortunately, I didn’t feel any pressure and my nerves were really calm while I was taking the test. As expected, I nailed the Language Proficiency Test. (Naks ang kapal! Hahahaha) Then the hard test came. Science! Grabe ito talaga ang bagay ang bumabagabag sa isipan ko eh. Confident na sana akong papasa ako kung wala lang itong Science part. Halos karamihan dito shinotgun ko. Pero intelligent shotgun naman.

So Math part came. It was actually a good surprise. It wasn’t that hard as I expected! Topics such as circle, ellipse and trigonometry didn’t show up! Though there were a number of items that I wasn’t completely sure of, I think I still did a pretty decent job. Reading comprehension part was draining because I had to read the whole stories, since in order to answer the questions, you really need to know the nitty-gritty of the whole story. Thank God that being the fast talker that I am, I’m also a fast reader. I think I also did a pretty decent job in this part. If I were to rank the tests in order of how well I fared in them, the order would be Language Proficiency-Math-Reading Comprehension-Science. Oh God, just when I thought that Math would be my greatest adversary. That’s why all the courses I chose were Liberal Arts. 🙂

I came out of the room with a smile and a sense of accomplishment. I felt like a thorn was pulled out of my chest. I felt like I survived a mental and psychological battle that I have been fighting for months. We rode the LRT and MRT on the way home and ate at KFC branch at Ayala MRT station to satiate our hunger. Somehow, there was a hope that flickered in my heart saying that I’ll pass. When I arrived home, I took another bath, posted a Facebook status saying, “Yeah! Finished the UPCAT! Papasa ako, tiwala lang.”, 🙂 (At tandang-tanda ko pa daw talaga.) Hahaha then decided to take a short nap at around 5 pm not expecting that I’ll wake up the following day! The next day I was like a lunatic imagining things like me writing the wrong PIN or identification number in the answer sheet. That was really funny! That’s the downside of having an over-thinking mind, sometimes it becomes like that of a wife suspecting his husband of having a mistress.

But I’ll just leave it up to God. I knew I did my very best. If it’s really for me, then it will happen. There are still other schools there anyway, though nothing comes close to U.P. Actually, I’m not feeling any pressure for ACET right now in contrast to how I felt about UPCAT which brought the paranoid out of me. It’s really hard to expect knowing I’ll just be depressed if I’ll fail to pass. I should just use the remaining months of my senior year in making the most out of my last year in high school, and allotting my energy to things that would be significant for my future, instead of worrying about things that might not just be meant for me. If there is one thing that I learned from my UPCAT journey (well, there’s a lot!), it’s about taking responsibilities. The cliché “Time flies so fast” is indeed true that’s why we always have to make the most out of every moment and cherish every single second of our lives because we never know what lies ahead of us. Surprisingly, I may not have gained a lot of knowledge in my failed “review sessions” for UPCAT, but the whole process of it is the biggest learning experience itself. As what they say, sometimes it’s not about the destination but the journey itself.

So, maybe I’ll just keep you posted on the results in February, right?

Wish me luck guys! 

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Masaya naman ako pagkatapos ng exam. Salamat sa pangmandirigma kong sweater na medyo mas manipis naman nang kaunti sa mukha ni Janet Napoles. Hahaha

This is it! The journey to UPCAT officially begins!

Finally, I got my precious test permit! Now, I gotta work this out and do my very best! Help me God! 🙂

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 Read: My UPCAT Journey