Style Living Self Celebrity Geeky News and Views
In the Paper BrandedUp Hello! Create with us Privacy Policy

Kung gusto, may paraan: My three-year journey to becoming an Iskolar ng Bayan

By Aly Dimaculangan Published Apr 22, 2024 8:32 pm

For those grappling with the disappointment of not passing the UPCAT, I understand it may feel like your world has collapsed and your dreams of becoming an Iskolar ng Bayan have been shattered. But don’t lose hope—you will have your time. Trust me, it took me three tries to get into UP.

Even before my education began, my sole ambition was to attend UP. Growing up in a family of UP students and graduates and living on the UP Los Baños campus throughout my early childhood, I felt both overtly and subtly pressured to believe that becoming an Iska was my destiny. I had planned a timeline to optimize my chances of passing the UPCAT. I aligned my efforts with my goals at the time, which included pursuing an undergraduate degree in biology and eventually attending medical school. I was fully committed to this path as it was my most tangible aspiration at that point.

Me holding a UP diploma when I was a baby

But while daydreaming about my plans was one thing, I eventually had to confront the reality of my situation. As time passed, I realized that hard work alone was not enough. Despite years of preparation, by the time UPCAT season arrived, I was already grappling with mental health issues and burnout from my rigorous senior high program. Initially, I didn't want to believe that this would significantly affect my chances of getting into UP. But when the day of the exam came, numerous obstacles emerged that soiled my efforts. In a cruel twist of fate, I had eaten something the day before that made me incredibly sick during the test. I was devastated. I felt as though I had wasted many opportunities to focus on school and improve my grades, and now I had failed my one chance to get into UP—or so I thought.

When the UPCAT results were released, I was inconsolable. As my classmates and I faced the same disappointing outcome, I felt as though I had wasted 12 years of effort. My University Predicted Grade (UPG) didn't meet the cutoff for reconsideration, leaving me no option but to aim for  next year's admission. I can still vividly recall leaving in tears after each visit to the UP Office of the University Registrar. These breakdowns occurred when I received my UPG score, which confirmed that I couldn't apply for reconsideration, and again after a second visit when I had hoped to appeal my case. All the while, my mother, my grandparents, and a kind university office staff member could only offer me concerned looks and some reassurance, sitting me down to tell me that things would get better moving forward.

After the initial disappointment had settled, I learned to focus on excelling so I could reapply the following year. Shifting away from biology, I chose to pursue AB Communication, inspired by a high school writing class and in need of a change of pace. I wanted to reinvent myself, even though I was staying on the same campus. It didn't take long to realize that this program was a better fit for what I truly wanted to do.

Me during my high school years

While I genuinely enjoyed my studies and considered continuing, I realized I needed to leave my hometown and embrace a more challenging path—and it indeed challenged me. That year was difficult, and just when I was ready to move forward, I discovered I couldn't transfer because I was three units short from qualifying for transferring. Once again, I found myself in tears at the registrar's office, feeling like I had wasted another year. I had lost so much during this time, and doubt overshadowed my once hopeful outlook.

I was ready to give up, but then the eruption of the Taal Volcano and the spread of COVID-19 happened, pushing me to a point where I felt I had nothing left to lose. During this tough time, I learned that dwelling on what I felt were wasted opportunities wasn't helpful. I shouldn't be afraid to start over at 21. I began the transfer process the summer after my second year of college ended.

Initially, I was disheartened by what seemed to be the trajectory of my life, but I've come to embrace these delays. While they have indeed been a series of unfortunate events, they have served great purpose that prepared me for bigger things ahead.

The transfer process this time was a lot different from my previous attempts. Everything—from submitting application forms to conducting interviews and exams—was done online. I felt more prepared for any outcome. After the final interview-exam day for UP Diliman, I was more at peace than I had been in two years. The next day, I received my admission email.

Transferring to UP Diliman after three years of effort was definitely a journey. Although I didn't have much expectations for my semesters during the pandemic, I ended up experiencing growth in ways I hadn't imagined. Not only am I finally studying at UP, but I was also able to explore my interests in tarot reading and content creation, supported by a wonderful community within my UP organizations. For the first time in my life, I was open to new experiences. While the pandemic semesters had their challenges and moments of frustration, I was thankful for the strong support system accessible through late-night Discord calls. Moving into the post-pandemic years, I’ve enjoyed engaging in various university activities, from presenting a tarot-themed talk at my college’s freshman orientation to hosting UP Fair 2024’s Hiwaga.

Hosting UP Fair 2024: Hiwaga 

I am now four years into my time at UP Diliman, and describing it as difficult would be an understatement. I have a love-hate relationship with my Communication Research program, and it's only recently that I've begun to appreciate and enjoy the long periods of research writing and data analysis. Life has also thrown its challenges, leading me to prioritize work over my studies at times.

Despite the hurdles that made me question my decision to transfer, the knowledge and experiences gained at this university have outweighed my frustrations. I've learned that education extends beyond the classroom—it permeates through university and college organizations, student activism, and the understanding that we stand united with the masses and the marginalized. My time at UP has not only enriched my knowledge but also radicalized me in ways staying in my small town never could.

MASKOM's 2022 freshie orientation

In typical UP fashion, the road to graduation still seems long. My parents used to remind me of the saying, “Mahirap pumasok sa UP, pero mas mahirap lumabas.” This rings true, but I constantly remind myself that I am living the dream I’ve harbored for over 12 years, and there's no need to rush.

Throughout my life, I've encountered constant delays. From being separated at birth in the hospital nursery due to a misdiagnosis to repeating kindergarten because of excessive crying, it seemed the universe was telling me to take things slow before I even understood why. Initially, I was disheartened by what seemed to be the trajectory of my life, but I've come to embrace these delays. While they have indeed been a series of unfortunate events, they have served great purpose that prepared me for bigger things ahead.