UPDATED: Engr. Del Rosario has topped another licensure exam after the original story was published. In September 2017, she took the Materials Engineer Accreditation Examination and placed fifth.
Rarely do we encounter a person having two engineering licenses, more so being able to get impressive scores after taking the licensure exams.
That should explain why Engr. Michael James Ramos’ story became viral – he placed third in the civil engineering (CE) board exam in May 2014 and got the number one spot in the master plumber (MP) board exam in July 2015. His story is rather an extraordinary one.
Now another engineer, this time a woman, achieved a similar success. This happened a little more than a year after Engr. Ramos made a mark in the history of Philippine board exams.
Kathreen Louise Del Rosario took the CE board exam in November 2016 and landed 8th in the topnotchers’ list. She went on to try the MP board exam in February 2017 only to place 4th. Both results were unexpected according to her.
The 22-year-old is a product of Bulacan State University located in the city of Malolos. Other than being the class valedictorian in both elementary and high school, she was also a dean’s lister from 2012 to 2015 and a president’s lister in 2016. Kathreen graduated magna cum laude in her civil engineering course.
But her excellent board exam performances, as she revealed in an exclusive e-mail interview, were a result of her college disappointments. She wrote a detailed account about how failures had motivated her (the whole exchange is transcribed below) while making funny remarks as she speaks about her experiences.
Kathreen now keeps two jobs: as a graduate highway design engineer for Arcadis GEC Manila and as a review instructor in Review Innovations, Inc.
She tells more about her life as an engineering student, a quizzer, a reviewee, a reviewer, and a civil engineer in this transcript:
Why did you choose this course? Who or what was your inspiration?
Other people always say that from the beginning, they were already dreaming of becoming engineers someday that is why they end up pursuing their chosen courses. “Pursue your dreams”, they say.
Well, my story is different. Serendipity brought me here.
I used to be a happy-go-lucky student during my high school years. My parents back then wanted me to become a nurse like my mother. That is why I took (and luckily passed) the entrance examination for BS Nursing in BulSU.
However, during our enrolment in college, news started spreading about different nursing schools closing down since nurses were no longer in demand that time. Since the second choice I wrote in the entrance examination form is BS in Civil Engineering (which I got from a friend of mine when I asked her to give me a suggested course), my parents agreed to try and ask BulSU if it would be possible for me to shift to CE.
There was no vacant slot that time, but God is good dahil nagawan pa din ng paraan at nai-“siksik” ako sa Civil Engineering [because I was still allowed to be enlisted for the course in Civil Engineering]. Maybe it was really my destiny to become an engineer. God had put me here.
Just for the record, that time, wala akong ideya sa kung anong course ‘yung pinasok ko [I had no idea about the course I chose] since my mindset back then was focused on BS Nursing.
What are your favorite subjects in your entire engineering study? How about least liked subjects?
I go for all problem solving or computation-related subjects as my favorites. These include Mathematics, Surveying, Geotechnical, and Design subjects. Basta puro numbers lang and formulas [Everything that has to do with numbers and formulas].
I think least liked subjects of most (if not “all”) engineering students include all those involving heavy memorization requiring sleepless nights. Like what others say, “Kaya nga ako nag-engineering para wala masyadong kabisaduhan eh [I took engineering because there is little memorization].”
Have you had any subject failures or disappointing academic performance to the very least? If yes, what did you do about it? How did you cope?
According to Newton’s Third Law, in every action, there is an equivalent and opposite reaction. Some people ask me where do I “hugot [pull out]” all these motivations I have.
To make things short, I will start the narration with just a summary of my ‘disappointments’ during high school. During my last year in high school, I competed in three different contests (one of which involved an extracurricular activity while the other two involved academic competitions). This led me to a “3 out of 3” streak – a losing streak.
Yes, wala akong nakuhang medal kahit isa, kahit nga sitaw walang naisabit sa leeg ko eh. Hahaha! Ang nakakahiya pa was yung part na madami naman kaming inilaban, tapos yung mga kasabayan ko sa ibang category nagkaplace pero ako talaga sa kangkungan lang ako pinulot. Ganern.
[I was unable to get any medal. Worse, those that I competed with in other categories got awards and then there was me who brought home nothing.]
Fast forward to college, I, together with my co-quizzers, joined lots of quiz contests representing our dear BulSU. The most memorable quiz contest for me is the PICE Regional Quiz Bee for Region III wherein the Top 2 finalists shall advance to PICE National Quiz Bee. I gave my all in that contest because firstly, I really wanted to represent Region III in the Nationals, and secondly, gusto ko sanang makasakay ng eroplano since sa Bacolod ‘yung Nationals. Haha! [I want to ride an airplane since the Nationals was in Bacolod (which is hours away via plane). Haha!]
You know, all throughout the quiz before the last question was dropped, I was one of the top 2 qualifiers. After the last question, which concluded the contest, I landed at the third spot. Sobrang lungkot ko nun kasi alam mo ‘yung eroplano na, naging bato pa. Sayang! [I was so sad because I thought I could finally ride an airplane.]
But wait, there’s more! I still had to fight for the third spot since there were two of us. That time, I already lost the will to fight for the tie breaker, thus, writing the end of story with me ranking as fourth place.
May medal ba ang 4th? Wala. Narerecognize ba ang 4th sa awarding? Hindi.
[Do 4th placers get medals? No. Do they get recognition during the awarding? Not at all.]
This is one of the most saddening moments in my life. I knew I gave my best back then but I guess it was not good enough. Maybe it was their destiny to win that time, not mine. I knew God has a better plan for me.
Last significant downhill in my college life was the computation of grades. My General Weighted Average (GWA) in College is 1.219. After I found this out, I hoped that it would make me qualified to graduate as Summa Cum Laude since in some schools, the required GWA for Summa Cum Laude is 1.0-1.25.
Upon confirming the qualifications in the Student Handbook, I then realized that the required GWA for Summa in our school is 1.0-1.20. Mine was short by 0.019. Nevertheless, I graduated as Magna Cum Laude with flying colors.
Please don’t get me wrong. Maybe some of you would say, “At least, you had the chance to represent your school,” or “At least, you are a Magna Cum Laude, while others are already happy with passing.”
I am very happy with all those experiences I had. I just want to share the moments in my life when I felt “Sayang bes, konting kembot na lang [I almost got it]” or “I could have done better.”
You know, all these experiences served as a fuel to the fire burning inside of me. My life is not perfect but it did not stop me from working harder and dreaming higher. I fell countless times already but like what great people say, “Fall down seven times, stand up eight.” I cherished all the things I went through and I did not regret any of it. I just learned to accept how things are and to trust in God’s plan. I believe in God’s perfect timing.
Do you have any study tips or tricks that you think others should emulate from you?
Honestly, I do not have strict study habits during college. Like what I have said earlier, during my days in school, I was just like the usual happy-go-lucky student trying to balance everything on the palm of my hand.
When I say everything, this includes studies, hobbies (I used to be one of the dancers representing CE during college) and my relationships with God, my family, my friends, and my lovelife, too. Oh diba, pak! Haha!
Maybe the only tip I could give is to make sure that you enjoy what you are doing because “When you enjoy whatever it is you are doing, everything follows… even success.”
I know studying is not that enjoying but still, find a reason or a motivation like your family. My family is my motivation. I always tell myself that what I do is for them. The thought of them being happy for me as I succeed makes me want to go further every single day.
What is the best engineering school advice that you can give to other students?
I do not have much to say to those still studying in school. I guess just try to manage your time wisely since school works do not only involve examinations (minimum of 3 exams per day especially during midterms and finals) but it also involves a lot of paper works or plates. Kapit lang bes [Just hold on].
When you feel like giving up, just try to think of the people whom you get your strength from like your family, especially your parents who do all the sacrifices for the sake of providing you the most important inheritance of all which is good education.
I believe every journey starts with “motivation”. When we want to do something, we always ask ourselves, “Why do I have to do this?”
So my best advice would be to keep yourself motivated at all times.
And of course, do not forget to pray and ask guidance from the Lord in whatever you do.
Board Exam Experience
What were the greatest struggles that you experienced while preparing for the board exam? What did you do to overcome them?
In the CE Board Exam, my five-month preparation went smooth. At first, there was no pressure at all. I was not aiming to be among the topnotchers.
But tables were turned and circumstances required me to want more. I felt the pressure weeks before the examination after I topped all three pre-board examinations in our review center. I realized that some people are counting on me.
I asked myself, “What if I do not make it?” and “What if this is not for me?” since all my past experiences were always ‘almost there’.
However, I also realized that all my failures in the past gave me an advantage in this battle. Because if ever I would not be making it to the top 10, I would feel only a little heartache since I was already numb to the feeling of losing over and over again. So I was sure I would be okay, like what other people say, “Sanay na akong masaktan. Haha! [I’m used to getting hurt. Haha!]”
Meanwhile in the Master Plumber Board Exam, I felt unsatisfied with my one month and a few days of review. I was not planning to take the MP Exam just right after the CE Exam because I wanted to take a rest after the big fight.
But one good friend of mine really wanted to take the exam and he wanted us to join him for the sake of ‘friendship goals.’ Haha! And so we did.
We filed an application for the examination in December 2016 without even knowing what kind of battle we were about to deal with. It was indeed a struggle to shift my study habits from computations and formula-based problems to pure memorization type of review.
I even thought twice if I was really going to push it through. I could still remember my conversation with my friends while we were figuring out what came to our mind for us to enter this situation, “Ano ba itong pinasok natin? [What did we get ourselves into?]”. Hahaha!
But the damage was done, so we had to face the consequences. I just took things seriously in January 2017.
Right after the New Year celebration, I decided to redeem my hardworking self and focused on the review. I had a hard time reviewing since I was already working that time. Employee during the day and reviewee during the night.
During weekdays, I woke up at 4am, worked from 7am to 4pm, got home before 7pm since I travel back and forth from Manila to Bulacan, and had to study from 9pm to 12midnight. I also attended review classes which was until 9pm during weekends. Those days were very tiring indeed. But I tried to maximize the little time I had to study everything I could.
But you know, the fact that I was already working that time is actually fine since I might use it as an excuse if ever I would not be making it to the top 10 (since my review center was explicitly telling me that they were counting on me). Haha! Honestly that time, what I was just targeting to pass since my review was not really that comprehensive.
Did you enroll in a center for your review? Do you recommend doing so? Which one did you go to?
For the CE Board Exam, I exclusively enrolled in Review Innovations, Inc. While for the MP Board Exam, I only enrolled in Esplana Engineering Review Center.
Both review centers offered me a full scholarship so please let me take this opportunity to thank them. Haha! I would not be here if not for you, guys. Thank you very much.
I highly recommend everyone to enroll in a review center because they really know the flow of examinations, like the topics often encountered and the trend during the past examinations. Those are surely not within our reach as fresh graduates especially those like me who come from a province.
How did you find the board exam? Easy, average, or difficult?
For the CE Board Exam, as what I have said earlier, I was well-prepared that time so I would go for average.
As for the MP Board Exam, I know all who took the exam would agree with me as I vote for difficult. It is very difficult to the point that even you have read lots of past questions, you would still end up saying, “Wala pa sa kalahati ang lumabas sa mga na-review ko [I reviewed barely half of the questions that went out]” after the exam.
What were your expectations after you took the board exam and before the results were out? Did you have a feeling that you will be at the top?
For the CE Board Exam, I was not expecting it at all. But of course, I knew already that I was going to pass the exam since I counted all my sure answers and assumed that I had enough bullets to hit the target.
But snatching one of the top 10 spots was really far from what I expected since there were lots of objective-type questions in Mathematics and I was not yet ‘friends’ with objective-type questions that time. But I knew I would pass, I claimed it already even before the results came out. That was how positive I was.
For the MP Board Exam, I was not expecting it too. Honestly, I was not even expecting myself to pass the exam. I counted my sure answers in the practical exam and there were 25 out of 100 questions. Even now I still do not know how it happened. Haha!
Some people refused to believe me when I said that I thought I was going to fail the MP Exam. Some even thought that I was just “too humble to be true” that time saying, “Babagsak daw sya pero nag-top pa [She said she will fail but she ended up at the top]”.
But the agony I felt back then was entirely true. I kept praying to God to help me obtain enough points to pass the exam but whenever I remember my 25 sure answers, I always ended up questioning myself on how or where would the other points be obtained from. I realized I would be needing a big miracle that time. I could not explain how everything happen but if you were in my shoes that time, I think you would feel the same agony that I felt, too.
What did you do the first minute you discovered you topped the board exam?
On the night of the posting of results of the CE Board Exam, I was keeping myself busy on a movie marathon that time while my parents were already sleeping. I had received a congratulatory phone call from a close friend. My daddy was the one to check if the news was true. Upon confirming it, we felt extremely overjoyed as we glorified the Lord for the blessing He has bestowed upon our family.
For the MP Board Exam, on the other hand, I was on my way home from work. I was riding a bus when I received a phone call from my parents informing me that the results were already out. During the phone call, my daddy had confirmed that he found my name in the list of passers of MP Exam. I was really happy because it was unexpected.
On the duration of the same phone call, he told me that he would check out the list of the Top 10 even though I told them that it was very unlikely for me to be able to clutch even the last spot. He was laughing his heart out as he declared that I ranked fourth. That was when my tears started falling and my voice started breaking as I thanked my parents.
The happiness I felt was uncontainable. The eyes of the other passengers on the bus were all on me as I was crying a lot that time. Mukha akong baliw sa bus non, grabe [I looked crazy at the bus at that time]. My heart was jumping after I heard the good news. God is really good.
Who do you owe your success to?
I owe my success to my family who are always there to support me. Win or lose, they would always make me feel that they are proud of me. My success are because of them and for them. They serve as my inspiration and my motivation to keep going. I also owe my success to my boyfriend, Johniel Mercado (the other half of KathNiel, haha!), who stayed by my side during the ups and downs of my life. He also took (and passed) both examinations with me #RelationshipGoals. Haha!
I also owe this to my friends, instructors, professors, and mentors. Lastly, I owe my success to God for helping me in my journey. Some might not believe me but I really know that it is truly prayers that brought me where I am today.
What incentives did you get from your university and review center after your board exam success?
I received cash incentives from each review center and plaques and cash gifts from my alma matter as well.
Share your most effective study habits.
Maybe the most extraordinary thing I did during the board exam preparation was shutting myself from social media. Whenever I was preparing myself for a board exam, this included surrendering my Android phone to my family. Social media like Facebook and Instagram, is my weakness. I could literally survive a day doing nothing but scanning through my newsfeed. It would have been a big distraction, that was why I voluntarily gave up my smartphone and switched to the keypad phone.
Of course, having nothing left to do, my attention would be completely focused to the reviewers. I literally switched my hobby to studying. Haha! But this did not actually work 100% since during my CE Board Exam Review, I was staying at a dormitory with my friends so there were days when we were just talking and laughing but at least I was able to limit my social life a little. Haha!
Give 5 important tips (in bullets) for future board exam takers who aim to become topnotchers.
To be remembered easily, it spells FAITH.
Focus. Set your goal from the beginning and focus on that goal.
Attitude. Stay positive and believe in yourself. Claim already that you are going to achieve that goal. Of course, believing starts within one’s self.
If you are the kind of person who always say “I cannot do it, I am going to fail” then surely you will fail as you say. Mind over matter.
Integrity. Always choose to do the right thing even when no one is watching. Review not just for show. Do not study only for your parents to see you studying hard because you know they have worked hard for your review tuition fees. Do not study only when you see that your dorm mates are studying. Study even if they are not watching. Study even if you are alone.
Training. Practice makes perfect. It is not just about attending review classes and listening to instructors. It is about listening and applying what you have learned.
Honor God. No matter how prepared you are or how good you become, if you do not know how to humble yourself down in front of the Lord, you will achieve nothing. Never underestimate the power of prayers. God listens to our heart’s desire. So no matter what you do, do it all for Him. All Glory to God.
Job as an Engineer
What is the most satisfying thing about your present job? How about the hardest part?
As an engineer, it satisfies me every time I learn new things and acquire new skills which we were not able to acquire in school. While as a review lecturer, I feel fulfilled whenever I see that my students are learning something from me. Maybe the hard part is the everyday traffic. Haha!
But like what other people say, there is no difficult work if you are happy with what you are doing.
Is there something that you wish you knew prior to this job?
Nothing at all. There is time for everything. I am happy that I am learning new things gradually every day.
What is your long-term goal as a registered engineer?
Actually, I still do not have a long-term goal since I just graduated last year. I am still trying to figure out where my career path would lead me and where would I truly be happy. But right now, I am happily working as a highway design engineer while pursuing my passion as a part-time lecturer. I know time will come when I am going to figure things out. I trust in God’s plan.
You might also want to read:
From an Accountancy Dropout to an Engineering Board Exam Topnotcher. Click here
This Civil Engineering Topnotcher Tells Future Board Exam Takers to ‘Master the Basics’. Click here
How to Top the Engineering Board Exam According to This Topnotcher-Review Instructor. Click here