Math Isn’t the Favorite Subject of this Filipino Civil Engineering Topnotcher

Sirven Garibay is living proof that one can excel in the licensure exam despite having math out of his favorite subjects.


Filipino Civil Engineering Topnotcher Sirven Garibay

If you don’t like math and you are in engineering, the odds are that you will have a hard time passing your subjects. The worst that could happen to you is fail every semester. But there are just some who happen to outgrow that feeling of despise over math, even excel in college, and further finish with flying colors. This is a great story of a Filipino civil engineering student.

Such is the case of Sirven Carandang Garibay. Through his burning passion in engineering, this 22-year-old lad graduated in the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) as Magna Cum Laude with a course in civil engineering.

Moreover, he recently aced the Civil Engineer Licensure Examination with a rating of 93.20%, securing the first place in the roster of topnotchers.

Like anyone else’s journey towards an exceptional board exam success, Sirven did not arrive there easy.

In this e-mail interview, Sirven shares how he decided to take civil engineering, what struggles he had been through, where he went to review for his board exam, who he owes his success to,  which study habits he does, and what tips he could impart to future topnotchers.

Student Life

Why did you choose civil engineering? Who or what was your inspiration?

Sirven: When I was only a kid, I really wanted to be become a doctor someday. But I realized as I got older, my passion would be in engineering. Even so, I do not know that time which field of engineering I should take. I initially thought of chemical engineering. But one time in high school, one of my close friends told me the he badly wanted to be a civil engineer. Many of his friends, including me, became interested too.

Perhaps another reason for me to take engineering is to continue what my father was not able to do due to the circumstances in his time. He was an undergraduate student of mechanical engineering when he needed to stop studying.

What are your favorite subjects in your entire engineering study? How about least liked subjects?

Sirven: I had to say, engineering subjects are really hard to like due to their level of difficulty compared to other subjects. But if I were to pick one, it would certainly be anything in the field of structural engineering. This may be known as the hardest field in civil engineering but maybe the reason that I had a liking for it is because since I was a kid, when people mention engineer, I immediately thought of persons who designs and builds buildings.

Meanwhile, I had to choose a subject which I really dislike. It would be the hardcore mathematics in engineering. But as a disclaimer, I only despised math but that does not mean I am terrible at it.

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?

Sirven: For the civil engineering course in UPLB, I would say that if the major courses of civil are very difficult, the basic courses are even more difficult. I am sure that I share this realization with other engineering students. I’m talking about basic physics, statics, dynamics, etc. I had few exams which have failing scores in these subjects. Despite these, I never felt to surrender. These only made my desire to graduate as an engineer even stronger. I studied in ways that I have never studied before. I finished reading engineering books and I had to review on every problem that I can get my hands onto. And of course, with God’s help, I got through them.

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Do you have any study tips or tricks that you think others should emulate from you?

Sirven: My study habits are really not something to be proud of. I study only at early mornings of examination days. You can say that I am your average crammer. But everything worked out just fine for me. I just thought that studying at night when you are all tired because of the activities during the day is not as effective as studying when your body and mind are freshened up after a long nap. And yes when I say long nap, I mean that complete hours of sleep every day. My methods may not work with everyone but it is something worth to try.

What is the best engineering school advice that you can give to other students?

Sirven: Engineering courses are notorious for being difficult but let it become your passion and you will never feel the same way ever again. Therefore, it is very important that you are doing what you love. I liked studying engineering and I truly believe that it is one of the reasons that got me through every challenge that I faced.

And perhaps, the most important of all, you have to believe in yourself that you can do it. Believe that and everything will become a little lighter. Do not forget specially to pray as hard you are studying. I wish them all good luck!

Sirven says that he can be regarded as an average crammer. (Photo supplied.)
Filipino civil engineering topnotcher Sirven says that he can be regarded as an average crammer. (Photo supplied.)

Board Exam Experience

What are the greatest struggles that you experienced while preparing for the board exam? What did you do to overcome them?

Sirven: Like my years in undergraduate studies, I was still a crammer. I started reviewing at a later time compared to others. I kind of regret this happening and I felt that I could have done better. This made me study really hard a few weeks before the exam. I casted away from every possible distraction which can hinder my dream of becoming one of the Top 10. And up to the last minute before the exam, I thought of every challenge as a part of God’s great plan for my life and that each hardship was only meant to make me stronger and better.

Did you enroll in a center for your review? Do you recommend doing so? Which one did you go to?

Sirven: I did enroll in a review center and it was in Review Innovations (RI) in Sampaloc, Manila. I truly believe that I will not have reached this point if it also wasn’t for RI. There are a lot of things that I learned from RI. Some of the lessons were very new to me. This is the reason that I recommend enrolling in a review center. But I cannot say that it is a requirement since I know some people who passed even without the help of a review center. All I can say is that they can really help you prepare and somehow gain a little bit of confidence in taking the board exam.

How did you find the board exam? Easy, average, or difficult?

Sirven: Overall, the exam was difficult. The Mathematics, Surveying and Transportation Engineering part was particularly the most difficult for me. Majority of problems were the first time I encounter them. And besides, it has math in it. As I mentioned before, I did not like it in the first place.

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The Structural Engineering and Construction part was just as difficult. There were a lot of questions in a very limited amount of time. Even before the exam, I felt that I was still not ready. During the exam, I only kept praying to God that may His will be done and that whatever happens, it is all according to His plan.

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?

Sirven: After having a firsthand experience of the exam, I never thought of even being in the top ten. I thought that the exam was hard and I knew that there are other examinees which could have done a better job. The exam was so difficult that I only wished, at that time, that my efforts were enough to pass.

What did you do the first minute you discovered you topped the board exam?

Sirven: The first time that I found out that I topped the exam was when my adviser back in UPLB tagged me in a post in Facebook. As what other takers would have done, I looked immediately in the PRC online site to confirm this. There were a few seconds of silence and finally, I shouted “THANK YOU, LORD!”

I hurried to my parents who were trying to sleep and told them in a mellowed voice, “Top 1 ako. [I placed first.]” They came into my room in tears and hugged me. It was a very surreal moment for me. I never thought of achieving a feat like this.

Who do you owe your success to?

Sirven: First and foremost, I owe my success to God. He was always the one that I go to and I know that He was always with me in that journey, guiding me. Next are my parents. They were very supportive and believed that I can top the exam even more than I believed in myself. They made efforts to go to many churches to pray for me and my friends.

And lastly, it is to my girlfriend. She is definitely my No. 1 fan. She felt right from the start that I can top the exam. She was the one who kept telling me to never lose hope. Both of us passing the board exam together is something that we both dreamed for quite a while.

What incentives did you get from your university and review center after your board exam success?

Sirven: I am still actually unaware of any incentives from them. But knowing I made them proud is something that I will be thankful to them for as long as I can remember.

Share your most effective study habits.

Sirven: I say these to many people: you must work hard and pray even harder. Learn to balance studies, hobbies and rest.

Give 5 important tips for future board exam takers who aim to become topnotchers.

Sirven: 

  1. Believe that you can do it.
  2. Try to solve problems everyday even months before the exams.
  3. Aside from all the studying, try to slip in some time to relax and do other stuff to take your mind away from the stress.
  4. Have a complete sleep every day. Late nights of studying without proper sleep will do more harm than good.
  5. Pray.

Dion Greg Reyes
A young civil engineer finding his place in the industry. Pilipino.

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Math Isn’t the Favorite Subject of this Filipino Civil Engineering Topnotcher

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