What’s Your UPCAT Story: I Didn’t Pass the UPCAT

Last month, Tinig ng Plaridel put out a call for stories from past UPCAT-takers, encouraging them to tell us their motivations for taking the exam, their preparations for it, their results and their reactions. Some stories were triumphant, some hopeful, some bittersweet, but each one told of different experiences and different people. Before the University of the Philippines College Admission Test comes to challenge another round of examiners this Aug. 6 and 7, we take a look at how others faced it in the years before.


I Didn’t Pass the UPCAT

By Daniel Pineda

I didn’t pass the UPCAT. In fact, I think I was never meant to pass the UPCAT. Yes, I hate to say it, but I think I was bound to flunk the UPCAT—it was raining hard that Saturday afternoon, and it was already snowing inside the SOLAIR auditorium.

Worse, I remember a really pretty girl—tall, mestiza, full-bodied hair, milky skin, doe eyes, pointed nose, thin lips; seated beside me with a bag of Lay’s Original—and she was offering me some. I couldn’t resist it. No one could resist a serving of Lay’s. The world, indeed, was conspiring against me. And on the third Monday of January 2007, my name wasn’t on the list. I made countless visits to Soledad Hall, but no magic would place my name there.

For months prior the UPCAT, I studied hard—just like any good UPCAT-taker would. I prepared for that day for four years, probably even more, since all five of my siblings went to UP. Even my parents went to UP. All my classmates in high school always thought I’d end up in UP. They all knew I was bound for UP. But after seeing the results, I guess they were wrong.

But what’s strange is that I got a 95 on all my scores except in English. I got an 82. It had to be my grades in high school. Yes, it wasn’t me. It was the rain, the icy air-conditioned auditorium, the pretty girl—oh the tall, mestiza girl!—her Lay’s, and my grades in high school.

I thought my high school alma mater was known for producing the best English speakers in the country. But why did I get an 82 in English? I guess it wasn’t just high school grades. It was my High School. Of course it was my High School. Blame the weather, blame the air-con, blame the pretty girl—yes, the girl with milky skin and doe eyes and her bag of Lay’s!—blame my grades in high school, blame my High School. It wasn’t my fault I didn’t pass the UPCAT. How could it be mine?

Or maybe it was UP’s fault. But it couldn’t be UP. UP was Heaven on Earth. It could do no wrong. Maybe it was trying to teach me a lesson. But I was going to require a different kind of classroom.

I ended up appealing my case to UP Manila. They still had slots for their Development Studies program and they were welcome to applicants—“appellants,” as if to a higher court. For weeks, I went back and forth from Manila to Quezon City; acquiring my UPCAT scores, acquiring my NSO certified birth certificate, acquiring my transcript from my high school, and having my medical exam done in the esquinitas of Faura and Pedro Gil. It required me to wait the longest lines in the Census office only to find out there was no way I could get my papers ready on time. It required me to make trips inside offices, giving appeal letters to records administrators. It required me to find comfort in the strangest streets of Manila.

Worse, a year after, it required me to do it all over again when I transferred to UP Diliman—have myself cleared from the Manila campus, write letters to the College Secretary and the Dean to release my TCG as soon as possible, look for and make contact with professors on vacation, and force myself to remain smiling for the photo finish 2×2 pictures.

And I finally made it.

If there’s one thing UP has taught me, it’s that nothing can stop you from fighting for what you believe in. Not the rains, not the winter auditorium, not the pretty girls (with pointed noses and thin lips and their bags of Lay’s), not your past, not even the UPCAT.


Daniel Pineda graduated on time with a degree in Creative Writing (an English course). He is now taking his MA in the same course.

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