ChemTech Topnotchers

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Two Negrenses were among the top-rank examinees in the national licensure examination for Chemical Technicians given in Oct. 29.

They are John Carlo Coniendo, 25, a Chemical Engineering graduate of the University of St. La Salle, who placed fifth. Jelmar Santibañez, 24, No. 7, who finished his chemical technician’s course from Technological University of the Philippines-Visayas and his Chemical Engineering degree from Colegio San Agustin-Bacolod. Santibañez is the second Augustinian board topnotcher in a month’s time after Justine Cientos, who placed fourth in the Chemical Engineering Board Exam.

Coniendo is currently teaching at VMA Global College and, at the same time, is enrolled in the Master of Arts in Education Program of the La Carlota City College – Central Philippine State University Extension.

John Carlo is the only child of Jose Edy, a tailor, and wife, Ninfa, of Barangay Pahanocoy in Bacolod City, while Jelmar, a native of E.B. Magalona, Negros Occidental, is the eldest of the three children of pork vendor Mario Vic Santibañez, and wife, Jela, a carinderia cook.

John Carlo Coniendo (left), No. 5 in the Chemical Technician’s board exam, and No. 7 examinee Jelmar Santibañez.

John Carlo graduated valedictorian from Sum-ag National High School and was third honor when he completed grade school education from Sum-ag Elementary School. Jelmar, on the other hand, finished second honorable mention from St. Joseph Academy of Saravia Inc. in E.B. Magalona after finishing his intermediate studies at Mapili Grande Elementary School.

Our Q & A interview with the two topnotchers:

If not being an engineer, what did you dream of when you were small?

John Carlo: I wanted to be a biologist – doctor or environmentalist.

Jelmar: When I was small, I don’t have a specific dream that I wanted to be in the future but when someone asked me, I always answered “I want to be an engineer” because they say that when you are good at Math, Engineering is a great course to consider, but the only engineer I know back then is the one who build houses.

What led to the change in your career plan?

Jelmar: Before graduating from high school, I don’t have any idea where to study in college or what course to take. A group of high school friends encouraged me to join them to take an entrance exam at Technological University of the Philippines Visayas (TUPV). Luckily, I got admitted in the university but I was not able to make it to the engineering course but I still enrolled in Engineering Technology Diploma course. In our first year, we were exposed to different technology specializations (chemical, mechanical, electronics, etc.) and we needed to choose one specialization during our second year. I chose Chemical Engineering Technology because I was mentally challenged by the course since only a few students take it and even fewer make it to graduation every year. After I graduated from TUPV, I decided to pursue my original plan which was to study engineering and I enrolled in Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering at Colegio San Agustin Bacolod.

John Carlo: It was an opportunity to be qualified to get a DOST scholarship. I wanted to help out my parents by going to school with free tuition fee and allowance.

The Coniendo family.

What made you decide to take the Chemical Technician’s board exam?

John Carlo: I wanted to try taking the board exams despite the pandemic. Luckily, with PRC’s health protocol and guideline, the exam was made possible. I am still looking forward for my engineering board next year.

Jelmar: At first I was hesitant to take Chemical Technician Board Exam because I devoted my time and effort for the review of Chemical Engineer Board Exam. Part of the requirements to enter Iloilo City during our board exam was to have a negative RT-PCR test and I thought if I got a positive result I couldn’t take the Chemical Engineering Board Exam, so I decided to register for Chemical Technician Board Exam as a back-up plan. Everything fell into the right place. I was able to take Chemical Engineering Board Exam and passed. The results came out a month before the Chemical Technician Board Exam and I thought I didn’t have enough time to review for my next exam. I said to myself that it would be okay if I couldn’t pass my next exam since I already have a license, but I really pushed myself to study.

What preparations did you have for the board exam?

Jelmar: I make sure that I get to read something and/or solve problems everyday.

John Carlo: I read my notes and try solving practice problems, familiarizing the topic and making review notes out of it. I also coupled it with prayer, because without God’s grace, I can’t make it to the top.

What difficulties did you encounter while preparing for the board exam?

John Carlo: Managing my time. As a currently employed instructor, I had difficulties preparing my lessons for my classes while also trying to review every night for the board exam. At times, I would sleep after my lectures and then wake up late or early morning to scan my notes for the board exams.

Jelmar: The restrictions brought on by the pandemic made my review even harder.

What did you do to overcome those difficulties?

Jelmar: I focused on my goal and expected the worst to make myself work harder.

John Carlo: Setting priorities. At times I tend to procrastinate but with little pieces of information (through routine study) you can actually stock knowledge too! As for my work, I also prepared my ‘powerpoints’ ahead and read my topic before I teach it to my students.

What do you think made you pass the exam with flying colors?

John Carlo: Faith in God and strong will. Honestly, I was hesitant to take the board at first but God is really good. He was able to make other people push me and have the courage to take it. So from my filing day, I intensively prepared for my boards and I told myself, “You’ve done your best, let God do the rest!”

Jelmar: I think it was because of my great mentors (elementary, high school and college), for without them these would not be possible.

Who or what inspired you to do well in the exam? To whom do you dedicate your success?

Jelmar with Augustinian friends.

Jelmar: I dedicate my success to my family.

John Carlo: I always dedicate my life for my parents. They saw me grew up and struggle in both my personal and academic life but they are always there to keep me going. I am forever grateful for all their sacrifices just to provide for my education. Despite the poverty, they believe that education is far more important!

Your word of advice to those planning to take the same board exam?

John Carlo: Just do your best and God will do the rest! No pandemic can ever stop you from dreaming, God is listening to your prayers! Just do your share and when the time comes, you will be amazed of how God makes your desires come true.

Jelmar: If you plan to take a board exam next year or the following years, be ready to sacrifice and commit most of your time studying for the review and make sure to study smart. Always aim higher than the passing score or aim to be a topnotcher. By doing these, you are setting your benchmark high and making your probability of failing at a minimum.

Your immediate career plans after passing the board exam?

Jelmar: Currently I am processing my licenses and, at the same time, applying to different companies here and outside the region. I am willing to start as soon as possible to help my family with finances.

John Carlo: Continue my education career. I am a product of good education and a hopeful family. So in my own little way, I must continue to burn like a candle to light the way for others. I do hope that students will also appreciate their education as a key or a stepping stone towards their success. – AVDC