Post-it note started UPLB scholar’s journey to the top
LOS BAÑOS, Laguna, Philippines — For Helbert Paat, lone summa cum laude of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) batch 2019, success started with a green Post-it Note.
Paat was on his first semester at the UPLB taking up BS Applied Mathematics when he wrote down on a small Post-it Note his short- and long-term goals: to be a university scholar and to graduate summa cum laude.
Though he graduated class valedictorian, he had come from a national high school in the small, rural town of Lal-lo, Cagayan, and had his doubts about competing with science high school graduates from other towns and cities.
“Deep inside, I knew it seemed impossible for me to reach [those goals], most especially the long-term goal of graduating summa cum laude,” Paat said.
His doubts were proven wrong when he graduated this year with a general weighted average of 1.1718, besting 22 other students who got magna cum laude honors and 201 others who graduated cum laude.
Passion for math
People say that math subjects at UPLB are so difficult that the math building is located directly opposite a chapel so that students can easily go and pray for a passing grade.
But math, for Paat, is something that he understands and greatly appreciates. It was a passion he had cultivated since elementary school.
“It actually started when I was in Grade 4. I was not that good in mathematics, but a particular coach trained me on the subject. Her name was Ma’am Vilma,” he recalled.
From then on, Paat was hooked. There is nothing to be scared of in learning math, he said, adding that math is about problem solving, logic and understanding patterns.
Paat’s major field of study is actuarial science, which deals with the quantitative analysis of risk.
“In this world, we face a lot of risks. There are risks in business. There are risks of people dying. And what we do as actuarial science majors is provide economic considerations to these risks. We try to quantify these risks to help people and companies,” he explained.
Paat is passionate about learning, devouring books and reading about any subject that piques his interest.
“One of the things that kept me motivated [in school] was the fact that I love what I do,” Paat said.
When Paat learned that he had passed the UP College Admission Test, he felt that his efforts and capabilities were validated. At the same time, he knew his family could not afford to send him to the university that was more than 600 kilometers from Lal-lo.
His 55-year-old father, Roberto, is a rice farmer while his mother Elma, 43, finished only high school. And he has two younger siblings, Angelbert, now 18, and Margarete, now 14, both of whom are still in school.
Fortunately for Paat, he was able to get a scholarship, enabling him to go to college.
Paat came home to Lal-lo only at the end of every semester and learned to fend for himself in the unfamiliar academic jungle of UPLB.
Paat graduated on Saturday with 2,418 other students, but remains unsure about which path to take after school.
He could either take up graduate studies in applied mathematics or find work in the insurance industry and pursue an actuarial science career.
There’s no Post-it Note to help him plot the future this time, but Paat said: “I don’t even know where that sticky note is now, or why I wrote what I did. Maybe I wrote it to remind myself that I should excel every day.”
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.