Upcat: A test of momhood, too | Inquirer News

Upcat: A test of momhood, too

By: - Business Features Editor / @tinaarceodumlao
/ 06:06 PM August 14, 2011

WE KNEW 15 years ago that this day would come. But, as it turned out, my husband and I were not really quite ready for it.

I’m talking about that fateful Aug. 7 morning when my only child, Miggy, took the dreaded University of the Philippines College Admission Test (Upcat), the result of which will determine not just his future but ours as well. (See “Top 10 text messages after the Upcat,”.)


In many ways, it was as if it were Jerome and I who were going to take the exam ourselves (again) and not Miggy.

We hardly slept a wink the night before. We tossed and turned so much it was almost like an aerobic exercise. Our heart rate certainly reached the fat-burning level.


When the clock finally struck 4:30 a.m., we jackknifed out of bed and rushed to Miggy’s room to wake him up from his deep sleep. He lazily stretched like a cat and was so puzzlingly relaxed that we frazzled parents wanted for a second there to bop him on the head.

He had to be at least as agitated as we were. The nerve!

We popped our thought balloon and then it was a mad rush to get him to eat his breakfast and take a shower so that we could head out of the house by 5:30 a.m. We knew the traffic would be bad so it was better to get to the School of Labor and Industrial Relations (Solair), where he was to take his exam, way ahead of the assembly time of 6:30 a.m. as indicated on his test permit.

Agonizing traffic

It was an easy drive from Bonny Serrano Avenue to the Elliptical Circle but only until Philcoa. From there, traffic moved at an agonizingly slow pace as there were so many cars with yawning, sleep-deprived parents at the wheel squeezing their way through the packed University Avenue, usually a drag racer’s delight on other days.

We had no trouble finding Solair since we were familiar with the layout of UP Diliman. Other parents, frustrated by the snail’s pace on University Avenue, half-ran, half-jogged their way with their Upcat examinees in the direction of Quezon Hall, clutching maps of the Diliman campus.

I learned later that other parents and students visited the university days before the exam to check out the designated testing areas. At least one uncertainty was moved out of the way by such an ocular inspection, thus saving time. But for the clueless, volunteers organized by the Alpha Phi Omega fraternity were on hand to give harried parents and students directions to the testing areas scattered all over the expansive UP Diliman campus.


Then finally, Solair came into view. After kissing us both, Miggy jumped out of the car with his backpack—which we checked twice that morning to make sure he had his pencils, peanut butter sandwich and test permit—ready to take the most important test of his life, at least according to his parents.

There he goes, we thought. It is all up to him now.

And as we slowly drove back home to get much-needed sleep, we were assaulted by memories of him preparing for his first day in school at OB Montessori, of his first varsity basketball game representing Don Bosco Technical Institute and, sure, even his juniors-seniors prom at La Salle Green Hills.


The Upcat was yet another milestone and one that we prepared for by making him answer all the reviewers we could get our hands on, by forcing him to go through review classes, as well as weekly tutoring sessions in Math, which is not a favorite subject in the Dumlao household.

Perhaps we did put a lot of pressure on him. But then again, is it really too much to ask that the only color in our home be maroon?

We’ve done all that we can to give Miggy the tools that he needs to pass the ultracompetitive exam that, according to statistics, only one in seven will pass. We’ve  kept our end of the deal, now it’s up to him to do his part.

It was that sobering thought that finally allowed us to have a few hours of deep, dreamless sleep before we had to go back to UP to pick him up.

On our return to Diliman shortly before 11 a.m., a party atmosphere awaited us. The drive around the academic oval showed many tents selling all kinds of food because, apparently, entire families brought the examinees to UP and decided to wait out the five-hour exam.  There was plenty of things for support teams to do and an abundance of parking spots for their cars.

Some took the opportunity to jog around the academic oval. Others made a picnic out of it, lugging along foldable chairs and tables and a whole bowl of homemade spaghetti to feast on. Still others caught some shuteye in their cars.

As for us, we ate a proper tapsilog meal at Rodic’s, and remembered how it used to cost just P18 when we were students in the late 1980s. Now, it’s a hefty P70 per meal. That’s inflation for you!

By around noon, it was like a silent alarm went off as parents started heading toward the exits of the testing areas to anxiously wait for their son or daughter to emerge. Miggy came out at about half past noon with a tired but relieved look on his face.

It was not as hard as he expected, he said, but it was difficult enough. He did his best, and that was all that we could really expect of him. Hopefully, it will be enough.

Now the agonizing wait for the results begins.

(Are you an Upcat mom or dad? Do you have any Upcat anecdotes, comments or complaints to share with us? E-mail us at [email protected]ph. –Ed.)

Top 10 texts parents received after the Upcat

(FROM the Facebook page of Diliman Republic, a retailer of UP-themed products)

10.  Ma, tapos na ako. Anong school na nga ba yung sinasabi mong may BS Vulcanizing?

9.  Inay, wala naman po daw na exam dito sa Annex Bldg. Tama po ba – SM North Annex?

8.  Dad, finished with the Upcat na. Good news!! Will go to Ateneo just like you.

7.  Ma, classroom ba ’to o bodega?

6.  Mom, finish na ako, and I mean “I’M FINISHED.”

5.  Inay, hindi ko natapos ang exam. Nakabagal yung pinabaon nyong butong pakwan.

4.  Dad, tapos na ako. OK lang … wala naman palang aircon mga classrooms dito! Hmp!

3. Ate, mukhang masasayang ang pag memorize natin ng “UP Naming Mahal.”

2.  Pa, tapos na ako. Gusto ko na umuwi, kaso paikot-ikot lang ’tong jeep na nasakyan ko.

And the No.  1 text received after the Upcat :

1.Ma, tapos na. Ang dali lang!! Kita na tayo sa Store #35 sa Diliman Republic. Bili mo na ako ng hoodie!!

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