UP topnotcher wore red underwear

/ 01:47 AM August 23, 2011

For a promising man of science, the topnotcher in this year’s medical board exams is quite superstitious.

“I wore red underwear and ate a Red Ribbon empanada,” Mark Augustine Saquido Onglao said, sharing what he held to be his lucky charms on the day he took the tests early this month.


“I also did not cut my hair or shave during the entire review,” added Onglao, who can finally take it easy—and visit the barber shop.

A graduate of the University of the Philippines Manila, Onglao earned a rating of 88.42 percent to lead the 1,605 passers out of the 2,131 examinees, according to the Professional Regulation Commission which released the examination results last week.


On a more serious note, the 25-year-old Onglao said he would be applying at state-run Philippine General Hospital and hopefully join its team of surgeons.

“It is not just about money but the people and their lives,” he said of his decision to work for a hospital that caters to the poor.

“For me, it is more gratifying to treat our fellow Filipinos than go abroad and serve other nationalities. It feels good to practice medicine here where we are needed,” he told the Inquirer on the phone on Monday.

Onglao said several other board passers from his batch in UP Manila also plan to work in the country rather than seek employment abroad.

“Perhaps we have become aware of the brain drain and the lack of doctors and facilities in the country. We all want to help change this,” he explained.


It’s also about paying back: Onglao was a recipient of the UP Oblation Scholarship—a grant given to the top 50 passers of the UP College Admissions Test (Upcat). He also earned another scholarship from the Office of the UP President.


Onglao finished high school at Xavier School in Greenhills, San Juan City. While his father, who ran a computer business, managed to provide for “our big family” that included eight children, “the scholarships really helped me a lot,” he said.

For Onglao, a doctor need not work in the countryside to be “community-oriented.”

He said he was taught at the UP College of Medicine that “whether a doctor is working for a private or public hospital, he or she should always think of how he can best help the patients and their communities.”

News of him topping the board exams came as a surprise, in a flood of congratulatory messages he received while he was hearing Mass.

“I was shocked and in disbelief initially. I even asked the one sitting next to me (in church): ‘Is this a joke?’” he said. “Eventually, the news sank in. I just felt blessed and thankful to God and to those who prayed for me.”

Not first time

“I just wished to pass the board exams. At UP, there were a lot of brilliant students and all of us had prepared for it,” he said.

“Mac” said it was not the first time he performed the “red underwear” and no-haircut rituals in preparation for big exams.

Since his high school days, he said, these superstitions had been a personal routine, “probably like what athletes do” before a crucial game.

According to him, one should never cut his hair and fingernails before an exam lest he forget everything he has reviewed.

Wearing red underwear and eating empanada, meanwhile, attract good luck, Onglao further deadpanned.

Has it worked for him all the time? “I think so,” said Onglao, who also graduated cum laude and salutatorian of his UP Manila class.

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TAGS: amulets, lucky charms, medical board exam topnotcher Mark Augustine Saguido Onglao, Superstitions, University of the Philippines Manila, UP Oblation Scholarship
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