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The Year when the Top and Second of the CPA Board Exams were from DLSL

Monday, the 19th of October in the year 2009, was supposed to be another mundane day at the administrative suite of offices at the second floor of the Diokno Building at De La Salle Lipa. I was then Vice-Chancellor for Administration, and because it was the first day of the week, there typically sat on my desk a pile of documents tall as a man waiting to be perused or signed.

I was enrapt in one of these sometime mid-morning when the entire floor suddenly burst with excitement. The Chancellor, Mr. Juan Lozano, was just on the phone with Dr. Rufo Mendoza, who used to be one of DLSL’s most gifted Accountancy professors and was at the time Vice-Chair of the Professional Regulatory Board for Accountancy.

The board examinations for Certified Public Accountants had been administered nine days earlier; and we knew that the results were due anytime soon. Although I was in the administrative side of school operations, I sat in weekly council meetings and was aware that the DLSL College had high hopes for the 2009 class of B.S. Accountancy graduates.

Mendoza had called up Lozano to tip us off that the licensure examinations for the class had gone way above our wildest expectations. Not only had all eighteen graduates passed the board, two of them had finished first and second nationwide!

Roma Carpio had a passing grade of 91.7%, joint top with Ivan Rhett Macabeo of Legazpi City’s Bicol University. Not too far behind with 91.57% was Reginald Laco, joint second with Laila Amon of De la Salle University-Dasmariñas and Ariel Nacion of Mindanao State University in General Santos City.

This was stuff of which legends are born, the sort of results turned in with monotonous regularity by institutions like De la Salle University-Manila and the University of the Philippines at Diliman. We were a provincial school who could only for so long but look at these schools’ results from a distance with decided envy.

A decade earlier, our dearest hope was for somebody – anybody – to just simply please, please pass the CPA board exams. A board top-notcher was in an altogether alternate universe.

The turning point, I suppose, was when somebody actually did. Brother Rafael Donato was still the President; and being him, he was always looking for a reason to celebrate something, anything. A first-ever CPA board passer was definitely a viable excuse for a celebration, so a testimonial dinner was scheduled.

I seldom attended these testimonial dinners because these were held after football training and I naturally would be tired. But from a co-member of the President’s Council who did attend, I learned what an awkward occasion the dinner turned out to be.

In her speech, the lone passer told the gathering – which, of course, included professors of the Accountancy program – that she owed her success not really to the school’s program but more to the review center that she attended prior to the board exams. But naturally, or so I was told, her professors were all fidgeting uncomfortably in their seats.

The lone passer did thank the school profusely for the Lasallian values that it inculcated her in, which she vowed to carry onto her career.

Brother Rafael was philosophical about her speech and even amusedly narrated the incident in the next President’s Council meeting. It was during this meeting, however, when instructions were given for the upgrade not just of the Accountancy curriculum but, more importantly, the qualification standards for the Accountancy program.

To be fair to the Accountancy professors at the time, the problem was as much due to the curriculum and the absence of stringent qualification standards as it was to the abject lack of material. I say this without meaning to disrespect those who were in our Accountancy program at the time but merely to state the fact that this was still an era when the best students of the province still routinely headed out to the more established colleges and universities in Metro Manila.

The Marketing Department was under me at the time, and we knew that we had to aggressively target the best students of our very own Unified School, as the Integrated School was at the time still called, as well as those of our other feeder schools in the province.

Just as a case at hand, I pointed out to my Marketing people, a 1995 graduate of our high school by the name of Julius Villegas would a few years later finish ranked fifth in the nationwide CPA board exam results for De la Salle University-Manila. He could very easily have been a board topnotcher for us instead.

Suffice it to say that success in the licensure examinations, and not just in Accountancy, started to routinely come when the better students not just of our high school but also of our other feeder schools started to enroll at the DLSL College.

To get back to that October morning in 2009, Mendoza had prudently asked Lozano to keep the news under wraps until the official results were released by the Philippine Regulatory Commission. Lozano, being the proactive administrator that he was, naturally made the short trip to the President’ Office to inform Brother Manuel Pajarillo of the good news.

My colleague Dr. Corazon Abansi, Vice-Chancellor for Academics, and I were later called to Lozano’s office along with the Dean of the College of Business and Chair of the Accountancy program so we could commence with celebratory planning. This was even before any official announcements were made by the PRC. We were already planning for the printing of the tarpaulins, the thanksgiving Mass and the testimonial dinner.

Soon, we met the board topnotchers; and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Carpio was the daughter of Rommel Carpio, a student in my History class back when I was still a high school teacher in the school year 1985-86.

And because October 2009 was a bounty month for De la Salle Lipa, before long we also learned that Charles Niño Pasahol, a graduate of our Electronics and Communication Engineering program, finished joint sixth in the ECE Electronics Engineering licensure examinations with 88.1%.

These days, students of DLSL routinely do well in the licensure exams across several programs. But if there was ever a coming of age for the school as an institution for higher learning, it has got to be that month of October in 2009 when the board results made the entire country sit up and take notice.

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