My Tips in Passing the Philippine Civil Engineering Board Exam

A fellow topnotcher in the November 2009 Philippine Civil Engineering Board Exam has initiated a thoughtful and valuable project for CE board exam hopefuls. The site—currently on testing and development stage—will feature free tips from topnotchers all over the country and a whole lot of indispensable resources.

My input was posted on their Facebook Page in a truncated format. I figured out it will be very beneficial to post here my full answers to their guide questions for the meantime (although this will also be posted in full when their website officially launches).

Describe your family background (Parents, siblings, other info)
What do you do for fun?
How do your friends describe you?

I’m Romyr from Bacolod City. My father is working as a mechanic in DPWH and my mother’s a housewife. But during my bachelor’s degree, my mother decided to work as a domestic helper in Cavite for 4 years because it was virtually impossible for my father to sustain our needs at home and the financial demands of my course. Being a 50% academic scholar already pulled out a huge thorn but it was still necessary to seek assistance from my Uncle working abroad.

I grew up an introvert and college sort of paved way for me to get out of my shell gradually. My classmates thought of me as somewhat diligent and polished, “kalkulado ang galaw” as one friend remarked—to which I ardently disagreed since I crammed most of the time, and my closest friends could testify how loud and insane I am when I’m comfortable with my company.

Describe your typical day (How many hours per day, days per week do you study?)
What activities did you do?
What tips and techniques can you share with other students?
Sacrifices: What activities did you temporarily stop? What activities did additionally you do?
Manner of review: Did you study on your own? Or did you study as a group? Or both?
How did the review instructors help?
Are there other factors that helped?

I decided to take the morning class since the mind’s fresh, and train it to be warmed up and work efficiently during the actual exams which also started in the morning. Energy drinks were a staple. After the class, I strived to finish all of the take-home problems to get along with the pace of the review. I couldn’t afford to delay or leave-out any since it’s practically a crash course—massively compressing five-year worth of lessons in just 6 months. I literally solved every problem no matter how the fundamental theory in each problem “repeatedly” was the same and how familiar I already was with the concept. Overconfidence is a big NO. The room was filled with formulas written on paper so wherever we looked, we would be reminded of it.

Tips and Tricks

1. Share your knowledge to your classmates. Teaching helped me a lot in memorizing and understanding the principles more profoundly. You cannot teach something you do not know.

2. I had this weird conviction that if I kept hearing the formulas even in my sleep, I could memorize them more effectively. So I recorded my voice reciting all the formulas and I got used to sleeping with my earphones on, hearing the formulas overnight. This might not work for everyone but this was my insanity. When studying, I listened to my most favorite static noise—the sound of rain. It helped me relax, isolate myself from the outside, and focus on studying.

3. They say that the more senses are involved, the better the learning. So when memorizing the formulas, I recited them so I could hear them.

4. Make sure you get enough sleep to restore efficiency and get rid of mental stress and fatigue. We made sure the lights were off at 10. The only compromise was when the take-home exams were inevitably long.

5. Must have days-off to unwind—Sundays in my case. Church, groceries, mall, laundry, social media.

6. Choose the right company. Be with those who are serious of getting a passing mark.

On Review Centers and Instructors & Other Factors that helped

The review center was way far from home, we were in Cebu City. The limitations it brought were blessings in disguise. We were lodging so some amenities like TV and DVDs were out of reach. I chose to be roommates with the school’s potential board placer (he made it to 7th place) so we used to challenge each other a notch higher, creating ultra-hard problems and giving it to each other. That was really fun!

During that time, I still wasn’t infected with the social media pandemic so I could go for months without ever logging in. Today, it might be necessary to temporarily deactivate an account. Don’t just resist temptations, run away from it.


What are your motivations?
Who motivated you the most?
Did you encounter setbacks during review? And how did you overcome them?

Hearing your mother telling you over the phone that they were boiling banana just to have something for lunch, and feeling like wanting to give them back that very moment the money they gave you for your fare to school so they could buy rice to steam?—I know these are cliché over-milked stories but I don’t know how I could be emotionally stronger after that heart-breaking experience.

During the review, being far away from them and hearing them periodically discuss over the phone where to get money for my next allowance for food and lodge payment, believe me—words are not enough to describe how intensely desperate I was to change the way things were. I poured over my frustrations on my review books, but most importantly my final solace rests in my strong faith in God. Seeing my father downhearted over the years handing-over virtually all of his scanty salary for my tuition fee, and joking that he couldn’t even afford to buy his own underwear or socks—which was absolutely true!—I felt like the review was the final thrust, we have gone too far to be despondent! Sometimes my allowance got delayed, but I had the blessing of being with open-handed friends who lent me money to grab some basic stuff. The landlady was also generous to allow me to credit-list (utang) my meals in her eatery and pay her monthly.


Describe your experience during the exams
What advice can you give to the board exam takers?

Review centers help a lot because they steer you the right way. For this particular purpose, it’s a waste of time studying a myriad of things which will not come out during the exams, not to mention exhausting. But review centers can only do so much. They adjust their curriculum according to the pattern of problems that they observe per examiner. But during our time, a new PRC examiner in Mathematics recently occupied the seat so there was a high probability that new topics would appear. So I self-reviewed Differential Equations which was not included in our review course—and I was right with my gut feeling because it definitely came out. But even without that demanding circumstance, I surely would have still reviewed extra topics, given the time. During the examination day, the thing that makes you paranoid is when you know there’s a topic you haven’t studied and you’re wishfully thinking you won’t encounter it on the questionnaire. It doesn’t really help at all.

“Pagpupwet” is helpful on problems with related succeeding questions where you pair by trial-and-error the choices of one question with the preceding question’s.


Describe your experience after the exams
Describe your story when the results came out
Did you receive job offers?

After the exams, we avoided talking about it as it would only worsen the agony of waiting for the results especially when you found out you had different answers. We stayed in Cebu until the results came out.

After 3 days, I informed my family over the phone and sincerely, I was very inspired hearing them really happy and satisfied with just the fact that “I passed”. They weren’t even asking about the Top 10. It was really awkward when the List of Top-notchers was finally posted because one of my classmates who wasn’t really close to me was overwhelmed and “Dinawn Zulueta ako!” LOL. I called home right away and they were just crying!

What is your advice and message to the students?

I believe that it’s valuable to exert your best in your endeavors even if you know that you have the competence. Some may find this stale and melodramatic, but the harder the labor, the sweeter the fruit is indeed! Before we went home back to Negros, 2 of my classmates confessed to me that they had an indifferent feeling after passing the board exam because they didn’t feel that they gave their best during the reviews.


Chronicles of a Civil Engineer in Saudi (Cebuano/Visayan)

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Sa sobra tulo ka tuig nakong pamuyo ngari sa Tungang Sidlakan, naka tigumtigum kog saktohang mga storyang agi ra nga mahimuot pod kos akoang kaugalingon. Magkatawa kong nag-inusara.

Sugdan nato kaniadtong pagbyahe nako mismo padung ngari. Perstaym nako makasakay ug dakong eroplano, Boeing 747. Kini gung bag-ong salta gyud ta, ma ignorante gyud ta aning himutangan sa sud niining higantehong sakyanan. Manug lupad pa lang, di sab ko kahuwat mugamit aning gamayng TV sa akong atubangan. Di man musiga, maong sige kog panuplok sa remote sa kilid, naa koy matuslukan nga may mutingog, cge sab kog pangita asa tong gatingog. Padayon ra kog tuslok, tanang butones akoang gituslok, hantod nga naluya ko kay di gyud musiga ang TV. Dugay-dugay niay miabot nga istiwardis, gipangutana ko kung naa ba koy gikinahanglan, mihangad ra ko niya uban akoang dagwayng inosente. As in pirte gyud nakong pagka way kalibutana. Mitubag ra ko ug ha?. Diha diha dayon na-amgo niyang burong gyud ko. Gitudlo niya ang suga sa akoang uluhan nga gasiga, mao toy timailhan nga gakinahanglan kag hinabang gikan sa istiwardis. Mao diay to ang natuslukan nako nga mutingog. Naulaw ko nga nagkatawa. Hehe.

So nia na ta sa Saudi. Ang mga baye ngari magsul-ob ug kupo nga ginatawag ug “abaya”, ug tabon sa ilang ulo nga ginatawag ug “niqab”. Mata ray makita. Ang problema kay ug magkaon sila, magsingari sab ug pukas pukas sa tabil sa nawong. Ako muy gikapuyan kada hungit. Maninggit dayon na sila ung makakita ug kidlap sa kamera! Abi nilag gikodakan na na sila. Mura pug unsa’y makita nga putos man tibuok lawas. Pero magkodakanay pod na sila. Ang problema ug unsaon nila pag tag sa facebook kay mata ra man tanan makit-an! Ambot sa kanding nga gipungos ang bungot.

Ang mga datuon nga Saudi, kabaw na sila maligo, humot na sila. Dili sama sa atoang panahom nga baho silag ilok. Ug atoang susihon, tanang taw sa kalibutan mubaho man gyud ang ilok kung dili maligo ug dili mag dyodorant. Pero kining mga Pakistano ug Indiano murag wa gyud ni sila ma bendisyonan ug kugi sa pagkaligo. Maong kusgan kayo nig gahom ilang mga ilok. Ang Indiano nga ania sa opisina, pagsulod sa ilong nimo ani iyang baho, dili mudiretso sa imong baga, diri motuslok sa imong agtang. Makalipong gyud sya. Usa ka tiun aduna say Pakistano nga miari sa amuang tunghaan, saktong wa pa koy kaon ato, pagkasimhut nako sa iyang alisngaw, matay nga gikutkot akoang tiyan! Di ka kasabot kay samot kag kagutom pero wa kay gana mukaon. Ang mga taxi ngari bahog gas nga bahog haplas di ka kasabot. Pero dili hinuon tanan. Pero ma immune ra man ka! Haha!

Ang nakamaayo ngari sa Jeddah, di ka mabalaka maglakat sa gawas dala imong gadgets kay daghag pulis ug wa may manulis kaayo, pero di pod nuon sa tanang lugar. Pero di sama sa Pinas nga mutikang ra kas inyong ganghaan, danger zone na dayon bitaw.

Ang Red Sea ngari, limpyo kaayo, biskan ang ania duol sa dakbayan. Masulundon man gud sa balaod ang mga pumuluyo. Di na pod sama sa Pinas nga pirteng hugawa ang atoang dagat duol sa syudad. Usa ka tiun kay nag sunset dinner mi sa kilids dagat (oo adunay ingon anang ka dramahan diri kay wa may lingaw! Haha), nakakita kog mga baby green turtles! Wala ra. Ang point ra is dili abusado ang mga tawo diri. Ug sa Pinas pa guro to, gisud na tos garapon or gibaligya’s merkado.

Walay ilimnung makahulubog ngari. Dili pwede sa balaod sa Islam. Basta magtapok ang mga magbarkada nga Arabo, magkape ra na sila, magtsaa, magkanta kanta, magstorya storya sa daplins dagat, ug mag sugilanon ug mga storyang gitik gitik (jokes). Wala’y sinehan ug discohan ug ilimnan ngari, pero malipay ra man diay gihapon ang mga tawo bisa’g walay ingon ana! Tipid kay wala’y bisyo, makatigum kag pinakurat. Pero daghang sindikato nga kahibaw pod maghimo ug ilimnong makahulubog, labi na mga Pinoy. Pero di lalim mapreso ngari kay latiguhon man ka kada Birnes bag-o ka ideport, depende ug unsa kabug-at imong sala. Aksyon sad tag kabalaka!

Barato kaayo ang gasolina ngari! Mahal pa ang tubig lagi. Ug may sakyanan ka ngari unya mupauli ka sa Pinas, magbatyag gyud kas kamahal sa krudo sa Pinas! Ug puede pa lang ang gasolina na lang imnon ngari. Haha, barato sab kaayo ang kuryente ngari mahitungod kay sa diesel gikan.

Ang mga Arabo kung mag-away, di kahibaw manumbag, padak-anay ra na sila sa ilang tingug, ug kinsay dakog tingug maoy daog. Cgeg hana pero di dayunon. Away na gyud na kung makakita kag naglaparuhanay ug tsinelas. Hehe!

Diri sa opisina, magsakit akoang ulo basta magdungan na ni silag istorya. Mura ni silag merkado, maayo unta ug naay gibaligyang isda nga lab-as unya barato! Dugay kaayo magsinabtanay, magsinggitanay murag gaaway, pero wala na sila gaaway, ga hisgotanay ra. So naay duha ga storya noh, may mosud na pod dugang duha magstorya. Para maghibatianay sila, kinahanglan mas dako sila’g tingug atong duhang una pod nga ga storya. Tiud tiud naa puy mosud nga may kaistorya sa telepono, dakuon pod iyang tingug para mabatian sya sa iyang kaistorya sa pikas linya. Haskang gubuta gyud! Wa pod ni sila’y giila nga lugar, bisag didto sa tunghaan sa boss, mag ingon ana pod na sila. Maayo na lang naimbento ang headphones, dayon nakong paslak sa akoang dalunggan.

Daghan kaayog iring ngari, gakatag sa palibot. Pero panagsaon ra gyud kaayo ang iro, as in makurat ka ug makakita kag iro, isinggitan gyud nimo sa imong mga kauban nga nakakita kag iro.

Ug naa kas abroad, ayaw gyud singarig kombert kay wa gyuy mahitabo nimo. Di gyud ka mahuman ug grocery! Kay inig kuha nimo dayon nimong kombert, ibalik man nimo kay mahal! Basta pagkaon gani, sige ra nga sige. Usahay dili malikayan, mag ahaw ka makatilaw ug saging kardaba abi ron. Unya P250 man ang kilo, apil pang panit nga baga kaayo! Pero kay gusto man nimo tambalan imung paglaway, kay lami man na gud isuwa sa ginamos. Agwanta na lang ka usahay. Kada inggkib nimo ayaw gyud dayon tunla. Pagtablaw usa sa iyang sabor dayong piyong piyong sa imong mata, dayong sambit nimog hmmmmm.. para sulit ang presyo! Hehe.

Di puyde mag uban ang bayi ug laki ngari nga di kasado. So kung mag det det ka (date sa ininglis), kinahanglan naa moy kuyog nga mag asawa, mapurdoy kag ahat! Haha. Pero ang uban paisugay ra man, ang sa madakpan lang! Pero pastilan aksyon sad kag kabalaka.

Naluya kog tabi! Unya na sad sa Part 2! Hehe.

Rousing From The Mire Of Self-Inflicted Mental Torment

We never “lacked” – by that I mean we have been having every single thing we need to survive a day. Because otherwise we should have been munched on by worms 6 feet under.

Except that we haven’t been having the appropriate response oftentimes – contentment.

If we just pause and be still and look around, we couldn’t actually count the things that we ought to be thankful for. Blessings won’t ever be outweighed by things we consider as lack which are often just wants at all. We wallow too much to desperation for things we don’t have that we overlook the rest of the things that, say, made us get through the day.

From the very first thing in the morning that we are roused from sleep, that we are able to get out of bed, to the mundane things that we fail to appreciate – that we have hair to comb and teeth to brush. All through out the day, there we are distressed with the things which are out of our control, frequently for things that we can actually live without. Until we come from a long day still distraught. We can still unawarely and painfully afford to allocate time to grieve and torment our minds during the time that we should be resting. We even neglect to be grateful for making it through the day, for being able to get home safe.

Perhaps it’s easy to utter thanks to God for the protection He’s been giving us, but its turning into a cliche upsets me the most. If we consider it closely, ever since the very moment we were born and started breathing conceived inside our mother’s womb, we were never abandoned by that protection, never even for a single second. That may not sink in right away to us. But if we thoughtfully consider a person who just avoided an accident and contemplate on the worth of that 1 second that he was kept away from the scythe of death, that’s how valuable every second that we’re under His protection is. We are too vulnerable and unguarded from anything that could take away our lives at any given instant and at any given point on this planet, not just externally but internally.

How sure are we that our hearts will beat for the next hour or so? It could halt its prosaic throb anytime, any moment from now. The length of time that we will continue to possess this transient life is too uncertain to tell that it’d be such an unwise, unjust and imprudent act to feed it to an ungrateful heart.

The Greatest Unanswered Question of Science

Perhaps one of the greatest philosophical questions that has ever bugged me is “Why do we exist?” This question has been occasionally  hovering in my mind for about 10 years now (since I was in High School). Other kids were preoccupied with things that normally preoccupy a kid (LOL). By that I mean probably computer games, night outs, etc. And I was there deviated from the mainstream squeezing my little brain of something I would never figure out. I was still not acquainted with the internet back then and the library had limited philosophical materials (I presume). So every single time my weirdness as a kid struck me while I gaze into nothingness or every time I had that X-ray-vision stares that penetrated walls and everything, I was always left frustrated for not finding an answer. So anyway, getting back on the track, why is there something rather than nothing? What if there is no existence? Would it just all be black? Or white? Or none at all? How would I even visualize it (nothingness)? This whole idea of infinite nothingness, purposeless absence of everything makes me want to take my brain out of my head and burn it.

It was until I came to realize that not all ideas are “substantive”. Darkness is just the absence of light. And you cannot take out a hole from the ground, lift it up in the air and say “This is a hole”. Coldness is the absence of heat. And this idea of nothingness is just the absence of something. We cannot say there’s no apple in the box when there is an apple in the box. Nothing cannot co-exist with something. Darkness is impossible when there is light. This is because these things do not separately and independently exist in and of itself.

So now what? Does this mean that existence is an unchangeable reality after all? This hasn’t answered my question yet. So why? Why is there something rather than nothing?

It’s 5:28PM (58 minutes past official working hours) and my mind has drifted into oblivion. My brain hurts. I probably need to get up and go home. Til next time, weirdos!

Sunsets and Silhouettes

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One thing that never ceases to amaze me is the glorious sunset. Twilight brings a distinctive atmosphere that ushers me into a trance. Spending sundown on the beach is such a wonderful way to contemplate about life in general. You could shut down from all of the worries, anxieties and fears and just savour the sublimity of the moment while the zephyr kisses your cheeks. These are the times that require no words at all. Just simply B E A U T Y.

On the other hand, it’s not all emo. There are endless possible fun things to do with the sunset. I have shared my shots for this week’s photo challenge. I am a lover of landscape photography (sky, clouds, sunrise, sunset, mountains and valleys, etc). You can check out my Instagram for more of my shots.

The Wretched Warrior

The hardness of the person’s shell represents the softness of his inside. Some people tend to be introvert to protect their vulnerable interior. This shell has been calcified through years of pain, ordeals and trauma. Scars, hardened and etched, bear each battle that he has painstakingly have fought and gone through. And like a clam, he instantly snaps his armor close as if the exposure of his inside means fighting for his life.

This shell is the only thing that separates the outside world and his fragile self. But this also disconnects him from inner joy that is ironically activated by an outer stimulus. Rigid and impenetrable, this is his defense mechanism. He rarely talks. He rarely mingles or makes friends. The world is cruel.

But when the blue moon lights up the sky, he peeks. Somewhere in his frail and lonely heart lies a hope to catch glimpses of joy outside that protective case. In very rare occasions, you may fortunately happen to witness this phenomenon, passing by him away from his armor.

There, for probably six years or so, he shakes his hand with happiness again. He lets you inside his mysterious shell. And there, you still see fresh scars, some muscles barely attached to his body, and a feeble heart that struggles to pump. Handed onto you is his key of trust. And you hear the tale of his armor. On the floor lay shattered pieces of himself that he gradually picks up each day. You see a havoc, an evidence of an unfortunate catastrophe. He is wrecked, you see.

Now he exposes himself. He expects you to help him heal. He wants you to harden him from the inside, break his shell and lead him outside. He is taking the risk. He is terrified because six years ago when the blue moon last lit up the sky, this warrior was sabotaged. He was inflicted with more wounds. His broken pieces were stepped on. After all, he still longs to mend. There is a flame of hope that never runs out. And he painfully takes each step towards that day when he will throw his shell away.

Heinous Armpits

A team of scientists has classified the different smells human nose can detect into 10 basic types.

Having been exposed to different kinds of mighty underarms, I’m particularly interested to talk about this 1 type of smell. The “Pungent” smell. This type has distinguishing characteristics that you would notice the very moment someone with scarce bathing habit gets near you.

1. Offensive. You’re just sitting in your office on a normal day and you get mad at someone who’s only sin is being in the same room as you.

2. Sharp. The kind that sometimes doesn’t proceed to your lungs but pierces your forehead and gives you a migraine.

3. Strong and powerful. Has a detectable radius of at least 5 meters. Like an olfactory aura at its best.

4. Suffocating/Stifling. You would rather open the windows of the taxi cab and inhale the hot and humid air than die in a contained space under the wrath of the driver’s armpits.

5. Acidic/sour. You start to drool or salivate to the smell.

6. Stinging and Biting. It hurts your stomach as if something’s digging inside. You feel hungry but you lose the appetite to eat at the same time.

7. Sickening/Nauseatic. You are so stressed you want to take paracetamol.

8. Fetid. The evil and most sinful smell like someone eats 10 onions a day.

9. Repelling. Someone who doesn’t need a spray to kill mosquitoes at home nor mothballs to scare away cockroaches. . .and humans.

Yeah, I just ranted coz I can’t take it anymore. LOL