Bright Young Achievers: Meet the Outstanding Class of 2019

These inspiring high school graduates have aced their high school and are ready to take the next step towards a world-class education.

Interviews by Hannah Lazatin, Kit Singson, Marco Sumayao, Patti Sunio, and Alexa Sy

Photographs by Joseph Pascual

Produced by Nicole Limos and Hannah Lazatin, assisted by Chelsa Gloria

Makeup by Pam Robes

Hair by Nikko Bruel

Shot on location at Pottery Barn, Central Square Mall, Bonifacio High Street

Every year, we watch a new batch of outstanding high school graduates don their togas. This next generation of achievers has already been involved in various fields at a young age: from sports, science, and math to music, philanthropy, and the arts. Below, we gather a sample size of the top minds and talents of the Class of 2019, who are off to broaden their horizons in universities away from home.


Sophia Pulido, Daven Yu, CJ Quines, and Audrey Pe

Carl Joshua Quines

Massachusetts Insitute of Technology


Class Act: A product of Valenzuela City School of Mathematics and Science class of 2018, CJ bagged second place at the 2017 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF) in Los Angeles, the world’s largest pre-college science fair. He partnered with his friend, Michael Sun, from China and together they worked on a math project on graph theory, through e-mail exchanges and online correspondence. He wasn't expecting to make it all the way to the finals and to win second place, "but I'm not complaining," he jokes.

When we met CJ, he was in the last few weeks of his gap year. As he is estranged from his parents, he took the year off to raise funds for college applications. He’s juggled an online job, tutoring Math, and writing new problems for the National Olympiad in Informatics and Math, which he, too, participated in in the past. The free time granted him the opportunity to “get a lot of writing done” and by writing, he means writing math handouts, which he diligently publishes on his website.

Onward and Upward: CJ was accepted into MIT, Dartmouth, Duke University, and Harvey Mudd. His main constraint being financial aid, he narrowed down his choices between Dartmouth and MIT. Dartmouth had invited him into their campus for a student admission weekend in March. On a connecting flight home to Manila from Hanover to Boston, his flight was delayed. “I called my friends at MIT and asked if I could crash there for the night,” he says. Before that night, he was set on accepting Dartmouth’s offer, but the next morning, he left thinking, “I’m pretty sure I’m going to MIT.” At MIT, CJ intends to take either a computer science or a math course but says his plans may change.

Bright Plans: While he has dabbled in programming, CJ says he has yet to work on a big project or with a team. “I want to work on a project and code something that I can present to the world, and actually does something rather than [a project] that’s just for school or a competition.”

Audrey Pe

Stanford University


Onward and Upward: When asked about her future plans, Audrey admits she has yet to discover her professional calling. “I honestly have no idea what I want to do yet,” confesses the Stanford-bound teen. “But I am guided by the sense that I want to help people use and access technology, and close the gender gap within the field.”

Class Act: Audrey has found success as the founder and executive director of Women In Tech (WiTech), an organization born from the hope to “education, inspire, and empower the youth to break gender barriers using technology.” Following 12 years at Multiple Intelligence International School, Audrey transferred to the British School Manila to pursue the rigorous IB Diploma and further explore her passion for computer science through the program. 

Bright Plans: With plans to head to Palo Alto in 2020, Audrey has opted to take the year off to focus on her WiTech endeavors, with plans to bring technology access to unprivileged communities across the Philippines. At Stanford, Audrey intends to be involved in a variety of activities, Women in Computer Science and Model United Nations to name a few, but ultimately hopes to continue her tech advocacy and looks forward to learning how technology can be used to make the world a better place.

Hillary Diane Andales

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Photo Courtesy of HILLARY ANDALES INSTAGRAM / @cosmichillarays.

Class Act: Even before graduating from high school, Hillary represented the Philippines in the field of science. Her proudest achievements include winning the 2017 Breakthrough Junior Challenge, but more importantly discovering her personal core values through this experience. “Many people know about the first achievement, but the second one is more meaningful to me… I began to discover who I really am as a person. I clarified my personal values, my goals, and my dreams.”

Since graduating from Philippine Science High School-Eastern Visayas Campus in 2018, Hillary has been a speaker for 35+ events around the country, and once internationally in Vienna for the United Nations IAEA Scientific Forum. Moreover, she has also taken advantage of social media platforms such as YouTube to transmit her excitement and appreciation for science to the youth. Hillary believes that if complex science is taught by someone who is truly and genuinely excited by the topic, then people will similarly be engaged. She adds, “They absorb more of the material as a result. It’s all about engaging people”, which is exactly what Hillary plans on doing.

Onward and Upward: Hillary received a prize scholarship and financial aid from MIT, where she will be taking her Bachelor of Science in Physics. She hopes to further hone her passion and ambition of becoming an astrophysicist by taking classes in astronomy and STS (Science, Technology & Society). During her time abroad, she hopes to define both her career and personal goals, as well as how she can better contribute to the world at large. —BEATRICE HUET

Sean Anderson Ty

Harvard University 

Photo Courtesy of SEAN TY.

Class Act: Sean bears the distinction of being the first Mindanaoan to medal in the prestigious International Mathematical Olympiad, taking home the bronze in 2017. He’s also earned a silver medal in the 2019 Asian Pacific Mathematics Olympiad, and a gold medal in the 2018 China West Mathematics Invitational.

He also served as Student Council President in his senior year. One of his landmark projects was a fundraiser that raised P1.3M, which went to the acquisition of lab equipment, books, television sets, and other crucial teaching aids his school needed.

Onward and Upward: Sean is one of the country’s most celebrated young mathematicians, and the Zamboanga Chong Hua High School valedictorian will be studying at Harvard University on scholarship next school year.

Math makes up for how he spends most of his free time. When he’s not studying, he volunteers with the Mathematics Trainers’ Guild as a lecturer and problem writer. 

Bright Plans: Someday, Sean wants to contribute to a shift in how mathematics is taught and appreciated. “What’s beautiful about math is not necessarily its real-world applications, but rather what knowledge and skills one could gain from it: intuition, outside the box thinking, etc.,” he shares. “I believe that mathematics is taught incorrectly in school, where memorization is emphasized and understanding is underappreciated, and I wanted to change that.”

David Hwang

Carnegie Mellon University


Class Act: Quite the achiever, David Hwang was challenged when asked to pick only a few of the many milestones he’s accomplished in high school. He was head of innovation at his school’s environmental club, Green Team, the assistant lead for web development at the computer club, called XS Next, and was actively involved in the science guild, too. 

It sounds like a handful for some, but David argues that environmental studies, computer and technology, and science are “all part of one interest, yet each with a different perspective.” Under the STEM track in high school, David chose to focus on mathematics, chemistry, and physics, and this decision was met with questions from his peers and even his teachers. “I would tell them, I’m really interested in this. If it’s hard, I’ll find a way to do it.”

At Green Team, David’s goal was to go get his peers to become more aware of the Philippines’ environmental problems, and encourage and inspire them at taking a more pro-active approach in addressing the issues. His involvement in the computer club and science guild also led him to learn about advanced topics that weren’t often discussed in class, develop these ideas into projects, and eventually win him and his team awards at international competitions, one of which was organized by the University of Technology in Sydney. “I think my experiences really opened my mind to the possibilities that could happen when you engage technology in problem-solving,” he shares. 

Onward and Upward: Slated to study electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon, David sees himself working in this field in the future, and hopes to return to the Philippines and apply what he’s learned. He is particularly interested in ‘the internet of things’ and ‘smart cities’, innovative concepts which he believes that the Philippines could benefit much from.

“One thing I’d want to take with me when I study abroad is my identity, where I came from,” he begins. “We have our own problems and our problems aren’t the same as others, and so the challenge is really in how we can acquire the knowledge and adapt it into our own perspective, our own problems,” he says.  

Sophia Pulido

University of California, Los Angeles


Class Act: Sophia’s passion for research began and thrived at Philippine Science High School. She spent two years researching bioluminescent bacteria from a particular species of squid, and was able to test a certain property called quorum quenching activity through the process of cell disintegration or lysis. “Quorum quenching is essentially disrupting the communication of bacteria so that they are not able to efficiently do the things they would want to—like form biofilms or release toxins—that could contribute to making people sick. The purpose of something that displayed that kind of activity would be to develop something that could supplement antibiotics, and it's important because resistance to antibiotics is developing very quickly.” Although still non-conclusive, the study is a step for the improvement of pharmaceuticals.

She was also an organizer in school-wide activities like the science and humanities weeks where she participates regularly, the prom, and their class graduation. She also spearheaded theatrical productions for the English Theater Club, one of which is the training and development of stage enthusiasts aged 14-20. Her whole theater experience taught her that the sciences can learn so much from the arts like time management, project planning, and collaboration. A two-pronged mindset from a well-rounded individual.

Onward and Upward: The budding researcher is going to the University of California, Los Angeles under the Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics program and dreams of pursuing practical laboratory work during her four-year stay. Sophia wants to get published for her scientific research work. “I hope I can do that before the end of college,” she adds.

Besides her thirst for knowledge, Sophia yearns for a more gender-equal world. “I've always been a feminist. And protecting women who are victims of sexual harassment... standing up against everyday microaggressions like catcalling, simple classroom gender inequality—standing up against that,” says Sophia, who co-organized the Bottled Up Movement in Pisay as a response to a recent issue. This movement aims to change the culture and attitudes toward sexual harassment in the school.

Bright Plans: Sophia prospers in unfamiliar environments. At UCLA, she plans to make the most out of the resources and opportunities of the university to further her growth, and believes it takes more than being proactive to achieve her dreams. “Initiative alone and love alone are not enough to do something worth doing, perseverance is important, too.”

Iela Santiago

University of Oxford


Class Act: “I think my whole life I've been focused on really pursuing science but I've always felt that it's important to maintain good self-expression. And I do that through musical theater, through singing, playing instruments, or writing and debating. I've found that in all of my activities, even though they seem pretty spread out and not really interconnected, there's always an underlying current of finding harmonies,” Iela says. 

Her interest and in Biology might be difficult to comprehend as she won the Yale Tournament Championship—1st place in the Arts Category, and has spent time as a Musical Director in their school. But perhaps Art and Science are part of one harmony for Iela. Like two parts of the same song, both come in and color the serious and funny parts in a story. Contrasting elements creating parts of a whole picture. 

Her high school years were spent as a full tuition scholar at the Beacon Academy where she was awarded an IB Diploma for her accomplishments in Biology, Chemistry, and Psychology. She went to Japan to study biocomputers, was a team leader for the World Scholar’s Cup, and a member of Model United Nations. Science is in her blood as well as the arts. And this exhibition of academic excellence has bought her a ticket to Oxford. 

Onward and Upward: Iela wants to bring the Filipino resilience in her time in Oxford as a Biology Major. She knows that having resilience means nothing can break her as she fulfills her dream of having her own research practice as a social scientist, perhaps even having her own lab in the future. In the end, she wants to make Science Education more fun for children.

But in this pursuit which is primarily scientific in nature, she will never drop the arts. “I still see myself performing in the future, and I still see myself debating.” She will remain an amalgamation of the creative and the academic, a duality that she has distinguished her as an individual.

Audrey Sy

Stanford University


Class Act: Before matriculating at ISM for high school, Audrey was enrolled at a local school where she was a bonafide “Mathlete.” She would train after school and compete in national and international competitions. As she got older, she became more interested in the applications of math, particularly in the areas of economics and computer science. While at ISM, she was active in sports, having played for both the badminton and volleyball teams, and served as the executive director for one of the school’s most notable annual events, Battle of the Bands. With 800 people in attendance, the annual highlight event was able to raise well over one million pesos for charity. Outside of school, she was active with the organization Promoting Rural Education in the Philippines or PREP, a student-run activity that holds six trips a year to local elementary schools. PREP aims to support school teachers with their needs and endeavors.

Onward and Upward: An incoming freshman at Stanford University, Audrey is excited to learn how she can translate her many ideas into something meaningful in the workplace. Although she is set to enter college without declaring her major just yet, she knows that she would like to pursue a path of study within the college of engineering.

Bright Plans: Audrey is eager to learn and grow from all the entrepreneurial and technology opportunities that the Palo Alto campus has to offer, and most especially, is excited to learn from people who work with the most cutting edge technology in the industry. 

Matthew Aviso

Yale-NUS College

Photo Courtesy of MATTHEW AVISO.

Class Act: Matthew’s time at Philippine Science High School was littered with noteworthy achievements. As editor-in-chief for Pisay’s student publication, he spearheaded its digitization, making the paper more accessible. As a cause-oriented student leader, he helped organize the school’s largest political rallies. As a biochemistry researcher, he’s earned awards for his work on the dengue virus.

But while he’s an accomplished student and journalist, Matthew feels that it’s the relationships he developed with his mentors that count as his greatest achievements.

“It was only in my senior year that I realized how rare it is for students to establish truly profound connections with even just one teacher throughout their time in high school,” he shares. “And I could say I had three, with more outside school, through all the extra-curricular activities I was doing. I hope people would realize that it's these connections, friends, and mentors you make in high school are more important than other quantifiable achievements.”

Alongside all his extracurricular activities and awards, Matthew was also elected president of his school’s Social Science club, an experience he feels was incredibly formative.

“I'm passionate about issues encompassing farmers, indigenous people, and the urban poor in the Philippines. It's this passion that ties together almost all my activities in high school,” he says. “They were the focus of my work in journalism, the people I was thinking of when I was researching the dengue virus, and the people I focused on serving through the Social Science club.”

Onward and Upward: Matthew will be attending college at Singapore’s first liberal arts college Yale-NUS, a joint venture between Yale University and the National University of Singapore, on a full-ride scholarship.

Bright Plans: His scholarship comes with the requirement that he work for a Singaporean entity for three years after college, which means it’ll be seven years before he can return to the Philippines full-time. By then, he hopes that his passion for grassroots work will take him back home, where he can continue to do good work for the country’s at-risk communities.

While he’s currently undecided on his major, he has expressed interest in working as a medical anthropologist someday.

Aldrean Paul Alogon

Wesleyan University

Photo Courtesy of ALDREAN ALOGON.

Class Act: Aldrean was the first student from his 4th class municipality to be accepted into Philippine High School—Western Visayas, and recalls feeling marginalized when he first set foot on campus. While his schoolmates were the children of doctors, lawyers, and high-ranking executives, he saw himself only as the son of “the most handsome farmer and the nicest principal.”

Aldrean found himself representing his school in various competitions here and abroad. While doing so, he was also elected as vice president internal of the student government. He graduated in the top four of his batch and took home the excellence award in physics.

For his extra-curricular activities, Aldrean co-founded the school’s debate club and engaged in social responsibility programs such as organizing family planning and urban gardening seminars for indigent mothers.

Onward and Upward: In his four years at Pisay, however, he showed a tremendous aptitude in the sciences, becoming a consistent member of the director’s list and graduating with high honors. For his efforts, he’s earned the Freeman Asian Scholarship to Wesleyan University in Connecticut, where he’s currently deciding between Astronomy, Physics, or Neuroscience and Behavior as his major. Should he be fortunate enough to take on a second, non-STEM degree, Economics and Political Science are two likely options. 

Bright Plans: Aldrean hopes to one day lead the country in some way. His experiences living in an underprivileged community has instilled a sense of compassion for others who are struggling to make it through everyday life.

“I’ve seen people dying without even setting foot outside their provinces. I’ve seen families sacrificing two or three meals to alleviate the fees in the hospital. It’s just so unfair that even amid how these people work hard, they still get the bare minimum,” he says. “I dream of a developed Philippines. I pray to become an instrument to improve the lives of my people, some even my friends, and relatives.”

Ryan Shao

University of Cambridge

Photo Courtesy of RYAN SHAO.

For the admittedly forgetful Ryan, the best thing he could bring from home after departing for his studies is a PDF full of messages from his loved ones. Anything else, he says, he might end up misplacing! 

Class Act: Ryan, along with a small team of his classmates, created an online tutoring hub that allows students to get additional instruction in Mathematics, independent of teachers, parents, and other mentors. They developed the lectures, worksheets, and other features with the hope of granting underprivileged students access to much-needed prep materials for various entrance exams.

Onward and Upward: The Xavier graduate will be heading to the University of Cambridge (Trinity College). There, he hopes to study Computer Science. He believes it combines both of his main interests—math and competitive programming—in a field he feels is a powerful tool in today’s world. 

Bright Plans: While Ryan doesn’t have any specific plans in mind just yet, he’s determined to contribute to society through math. “I'm most passionate about anything and everything Mathematics, and using my talents to make the world a better place in whatever way I can,” he says. 

Ryan looks forward to learning more about the fundamentals of Computer Science. He’d also like to be able to have relevant work experience, which he feels would better prepare him for life beyond college.

Daven Yu

Imperial College London


Class Act: Daven recalls his time in high school quite fondly, citing the British School Manila’s range of extracurricular opportunities as ‘plentiful,’ and allowing him to join a range of new activities. A seasoned contestant at international math competitions, Daven was also an active participant in the Model United Nations committee where he served as both a delegate and a chair, as well as a member of both the school’s varsity basketball and volleyball teams.

Onward and Upward: Despite his well-rounded pursuits, Daven has clung onto his original love for mathematics, and hopes to study mechanical engineering at Imperial College London in the fall. “My response on how to turn math into something practical was engineering”, he explains. 

Bright Plans: “At Imperial, I hope to learn the basic principles of design and problem-solving, and I someday hope to apply this knowledge in developing systems that have a purpose and that can hopefully resolve world issues.” 

Julian Yu

Imperial College London


Class Act: This IB graduate from the British School of Manila has a peculiar interest in Mathematics. Julian has joined the Philippine Math Olympiad and has reached the Nationals. But he does not want Math to simply remain abstract and unapproachable. Math for him is a tool to solve real-life problems.

“Last year, I interned at a reinsurance company, called National Reinsurance Corporation of the Philippines. They were modeling the impact of earthquakes and natural disasters. They were using data from abroad, from America, from Switzerland,” Julian says. He saw how the data gathering processes of other countries could help us with our own situation. As he says, natural calamities are a permanence here. We could prevent disasters by applying math, statistics, and the right kind of data. This is one example of how Match can be applied to solve problems in the day-to-day.

Onward and Upward: This inspired Julian to study Math and Statistics at the Imperial College in London. He says that he hopes to learn to accurately model the things around the world, to find solutions in the micro level and look for ways to apply this knowledge to improve the lives of people in the larger scheme of things, especially here in the Philippines.

Julia Ongchoco

University of Pennsylvania

Photo Courtesy of JULIA ONGCHOCO.

Class Act: Julia, a multi-talented STEM student at Immaculate Conception Academy, always strived for the best. Recognized for her excellence in academics, campus leadership, athletics, and community service, she was an active member of the school’s Dramatics Guild for six years and served as the batch council president on her final year. Having a great number of interests in disparate fields, Julia takes joy in archery outside school and has a strong passion for performing arts. She was first captivated by the stage ten years ago, after catching a performance of The Phantom of the Opera. “I have been hooked on the magic of films and shows that transport an audience to another world to help them escape reality even for just a moment,” she says, “Having been able to experience doing that myself for an audience has been a profound experience.” 

She was also the founder of her own non-profit GiveLife—a thriving online donor-recipient matching platform with over 1,000 matched donations today—that has resulted in numerous accolades including international recognition from the Harvard Social Innovation Collaborative (as “Global Trailblazer”) and Rotary International (as “Young Innovator”).

Onward and Upward: Julia will be attending the University of Pennsylvania, majoring in multiple disciplines and aims to combine STEM, social impact, business, even theater. 

Bright Plans: When asked what she hopes to gain in college, she jokes, “Hopefully, I will gain nothing more than five pounds.” Jokes aside, Julia is looking forward to living independently, broadening her perspective of the world, and is thrilled to develop all her interests further. She intends to accomplish this by maximizing Penn’s “One University” policy that will allow her to take courses at all of Penn’s undergraduate and graduate schools. —CHESKA MESIAS


Zachary Lopez, Nicole Westfall, Michelle Limpe, Katie Ferreol, and Marco Yap

Zachary Lopez

Princeton University


Class Act: A scholar at International School Manila, Zachary Lopez spent his high school years eager to learn and experience as much as he could. Early on, he’s shown a keen interest in computer science and robotics and has participated in his school’s immersion activities, particularly in leading programs that teach the basics of robotics and programming. “I think computer science is a big thing now, but there isn’t really a big push in the field,” he observes.

At the same time, Zachary is also an arts student and has exposure in acting, directing plays, singing with bands, dancing, and even performing magic. 

Onward and Upward: He is set to take up computer science at Princeton, also on scholarship. “Princeton is very generous, the campus is really pretty, and it is one of the top universities in the world. Its computer science program is one of the most competitive ones,” he explains, sharing that these are the primary factors that led to his choice of college. Zachary is also looking forward to work at the university’s computer hub and takes pride in the fact that Princeton is becoming the ‘emerging Silicon Valley of the east coast.’

Bright Plans: The young tech enthusiast also shares that his dream project is something related to artificial intelligence. He hopes to be able to learn about its inner works, how to implement it, as well as become adept to the business side of developing artificial intelligence, too. He aims to return to the Philippines and have competent ideas on solving the problem of traffic.

Michelle Limpe

Johns Hopkins University


Class Act: One of the pioneer students of Everest Academy Manila, Michelle finished her tenure of 12 years as her class’ valedictorian, and recipient of the Integra Muiler Award, an award given to the member of the graduating class who personifies the four areas of formation—human, apostolic, intellectual, and character. She was a team leader of Challenge, a school apostolic organization, the editor-in-chief of the Everest Altius, and co-captain of the debate team. Among these, she sees herself best in service through her pursuit of the sciences.

Onward and Upward: Michelle is taking up biochemistry at Johns Hopkins University, to be able to marry her love for chemistry and helping the less fortunate, focusing on communities who have little access to the public health system. “After learning how public health systems are in developed countries, I would want to bring it back here in the Philippines, and implement it especially in the places I've seen in my missionary work, you know, where we see children—they're sick, they don't have the proper resources for healthcare. So I knew that it couldn't just be chemistry, because there are more applications if I combine it with biology.”

Bright Plans: She has also won awards from the Scholastic Arts and Writing Competition as a budding journalist from her stint in the school publication, and she plans on continuing her writing even as she focuses on her program. “If I have the opportunity and the time to… I definitely would, 'cause I really love writing. Just being able to communicate my opinions and my ideas, and social issues to others, I feel that's very important especially now where there's so much happening.” In all aspects of her life, it seems that Michelle’s goal is to help the less privileged.

With eyes on her prize, Michelle is determined to reach her dreams while holding on to inherent Filipino values, and the country’s public health situation as her raison d’etre.

Katie Ferreol

New York University, Abu Dhabi


Class Act: “I am most passionate about using my works and my voice in bringing about a change in society,” says Katie, a writer and visual artist, whose artworks and poems have managed to win honorable mentions in an international competition. While she only considers art a hobby, her recent achievement is a feat that highlights her high school. At Everest, she earned the Silver Academic Award and the Excellence Awards in subjects such as statistics and environmental science.

Onward and Upward: Katie’s primary interest of study is economics, and is set to major in this field while taking up electives in filmmaking and graphic design at the Abu Dhabi campus of New York University. She is motivated by the prospect of helping make the state of the country better. “I’ve heard so many stories of Filipinos going abroad for education and never coming back. But for me, it’s always been my dream to take what I learn and bring it back here, to better the state we are in now,” she shares.

Bright Plans: All the same, Katie has set personal goals for herself as she ventures for studies overseas. “I want to learn how to be a more confident person because these past years, I’ve always struggled with how I see myself,” she begins. “Looking back, I know there are many others who don’t have achievements like mine, and I’m very thankful to be where I am now. I want to see the good in my achievements. I also hope that in the future, I’d be able to grow in confidence and help those like me; I would tell them that what they are doing is enough, and that they should be okay with themselves.”

Nicole Westfall

Yale University


Class Act: Having taken film, literature, and global politics at higher level within the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum, and as managing editor of her school newspaper, secretary for the film club, and member of the cross country junior varsity, Nicole has been able to pursue activities that are of great interest to her. Her film studies in particular have opened her eyes to how the medium can be used as a social tool to convey stories and perspective. 

Her most satisfying experience for the past four years, however, has taken place outside the gates of the International School Manila and inside the walls of the Museo Pambata on Roxas Boulevard. A founding member of the Ate Academy with her two older sisters, Nicole has been actively engaged in tutoring young street kids. “Talent is evenly spread out but opportunity isn’t, and that’s what we need to cultivate. While we initially intended to teach them art, we found out that they really wanted to learn things like how to read and write, and were interested in math and science. My biggest achievement is when I hear that those kids go back to school and excel.”

Onward and Upward: As Nicole heads to New Haven this fall to pursue her longtime passion for film and political science at Yale, she takes with her many happy memories of her high school experience.

Her one regret though is that she leaves behind Cow, one of her three French bulldogs. “He is the cutest, most docile creature and he looks like a cow!”


Sam Fabella, Annika Allado, Georgia Limcaoco, and Alexis Lopez

Sam Fabella

Berklee College of Music 


Class Act: While it’s rare to be certain of career paths at such a young age, Sam Fabella is clear-cut on his goal: He wants to take up songwriting. “I realized I wanted to be a songwriter more than I did a performer,” he shares, having used to be in a band back in high school. “When I quit the band, I just kept writing, and that’s when I realized I had a passion more for creating songs than playing live.”

Sam has also set up his school’s first-ever band club in eighth grade. “Playing made me happy. It brought me joy, so I wanted to share it,” he says, matter-of-factly. He has also founded the first ukulele club at Jose Rizal University, a private education institution run by the Fabella family. “It started with 20 members, and now has 200,” he says with pride.  Musical talent seems to run in the family, although it was only recently that Sam learned that his grandmothers were a quartet, one of whom was a master violinist and went to Julliard School.

Onward and Upward: Choosing a school and course was no question for Sam, who intends to take up song writing with a specialization in music. So far, he's only experimented and made music on his own, through listening, and figuring out what he likes and doesn't like.

"I don't imagine myself in concerts and I don't want to be famous, it would be a hassle to go around and be recognized," he adds with a laugh, explaining why he chooses to work behind the scenes. While most of his songwriting knowhow is self-taught, he looks forward to learning more about the craft once he gets to college.

Sam names Kendrick Lamar, the Beatles, and Frank Sinatra as a few of his many musical influences, and prefers to veer away from pop, techno, and heavy rock genres. “Songwriting is being able to translate ideas to sounds, and then letting other people see it,” he says. “It’s like what musicians do for us, it makes us feel acknowledged.”

Bright Plans: Looking forward to the new experiences he'll have at Berklee, Sam shares, "I want to gain an appreciation for the now. There will be so many things I'll experience that I won't be able to go back to anymore and it's only when that moment is gone that I'll really miss it," he explains. On another note, he also wants to learn to be "super sociable and be able to small talk everyone."

Lance Sy-Lato

University of Pennsylvania


Class Act: What Lance is most proud of during his time at the British School Manila is his “self-discovery through music.” He is a professional musician, accredited as an associate of the Royal Schools of Music, as well as a recipient of Grade 8 certification for piano and music theory. He is also a singer. “I am very passionate about the opportunity for people to express themselves—for me, my best self-expression is conveyed through music.”

Onward and Upward: With his love for music as self-expression—along with a cousin with Asperger’s—is what has fueled Lance to pursue psychology at university. “I want to gain a sense of direction in life” Lance explains. “By going to the University of Pennsylvania, I believe I’ll be able to learn a lot about both myself through the psychology curriculum and a broad liberal arts education, and I think I’m going to see where that will take me.”

Bright Plans: Having lived in Manila all his life, Lance longs to take the relationships he’s made at school with him to university, but looks forward to growing in a new environment. 

Ysabella Vistan

Cornell University


Class Act: Ysabella actively spent her years at British School Manila being involved in several organizations: She co-headed Habitat for Humanity, did marketing for Red Cross, and helped in making TEDxBritishSchoolManila come to fruition. But her main passion would be for the arts. A natural artist, Bella set up a foundation that benefits the children of Zamboanga del Norte, her family’s province. She sold her own creations and used her earnings to purchase school supplies, which she donated to her young beneficiaries. Last year, she raised enough money to donate school supply kits to 100 children, as well as donate slippers to typhoon victims. “When my mom told me the typhoon hit and she wanted to raise funds, I couldn’t think of another way to do it other than art. And when I started trying it out, I ended up enjoying it so much that it became the course I chose for all the universities I applied to,” she says.

Onward and Upward: Ysabella is headed to Cornell and intends to take up Architecture, Art, and Planning. She made the choice also based on the school’s location. Many of the schools she applied to were in the U.K., while Cornell was in New York state, even if it is several hours away from Manhattan. “It has such a modern influence so I’m excited to see that kind of contemporary art and be exposed to it in New York,” she says. 

In the next four years, Ysabella hopes to become more independent and gain a better sense of responsibility by living alone. “I’m curious to see how I adapt,” she says, “I’m scared but at the same time, I feel challenged by it.

Annika Allado

Duke University


Class Act: An all-around performer, Annika Allado ventured as a singer, actress, and dancer in high school, her range of talents leading her to perform at cultural conventions abroad. But Annika doesn’t stop there. Her other passion is engineering, and she’s found fulfillment in sharing this interest with others. “I really enjoy teaching kids and being involved with the outside community, and getting them to be excited about what I’m excited about,” she shares.

Onward and Upward: Annika has also been involved in her high school’s outreach initiatives. She is part of the group called Energizing Engineers, who went to public schools to introduce students to new engineering modules, as well as basic techniques on science and mathematics.

Furthering what she started in high school, Annika is to study mechanical engineering at Duke. She looks forward to continuing both her dancing activities and learn more about its technical aspect of it, as well as be involved in the college’s service programs.

Bright Plans: Her end goal is to become a mechanical engineer, and she promises to return to the Philippines and help improve the transportation system. “Traffic here is so bad and inefficient,” she explains. “I plan on getting experience first abroad and then build something here that will help the community, maybe work on an underground service or fix the trains,” she says. “I hope to find ways to apply my learning into building and becoming more innovative in order to help people.”

Georgia Limcaoco

Stanford University 


Class Act: Georgia has always enjoyed school because of the people she met there. She reminisces about their projects, with a distinct fondness for her stint as a theater director in an out-of-school production. It was an original work called Blind Date

“We didn't have any adult supervision even though we're supposed to have adult supervision, we kind of sidestepped it. We booked out one of the theaters at school, we gathered a group of student volunteers for the cast [and] crew. All the lights [were] our own, sounds were our own, costumes, set.” 

She and her friends put the play up from scratch and donated the earnings from the box office to charity. 

Her love of the arts also spread to personal endeavors. She won the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards in 2018 for her piece Sampaguita, a flash fiction juxtaposing the life of a child selling flowers for a syndicate, and that of someone at the other side of a car window. “It just felt like my friends in the States couldn't fathom that we could be sitting in here in the aircon in our dresses and with all this expensive stuff, and then right outside could be someone living hand-to-mouth with [selling] sampaguita. Trying to live off sampaguita. I tried tying it with the symbolism of sampaguita, which is supposed to symbolize purity, and it's our national flower, yet it's being used for such a dirty industry. So I felt like it might've touched some people.” Georgia’s penchant towards the arts and her interest for social change is an equation for an artist that is relevant today.

Onward and Upward: She’ll be studying English with an emphasis in Communication Business at Stanford. Ultimately, her goal is to produce more theatrical productions and to enhance our social consciousness with plays like Paul Dumol’s Mang Serapio.

Rocio Tambunting

Barnard College 


Class Act: High school for Rocio was a “magnificent blur of four years,” involving herself in a vast array of extracurricular activities during her time at the International School Manila. Her brightest achievement, however, is her participation in the IASAS Drama where she was admitted into the troupe as a freshman - a rarity at the school. In addition to this she was involved with the Bamboo Television, the Philippine Cultural Club as the Vice President, the National Honor Society as the Vice President, as well as an inductee into the National Art Honor Society and the Quill & Scroll Society.

Onward and Upward: Rocio’s interest in the arts, particularly the performing arts reflects her passion for connecting and storytelling. It is with this she is off to Barnard to pursue a degree in political science.

Bright Plans: “At university, I hope to find my voice and to hone it. I think I have a good sense of who I am, but I am excited to be challenged and pushed out of my comfort zone in New York City.” 

Alexis Lopez

University of Notre Dame


Class Act: Alexis’ high school career was distinguished by her passion for the performing arts. She juggled tasks such as being the president of ISM’s Fine Arts Council, co-executive director of the school’s Battle of the Bands, and a consistent talent in the high school plays.

On top of her theatrical pursuits, Alexis also partnered with White Cross Orphanage in San Juan, her work culminating in her writing and publishing of a book to help the children in their transition. “When you read about characters that are going through the same things as you, you’re more likely to feel assured,” Alexis explains.

Onward and Upward: The young thespian is set to become an English major at the University of Notre Dame. There, she hopes to apply to minor in journalism ethics and democracy—an interest fortified by past internships with ABS-CBN, where she spent time researching local politics.

Bright Plans: In Indiana, she hopes to preserve and bring her culture to her community, and help people understand and celebrate the beauty of the Filipino culture. 

Raphaela Felipe

University of California, Berkeley


Class Act: Raphaela considers herself fortunate to have graduated from Beacon Academy, where she was granted the Creative Excellence Merit Scholarship. She put her time in high school to good use and headed the Publications Club, the Media Arts Club, and UpServe, their community service organization. She also has a hand for art, dabbling in digital art for the past six years, as well as painting with various mediums, animation, and pixel art.

During high school, she was also granted a scholarship to embARC, UC Berkeley’s pre-summer program geared toward urban design.

Onward and Upward: Raphaela has always set her sights on architecture, but she knew she wanted to do something more than just design skyscrapers. She wanted her career path to have a sustainability aspect. “Nowadays, when we go around Manila, it’s really evident we need to have sustainable practices in architecture,” she says, and when the time came for her to choose her school, she found UC Berkeley to be the one that married the two factors. There was a strong social-service factor involved as well, which made the choice even easier.

Bright Plans:  After graduation, Raphaela plans to get her license in the U.S. and earn experience there before coming back home to inject all her fresh ideas into the architecture here.

Anya Lagman

University of Southern California


Class Act: A gifted composer, Anya distinctly remembers the time when she conducted and performed her own compositions as assistant director alongside the British School Manila orchestra. “I guided each section of the orchestra and spearheaded weekly rehearsals in order to sculpt the piece into the best version of itself,” she says of the experience. Composing music has always been her greatest love, and she sees it as her way of communicating and storytelling. She’s partnered her love for music and its “therapeutic solace” with community service by founding The Dmitri Project, “which aims to give a platform to the unheard voices.”

Onward and Upward: Anya is gearing to take up music composition at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music this fall. She hopes to find her compositional voice while there, and experiment with the different styles and genres. “USC is filled with infinite opportunities for me to grow as an aspiring composer and encounter other emerging artists, styles, and ideas,” she shares.

If anything, she wishes she could take along her trusty Yamaha Clavinova piano, a gift from her parents, to Los Angeles as she dubs it her “sketchpad” for her compositions.

Bright Plans: Anya is excited to be living in L.A., outside of the comforts of home and immersing herself into its musical scene. “I’m looking forward to gaining a more in-depth understanding of the fundamentals in compositions and exposing myself to writing for ensembles or genres that I’m not accustomed to.”

Conner Manuel

University of California, Berkeley 


Class Act: Conner considers himself a ‘pretty regular guy’ in high school, as he chose not to excel in a single area of discipline, allowing himself to explore and immerse in different interests, from joining math competitions to playing for his school’s basketball varsity team, to heading the media team and leading promotional efforts for school events. “My time in high school was more of me trying out different things, testing the waters,” he explains.

At the moment, he seems to be most passionate about filmmaking, documentation, and cinematography. “I actually didn’t like watching movies as a kid because I thought it was a waste of time,” he admits. Until he stumbled upon a more diverse resource of films, and that changed his mind. “I was able to appreciate how powerful you could use the medium for visual communication and visual storytelling,” he says. “It’s not a waste of time.

Onward and Upward: Conner also considers filmmaking as the area of study that ties together all his other interests, thus intending to take up Film at the University of California, Berkley. At the same time, he says he wouldn’t be surprised if he switches tracks further down the line. He mentions greater science or applied math, Asian diaspora, and conflict and peace education, as other subjects he may also consider taking.

Bright Plans: Overall, he is set on building himself up to help other people. “One of the reasons that made me want to get into filmmaking is I know there are a lot of stories in the Philippines that aren’t being told right now, and I’d like to be in the position to be able to tell those stories and make aware the marginalized and more unsung sectors,” he shares. “My Filipino identity is also what I want to keep with me as I study abroad.”


Laia Barro, Jaime Chuidian, Stephan Lhuillier, and Maia Ner

Stephan Lhuillier

Tufts University


Class Act: Setting up and founding the Pinoy Tennis Trainers program is Stephan Lhuillier’s proudest achievement in high school. “We wanted to help educate the coaches more about the craft, give them workshops to help uplift their skills, so that in turn, they can also better help their families,” he explains. “It’s hard, but I just want to do my part, especially to the people who have helped me succeed. That’s definitely the main reason why I started this,” shares the young athlete. 

Onward and Upward: Following in the footsteps of his parents, sports patron Jean Henri and gymnast and taekwondo Olympian Bea Lucero-Lhuillier, Stephan is set to make his dreams come true at Tufts University. His dad’s fondness for tennis introduced him to the sport at an early age, and his mom, being a high-level athlete, definitely shaped him to become the top player that he is today. “Both my dad and mom paved all the opportunities for me to succeed,” he says. 

At Tufts, Stephan will be training with the university athletics team. “I’ll be one of the few Filipinos there, so I’m very fortunate. My team will be my new family and I’m looking forward to that,” he shares. “It’s very rewarding to see all the hard work and effort I’ve put in my sport paying off in the end.”

Bright Plans: Stephan intends to major in economics and minor in finance, while international relations is also a close study of interest. “Economics is a study of choice. It will help me towards what decisions are to be made in the future.”

Jaime Chuidian

Dartmouth College 


Class Act: A self-professed “happy-go-lucky” guy, Jaime is most proud of his election into the ISSBA cabinet as the public relations officer, which he felt demonstrated a more “serious” side to his usual bubbly self. In addition to his student government work, Jaime is an avid rugby player, playing as both a member of his school’s varsity team and the Philippine Volcanoes National Team in his senior year. “Being a part of the national team has always been a dream I’ve aspired to achieve, and the fact that it occurred as early as high school is really incredible” he exclaims.

Another interest is community service, particularly with PREP (Promoting Real Education Philippines). Through monthly overnight visits, Jaime is proud to have developed strong relationships with children from Tagaytay public schools, noting that “no quantity of money can separate us from who we are.”

Onward and Upward: After five years at the International School Manila, Jaime is off to Dartmouth College to major in either economics or government.

Bright Plans: In college, Jaime wants to build lasting friendships that go beyond university, as well to improve on his independent work ethic. 

Laia Barro

St. John’s University


Class Act: In order to focus more on training, top golfer Laia Barro chose to enroll at an online private school. And the pay-off was well worth it, as her amateur career so far boasts of medallist honors in the Paris Junior Cup and the West Coast AAU Junior Olympics Games. She’s also been sent abroad to represent the Philippines at various golfing tournaments and events.

Looking back at her exposure playing abroad, Laia believes there are many talented golfers in the Philippines who could use a little more support from the community. “It would be nice if they can be more developed and exposed outside of the Philippines,” she says. “I feel like there are a lot of kids in the provinces also who don’t get that opportunity.”

Onward and Upward: Laia is bound for St. John’s University, which she chose for its good programs for student athletes like her, which will further allow her to develop both her golfing skills and academics. “I definitely want to aim to be a professional after I graduate,” she says. 

Bright Plans: She intends to study development and sustainability. “I really want to learn about it as I’m not as educated as I’d like to be in it. It’s very relevant at the moment and I hope to learn more about it so I can help my community here in the Philippines,” she concludes.

Maia Ner

New York University, Abu Dhabi


Class Act: She’s a record-breaking swimmer, multi-medalled athlete both in the national and international stages, including IASAS where she competed alongside five other Southeast Asian countries for her 100m breaststroke, 200m breaststroke, and relay events. She also broke ISM school records that hadn’t been contested in 10 years finishing at 2:49.63 for 100m breaststroke, and 1:16.52 for 100m breaststroke, earning her the Decade Record Breaker Award. But Maia Ner is more than just an athlete. She also immensely values connections. “I find that meeting people from all over the world is extremely valuable growing up. Having people from different backgrounds will help me in my future because I’ll be able to adapt to more situations.”

Onward and Upward: Maia is going to New York University-Abu Dhabi and is planning to take one of its social sciences programs. She knows studying the social sciences will aid her in her endeavors in the future for its flexibility and practicality. During her required semesters abroad, she plans to explore different countries and travel to South America, London, Berlin, and Madrid, where there are other NYU campuses she can reside in.

Bright Plans: When asked about what she would bring with her to Abu Dhabi, it was a lesson from her parents that she shared. “To always make the best of what I have. And I was lucky enough to get a scholarship at NYU-Abu Dhabi so I want to try and make the most out of the opportunities that I get from going to college there.”

Dani Poblador

Columbia University


Class Act: A recent graduate from International School Manila, Dani was an avid tennis player, serving as the varsity team’s captain in her junior and senior year.

In addition to this, she and her friends pioneered the ‘Bayanihan’ initiative that strives to improve public school education on the community level. “We wanted to focus on the individual in schools and enhance their love for learning in order to stay in school” Dani explains. “Through my work with Bayanihan, I also noticed that politics are seldom handled on the community or local level. I believe that the best way to solve such issues is to harness the collaborative effort of different sectors in society.

Onward and Upward: For Dani, education is the key to unlocking progress, particularly in underdeveloped countries like the Philippines. In the fall, she is off to Columbia University to pursue a dual degree in political science and urban studies with hopes to one day shape public policy.

Bright Plans: In college, Dani hopes to continue tennis as a part of her daily routine, as well as learn more about her surrounding city of New York. 

Matthew Cole

University of British Columbia


Class Act: Matthew Cole was given with the Integra Muiler Award when he graduated from Everest Academy, an award given to a member of the graduating class who exemplifies the values and goals of the school. As a pioneer student of the academy, Matthew wanted to leave his mark. As the VP of the student council in his last year, he, alongside his co-officers, was fostered school spirit through sports. “We need to build [school spirit] up in terms of sports and different activities. It’s a good start to the success of many other sports programs, many other clubs, and I feel that that laid the roots for that to grow.”

Onward and Upward: He is attending the University of British Columbia for his studies, taking up Bachelor of Commerce, inspired by his parents who are both in the industry. “I want to make an impact. And I felt when I’d see all these main figureheads and business leaders… I want to touch people’s lives in a very positive way.” Matthew also enjoys articulating the bolts and screws of economy, reading up on stocks and finance. And with his penchant for leadership and speeches, he’s in a good place to start.

Bright Plans: When he returns to the Philippines after his academic stint, he plans on taking more than ice hockey home from Canada. He believes that besides his skills and gained knowledge, he would bring back the attitude that the students there have. “Their attitude for—hunger for success, drive to always be better. Determination is the key and I feel that if I can apply that, then I can become better.”

Bernice Olivares Ilas

San Diego State University 

Photo courtesy of BERNICE ILAS.

Class Act: At age 10, Bernice Olivares-Ilas was already making waves. She took home the title in the 9-10 Girls’ division of the 2012 Callaway Junior World Golf Championships, and has continued to be one of the country’s top golfers since.

While her accomplishments in the field of golf are certainly impressive, Bernice is most proud of the fact that she’s been able to be a consistent honor student, despite her rather disciplined golfing regimen. 

Onward and Upward: Over the course of her golfing career, she’s also managed to balance her sport with academics, and earned herself a full ride scholarship to San Diego State University, where she’ll be pursuing a degree in Business, majoring in Finance.

Bright Plans: Bernice is planning to put her degree to good use, as she’d like to get into the family business one day.

Monique Cosiquien

University of California, Berkeley

Photo courtesy of MONIQUE CONSIQUIEN.

Class Act: A multi-hyphenate in the making, Monique, or Nikki, achieved quite a lot during her time in ICA. She became a member of the basketball varsity team in eighth grade, and worked her way up to captain in her junior year. She was also an active member of the school paper’s photo staff, which allowed her to explore her passion for photography.

Beyond school, Nikki volunteered for a variety of sports-related events, including girls’ basketball camps and a forest run for the benefit of the La Mesa Dam Reserve.

In high school, Nikki founded Square Up: Champion Diversity, a sports camp initiative that engaged 100 marginalized boys and girls from San Juan City for a day of fun, learning, and the promotion of gender equality. 

Onward and Upward: She’ll soon be attending classes at UC Berkeley, and currently plans on working towards a degree in Environmental Economics and Policy.

She looks forward to becoming more independent and learning to deal with different people. “Hopefully, I’ll also be able to intern in some tech start-ups and engage in the research work in Berkeley,” she says.

Bright Plans: Nikki chose Environmental Economics and Policy for her course because of the world’s shift towards a more sustainable and eco-friendly society, and she wants to be part of that change. “This major not only focuses on ways to protect and conserve the environment but how to integrate it into business as well,” she shares.

Samantha Santos

Santa Clara University


Class Act: Samantha takes pride in the variety of experiences she’s gained so far in high school. For one, she has always been interested in tennis, yet she chose try out for the volleyball team, and got in. She eventually became co-captain and the best part was gaining a sisterhood among her teammates-turned-friends. And while she was never really into in musicals, Samantha and her friends also decided to join a school play, where she bravely sang and danced at a level she never knew she could do.

She’s also proud of being able to team lead at school initiatives that required upperclassmen to lecture students from the lower batches. As part of community service, Samantha also had experienced living with her foster family as part of her immersion, and realized it’s something she would do again.

Onward and Upward: For college, Samantha plans to major in finance at Santa Clara University in California. She particularly chose a Catholic institution and one that’s situated in a suburban setup for a reason. “When I go abroad, I know that I need to keep my formation intact, or else I’m just going to get lost, I’d lose myself and get distracted,” she explains. “It wasn’t an easy choice, actually. I was half set on staying here to study but later on, I told myself I want to try it and see if I can do it!”

Bright Plans: On her chosen path, Samantha shares that it’s because her parents are both in business, and that growing up, she would see her mom having trouble understanding finances. “She would manage our expenses but she always needed to hire others to be able to explain these things to her,” Samantha recalls. “I want to be able to look at data and say ‘this business is going to be successful!’”


Sijbren Kramer, Margarita Te, Jana Cruz, and Dea Amparado

Margarita Te

Brown University


Class Act: During her time in International School Manila, Margarita wore many hats. She was the treasurer for the Music Honors Society, a school organization focused on service projects centered around music, an editor for the school publication called Bamboo Telegraph, and the President of the Philippine Culture Club to name a few. But the time she spent in her own organization called Save The Kids, from which Save The Girls branched out later on that made the most powerful impact on her. Through the help of her peers, she reaches out to communities, usually the indigenous and marginalized, and provide a livelihood program that includes accessory-making and baking with locally sourced ingredients.

They employ the SAVE program—skills to earn and flourish, arts mostly through music and dancing, values through teaching morals and self-confidence, empowerment through story-telling, and education in terms of reading and proficiency both in Tagalog and English. 

Save The Girls, on the other hand, is an online campaign to spread awareness about human trafficking in the country. “It was such a sensitive topic and I realized, even though we’re kids, we need to be exposed to these kinds of things. It’s a subject that’s dark and too taboo to talk about when we’re really young, but it’s happening, so we can’t just ignore it.”

Onward and Upward: Margarita is going to Brown University and plans to take up Public Policy and Sociology. Her internship at the Department of Justice and Supreme Court opened her up to how the Philippines goes about governmental and judicial processes. She hopes that by studying similar processes in the U.S., she can help improve the local systems as a lawyer or a justice.

Moving to the U.S., Margarita will find living independently as a challenge, and being in a vastly different environment but she knows she can face it head-on. “In the U.S., I’m put into totally new environments… I used to be kind of shy, but now I’m branching out. Service helped with that, because it requires you to interact with these kids and… being more open-minded rather than just trying to impose my own opinions.”

Sijbren Manuel Gallego Kramer

Princeton University


Class Act: Sijbren’s time in high school was characterized by two pursuits: his work with SPECKS, which is an organization that works with displaced and abused children from the Pasay and Paranaque area, and his marine conservation efforts in the fishing village of Mansalai, Mindoro. “When I was seven years old, I went snorkeling there and I noticed that the reef had been destroyed by dynamite fishing. From then on I devoted my time to restoring these reefs through mangrove planting, diving, and community-based coral gardening.”

Onward and Upward: At Princeton, Sijbren intends to pursue a degree in either economics or chemistry, with hopes of forging a future in world development. 

Bright Plans: Before pursuing his degree at university, Sijbren is applying for a bridge year, an experience that will take him to Udaipur, India to live with a host family and engage in a year of service.

Katelyn Cua

University of Pennsylvania


Class Act: Despite her young age, Katelyn is aware of her position in society and how much her actions can make a difference and inspire others. “I did a lot of extracurricular work because as a high schooler, I still wanted to make an impact in my community even though I was in school and still young.” 

During her time in high school, she worked closely together with the GreenEarth Heritage Foundation and has developed a laboratory for them. “That’s something I’m really proud of because my advocacy is promoting social justice through education,” she says. The students at the foundation face a lack of educational resources and have limited access to technology. “I want to focus on education because growing up, that’s what my parents instilled in me: that the greatest gift you could ever give is education, and I wanted to impart that also with these kids,” says Katelyn. 

She has done as much as organize fundraising programs in order to be able to purchase the equipment and tools for the laboratory, as well and work together with doctors and medical practitioners of the Cavite Medical Society to be able to facilitate the experiments for the students.

“I was raised to know that what I have right now is out of sheer luck. I didn’t choose to be born into my family and nor did someone in the slums choose to be born into their family, too,” she explains. “And because of that, I should embark on this journey in helping them have the same opportunities that I have.”

Onward and Upward: In order to further her passion for social justice, Katelyn intends to study economics at UPenn. She says her entrepreneurial roots, growing up in the family business and helping out, also sparked her interest in economics. “It is a very socially-engaged study and it tackles issues like equity of income and how public policies affect the economy and the people of the economy as a whole.”

Bright Plans: While nothing is defined in the future, for now, Katelyn sees herself going to law school or becoming a consultant for NGOs here in the Philippines after she graduates. “I’m choosing to go abroad in order to learn how to better help my country. I want to learn how to work with NGOs and how to facilitate micro-finance to help alleviate structure inequality.”

Sofia Montinola

Harvard University


Class Act: During her time at ISM, Sofia excelled in both academics and extracurricular. Her greatest achievement from her high school years was being part of the WWF National Youth Council, an arm of the World Wildlife Fund Philippines that goes around the country to organize and take part in conventions, seminars, and summits on sustainability and conservation. “A part of it is learning ourselves, and a part of it is teaching. So at Earth Hour Philippines, for example, we're part of the main event and we'll be asked to speak. Last year we gave an environmental education seminar to the Boy Scouts of the Philippines.”

A novice graphic designer and a future psychologist, Sofia understands how she can merge her interests to serve her advocacy. She recognizes the role of design as a visual motivator, and psychology as a tool to discern behavior and thought towards action. “That was something I really found interesting because it's like a melding of my two passions, psychology and the environment, and how you can use psychology to have that kind of an advocacy.”

She also had the chance to marry acrylic painting with psychosocial behavior. In her first year of her IB Art Program, she began a portrait series showing the different faces of emotional confinement and isolation. For her, it was an exploration of the idea of emotional and physical entrapment, how people are restricted in the everyday.

Onward and Upward: She is going into the social sciences at Harvard University, where she wants to explore different interests and avenues to develop her skills. Although she aims to focus on behavioral psychology and the arts, particularly painting, her dreams are vast and open-ended as of now, and growing as an individual is her top priority. She says she “really just want to learn about myself and my interests, and… gain a better idea of what I want to do in the future.”

Jana Cruz

New York University


Class Act: With a keen interest in social sciences, Jana Cruz spent most of her high school planning and organizing events, the most significant one being the satellite voter registration initiative she’s organized with her club. “I would rather call social science ‘social service’ as I’d really like to push the service side of it,” she says.

History, the humanities, education, and health care are also areas of interest close to her heart. Pisay is known for being a STEM school, yet Jana points out how her teachers there are great humanities teachers. “I’m lucky enough to learn from them. They are activists; one of them having even gone through hardships during the Martial Law era. Hearing their first-hand stories really sparked my passion for social science and history,” she begins. “That’s how I also learned that you can’t just study science alone without humanities. It has to be integrated.”

Jana also points out the reality that while health care is a basic right, Filipinos are getting denied treatment simply because they cannot afford it.

Onward and Upward: Driven to find solutions to help address this, Jana intends to take global public health at New York University. “I want to learn about the management of health care systems and policies and hopefully bring that knowledge back in the Philippines,” she says. As a scholar of the country, Jana feels a strong sense of duty to give back to her country.

As she will be studying on a scholarship and will be relying on financial aid to get through her education abroad, Jana plans to take part-time jobs to help in funding. She is well aware of the opportunity given to her, and is keen on making the most out of it. “I will work, seize the internship opportunities, and take all the seminars and workshops while I’m there,” she says.

Dea Amparado

Smith College


Bright Plans: Dea’s big dream is to be able to share the opportunities she has had and more to children in the Philippines. “I want to break economic and social barriers,” she says. Hailing from a junior high school in Albay before heading to Philippine Science High School, her intent is to create radical change in our schools.

“I’m passionate about education and want the opportunities and privileges I’ve had (and more) to be available and accessible to everyone, because I’ve learned firsthand from my experience in Pisay the power education has to make you aware of your own potential and all the opportunities you deserve and that should be open to you; and the many different perspectives and value systems you can use to approach life, and to empower you to use those realizations to change what you think has to be changed not only in your own personal reality, but in the bigger societal realities as well.” Dea recounts, “I am incredibly grateful to my parents for all they have given me, and I realize that I am still so lucky to have had the opportunities and support system I did.” 

Class Act:  All throughout high school, Dea was touched with the zeal for research, which she attributes this to the school’s STEM-heavy curriculum. She has also been part of both nationally and internationally-recognized research endeavors. As a volunteer, she visited hospitals to teach as a member and project head of the Wave Farers, among other organizations she is part of. Dea is quite a mix: a brain which wishes to learn, and a heart which wishes to give.

Onward and Upward: She will be studying Public Policy as a Government Major with a specialization in Child Studies at Smith College. She wishes to apply her interest in research to better the educational system in the Philippines. With this opportunity she is best angled to fulfill her dream of impacting positive change to the life and future of a Filipino student. “This is something I’m passionate about and want to dedicate my life to changing.”

Andie Villalon

University of Notre Dame 


Class Act: From her participation in varsity football and golf, her Model United Nations pursuits, and involvement in Habitat for Humanity, Andie is now headed to the University of Notre Dame to pursue a bachelor’s degree in economics. She is considering pursuing further studies in law, and someday hopes to forge a future in politics to cultivate her passion for giving back. 

Bright Plans: “Community service has always brought about a massive feeling of reward, so I hope to continue doing this well into my future.” Despite her excitement for university, Andie wishes she bring the familiar Manila heat to the often sub-zero temperatures of Indiana.

Lauren Bichelmeir

Northwestern University

Photo courtesty of LAUREN BICHELMEIR.

Class Act: Throughout Lauren’s time in Brent, she involved herself in as many things as possible, joining a range of clubs and eventually serving as the editor-in-chief of the school’s student publication, all on top of her daily swim practice. Over the years, she discovered environmentalism was one of her greatest passions. She was elected the vice-president of her school’s Green Earth Ambassadors club, where she and fellow student worked together to promote awareness about environmental sustainability, as well as organized eco-friendly events such as beach clean-ups.

Despite a schedule full of extra-curricular activities, Lauren was also president of the National Honors Society. She helped to coordinate and arrange community service projects with Gawad Kalinga (GK), and served as a student-coordinator for the GK tutoring club.

Onward and Upward: Lauren credits this love for nature to the many hiking trips she’d go on with her father in the summers. That led her to Northwestern University, a school that drew her interest due to the on-campus Institute for Sustainability and Energy. She hopes that her choice of degree, Materials Science and Engineering, will help her find a career that contributes to her advocacy. 

Bright Plans: Lauren wants to one day develop a new material that could serve as an alternative to plastic, or one that would help dispose of it in an environmentally friendly way. “Just seeing the ingenuity of evolution in every-day nature inspires and excites me,” she shares, “and so my dream would be to find a way to incorporate and apply inspiration from nature, which is known as biomimetics. Overall, I hope to develop a comprehensive background in the materials science field so I could possibly aid in the creation of cutting-edge, innovative and sustainable biomimetic materials and technology.” 



Margaret Lee

University of California, Davis


Class Act: Margaret, or Macy as she commonly goes by, has been involved with the Model Congress since high school. A friend suggested that she apply to Harvard Model Congress Asia, which is a government simulation by Harvard students and eventually allowed her to travel to Hong Kong and Singapore. She was a scholar for the organization for two years.

Apart from being an avid public speaker, leading as Community Involvement Committee Head of her school's student council, and participating in various debate tournaments around the Philippines, Macy is passionate about mental health issues, specifically autism. In the 10th grade, she founded the non-profit organization Talang Dalisay, which translates to “pure star” in English. With 200 members and worldwide expansion underway, Talang Dalisay offers a platform to serve those with mental disabilities.

This July, Macy will be speaking at tedxUP.

Onward and Upward: This fall, Macy will be heading to the University of California, Davis, where she will pursue a double major in International Relations and Economics. On making her decision, Macy ultimately chose UC Davis because of its position as one of the top three best schools in the UC system and its location. “There are so many new startups and firms in California that I can possibly intern in,” she says.

Bright Plans: Macy dreams of becoming an international lawyer someday and possibly work for the United Nations. She explains her passion for lawmaking: “I really want to make laws regarding human rights, and mental health to encourage people’s well-being, especially now that the media is such a big part of everything.” Macy is also interested in taking up economics to “study the way a country works.”

Gabby Africa

University of California, Berkeley 


Class Act: At the British School Manila, Gabby was a prominent figure within the student community, serving as head girl, captain of the swimming team, as well as president of the Red Cross Youth Council all at once. “At BSM, because of my leadership positions, I was made to interact with so many different people ranging from younger students to higher up members of faculty.”

Onward and Upward: Now, she is off to the University of California, Berkeley to study economics. “It wasn’t really the subject of economics that particularly interested me, rather it was how it was applied in everything and how one is so easily able to connect many different subjects together.” Gabby explains. It is there that she hopes to form new friendships and meet new people from exciting parts of the world. 

Andrea Lee 

Yale University 


Class Act: Andrea’s last four years of school were distinguished by her involvement in the International School Manila’s student council, her efforts culminating in her presidency in her junior and senior year. She is most proud of bringing her the class of 2019 together by creating a “legacy through service”, ensuring that her batch would be the first to conduct a large-scale service partnership.

Onward and Upward: At Yale, she intends on further study in history and political science, with emphasis on exploring concepts of migration and how that warps cultural identity, as well as models of development. It is with this she hopes to bring a more nuanced view on what it means to be a Filipino, not just to her smaller college community, but through her life-long work, whatever that may be.

Bright Plans: Andrea plans to immerse herself in an international sphere before bringing her knowledge and experiences back to a more local context in the Philippines. 

Bernice Favis

University of British Columbia

Photo courtesy of BERNICE FAVIS.

Class Act: Bernice is a young woman of many passions, having participated in a wide variety of extra-curricular activities during her time in De La Salle Zobel. She joined, according to her own words, “every Zobel org,” but is most recognized for her run as a member of Zobel Dance Crew.

 In recognition of her contributions to the welfare of the underprivileged, Bernice was given the Saint Benilde Lasallian Distinction Award for Leadership and Service—a feat she considers her proudest moment.

Even then, she likes to downplay the achievement as a result of her just being herself. “I’ve always been the type of person who liked to have my presence felt in a variety of areas. That said, my high school experience was more a reflection of my already-existing self than something that shaped who I am today,” she says.

Onward and Upward: She owes her ability to balance everything to a solid group of friends, and is bittersweet about the opportunity to study in the University of British Columbia: “Studying abroad brings a lot of uncertainty but I leave knowing exactly what will be here waiting for me: A group of friends that I just know will be around for life.”

Bright Plans: Bernice doesn’t have any concrete plans for the future, opting instead to let her learnings dictate her course in life. “I’m not exactly sure about what I want to pursue, and I’m planning to cross the bridge when I get there,” she shares


Diego Santos

University of Toronto


This rare mix of a chess enthusiast and a football player is a firm believer in the role of investment in the scheme of national progress. He established Work in Progress with a friend, a business which aimed to help ease the suffering of the residents of Marawi after the war, even just a little. The profits of his business were used to give out shirts to the victims and all those affected. He went to the city of Marawi to extend his help, as well as to find more ways to alleviate the living situation of the residents there, with the help of the Order of Malta organization.

“The standout moments of… my trip there [was when] I got to interact with the people, see the city, and see everything that happened. And our whole point was to show that even after [the] news stops covering places, the people are still living there, and they're still kind of suffering through everything, and it's important to bring light to these issues especially when these forgotten people are still going through struggles without help from outside.”

Bright Plans: Diego considers math and economic trends as calming. “I love finance. As cliché as it sounds, I'm the type of guy who will be out until two, and then at 6 a.m. [I] wake up so that I can study from 6 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., trade until 10:30 then fall asleep again,” Diego says.

He emphasizes the power investments have on society as they can disrupt the market.

Onward and Upward: He will be studying Rotman Commerce with a specialty in Economics and Finance at the University of Toronto. He wishes to go back to the Philippines to join a venture capitalist firm, finish an MBA, and eventually start his own firm. His intent is to not only be a cog, but to change the machine of society itself, becoming an agent of change.

Santino Lopez Uy

New York University


Class Act: Taking leadership positions, heading the debate club, and playing with the football varsity team, are just a few of the many things that kept Santino Lopez-Uy’s plate full throughout high school. Despite his multidisciplinary skills, Santino decided early on where his main interests lie: business and technology. 

Growing up in a family in prime business sectors in the Philippines, Santino always aspired to be like them. He also names Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, and Tim Fuchs among the greats he looks up to. “I admire them for being innovators and risk-takers who aren’t afraid to advocate change and make a difference.”

Onward and Upward: Santino will be taking up business management technology at New York University, a course that he sees will provide him with many promising opportunities. His goals upon entering university are clear: “I want to cultivate my skills further, and I’d like to join the student government. I want to graduate an independent and more globally-minded individual.” 

Bright Plans: Inspired by the workings and innovations behind tech companies such as Google and Facebook, he shares, “I eventually would want to return here and have my own start-up.” Santino talks about a school initiative he started with group mates called EduCare, which aims to provide a learning curriculum for the less fortunate communities around Metro Manila. “I want to do something similar in the future. It was a one-time project but my classmates and I would like to do it again,” he says.

Marco Yap

University of Pennsylvania


Class Act: Marco recounts his time as the events program co-head at Ted x Xavier School and being the Comelec Commissioner of the school’s student elections with glee. “We're all about sharing ideas. So being open-minded is something we have to have,” Marco shares about his experience.

He relished the planning phase of Ted X, the work of inviting sponsors, and getting an audience. He gained the desire to collaborate with different minds, and to rethink how he sees the world. This piqued his interest in how startups are changing how we interface with people, a passion he now wants to pursue after high school. 

“I really want to work in a startup because I think that the environment is different from businesses that we're used to here. [Versus] more corporate office work, startups are more flexible. And I think it will really challenge me to innovate to think more.”

Onward and Upward: He will be studying Economics at the University of Pennsylvania. As to why he chose Economics as his major, he says it’s a versatile program. “It can collaborate with a lot of fields and it's also very practical. For the first reason, it can collaborate with international relations, so that's international economics.” 

Bright Plans: Hopefully, his time there will allow him to create his own startup business in emerging technology. A choice he made as he sees this will create a bigger impact—creating jobs, helping alleviate poverty, and changing our financial system.

Recommended Videos
Latest Stories
And which day should you book to score the best deals?
Preparing for holiday potlucks just got a little easier.
From Fleabag's Olivia Colman to Harry Potter's Helena Bonham Carter, here are the new faces in the Netflix royal drama.
The celebrated photographer made headlines throughout his life for his royal connections and scandalous behavior.
The ideal way to escape this country’s scorching heat.
These stylish sweaters will definitely give you something to be thankful for.
A cheat sheet to the 56 galleries from 13 different countries showing at the premier design fair this weekend.
Hong Kong’s biggest givers gather to help the Philippines’ marginalized communities.
Load More Articles