Inspiration

5 Inspiring Graduates From the Philippine Science High School Class of 2018

A sample of what the Class of 2018 has achieved so far and how these students plan to change the world.
IMAGE JOSEPH PASCUAL
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Meet some of the standouts from Philippine Science High School’s talented pool of 2018 graduates before they head off to university. 

Philippe Bungabong


Philippe started at Philippine Science High School on a note that would set the tone for the rest of the six years he would eventually spend there: perseverance.

Pisay was his dream school, he recounts, and he crammed memorizing every mundane science fact that he could into his head, in the hope of passing the entrance exam. When the results came out, however, Philippe’s name was nowhere on the list. Two weeks into the start of classes in another high school, Philippe received a call from Pisay, asking him to be one of the last alternate enrollees.

“If I had made one more mistake, the last six years would’ve been different [for me],” he shares. “In the 7th grade, I learned that I really shouldn’t let go of every opportunity that comes my way and that I make the most out of everything.” That experience pushed Philippe to strive for excellence. Despite missing two weeks of classes, he still ended up on the Director’s List that first quarter and had his name on that list for the next six years.


Philippe on his graduation day with his father, Rey, and mother, Shirley on June 1.

Over the course of his high school life, Philippe was constantly reminded that he was an iskolar ng bayan and that the government was investing in the future of the country’s sciences and innovations through him and the rest of his schoolmates. Seeing this, he and his fellow iskolars immersed themselves in community service, even if it wasn’t on the curriculum. Just this year, Philippe worked with a local barangay in Quezon City, teaching its residents how to save electricity. 

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Philippe had co-developed a smart system for regulating electricity consumption. “Many communities in the Philippines will face an entire town’s blackout if they overconsume on electricity,” he says, “so we made a system that will prevent them from overconsuming electricity.”


Philippe, president of YouthHack Manila, with the entire YouthHack Manila team.

An inspiring tech entrepreneur, Philippe also co-developed a web application for commuting in Manila—one that would list down the fastest and most efficient public transport options for Filipinos to get to their destinations.

While his alma mater provided him with the setting and community that he needed to succeed in academics and beyond, Philippe found further inspiration in an alumnus that came to speak to their batch.

The speaker had studied bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania. “He spoke about studying abroad and how some fields are better pursued abroad.” With that idea planted into his head, Philippe took his shot and applied for a scholarship abroad. To his surprise, he received Wesleyan’s Freeman Asian Scholarship, which is awarded annually to “exceptionally able students,” according to its site, from the Southeast Asian and East Asian regions. The scholarship covers Philippe’s tuition and student fees as well as housing, food, health insurance, and airfare.

Through a dual-degree program, Philippe plans to study Economics and Data Analysis at Wesleyan for the first three years, and later study Financial Engineering at Columbia University, since it was always his intention to combine the fields of STEM with business.


Philippe and his teammates being interviewed by CBS New York after finishing 2nd out of 354 teams worldwide in the Clean Tech Competition in Long Island, where they presented their smart system for regulating household electricity consumption.

Eventually, after completing his studies and gaining a year’s worth of work experience, Philippe plans to come home to head his own tech startup in the Philippines. “The goal has always been to give back to the Philippines,” he says.

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Mikhaela Diaz


“When you go to the U.S., you won’t see this anymore. Take it all in,” a doctor told Mikha Diaz, describing the surplus of tuberculosis patients Mikha witnessed while working at a public hospital. She had just spent the past summer working as an intern at a public children’s hospital “to better understand and grasp the Philippine healthcare system,” she says.

She kept a journal while working there, but not just the type to track daily events. She would list down the difficulties patients and their families faced. “I saw a healthcare system that is a work in progress but also doctors, nurses, and a staff who take their service very seriously and who truly care about the people,” she says, “And I aspire to be like them.”

Mikha has set her sights on pursuing a Biomedical Engineering (BME) program at Columbia University after taking a short fully subsidized summer course on BME in 2017.


Mikha with her Biomedical Engineering classmates and professors from Columbia’s High School Summer Program in 2017.

Her main interests have always education and healthcare. She has some experience working with Teach for the Philippines, which taught her the value of education. Currently, she and other students from Philippine Science High School are looking to build book stations and a mobile library for pediatric wards in local hospitals.

Through regular storytelling events, Mikha and her friends want to provide as much joy to young patients and their families as they can. “While the project is still in development, we are optimistic,” she explains. “We envision to foster hope and love for learning, as well as to help children see the hospital as a place of healing, rather than one to be afraid of.”

It was during her high school years at Pisay that Mikha had fostered a “great love for the country and the Filipino people.” Those “life-changing” six years pushed her in the direction that she is taking now.

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“Pisay was a refreshing eye-opener to the world and its realities. I was constantly surrounded by peers, faculty members, and staff who taught me lessons in life beyond the four walls of the classroom,” she says. The school had also trained her in competitive math, research, and allowed her to pursue various internships.


Mikha with her parents during her graduation day.

Soon, she’ll be off to Columbia University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, but the road to New York was anything but smooth. “Because I applied to Columbia during the early decision round in November, I was up against an incredibly competitive pool of applicants and was highly disadvantaged being an international student who needed financial aid,” she explains. The institution’s 5.8 acceptance rate only daunted her further. It was the words of encouragement from family, friends, and her counselor that pushed her to apply, regardless of what the outcome would be.


Mikha with her research groupmates Clare Gascon and LJ Flores and their supervisor Evalour Aspuria at the University of the Philippines' Plant Tissue Culture Facility. Their two-year research project, which has been presented at an international conference, focused on optimizing tissue culture media for two particular rice genotypes.

Fortunately, Mikha was accepted into the university, and named one of 25 Charles P. Davis scholars. The scholarship allows its chosen candidates to pursue a “specially designed, highly selective and comprehensive four-year program.” Mikha will then be entitled to a financial grant, apart from her financial aid scholarship, along with additional research and fellowship opportunities, global experiences, summer funding and access to a speaker series and symposia.

“I’m looking forward to doing research at the Columbia University Medical Center,” she says. “As for the summer, I’m looking into pursuing summer abroad taking a course on health policy and public health in London. I have a long way to go but I’m more than certain the Philippines will always be my destination.”

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Lorenzo Flores


“One day, you'd be talking with lawyers and doing data science for that policy, and on other days you'd be working with Chemists and Biologists and doing data science for their projects,” LJ explains. To him taking up Data Science is an opportunity to work with different people from different fields, backgrounds where he will learn continually.

There is, however, another reason as to why he is taking up such course at Yale. “Right now, there’s a lot of data in the government that still hasn’t been analyzed, and so a personal reason why I want to go into Data Science is because I want to help with government policy, and basically apply Data Science to understand what’s going on in the Philippines—especially the education sector; basically understand all of the policies that are going on, analyze the data, and hopefully use what we know to propose better policies that will make our education system better.”


He admits Yale wasn’t always his dream school, but it was one chance interview with Stephen Groff that got him hyped to apply. Yale has the exact course he wanted, and so many opportunities to offer. “I didn’t have a dream school at all, but now Yale seems like it,” he says. When asked what he’s excited about the most, he excitedly says the organizations. “It’s sort of that opportunity to try so many new things. I’m excited about the organizations because I want to learn dance— that’s something my parents would never have thought— but now I can study what I want, which is Data Science, I can join organizations, and there are opportunities to learn so many other things,” he shares.


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“Many teachers went out of their way to prove that science isn’t confined to the classroom, but rather a way to fix problems like water and air pollution and food safety,” he says of his time at Philippine Science High School. “In chemistry, we studied how medicines interact with viruses and how car smoke contributes to smog and respiratory diseases. Science gets tiring with the theories and formulas, but lessons like these got me hyped about the subject.”

In high school, LJ worked on Atom, Philippine Science High School’s chemistry club. Atom sparked LJ’s passion of sharing chemistry to the world as he says, the main view on chemistry today is that it’s not as lucrative as other studies. “There’s so much you can do.” He continues, “Our most recent project is that we have a chemistry caravan, so we go to different public schools, we show them chemistry experiments, and after that, we talk about the concepts behind them, and what you can do if you study STEM.”


Aside from studies, however, LJ says Pisay changed his attitude toward work and broadened his perspective. He learned to maximize his time, discipline himself, cope with the stress, and seeing how several schoolmates juggled hardships with their studies inspired him to help improve the education system and science programs in the country someday. “From using biochemistry concepts to improve the growth and strength of our crops, to using computer science and statistics to model trends in transportation and education and use these to propose better systems, I hope we one day get to use the knowledge we have and finally apply it to making our country better,” he says.

Agnes Robang


As early as grade school, Agnes participated in numerous math competitions and training programs. “Naturally, I fell in love with math, and it continues to be a significant part of my life,” she says. But it was only until she entered Philippine Science High School that she realized the full breadth and depth of science. She learned and absorbed as much as she could about biology and chemistry, but it was physics that truly captured her imagination. “I did a number of research internships both locally and abroad on computer science and mechanical engineering, and from these, my passion for these subjects only grew,” she continues.

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Agnes credits Pisay for instilling in her “the passion and perseverance of a scientist.” For teaching her the different sciences, its many facets and applications, as well as the many challenges she says pushed her to the limit and showed her the true extent of her capabilities. Aside from scientific studies and research, she engaged and grew through the various school committees, councils, and activities she joined.

This coming fall, Agnes will start at Princeton, a top choice from the beginning. “At first, I considered more technical schools devoted to scientific research as my dream school. However, when the time came for me to choose the college I'd be attending for the next four years, I realized that Princeton outweighed my other options in many ways.”

She’s most excited about the Humanities classes and the many opportunities to participate in sports. Though she focused on science for over six years, Agnes is looking to pursue her other interests: literature and sports.


What inspires Agnes are the many different people she’s met in the field of science. “[They’ve] gone through countless hardships, issues, and various forms of restraint in their careers. However, these did not, in the slightest, diminish their passion for their work. Instead, this group of creative and supportive people continue to make discoveries and developments that eventually benefit society.” These experiences have made Agnes more determined to work and achieve to make an impact in the world.


Agnes during her graduation day.

“I owe all of my accomplishments to all of the people I've met and institutions I've worked in. Through these people and places, I found many opportunities, and these people and institutions motivated and guided me in succeeding in them. It would be a great honor to pay forward all of the blessings they've shared with me,” she says.

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Agnes doesn’t know what the next few years have in store for her, but with a strong interest in the transportation aspect of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, she hopes to design and build new technology related to engines, cards, trains, ships, and planes in the future.

Rafael Santiago


To Raffy Santiago, math isn’t just about the numbers.

“It allows you to think outside the box. It’s to see a problem and attack it from multiple angles,” he says, explaining why numbers hold such an allure for him. “It depends on skill and gives you an identity, based on how you solve a problem.”

Taking up Applied Mathematics and Computation Science at the California Institute of Technology, the Philippine Science High School graduate is but a working model of his time in the public institution and is ready to take all he has learned to new heights in university.


Raffy with Yz Cadigoy, Elijamin Claveria, and Leo Orpilla III, as they show off their awards at the 2016 Singapore International Mathematics Challenge (SIMC).

With a good enough understanding of math, he says the best decision he ever made was to enter the renowned public institution.  “In Pisay, I got to know people from all walks of life,” Raffy says, grateful to the school for exposing him to that kind of diversity. It was this renewed mindset that drove him to choose California Institute of Technology, a school that prides itself on collaboration and innovation.


Raffy and his teammates at the 7th International Young Mathematicians’ Convention.

This won't be Raffy’s first foray into collaboration, however. As a competitive swimmer for the Alabang Gators, Raffy says it’s his team and the sport that taught him how to be disciplined and motivated, something which he also applies into his mathematical endeavors. Additionally, Raffy says one of his biggest achievements is winning gold at the Philippine Society of Youth Science Clubs National Research Fair with his friend, Yz Cadigoy. Together they worked on creating low-cost LiDar devices, with the hopes of making the mapping device accessible to the poor.

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The incoming Caltech freshman hopes to use his time in California to gain as much knowledge as he can from the Nobel Prize winners and esteemed scientists who teach in the university. “In Pisay, we learn about service. My education was funded by the government and the people, and I hope to one day give it back to them,” Raffy says.

With batch sizes of only about 250 students, he hopes to utilize the rare opportunity given to him to collaborate with others in his field and bring it back to the place he calls home. Currently, he, along with fellow incoming freshmen Philippe Bungabong and Janelle Perez, founded CAUSE, an initiative that aims to encourage Filipino students to pursue higher education abroad with the help of scholarships.

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About The Author
Hannah Lazatin
Senior Staff Writer
Hannah is a communications graduate from Ateneo de Manila University. She’s originally from Pampanga and from a big, close-knit family who likes to find a reason to get together at the dinner table. Experiences inspire her. “Once, at a restaurant, I received an interpretation of my second name ‘Celina,’ and it meant 'someone who tries everything once' and that is me through and through,” she says. As for the job, she wants her “readers to be inspired by the stories of the people we feature and to move them to reach for greater things.”
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Paolo Chua
Staff Writer
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Alexandra Goño
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