Memories of ACET 2004

Disclaimer: This post can be a bit biased to the ACET (and the King Blue Eagle) and/or may sound too bragging. I suggest hitting X on your maximized screen’s top-right corner.

Around September 2004, I took the Ateneo College Entrance Examinations (ACET) with some of my high school friends. Our testing site then was my grade school alma mater: Holy Spirit Academy of Malolos. Some few minutes before the actual exams, thoughts of opening up a new chapter of my life finally flashed. While I don’t want to leave the sweet memories of high school behind, I’m somehow excited to enter tertiary-level education, and of course make new friends.

Thinking that I’m going to pursue with my plan of taking up BS Biochemistry in UP Manila, I did not really mind studying for the ACET. (The time I took the ACET was like two months after I took up the UPCAT.) I was actually considering on not taking it, had not the exam fee already been paid. Also, we have tons of school projects during that quarter too. While I actually borrowed a copy of College Algebra and Trigonometry by Louis Leithold from my high school calculus instructor and bought a new thesaurus as I’ve heard that ACET is waaaaay harder than UPCAT in terms of Math and English (actually EVERYTHING haha), I did not really open both books. I may have glanced at two to three pages of each, but my eyes showed blank expressions only. This was so different than what I did for UPCAT, where I got myself enrolled in a review center, solved basic algebra problems daily, read science books, etc. My mind was actually floating on the idea of just taking the ACET for fun, or just to have myself occupied with other stuff not related to school work.

And the actual exams finally came. English was first. My mind was totally floating of into space that our proctor called for “time’s up!” already but I’ve only answered 70-ish of 100 questions. Math followed and oh dear it was hard for me that time! We haven’t discussed logarithms yet that time (I only did a bit of basic reading for UPCAT) and I was only able to answer a little above half. However, to some numbers, I tried the technique of back-solving and somehow it worked. I noticed that I have around half an hour left and so I decided to do something. While there was this rule of not being allowed to go back to the previous exam part (English) while the current (Math) is being taken even though you finished it already, I decided to give it a shot. I followed it faithfully during UPCAT, but since I was just taking ACET as merely for fun, I thought that it does not really matter to me if I’m caught and reprimanded by our proctor. Luckily, I was able to finish English just in time when the bell for Math sounded, so I just pretended to have finished the said part as well.

The third part of the ACET was the most challenging, and since it’s like that I did not take it seriously again. First, there was general information, where I saw the only science question which popped out for the entirety of the exam (Which of the following describes what an atom is?). It was followed (as far as I can remember) by a series of abstract reasoning questions which for me was the HARDEST (my eyesight was poor then!). Finally, the ACET ended with a speed-solving of five analytical geometry problems. Analytical geometry was my most favorite math subject during high school, so I brushed through this with much flourish (and speed haha). Again, for the ideas that ACET was merely just for fun.

During that time, essay-writing was just take-home. That part, I sort of did not pay good attention as well. I literally followed the instruction “write a reflection of your accomplishments…” to the bone with my very ugly (and yes, I can’t do anything about it already, sorry) penmanship.

Come January 2005 the news of me passing the ACET arrived, courtesy of my high school teachers smiling widely at me while handing a large envelope, apparently from Ateneo. Some of my batchmates who did not make it only got a smaller envelope. Everyone almost seemed happy for me. I was actually happy too, yet my eyes were still focused on BS Biochemistry in UP Manila. (Little did I know my mom actually doesn’t want me in there, due to hazing and fraternity issues, especially those she remembers during the time of her brother, my uncle.)

February came, UPCAT results arrived as well. I made it to the quota of UP Manila’s BS Biochemistry somehow. Then that was the time I had to make my decision.

Out of nothing, craziness suddenly entered my brain cells. I told my parents that I want to study in Ateneo. Yes, despite an almost school-year-long plan of mine to brace myself for BS Biochemistry and for the intimidating streets by UP Manila. It was just something random.

Before I knew it, half a decade already passed. I got two undergraduate degrees in my belt, landing me in a good locally-based research job. Ateneo transformed me into a person I barely dreamed of during ACET 2004. Every year, as I hear new results getting released, I took some time to picture myself what I would have been if I took my previous option (and probably, had I not decided to go back to finish the English part of my ACET). My mental images differ annually, yet there’s still a common scenario: I would have finished all my undergraduate requirements in 2009 instead of 2010 and attempted enrolling in a medical school. I would have been a sophomore now and by 2014, a physician. After that, everything was blurred already. Yet the world had a different plan for me. Last 2005, my brain cells suddenly went haywire — totally abandoning all plans I’ve made up. Yet had it not happened, I probably wouldn’t have a professional license with me now (and an engineer title, by virtue of my BS MSE graduation). And before that, I wouldn’t have enjoyed a three-peat UAAP championship, a position in the student council, the stressful-but-fun experiences of running a student organization, a lot of philosophy and theology classes, and the most important of them all, the friends I’ve made through my five years of being “up in the hill.” Now I’m down from it and I am forever grateful.

Now, I have a different set of dreams, but I am sure that this is actually the route my heart wants me to take last Semptember 2004. Or probably, since I was born.

Congratulations to all our new Ateneans! Your life begins now, not at forty. Welcome to Planet Awesomelandia!

[Fate] has a funny way of playing around with one person’s life. The great moments of your life won’t be necessarily the things you do — they’ll also be the things that happened to you. Now, I’m not saying you can’t take action to affect the outcome of your life — you have to take action. And you will. But never forget that on any day, you can step out of the front door, then your whole life can change forever. You see the universe always has a plan […] and that plan is always in motion. A butterfly flaps its wings and it starts to rain. It’s a scary thought but it’s also kind of  wonderful — all these little parts of the machine constantly working, making sure that you end up exactly where you’re supposed to be, exactly when you’re supposed to be there. At the right place, at the right time.

–Future Ted Mosby
in How I Met Your Mother S04E22 (Right Place Right Time)

Addendum (2012): Firstly, it’s not three-peat anymore, it’s a four-peat already, going on a dive for five. Secondly, I eventually got my experience of a UP education during the latter half of 2011, but in Diliman and not in Pedro Gil. Awesomelandia also exists there at the other side of Katipunan! (I think the whole Planet itself sits on Katips!)

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