Graduating Summa Cum Laude from the nation's premier university is a dream that every young Filipino student would want to achieve. For the 36 out of 4,600 students from the University of the Philippines Diliman who have accomplished this seemingly impossible task, they have proven that everything is possible with hard work and determination as they walked onstage with title of Summa Cum Laude title.
One of those few students is Johntee Tantuco, an Industrial Engineering major who didn't just attain the prestigious Latin honor, but also emerged as the top student of the Industrial Engineering batch of 2017.
Let's be honest, getting your name in the Dean's List and keeping it there is already challenging enough. So can you just imagine the pressure when you're running for Summa Cum Laude? As excruciatingly tough as it may seem, this recent graduate makes it look easy to attain the highest level of academic honors while being able to maintain his social life and get seven hours of sleep every night!
Balancing Acads and Lakads
"As much as people would say that Summa Cum Laudes hardly sleep or even have social lives, I beg to disagree," he shares. "For my first four years in college, I never pulled off an all-nighter. My average sleeping duration was around seven hours a night." However, it was during his fifth year when he had to sacrifice some of his sleeping hours due to the heavier load of academic papers.
Aside from getting enough sleep, Johntee also breaks stereotypes as he proves that Summa Cum Laudes can slay their grades and still have a life outside of it, too!
"No man is an island. Burying yourself in books and neglecting any form of socialization just to achieve being a Summa Cum Laude is, for me, a bad trade-off," he claims. "After all, this world is not just about book knowledge. Instead, it relies heavily on connections with other people." And his org, the UP Industrial Engineering (IE) Club, played a huge role in giving him an avenue to do so.
We all know it's not easy to juggle org tasks and maintain high grades at the same time. For Johntee, time management became the key to balancing every aspect of his life. “With time management, I believe the most essential thing to keep in mind is prioritization. Prioritization plays a key role in moments wherein you have multiple tasks with nearly the same deadlines. For me, I prioritized being a student more than being an org member. This, however, does not mean that you completely ignore your responsibilities in your org."
When he's not busy doing org work, he indulges himself with leisurely activities such as playing in bands, singing in a choir, and playing video games.
Reaching For Academic Excellence
As much as most people consider him a diligent academic achiever in college, he confesses that he's a whole lot different from his high school self. Back then, he admits that he's "far more chill" than his college self.
For Johntee, the desire to do his best in his acads started in college. It was further fueled when he and his friend Quirby Alberto, who's also a fellow Industrial Engineering Summa Cum Laude graduate, heard of the news during their fourth year in college that there are still no potential Summas in their batch. He says all they could think about during that moment was, "Try natin habulin."
"That was the start of a great journey towards academic excellence," he shares. "Part of going through it is realizing your potential and focusing on harnessing it. Along with the motivation of our batchmates and friends, we were able to succeed in our journey."
Despite being a Summa Cum Laude, he admits that college wasn't a piece of cake. “During one of my first major subjects, I got a paper that was graded in the line of 20s. It was disheartening, but it was also a huge wake-up call that college won’t be a walk in the park," he confesses. "With that, I gave my best to the succeeding drafts of the paper and got a decent score in the end. I want to believe that failure should never be an end point. Instead, it should be a springboard to get yourself up and running again, better than ever."
As Johntee embarks on a new journey towards adulthood, he's set to venture into the corporate world as an engineer and is eyeing to obtain his Master's degree in the near future.
Discovering The Secret To Success
If there's anything that Johntee would credit his achievements to, having a strong faith is at the top of his list. “God has made all things possible. For every exam, I pray. For every presentation, I pray. For every competition, I pray. This gave me the inner peace that I am not alone in this journey and a greater Being is guiding me along the way," he says.
But, as we all know, faith without work won't really accomplish anything. As much as his faith enabled him to get through the trials that come with being a Summa Cum Laude, his hard work and perseverance ultimately helped him reach his goal.
"The honor of Summa Cum Laude does not come easily," Jonhtee confirms. "Instead, it demands the best of you—and the best of you entails a lot of hard work. Perseverance also plays a key role as it allows you to surpass complacency and reach for greater heights." He adds, "Upon reaching the cut-off grade for Summa Cum Laude, I did not stop striving for excellence. It was already part of a mindset that I have developed over time."
The people surrounding him also provided him with that much needed boost whenever he lacked motivation. "The support of everyone who has been part of my college life also contributed to this success: the teachers who tirelessly answered my questions, my friends who never failed to encourage me when I was down, and my family who showered me with love."
He also thanks his alma mater for equipping him with the necessary knowledge and practice to be able to put his skills to good use. "The UP environment gave me the chance to meet and collaborate with people from all walks of life. Simply seeing how different their perspectives are from mine greatly broadened my understanding of the complexity of society. And in looking forward to serving this country, this deeper level of understanding is necessary," he concludes.
Paying It Forward
Johntee is a firm believer that diligence will take you to places you've never imagined before. His advice to aspiring Summa Cum Laudes? "Hard work is the way. They say that hard work beats talent anytime, and I agree with this," he claims.
"I was surely not born a genius, but with enough hard work, I was able to achieve my dreams. It also pays not to be hindered by your past circumstances. This year’s pool of Summa Cum Laudes is composed of a diverse group of people. This testifies that you are responsible for your own fate. Success or failure, it is your choice."
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Photographs from Johntee Tantuco and UP Industrial Engineering (IE) Club.