Civil engineering topnotcher
Civil engineering topnotcher worked as carpenter, factory worker and Jollibee crew to pay his tuition fee and survive daily expenses.
When life throws you lemons, make sure to make the best lemonade out of it. That is exactly what Engr. Jobert De La Cruz, the Top 10 of the May 2019 Civil Engineering board exams, did when he was facing various challenges throughout his college life.
And now, thanks to his hard work and positive mindset, he is living the best life as a college lecturer and review instructor, inspiring aspiring engineers like him to reach for their dreams.
When he was in grade school, Jobert had no intentions of taking up Civil Engineering at all.
In fact, what he really wanted was to become a fireman.
However, his opinion about his future career changed when he was just in 3rd-year high school.
That time, he took up Drafting as an elective subject and realized that he enjoyed drawing architectural plans and making miniature houses.
However, when he graduated from high school in 2010, his parents couldn’t afford to send him to college straight away because of financial difficulties.
But just like the other civil engineering topnotchers that we’ve interviewed, Jobert never gave up his dreams and instead focused on finding a solution.
From a Poor Family
So instead of enrolling in school the following academic year, he decided to help his father in his part-time carpentry work.
Yes, you read it right. He is a carpenter at a young age to survive their financial challenges.
He initially wanted a formal job with an employer for him to earn more, but because he was still underage, he settled on becoming his father’s assistant.
One year working with his dad had significantly fueled Jobert’s passion for building structures and drawing plans.
That was why when he was able to enroll in June 2011, he was set to take up Civil Engineering and make his father proud.
However, life had other plans for Jobert.
When he tried applying for the course at one of the least expensive universities in Cebu, he was informed that his high school grades were not qualified for engineering courses.
Not wanting to give up on his dreams, Jobert decided to take up BS Industrial Technology Major in Civil Technology instead.
He studied diligently during his first semester and was able to pass all of his subjects.
Fire, Health & More Challenges
But just when he thought that everything was finally falling into place for him, in November 2011, their house in Mandaue City, Cebu, was destroyed in a fire incident.
The fire ravaged their entire assets along with their hard earned possessions… and nothing was saved.
He was extremely devastated by the event and was already thinking why life was challenging him too hard.
Despite the incident, though, Jobert pushed to enroll for his second semester and was determined to finish his degree.
However, only months after the fire incident, in March 2012, life challenged him yet again.
He was diagnosed with appendicitis and had to undergo surgery, pushing his family into deeper debt.
Because of this, his parents couldn’t afford to send him to school again.
So in order to help them repay their debts, he decided to stop attending school and apply for a job immediately after he recovered.
He was hired in a factory that same year, where he stayed for two years until February 2014.
Fortunately, he managed to save enough to go to college again, and this time, he was finally able to enroll in Civil Engineering at the University of Cebu since they don’t require any qualifying grades for engineering courses.
However, he knew he still needed money to continue his studies, so he decided to become a working student and applied as a part-time Jollibee crew in June 2014.
Just like many working students, Jobert had a hard time juggling his job and his studies.
He struggled with his time every day as he would wake up at four in the morning to get to his 5 am to 12 pm job and then be at school for his 2 pm to 9 pm classes.
Oftentimes, he would get home at roughly 10 pm and still do his homework, leaving him with only a little time for sleep.
That was why it didn’t come as a surprise for him that he would get 3.0 in most of his subjects and would even drop some subjects due to lack of time.
He admitted that he was always in survival mode and wasn’t learning anything as his only goal was just to pass the semester.
20 Pesos Food Allowance
Jobert also struggled with money despite his part-time job at the fast-food chain.
Just like any Filipino working student, he’s overworked and underpaid. Living from paycheck to paycheck to make ends meet.
More often than not, he would go to school with only Php 20.00 ($0.42 cents) in his wallet for food allowance.
Thankfully, he had a solid support system behind his back.
His girlfriend and friends would happily lend him some money when he needed it the most.
In 2018, Jobert finally got his Civil Engineering diploma, and his parents couldn’t be prouder of his achievement.
But the then 24-year-old didn’t want to stop there.
He knew that he wasn’t a potential topnotcher at all, but he wanted to change his life for the better.
So the following morning after he graduated, instead of celebrating and going out with friends, what he did was open his reviewer books and start preparing for the board exams.
He didn’t want to procrastinate and immediately created a study plan to follow.
Couldn’t Afford a Boarding House
He also started looking into review centers as he wanted to maximize his time before the board exams, and he realized that being in a review center would greatly help him with this goal.
But because he was short on budget, he eventually decided against it.
That was until he met Engr. Chrysler Duaso, an instructor at Gillesania Engineering Review and Training Center (GERTC).
Engr. Duaso introduced him to GETRC’s review director, Engr. Gillesania, who was moved by his determination and decided to enroll him in the review center for free.
However, Jobert’s struggles didn’t end there. Since he couldn’t afford a boarding house near the review center, he needed to travel to the facility every day, something that consumed both his time and energy.
It would take roughly an hour and a half to get from his house to the review center, totaling almost three hours vice versa.
But not wanting to put the great opportunity to waste, the aspiring engineer would use his time to solve or derive formulas in his mind whenever he was commuting.
He also put his best foot forward to make the most out of the materials from the review center.
Every day, he stuck with a strict schedule of waking up at 7 am and studying and solving at least 100 to 200 past board problems until 10 pm.
His only breaks were for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
He also created a study plan that included dividing the whole six months of review and focusing on the subjects where he was the weakest.
You need a cohesive study plan to survive the engineering licensure exam.
For the first three months, he focused on Mathematics, Surveying, and Transportation Engineering (MSTE).
This was because he was not a math wizard and didn’t understand Calculus during his college days.
The next two months were dedicated to Structural Engineering and Hydraulics and Geotechnical Engineering, and the remaining month was for preparation.
On the first day of the board exams, Jobert found MSTE really difficult despite the grueling review he had done.
There were plenty of questions he didn’t know how to solve, and he almost gave up. At the end of the first day, he knew that the number of his sure answers wouldn’t be enough for him to land a spot on the Top 10.
Nonetheless, he kept going through the second day and prayed to God to guide him.
When the results came out several days after, he was fast asleep and forgot to check the PRC website.
He was only awoken by his friend who tagged him on a Facebook post, congratulating him for his achievement in grabbing 10th place with a rating of 92.15!
Jobert was too shocked by it that he immediately poked his siblings awake to tell them the good news.
He also contacted his loved ones, especially his girlfriend, and excitedly announced the board exam results.
Following the PRC announcement, several job opportunities started flooding in for the young engineer.
He was offered a position in some design firms in and out of Cebu and even a teaching opportunity at his university.
Currently, he is now working as an instructor at the University of Cebu and his review center, GERTC. He also started a YouTube channel just this year, where he gives tutorials on several Civil Engineering subjects.
I managed to talk with Engr. Jobert on Facebook, where he shared his inspiring life story. Below is the full transcript of the interview.
Why did you choose this course? Who or what was your inspiration?
My father is a part-time carpenter, and I used to be his assistant every time.
That’s the biggest factor why I choose Civil Engineering, I liked to build and draw plans.
What are your favorite subjects in your entire engineering study? How about least liked subjects?
My favorite subject during my undergrad was the Engineering Mechanics because for me, it doesn’t require much formulas, while the subject I hated the most was Calculus.
I really cannot understand it until then I have enrolled in a review center.
Have you had any subject failures or disappointing academic performance to the very least? If yes, what did you do about it? How did you cope?
Since I am a working student from my first year until I graduated.
Yes, you read it right, I have failed some of my subjects and even dropped some.
Actually my grades in college are majority 3.0 equivalent to 75%. During that time my only goal is just to pass the subjects even I do not gain much knowledge. I’m always on survival mode.
What are your most difficult and most painful experience during college life? What are your greatest struggles while in college (death, money, relationships, work, ideology conflict, etc…)?
The most difficult part of my college life was really the money.
Literally, I am so poor that I can only bring with me 20 pesos for my food allowance when going to school.
Thanks to my girlfriend and friends though, they lend me some if I really needed it the most.
Any topnotcher study tips or tricks that you think others should emulate from you?
After the day I graduated, I am not a potential topnotcher, but I want to change my life.
The next morning after I graduated, I open my reviewer books directly, even the formal review is not starting yet. Stop procrastinating! I really pushed my limits. I wake up 7 am every day.
After having breakfast, practice solving problems, [and] study, study, study until 10 pm. Of course, have a break for lunch and dinner.
Board Exam Experience
What were the greatest struggles that you experienced while preparing for the board exam? What did you do to overcome them?
Literally for me, it’s really the money.
I cannot afford a boarding house near the review center. I need to travel every day, and it is time and energy consuming.
Every minute really counts for me that time.
Did you enroll in a center for your review? Do you recommend doing so? Which one did you go to?
I enrolled to Gillesani Engineering Review and Training Center (GERTC), thanks to Engr. Chrysler Duaso (GERTC Instructor).
He introduced me to Engr. Gillesania (Review Director) and enrolled me for free. That was really a blessing.
It is very recommendable! No doubt.
How did you find the board exam? Easy, average, or difficult?
It’s difficult, I almost want to give up in the Subject MSTE (Mathematics, Surveying and Transportation Engineering).
That was the first subject on the exam.
And I feel I cannot land on the top 10 because there are many problems I cannot solve.
What were your expectations after you took the board exam and before the results were out? Did you have a feeling that you will be at the top?
After the exams, I counted the items I did not solve specially for the MSTE (the subject I’m really worried about), and I really thought I cannot be on the top 10 because of that.
But honestly, I really believe on signs that God sends us.
Every time I go out of our house before the results of the board, I saw this bible verse on some streets in Cebu, “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
In all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight Proverbs 3:5-6.”
My girlfriend messaged this bible verse to me the day before the board exam, and it really gives me goose bumps until now.
What did you do the first minute you discovered you topped the board exam?
I fell asleep when the result came out, and one of my friends tagged me on a post on Facebook and checked it 11 pm. I landed top 10 in the exam.
I and my siblings that time slept on the same room, I poked them and spread the good news. They were very happy.
I contacted directly my love ones, especially my girlfriend who supported me from day one. I really cannot believe it. I really cried the next morning while I’m taking a bath (I do not want them to see me crying).
Who do you owe your success to?
I owe this to God. Without Him I am nothing, and of course to my loved ones and friends who supported me during my hard times.
What incentives did you get from your university and review center after your board exam success?
100,000 Pesos from University of Cebu, 10,000 Pesos from review center (GERTC)
Share your most effective study habits.
I have a pacing. During review, I divided the whole 6 months of review and focused on the subjects that are my weakness.
For example, [during] the first three months, I studied MSTE I give so much times on this because I really need to cope up with this.
The next two months I studied Structural Engineering and Hydraulics and Geotechnical Engineering (This completes the three subjects for the board).
The remaining 1 month of preparation, I solved past board problems everyday ranging from 100-200 problems.
That’s for me to refresh the principles I studied the past few months.
Give 5 important tips (in bullets) for future board exam takers who aim to become topnotchers.
* Don’t procrastinate.
* Be faithful in studying.
* Solve as many problems as you can. It’s better you start that habit when you are 3rd year of 4th year in college. That was the thing that I missed [doing] (preparation is the key).
* Be always motivated, always think, for whom what you are doing.
* Don’t rely on your own; seek guidance every time. I always do that even now in work.
Family & Love Life
Describe your family, parents, siblings
We are 7 in all in the family including my parents.
I’m the second one. Our eldest now have her own family.
Next to me is a Licensed Professional Teacher, and my two siblings are [in] Senior High [to] this date.
Did your parents encourage you to study engineering?
Actually, for my parents, any course will do. For them, it’s only to have a diploma. But they were very happy that they have an engineer now.
Are you in a relationship? Or it’s complicated?
Yes, I’m in a 5-year relationship now, and hopefully forever.
1. Describe engineering in one word.
2. Why engineering is important in our society?
Engineering and technology fuels the world nowadays.
3. Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
A freelance structural Engineer and a lecturer to young ones.