WITH no tall skyscrapers, bustling vehicular noise and smog to blur his senses in the predominantly agricultural area, little Paul Ladesma regularly sat by their house’s window, his young mind wandering.
The boy could be seen staring afar, his short limbs supporting the weight of his head perched atop the windowsill, perhaps as he waited for the moon to appear.
But unknown to his two older siblings and parents was that in between their youngest member’s sighs were thoughts of one day contributing to the development of their beloved Gingoog City, a second-class city in Misamis Oriental.
“My hometown is still a developing city, and developing cities need buildings and infrastructure. That setup gave me the idea to take up civil engineering,” Ladesma told SunStar Cebu.
Fast forward to some 15 years, a now much older Ladesma has once again found himself a seat, only this time, it wasn’t by a windowsill to watch the sunset.
This time, it’s a front row seat to a promising future after the 22-year-old placed sixth out of 12,447 examinees who took the 2017 Civil Engineer Licensure Examination.
Ladesma, who graduated magna cum laude from the University of San Carlos, had an average of 95.80.
Ladesma, along with Marvin Ebora who placed eighth with an average of 95.45, are the only topnotchers who graduated from universities in the Visayas Region.
Ebora, for his part, is a graduate of the Cebu Institute of Technology-University.
Ladesma, though, admitted taking interest in other degree programs after graduating from high school.
“I considered joining the Philippine Military Academy maybe because I wanted to make a difference in a land scourged by rebel groups, which hinders the development around the area. But I later on decided to finally take up civil engineering,” he said.
It was in the summer of 2012 when a then 17-year-old Ladesma crossed some 262 kilometers to reach Cebu City with nothing but a luggage or two of clothes, hopes and the promise of a better Gingoog.
Although technically on unfamiliar grounds, Ladesma said he never felt homesick as the trees that surrounded his temporary residence in Barangay Talamban, Cebu City reminded him of home.
He said he took inspiration from his family who had sacrificed a lot for him to reach his dreams.
The sleepless nights and longing for his parents and siblings were finally rewarded last April with a diploma and a latin award to his name.
But the road to the title of engineer was nowhere near the finish line.
Ladesma recalled enduring mental stress, pressure and high expectations from everyone who knew of his outstanding record as a student.
It was during times like this when he found himself yet again staring afar, this time praying for God to give him strength and guidance to carry on.
He also started to focus more on monitoring his performance during their review proper to know what areas he needs to work harder on.
He added that efficient time management helped him balance his time for relaxation and review.
“Graduating magna cum laude, almost everyone was expecting that I will top the board. But I didn’t mind that. You have to focus on what you can achieve, regardless of what people will say. Don’t live a life chasing expectations set by other people,” Ladesma said.
More than topping the exam, Ladesma said he is happy to bring pride to his family and to his hometown.
“I’ve always wanted to help develop Mindanao. This is a shared vision I had with my fellow civil engineering friends,” he told SunStar Cebu.
“But developing Mindanao will be a difficult road with all these armed conflicts. So maybe if we can achieve something difficult, like topping the board exam, then maybe we can have a shot at developing Mindanao,” he added.