From cancer survivor to board topnotcher

Byron John Morales Gillana
Byron John Morales GillanaContributed photo

IN THE realm of academic excellence and personal triumph, one story has stood out -- that of a young Cebuano who defied the odds, conquered cancer, and emerged as the lone topnotcher from Cebu in the recent licensure exam for Electronics Engineering.

Byron John Morales Gillana, 24, a graduate from the University of San Carlos, placed eighth in the Electronics Engineering Licensure Examination given on April 17, 2024 with an average rate of 87.50 percent.

Gillana was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma in 2022, but despite the physical, emotional, and financial challenges that accompanied his diagnosis, he refused to let adversity define him.

Enduring grueling chemotherapy and radiation treatments, he demonstrated remarkable strength in the face of adversity. He said that through the darkest days of his illness, he remained focused on his dreams, refusing to let cancer derail his aspirations.

“Overcoming cancer shifted my perspective on life and taught me to trust in His [God] plan because if you work hard and believe it enough, prosperity is a matter of when,” he said.

When he learned that he was one of the topnotchers, he said it was a surreal experience given that it was a culmination of his hard work, as he wanted to be like his older cousin who was successful in the field.

“There are a lot of people I see as role models like my cousin who is a successful ECE or my cousin who is a lawyer. They have specific characteristics which I want to emulate but I am a keen believer on finding my own path wherever it may take me,” he said.

For the techniques and strategies, he recommended the active recall, wherein you have to quiz yourself or break down the concepts you learned so that it would get better chances of retention.

“It is also good to make some flashcards or find some on the internet to quiz yourself after learning a certain concept,” he said.

He said spaced repetition is particularly helpful in memorizing formulas.

“You have to use them often and memorize them in spaced intervals until your brain is trained to retrieve the information on the fly,” he said.

“Be consistent. Never let the brain rust even for one day or it will lose its momentum. It may be good to get some rest days but it's good to keep your brain active even then. As they say, consistency is key,” he added.

Although with a license in hand now, Gillana said he has not yet entirely mapped it out, as he remained undecided on what path he wants to choose and he does not want to write off potential career prospects. What he was sure of is that he wanted to keep on learning and hopefully become a seasoned professional in the field.

He said he underwent a streak of depression and even planned to quit school. Fortunately, his family was always there for him to support and keep him positive.

“It's been a long journey, a hard one and if you would tell myself on 2022 that I would graduate with Latin and even be a topnotcher, I would not say ‘You're crazy,’ instead I would say ‘Thank God,’” he said. (CAV)


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