Son of Fish Vendor Lands Top 9 in Engineering Exam – GineersNow

My father is a carpenter, and my mother is a fish vendor.
Son of Carpenter and Fish Vendor Lands Top 9 in Engineering Exam
Most successful people started from nothing. Despite their circumstances, they were determined to aim for the stars and earn a name for themselves.
That is exactly what Engr. Mc Arn Loi Lacson did as he battled through financial difficulties in college and emerged as one of the topnotchers in the September 2021 Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Licensure Exam, with a rating of 81.32%.
Mc Arn Loi, fondly known as Mac, came from a life of hardship. His dad works as a project-based carpenter, while his mom sells dried fish.
As their family’s income was limited, all they had was enough to sustain their day-to-day necessities.
Being aware of their financial situation from an early age, Mac dreamed of one day helping his parents and giving them a life of comfort.
He thought that becoming an accountant would be the answer to their problems.
And since he was already very into math during high school and enjoyed playing with numbers, he truly believed it was his path.
When Mac decided to enroll in the University of Southern Mindanao in Kabacan, Cotabato, right after his high school graduation, he was set on taking Accountancy.
Unfortunately, fate had bigger plans for him.
He didn’t qualify for an accounting course, forcing him to enroll in a new one.
That was when his older sister suggested a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering.
Mac had doubts about the course, especially since he wasn’t aware of what an agricultural and biosystems engineer does
Engr. Mac doesn’t know the job opportunities that are waiting for him after graduation.
Despite his worries, he trusted his sister and enrolled in Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering.
After a semester, he realized that he had actually developed a love for the field.
The major subjects were very interesting for him, and he still got to do all sorts of math problems, especially Algebra and Calculus.
His newly discovered love for the course led him to become one of the top students in his class, and he couldn’t believe that he almost missed out on such an opportunity had he taken Accountancy.
Academic-wise, Mac encountered no issues.
He often passed his subjects with flying colors, and his professors loved him.
Unfortunately, college wasn’t all rainbows for the aspiring engineer.
While his grades were outstanding, his life outside the classroom was not so much.
Their family struggled with money, especially since his two older sisters were also in college during that time.
All three of them had to rent a boarding house near the university.
They shared a room to cut costs.
But even then, their mom would frequently request the landlady that the payment would be delayed.
Mac and his sisters would also make do with Php 300 as a weekly food budget.
More often than not, they would divide a single fried chicken among themselves or buy one veggie soup.
Once they ran out of money, they settled with only soy sauce and rice.
Their living situation didn’t discourage Mac one bit though. Instead, it pushed him even more.
Before he knew it, he was finally graduating college with a Magna Cum Laude honor!
But Mac was only getting started.
Soon after he graduated, he initially planned on reviewing for the board exam.
However, he learned that the exam, scheduled for September 2020, was canceled due to the pandemic.
The next exam date was September 2021, and since it was too far away, Mac decided to postpone his review and start working instead.
He really wanted to begin helping his parents right away, and thankfully, it didn’t take him long to land a field technician role for a private company in Pangasinan.
His job supported his family’s daily expenses and allowed him to save enough funds to cover his board exam review fees.
When May 2021 finally came, Mac knew he had to start getting ready for the upcoming licensure test.
He only had four months left, so there was no more time to waste.
He immediately filed for a four-month leave to help him concentrate on the review.
Lucky for him, his manager (who also happened to be an engineer) was very gracious and approved his leave without question.
For four whole months, Mac buried himself in review materials he collected from previous board exam takers and from the Mindanao State University – GSC review center.
He optimized his time and made sure that he followed the daily and weekly schedule he set for himself.
However, even after reviewing full-time for four months, Mac knew that he still couldn’t cover all possible topics.
That’s why he couldn’t help but find it very hard on the day of the board exam.
There were tons of questions he didn’t expect to pop up, and other topics he didn’t realize would be included.
He still prayed to be a topnotcher, though, hoping that there was even a sliver of a chance he could see his name on the list.
Several days after the board exam, his prayers were answered.
Right on the Top 9 spot was his name in big, bold letters. MC ARN LOI LAGARTO LACSON, 81.32%.
At first, he couldn’t believe what his friends had told him.
It took him a good few minutes to digest the information.
When he finally realized he wasn’t dreaming, he cried his heart out and called his parents to tell them the great news.
GineersNow managed to get an interview with Engr. Lacson.
Here is the full transcript of the said interview.
Actually, this was not the course I first prioritized when I took the college entrance examination at USM.
Unfortunately, then, I did not qualify for the course (Accountancy) I was aiming for.
Then my sister suggested that I take up engineering.
And so, I did.
During enrollment, I still doubt if engineering is for me, and I don’t know yet what this course is all about.
But after the first semester of my first year, I’m thankful that God pursued and led me to this course.
I was overwhelmed and grateful for all the opportunities this course has to offer.
My inspiration to study and pursue this career is my parents, and the driving force is our family’s life situation.
I saw the hardship of life at a very young age.
We don’t even own a house or land to sustain our daily expenses or to buy something we want because I know that we can’t afford it.
I understand that my parents can provide just enough to sustain our necessities.
However, I and my siblings are very grateful and privileged to have this fantastic opportunity to go to school as this is the best gift we can offer to our parents. 
Despite all life adversities, there is something that we can be proud of.
All subjects related to Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering certainly captured my interest.
Algebra, Calculus, and anything related to solving certain problems in Irrigation and Drainage Engineering, Farm Mechanization, and Farm Structure Designs.
My least-liked subject in engineering is Thermodynamics and Heat Transfer because I can’t relate to most of the topics during lecture hours.
Aside from that, the other least difficult subject I really find so hard has something to do with grammar, spelling, or constructing sentences/paragraphs in English.
I don’t have subject failures, but I do have disappointing academic performances, just like a typical college student.
But I always told myself to do my best and that it’s okay to have failures and disappointments sometimes because it’s normal, and there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as you have learned from it and become wiser.
Financial challenges. We are struggling with money.
I have two older sisters who are still in college when I am in my first year.
My one sibling is graduating, and the other one is in 3rd year at that time.
We rent a boarding house in Kabacan, sharing a common room to reduce expenses.
There were times that my mom would ask the landlady if the rent would be delayed due to tons of school expenses.
Every time I look at my parents’ eyes, I can see the struggles and how tired they are of finding and borrowing money to shoulder our school expenses.
There are times of many times that the 3 of us will buy one fried chicken or one vegetable soup worth 10 pesos, and we share it in one meal because we only budgeted P300 for food per week, and if there is no budget left, we usually put soy sauce in the rice or other alternatives.
But despite all of this, we manage and motivate ourselves to study well. Nevertheless, we survived that.
Study the lessons/topics in advance.
Teach and share your knowledge or what you have learned with your classmates or your study buddies.
But I can’t teach everything to everyone, as my knowledge is limited, and aside from that, letting them explore and find solutions to problems on their own is way better.
Engineering is a tough course. I can still remember those sleepless nights I spent as an engineering student trying to beat the deadline.
But let me remind you to never forget that there is life outside the classroom.
Just enjoy and have fun but never forget your responsibilities as a college or as an engineering student.
There will be times that you will get tired of living the life of a good student.
Sometimes, you have to open your world to other possibilities, or more appropriately – opportunities.
When I was a college student, I joined and experienced fraternities, conventions, field trips, and even simple road trips, and got together with friends.
These have all spiced up my then rather boring college life.
True enough, I became happier and college seemed to have become more meaningful.
After all, we don’t want to look back at regrets; rather, we would want to look back on happy memories.
I have experienced a lot of pressure from people around me. As their famous phrase, “You are not expected to pass the board exam, but you are expected to top”.
I got tired of hearing that. I got tired of the pressure I put on myself. I got tired of trying to meet the expectations of people around me.
I feel disappointed and discouraged sometimes because what I really need is good motivation, or they would say it’s okay not to top the board exam and just do your best always.
But then again, I told myself that all my academic achievements when I was studying were already enough and that I have nothing to prove to them.
-After my graduation last July 2020, I was supposed to take the board exam that same year, but our board exam was canceled because of a pandemic and was moved to September 2021.
So I decided to work a few months after graduation to earn money and sustain my daily living expenses, help my parents, and save money in preparation for my board exam review.
In May 2021, I took a leave to focus on my review.
However, due to time constraints, that 4 months of the full-time review was still not enough for me to cover all topics possible to come out during the board exam.
Yes, I did enroll in Mindanao State University – GSC review center for a two-month online review.
It started 3 months prior to the board exam.
I do recommend enrolling in a review center, but it will always depend on every board exam taker as we need to consider their life situations and it’s a case-to-case basis.
The review center did boost my confidence and helped me review topics I don’t know yet or I forgot.
They taught commendable techniques and tips ensuring that you are well equipped.
In my case, I did not rely on everything I needed to learn from a review center because not all topics will be discussed and covered in just 2 months.
In other words, you have to optimize your time and be flexible.
I really find it difficult. As predicted, lots of questions and topics were not expected and came out during the board exam.
After the board exam, first, I thank God that the battle has ended. Whatever the result is, God knew I did my best.
I was hoping to be on the list of topnotchers, but I did not assume nor expect to the top because I know for sure, I will be disappointed.
At that time, I already assumed that I will not top the board exam knowing its difficulty level. Passing the board exam is already enough for me.
– I took a pause for a while trying to digest every word uttered by my best friends as they are the ones who first knew the result and then they told me.
I really did not expect to be a topnotcher. I cried a lot that time inside my room because of joy as I did not expect it.
Minutes after the results came out, I called my parents and was very excited to tell them the good news.
Indeed, passing the board exam is a very fulfilling thing and topping the board exam is a bonus.
First, I owe it to God for giving me this blessing.
Second, I owe it to my parents, as they are the ones who motivate me to study hard and continue my dreams as an engineer. To my siblings, for all-around support.
To my best buddies and fraternal brothers and sisters of the Sigma Rho fraternity for believing me.
My instructors in the ABE department and to the College of Engineering and Information Technology – USM for the knowledge and skills I acquired.
To my relatives, aunts, and uncles, and to everyone who helped me in any way.
Thank you so much!
Form the university, I got cash incentives
From the review center, they refund the full review center fee.
My most effective study habit has something to do with time management and calendar/scheduling.
I created my weekly and daily schedule to avoid cramming what topic I will focus on first and where to start.
Early in the morning, I focus on concepts and definitions and do lots of reading.
After breakfast, we conduct an assessment exam within the group, sharing what we have learned but mostly are open discussions.
In the afternoon, I would usually solve lots of problems.
Wake up early and sleep early.
Take time to relax and pause if you are feeling exhausted.
If your goal is to pass the board exam, set aside for a little while other less important things and focus on your goal.
If your goal is to top, just don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
You must study hard and study smart.
Always remind yourself what motivates and to whom you dedicate it most. Self-motivation is the best motivation for me.
I believe that board exams do not determine if you are a genius. It does not guarantee that you will pass or top the board exam because you are the smartest.
It has something to do with proper and enough preparation either in a review center, self-review while working, or even in a group review.
In my case, 4 months of the full review was still not enough to cater to all topics or subjects for the board exam.
But what I did was to put lots of reading into the definitions and terms and solve lots of problems.
It’s not enough that you just read and solve it, you must understand the concepts of problems you solved and be familiar with them.
As you may know, most problems during the board exam might look familiar or somehow related to what you have encountered during the review, but with a different approach.
Not everything you will know.
I suggest having a small group review.
Teach and share what you have learned that might be helpful and listen to them if they will share something you don’t know yet.
It is the best review for yourself.
You will not lose the learnings you gain, in fact, it will boost the retention of that topic in your memory.
You will also gain something from others. It is very effective and productive based on my experience.
Find time to relax and don’t pressure yourself too much – might be on a weekly basis where 1 day per week is allotted for leisure or do whatever you want to do.
Last but most important, always pray and have faith in God.
Start your day with a prayer.
In everything that you do, thank God and always ask Him for guidance, wisdom, and knowledge.
Father: Larne Biadoma Lacson – Carpenter – he usually works if there is a house project available.
Mother: Lorna Lagarto Lacson – Dried Fish Vendor – she sells dried fish from my uncle’s business and gets paid by it.
Sibling(oldest): Nathy Sheila Lacson Wadsworth – this is my sister to my father’s side, 10 years older than me, got married but generous enough to help us financially when we are still studying.
2nd oldest: Rose Arne Lou Lacson – She is 2 years older than me
3rd oldest: Ma. Lornie Lyn Lacson – She is 1 year older than me
I am the youngest and only boy among four siblings in the family. We all graduated from college in God’s grace.
No, my parents are not the ones who encourage me, but they have full support in every decision I make.
It was my sister, Ma. Lornie Lyn, who introduced and encouraged me to study Agricultural Engineering.
She said that engineering students are popular in college.
Right now, I’m single.
Every profession plays an important role, but what makes engineering important is that it helps fix society’s problems by introducing new and innovative ideas, and promoting sustainability and productivity in society.
Some might or will think that there is no specific, wiser, or better solution to a problem, but it actually does.
In college, as engineering students, we are trained to be good analytical thinkers and good problem solvers, and we are equipped with relevant skills that we need to learn for the betterment of the society we live in.
I see myself in a less stress-free environment.
Probably, I’ll start a small business where I am the boss of my own with flexible time or maybe at the top management of a company (public or private).
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He lost his scholarship, his family was in financial turmoil, his best friend died, and his father was engrossed in immoral vices. This engineer’s topnotcher struggles in life are so painful to read.
The reason will surprise you.


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