The Makings of a CPA Board Examination Topnotcher, Dennis Magallanes of DFCAMCLP
The CPA Board Examination: The Beginning
I have just taken the CPA Board Exam, and there I was roaming down the streets of the city, walking in a frenzy with nowhere to go. I have to do this to contain the stress, lest my brain splatters out of the pavement. The results will be out soon --- in a few hours, minutes --- the waiting seemed endless!
Having tire myself from all the walking, I went home to rest and declared to myself, "Once I go up these stairs, I will be another person!" While I was on my way up, my sister hollered, “Hey brother, you made it to top 10!" The good news was relayed to her by Mr. Danilo Bataller, another CPA who graduated from the same school! I suddenly felt queasy and it all seemed like a dream. It finally dawned on me, that it may be real! I touched the image of the Lord, Jesus Christ, and said " Thank you Lord for this gift! This is all for Your Glory!"
I then heard my phone ring, and it was the Human Resources Manager of SGV (Sycip, Gorres and Velayo) who confirmed that I made it to top 10 in the CPA Board Exams of May 2011! He invited me for breakfast to talk if I would be interested in joining the firm.
The Uphill Climb Towards the CPA Board Exam
Reminiscing how it all begun, seemed like ages ago…
I was the youngest child of a second family, of couples who came from the south. My parents were both from Davao, and that was where I was raised as a child. My father had five children with his legal wife. There were two of us that he sired with my mother. The couplings of my parents were a bit hazy. All I knew was that, my mom who was barely out of her teens, was entrusted to my father to pay for a debt incurred by my maternal grandparents, due to a long drawn out court case. She worked as a domestic helper to help pay for her parent’s debt.
The unlikely coupling may have started there – between a man in his 40s with a girl who was barely 18 years of age. My older sister and I were born out of that union. I never realized how complicated my situation was, since my stepmother was civil and kind to us. I was also treated like a regular sibling by my brothers and sisters from the original family. My childhood was quite normal, until the time when my parents decided to separate.
What came next was a battle for legal custody for both my sister and I. By a twist of faith, my father was awarded sole custody, and we continued to stay with him until I was in my second year of high school. My studies had an auspicious start. I was not an extraordinary student – neither too bright nor at the bottom rung. I studied in the local public school all throughout my early years. All I remembered was that, I enjoyed all the schooling and the childhood fun that went with it. It was not that easy though, my father was not a rich man. Circumstances forced us to work on the farm, plant vegetables, and hawked various wares just to survive.
In my second year of high school, my mother decided to make me stay with her in Manila. She was then a newly graduate of a teaching course, having worked her way up from being a domestic helper at various homes while studying. At that time, she was staying with a market stall owner and was helping out in manning the store. Hers was not an easy life, and I was not spared of the hardship either. I had to help her in the market despite of my frail constitution, just so we both can live.
I had plans of taking up an engineering course in one of the colleges in Metro Manila. I took the entrance exam at one university in the city, the Technological University of the Philippines (TUP) – but I failed the exam. Being long-time residents of Las Pinas, I was aware of the existence of a local college that was run by the city government, the Dr. Filemon C. Aguilar Memorial College of Las Pinas (DFCAMCLP), which was near my place of residence. I tried my luck by taking the college entrance test, with the option of enrolling in its tough Accountancy Program. I was one of those who made it, and to my chagrin, saw my name inserted and written in ink, in the school’s computerized list of successful examinees.
The College Years
My study of accounting was never that intense when I was in college. I was ranked as the top 31 student of the Accountancy Department in 1st year. I was not serious with my studies at that time. I played billiards, gambled my money, and did other irrelevant things. My grades were respectable, but not extraordinary. I even managed to get a lousy grade of 81% in Speech and Oral Communication in the first semester of my second year.
My top-ranking student status was dashed when I got grades of 83% in the National Service Training Program, Politics and Governance, and Business Correspondence/Technical Writing course. I was just like any other regular student who roamed around the campus hallways – nothing extraordinary in looks and demeanor, and would not even stand out in a crowd of rambunctious college students.
My interest in accounting did not really happen in school. Though I had a number of professors that I admired intensely, my love for the subject started when I saw all the accounting books in the garage of the Muhlach Farm where an aunt worked as caretaker. That was the defining moment of my college life, which happened rather auspiciously.
One book that I saw was an accounting book with multi-colored acetates, and it earnestly struck my fancy! It explained the flow of accounting in graphic color, and in minute details. I began to realize right there and then, that accounting can be one fascinating subject to have a go at. From then on, my interest in accountancy had taken root and started to flourish. My interest and fascination with the subject did not wane, until such time when I finally took the CPA Board Examination on May 2011!
During that time, I borrowed books in libraries in such a frenzy, that my little room got filled up with nothing, but books. I was real curious about accounting concepts, techniques and its actual application in real life. However, I was more interested in how I can apply it to a prospective business project that will help people's lives, rather than of getting good grades in school. I was not grade-conscious while in college, so I did not mind it much . I just lapped up on reading all the accounting materials that I can find, and totally immersed myself with everything that I can lay my hands on.
Looking back, I can say, that I was fortunate in being a part of the class of 2010, since it was the last batch where the mandatory qualifying exam for Accountancy was waived. The local college is now tougher on their Accountancy requirements, that any breach in the school's grading system, can pull you out of the program immediately.
The reason for this conjecture was that, I got a grade of 77% on Obligations and Contracts on my third year; and a grade of 76% on Auditing in an IT Environment, a major subject, on my fourth year. For somebody who was intensely passionate about his studies, these debacles could throw you off balance. However, my spiritual and religious upbringing helped me surpassed life’s trials, to eventually survive it. I would say, that God helped me by taking control of my life on those trying times. With God's grace, my equanimity and sanity were kept intact in one of the most difficult phases of my life.
My Review for the CPA Board Examination
As early as my third year of college, I had everything planned on how to review. This was inspired by Mr. Philip Fernandez, who made it to the Top 11 position in the May 2008 CPA Board Examination. After my graduation in May, I photocopied the past review materials from one review center and took it with me to the province of Davao. It was sort of a spiritual awakening, since I was reviewing everywhere: under the twilight skies, in the beach, under the trees, in our backyard - well, everywhere that I can sit on!
I stayed at my grandmother’s house on the mountaintop to study, and strolled down to town, where my father lives, to while away my time. I came up with a written plan on how to review – what to study on a particular day, the number of hours that I will spend studying, and the time for meditation and prayers to the Lord! I religiously followed my plan, and was surprised, that with all the intensity of the self-review --- I still managed to get a good night’s sleep every night!
The crucial review came six months later, when I started my official review at the CPAR (Certified Public Accountants Review Center) in Manila City. I can honestly say, that I was ready for it. My six months of self-review in the province, did me a lot of good in understanding the review materials. I came up with another written plan, that focused more on the crucial part of the review.
The plan was done on a day to day basis, with specific guidelines on what to study for that day. It also incorporated the time for God and other personal things. To my amazement, it worked perfectly as planned. I enjoyed all of the experiences with the three important key elements in mind - Prayers, Devotion, and Fellowship (PDF), as I went through the intensive review process.
The result of the first and final pre-board examinations at CPAR were encouraging! My school, DFCAMC, became ecstatic when I ranked 7th and 4th place, respectively, on the pre-board exams. Expectations were high that I might be the first student of the school to be among the top ten passers in the CPA Board Exams. I was beginning to feel the pressure and the heat. It cannot be denied, however, that my eventual performance would put my small local college on the academic map! The feeling was intense; the pressure was horrible, until the wait was finally over! I was ranked 10th place in the May 2011 CPA Board Examinations! Thank you Lord for that! The Glory is Yours!
POSTCRIPT from Dennis Magallanes:
All of this happened because of the fear of the Lord, as He said " Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom. If you become wise, you will be the one to benefit. If you scorn wisdom, you will be the one to suffer". Proverbs CI: 10-12 NLT
FOOTNOTE: Dennis Cabunilas Magallanes now works with one of the country’s biggest auditing firm – Sycip, Gorres and Velayo (SGV) as Associate Financial Auditor. He also worked as an Associate IT Auditor with the same company, previous to this position. He is now a part of the DFCAMC faculty, as Accountancy Professor, starting the first semester of the school year, 2012.