Department of Science and Technology Secretary Mario G. Montejo highly encourages students from public schools to apply for admission to the Philippine Science High School (DOST-PSHS) campus nearest to their community.

“We are reaching out to our youth who may be less fortunate but can be competitive in the fields of science, mathematics, and engineering,” Montejo said. “This is one way of broadening our prospects in building a pool of S&T experts who will someday become the country’s leaders.”

Montejo reinforced the message of PSHSS Executive Director Larry L. Cabatic last week that the current PSHSS management wants to “accommodate more qualifiers from less fortunate families.”

According to Dr. Cabatic, a number of qualifiers from well-off families prefer to enroll in more expensive schools anyway. Thus the new PSHSS management intends to focus on students who really need and deserve to study in the country’s premier S&T (science and technology) secondary school.

Moreover, Cabatic also said that the PSHS campuses will carry the nickname “Pisay” – a term of endearment coined by students, alumni , management, and even parents of students.

Ten years ago, it was reported that 90 percent of Pisay qualifiers were from private schools. Until recently, Cabatic said, the percentage went down to 60 percent for qualifiers from privileged families.

Pisay scholar is son of balut vendor
Among this year’s crop of freshmen is an ordinary boy who – even he himself thought of it – would be an unlikely Pisay scholar.

“I just live across Pisay,” he said as he introduced himself as Robert John P. Pecayo, Grade 7, and a resident of an urban poor community along Agham Road.

He describes his residence as “maraming beses nang nasunog (a place that  got burned many times).”  His father is a paraplegic, while his mother sells balut  (duck egg with developed chick) to provide for the family’s needs.

His elder siblings – a sister who is in high school and a brother who is in college – are separately sent to school  by two aunts, he said.

 “I didn’t know much about Pisay although it’s just across our place. It was not very open and I didn’t hear much about it in the media,” he admitted.

“When my classmates told me they were taking Pisay’s  entrance exam, I told myself, ‘Why don’t I try it too?’”

It was worth the try. Robert John is one of the 40 percent public school graduates who passed Pisay’s National Competitive Exam (NCE), a scholastic aptitude test designed to measure the scientific ability, quantitative ability, abstract reasoning, and verbal aptitude of applicants. This may not be a real surprise as Robert John is the class valedictorian and had shown strength in  Science subjects.
Iskolar ng Bayan
“Batang matalino” – this is how his neighbors  described Robert John, especially now that he is in Pisay. Indeed,  Pisay scholars are not just intelligent students. They should be excellent in science, math and engineering to help them cope with Pisay’s academic standard.

Cabatic’s explanation on how it was to qualify for Pisay scholarship makes one appreciate Pisay’s P140,000 per student spending per year. According to Cabatic, one should have an above average score in all of the four exam categories.  For example, in one category, if the average score all 23,000 applicants is 60, then one has to get an above 60 score, Cabatic explained.

“Even if one gets 100 percent in one category, but gets a below average score in another category, the applicant is automatically disqualified,” disclosed Cabatic.

Qualifiers get ranked-- the main campus in Diliman, Quezon City gets the top 240 qualifiers among its applicants; and each regional Pisay campus admitting the top 90 qualifiers in their respective areas.

Such stringent qualification requirement is just the beginning. All throughout the schooling of Pisay students, they get immersed in science, mathematics, and research. But this is not to say that they are all academics. They also get very good grounding in humanities, arts, social sciences, and sports.

Awards are just a foretaste
Last school year, Pisay students shone in various competitions here and abroad. But the awards are just a “bonus”,  quipped Cabatic.

“Hindi naming intention na purhagin sila sa awards (We don’t intend to immerse them into getting awards),” he said. “We just want them to have a taste on how it is to have S&T projects. We want them to fully bloom when they go to college.”

Robert John admits that it’s not easy to stay in Pisay. “I had a hard time,” he admitted when asked how he coped with Pisay life.

“Dati mabagal ang pacing sa dating school ko (Pacing of lessons was quite slow in my former school), he recalled. “We used to discuss one lesson in one week. Now, we take up a lesson in two to three days only.”

Used to being on top of the class when he was in elementary, Robert John realized that everyone in class is intelligent.

“Nahirapan ako nung una, pero nakakapag-adjust na din (I had a hard time at the start, but now I am adjusting),” he admitted.

Investment actually
When he found out that he passed the NCE, Robert John thought it was just  “swerte” (good luck)  that he can continue schooling  and be called “Iskolar ng Bayan.”

How much does the country pay for the “Iskolars ng Bayan” like Robert John?

According to Ma. Concepcion Sacay, finance chief of the Pisay system, the 13 campuses as a whole have a budget of  P1,439,431,000 in 2015. A big chunk of the budget goes to the students who receive monthly stipends worth P500 to P4,000, depending on financial need.

“But rich or not, they are all given free books to be returned at the end of the school year,” said Sacay. Other benefits include the annual P1,800 uniform allowance and one-time round-trip transportation allowance to those eligible.

“We are looking at these spendings not as gastos (expenses) but as an investment,” said Cabatic. “We are investing for the future of these students. It is the future of future leaders we are talking about here.”

“We prepare our students to be leaders, though not necessarily in politics,” shared Cabatic.

“I always tell our students that if you will be good, for example,  in medicine, leaders will come to you for medical treatment. In that way, you become a leader yourself because you influence those who are on the top,” he added. “Pisay scholars are the leaders of tomorrow and they can influence the future of our country.”

Students interested to apply to any Pisay campus can log on to or  the the PSHS Facebook page for more information.  Pisay’s NCE is usually held every August and applications are accepted starting May.

The PSHS system is composed of science-oriented secondary schools operating under the DOST. It offers scholarship for high school students who will be trained towards careers in science and engineering. PSHSS currently has 13 campuses all over the country, with three additional campuses to be opened by 2016. The newest campus, PSHS-CALABARZON  in Batangas City, will open in June this year. (Framelia V. Anonas, S&T Media Service)

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Left photo: Dr. Larry L. Cabatic (middle), executive director of the Department of Science and Technology- Philippine Science High School System (DOST-PSHSS), encourages more students from public schools to apply for Pisay scholarship. “We train our students not only towards careers in science, mathematics and engineering but also for future leadership,” he said. From left: Dr. Rod Allan de Lara, deputy executive director; Robert John Pecayo, Pisay Grade 7 and graduated from a public school; Engr. Roman Buenafe, Pisay alumni and MRT system general manager; and Ma. Concepcion Sacay, chief finance officer. Right photo: Robert John Pecayo, Pisay freshman and former valedictorian of Bagong Pag-asa Elementary School,  admits that studying in Pisay is “tough” but he is coping very well.  (Photos by Gerry Palad, S&T Media Service)

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