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How new licensed psychologist from Cordilleras became 3-time board topnotcher

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How new licensed psychologist from Cordilleras became 3-time board topnotcher
‘It perhaps was worth the wait [kasi] after almost 18 years after [graduating] college and finally ayan na ‘yung gusto kong maging – licensed psychologist,’ says Maricris Lad-ey-Neyney

MANILA, Philippines – Getting a high score high in a licensure exam is a student’s pride and joy, but imagine passing four board exams and emerging among the topnotchers three times.

In La Trinidad town, Benguet province, a proud Igorot and mom of two topped three different board exams, including the recent August 2023 Psychologists Licensure Examination. She actually has passed four exams administered by the Professional Regulation Commission.

Maricris Lad-ey-Neyney, 38, obtained her undergraduate degree in psychology from St. Louis University and her master’s degree, also in psychology, from the University of the Cordilleras. She is a licensed guidance counselor, psychometrician, teacher, and now a psychologist.

On August 9, the PRC released the 2023 Psychologists Licensure Examination results where Neyney scored 85.05 placing seventh among the 339 exam passers. 

A joyful third

Neyney was raised in a farming community in Buguias town, Benguet province. With her nine-member family facing financial constraints, at a very young age, she helped her parents plant highland crops such as potatoes, cabbage, and carrots to help earn money. 

Ang childhood [ko] really ay more of farmwork, a little of play kasi kailangan nga (I spent most of my childhood doing farmwork because it was necessary. I only had a little time to play),” Neyney said.

With the desire for a better future, Neyney moved to Baguio City in 2001 to pursue her college degree. The scholarship she received from the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the summer job opportunity provided by the Special Program of the Employment of Students of the Department of Labor and Employment helped finance her studying.

“I had to look for a degree program that was covered [by the] CHED scholarship and psychology was on the list of programs allowed for CHED scholarship,” Neyney said in a mix of English and Filipino. 

Upon receiving her degree in Psychology in 2005, a work opportunity to be a guidance counselor opened up for her. While working as a guidance counselor, Neyney studied for a master’s degree in guidance and counseling at Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University from 2006 to 2011.

Neyney’s first licensure exam was for guidance counselors in August 2011. With a score of 84.25, she ranked third in the said exam.

A year after this success, Neyney took the licensure exam for professional teachers in 2012. Neyney described this as the hardest among all the exams she took.

Hindi naman ako education graduate, so it was really quite a struggle for me to take that board exam at siguro kaya doon din lang ako hindi kasama sa top 10,” Neyney admitted. 

(I’m not an education graduate, so it was quite a struggle for me to take that board exam. Maybe that’s why it was the only exam where I didn’t make it to the top 10.)

In November 2018, she juggled working as a teacher and a guidance counselor at Benguet State University (BSU) while studying for the psychometrician licensure exam. She passed with a score of 80.80, enough to be one of the 13 examinees who ranked eighth in the exam

Studying for the 2023 psychologist licensure exam was not Neyney’s top priority as she needed to keep working as a professional. Apart from this, there was no review center in her hometown, forcing Neyney to self-review. 

By good fortune, she had a strong support system coming from her colleagues and friends who shared their review materials, and family, especially her husband.

Neyney was taking care of her child when she started receiving numerous congratulatory texts from her colleagues. Even though this was not her first board exam nor her first time to top the board, when she received the good news, she cried out of joy. 

It perhaps was worth the wait [kasi] after almost 18 years after [graduating] college and finally ayan na ‘yung gusto kong maging – licensed psychologist,” Neyney said.

(It perhaps was worth the wait because after almost 18 years after [graduating] college, I finally achieved what I really wanted – to be a licensed psychologist.)

Working in mental health care

Aside from her work as teacher and chief of human resource development office at BSU, she is also an on-call volunteer at the Dynamic Integration of Wellness clinic in Benguet, where she saw the desperate need for more mental health professionals.

“When I was a guidance counselor, meron kaming mga clients na kailangan i-refer sa mga psychologists or psychiatrists kaya lang minsan kailangan nila pumila ng like a month kasi ayun nga konti ang mga nagbibigay ng ganitong service,” she said.

(When I was a guidance counselor, we had clients who needed to be referred to psychologists or psychiatrists, but sometimes they had to line up for like a month because there are very few who provide this service.)

Even before becoming a licensed psychologist, Neyney was aware of the lack of mental health professionals especially in the far flung areas of Cordilleras. “I would say na kulang talaga [ang mental health professionals and] there is a need for more,” she said.

(I would say that there is really a lack of mental health professionals and there is a need for more.)

There is no denying that the Philippines’ mental health care system is underperforming. According to a study in 2019, the Philippines faces problems in “underinvestment, lack of mental health professionals, and underdeveloped community mental health services.” There are also only three mental health care professionals for every 100,000 Filipinos as of 2022.

To Neyney, the best part of her profession is seeing her clients improve and bounce back in life. “As a mental health professional, [the] best part [is] when I see my clients get better,” she said.

The growing awareness in mental health has also made Neyney happy. “I’m personally happy na dumadami ang nag-e-enroll sa psychology na hopefully later on magkaroon ng mas maraming professionals.”

(I’m personally happy that there are more people enrolling in psychology and hopefully later on there will be more professionals.)

Advice for future board exam takers

Some people refer to Neyney’s achievements as luck, but she likes to think of it as the Lord’s blessings. She advises future exam takers to keep in mind three P’s: preparation, positive attitude, and prayers.

For Neyney, it is better to be prepared before the exam than to regret not reading certain materials after. “Actually habang nagrereview, be humble enough to accept the fact na marami ka pang hindi alam and be excited about that,” she said

(While reviewing, be humble enough to accept the fact that you still have a lot to know and be excited about that.)

Despite the hurdles, Neyney kept reminding herself: “There is always light at the end of the tunnel.” This positive attitude helped Neyney clinch four licenses.

Everytime she feels like surrendering she recalls her third P – prayers. “When things get so difficult, always remember that there is a very short distance between your knees and the floor so you kneel down and pray,” she quoted her mentor’s words. – Allysa Areglo/

Allysa Areglo is a Cavite State University student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She is a digital communications intern at Rappler.

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