Beauty and brains: From Ms. Cebu bet to nursing exam topnotcher

What would you rather be? Beautiful or smart?”

That is the age-old question Miss Universe 1969 Gloria Diaz asked a candidate during the Binibining Pilipinas 2001 pageant.

While the candidate responded that she’d rather be beautiful, a Cebuana beauty queen proved that you do not have to choose between the two and you can have the best of both worlds.

A year after competing in the Miss Cebu pageant in 2023, Laica Pauline Uy placed 9th in the recently released results of the May 2024 Philippine Nursing Licensure Examination. The beauty queen is now a certified nursing exam topnotcher. 

READ: Miss Cebu 2023 Up Close: Laica Pauline Uy

Becoming the lone topnotcher from a Cebu university, she is a testament that a person can be both beautiful and equally smart.

Behind this prowess, the newly licensed nurse carries a heavy story she vulnerably shared in an interview with CDN Digital.

Meet Laica, the nursing student

Laica Pauline Uy devoted her life to excelling in her academics since kindergarten. Her family and friends can attest to this.

She mostly studies in front of an open book, which helps her stay on track with her classes.

As she entered senior high school, she pursued a medical course. Interestingly, it was not nursing that initially captured her passion. When she was exposed to nurses, she realized that her ambition lies in patient care.

Leaning on this career track, she enrolled in a four-year nursing program at Velez College, where her passion for patient care ignited even more. Being people-oriented, nursing became a good fit for her personality.

nursing exam topnotcher

Laica Pauline Uy

“Looking back four years later, I am so glad I made that decision and that I am able to serve people,” Uy said in an interview with CDN Digital as she recalled her years as a nursing student.

Building life outside academics

Despite her focus on excelling academically, Uy firmly believes that her life should not revolve solely around the four walls of the classroom.

During her college years, she joined multiple student organizations, became a member of the dance team, and volunteered in non-profit organizations. She also became an active member of the student council.

Most notably, she became a candidate during the 2023 installment of Miss Cebu, where she secured two minor awards, including “Most Confident.”

nursing exam topnotcher

Laica Pauline Uy in her stint as a Miss Cebu 2023 candidate | Photo: Laica Pauline Uy

READ: Miss Philippines Earth 2024 is Irha Mel Alfeche of Matanao, Davao del Sur

The nursing exam topnotcher explained that even though her experiences as a beauty queen, an organization member, and a volunteer deviated from her experience as a student nurse, Uy said that she learned skills in dealing with people and gaining confidence—most of which she did not learn in classrooms.

“The classroom taught me lessons, but these experiences taught me life lessons. All these contributed immensely to who I am as a person and as a nurse,” she firmly stated.

Journey towards becoming a topnotcher

After graduating from college, she planned to do everything she could to top the board exam, so she chose her next steps meticulously. This includes joining multiple review center classes and exploring the best learning styles for her. 

Of course, she also took the initiative to study for the licensure exam outside her review class activities. She drafted a schedule where she could insert answering practice exam questions and go through at least 1,000 ANKI flashcards a day.

Uy also emphasized that she keeps her journey as holistic as possible, taking care of her health while preparing for the exam.

“I started each day by praying and reciting the affirmations I had written at the beginning of my journey. I tried my best to go through this journey holistically, eating regularly, taking my vitamins, and getting enough sleep instead of overworking myself to the point of burnout.”

A few weeks before the scheduled exam, she managed to study all the necessary topics, so she spent the remaining time reviewing forgotten topics and mentally preparing herself by spending time with her loved ones and going to church.

Cebuano topnotcher’s biggest hurdle

Becoming a nursing exam topnotcher is not an easy road for most test-takers. The same is true for Uy, who confidently shared one of the biggest challenges of her board exam journey.

nursing exam topnotcher

Laica Pauline Uy during her (left) graduation day and (right) her shift as a student nurse. | Photo: Laica Pauline Uy

She disclosed consulting a therapist after experiencing heavy anxiety after sleepless nights of cramming just to cover the necessary topics for the exam.

 “To some, this might be a sign of weakness, but understanding why you feel the way you do and what you can do about it could just be the stepping stones to harnessing your power,” she confidently disclosed.

READ: Son of construction worker tops 2024 Electrical Engineers licensure exam

She shared that her conversations with the therapist helped her sort out her feelings and gain control over them.

“I could have made this success look effortless by keeping this story to myself, but I wanted to be vulnerable and share my struggles with others in order that people who are struggling know that struggles are part of the process too,” she said in the interview.

Becoming the lone Cebuano topnotcher

While she worked hard and prayed to achieve the feat, she never expected to be part of the topnotcher list as one of the 11,000 takers of the Philippine nurses licensure examination.

Despite all her little doubts, she still managed to place ninth on the boards, becoming the lone topnotcher hailing from a university in Cebu.

After hearing about this achievement from a friend, she instantly told her parents the good news, and they immediately visited the Redemptorist Church and the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño de Cebu.

READ: Miss Universe Philippines 2024 delegates now have 4 more crowns to fight for

Uy said that seeing the most important people of her life happy for her achievements makes every struggle she went through extremely worth it: “It’s one of the happiest days of my life.”

She dedicated her achievement to God, Mother Mary, Señor Santo Niño, the Holy Spirit, and the people He has blessed her with. 

Uy also expressed her appreciation for her parents, relatives, friends, alma mater, faculty members, and others who contributed to her journey.

What’s next for Laica?

When asked what tip she would give to future board takers, she said always to draft a personal plan to accomplish a goal. She said that there are always doubts in our minds, but always listen to your voice of faith.

“See this challenge as an opportunity that comes so rarely in our lifetime, so take this opportunity and seize it. Learn everything you must for your license and your family, but more importantly, for your patients.”

Now that she’s a licensed nurse, and a nursing exam topnotcher to boot, she said that she is still considering different opportunities for further education or training so she could serve more people in more ways than one. As of now, she has expressed wanting to rest and is basking in the moment of her momentous feat.

READ: Son of construction worker tops 2024 Electrical Engineers licensure exam

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