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Cebuana LET topnotcher dedicates feat to her late father

On the third Sunday of June, sons and daughters worldwide make their respective efforts to make their fathers feel special in time for Father’s Day.

While most are still contemplating what gift they can give to their dads, this newly licensed teacher decided to give hers just a few weeks early.

With hard work and dedication, Rita Jean Cabunag, LPT, placed 9th in the March 2024 Licensure Examination for Professional Teachers (LET) in the secondary division.

Unfortunately, the Cebuana LET topnotcher only got to dedicate this achievement to her father posthumously, a dream they both held for so long. Even so, she believed her father was probably staring down at her from heaven, proudly telling everyone that his daughter topped the boards.


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Cabunag is just one of the ten topnotchers from Cebu-based universities in the March 2024 LET in both the elementary and secondary divisions.

Nonetheless, her story stood out as a testament that even with life’s adversities, one can still achieve a feat and hold the promise of doing so in the name of a most special loved one.

Let’s meet Rita before topping the boards

Rita Jean Cabunag is one of three siblings from the City of Naga in southern Cebu. Life was not always easy for her, and her early experiences defined this for her.

In an interview with CDN Digital, the Cebuana LET topnotcher disclosed that she remembers her mother leaving her and her siblings as early as when she was 7. With her father as their only parental figure, they were left under the care of their grandparents because her father had to work.

Unfortunately, their grandparents’ lives were taken away from them sooner than they expected, so they were left to take care for themselves, considering that her father worked in the city for six days a week.

Cebuana LET topnotcher

Rita Jean Cabunag with her brother, sister, and niece during her college graduation. | Photo: Rita Jean Cabunag

Intending to provide a better life for her family, she studied hard and drafted an ambition for herself. Interestingly, teaching was never initially a part of it.

“Teaching is not my first choice. It was never my choice, but God led me here. Since elementary school, my teachers have always rooted in me to become a teacher because I have a knack for explaining well.”

After encouragement from her teachers, she chose to study a four-year education course at the University of the Visayas. Fortunately for her, some German benefactors offered her a college scholarship, while the Mary Queen of Heaven Missionaries gave her a place to stay from her senior high school to her college years.

The dream of becoming a topnotcher

From the start, it was Cabunag’s aim to top the board exams. Although doubts came to her on some days, it was her dream and she has always worked hard to achieve it with encouragement from her mentors.

Cebuana LET topnotcher

(Left) A group photo with Rita Jean Cabunag and her closest friends in their practicum uniform and (right) her photo during her pinning ceremony. | Photo: Rita Jean Cabunag

Nonetheless, the Cebuana LET topnotcher disclosed that one of her regrets was not giving her best in her studies and sometimes being complacent as a student. In fact, she used it as a driving force to double her efforts to review for the board exam.

She always made a conscious note of aiming to become a topnotcher of the March 2024 LET in everything she did. She wanted to achieve it for herself and as a present to her lone parental figure at that time. It was supposed to be a dream they forged together.

Unfortunately, she lost her father before she could achieve her dream for them––more than a year before she was scheduled to take the board exam. 

Becoming an orphan at college, Cabunag grieved her loss, but it did not stop her from powering through and achieving her goal with the help of God, to whom she constantly surrendered herself.

Overcoming more adversities

While she mourned her father’s loss even a year after his death, more adversities came in the life of Cabunag as she enrolled herself in a review center with a full scholarship.

On the first day of her scheduled intensive review, she did not expect to find herself at an operating table instead of the classrooms where she was supposed to learn.

“While my classmates were learning, I was on the operating table to get my right ovary removed because it had gotten so ugly and turned into a cystic mass that twisted my fallopian tube. I was absent for a week to recover.”

After recovery, she immediately jumped back to reviewing, which made her first month difficult and physically straining, mainly due to the distance between her review center and her house. 

READ: 2023 Bar topnotcher says he’s dreamt of being lawyer for the longest time

On top of the physical pain, Cabunag also suffered from several emotional breakdowns weeks before the scheduled exam brought about by the stress of the final preparations for the boards.

Cebuana LET topnotcher

Group photo with Rita Jean Cabanug and her friends during their college graduation | Photo: Rita Jean Cabanug

Fortunately, her friends were always there for her to support her in her journey while reviewing. The same goes for the owners of the review center, who even went further by sponsoring an in-house special review for her and 10 other test takers from Cebu for more intensive learning.

Cebuano topnotcher’s life after board exam

After several doubts, physical pain, emotional breakdown, and years of grieving, everything fell into place on May 24 when Cabunag, while working, received a message from a friend that she topped the board exam.

While she also dedicated her achievement to her family, friends, and everyone who rooted for her, she most especially devoted her 9th placement in the board exam to her father.

“He had always been my greatest inspiration in life. I wanted to give him the best life. Sadly, he died before he could walk me to the stage to receive my diploma. I’m betting that the heavens are loud in his voice, telling everyone he meets that his daughter topped the board.”

When asked what tip she would give to future takers, the Cebuana LET topnotcher said to always listen to your body. She said taking care of one’s health, which includes resting, eating well, and keeping a healthy mind, will go a long way. Above all, she insisted on holding on to the hope that God will always reciprocate hard work.

As of press time, the Cebuana LET topnotcher is still trying to absorb the feat she has achieved. As for her future after becoming a topnotcher, she plans to work as a lecturer for her review center, an opportunity she immediately took after they offered it to her. 

More so, she plans to take things one step at a time and see for herself what the universe has in store for her.

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