Visayas State University (VSU) once again proved that it is a powerhouse school in agriculture, as the university recently produced three (3) topnotchers who ranked first, second, and seventh in the 2021 Licensure Exam for Agriculturists (LEA).

Out of the 3,927 takers of the 2021 LEA, Ella Hazel Barbarona Estrada showed that a #ProudViscan always upholds excellence, as she topped the exam with a passing rate of 86.00.

Ella hails from Bohol, a pure “dugong Bol-anon” as they say. Among her three siblings, she is the eldest daughter. She is a granddaughter of landowners, which influenced her desire to pursue agriculture in order to assist her grandparents in managing their land. Her decision led her to VSU, a well-known agricultural research center. Ella admitted that VSU was not her first choice, but she chose it because of its affordability and reputation as a good SUC.

Ella's life at VSU revolved around her academics and extracurricular activities. Despite the fact that she did not consider herself to be a people-person by nature, she was able to make connections and develop an active social life.

“Sa VSU nag focus na kos akong academics, kay human nako sa extracurricular activities pag highschool so mas nag focus na ko sa academics. Pero even though i said that, nag join lang gihapon ko ug extracurricular activities. I was active sa among regional organization nga Kadugong Bol-anon. I was the president when we were awarded as the best regional organization”

[While studying in VSU, I focused on my academics because I had enough extracurricular activities when I was in highschool. Even though I said that, I still joined some. I was active in our regional organization called “Kadugong Bol-anon.” I was the president when we were awarded as the best regional organization]

On top of her organization, Ella was also a consistent honor student. She was also a recipient of one the most prestigious scholarship programs of the country, the Department of Science and Technology-Junior Level Science Scholarship (DOST-JLSS). When asked about her study routine, especially in a dorm where privacy is rare, she offered her own advice.

“Effective ang reading out loud kay maka dungog man sad kas imong self, in that way nag recall na sad imong brain. Unya after i-rewrite na sad nimo imong ginayawyaw. Kay reading, listening, and writing is very effective para ma recall nimo ang lessons”

[Reading out loud is effective because you can hear yourself. It's as if you're recalling everything in your head. Then you go back and rewrite what you've been saying. Reading, listening, and writing, in my opinion, are very effective methods of recalling lessons.]

She also mentioned that her good friend Kathleen Auxtero, who placed seventh in the 2021 LEA, influenced her study routine because Kathleen is a hardworking student.

“Makatawa ko kay Kathleen is very diligent man jud mag study advance jud so na influence ko mag study pero kadugayan makatog ra jud ko so siya tignpukaw nako hahahahaha”

[Kathleen makes me laugh because she is very diligent and frequently studies ahead of time. She was the one who influenced me to study hard as well, but I always fall asleep, and she ends up waking me up]

Furthermore, she attributed her work ethic to her environment, where she was surrounded with equally driven individuals.

“Bitaw mostly namo kay ni graduate with flying colors. Ang isa namo is naa na sa gawas pursuing her masters.”

[The majority of us graduated with flying colors. One of us is even studying for her master's degree in another country.]

She was also quick to praise her teachers and professors who have contributed to her growth as a student as well.

Ella successfully balanced her social life, extracurricular responsibilities, and academics in the university, where she finished her degree in Agriculture major in Soil Science and graduated cum laude in 2019.

Ella, like any other fresh graduate, struggled with anxiety and constant thoughts of going in the wrong direction. She revealed that the majority of her batchmates went on to pursue graduate studies, with some becoming licensed agriculturists in 2020 and landing full-time jobs.

Amid all these, Ella felt lost.

“Na pressure ko sa akong self kay i was thinking nga dapat jud naa na koy work dayon unya dapat makapasar ko dayon sa boards. Pero with my mental state adto wala lang jud ko ni dayon take sa boards”

[I put pressure on myself, believing that I needed to get a job and pass the board exam right away. I couldn't take the exam because of my mental state at the time.]

But with unwavering support from her parents, boyfriend, and friends, she was able to overcome her struggles and managed to set a better plan for her life.

On November 18, the day the results were released, Ella’s name was at the top of the list as the topnotcher of the 2021 LEA. News of her achievement spread like wildfire and there was nothing but praise for Ella and her friends. The results were also extra special for her because her friends JC and Kathleen also made it to the top 10. Ella described the feeling to be indescribable, especially after months of uncertainty and self-doubt.

“Nang hilak jud mi tanan tawn together with our parents while nag video call, Wa mi katou jud nag kurog mi tanan”

[We all cried together while on a video call with our parents. It was hard to believe and all of us were trembling.]

Ella is now a licensed agriculturist and a teacher in Bohol, where she teaches senior high school students as part of her DOST-JLSS return service. She said that she is proud of herself, as someone who triumphed over her own emotional and mental obstacles as well as achieving something greater in the end.

Her story proved that there are people in this world who exist to bring out the best in you, and for Ella, it was her family, boyfriend, and her friends. May Ella’s success story become an inspiration to all Viscans and to other students who aspire to be great in their endeavors.

This the story of Ella Hazel Barbarona Estrada, a licensed agriculturist and a #ProudViscan.

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