Becoming a CMA: A God-given Opportunity, A God-led Journey

Grad - Stephanie SolomonSince I started as an accountancy student, I only imagined myself preparing for and passing the Certified Public Accountant Licensure Examination (CPALE) in 2015. Never in my dreams would I imagine passing another certification in that very same year.

I first heard about “CMA” in March 2014 when Insights Financial Review invited our school, University of Baguio, to join the first CMA Quiz Bowl. I joined the competition to have a head start because I anticipated that there will be a second CMA Quiz Bowl. I did not expect that I will win. I told myself that I can still join next year. I was not supposed to get any award but Insights created a “Special Award” category for fourth year participants and I was one of the two who were awarded. It was a blessing and a challenge for me. In September 2014, Insights sponsored another CMA Quiz Bowl during our R1 and CAR Regional Mid-Year Convention. With more than a hundred participants, the competition was really tough. I was about to pass my test paper when I realized that I transferred the wrong answer on one of the questions. I instantly changed it while hoping that erasures will not be invalidated. The night after the test, the good news came out. I got first place with a one-point difference to the second placer. Truly, God’s ways in executing his plans are amazing. That one point brought me to the Nationals, where I placed second, entitling me to a Scholarship Package. I was supposed to pay 50% of the Certification Exam Fee but Sir Angel was really generous for waiving it. It was an all gain, no loss situation for me. I grabbed the opportunity and marked my calendar for the October 2015 testing window.

So with a free ticket to take the CMA exams, where lies the challenge? The challenge was actually the fact that I was about to take two examinations, the CPALE and the CMA Exams, in the same year (2015) and in the same month (October). At first, there were no apparent problems because I was able to study the topics that I scheduled for the day. However, the demand by each examination for study time began to escalate. It was in July that I was starting to mess up my task plans. That dilemma of what to prioritize continued until August. I really felt sorry for not being able to submit my answers to all the CMA test drills that Insights sent to me. I only had one month for the CPALE and less than two months for the CMA exams when I devised and wagered on this very risky plan. I prayed to God and asked for His mighty guidance thinking that whatever happens, it will be His will. So there is nothing to worry because the Lord’s will is the best. With this in mind, I focused first on the CPALE while devoting extra study time for Management Services and Auditing Theory, the overlapping subjects for both of the exams. I took the CPALE roughly two weeks before my CMA exams.  The result came out and I got fifth place. I was really happy, I wanted to jump. It was then that I realized I was only wearing one shoe. I needed one other, the CMA title.

Whilst almost everyone was already celebrating after passing the board exam, I was conducting my own “CMA pre-week session”, just a sugar-coated term for cramming. I asked Sir Angel for test drills especially for Part 2 because it covers those topics that were not emphasized in the undergrad as well as in the CPA review. It was an unimaginable two- week adrenaline rush for the CMA title.

On the day of the CMA Exam Part 1, I was really feeling the butterflies rumbling inside my stomach. But just like what I always do when I am nervous, I told myself that the exam was not up against me only. It was up against everyone who became my teacher, all my reviewers, my friends, my parents and God. “I AM GOING TO WIN THIS FIGHT.” So with a calmer mind, I took and finished Part 1 that day. With a more stable heartbeat, I completed Part 2 on the next day.

The exam was technical, time-pressured and concept-based. The examinee had to undergo a series of identity inspection, had to use the normal six-function electronic calculator and had to take the exam on a computer. It probably took me almost a year to get accustomed to the normal calculator because I was used to the scientific one. I also have had troubles on operating a computer before so that just added to my nervousness that time. For both examinations, the examinee has to answer 100 Multiple Choice Questions in three hours and two essay problems with five to six subset questions each in an hour. Even with four hours, I was only able to go back to the items I was not really sure of but not the entire test.  On the other hand, though the questions were not the hardest that I encountered, I think they were the most comprehensive. They test your knowledge on the concepts. It was at this point that I realized my preparation for the CMA exams did not start when I accepted the scholarship offer but it did already start that moment I showed learning interest in my very first Management subject.

Days after the CMA Exam, I started feeling anxious so I kept myself busy to forget that the exam results would be out in a few weeks (December 11 or 12). I prayed each day for God to give it to me. And in the morning of the 11th, I received the other shoe to complete the pair. Instead of jumping, I found myself doing nothing but smiling. I closed my eyes and silently whispered, “Salamat, salamat.” I did not immediately open my eyes, I liked the feeling that I was feeling that time—relief. That after all this time, I can finally say “Tapos na.” So with all my heart, I would like to thank everyone who contributed to this success. To Sir Angel, his family and Insights Financial Review for becoming God’s primary instrument in helping me grab the CMA title. To my classmates, teachers and reviewers for the lifetime learnings. To my parents and my sister for their very long patience, never-ending support and unconditional love. And to God for everything that I have now and for the person that I am now.

To CMA aspirants, grab opportunities as early as possible. Create a game plan. Make it precise, but also make it flexible. Follow your heart in making decisions. Always be grateful to those who help you. Most importantly, pray for His will for it is what is best for you.


About the Author:  Stephanie Solomon is a Bachelor of Science in Accountancy graduate at the University of Baguio. She placed fifth in the October 2015 CPA licensure examination, and captured remarkable scores in her 2-Part CMA examination, also in Oct. 2015. She is currently working as an Audit Associate at SyCip, Gorres, Velayo & Co., CPAs.

Redirection to a Better Future

Regine Marie Talucod“For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you,  plans to give you hope and a future.”  (Jeremiah 29:11)

I started my story with this wonderful word from God because this is where my journey to CMA started.

Honestly, I’m not familiar with this certification before because I was too focused in my journey to have the CPA License. Yes, just like some of you my dear, I was kicked out of the BS Accountancy program in our beloved university. Believe me, I did everything to pursue Accountancy but OUR GOD really moves in mysterious ways that’s why I am here. I am here to where I truly belong. One thing I have realized? Being a management accounting student/graduate doesn’t make you less than those who still pursue Accountancy. Yes, I know how sad and painful it is to fail. I know how hard it is to tell your parents that you failed to finish what you have started but the verse that I have mentioned in the opening stanza reminds me that what I have been through was not a failure but a redirection to a better future. I know it’s hard to take another risk when you already doubted your capabilities. I have thought a million times before I decided to take this path to redeem myself from the failure that I have experienced 3 years ago.

May 2, 2015. “This is it!” That was the first thing that came into my mind when the review for the Part 2 exam started. I was too scared to take this part because it includes the topics I hate the most during my undergraduate course. Focusing on the review was difficult especially when you’re at home wherein you’re surrounded with distractions (TV, internet, gadgets).  I must say that during the review, I also learned to discipline myself. I attended all the sessions, all the advance classes and special classes to make sure that I could face the exam bravely at the end of June.

A week before the Part 2 exam, my family went to a road trip. We went to Liliw, Laguna and there, I found a church where I bought a rosary. I asked the priest to bless the rosary and what he told me gave me goosebumps: “Papasa ka. Maniwala ka lang. HE will guide you.”

During the exam, I was really nervous. I was literally trembling for a few minutes after I clicked the start button. I also had problem with the keyboard that consumed my precious time for the essay part. Yes. I was really thankful that I reached the essay part but I know that I did not perform well during the Part 2 exam.

Waiting for the result was really a torture for me. I cannot focus on the review for the Part 1 exam until the results were out. Luckily, I did it! I was half way there!

Part 1 has a longer and wider coverage than Part 2. It includes plenty of theories that’s why, I tried to revise my strategy in preparing for this part. I tried to read everything first, without solving. Few weeks before the exam, I started to doubt my ability to take the exam as scheduled. I am not sure whether the time I spent studying this part is really enough to pass the exam or Am I just nervous that’s why felt this way. I cannot assess myself that’s why I asked help and advice from friends and CMA mentors. Revising my strategy was inefficient but I did my best to get back on track. I stopped reading and started solving problems. I maximized the use of all the resources around me. Though travelling from Cavite to Makati was very tiring, I decided to go to the review center every day to read, or to have an assessment, or just take down notes. I didn’t mind if I was alone; all I knew was that I wanted to do this. I fervently want to have that three letter title after my name. Not just for me, but also for all the people who supported me and believed in me all throughout. I was too determined during that time and my parents were very supportive.

With God’s grace, I am now, Regine Marie L. Talucod, CMA.

To all the people who became part of this journey, THANK YOU VERY MUCH. Thank you for encouraging me when I doubted myself. Thank you for supporting me emotionally, financially, and physically. Thank you for the prayers. Thank you for the guidance.

My journey to CMA was not easy but it’s worth it. I guess all we need is enough courage to take another risk after each failure for us to be able to redeem ourselves and move forward. Hanging on from the past will not make us better individuals. Pains and failures should serve as a lesson for us and a stepping stone to our future successes. Remember that all those successful people nowadays, once failed along the way.

Dum Spiro, Spero!

Alden ChuidianI’ve planned to take the CMA examination out of frustration at first, which eventually turned out to be a fruit of a molded perspective as time goes by. Let’s go back to where it started.

Timer starts in 3, 2, 1…

I was a graduate of University of Perpetual Help – Molino Campus, a business high school. One of the subjects offered was bookkeeping. As days go by, I am starting to enjoy the thrill of the subject and made me think that I should take a course that is related to this, and that made me choose Accountancy. Because of proximity and specialty, I’ve decided to enroll in De La Salle University – Dasmariñas. Unfortunately, after taking up Partnership and Corporation subject, I came short in reaching the quota grade and later on shifted to Management Accounting course. It was never part of the plan. I told myself “I’ll just finish this, then I’ll be back in conquering the CPA path.” I’ve underestimated my new program, for I was blinded by the fact that this was never what I’ve wanted in life in the first place. Later on, I can see that this shift from where I was, to where am I at the moment, was in fact a blessing. I became the Class President, Vice President of JPAMA, and representative for different seminars and meetings. Those positions that I’ve held led me to meet Sir Angel Secerio, the President of the IMA Philippines Chapter and founder of Insights Financial Review Services. He discussed what CMA is all about, and the opportunities that await us after graduation. That dinner meeting filled my stomach with good food, as well as my entirety with motivation to pursue the CMA credential.

During the review, we were told to use an alias. I was a having a hard time choosing one, for I want something that could assure me no one would know it was mine. Until I thought of my sister, Ma. Ivy Zamora. She was the one who supports my education ever since, because our mother had retired at an early age. Php 65,000 fee is a no joke and that made me realize to think of something related to my sister, a thing that would let me be reminded of her so that I would really take this examination seriously. I chose POISON IVY, a batman film character.

Sleepless nights, anxiety, lost motivation, fear… these were the things that I did NOT experience. Yes, you read it right, I didn’t. Despite the fact that this exam was described as a giant, I was not afraid at all because of Philippians 4:6, which serves as one of my life verses. My co-candidates were way ahead of me in terms of finishing the review materials. Many of them even threw questions to each other that I do not have an idea with, but still I’ve remained calm. Some of them decided to rent a dorm, stop playing games they used to play, miss some hangouts and reunions with family and friends but in my case, I didn’t. The reason why is not that I boast, that I can do everything better than anybody, but because I want to conquer this exam being myself. I am not a person who would stay late at night just to study these materials. I am a gamer. I love having moments with my friends and relatives. I highly respect the diligence and effort of my co-candidates for their willingness to sacrifice a portion of their lives just to accomplish this mission. But at the end of the day, why would I compare myself with others when I am the one who would sit in front of the computer and answer those deadly questions? They can do it their way; I can do it my way as well.

Part I. Checked! I’ve considered this success as a gift to all the doubters who kept on thinking that there’s a problem in me. I don’t want to curse them, but I want to thank them for this. Without them, I wouldn’t be this motivated and determined to ace this exam. This is also a gift to my instructors, both DLSU-D and Insights, for their utmost support all throughout my journey.

Part II. Checked! This one’s for my parents and friends who never stopped pushing me not just to, but through my limits. This is also offered to a 7-year old neighbor who died during the time of my review (wherever you are, this one’s for you bro, I know you’re happy with Him now).

“Dum spiro, spero” is a Latin term meaning “While I breathe, I hope.” As we all know, problems in life did not come to stay, they have come to pass. I may have failed before, but I’ve continued to stay strong and believe in His plans. There are multiple choices as to how we’ll make our lives the way we wanted it to be. Study again, work, rest, etc. As in my case, I’ve decided to take the CMA examination. Upon coming up with a decision, we need to fill in the blanks with the tools needed; effort, perseverance, positive mindset, confidence, and most especially, prayers. Along with these things, there is a need for an identification of who we really are. We don’t need to copy others; we just need to be ourselves. Let us establish the blueprint of our future; who we are, what we have to do, and what we wanted to be. Think of your life as an essay to be submitted to other people. Would they give you a perfect score? Would they be inspired? As long as the ink’s dropping, keep writing.

Life is a big book of knowledge and inspiration meant to be read by other people. Many failures and disappointments may come along the way, but they are powerless against a determined heart. As long as you’re breathing, keep fighting! I may have not been able to pursue the CPA journey, but I got something else to cherish and be proud of… the CMA title. This all happened because of Him. Without God, we are nothing.

And now, to whoever reads this, figure out for yourself if you really wanted to take this challenge. If yes, all you need to do is be still, have faith in Him, and believe in yourself.




CMA Passer, 2015

Don’t Just Dream It, “Work” It!

Pic - Maricollin Ramirez - InsightsMy CMA journey was not what I exactly planned but in the end, it was all worth it.

It was just a year ago when I first went to Insights Financial Review Center and inquired about their CMA program. I learned from my college classmates that the new management accounting graduates of DLSU-D were then taking their CMA review course in the said review center. I felt jealous at them, and for me they were lucky because they were almost close to their dream of becoming a CMA. Then I reflected on myself if I am happy with my present state. I told myself that I really want to be a CMA. But in order to do that, I must take the first step, an action to make that dream possible. Dreams don’t work unless you do!

When I went to Insights Financial Review Center, I got excited and anxious at the same time. I was excited thinking that I was getting a step closer to my dream. I told myself that “I may not be there yet, but I’m closer than I was yesterday.” I also felt anxious because of the “what ifs” in my mind. What if I can’t do it? What if I fail again? What if being a CMA wasn’t for me? These were the questions that bothered me. I thought back then I couldn’t afford another failure in life again.

Back in college, I started as an Accountancy student in DLSU-D. At first, I thought that this will be the path that will lead me to my dream, ‘to become a CPA’. It was my childhood dream since my relatives were mostly CPAs. I studied my subjects well. Became a dean’s lister in our college. All things were good until I failed for the first time. It was very hard for me to accept that I can no longer continue in the Accountancy program. I felt failure, and all my dreams were shattered to pieces. I will not be a CPA anymore. But this didn’t stop me to reach for my dreams. I planned to transfer to other university just to continue my dream but it didn’t happen. Instead of transferring school, I decided to shift my course to Management Accounting because this course was also similar to Accountancy but without auditing subjects. I was thinking that time that maybe God has other plans for me, so I pursued this course. After graduating, I was happy that finally I already got a degree but, to be honest, I was not satisfied with what I achieved. I felt that there was something missing, I don’t have any “title” to be proud of. I knew that there is a certification exam for this course that is globally recognized but I was not aware that it was already offered in our country. I thought it was only offered in the US. I promised to myself that I will get that certification soon.

I tried to work in companies and apply for a position in accounting but I ended up having a position in marketing. I know that I can work in an accounting and finance related jobs but I was not given a chance. Maybe for them, I wasn’t good enough. Maybe those companies preferred CPAs. That time, I was working in an insurance company, as a marketing officer. I know that my present career was quite far from all the training I received in college.

I still vividly remember the day that made me decide to take the CMA examination. It was just a normal day of going to office in Makati. I rode a bus, and then suddenly I saw this advertisement of Insights Financial Review Center about the CMA Certification. I quickly took a picture of it in my phone and I showed it to my parents when I got home. I took that as a sign that tells me to grab this once in a lifetime opportunity. I asked my parents for their blessing and to help me financially. I am so blessed to have a supportive parents like them.

When I started reviewing for the CMA exams, I can say that it was not a piece of cake. It was full of sleepless nights, anxiety, doubts, sacrifices and fears. I began to question my capabilities. But when you overcome these things, I think these were the ingredients to the sweet and glorious victory. Nothing worth having comes that easy.

Collin1For those future CMA aspirants, I have this quote that I hold onto when I took my CMA journey, “She believe she could, so she did!” Just believe and do… a simple statement that can seem impossible at times but when acted upon is unstoppable. The power of believing in yourself and the willpower to achieve your dream is stronger than any force of nature yet for so many it is very difficult to do. But I encourage you to take hold of this truth and dare to believe in yourself! Amazing things will happen when you do. It may take a little time, but soon enough you will begin to see the results of your believing and doing! And don’t ever forget to PRAY. And when you feel like quitting, think about why you started. Good luck and God bless!

I would like to thank all the people who believed and supported me: my family, friends, and loved ones. I also want to thank my Insights family, the persons who are behind to this success. Thank you also to my DLSU-D professors and to Insights reviewers for sharing their knowledge with us.

If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. It’s the HARD that makes it GREAT.


About the Author: Maricollin H. Ramirez, CMA, is a BSBA major in Management Accounting graduate at De La Salle University – Dasmariñas last May 2013.

Gasat – My CMA Story

Rvee1I wanted to become CMA.

This is my story.

The journey had been tough but satisfying and in hindsight I realize how blessed I have been in so many ways than I can imagine. I am thankful everyday.

I wanted advancement and it wasn’t by chance that I took the CMA exams. It was a conscious and deliberate choice. So much so that after the research I had done on the certification process, I only had to select whom I wanted to share the experience with.

I remember the first day I messaged sir Angel. The numerous questions and conversations. All of my queries and requests so generously answered.

I aim to continuously better myself, who doesn’t? Wanted to excel. I wanted to confirm what I thought I knew and that taking the exams would be the validation.

Taking the exams is easy. You just have to be on attendance. Sit on a chair and finish the exam. But, the preparation has always proved to be difficult. The road to success isn’t overkilled with signs that tell you how to do studying right. It does not spell out how you are supposed to do stuff. It just shows you your options. All of these choices are yours alone. So that when you sit on that chair, you can whisper to yourself, ‘I am ready.’

My preparation for the exams wasn’t at the best of conditions. I am working two jobs. I am an accountant in one of the agencies of the government and I am teaching at the university.

I took the exams each with a 4 month interval. Working like a mad woman. Reading. Practicing from all resources I could find and use, from audio books, textbooks, online resources even old notes from the undergraduate program. There were no weekends. Only precious 30 minute breaks.

I wanted to be sure.

I did not want excuses.

Between reports, preparing exams and lectures and reviewing, I hardly had time for sleep. When I doubted, I reminded myself I can always sleep after the work is done.

Everything seemed to be rushing in all at once. But what are we to do with limited resources? Maximize. Think, trade-off.

I took the second part of the exams on October 2015. While on commute towards home, I received a message from sir Angel asking how the exams went for me. I said ‘better’. I felt better taking the exam. To which he replied ‘alam na.’ At that moment, I realized, this person has not met me. Not once and yet believed I could. For that trust, I am thankful. In its simplicity, another moral. Have faith.

I didn’t expect the preparation to be easy. I knew it would difficult if I didn’t plan well ahead. As the adage goes, perseverance with a plan beats a genius without one. So plan I did. I kept a schedule of what I needed to do everyday, by the hour. To ensure that I did not miss any of my work responsibilities. It sure looked like cramming 42 hours’ worth of work into just 24.

Like some people, I had encountered my own brick wall. The kind I cannot allow myself to turn my back on. I did not want to let anybody down. I did not want to let me down. This was make or break. A choice between moving forward or giving in. What I proved? That brick wall, after all, did not withstand encouragement, inspiration and discipline.

Most of all, it couldn’t withstand prayer. I prayed to be guided. To be given the strength to overcome. Perhaps it is His way of saying, ‘It is your time.’ To God be all the glory indeed!

We have all gone through different challenges life. For this challenge, I daresay, well met.

At this juncture, I would like to thank sir Angel, the professors and staff of Insights for the brilliant support throughout the review program.

To my mentor, sir Rhad, for continually taking the time and having the patience to accommodate an old student. I cannot thank you enough. I want you to know that part of my confidence during preparation was because you taught me. I had one of the best professors at ground zero. I will always hold high the torch!

To my family.

To my friends.

You have all been significant partners in my journey.

I smile as I look back. It had been one tough but sweet ride. What’s more satisfying is coming out armed with the knowledge that you had done good. This may look like a finish line to some. I’d like to think the road is just panning out.

Today, as I recall everything that had influenced and that had been instrumental to this achievement, I realize that indeed, the time has come.

All the world will conspire to make all your dreams come true.

And conspire it did.

Today, gasat (destiny) has unfolded. I have become Pinoy CMA.


About the Author:  Arvee Gaye Trinidad is a BS in Accountancy graduate from the University of the Cordilleras in 2004. A CPA who passed the Philippine CPA examination in 2004, she has recently pursued and completed her Master’s degree, after which she registered to the CMA Program to earn a globally recognized title. Rv is an Accountant at the Cooperative Development Authority and a part-time lecturer at the University of the Cordilleras and Saint Louis University in Baguio.

From Rain to Rainbow-My CMA Story

Grad Pic - Katherine Prades“If you want the rainbow, you have to deal with the rain.” – John Green

As a student, failing a subject will make you sad. But what if, you fail the course program itself? Devastated? Disappointed? Felt like it’s the end of the world?

Back when I was in college, I was once a student from the BS Accountancy program. I thought that after five years, I will be one of the graduates of this course and will soon have that “CPA” after my name. I always dreamed that someday, my face will be printed in one of the big tarpaulins posted in our university congratulating me for passing a board exam, but things changed during the following years. Sadly, I was out of the program after my second year in college. Seeing my parents disappointed was one of the most painful thing for me. During those times, I felt that my dreams were already shattered.

But I know God will not let me down after this circumstance. I decided to pursue being an accountant by taking and finishing BSBA major in Management Accounting. During my last year in college, we had an orientation about the opportunities we may face after graduation and one of these is becoming a “CMA”— Certified Management Accountant. It was Insights Financial Review Services Inc. who gave us details on the different breaks that are waiting for us once we got the title. I felt excited when I heard about this credential. I know that being a CMA will give me an edge to the competition we will face once we finished our studies. Aside from my tarpaulin dream, another dream will be also achieved: an extension to my last name that 3- letter credential, CMA. Despite the high costs, my parents still supported me. Just like what business majors said, “High risk, high return.”

After graduation, I started to review. Scanning through the pages of very thick materials, I asked myself if I can really do this. But there is something inside my mind saying, “You can! You will!” After all, we had very good professors in our university who trained and taught us very well in our subjects. I first took the Part 2 exam. Two months of intensive review was given for this part. I felt that the period given was too short for the said exam. But with God’s grace, despite the short period of time for the review, I passed the Part 2 exam last June 29, 2015.

But things were different for Part 1. I admit, this part was harder for me than the Part 2 exam. Although the preparation time for this part was longer than the Part 2, I got really a hard time reviewing. It came to a point that I started to doubt myself for passing the exam. But still, I told myself to not give up. I needed to change my study habits. I practiced answering MCQs and essays.  And with God’s grace, as I look into my results last November 12, 2015 at around 2:30 in the morning, I cried out loud when I learned that I also passed the Part 1 exam last September 30, 2015.

Answering two 100-question exams was the 200 hardest questions for me. Hoping and waiting that after tackling the 100 MCQs the essay section would show (thank God not a survey) felt like forever to me. But every hard question, the hoping and waiting that I encountered, it was ALL WORTH IT. This made me realize, that God did not give up on me. He already knew that becoming a CPA was not for me. He needed me to experience failures so that He can divert me into somewhere He knew would be best for me.

So my advice for people who also want to pursue CMA, give your 100% effort in preparing for the exams. CMA exams are not easy so you need to work hard for it. It’s like courting someone; you need to give your effort in order for that someone to say “Yes!” to you.

Aside from studying, PRAY. Asking guidance from the Lord will help you feel relieved from all the anxieties.

I would like to thank all people who helped me conquer this journey.

First, the Lord, Our Almighty God for always being there for me and for making me realize things through His blessings.

My family, well of course aside from the funds given (haha!), for supporting me in this journey.

Our instructors from Insights, for refreshing my mind and preparing me as I took my road in becoming a CMA.

To Sir Angel and Ma’am Maricar for giving me advices as I encountered problems along the way.

My friends, who stood as my support system as we fought our way through this journey.

And as I end this, I am proudly saying that I, Katherine Jimenez Prades, am already a CMA Passer!


About the author: Katherine J. Prades belonged to the class of 2015 graduates of BSBA major in Management Accounting of De La Salle University- Dasmarinas. She’s part of the second batch of CMAs of DLSUD.

Crossed Off My Bucket List

Photo-Korina Patawaran“If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.” – Fred De Vito

Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful. I’m the kind of person who constantly seeks for challenges and adventure. And being an adventurer by heart, a bucket list comes in handy. Bucket lists, for some time, have only been associated with the dying but on another perspective, it’s also actually one way to live. Besides, there’s nothing wrong on starting early. I have always been free-spirited but I know that I needed a direction somehow on how to achieve my aspirations and dreams whether it be study, fitness, family, travel, extending help to others, and career.

One of my bucket list entries, definitely, would be to pass the CPA Board Exams, which I did in October 2011.  The natural direction for new board passers is to get hired by an audit firm. Gratefully, I have been hired by one of the best in the country. Nothing compares with the experience and learnings I have been through during my short stint in the firm’s assurance division. But after a year, I knew for a fact that public practice isn’t for me. I want to work on something where I can add value, something that can drive growth, something that can drive change.

After I left the firm, I experienced a hard time looking for a new job. For someone who graduated from a humble university in the province, landing to your target job in the metro can be quite a challenge. I may have earned my bachelor’s degree with Latin honors but it isn’t enough in a competitive environment. It can be quite frustrating to be deliberately rejected by some employers because I didn’t graduate from one of the country’s ace schools or due to lack of experience. At that moment, I know that I need to do something to earn my place in the industry and to gain leverage. I want to be more competent and competitive, not only because I want to be empowered but also because I want to inspire others.

I knew that investing on education is the best step forward. The problem is I don’t know exactly what to pursue. Then one Sunday night on my way back to Makati, I stumbled upon an advertisement found on the bus’ headrest. I don’t remember the exact words but I remember the advertisement asking if I want to further my career and be globally competitive in the field of accounting. The advertisement is Insights Financial Review Services’ Certified Management Accountant (CMA) Program. The beauty in life is that it can present you things and surprises in ways you least expect. Indeed, everything happens for a reason. If not only for that simple bus ride, if not only for my chosen seat, if not only for that headrest, I would have not known that there is actually an institute that can help Filipinos earn a global certification. The US CMA certification is, of course, also one entry on my bucket list. I googled Insights right away and sent an e-mail to Sir Angel Secerio and inquired on the CMA program, that was in August 2013. He generously shared information regarding the program which I am thankful for but after careful thought I know it wasn’t the best time for me to undergo the program as I was only starting on my third job as a controller for a multinational pharmaceutical company. I remember receiving another email from him in February 2014, but I wasn’t ready still. Then in May 2014, when I felt like it was the perfect time, I signified my interest to take the program which was about to start in a week’s time.

True to my fear, studying for the rigorous two-part exam while working full time is really hard. But if you want something bad enough, you’ll really find a way. The good thing is I have always been interested in management accounting even during my undergraduate years that’s why I still remember most of the topics. Management accounting, unlike financial accounting and auditing, has a strong future orientation and is intended to help management in making rational decisions with a view towards achieving company’s objectives. Although it is true that you will be learning on actual work experiences, studying outside your work environment is a great way to refresh your knowledge about best practices and approaches in the field. I took the two part examination in September and October 2014 and without any doubt I knew I would pass the exam. As they say, you must believe you can and you’re already halfway there. In December 2014, results were out and I passed both parts. Earning the CMA designation, certainly, is not the end but just the start of a lot of things to look forward to in our career.

The unforgettable journey to becoming a CMA would have not been possible without the grace of our Lord. I want to thank God for the knowledge, for the energy, and simply for everything that have transpired. I want to thank my family for the endless support and for understanding on why I can’t go home on weekends because of the review. I want to thank all the reviewers and staffs for the meaningful discussions and for all the valuable tips. I want to thank my fellow reviewees for the fun memories and for making me feel I am not alone in the journey. And lastly, I want to thank Sir Angel for his kindness, encouragement, and guidance. As a young professional, corporate environment can be tough at times especially when no one listens to your ideas and no one appreciates the things you do. Then, you start to doubt your capabilities and see all the hindrances. Sir Angel may have not known this but during those times he was pushing me, he was indeed pushing me for something more. Thank you for believing in me during those times I didn’t even believe in myself. Because of his encouragement, I started to gain my confidence back not only in earning the certification but also in my career. The funny thing is, I still haven’t met you, Sir Angel, in person yet and I’m looking forward to that day when I can thank you personally. May God continue to bless you and may you continue to encourage and inspire more Filipinos to take the path less traveled.

CMA Journey is indeed a challenge but definitely worth it and now also crossed off my bucket list. 🙂


About the author:  Ms. Korina Patawaran is a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Bachelor of Science in Accountancy (BSA) at the Holy Angel University in 2011. She passed the CPA board examination in October 2011 and, recently, the certification exams for CMAs in October 2014. She currently works as a Controller at Sanofi Pasteur, an international pharmaceutical company having operations in the Philippines.

What’s Next After The CMA Title?

Miriam Hapiz - Distinguished Performance Award_REVISED 2

Most of the stories shared recently are all about looking back on how the events unfolded along the CMA journey. How the dream has been conceptualized and eventually realized victoriously. All of us savour the taste of emerging as winner in our own battles be it in the form of pressures at work or in school and even the distractions at home. We now reminisce with gratitude those who have become instruments assisting us along the way as we exert our efforts in reaching for our differently viewed but similar targets. They are rightfully addressed and deserve to be recognized.

Together with this accomplishment, I think there is more than the act of achieving what we have initially set for ourselves. As the cliché goes, it is only the beginning. The actual examination may have concluded our painstaking review and studying and even the friendship created but the true essence of pursuing the title I believe are the decisions and the new dreams that we will create, plan and fulfil using the CMA certification that we have earned as our tool, our confidence-booster and competitive edge empowering us in today’s business world.

What has the three-letter acronym after our name has contributed to us? In all the pain, there must be a gain. Let me share with you my thoughts. Personally, the idea of aiming for this recognition has revived my academic self. Studying again has refreshed my thirst for learnings and even sharpened my mind and put to test my skills set. I honestly enjoyed solving problems and answering theoretical questions. However there were times that these, at the back of my mind, were becoming too procedural and mind-aching as well. I also reached a point where I asked myself if all the concepts that we must study could really be of use and be applied in the workplace and practical world at large. With all of these doubts and strains, I realized that true learning does not only take place and does not end at acquiring data and information. It is the process of using these information that teaches us to comprehend better and be more analytical. Problem-solving gives us exercises on critical-thinking skills that are definitely useful not just at work but also in our personal lives. The learning curve and the standard deviation may not directly point to us the solutions for the problems at hand but if we are trained on how to think effectively and critically, we can plan our way to the solution. All these are part of the CMA journey that we all went through. This is one of the reasons why CMA’s are expected to evaluate and recommend choices for decision-making.

What do we do after receiving our certificates and being allowed to use the CMA designation?

This is a more pressing concern as compared before. When we started the review, we knew what to do. Find time to study, cultivate the urge to read without becoming sleepy, commit to the habit of studying daily. Once we have convinced IMA that we deserve the certification at a minimum, what is next to happen?

Since my desire for learning has been sparked, I do not want to lose the momentum of holding all these knowledge. I decided to teach again and I dare to ask Sir Angel if I can also be a CMA instructor in Insights which he willingly accepted.

As I go on with my classes, I suddenly became aware of what my heart truly longs for. It is like finding the place where you feel that you belong and doing the things that excite you most, that is, sharing what you know: the simplification of confusing concepts, the tricks on deriving formulas, the shortcuts to save the precious time. It is like extending a part of myself to others in the manner that I know I do well and it gives an unequal fulfillment bearing in mind that I have helped others in reaching for their own dreams in the way I can and enjoy while at the same time engaging myself in an opportunity to test my own understanding and attaining mastery. This realization has given me direction as per my career path and has taken me to a higher level of self-awareness in seeking my purpose, my reason for existence.

I would like to close my sharing by expressing my gratefulness to all those behind the successes that we are celebrating:

  • To our Almighty God for leading me in this direction, for providing the means and the guts to pursue this investment
  • To my family for the loving care and the unwavering support all throughout
  • To my bosses and officemates for the understanding and the spirit of aspiration
  • To Insights and Sir Angel, for making me feel, be aware of and enjoy my professional value

Lastly, to all aspirants, whether it is CMA title or another dream, dreaming has five stages (according to Sir RB Savella): First is finding the dream. In our childhood days, we think of what we will become when we grow up. Second: Testing it. We go to school to learn how to do it. Third: Fulfilling that dream. We get to work to make it a reality. Fourth: Improving it. We seek continuing learning and growth. Fifth: Sharing the dream. We inspire others. To do this, we, on our own dream, must also be unendingly inspired.

May the Lord continue to inspire us to enjoy life, to dream more and to lead us to the path that He has prepared for us. Thank you once again!


The author, Miriam Leong Hapiz, is currently connected with Philippine National Oil Company-Exploration Corporation as an Attest Accountant. She earned her BSA degree in 2007 and passed the CPA examination in the same year. A dedicated member of the IMA Philippines Chapter, she holds the position of Chapter Secretary and assists in propagating the CMA Program in the country by visiting schools and universities in the Philippines. In passing the CMA examinations she earned the 4th highest average score in the Sept/Oct. 2014 Testing Window.

You Reap What You Sow

Leah_Insights WebsiteWay back then, I was afraid to start my 2014 so I kept this scripture that guided me along my journey:

“Do not be afraid – I am with you! I am your God – let nothing terrify you! I will make you strong and help you; I will protect you and save you.” – Isaiah 41:10

“When I am afraid, I will put my trust in you” – Psalms 56:3

I believed 2014 was a big change for me as I was hoping then to finish my degree and then look for a job. Thank God, I was able to achieve those goals. More so, I was able to surpass my goals as another milestone hit my 2014, passing the two-part CMA examination.

I remember when I was still in college I would always tell myself that someday, I will also see myself being congratulated by my university through those proudly made tarpaulins.  I never thought I would achieve that goal sooner.

I was initially a Management Accounting graduate. I have also dreamt of having that three-letter title after my name. I knew that it wouldn’t be easy to get a certification for management accounting since the opportunity is new in the Philippines. It was not available in our country until last March 2014, when our school was invited to join the 1st CMA Quiz Bowl in the Philippines where I was chosen as one of the participants. I was so excited when I first heard about it  that I immediately submitted my registration form,  making  Sir Angel remember me as the “very first participant from DLSU-D who submitted the registration form for the first quiz bowl”. The quiz bowl gave me an insight of how the CMA examination would be. So, after the quiz bowl, when we were invited to enroll for the CMA review, without second thoughts, I discussed it with my parents and immediately grabbed the opportunity.

I started my review in April 2014 while waiting for our graduation day. I was in the midst of looking for a job and at the same time having my review, thinking that I could work while studying. When we had our first assessment, I got a low grade. A few days before our exam, I was still behind my target scores. I was a bit depressed at that time. Then, Sir Angel enlightened me. He said that what may have hindered my score improvement is the distraction of looking for a suitable work. Having thought about it, I have decided to pursue the examination over job searching. Taking it for granted might yield unfavorable consequences for my future.

The exam day was fast approaching. I still had a few days to prepare so I studied even harder. I changed my study techniques. I prayed before studying and taking the assessment to seek for guidance and to keep me away from distractions. I had my target topics for the day and assured that it would be finished by day’s end. I had my index cards of the terms and formulas I should be familiar with, which I read while traveling to the review center, a useful technique I learned from Ms. CJ, one of our abled CMA Instructors. As a result of this changed study habits, my scores improved. These changes helped me to be well-equipped for the exam. I was able to pass the CMA Examination-Part 2 last August 11, 2014.

After I took the exam, I started to prepare for Part 1. I adopted the study habits I had in preparing for my Part 2 exam so I was more prepared this time. I was a bit relaxed, more focused and more confident. As with my scores, I progressed faster and better than before. During the exam, honestly, I did not feel nervous. It was as if I was just taking an assessment. Even after the exam, I was confident that I will pass and so I just waited if my score got higher. And yes, I was not wrong. I passed the CMA examination-Part 1 and even got a higher score than what I got in the CMA examination-Part 2. Unofficially, I am now a Certified Management Accountant (CMA), since I will still have to earn my two-year work experience to complete the requirements of the CMA Program.

But still, I nailed it!

So, my advice to those who are planning to take up the CMA: Do not take the exam for granted or with much ease! Yes, it is not an easy exam but with the proper preparation, you can also become a CMA. Keep in mind, nothing worth having comes easy. Also, remember that you reap what you sow. If you study hard, of course you will pass the exam. Preparing for the exam needs time commitment and discipline. You may have to sacrifice, avoiding watching your favorite series, partying, or going out with your friends, for short-term for long-term gain. People have different ways of learning, so it is better that you get to know yourself more, find the study habit that is effective for you and stick to that.

I would not be a CMA today if it were not for those people who believed in me. I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to my professors, instructors, friends and colleagues for the guidance and support. Also, thank you to Insights Financial Reviews for making our dreams possible and to Sir Angel for patiently pushing us forward to reach our goal. To my family, thank you for all the support and for the strong belief that I can do it. Above all, I thank God for blessing me with wisdom and knowledge and for strengthening me to achieve, conquer and surpass.


The author, Leah V. Bolinao, was a B.S. in Management Accounting graduate from the De La Salle University-Dasmariñas in April, 2014. She belonged to the first batch of CMAs of DLSU-D. Currently, she is working as a Cost Accounting clerk of a packaging company located at First Cavite Industrial Estate in Dasmariñas City.

An Unexpected Blessing

CMA Quiz Bowl_Judy BayawaGod’s grace is not the light at the end of the tunnel; it is the light that leads us through it. Truly, His grace is sufficient in sustaining me all throughout my CMA journey. Let me share with you my exciting experience.

I first heard of the “CMA” title through one of my instructors in the academe but I never knew what it really was. Months later, there was an invitation from Insights for the 1st CMA Quiz Bowl. I just joined for fun and experience so I never really expected a good result. Unknowingly, it turned out that that was my first big step in joining the CMA profession. It was a great blessing and opportunity for me because I obtained the CMA Program full scholarship when I emerged as Champion in the BSA category.

Preparing for two tough international certification exams in one month has been exhausting. I was really challenged to balance my time for the CPA exam review, and the CMA marathon review that ensued. While reviewing the MAS (Management Advisory Services) subject for the CPA board exam, I also studied the related topics in depth for the CMA exam. Sir Angel always monitored our progress on the review through giving us lots of materials, test drills, assessment exams, and advices and encouragements.

There was barely a 2 week gap between the CPA (Oct. 12 ’14 as last day of exam) and the CMA exams (Oct. 28 and 30) so I really prayed hard and really crammed to finish answering some materials, Wiley test bank, etc. Then came the CMA exam, I don’t really know what to expect so I just let out a deep breath and started answering the questions.

Time pressure was the greatest challenge during the CMA exams because candidates are expected to answer 100 multiple-choice questions over a period of 3 hours only, or at the rate of 1.8 minutes per item. The crucial part, I believe, was on the essay portion of the exam once you complete and “passed” the minimum score on the MCQ section. The essay portion comprise of 2 case scenarios where candidates are given 5-6 sub-questions per case scenario. Analysis, computation and lots of “Business English construction” are needed, like you as a consultant give advices to your client or top management.

Thankfully, I survived the 2 day exam.

Insights CMA Scholar_Judy BayawaAfter a month and a half, all of my CMA batchmates were eagerly waiting for the results. The sun brightly shined on the morning of December 12 and I knew then that I passed the exam. I was overwhelmingly overjoyed that I smiled all the way to work looking crazy. I said to myself, “so this is the feeling of becoming a CMA!”

Conquering fears, going out of your comfort zone, and trusting God were some of the many things that I learned in this journey. A realization came to me that day: God uses little happenings in our life in preparation for a greater and bigger plan.

Let us not ignore opportunities that come our way; rather, we should grab them because they may never come again.

I want to encourage the CMA hopefuls to never give up because all of those sacrifices, time, and effort will always be worth it once you earn the title. Dream high and strive for the gold!

Lastly, I want to share this victory with my parents, friends, and the Insights Financial Review Family. Without you, I would not be writing this wonderful story.

To Sir Angel who has been very supportive to us, advising us not only about the CMA exam, but also about our career and future plans, my deepest gratitude, sir!

Most especially, to the Almighty God who is the source of everything, to Him be the glory!

Hurray to the Insights Family!


The author, Judy Bayawa, is a BSA graduate from the University of the Cordilleras in May, 2014. She passed the Oct’14 CPA examination, and the 2-part CMA examination in the same month. She is currently working as an Audit Associate at SyCip, Gorres, Velayo & Co. (SGV & Co., CPAs).