Becoming a U.S. CMA Exam Passer amidst the Pandemic

Angel John F. Geronimo
UST BSA Batch 2020

As a fresh accountancy graduate, my road to becoming a CMA was eventful and eye-opening. My CMA journey started interestingly different from the batches before me, I was part of the “new normal”. We did not have classes on site.

Virtual classes were different from having classes on site. I missed the constant support from peers whenever meeting in the hallway and constant review sessions in preparation for the exams. These were practices which I was accustomed to in my collegiate years.

Normal life became very repetitive. My normal days became a routine of eating, studying, sleeping, and occasional catching up with friends. The situation made it hard for me to constantly perform at my best.

Despite all of these, I was still able to become a U.S. CMA Exam passer. This is all thanks to my family and friends who constantly checked on me and supported me. Most importantly. I am grateful for Insights for helping me prepare for my exams.

The CMA journey was very helpful to me as it helped me look beyond the numbers in accounting. It helped sharpen my analytical and decision-making skills which would surely be helpful in my professional life. This is an experience I would like to recommend for everyone.

About the Author

Angel John F. Geronimo (AJ), born June 13, 1999, graduated with latin honor of cum laude from the University of Santo Tomas. He participated in multiple organizations during his university days allowing him to find the perfect balance between academics and extra-curriculars. Last September-October testing window, AJ took the U.S. based Certified Management Accountant Examination where he passed with one of the top scores in the Philippines.

AJ is the youngest of the family of achievers, his eldest brother being a CPA Lawyer and the other being a medical doctor.  His parents are likewise achievers, her mother being a cum laude graduate, a CPA and a Doctor in Education while his father is the head of a private educational institution.

Adapt and Overcome: My CMA Story

Angeli Marie B. Cabansay, CPA, CMA

Trying to forge a new slate in my life, I decided to take on the challenge of becoming a Certified Management Accountant. Looking back, I was not aware of the challenging year that was yet to come. I had everything planned – take during the September-October testing window, attend onsite reviews and study outside the house for a more conducive study environment. However, as we all know, that was not the case. Because of the pandemic, we had to adjust and get used to “new normal” behaviors. Besides the changes in other general day-to-day activities, online class was adapted, and perhaps the most challenging thing for me during the whole review period was to study at home.

It is during this period that I realized how important adaptability is to survive in life. With the end goal in mind, manifesting that I will become a Certified Management Accountant, I made do with what I had to accomplish all that was to be done. Slowly, I began to get used to, and actually prefer, studying at home. Notwithstanding the hard work I know I put into the challenge, I recognize my family and loved ones for their unending support, my friends and batch mates for lending a hand and teaching me about lessons I found difficult to understand, and the whole Insights Review team for always being available to answer queries and expand our knowledge with their online reviews. Despite the sense of loneliness in this pandemic, these three factors undoubtedly contributed to my success. It is true that no man is an island – in fact I believe man can be compared to  a three-legged stool: supported by 1. One’s own hard work and ambition, 2. Spiritual guidance and faith, and 3. The support of those who surround him. With these three “legs” to support me, I was able to achieve the goal. By God’s grace, I passed the CMA Examination with flying colors.

About the Author: Angeli Marie B. Cabansay is a twenty-three year old Cebu-based Certified Public Accountant. Before passing the CMA exam, she passed the October 2019 CPA Licensure Examination on her first try, forming part of the 14.32% who excelled on the said examination. She has gained experience in both Public Accounting and Commerce & Industry. Currently, she works as a Finance and Administration Manager. Besides all these achievements, Angeli also has a passion for singing, crafts and baking, and hopes to continually hone herself into an even more well-rounded individual who can make an impact in this world and contribute to its betterment.

You Just Got To Believe You Can

Becoming a CMA professional while working requires a lot of time and effort. The road will not be easy and lots of struggles will come your way when you prepare for the exams. In my case, this endeavor that I decided to work on was a lot harder than any other. I decided to venture on becoming a CMA while I was also on my last semester in my master’s degree in business administration notwithstanding the fact that I was also a family man and a working professional. Yes, that decision was risky taking into consideration that on the same month I will undergo two critical examinations at the same time which are the comprehensive exam in my MBA degree and the Part 2 of the CMA exam. Despite of all these, I have been able to conquer both my MBA degree and CMA examinations.

What I realized during this journey was that every dream that you want to achieve needs a lot of hard work and sacrifices before you can attain such dream. Working on your CMA dream is not a walk in the park but a process that needs a lot of sweat and efforts. However, the same will be compensated once you become a Certified Management Accountant. The main ingredient that I incorporate in my CMA journey was discipline. Discipline for me is about planning, time management, and anticipation of important tasks. Time is not unlimited resource that you can spend when you are a working professional. You need to balance your time properly and anticipate what are your important tasks that needs to be accomplish first. Below are my tips on how to prepare for review while working at the same time.

First, if you are a working professional, make yourself comfortable on the changes of your lifestyle during your exam preparation. Caveat, procrastination and laziness are prohibited at this stage. After which look for that time of the day when your brain works faster that on just a short period of time you can absorb and retain the information you have read. The goal here is about being effective and efficient with your review on a limited time. Second, prepare a schedule or a to-do list. You need to prepare a progressive study plan for the CMA exam and always remind yourself to diligently follow this schedule. As I pointed, planning and anticipation are critical on the success of this journey. Sticking to your planned activities will ease your stress and gives you better view on the things you want to accomplish on the daily basis up to the time you will take the exam. Nothing in this world is impossible to achieve if you plan smart, prepare effectively, and be disciplined enough to work hard for it. Lastly, always believe in yourself that you can pass the exam and never forget to ask for help and guidance from our Creator. Faith in God and confidence in yourself greatly affects your motivation and mental condition. Furthermore, ask for the support of your family, friends, and our Insights team. Their encouragements will give you a huge boost emotionally which can help you successfully hurdle the exam.

To all the working professionals, I encourage you to go out of your comfort zone and accept the CMA challenge. Learning new things while working is not an impossible task. You just need to take the first step towards such goal. If I have achieved my CMA dream, then you can also attain this dream.


About the Author: Louie C. Borja currently handles bookkeeping and tax accounting tasks for Australian clients. He recently completed his Masters degree at the University of Cebu while  also preparing for his CMA examination. He completed his Accountancy course in 2016 at Saint Paul School of Professional Studies, graduating cum laude, and passed the Philippine CPA examination in the same year.

Finding that Opportunity To Rise

I first learned about U.S. CMA program’s accessibility to Filipinos after noting that a few of my batchmates took and passed the exams right after the Philippine CPA exam.

I originally wanted to take CMA simply because MAS,  Finance,  and Economics were my favorite subjects in undergraduate. Eventually, as I gained real world experience,  I appreciated the value of deeply understanding how a business works, which is where CMA shines. Finding that opportunity to rise, it has then been my goal to pursue it once I can afford it.

That time came last June 23, 2019 when I enrolled my self to Insights for the weekend lectures and the WileyCMAexcel Gold online study course package. Given the audit workload in the weekdays, when overtime was still the norm, I just wanted to sleep after arriving home. This lasted until end of July, when I resigned from my job.

By August, I had a lot to catch up, primarily to start and finish most of the WileyCMAexcel lectures and start answering the challenging test banks. At the same time, I was sending job applications and attending interviews.

The CMA certification program pushed me to have a more comprehensive understanding of concepts than what the CPA’s Management Advisory Services portion required.

I first took the Part 2 exam in September 2019. Days before the exam, I had the same uneasy feeling as when I took the CPA exam 4 years ago. I told my self “Ano ba ‘tong pinasok ko [What have I gotten my self into].” During the exam proper though, I was calm. It really helped that the exam interface is almost identical to the WileyCMAexcel study materials. I ended the exam with 15 flagged multiple choice questions (MCQs).

For the month of October 2019,  I was left with the Part 1 exam, which I felt less confident of. I ended the exam with 19 flagged MCQs.

Results were out in December 2019 and the Insights team were very confident that I will get gold with my high scores. It became official this January 2020. I expected that I would pass but have not thought of getting the top score. In fact, I was only aiming to get at least 80 in MCQ, which is the passing score after I assumed that I can probably get at least 50% score in essay.

I have immediately realized the benefit of CMA as I was getting invited to interviews even more after it has become part of my name.

I am ecstatic that I’m currently processing my US visa for the IMA Annual Conference happening in Atlanta, Georgia, and another visa for my new job, for which CMA has helped one way or another.

I encourage students to take the CMA exam while topics are still fresh in your minds. It equips you with skills relevant to most career paths. At the same time, I urge accounting/finance professionals to take it, feasibly with each part in separate exam windows, or during transition between jobs, similar to what I did. It does open doors. I advise you to take it. You can pass it, but first “you’ve got to earn it.”


About the Author: Michael John M. Cortez is a proud product of the University of Santo Tomas-Alfredo M. Velayo College of Accountancy, graduating magna cum laude under batch 2015. He passed the Philippine CPA examination in October 2015, and took and passed the CMA examination in October 2019, garnering the highest average exam score worldwide. He will be heading to Atlanta this June 2020 to receive his Gold Medal award in front of 800+ other CMAs estimated in attendance on that day.

Fearlessly Destined

Destiny is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice. Ever since I was a child, I am already a believer of that saying. However, there are things that we cannot control. Some things come unexpectedly which happen to be one of the best in our lives.

Since childhood, I was already active in school, may it be in academics or extra-curricular activities. From elementary to university life, I really enjoyed joining different organizations while keeping up with my academics . Having the curiosity led me to question and study those around me. When I earned my two bachelor’s degrees in 1) Management Accounting and 2) Accountancy, I went to Manila to review for the board exams. It so happened that I met Mr. Angel Secerio and Ms. Ronie Paras who gave me more details about the CMA Program. Upon learning more about it, I became so interested and consulted my parents who gladly agreed to provide me the resources I needed. It was also a good thing to have availed of the “Pass Now, Pay Later” scheme given by Insights Financial Review Services. I was thankful because it was an opportunity for me to further advance my career.

During my review days at Insights, I always looked forward to attending the review sessions. Aside from the learning I had during my university years and from Wiley Gold review materials, I learned something new and deep everyday. I found the lessons truly enjoyable as it also tackled practical lessons in economics, finance, and accounting. The review became more enjoyable because the review rooms were very conducive to learning. The instructors and people from Insights were very approachable. Sleepless nights and days passed and I didn’t notice my examination days were getting closer. I still continued to study and practice using the review materials I had from Insights and Wiley. The support and guidance I had especially from my family gave me the strength and the will to do my best during the review and exam days.

During the review proper until the present, IMA sends updates, news, and more about the profession and the organization. But one day, a particular email caught my attention. It was an invitation to attend the IMA 100th Annual Conference and Expo to be held in San Diego, California. Deep inside, I wanted to attend that prestigious event. I even jokingly asked my parents if they would allow me to go to the USA if I passed the CMA exam. Luckily, they said yes. However, they told me not to think about it yet, but just focus on the review and exam instead. That statement from my parents made me more motivated to stay on track and do better. Focus, focus, and focus.

Days  passed  and  examination  days  came.  I  was  amazed  because I found myself more prepared than what I expected to be. The preparation was really harder and longer than the actual battle. It took sleepless nights and days to actually prepare for a day or two for an exam.

As I was soundly sleeping, a loud thunder was heard and the rain fell which woke me up in the middle of the night. I could not go back to sleep so I decided to check my email. I was surprised and nervous when I saw an email from IMA with a subject, “ICMA Examination Results”. I could barely click on it as my hands were shaking. Luckily, I passed the exam with a high score. I could not believe that I did it. It was an achievement that I, alone, could not have done without the support and guidance of my parents, siblings, family, friends, professors, reviewers, and Insights. I owe this one especially to God, my parents, and the Insights team.

I finally applied for my visa upon passing the exam so I could attend the event in San Diego, California. Luckily, I had my visa approved. The conference week in June 2019 came and I was really excited to meet a lot of people. I learned a lot from the conference and enjoyed it together with  my  IMA  Philippines  colleagues,  Insights  team,    and  newly  found  friends  from  the conference. It really was a one of a kind experience. Now, as my CMA journey starts, I begin it with enthusiasm, dedication, and courage. Who knows what is up in the future? We’ll figure it out.

Our destiny is not really a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice. It may be pre-planned but it is always us who decides on things – whether we continue it or not. Never let fear be a barrier from pursuing what we want.  Some setbacks, when used as stepping stones, serve as challenges for a major achievement. Always strive to do better. For in the end, it will pave way for bigger rewards and ultimately greater things in life.


About the author:

Von Jozelle Galinato Mangibin graduated cum laude in both BS Management Accounting, and BS Accountancy at Saint Louis University batch 2017 and 2018, respectively. She is fond of going places, meeting new people, and learning from her different experiences wherever situated. At present, she is enjoying her vacation in the USA.


What started as a joke became one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

It all started when CMA began to be offered to higher ups in our college. It seemed pretty normal at first, getting another certification aside from becoming a CPA. Personally, I did not pay much attention as I always had other things in mind. However, hearing news that someone from our college received an award and will be awarded in the United States caught my attention. I immediately thought what if I could also get a chance to receive an award. It would have been nice to go to a new place. Then, the rest of college life happened and this was buried in my “what ifs”.

During my undergraduate years, I always said that I enjoyed Economics and Financial Management more than Accounting itself. I really devoted effort in understanding these topics which were not really a focus in the accountancy curriculum. I also found management accounting subjects enjoyable not only because of the topics but because of the international references we use which contains real corporate applications. I’m the kind of guy who reads the stories in small boxes. This was something fresh compared to recurring problems in financial accounting or other topics.

When an offer for us to take CMA after our CPA licensure examination was given to us, I was hesitant at first. First of all, it was expensive, even if it was on a “Pass-now, Pay-later” scheme. Second, the review would only start right after the last day of the CPALE. However, it was said that global top performers will be awarded in San Diego for this year. I think that line pushed me to register, while jokingly saying #RoadtoSanDiego.

At that point I did not realize it would soon come true.

I took comprehensive examinations in preparation for CMA in the middle of my CPALE review without much preparation. I remember even going out the night before those examinations. It was not that easy taking the exams with topics you have not given much focus for the CPALE. However, I did find this enjoyable, mainly because I get to assess knowledge not from short-term memory but from embedded or stock knowledge. It is a “You will know it when you feel it” kind of thing. This really helped me trust my instincts and practice critical thinking.

The CPALE review came like a breeze and so did the examination. It was a tiring run, and now I just realized I have another two weeks of review for another set of examinations. What pushed me to continue the run was that I may not correct my shortcomings from the CPALE, but I can make sure it won’t happen in the CMA. In addition to this, the results of the CPALE was released the night before my CMA Part 1 exam, which really pushed me to translate my excitement to motivation for the CMA.

Adding to the motivation was the Wiley online learning reference available to us which really augmented my mastery of the topics. Listening and taking notes did contribute to learning, but when you are given a limited amount of time, for me it is best to get ahead of the review sessions and just focus on the parts you need to master. I did my best to maximize time by finishing the Wiley Gold online study material provided during review and finish more questions through its simulated examinations. In this short span of time, I was surprised with the amount of questions I finished answering, and I maintained this routine for the next week.

The essay part was new and challenging, but I did not let it become a challenge. By the time you are reading this, you might realize that I talk or write a lot. I had to deal with it through limited time. I did not memorize anything, but I did browse through the entire CMA review textbook before taking both parts. I managed to finish it within the day by focusing on things I still have not mastered, and quickly skimming over those I already know. During the actual essay part, all I did was express myself and let my mind direct the answers.

Looking back, I realized that I wouldn’t have made it through without the effort to retain somehow topics learned years ago. I credited this to my approach to focus on concepts during the undergraduate years, even if I have not answered many problems. I did not excel much in my scores back then but I know that I could retain my knowledge on these topics, and that surely helped me in taking the CMA exam.

Passing CMA is just the beginning of my journey, as I explore the professional world and enrich my knowledge with actual experience. My CMA journey is neither the best path nor the only path to take, but I did learn something from this: the next time you would want something, you can really get it, but first, you’ve got to earn it!


About the author: Marc graduated magna cum laude from the University of Santo Tomas with a degree in Bachelor of Science in Accountancy. He earned his CPA License in October 2018, obtaining the fourth highest score of 90.33%. He also took the two-part CMA Examination during the October 2018 window and was awarded the Priscilla S. Payne Outstanding Student Performance Award, by obtaining the highest score among CMA takers in the student category. He is currently working as an external auditor in one of the Big Four accounting firms.

Going For It!

You’ve got to earn it.

Those were the words uttered repeatedly on the first day of our CMA review classes. At first, we thought it was quite funny, hearing Dean Kenji Asano say it over and over with full conviction as the CMA Ambassador in the Philippines. Looking back, I realize that those words still resound to me until this day – but now with a different light – have I earned it?

I was in my 5th year in college when I decided I wanted to become a Certified Management Accountant. I had a lot of second guessing – considering that I wasn’t planning to pursue further studies or take additional certifications until I knew what was relevant to my chosen career path. Certifications, especially international ones, also tend to be costly. As a student, I didn’t want to impose further unnecessary financial burden to my parents. But I thought that the chance to obtain a globally-recognized certification, even before I graduate, would open greater opportunities both for my personal and professional development.

Conveniently, UST-AMV College of Accountancy provided us, students, opportunities to gain a wider perspective of what was ahead of us. On the other hand, Insights Financial Review Services structured payment terms as well as review and examination schedules in a way that made earning an international certification credential very accessible. The only question left was whether I can do it.

I did not have the chance to worry about the CMA Exam until the time when I had to take it. I just decided that I would, and took one step at a time from then on – last semester in college, graduation, reviewing and preparing for the CPA Licensure Examination. With God’s grace, I was fortunate enough to get through them. There was not much time to recover since a day after the CPALE, CMA review classes instantaneously began.

With all honesty, reviewing was a struggle at that point. A part of me just wanted to be free of all the academic responsibilities and slack off without guilt – which was obviously not possible. I had already invested in the program, and failing was not an option, although I believe I wasn’t in the best condition to study anymore. My other batchmates were either applying for a job, enjoying themselves someplace I dreamt of going as well, or simply catching extra hours of sleep. Good thing we were reminded, “You’ve got to earn it.”

I did my best to absorb all the information I can get during the review classes. I made it a point to answer the materials the day they were given and take down notes that may be helpful later on. I also utilized the top-class Wiley Gold online study course which helped me get in to the best exam-taking mode possible. But with one week to prepare for each part of the exam, I regretted not starting earlier. I feared that I may not be able to finish everything on time so I focused on topics I wasn’t very familiar with, read discussions on them and answered extra practice questions. Wiley’s digital flashcard notes were very helpful too when I needed a review on major discussion points. When things get monotonous, I read through sample essay questions to figure out answering through them. But that was just me. I couldn’t have done it without the foundation on management accounting topics which I owe to my college professors, and my friends with whom I exchanged questions and reviewed with until the moment we had to enter the Prometric examination room.

One week flew by and it was time to take the first part of the exam. In fact, the results of the CPALE came out on that same day. I wasn’t able to celebrate entirely but it sure gave me the confidence I needed to get through another exam. By the end of October, I was through with all the exams I had to take. I honestly couldn’t tell how I did so I waited hopefully for the results. I was already very grateful to pass both parts of the examination when a congratulatory email from IMA came six weeks later.

Now I ask again, have I earned it? I’d like to believe I am still in the process of doing so. As with anything, it is a series of being brave enough to make decisions, and even braver to own up to them, amidst doubts, challenges, and whatnot. My CMA journey, though only beginning, has taught me that you’re never really ready for anything. You can only hope to do so much and pray that God gets you through it. So I say when someone tells you that you’ve got to earn it, just go for it.


About the author: Francyne graduated cum laude from the University of Santo Tomas with a degree in BS Accountancy and earned her CPA License in 2018. She took the 2-part CMA Examination during the October 2018 window and was awarded the Student Certificate of Distinguished Performance by the ICMA Board of Regents at the IMA Conference and Expo held in San Diego, California. She is currently working as an external auditor with one of the top accounting firms in the Philippines.

The Long Journey That Led To Victory

I think my passion for Management Accounting started out during the first semester of my senior year as an Accountancy student in college. It was the first time I ever encountered Cost Accounting and I was immediately fascinated by the practical applications. It definitely was not the easiest subject but I found myself being more diligent in this one more than any of my other subjects. Since then, I had always been more excited and interested about taking other Management Accounting courses until my 5th year in college. I guess it was the less rigorous and stringent rules involved in Management Accounting against Financial Accounting.

During that time, I seriously considered taking on work as a Cost Accountant in a private company by the time I graduated. So while my classmates were gunning for the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification, I was already playing with the idea of eventually being certified as a Certified Management Accountant (CMA).

It took me 4 years before I actually decided to finally pursue my CMA. Between the time I graduated and got my CMA, I got my Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license, pursued a career as a tax professional in a Big 4 auditing firm, and finally landed a position as the Head of Budget & Planning in one of the top food kiosk operators in the Philippines. It is a position I currently hold today and was one of the keys that eventually led me to get my CMA to benefit both my professional development and achieve my organization’s objectives. I was excited to finally be a management accountant in action and help my company lay out the groundwork of the budget and planning system that it follows today. I was fortunate enough that my superior, herself a college instructor and long-time supporter of learning, and upper management supported my desire to pursue this certification and agreed to sponsor my review and exams. And so I started the 6-month journey under the umbrella of Insights Financial Review Services.

It was not easy juggling the demands of a full-time job and finding time to prepare for the exams. I do have to say that taking the exams as a working professionals granted me a different and valuable perspective in approaching situational problems through real-life situations I may have encountered at work, lessons which I will not find in any textbook.

Weekends were spent in review classes and I dedicated at least 2 hours each weeknight to make sure I covered all the materials and answer at least 50 multiple choice questions. Consistency was key in keeping my study rhythm and making sure I don’t slack off even on the busiest of work days.

My scheduled exams came at one of the most hectic points during the year when projects were at their busiest and the budget season was kicking in. After sitting through each exam, I did not mind the wait as I went about business as usual.

When the results came late one night in November, I was overwhelmed with happiness at seeing the words of congratulations from the IMA and excitedly shared to my family, friends, and colleagues who tirelessly supported me throughout.

I didn’t expect to be overwhelmed again on January the following year when I got a text message from Insights CMA Review that I had actually landed a Certificate of Distinguished Performance award given by the ICMA Board of Regents, and had the chance to receive the it personally in San Diego at the prestigious IMA’s 100th Annual Conference.

All I can think about when I look back at my CMA journey and those 3 letters I can now attach to my name was how thankful I am for getting more than I bargained for when I started. It may have taken me longer than most but I eventually got there with the help of Insights CMA Review, the supportive management of my organization, family, friends and colleagues.


About the author:  Pat graduated magna cum laude in BS Business Administration and Accountancy from the University of the Philippines Diliman and is a licensed CPA since 2014. She is currently the Budget & Planning Manager of one of the most beloved snacking companies in the Philippines and does financial consultancy for selected clients. She enjoys watching sitcoms and reading during her free time and is a proud dog parent to Muffin.

Turning Vision into Reality

During my undergrad years, I was really thinking about getting another certification aside from the CPA. I wanted to differentiate myself from my batchmates. I did not want to be ordinary, I wanted to be someone different from the rest. I was really planning on getting the CMA certification because I really loved the management advisory services subject during college. The professors were good and they always made things interesting and I think that it was a factor on why I chose the CMA. They made me join accounting quiz bowls including those related management advisory services. I heard from my seniors that whoever wins the MAS quiz bowls will have a scholarship for the CMA exam but unfortunately for our batch, there was no such scholarship.

After my graduation and after passing the CPA board exam, I somehow forgot about the ambition of taking the CMA examination. I was thinking that I should just pursue the CPA path and forget about my other goal which is becoming a CMA. But somehow, I met Josh, the director for IMA Southeast Asia and Australasia, during my CPA oath taking. He talked me into being a CMA and the opportunities ahead of my young career. I can do many things by being a CPA, but the opportunities ahead of me if I become a CPA and a CMA will grow exponentially. One thing that pushed me into taking the certification is that it is a globally recognized certification which will really help me in the future.

I was quite hesitant at first to take the program because of the costs and I did not want to seek help from my family members but after a phone call with Sir Angel Secerio he provided a flexible payment plan and that’s when I decided to take the program last February 2018. Right from the get go, he told me that there is a huge chance that I will be able to go to the US if ever a bag an award for such exam. That really motivated me to do well in the exams.

Being able to balance work and studies is not an easy feat. I was always out of town for work and was not able to attend much of the reviews but the Insights team was very supportive of me. They would email me materials so that I can study more for the exams. They would let me take exams to test my abilities and if I am ready for the exam which really helped me prepare better especially for the essays since I am used to the multiple-choice questions in the board exam. I had an end in mind while preparing for the exam, by December 2018, I should already be a CMA passer. No matter the struggles in work, I always made it a priority to put in at least 3 hours per day on weekdays and 8 hours during weekends to study for the examinations. Repetition and a lot of reading has been tactic and covering as much materials as possible.

My thought process during those times was to study more to reap my benefits in the future. Looking back last December 13, one of my goals has been ticked off and better yet, I earned the gold medal. I am very thankful to Josh, Sir Angel and the whole Insights team, because without them, my dream of becoming a CMA will remain as that, a dream. My family also has been very supportive since day one. And most especially, I thank God for blessing me with this feat. With the right dedication, prayer, support and a little bit of luck, anything can happen. To aspiring CMAs, whenever you experience failures, don’t ever give up. I have personally experienced failing many times and I chose to get up. It has become my mantra that a setback is always a setup for a comeback.


About the Author: Maaku Saito is a magna cum laude graduate from the University of San Carlos in Cebu City. He earned his CPA title back in 2017, passing the tough May 2017 CPALE with a rating of 91.83%, the fourth highest in that examination. He is currently working in the most prestigious accounting firm in the Philippines.

Ad Astra Per Aspera

When I was in college, I am always fascinated by this Latin phrase engraved over one of our University’s structures, “Ad Astra Per Aspera”. When I saw the phrase, I immediately looked for its meaning, “to the stars through difficulties”. I realized that it is not one ordinary Latin jargon but one that inspires someone who reads and understands it. At that moment, my story of journeying towards the brightest stars commenced.

I graduated in college last April 2014 at the Cagayan State University in Tuguegarao City and passed the CPA board exams the same year emerging as one of the toppers. I still held into that phrase, but this time on a different tone, I think I have already reached the stars because I courageously faced the difficulties. I then joined the workforce as an auditor in Punongbayan and Araullo. A realization hit me, that even after graduating with Latin honors and topping the licensure exams, it feels like it is not enough. With the advent of the ASEAN integration as well as the technological disruptions in the labor market where robots are beginning to take the place of humans, it may already be necessary to equip myself with some other qualifications and credentials. However, because I wanted to first earn a living for myself and for my family, I opted to just sleep over it.

Fast forward, in early 2016, I came across FB posts showing a number of fresh graduates and even professionals passing the CMA exams. I contacted one of my friends (who is already a CMA) and he introduced me to Sir Angel Secerio of Insights Financial, the largest CMA review center in the Philippines. With my eagerness to pursue additional credential, I asked him a lot of questions regarding the CMA certification which he patiently and generously responded. However, I was distraught when I learned about the cost of the program (though Sir Angel offered me a discount and instalment payment option plan) and another thing, I still didn’t have one of the requirements to take the exam – a passport. So I decided not pursue for the meantime, but without throwing away that desire to obtain the title.

In 2017, my present employer, Bank of Makati, offered me a sponsorship for a certification (but not the CMA) and without hesitation, I gladly accepted. That same year, I earned the Certified Financial Consultants (CFC) credential.

But my desire to become a CMA still remains intact. In fact I had been an avid follower of the Facebook page of Insights Financial where they always share posts of successful examinees and I do always read testimonies and success stories of the passers in their website. Then last May 2018, my boss, Sir Rowell Umali, made an unsolicited recommendation to us (I and my friend Harvee Salvador) to perhaps try the CMA exam. Of course I was surprised and at the same time thrilled and excited. The title I have been yearning for more than 3 years is already coming to light. We drafted and submitted an intent letter to our President, Sir Luis Chua, showing our eagerness to pursue CMA and requesting for the Bank’s support which he gladly approved. To that, I express my most sincere gratitude to my very considerate and generous bosses in Bank of Makati.

And my journey towards the CMA certification begins.

But before that, it is also worth mentioning that a few months back, in March 2018, I have submitted an application for a Master’s degree in Management at the University of the Philippines- Manila (UPM). Passed the admissions exam last June 2018 and attended classes starting August.

During those months, my life was very difficult. Juggling between my: work– where the last semester of the year is the busiest because of the budgeting and planning season and the unit I am heading is the overall in charge; study for my Masters– Saturday class, studying in UP is a no joke as lots of readings and research papers are required and we also have to attend events and colloquiums outside the classroom, we were tasked to prepare Management Research Papers and a Strategic Management Paper of our respective organizations and do a book review of business strategy books; review for the CMA– I have to read the thousand-pages book of Wiley, attend live review sessions either in UST or in Insights Center in Makati during Sundays (thank you to the Insights Team!) and answer tons of CMA online problems (more or less 4,000 problems for both parts), have to memorize concepts and terms to prepare for the essay part of the exam, not to mention that I am stranger to some of the CMA topics such as US GAAP, Standards for Internal Audit and Risk Management and some foreign laws (Sarbanes Oxley Act, Foreign Corrupt Practice Act, to name a few); and lastly my personal life. It was really very hard and taxing.

For more than 8 months, I had to make sure I am on track of everything. Work demands are met, research paper and homeworks for my Masters are submitted on time and the CMA exam preparation is on track as Sir Angel would always ask me for an update how well am I doing with my preparation. I read the Wiley book in the morning at the office before office hours or if we need to submit a paper for my Masters I have to do that first. Use 30 minutes of my lunchbreak time to answer a couple of CMA problems, sometimes have to render overtime at the office. I read Wiley flashcards or listen to the Wiley audio lecture on my way going home after 6:30 in the evening, then at night after having my dinner, takes 10-20 minute power nap before starting to practice solving 50-100 CMA problems. Then goes to bed around 12 in the midnight to 1:00 AM and wakes up at 5:00 to 6:00. I barely had a review during weekends because I had to attend my class in UP during Saturday and the CMA live class session during Sunday.

But what kept me up and running during that time of struggle was my burning desire to really earn the certification- no matter how hard it gets- for my future and for my family. I am always reminded by that phrase “Ad Astra PerAspera”, “to the stars through difficulties”.

I took the exams last January 2019 for the Part 1 and February 2019 for the Part 2, need to take it in same exam window to qualify us for a medal ranking. The exams were in Ateneo Graduate School and I can say it was hard- 100 multiple choice questions and 2 essays with 6 questions each- all to finish in 4 hours in front of the testing computers of the Prometric Testing Center inside Ateneo. We were not allowed to bring anything inside the testing center, even our hankies! And every testing computer has a camera installed so the proctor can see every detail of our action within the 4 hours that we are inside.

We were informed that the results will be out 42 days after the last day of the month that we took the exams. Which means we had to wait for more than 2 months before we are able to know whether we passed or not. And just like how waiting for the CPA board exam results felt before, waiting for the CMA exams was also agonizing.

Exactly 42 days from end of January and February 2019, the results were released last March 14 and April 11- with the word “Congratulations” in the first line of the email I received from Mr. Dennis Whitney- the Senior VP of ICMA (Certification Division of IMA). I immediately told Sir Angel of my scores and he assured me of a medal given those scores, either the gold or the silver. And how did I feel? It was cloud nine, grinning from ear to ear! April 11, a day after my birthday, was actually one of the best days I had ever!

Indeed, my CMA journey was one thrilling ride. Struggles were everywhere- work, studies, review and personal life. But in battling those struggles, I had my weapons- discipline, focus and faith. I held into my dream and into holding that dream, I used those weapons. Now I can say, I have surpassed the difficulties and I have reached a ‘golden’ star- a star that will definitely open up a lot of opportunities in the future. Indeed, Ad Astra Per Aspera!

To God be All the Glory!

About the Author: Reynald E. Tomas is a magna cum laude graduate from Cagayan State University. He earned his CPA title back in 2014, passing the tough Oct. 2014 CPALE with a rating of 90.71%, the second highest in that examination. He worked in one of the prominent audit firms immediately after passing the exam, and currently holds a key finance position in one of the well-known banks in Metro Manila.