Meet UP History's first female summa cum laude

Rose Carmelle Lacuata, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 17 2016 12:31 PM

MANILA - One of this year's summa cum laude graduates at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman has made history as the first female summa cum laude of the UP Department of History.

Julia Catherina Agoncillo, graduating with a BA Kasaysayan degree on June 26, also holds another record: being the fourth person to graduate summa cum laude from her department.

The three other summa cum laude graduates of the UP Department of History are Zeus A. Salazar (1955, AB History), Alfredo C. Robles, Jr. (1976, AB History) and Ariel C. Lopez (2007 BA Kasaysayan).

In an interview with ABS-CBN News, Agoncillo, who has a general weighted average of 1.122, said she did not plan on graduating with honors.

"The conscious effort to graduate with honors came late. Entering college, the only real plan was simply to do my best, and watch what happens," she said.

Staying sane by enjoying life

As a student, Agoncillo spent time with her peers, joining as many organizations as she can. She however realized that it is not possible to be active in six organizations at the same time so she decided to let go of some.

"I was an active member of six organizations at one point in college before I realized how ridiculous my situation was! Eventually, I limited myself to four organizations, serving as an officer in the UP Marine Biological Society (UP MBS)," she said.

"I was most active in UP MBS given my advocacy on the marine environment, as well as my hobbies of swimming and diving," Agoncillo added.

She also said she did not have any special study habits, but she stands by efficient time management and note-taking as secrets to her success.

"I doubt there is anything special about the way I study, but efficient time management is everything. If you make it a point to pay close attention in class and take decent notes, you won’t have to set aside much time to study after classes. It also pays to be organized," Agoncillo said.

"Finally, stay sane by finding other things to do than just study: pick up a hobby, enjoy a drink with family and friends, indulge in your favorite television series," she added.

Millennials and history

For Agoncillo, easy access to information has made people her age more interested in history.

"I think that more than ever, this age of information has allowed many people to develop an understanding of and appreciation for history and its relevance in discourse," she said.

She however accepts that this ease of access can be a "double-edged sword."

"In particular, the dangers surrounding different, “popular” versions of “history” circulating online especially on social media are no secret," Agoncillo said.

"Fortunately, these can be countered with help from a few basic lessons in historiography: double-check your facts and let them for the most part speak for themselves, know what actually counts as a reliable source, consider the different sides of the same story, be aware of the bias from which no account is exempt, etc. Much detective work is involved in studying the past, which for me at least is part of what makes history fun," she added.

Agoncillo believes that the charm in studying history is more than just learning about the past, but also understanding the self based on past events.

"The essence of studying history lies in its capacity to help us understand who we are, how we got here. It has a lot to do with knowing the self," she added.

Agoncillo is planning to narrow down her research interest to prepare for a master's degree in a field related to the social sciences.