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‘I was after learning and gaining knowledge more than the grade’: UP graduate Michelle Mariposa on her second summa cum laude award

By Camille Santiago Published Jul 26, 2021 6:40 pm

For Michelle Mariposa, a two-time summa cum laude graduate, launching a career takes time and doesn’t necessarily have to follow a straight line. In her case, she was a working student throughout college and grad school, and switched from psychology to music along the way.

While Mariposa always had a passion for music, it wasn’t until she was in college that she decided to pursue a degree in music. She was already set on having a career in medicine, but had a change of heart during her internship.

While interning at an in-patient psychiatric facility, the University of the Philippines Diliman graduate realized the “mental toll of being in that field” was something that she’d never be able to handle. Instead, Mariposa discovered that she wanted to hone her singing skills more.

“We, interns, kasi make different modules based on the topic for the week or the month or the facility. So in that particular session, I used a singing game,” she told PhilSTAR L!fe in an exclusive interview. “And then after that, yung housemates, they asked me to sing a song for them, which I did. And then naiyak sila. So parang ako, ‘Hala, ang powerful pala ng music,’” Mariposa added.

“So doon ko naisip, why not pursue a second degree in music, kasi parang ibang klaseng fulfillment and healing rin yung na-experience ko and nakita ko sa housemates ko sa facility na ‘yon,” she said.

And so, after graduating Psychology with a summa cum laude award, Mariposa continued her studies at UP Diliman, took up a bachelor's degree in Music (Voice), and graduated with another summa cum laude award.

“Graduating summa really wasn't my goal,” revealed Mariposa. “My goal was to grow as a musician, to know more about this field, and to accumulate connections, repertoire, events that I can sing in, techniques that will help me as a singer,” she added.

Having two Latin awards under her belt might give one the impression that Mariposa spends most of her time and energy for school, but she admits she just knows how to balance her time, allowing her to have fun with her friends.

“Medyo walwal ako. I would say I'm an extrovert. Gusto ko may kasama, laging lumalabas,” she told us, adding that she likes going to UP Town or her friends’ homes. “But at the same time, it helped [that] I really had a strict schedule for myself,” she said adding, “If I don't have a schedule, I end up just doing what I want, which is watching Netflix or hanging out with friends.”

Ultimately, Mariposa doesn’t let herself get swayed by distractions easily. “I reminded myself na this is really what I wanted to pursue and I'll work hard for it. I’ll pursue it with excellence,” she said.

“And mas motivated din ako sa enjoyment ko eh. So, I really try to look for something in an arduous task that I can enjoy,” she added.

But learning doesn’t stop here. In a few weeks, Mariposa is set to leave for the United States to take another program, Masters in Voice and Opera Performance, at the Northwestern University in Illinois, where she is a recipient of the Eckstein Scholarship.

“As a singer kasi, feeling ko kulang na kulang pa ako sa technique,” she said when asked why she decided to further her studies. “And at the same time, here in the Philippines we don't really have opportunities for performing opera, performing art songs, classical music so I want that that kind of exposure. Also ultimately because I want to bring that back home here,” Mariposa added.

Her advice to anyone who wants to succeed in their studies? Three things: “Aim to learn,” “work hard and work smart,” and “trust in the work that you put in.”

Graduating summa really wasn't my goal. My goal was to grow as a musician—to know more about this field and to accumulate connections, repertoire, and techniques that will help me as a singer.

“It really helped me that I was after learning and gaining knowledge more than the grade,” Mariposa said. “I enjoyed my classes so much because I kept on learning. That's what made it fun for me.”

Mariposa also explained how one can be more effective at learning, and cited Naruto from the anime series, saying, “‘A failure who works hard to succeed is much better than several geniuses,’ something along that line. So, the hard work is really important, it's really essential. But at the same time you should work smart, hindi lang hard. You should know what works best for you.”

And most importantly, believe in yourself.

“We have to set modesty aside, which is difficult kasi di ba in the Philippines, we're usually ‘Ah hindi po,’ we don't usually acknowledge our hard work and successes for ourselves, but I feel that it's very important to have faith in your skills and in the work you've put in,” Mariposa shared.

Photo by Jeremy Caisip

Photos courtesy of Michelle Mariposa