Noemi Paguia Lope


I was born 4th of six siblings on August 19th, 1959. I was always proud and happy to share my birth date with former president, Manuel Luiz Quezon. Proud because my young, innocent mind always thought that being born on the same day as a smart president made me smart; happy because I never had to go to school on my ‘holiday’ birthday.

Growing up in a big family with very limited resources posed a huge obstacle for me in being able to give my best as a young student. My self-confidence took a big blow when, at the age of four, I first stepped into what I considered a dog-eat-dog kindergarten world out there without the benefit of my Mom’s support and attention. Having hand-me-down pairs of shoes and school uniforms squashed any hope of ‘fitting in’. The same story was true during my elementary days. The only saving grace was the genes that my parents passed on to me that landed me at the top of my 6th grade class.

It was a blessing that the Philippine school system did not have a middle school, or my misery would have been more prolonged. However, this ‘curse’ hit me even worse during High School. I went to University of Santo Tomas Education High School, a Catholic school where most students belonged to not-so-financially-challenged families. My lack of financial resources greatly contributed in my inability to garner either of the top two positions in my graduating class. Then, more than ever, did I feel how life could be so unfair.

When it was time to go to college, I decided that staying in the Catholic school would kill my passion for learning. Even though I know that my father would not be happy about it, I took the college entrance exam at the University of the Philippines. I was ecstatic beyond everything when I found out that of the numerous students from my high school who took the UP entrance exam, including our class valedictorian and class salutatorian, I was the only one who managed to pass the rigorous exam even if I chose a ‘quota’ course as my major (Chemistry). I felt vindicated; I believed that if there was an impartial judge of the situation, it would have to be the #1 university in the country. While in college, I had to switch to BS in Statistics for health reasons. I had never worked harder in my life to prove what I could do. And I did! I graduated Cum Laude in 1979. But more important than regaining my self-confidence was the knowledge that I grew and matured, ready for the adult world out there.

The UP standard was so high that it was not enough to be smart to survive it. One has to also learn to be extremely responsible, resourceful, and independent. It was these qualities that convinced Computer Information Systems (CIS), a subsidiary of Manila Electric Company, to invest in training me and hiring me as a computer programmer right out of college. A couple of years later, CIS must have seen some leadership skills in me so I was sent to management training program, after which, I worked my way up to becoming the manager of the whole Computer Operations department.

In 1985, I moved to Australia and became a programmer analyst at AMP Chase. Two years later, I migrated to San Diego, CA USA to join my parents, my brother, and my sisters. I continued to work in the computer applications development industry, moving from Security Pacific Finance, to Rohr Inc, to BankAmerica Housing, and finally to Union Bank of California (UBOC). The pattern in all of these jobs was similar – I would start as a programmer analyst, and I would end up in a lead position. In my current job at UBOC, I am a Vice President/Systems Manager responsible for the Online Banking web site for the bank’s consumer and small business customers.

Needless to say, it has been a very challenging, demanding, and stressful career and life in general. But, thanks to the training that I got from my UP college days, I acquired the necessary skills to turn all these challenges into some very fulfilling and successful experiences. And as I watch how my two beautiful daughters have grown, I am positive that the influence UP had on me did not stop at my career life. My 21-year old daughter, Jeanne, is graduating in June ’08 at UCLA. And my 15-year old daughter, Kelly, is an extremely talented artist.

Maraming salamat (Thank you) UP for everything you stand for and for everything that you’ve done for me and for the thousands of graduates you produce every year. With God’s grace and blessings, you have indeed turned my life around.