“Being a topnotcher opens doors and opportunities, but to further succeed in life or work, you have to continue striving and working hard.” (Realizations on being a topnotcher)


In the year 2007, SLU had the lowest recorded CPA licensure examination passing rate at 36% (196 passers out of 541 takers). However, three Louisians topped the said examination being ranked as first, fourth, and sixth. Moreover, the same year had the least number of national passers and takers which are 3,705 and 10,867, respectively.



During the decade period of May 2007-2017, eight Accountancy graduates from Saint Louis University, Baguio City were deemed ‘topnotcher’ of the CPA licensure examination in the Philippines. Norijane Cabanes Agpalo is one of them. She is from Balungao, Pangasinan. She took the CPA board exam on May 2007 and ranked fourth with 89.86% rating. She is currently an Associate Vice President of Duff & Phelps Pte Ltd in Singapore.

She graduated as valedictorian in high school and first honorable mention in elementary. Moreover, she finished Bachelor of Science in Accountancy as cum laude. Since her sister was studying in Baguio City, her mother decided to enroll her in SLU. Due to her interest in numbers, she took the Accountancy program. Also, her sister was a factor in her chosen program. Agpalo said, “My sister was taking a 5-year program that time, so I wanted to take a 5-year program as well. I had to choose between accounting and engineering, but I know I am terrible at drawing, so I ended up with accounting.” One of her biggest challenges during her college years was waking up early in the morning notwithstanding the cold weather in Baguio City. However, she still managed to obtain good grades in her subjects. In all of the accounting subjects, she obtained the lowest grade of 83% in Auditing Theory.  

She considers Mr. Marc Oliver Castañeda as a remarkable accounting instructor.  I liked Sir Castaneda’s approach to teaching. He taught basic concepts and examples in class, but his examinations were tough, always most talked about after departmental examinations. That worked for me. I had to focus on learning fundamental concepts because those are more important than getting drowned in complicated examples,” she said.

She ranked tenth place in the mock boards during her review classes. Mr. Aljon Lee of the Review School of Accountancy (ReSA) called her when the results came out. She got high ratings in Auditing Problems and Management Advisory Services, and a low rating in Theory of Accounts. According to her, the outright benefits of being a topnotcher are job opportunities, recognition, and financial rewards.           

Her employment history clearly proves her versatility, competence, and excellence. Her working experiences are as follows: Senior Associate of SGV & Co., Deal Officer of First Metro Investment Corporation, Senior Associate of FTI Consulting, Assistant Manager of BDO Advisory Pte Ltd in Singapore, and Manager of Stone Forest Corporate Advisory Pte Ltd in Singapore also.

Her professional certifications and titles include: Certified Public Accountant (CPA), International Certified Valuation Specialist (ICVS), and Chartered Valuer, and Appraiser (CVA).


“Focus on learning fundamental concepts and more often than not, you will get correct answers regardless of how questions or examinations are structured. It will also save you lots of study hours.” (Pieces of advice to students)

“Focus on fundamentals and always take a break. When I was reviewing, I took afternoon naps and stopped studying at midnight.” (Tips while reviewing)

“Don’t study on exam days, just relax” (Message to the next CPA board exam takers)

“Travel the world, and explore new cultures.” (Motivation in life)

“Work. Travel. Save. Repeat.”

Written by: Josiah De Guzman Bito

Digital Art by: Stephanie Dulay Sierra


Special thanks to Marielle Garrote Bacon, and Rinette Ambrose Dizon Cura


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