The Neuro-Psychiatric Examination tests the mental stability, adaptability, and psychological functioning of applicants before they are recruited into service. The purpose of the exam is to filter applicants if they are suitable for the uniformed services of the government.


Here are 6 Important Tips to Pass the Neuro-Psychiatric Exam.

  1. Manage your time during the exam

Tatay told me, the night before he went and conducted another drug raid, that what he does is not a matter of choice; it is his God-given occupation, one that he could never resist. Who he was then, was the result of years of training and determination and perseverance. It is who he is. I saw it in his eyes, not a hint of fear or hesitation, his voice did not shake even for a moment; he was proud of who he had become. His guns and magazines sprawled over the kitchen table, being meticulously cleaned and handled.

“If I don’t come home after tomorrow,” Tatay said, “always remember that your Tatay did his job for his country.”

I was six. He left in the morning without waking me up. Nanay said he went to my room and kissed my forehead. I went to school, played with my friends, refused to nap at noon. It was a normal day. 

A couple of days later, Tatay still hadn’t come back. I asked Nanay about Tatay, she told me to come and watch the news with her. I wanted to watch cartoons. I sat quietly in front of the TV, when I asked Nanay why I had to watch the news, she just shushed me. Then Nanay told me to watch and listen closely, Tatay might be on TV. I straightened myself up, imagined how cool it would be to tell my friends that Tatay was on TV. I was only disappointed by words and numbers—Region XVII, PNP, Drug Raid—I wanted to see Tatay on tv.

When Tatay came home a week after, I jumped at him to give him a hug. I felt the cold weight of his weapons, his armor, his reality. He went straight to their bedroom and didn’t come out until the next day. I wrote an I love you note for him, which, up to this day, I never knew if he ever read. I wanted my words to reach him.

  1. Follow instructions

When I was a Grade Twelve student, he asked me what course I wanted to take for college. I said I didn’t know. He told me to take the Philippine Military Academy Admission Test, the Philippine National Police Academy Admission Test, and the Philippine Merchant Marine Academy Admission Test. And I did. I passed the written exam for all the tests. This was only the first step.

I took a while before I decided which academy to commit to. Tatay was a policeman, my grandfather was in the military, so I chose to be a merchant marine, just to add variety. I was surprised at how supportive Tatay was. He accompanied me to all the tests I took, all except for the UPCAT. On the day of my graduation from Senior High School, we drove to Cagayan de Oro, 283 kilometers away from our hometown, to take the Neuro exam—the second step for the PMMA Admission Test. Nanay and my sister came along, too. I was confident, like when I took every other exam, that I would pass it.

We were only given two instructions before we took the test: read all the instructions carefully, and don’t rush to finish the entire test because it was a right-minus-wrong test. Tatay warned me about such things; that the Neuro exam isn’t as straightforward as it seems, that it would test how much of a risk-taker or risk-averse we are as a person, and having too much of either quality would result in failure. In my mind, I had two choices: take the safe route by making sure I had the correct answer by reading slowly, or answer as fast as I could and take the risk that it was all just a bluff. I took the former choice. 

I flunked the test.

I didn’t know how to face Tatay, knowing that they had spent a lot of time and money for this trip only to fail the test. As I was walking on the way back to our hotel, past the malls of Cagayan De Oro, I imagined how Tatay would react. And somehow, I was right. He asked me what I did wrong. I just knew I gave it my all. He told me I could have done better. Disappointment was written all over his face. We went home that night. Tatay never stopped talking about how wasteful the trip was. 

That was the longest trip I’ve had in my entire life.

A couple of days later, as I was texting my friend who had passed the Neuro exam, I got a message from the PMMA. I was accepted for the third and final step—the Medical exam. I was really confused and excited. I asked my friend if he knew anyone who received the same message, he said some of his friends also did. It turned out that the PMMA couldn’t fulfill their quota of cadets, and I qualified as one of the choices. On that same exact day, my high school teacher posted on Facebook a list of students who had passed the UPCAT, and my name was one of the two—the other one was our class valedictorian. After knowing all this, I was excited that I could have another shot at what Tatay wanted for me, to prove that everything he did was well worth it, but then I thought about entering UP also. I wanted to tell Tatay right away, but I didn’t. I told Nanay about it first. 

When I told Nanay about passing the UPCAT, my preconceived notion that she would have the same opinion as Tatay about everything was broken. 

“UP is a much better choice, anak.” Nanay said. “You would be living a life of peace.”

I didn’t know what Nanay meant by that. Perhaps she knew that life in the military would be chaotic and difficult. I thought about those nights that Nanay was alone, those weeks of longing and worrying that Tatay might come home in a body bag, his face only living in her memory and picture frames and their wedding ring, and in me. I did not want my future partner to go through that every day. Maybe she thought that academe was not as demanding, Nanay was a college professor after all. Or maybe she just wanted me at arm’s length—Davao is much nearer than Zambales from Isulan.

I thought about my decision for a couple of days. There were many times when I wanted to tell Tatay that I had passed the Neuro exam, but something inside told me not to. At that time, I thought of UP as just another university, that it wasn’t as prestigious or as respectable or as “makabayan” as going to the PMMA. I have passed the admission test to several universities, yet Tatay only seemed to care about the Academy. And I was scared that I would fail the Medical exam, just like how I failed the Neuro exam, and I would get to see how disappointed Tatay was again. I couldn’t handle disappointing him again. So, I decided to go to UP. Surprisingly, Tatay supported my decision.

My first year there was rough. It was the first time that I spent two weeks away from home. I didn’t know what world I was entering. I hadn’t read a lot of books, didn’t know any writers, and didn’t have a great deal of understanding about what it meant to be a writer. I used to say that the Bible was my favorite book every time the professor asked us. I used to be so proud of it. But now, whenever I remember what I said before, I couldn’t help but painfully cringe. I didn’t know what I was saying. Perhaps I was lying to myself that that was who I was. But who could I blame, it was all I knew back then.

  1. Hone your English skills

I started having thoughts of retaking the PMMA Admission Test. Maybe it would have been easier; I would have a lot more money in the future than just being a writer. Earning money is the main purpose of finding a job, Tatay would be so proud of me, I thought. But I powered through my first year in UP; the fear of failure has been my driving force ever since.

It wasn’t until I was in my second year of college that Tatay seemed interested in the course I chose. I got accepted into the 2019 Davao Writers Workshop as a fellow for short stories I had written. Tatay asked countless times if he could read what I wrote even though I never saw him read a book before. I was embarrassed, not because I thought my writing was horrible, but because the subject matter was personal. I didn’t want him peering over my thoughts, my soul. But I had no choice on this matter; I had to show him my manuscript. He thanked me for letting him read my stories. One story tackled the president’s drug war and the idea of “tokhang,” and the other was about the necessity of a bombing incident to restore broken family relationships. Up to this day, I am still not sure what Tatay thought about my stories. Maybe he wasn’t sure either, because if he felt anything, anything at all, I would have known. Or perhaps that was the first time my words reached deep enough to warrant his silence.

I haven’t taken pride in what I had written before. Even when I was told by one of the panelists that my story about the bombing incident, with a little bit of revision, could be published. And after almost four years, I have not touched that story of mine.

  1. Be consistent with your answers

During that same year, a cadet named Darwin Dormitorio died because of maltreatment inside the Philippine Military Academy. Reports show that Dormitorio’s death was the result of “hazing” which caused internal bleeding because of “blunt force trauma.” This, along with countless discussions about martial law, extrajudicial killings, and police brutality made me understand that I could never have the safety that Tatay promised if I were inside the Academy. Tatay said that it was an isolated case; one that couldn’t stain the reputation of the PMA. But what I have read said otherwise; that this is the manifestation of systemic failure. 

Recently, I used my social media to share information about the failures of the government. But Tatay reprimanded me because he said that his occupation as a police officer might be affected. I was constantly torn about this part of my life, but writing about it seemed to give me peace. Writing made me find sense in all these things that are happening. I realized now, just like Tatay before, that there is no going back anymore; this is who I have become.

I believe Nanay was wrong when she said that my life would be more peaceful if I were in academe. Maybe because she wasn’t aware of the government’s lapses, which Tatay always brushed off as “the president’s tactics” and “God’s will.” Knowing things about the government and politics and oppression has made my life more daunting than when I didn’t, but that was the choice I made—maybe that was the only choice I’ve ever had. To attribute these things to the plan of a higher being is now of no consequence to me, what I write and think about is my reality. I write to make sense of it all.

  1. Keep your emotions in check

Every time I travel back home, something within me feels different. I felt the familiarity of home and yet it doesn’t feel the same way anymore, or perhaps I have always felt this way and I am just reminded by it. I felt like a stranger in my own house. The photos from Nanay and Tatay’s wedding are still neatly arranged on the wall, their faces contorted with a smile that perfectly encapsulates the moment. While taking up the majority of the wall are the picture frames from every class that Tatay finished for his promotion. Faces of random police officers, some smiled while some didn’t manage to force one, stared at our tidy living room. Random Bible verses and uplifting quotes hang on the side of every door. One was entitled “Resolution for Men,” a list of promises that a Christian father should make, and as I read it one by one, I couldn’t find the words “support” or “acceptance” in any of it. It was all about teaching discipline and the responsibility of a father to be the “strong protector of the family.” My favorite one says, “Prayers are words unspoken, whispered by a heart that’s broken.” I guess many things are a lot like prayers.

Tatay doesn’t like it when words are unspoken. He always reminded me to tell him whenever I needed something, and that’s what I’ve always done—told him about only the things I needed. It felt mechanical; I ask and it is given. I couldn’t remember the last time I asked Tatay to buy me what I wanted. I was programmed to only ask whatever was necessary, and what I considered necessary started to get scarcer as I grew older. I would only ask for tuition, for school uniforms, for books, for things necessary. I never asked for more allowance, more money for spending isn’t a need when everything I needed is already provided. I learned when to open my mouth and when to shut up at a young age.

However, it is completely the opposite with Nanay. I always asked her to buy me the things I wanted. I remember when I was about four years old, Nanay brought me to the Kalimudan Festival. I only wanted one thing, a new toy. I wanted the biggest and best toy I could find, and I found a Batman action figure. Nanay bought it right away; she probably didn’t want to be in public with a crying boy.

When we got back home, I was so fascinated with my new toy. Batman had a dot on his chest that glowed bright red whenever I pressed the button on his back, it was the coolest toy I’ve ever had. I was really excited to show it to Tatay when he got back home from work that night. When I showed Batman’s glowing red dot to Tatay, he was also fascinated. But when he asked Nanay how much she paid for it, Tatay’s face suddenly shifted when he heard the answer. They immediately got into an argument—Tatay did most of the arguing—that Nanay paid too much for a silly toy. I didn’t know what was happening but I felt like it was all my fault, I burst into tears. Tatay wanted me to return the toy and bring back the money.

That night, on my bed, I gave Batman a hug, pressed the button on his back and gazed at the red glowing dot for as long as I could. My tears refracted the red light making it seem like Batman’s chest was bleeding. That night, I decided I hated Batman too.

I threw Batman on the floor.

I fell asleep right away. I always slept easier after I poured out all my tears. The following morning, Batman was gone; I didn’t ask Nanay and certainly not Tatay where it was. That event was never mentioned in the dining table even until now, and for good reason. Tatay wouldn’t be too proud of how stingy he was. But looking back at it now, I understand why he acted like that. Money was hard. He was a low-ranking policeman who was living off a ₱3,400 monthly salary with a family to feed. Fortunately, after years of hard work, Tatay was promoted to police inspector. And he was deputized in a police station in Banga, South Cotabato. This was the first step that skyrocketed his career. The second time that he was promoted, he took over as chief of police in the same station. He was held in high regard by his men; he knew how to evoke his power to lead and to provide enough leeway to earn him the respect that he wanted. He once told me how hard it is to control men who carried guns of their own, there is always the possibility that he might have overstepped his men’s boundaries, but he also had to earn his men’s submission and sometimes he had to bare his “fangs”. And today, he is a superintendent, four ranks higher than an inspector. Now he works in an office; his drug raiding days are behind him, yet he still truly believes that he has a lot of fight left in him.

         I admire Tatay’s determination and drive. Indeed, his work ethic and passion for his work is what made him the man he is today. And because of this passion, Tatay could not help but bring his work home. Everyone in our house knew who was in charge, he was the big man, the head of the house, the patriarch. If he didn’t like something in the house, everyone would know right away. He always made sure everyone knew that it was his house.

  1. Prepare for the interview

Growing up as the eldest son, I was the recipient of many expectations; I was expected to carry on our family name, and with such expectations came discipline. I was taught to be respectful in every way I can, I learned to say po and opo at almost the same time I learned how to speak. Whenever I did something Tatay deemed out of line, I would be disciplined by a leather belt. I can never speak with my mouth full, otherwise a handful of steaming rice would get smacked on my face, and I learned this the hard way. This kind of discipline went on until I was in high school. After I was given my first phone, I was instructed that I must inform Tatay where I was at all times. I had to text him when I arrived at school, at lunchtime, and when school was over. This was just one of the many rules I had on using my phone. Isulan’s curfew was 10 p.m., but mine was 6 p.m., I had to be home by then, no ifs and buts. If I had to work on a group assignment at my classmate’s house, Tatay would be quick to offer our own house for it. During weekends, Saturday morning is the only time I’m allowed to go out with my friends and classmates, Sunday is for church and church alone.

There were so many rules that I had to live by, and the best part is, I truly believed that I was doing the right thing. But I soon learned that school and home are different things, Tatay wasn’t the boss in school. All of my rebellious teenage energy manifested in doing everything I knew was “wrong” in school. I cut classes to play computer games at noon, I bullied other kids, I laughed at anyone who couldn’t answer the teacher’s question, I got into fights, I pranked other students and even our teachers, and I even tried drinking. Tatay didn’t know about any of this. He only looked at my report cards, fortunately my grades were fine. Soon everyone knew who I really was except for Tatay, and until today, this stands true. I was already wearing a mask in front of Tatay. I would always feel disoriented when I’m with my friends but Tatay was also around. My friends would be confused as to why I’m being unusually quiet.

Just last year, Tatay spent nine months in schooling; the first step for applying for another promotion. He was fortunate enough that he didn’t have to go to Davao City for it; he only had to stay home in front of his computer. That was the longest time that Tatay spent in our house. At first, I felt continually distressed, like anytime he would ask me to do something. But that wasn’t really the case anymore, Tatay had gotten so busy with his school requirements that he barely went out of their room. I prepared breakfast one morning and brought it to him, two slices of bread and a fried egg on top with a cup of coffee. I made sure to hold the salt for his fried egg; Nanay had told me before. He thanked me. This became a routine for the months that my classes hadn’t started yet. I noticed a side to Tatay that wasn’t as strict or as intimidating as before. Like the bread dipped in hot coffee, I began to soften.

One time, Tatay asked me to come with him to his classmate’s burial. I didn’t know which classmate because he had many. I sat on the front seat beside him; it was only the two of us. I thought I would be spending the whole trip in silence, but Tatay couldn’t stand silences. We talked about how his classmate died, it turns out that he had died of a stroke. Tatay speculated that it was because of his classmate’s drinking problem. He looked at me, as if to remind me of my fate if I decided to be an alcoholic. I started to imagine what if Tatay was the one getting buried, and our family would be the ones grieving, what would I do? I shook that thought away just as Tatay parked a few meters away from his classmate’s house where the funeral service was held. 

There were police cars and men in uniform were everywhere. The family of the deceased was wearing white. They were already saying their eulogies but were interrupted when we arrived. Tatay shook hands with someone—another classmate. I looked for a place to sit, while Tatay sat in front just beside where the priest sat. I saw the children of the deceased, the eldest was probably my age, I remember in her eulogy that her father was a “good policeman and a better father,” but his only downfall was his drinking problem. When it came to Tatay’s turn to give his eulogy, he assured the children, whom he called “anak,” that they could come to him whenever they needed any help, that he and his classmates would be willing to be their fathers. Tatay shed a tear, but his voice did not break. Perhaps Tatay was just wearing a mask in front of me all along.

We couldn’t attend the burial, Tatay still had to attend his 1:00 p.m. class. On the way home, the thought of Tatay being the one buried still lingered on my mind. “What were the things I should have said to him when he was still alive?” I thought to myself. While Tatay was still rambling on about their experiences in training, I interrupted him and said I had a confession to make. He said, “Go ahead, anak.” 

I told him that I got a text from the PMMA, that I had passed the Neurological Exam, and that I hadn’t told him because I wanted to go to UP. I’ve kept this for about four years, and finally saying it openly in front of him was liberating.

“Why didn’t you tell me all these years?” Tatay asked.

“I didn’t know how you would have reacted,” I answered. “And besides, I didn’t want you to spend more money for that exam.

“Money doesn’t matter, anak.” Tatay patted the top of my head. “Did your mother know?”

“Opo, ‘Tay,” I said. “Nanay knew.”

The following day I was awoken by the smell of breakfast. As I went to the kitchen, I saw Tatay frying up some eggs and toasting bread on the side. He had also cooked some hotdogs. He told me to call Nanay and my sister for breakfast, and I did. I knew something was up because Tatay never cooks breakfast.

I finished setting up the table right before Tatay finished cooking. Nanay started making coffee. Tatay put our portions one by one on our plates. When we were all sitting down at the table, I couldn’t shake the thought that Tatay might do or say something about my confession yesterday. Tatay led the prayer before we started eating. I wanted to say something, anything, just to break the silence. But everyone was enjoying their breakfast, while Tatay sipped his cup of coffee.

“‘Tay,” I said. “Are you going to work today?”

“I don’t know, Nak,” he answered. “Maybe later. How’s the eggs? Are they good?”

Opo, ‘Tay,” I answered. “Namit,” although I haven’t taken a bite of it yet. 

The meal went on. And when I took a spoonful of the fried egg, it was very salty. Tatay must have put too much salt on it, but I was scared to say anything.

“Sure?” Tatay said. “You know you can tell me anything, anak.”

I looked down on the plate of half-eaten eggs, savoring each salty bite, trying to keep down the lump rising from my throat.

“It’s a little salty, po,” I said. “But it’s okay, I like my food well-seasoned.” I turned to Nanay.

“Here, take mine,” Tatay laughed. “I must have put a little too much salt in yours. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay, ‘Tay.” I said. “It’s all right.” And I meant it.

“Thank you for letting me know.” Tatay said. “Thank you for telling me.”

I didn’t know what to say anymore. I looked at my plate and ate the eggs and toast like they were the best meal I’ve ever had. We finished our breakfast in the comfort of each other’s silence.



Work Cited

Cueva, Draven. “How to Pass the Neuro-Psychiatric Exam.” TOPNOTCHER PH, 9 August 2018,

By David Madriaga

David Madriaga is a writer from Mindanao. He finished his bachelor's degree in English at the University of the Philippines Mindanao. He is from Isulan but lives in Davao.

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