MenagerieThe challenge of a lifetime
The challenge of a lifetime
July 31, 2015
July 31, 2015

How does a trip to New York City sound to you? How about an offer to work for one of the largest and most prestigious banks in Southeast Asia? What would you say to 1,000 US dollars?

These are the stuff of dreams for most students, goals that the everyday Lasallian might strive for in the years following graduation. However, to Vann Vicente (II, AEI-APC) and Isabel Menchaca (III, FIN), these fantasies are looking more and more like realities with each passing day.


Vann and Isabel are two out of six Filipinos, and the only two from De La Salle University, who were chosen to compete in the global finals of the Maybank GO Ahead. Challenge 2015, an international competition seeking the brightest young minds the world has to offer. Out of over 20,000 applicants from all around the globe, including countries like Indonesia, Singapore, and the United Kingdom, the field has been whittled down to the 60 finalists who will compete in the competition’s final stage. The global finals, which will take place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, over a span of 12 days, will test the creativity, intellect, and perseverance of these 60 young men and women—and of course, to the victor goes the spoils.

Representing DLSU on such a global scale is both an honor and an accomplishment, and for Vann and Isabel, the road thus far has not been an easy one. However, they can say with certainty that even though it’s not yet over, this is definitely a journey they will remember.


Vann and Isabel stress the importance of teamwork in the Maybank GO Ahead. Challenge, which also tests how well participants can make the most out of their teammates.

Vann and Isabel stress the importance of teamwork in the Maybank GO Ahead. Challenge, which also tests how well participants can make the most out of their teammates. Photo courtesy of Cherry Lim.

Taking the challenge

Isabel shares that she first learned about the GO Ahead. Challenge through videos on Facebook, which piqued her interest. On the other hand, Vann first heard about it from a friend. He shares, “I’m a hyper competitive person… so I wanted to try out a competition. It’s banking eh, I’m not super attuned to the field, but what [my friend] said was it’s not just like that.” After hearing about how different the competition would be from anything he’s ever tried before, Vann decided to take the opportunity.

The first step in the GO Ahead. Challenge was the campus qualifiers, which were held in DLSU last June 22. It consisted of a number of challenges, which varied from simple games to more serious business cases and presentations. Over 120 students competed throughout the day, with 20 being chosen to move on to the national finals.

“I was so nervous, I couldn’t sleep,” Isabel shares with a smile. “I was really taking it one challenge at a time… What I didn’t expect was how they would really ask you questions [where] theory can’t save you, it’s really how quick you think.”

When asked if the campus level matched up with her expectations, Isabel answers with a laugh, “It was beyond what I was expecting!”


Getting serious

The national finals were held in the F1 Hotel in Bonifacio Global City on July 14. The 20 students who advanced through the DLSU qualifiers faced off against 20 more students from each of the ADMU and UP qualifiers to determine who would go on to represent the Philippines in the global finals. At the end of the day, only six were left standing, with Vann and Isabel the only ones left waving the Lasallian flag.

“The national levels [were] really scary. It lasted from 8am to 1:30am. [And] it was the real Malaysian senior management who flew in, and they were the ones testing you. And they were CFA level, Chartered Financial Analyst, that’s the highest position in finance,” Isabel shares.

“It was super intense,” Vann agrees. “Everyone knew what they were doing. Even just the first challenge, off the bat, was already super competitive.”

Isabel shares a story that she will never forget—how she chased after one of the judges who sat in her group’s panel during a presentation. “We were talking, and all of a sudden he just left, and then I chased him. I was like, ‘Hey we’re not yet done!’ ”

On a lighter note, she also remembers how she was forced to learn a game she had never played before. “I had to learn chess on the spot,” she shares. The challenge involved a team taking turns moving the pieces, but without talking to each other. “[My partner and I] agreed, if I make a wrong move, [he] coughs. And he was coughing the whole three rounds… it was so bad,” she jokes.

During the national finals, participants were given the opportunity to use a developmental build of the oculus rift, a virtual reality headset, as part of one of the challenges. Photo courtesy of Cherry Lim.

During the national finals, participants were given the opportunity to use a developmental build of the oculus rift, a virtual reality headset, as part of one of the challenges. Photo courtesy of Cherry Lim.

Vann also has his fair share of memories. In one challenge, participants got to use the oculus rift, a virtual reality headset. On the gaming environment they got to visit, he shares, “We were in a building… We got to walk around, we had guns. It was a shooter.” He continues, “It’s super nakakahilo. I only did it for two minutes, and I [had to] sub out. But it was really, really fun.”

He also had his own brush with a judge, whom he describes as, “The most terrifying judge ever. He makes people cry. He makes people want to quit.” Vann continues, “He lashed out at me… it turned into a two minute back and forth, and he was just shooting down everything I was saying and I was freaking out. But it was very memorable!”


Against the world

Vann and Isabel will be flying out to Kuala Lumpur on August 16 for the global finals. While they are not entirely sure of what will await them, they were recently oriented on what to expect. “They told us, prepare not to sleep, prepare not to shower, and prepare to work really, really hard, and be patient with other people,” Isabel shares.

Both Lasallians are preparing for the finals in their own separate ways, with Isabel reviewing her basic finance subjects, while Vann has asked his old BASFIN professor for tutorial lessons. While neither is exactly brimming with confidence, they are both still looking forward to the experience of competing against the world.

“[I’m looking forward to] meeting people. Cause these people are gonna be amazing people from all around the world. And I get to be groupmates with them, I get to be competitors with them, and that prospect is super exciting to me,” Vann shares. On the other hand, Isabel answers, “I’m just hoping to really learn a lot.”

If she were to win the grand prize, Isabel shares, “I think I would cry.” When asked how he would react, Vann answers, “Honestly? Holy shit.”

Since its inception in 2012, only one other Lasallian has ever made it to the global finals of the GO Ahead. Challenge—Jin Ong (AE-APC, ’14) who walked away with the second place prize in the group category in 2013. “It felt great to represent both DLSU and the Philippines. DLSU, because we tend to be discriminated against by UP and ADMU. But it felt great to prove them wrong,” he shares. “It felt good to represent the Philippines too, because we normally think we are inferior to other Asian countries… it was a wakeup call for me. We Filipinos don’t give ourselves enough credit.”

Jin shares that winning the competition was a huge turning point in his life because it allowed him to spend another year with both DLSU and his organization, EconOrg. “I was thinking of graduating early because I couldn’t afford to study a 5th year in DLSU. With the prize money, I was able to fund an entire year.”

Vann and Isabel mention how grateful they are to all their groupmates along the way, saying they would not have gotten this far if it weren’t for them. They go on to invite every Lasallian to take part in the GO Ahead. Challenge in the coming years. “It’s useful, and you really gain confidence,” Isabel shares. Vann adds, “There’s nothing to be lost with joining. Even if you don’t make it all the way, the experience is super sulit. And the food is super sulit.”

Although the two Lasallians still have a long road ahead of them, they are appreciative for the journey that has brought them this far. And while both are nervous for the coming weeks, they are ready to make the most out of the experience, one described by Vann as, “terrifying, but worth it.”