Harvard student goes (and excels) into unknown worlds

/ 04:49 AM September 28, 2014
THE KATIGBAKS with parents Joy and Aldi (center). Lance is on the right.

THE KATIGBAKS with parents Joy and Aldy (center). Lance is on the right.

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts—Harvard University, which was home to US President Barack Obama, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and social media tycoon Mark Zuckerberg currently houses three Filipino undergraduates.

Of the three, Lance Katigbak, 21, is the only one who graduated from a local high school. The Paref Southridge alumnus graduated valedictorian, and was awarded Muntinlupa’s Most Outstanding Student in 2011.


After high school, Katigbak proceeded to the University of the Philippines, to take up Broadcast Communication.

He barely lasted two years before starting to apply to other universities abroad.


“I really wanted to give myself that extra push, that extra challenge. [I wanted to] make myself a person who lives on the edge of being uncomfortable. If it’s too easy … I just don’t want to live like that,” says Katigbak.


The cheerful worker

After struggling with applications, he wasted no time in making the most of his well-earned scholarship. An active member of on-campus organizations including the Philippine Forum, Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations (H-PAIR) and a creative director for video production at Harvard Student Agencies, Katigbak also founded his own student organization called SpringBoard. This explores a relatively new concept of a process called design thinking.

Despite the weight of academic requirements and cocurricular activities, Katigbak engages in work for nonprofit organizations. The founding member of One Million Lights, a nonprofit group committed to the betterment of life in rural areas of the Philippines, continues his involvement to date as head of publicity.

He also chose an internship with Ashoka, among many options, which is US-based nonprofit organization that pioneered the concept of social entrepreneurship.

Katigbak also actively maintains his social media accounts, finds time to spend with friends, and gets seven hours of sleep each night.


Describing his achievements as brought about by engaging in “fun work,” Katigbak’s enthusiasm is “rooted in a fundamental desire to see, explore and try out everything. I [excel] because I [get] excited. I join clubs because I really believe in what they do and what I do for them. I like the work, because [it’s] very fulfilling.”

Katigbak enthuses the importance of aligning oneself with the mission of every organization. “When I took my internship last summer, I had a number of options but I chose somewhere I knew I wasn’t just going to get ahead professionally. [Believing in your work] has something that keeps you going far longer than the money.”

Up in the air

One of many hopefuls for employment with tech giants Apple and Google, Katigbak is drawn to occupations that have a lot to do with communication, innovation and creativity. But for a junior undergrad with no specific career path in mind, he describes his inborn drive for excellence as a proactive step toward what remains unknown.

“I might still not know even at this point what I’m going to be, but I know that I want to get experience working for a very successful company. And [I know that] if I want that I’m going to have to give everything I have now.”

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