With the Bar Exams just around the corner…(Part 1)

… I can’t help but wonder about those who are dying through the torture of the Bar Reviews at this time.  So let me share with you my story.

I actually entered law school in June 1989, which means that had I finished on time, I would’ve take the Bar Examinations of September 1993.  But there was a semester wherein work and school just got the better of me, and rather than risk being booted out of law school for failing to meeting the required QPI (Quality Percentile Index), I opted to drop all my subjects, causing me to fall behind.

I eventually got around to finishing my senior year the following year, 1994, but postponed taking the Bar Exams due to my fear that I was not financially or academically prepared to tackle the biggest test of my life.  I was then working with a USAID Project with the Department of Health and had transitioned to being the Chief of Staff to the President of an advertising agency based in the Ortigas Complex.  So again, I postponed by a year — making me 2 years delayed at that point.

As the following year reared its head, I started reading up on the codal provisions (again) and began reading my reviewers and annotated texts cover to cover in a half-hearted attempt at a review.  I was not really sold on the idea of taking the Bar Exams, because I was still self-studying by March-April which would’ve been around the time I would’ve enrolled for the regular Bar Review.  Sometime in May, though, my Mom made a plea for me to take my chances.  She was almost begging when she said it was alright if I failed to make it, but she wanted me to make a go for it.

I submitted my application to take the Bar Exam and had to file a Manifestation with the Supreme Court regarding why they should let me take the Bar Exams despite the fact that I had not completed my Juris Doctor degree — and I did file it knowing others before me had successfully argued their case on paper being that the Rules of Court specified completion of a list of courses taken up as part of the law school curriculum, but makes no mention of actual graduation.  (Please pay particular attention to Section 5)

I finally got the resolution that allowed me to take the Bar Examination the month before the Bar Exams were to start.  I enrolled for the so-called Pre-week review in Ateneo (where else?) and took a month-long leave of absence.

The Bar Exams are four Sundays of morning and afternoon exams with a list of questions to be answered long-hand.  It is not just a test of your knowledge of the law but of your ability to make a good argument of your case (i.e., your chosen answer may be wrong but your argument might actually make sense), which in essence includes your ability to defend your answer.  Don’t laugh now but two of the primary requirements were good, sensible (and if possible, eloquent) English — and a good penmanship.  I was confident I had both, so with that, my 5 years in law school and all the prayers to the Heavens, I decided I would give it a try.

My first debacle was that I was financially strapped.  While I was making a decent income at the Ad Agency, I wouldn’t have enough to rent my own apartment (which the more privileged of the batch did individually or in groups), I would have to beg, steal or borrow my review books (most of them were borrowed), and I needed sustenance through the four weeks and more importantly, the four Sundays of the Bar.  Because I had friends and family who truly cared, including an employer who believed in me, I managed to “hitch a ride” with the Bar Ops machinery of the Aquila Legis (thanks to Dino and Jerome), and I was able to find the resources to get 4 overnight stays at the Century Park (nearest hotel to the venue of the exams which were then at the DLSU along Taft).  I also discovered I could take out a salary loan equivalent to a month’s pay, and that sustained my cab fare and other incidentals during that crucial month.

I had former classmates from my original batch (who, by then were already upstarts in the legal field) who took turns buying me food the actual day of the Bar Exam.  One of them, my dear friend Elen, even went as far as to tutor me the day before each exam to help ease the studying and give me helpful shortcuts and tips.

I went to the pre-week reviews armed with my composition notebooks where I wrote as much of the lecture I could capture in a mix of shorthand and acronyms only I understood, my stash of Three Musketeers, and a bunch of Baroque music in Largo from Vivaldi, Corelli, Bach and Beethoven.  (Again, I will save the explanation for this in another post.)  I bravely sat on the front row of the stadium seating auditorium because no one dared to sit so close to the reviewer lecturing.  Besides, at that point, I knew the reviewer wasn’t going to judge me.  I was going to go face my judgment in the hands of examiners I will not even meet.

The weeks before the exams were nerve-wracking.  Yet I knew that if I didn’t know the law at that point, I wouldn’t have anything to answer when I saw the questions those four weeks of September.  I needed a good mental massage — and the pre-week did me a lot of good.

The four weeks of the Bar exams were another experience all by themselves.. let me bore you with the details another time.  But before I leave you wondering — yes, I made it and passed the Bar Exams.  My name was on that list which came out the following year in 1996.  Was it worth it?  The joy was more relieving than overwhelming.  Imagine yourself taking that big gulp of air and trying to stay under water indefinitely.  Passing the bar to me felt like surfacing back up to get that big breath in again.

I didn’t bother waiting for the results at the Supreme Court when they were released.  I waited for a friend who was working there to call me.  When she did and she told me I had passed, I turned to my Mom who was beside me and told her unceremoniously.  She stood up for joy and told me, “Anak, abogado ka na!”.  That, to me, was the real joy of having passed the Bar.

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Finally back home

I’m totally drained after the 12 hour trip back home.  It would’ve taken us just a little over half of that had we not made all that many stops, including a trip to Washington DC and an hour at the National Air & Space Museum.  But we’re back.  Mom has a ton of pictures “documenting” the visit, add to that the many pictures we had taken while in Williamsburg, Virginia. 

I had packed everything for the trip back home with the thought in mind that I would be unpacking after a long trip home, so putting away much of the stuff we lugged through the sojourn was a breeze.  Now I only have the clean clothes to put away and that isn’t much.

This will probably be one of the last 2-3 family vacations we will be taking with both grandmothers in tow.  Between Alan, Angel and me — we’re pretty set about going on long trips.  After the 20-hour journey to Manila and back, any other flight will be breeze.  I mailed out my postcards (to Angel and my niece and nephew in Manila) as souvenirs of the trip and I can’t wait to add them to Angel’s growing postcard collection.  Meanwhile, I’m fast tracking the scrapbooks for this one.

Seeing Angel with his Lolas is such a joy.  It’s really heartwarming to see that special connection between them.  I’m glad my son has had the chance to be with both his grandmothers — I only wish that they will be around long enough to make more memories with him.

Angel clowning around with Lola Aida (my Mom)