When you don’t make it

I had been checking the net for the 2018 Bar results almost daily for all of April, in anticipation of happy news because of a dear friend of mine who took the Philippine Bar exams in November. This is a friend who has stood by me through thick and thin, and whose resilience and industry inspired me and continues to inspire me.

We met back in college in UP Manila and we became fast friends. We even had pet names for each other and were literally like brother and sister. We were so close and terribly fond of each other that his girlfriend then (who is his wife now) sometimes got jealous of how close we were. Then and even now, we remain to be close at heart even if we practically see each other once a year if I’m lucky– and we greet each other for our birthdays because it falls on the same month. Not quite right after mine like our mutual bestie, but still within. We have a lifetime of stories to tell between us.

Although he entered law school ahead of me, he started working soon after and became a casualty of the dreaded quality percentile index or QPI requirement of the Ateneo School of Law. I knew it wasn’t for lack of smarts, because even in college, he was one of the smartest persons I knew. He didn’t have the Manila private school pedigree of most of us, having grown up in the province, but he could hold his own in the August halls of the state university.

He chose to focus on his career which led to many trials and tribulations, but in time, he rose through the ranks.

Perhaps it was the fact that his children were now about to or had gone to college, or that life, in general, finally slowed down enough for him to return to his pursuit of the law, but he went back to school and finished, then enrolled for the bar review. He had the fire in him and I had complete faith in him. Developments at work allowed him more flexibility to devote time and effort to the review, and I know I was one among many praying for him.

On the evening (here in New York) when the results came out earlier in the day in Manila, I had gone out with some friends and had turned in rather late. The lights were out and I was already in bed making my way to la-la land when it hit me that I had not checked for the results. And I saw that the list was there.. I scoured the alphabetized list and hit the letter of my friend’s last name. I looked again.. and again.. but his name wasn’t there.

My heart sank.

I reached out to our mutual bestie to be sure I wasn’t wrong and I asked him how our friend was doing. I was eager to reach out but was afraid that doing so might hurt more.  This is one of those times when you have to be mindful of the effect of what you say or do to someone going through something.

We finally connected.  He says he is taking it again.  I told him we will pray harder.

I have been deeply saddened knowing how he had wanted this so badly. I know how it feels wanting it — but I was fortunate enough to have gotten it with only one try. I don’t know why I’ve been so emotional about this whole thing, as I find myself being enveloped by mixed feelings.

While I am deeply saddened by his inability to make it, I am also being swept up with this sudden, albeit much delayed, realization of how truly fortunate I was to have made it when I took that leap of faith many moons ago. This was one of those long ago life events that impacted me back then in a different way — and is making me look back with a deeper sense of appreciation so many years later.

I never took it lightly and looked upon that achievement as just run-of-the-mill or just another step forward. It was not something I ever deemed inevitable. It was a big prize I had coveted most of my young adult life. When I bagged it, I knew, even way back then, that it was mostly luck that I managed to achieve what I did: pass the bar on my first attempt, with hardly a structured review. It was, literally, a leap of faith.

It is a humbling thought that once more reaffirms my belief that a higher power is watching over me. While I never took that achievement of passing the Bar with a cursory review and with pure faith in luck and the power of prayer lightly, I have never put that much stock in having done it. To me, the stars just fell into place and that was that. I humbly accepted that it was nothing quite that special beyond the fact that I got some help from above. Looking at it now, though, I am suddenly overwhelmed by the enormity of it as against the loss I feel for my friend.

I am grateful. I always will be. I was blessed then, and I am blessed now. Many years later, that achievement and that gift has been given to me yet again, in a different form. I have been reminded.

Like always, we move on. I pray for him. For all those who suffered the disappointment of not having passed this bar examination. There will be another time.

Good luck, Toks…

The Pinay New Yorker passed the Philippine Bar in 1995 when the passing average was 30.28% with 967 passers making it out of 3,194 examines. This year’s passing average was 25.5% with 1,724 passing out of the 6,748 who took it.
More posts like this one on trying to become a lawyer or thinking of being one can be found in the Lawyer Wannabe tab on the header menu.

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