For this unique pandemic batch of lawyers, the honor is to the parents

MANILA, Philippines – This is a unique batch of new lawyers, Supreme Court Justice Marvic Leonen made that very clear, saying at the outset that the record-high 72.28% should not be seen as if they this batch an easy time, having undergone lockdown and distressing postponements.

“Do not be concerned about those who say that yours were the easiest Bar examinations. Clearly, those naysayers only envy your courage, your resilience, and your grit. They have not experienced what you have gone through,” Leonen said as he delivered the traditional Bar message from the Dignitaries’ Lounge at the first floor of the Supreme Court Tuesday, April 12.

It’s back to normal, but not quite. The last time Bar results were held full-blown and in person was in 2019, for the 2018 Bar Exams. The 2019 Bar results were online as it was at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020, and the passers for the 2020/2021 Bar examinations waited two years for this moment.

Not only did they finish law school and reviewed under lockdown, the Bar was postponed at least three times before it pushed through in February. Takers who tested positive within 48 hours were unable to take the Bar.

A controlled crowd was able to enter a portion of the SC grounds for the traditional wait on big screens, but the Bar chair had to deliver the message inside. As his speech was streamed outside, screams erupted, loud enough to pass through the window and thick curtains of the room.

“Ulitin ko po, ang gangang pakinggan (I will repeat that, that’s so good to hear),” Leonen said.

In the last decade, the passing rate was in the range of 17% to 30% although the 2016 Bar Examinations had a record-high passing rate of 59.06%. The highest in history was the 1954 Bar with its 75.17% passing rate.

“You are an extraordinary batch of bar takers whether you made it this year. It was an honor for my team and I to be with you every step of the way. It was an honor to be your Bar chairperson,” said Leonen who had to handle two batches – 2020 and 2021 – and navigate the Bar through previous conditions.

Honor for the parents

The honor is to the parents, above all. Many of them went to the Supreme Court grounds on Tuesday as their children waited anxiously at home.

Rowan Gabito, who works in construction in Kuwait, had been part of the pandemic retrenchment of OFWs when daughter Maria Patrice was just in third year of law school at the Ateneo de Manila University.

Parang karangalan na nakapagtapos siya. Sinikap namin na makapagtapos siya. May natira naman pag-uwi ko, alam ko kailan matatapos ‘yang pera, tapos ang bata,’ Gabito said.

(It’s an honor that she finished her degree. We persevered so she could graduate. I had leftover savings when I went home; I knew how long the savings would last, my child would graduate first.)

Maria Patrice, No. 3362 in the list 8,241, saw the video of her father and proudly tweeted: “Tatay ko po ‘yan! Para sa inyo po ito, Mama and Papa.” (That’s my father! This is for you, Mom and Dad.)

Joel Arada was in tears for her daughter Mary Joe. “Tuwang tuwa po kami kasi kauna-unahan na naging abogado sa pamilya namin ‘to, at ito ang sinabi ko sa kanya, pangarap ko na maging abogado siya,” Joel said, his voice breaking.

(We are thrilled because she is the first lawyer in the family and this is really what I told her: it’s my dream for her to become a lawyer.)

Mary Joe’s grandfather never became a full-fledged lawyer, said her mother Gigi, so this was truly a milestone for the family.

Napakahirap, kapag nasa bahay, ang hirap maka-focus… Nung nasa pandemic nag-iisip ka pa anong nangyayari sa mundo, hindi lang sarili mo, yung pinagdadaanan ng pamilya mo, may sakit ka ba,” said Mary Joe, who will take her oath as a lawyer on May 2.

(It was really hard, if you’re stuck at home, it was so hard to focus. During the pandemic, you’re thinking not just of yourself but what’s going on in the world, what your family is going through, if you ‘re ill.)

Nazario Buenavista wanted to call her daughter Reina Raquel right away, but she was out of reach, so he called his wife instead.

In a sea of ​​people who came in a group, Nazario was by himself in a corner, jumping as his wife picked up the phone.

“Pasado! Pasado! Pasado! Oh! (Passed! Passed! Passed! Yes!),” was all he could say on the line.

When Nazario was done calling everyone in the family, he called a friend. Like a proud father, he announced: “Attorney na! (She’s a lawyer)!”

Ria Malaluan-Cruz spent ten years transferring law schools, and taking the Bar three times. The 2020/2021 Bar Exams was her moment.

This is my third take at hindi ko kinakahiyang third taker ako, iba ang pinagdaanan namin this 2020/2021 Bar exams, biruin mo two times ka mag-quarantine with seven kids, pressure talaga,said Ria, a mother of seven.

(This is my third take and I am not ashamed to be a third taker, what we went through for the 2020/2021 Bar exams was one of a kind, I was in quarantine two times and I have seven kids. The pressure was real .)

Finally, Ria said, she gets to practice law officially. For ten years, she had been serving as paralegal to her husband of 25 years. Lawyer Ding Cruz, in turn, took care of the seven children as Ria lived separately during the review to shield her children from possible infection.

“It was difficult, and I felt like a single parent during those times, but this is really a reward for us, and I am very happy for her, I met her when I passed the Bar in 1995, she was my student, and now she’s a lawyer,” said Ding Cruz.

Lorraine Carandang was with her father, former Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang, when they waited for the results at the SC grounds Tuesday.

“I’m very, very proud,” the elder Carandang said. Lorraine felt the pressure because she’s also campaigning as councilor and before the results, she would be introduced in sorties as a future lawyer.

“Mula nang inannounce na ire-release na yung Bar results, hindi na ako nakaalis ng bahay, kinakabahan talaga ako,” said Lorraine. (When they announced that the Bar results would be released, I could not leave home, I was so nervous.)

Journalist Herbie Gomez was doing his usual daily grind-editing—when daughter Shanelle went out of her room screaming and jumping.

The Gomez family has a new lawyer, and Herbie said the entire household felt relief from the long tension caused by repeated postponements of the Bar.

Yung frustration, may effect din sa parents ‘yun eh, may tension din sa bahay… Siya kagabi pa nagkukulong sa kuwarto, hindi lumalabas tapos kanina nagtatatalon, naglulundag, alam ko na,said Herbie.

(The frustration also has an effect on the parents, there’s also tension at home. She locked herself in her room since last night, then suddenly came out jumping and screaming, I knew.)

Raviel De Castro Tolentino, who came with her parents to the Supreme Court, said: “From the very start, they supported me.”

“I am very proud,” said Raviel’s mother Maria Eloisa.

Best Bar Ever

“You showed courage. You showed resilience. You proved you can persevere,” said Leonen.

Leonen had to endure many criticisms that came with being chair of an extraordinary Bar, and up until the last minute, the justice had to explain why they had no choice but to turn away those who tested positive.

With his team in tow, Leonen went out of the grounds Tuesday to greet the Bar passers. He was greeted back with applause and request for selfies.

Leonen was forced to call this the Biggest Bar Ever, far from what he wanted his hashtag would be. But the pandemic left everyone with no choice.

In that moment at the SC grounds however, a Bar passer proclaimed: Best Bar Ever! –

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