The 2008 Philippine Bar Exam Starts Today with Much Hoopla

For the next four Sundays, lawyers-to-be (although most will not be, at least not immediately, the passing percentage being roughly 20%, or about 1 in every 5 examinees) from all over the Philippines will be trooping to the De La Salle University campus in Taft Avenue to take the annual bar exams. It has the atmosphere of a fiesta cum college pep rally, complete with banners, confetti, marching bands and cheering well-wishers, adding to the pressure and distraction of the examinees.

However, I read in the Inquirer that the Manila city government, led by Mayor Alfredo Lim, himself a lawyer, has reined in such activities to ensure peace and quiet for the bar takers. Good move. Bar exam days are little more than an excuse for law students, alumni and sundry supporters to hang around the bar exam area, block traffic, get drunk and engage in the occasional frat rumble to liven up a dull afternoon. All part of the so-called law schools’ “bar operations”. “Bar”, get it ?

The bar exams has long ceased to interest me, age and long years in the legal trenches having disabused me of my starry-eyed notions of how things would be in what some refer to as the second-oldest profession. But I read in the Inquirer a piece written by Atty. Anna Patricia R. Del Castillo, who tragically passed away last June 21, shortly after hurdling the bar. In the title, she is referred to as an “accidental lawyer”, which I can totally relate to. In fact, much to my surprise, her story sounded eerily like mine, except for her sad demise at such a very young age. She wrote:

I studied law with apathy and nonchalance. In college, I acted as if it was not the beginning of my real “life” as an adult, or that it would spell out my future. Of course, I know better now. But in those days, I was just into partying, partying and partying.

The only reason I took up law was because both my parents are lawyers. I took up political science in college as a pre-law course. I had a little interest in the law in the beginning, but the path towards fulfilling my dreams through being a lawyer was not that clear.

My basic attitude didn’t really change that much in law school. I went out a lot hanging out with friends on so-called “gimmicks.” But of course, I had to work hard, working myself to death during exam time. I also had to put it together, just enough to make it through the “roasts” (or those “massacre recitations”).

Six months after graduation from law school, I took the bar. Being a born crammer, I knew I had to be serious and work like crazy all those six short months. I asked around and the usual schedule was to read at least a hundred pages a day, which meant at least 10 hours of reading and listening to review lectures daily. I did all these.

I’m an accidental lawyer too, and an inveterate crammer. In fact, I crammed for my bar exams in two months, and by some quirk of fate, luck and happenstance, passed it on the first try. Creditably, I’d like to believe, given the circumstances. It may have been the prayers of my wife and specially my daughters, who were small children then, who at just the exact time that we were entering the bar exam venue, would be at our village chapel, praying fervently for my success. I guess God does listen to good little girls.

Which made the untimely death of Ms. Del Castillo all the more poignant. She would have made a great lawyer. It’s not passing the bar in one take, or even making it to the list of topnotchers, that makes an excellent lawyer. It’s heart. And from all indications, her heart was in the right place.

This led to some musings on the bar exam process itself, and its anachronisms in a globalized age. But I’ll reserve it for a later post.

In meantime, I’d like to wish all of the bar examinees good luck. Enjoy the ride, guys. Hopefully, it’ll come only once in your lifetime. My best advice would be to take the Joker’s question seriously: Why so serious ? You’ll either make it or you won’t. The time and resources you expended will not be wasted. It’ll ensure that you’ll be more than ready the next time around.

To illustrate, during my first bar exam Sunday (then held at the MLQU campus), I was standing in line during the inspection of the small bags we were allowed to bring into the test venue. I was chatting with the guy directly in front of me, who graduated from a U-belt law school. When he opened his bag for checking by the guards, including proctors from the Supreme Court, it revealed not cram notes but cans of cold San Miguel beer. The gatekeepers were so shocked, they waived him through. I was awed by and, a bit envious of, his audacity and sangfroid (not to mention the beer). He was chug-a-lugging beer throughout the first day’s exams .

True story. I never found out if he made it, though. But that’s the spirit (pun intended). Adopt a balls to the wall, spit-in-your-eye attitude. You’ll make it. Eventually.

12 thoughts on “The 2008 Philippine Bar Exam Starts Today with Much Hoopla”

  1. I don’t know how they grade bar exams but when my brother took it he was confident on his labor law results but iffy on his tax law. The result reversed his suspicions and he passed by about one point. He explained to me later that his tax law answers were very short and his labor law, which he thought he knew best, were worth paragraphs each. Probably the reasons for the grades.

  2. Great story Atty. Dado. Made me think a lot about the path I took after graduation. I took up Political Science because I wanted to go to law school afterwards. But then I never got around to it because after graduation, I went straight to work. Then the thought entered my mind again. But then I kept thinking I’d have to spend another 4 or 5 years in school, which was why I opted to get a Masters Degree instead.
    But going to law school has always been a recurring thought. Thanks for sharing your story – the thought of going to law school has resurfaced 🙂

  3. Sir,

    I am one of those 6530+ bar examiness who just finished taking the second bar exam subject ( Labor Law and Social Legislation, the “love” of my life in law school…too bad it did not love me back )of the first day of the Bar examination month.

    What can I say?I feel like the whole world just fell smack on my head. Although the booklets have not yet been officially corrected,the results for me were really abyssmal.If I checked my own examination booklet on Labor Law and Social Legislation I would give it a grade of 50, and I am being rather merciful.Political Law wasn’t too bad and I would grade myself 60.

    I crammed half-heartedly for the Bar because I didn’t have any money to spare for review classes , I wasn’t ready because alot of “challenging” things happened to me lately but that’s not an excuse and I’m not making any.Despite of those things,I never considered backing out or withdrawing.Take it like a man,stand and deliver,that kind of thing.But I have been on the “edge” for the past few moths now.

    But you are right.WHY SO SERIOUS?I won’t get shot at Luneta Park if I fail.

    I was worried that when the results come out on the first week of April 2009, I will be the butt of jokes of those who will have passed the bar,my friends will pretend to pity me but deep down inside they will be laughing at me,my enemies will celebrate and my family will pretend it’s okay, but then again,so what?The world won’t end. I would stll have 4 takes left.WHY SO SERIOUS?

    Thanks for your article ( The Philippine Bar Exam Starts Today with Much Hoopla).It made me see things in a rather different light.Well, 3 Sundays and six examinations to go. I’ll be getting back to my books tommorow.Tonight,I’ll get an ice-cold beer,listen to some tunes and just forget that today’s exams ever took place.

    By the way, there wasn’t much partying going on because of the new SC regulations.I left early so I don’t know if anything else took place but it was pretty somber.Too bad,though.I used to joke that I wanted to take the Bar so I could get to see the Viva Hot Babes dance along Taft Avenue for free.Fat chance.

    See you around,

    Wilfred Magz

  4. Oops,I meant examinees and not examiness.And sorry for the other errors too (see above comment). I wrote this off the bat so I did not get to edit it and it just goes to show what the Bar examinations can do to one’s brain….

    Anyway, I still harbor this hope in my heart that the Bar Examiners will be very merciful when they check my exam booklets.

  5. I wonder how Atty. Del Castillo died? Her story is almost the same as mine, except for her early demise.

    Reading her story was like going through my own life experience.

    1. My father is also a lawyer. My only reason for taking up law was for my dad to be happy.

    2. My pre-law was all about having a good time and my law school a blur. I never flunked a subject and I was even good at recitations.

    3. I flunked the bar the first time I took it. This was several years ago. I wonder if Atty. Del Castillo also had a heart-wrenching 74.9% score?

    4. I was also allergic to failure and there was also an urgent need in me to redeem myself.

    The first time I took the bar the passing percentage was 36%. I passed it the next year when the passing percentage was only 19%. I got 81.1%, my political law was 95%.

    5. When I passed the bar, there was no conscious feeling of happiness but only a deep, deep sense of relief.

    I could go on and on about the similarities of (mine and Atty. Del Castillo’s)exprience, but I am just sadden with the thought that Atty. Del Castillo was not able to “embark on this new voyage… and change the world” like I did after I passed the bar.

    Oh, by the way, my first name is also ANNA.

  6. @BRIANB, your brother’s experience is not unique. This is is one of the most common vagaries of the bar. You make good in the subjects you thought you’d fail and not do so well in the subjects you think you aced.

    @JEN, thanks for the kind words. To be honest, there are many times when I wish I had taken an MBA instead of proceeding to law school. I still wonder what would have happened if I had not become a lawyer. Would I have been happier ?

    @ WILFRED MAGZ, thanks for sharing your experience. Will refer to it my next post on the bar exams and my two cents worth on what perspective to adopt to get through it. Don’t worry. The mere fact that you feel you had a hard time is a good sign. Will explain later.

    @ LEONA, I hope that your journey along the sometimes treacherous pathways of our profession leads you to a happy and fulfilling place. Ms. Del Castillo’s dream to “change the world” is attainable. That was a tough experience, to fail by .1 %. But you had the will, tenacity and grit to kick ass the next time around. Kudos to you.

  7. Hi, sir. I came across your blog after reading the article of Atty. Del Castillo which the Inquirer posted today.

    Your entry today was quite enlightening. I’m no lawyer nor law student, but I do have a best friend who’s been working her butt off for the exams. She’s sacrificed a lot in order to prepare. Being out of the loop, I wondered why she’d beg off from our plans to hang out every now and then. I’d think, what’s wrong, what’s two or three hours of her time? I guess I just didn’t understand what hard work and dedication really meant.

    I admire people who work really hard and sincerely want to make life better for this country. Kudos to you lawyers!

  8. @ Paul, OUR fellow barrister. Put a new spin the word bar, didn’t he ? Yes, and I hope he passed too.

    @ SHUTTERBUG, 2-3 hours is a long time while reviewing for the bar. You can cram a lot of info into your already overflowing cranium or catch up on your sleep in that short period. Don’t worry, she’ll soon be back to normal by monthend. Send her an encouraging text message or two. It’ll be much appreciated.

  9. I just need to know. Im totally clueless on the Bar Exam and its proceedings. If you fail the Bar Exam this last year, will you still be qualified to take it up again the following year? I learned that Accounting students can take it up twice in a row and if they have failed the second time, they have to take up refresher courses to be able to be qualified for another CPA licensure exam. I dont know if it goes the same way with the Bar Exams. Please let me know the answer by sending an email at [email protected]. Thanks!

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