Palaweños received uplifting news amidst the COVID-19 gloom when one of our very own, Jocelyn B. Fabello of the Palawan State University, placed 5th in the 2019 Bar Examinations.

Through a feat only a handful is able to achieve, Atty. Jocelyn brought much-needed glee by showcasing to the nation the excellence of Palaweños and the quality of legal education in the province.

Yearly, the bar examinations and its results are occasioned by much pomp and circumstance that many are left to wonder what it is all about.

Hailed as the toughest licensure examination in the country, the bar exam is the final set of tests that an aspiring lawyer has to hurdle after four years of undergraduate studies and another four years of law proper where one has to contend with a multitude of cases and commentaries and endure the dreaded Socratic method of instruction on a daily basis.

The bar is held once a year on the four Sundays of November and features eight subjects, namely, Political and International Law, Labor and Social Legislation, Civil Law, Taxation, Mercantile Law, Criminal Law, Remedial Law, and Legal Ethics and Practical Exercises.

For every Bar Sunday, a candidate has to take two subjects with four hours allotted for each. The questions are meant to gauge a candidate’s proficiency in the intricacies of the law on a wide range of topics selected by the Supreme Court. The answers are to be handwritten and in an essay format.

More than a mere academic and mental ordeal, the bar exam puts to the test a person’s physical stamina, grit, ability to cruise through emotions, and to withstand a tremendous amount of pressure.

I remember being bothered by a variety of illnesses ranging from a stiff neck to dry cough during the entire month I was taking the bar, which all miraculously disappeared days after the conclusion of the exams!

Due to its difficulty, the average passing rate for the past ten bar examinations is only 27.12%, with many retaking the bar examinations multiple times before finally making it.

What comes after the bar examinations are agonizing months of waiting for the results. Since the examination booklets are corrected manually, it takes time before the Supreme Court releases the list of successful examinees. In my case, it took six months before we were informed of our fate. And when that day comes, emotions run wild, tears abound, and embraces are aplenty either to offer comfort to those who failed or to extend congratulations to those who succeeded and earned the right to be called “Attorney”.

When the results of my bar examinations were released, my family and I were in the middle of attending Holy Mass at noon. It was my second Mass for the day, having attended one earlier in the morning for good measure. At exactly 12:22 pm, I finally found out that I passed. It was indeed a precious moment of bliss: realizing a lifelong dream for my family, and knowing that all the toil and sacrifices were worth it. The profound joy my family and I shared that day resonates until now.

The journey may be long and arduous, but for the privileged few, the finalé is taking an oath to conduct oneself as a lawyer according to the best of one’s knowledge and discretion, and signing the “Roll of Attorneys”, ready to be called to the bar and summoned to serve. This, ultimately, is what being a lawyer is all about.

After the euphoria of passing the bar subsides, one has to realize that being in the legal profession is not to be on a pedestal of prestige but to be in a position of service.

Far from the glamor and material gains associated with the legal profession obsessively sought by some, the reality of lawyering entails the hidden work of research, study, and writing, in order to be one with the plight of people served, in accordance with what is right. Lawyers are called to master the law in order to be servants of justice, and advocates of truth.

As Chief Justice Fred Ruiz Castro said: “membership in the bar is in the category of a mandate to public service of the highest order. A lawyer is an oath-bound servant of society whose conduct is clearly circumscribed by inflexible norms of law and ethics, and whose primary duty is the advancement of the quest of truth and justice, for which he has sworn to be a fearless crusader”. (Apostasy in the Legal Profession, 64 SCRA 784).

What lies beyond the bar, then, is a life given in service of the community by generously providing counsel to the doubtful, instruction to the ignorant, admonition to the errant and comfort to the afflicted, while relentlessly pursuing the good for all.

It is my fervent hope that in this dark and difficult time, our new lawyers use their knowledge and stature to become beacons of truth, guiding our people to the way that leads to life.

My warm congratulations to my friends, Atty. Jill Bagaoisan, Atty. Jason Mendoza, Atty. Josine Protasio, Atty. Paul Ayson, Atty. Antonette Yu, and to my fellow Palaweños, Atty. Tomas Socrates, and Atty. Jocelyn Fabello, who are now called to the bar and summoned to serve.

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