Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine, there was great news in store for aspiring lawyers when the 2019 Bar exam results were released last April 29. While there was no historic gathering outside the Supreme Court’s headquarters in Manila this year due to social distancing measures, the release of the Bar exam results continued to be a celebratory occasion for all newly minted lawyers and their loved ones.
The 2019 Bar exam showed a passing rate of 27.36%, higher than 2018’s 22.07%. From the 2,103 out of 7,685 examinees that successfully passed, let’s take a look at some interesting stories and trends from the passers list, from a women-led Top 10 to two Catholic priests passing the bar.
1. Jeepney driver’s daughter is 2019’s Bar topnotcher
Bicolana CPA Mae Diane Azores rose above the rest of the 2019 examinees to become the year’s Bar exam topnotcher. As the daughter of a jeepney driver, Azores always had big dreams for herself and her family, particularly to get out of poverty and help her parents with their livelihood. Now, her father has his own jeepney that he continues to drive every day.
As a public accountant, Azores has worked for DSWD and the Commission on Audit before pursuing a law degree at the University of Santo Tomas – Legazpi College of Law. Now with a Bar topnotcher recognition in her belt, Azores has her eyes on labor law to help out in the plight of vulnerable and underserved workers in the country.
2. Women clinch the top 5 spots of the Bar top 10
Aside from Azores securing the top spot of Bar passers, four other women follow her to make 2019’s Top 5 a ladies-only event. Listed according to rank respectively, the remaining top 5 are Princess Fatima Parahiman from the University of the East; Myra Baranda from the University of Santo Tomas – Legazpi (Azores’ fellow alumnus), Dawna Fya Bandiola from San Beda College – Alabang, and Jocelyn Fabello from Palawan State University.
Down the line, two more women seize a spot at the Bar top 10, with Rhowee Buergo from Jose Rizal University placing seventh, and Bebelan Madera from the University of St. La Salle placing tenth. This female-dominated Top 10 is a strong testament that anyone can pursue and succeed in whatever field they set their mind to, regardless of their gender.
3. Provincial schools continue their trend of topping the Bar
Big-name law schools in Metro Manila like the UP College of Law and the Ateneo School of Law are famous for producing multiple bar topnotchers since 1913. But in recent years, provincial law schools have been gaining ground in clinching that coveted topnotcher recognition.
For the 2019 Bar exam, two of the top passers – the 1st and the 3rd – came from the University of Santo Tomas – Legazpi, a provincial law school in Albay. Three more provincial schools reigned in the top 10, which were Palawan State University (Top 5), Saint Louis University in Baguio City (Top 8), and University of St. La Salle in Bacolod City (Top 10).
2017 was another year that a provincial school topped the Bar when Mark John Simondo from the University of St. La Salle ranked first and edged out more prominent law schools in the NCR. In 2018, the University of San Carlos in Cebu dominated the Bar top 10, with four alumni cementing their place amongst the top (2nd, 3rd, 9th, and 10th). It really doesn’t matter what school you choose to study in, as long as you work hard and have a passion for the profession.
4. Twin CPAs are now twin lawyers
Twin minds think alike, as Flourence Kathrine and Flourence Marie Enriquez always shared the goal of becoming CPA-lawyers together ever since they were little. Already licensed public accountants, the twins from Arellano University School of Law received the final piece of their puzzle when they both passed the 2019 Bar exam.
Having a twin through law school definitely had its advantages, budget-wise and studying-wise. The Enriquez twins only bought one book per subject and scheduled their study periods so that they could share notes with their cases. However, one disadvantage was that professors easily recognized the twins in class and so were often called for recitation. Still, this just motivated the twins to study even more, and it all paid off as they’re now certified twin CPA-lawyers. Talk about twinning goals!
5. Two Catholic priests are blessed to pass the 2019 Bar exam
While serving the Lord, two reverends are also on their way to serve the people as they are among the passers of the 2019 Bar exam. Rev. Fr. Victor de Guzman of the Diocese of San Fernando of La Union made the list of successful aspiring legal practitioners. He is currently the parish priest at the San Nicolas de Tolentino Parish Church located in Balaoan, La Union.
Also making the cut is Salesian Rev. Fr. Abundio Bacatan, currently assigned at Don Bosco Dumangas in Iloilo. Bacatan is also expected to become the first-ever Filipino Salesian civil lawyer.
All of the 2,103 passers of the 2019 Bar exam has a unique story to tell, but each one of them is a tale of hard work, hope, perseverance, and a burning desire to serve the people. Congratulations to all our new attorneys!