Sa paglabas ng resulta ng bar exam na ginanap noong November 2019, lumutang ang iba't-ibang storya ng mga pinagdaanan ng mga taong sumailalim sa napakamatinding pagsusulit.

Isa na rito ang masalimuot na kwento ng isang bar topnotcher na si Kenneth Manuel, ang lalaking nag-trending noon sa pagbabahagi ng kanyang mga suliranin para maabot ang pangarap na maging abogado.

Narito ang kanyang kwento:

I survived another day.

It was a typical Monday afternoon – hot, humid, and heavily tiring. My classes in law school will start by 5:00pm, and I am still waiting for a ride along the noisy sidewalks of Lawton at 4:45pm. Jeepneys pass by with men standing by the door, holding on for a ride as all seats have already been occupied. Vans are likewise full. Buses are chased by commuters desperate for a ride to their homes. I am going to be late yet again for class, and I was there, standing, smoke on the background, vehicles in the front, oil on my face, haplessly waiting for a ride to school.

Throughout the day, I have used up my energy in teaching, drawing childish illustrations in the whiteboard to visualize Taxation, screaming every word out just to maintain my students’ attention. I tried teaching because it was a passion, and also because of my thoughts that teaching is convenient for a law student like me. Of course, I was wrong. Juggling a full load in a four-year law school track alongside a full-time teaching load is a task I severely underestimated.

Days start early. Classes can be scheduled as early as 7:00am, and I have to at least look a little decent before going to class. I need a quick breakfast meal and a cup of coffee, iced or otherwise, to bring me to my senses. I cannot go to class air-headed although it was inevitable sometimes. I once went to a class without any sleep, and taught an entire hour with blurry vision. I felt like I was at the brink of collapsing. After faculty meetings to attend, a few student consultations, a short chat with my co-professors, and after checking papers and recording scores, I hurriedly tidy my things up in the hopes that I can catch a ride to UST before I finally become late.

Booking a Grab is a mess, not to mention that it is expensive. Before the days of Angkas, hitching on a jeepney exit and having my butt half-seated in a UV Express have been my mode of transportation. I almost always arrive at the classroom late, chasing my breath, sweat dripping from both sides of my temple while saying my apologies to my professor as I approach my empty seat in the middle of his discussion. Lucky if the professor is late.

As the professor erases the “absent” mark on my class card and replace it with “late”, my next prayer is that I won’t be called for recitation. I have not read a single case, and I am simultaneously chasing the case syllabus as they get recited one-by-one. There are countless times where I bluffed my way through recitations – many ended up in disappointing recitation grades and episodes of humiliation. Dean Aligada called me a chicken nest and told me that he will send me back to Grade 3 because of my grammar. Atty. Villasis made a litany against lazy students when I was not able to recite Rules 16 and 17 correctly. Dean Paguirigan would just smile with all pleasantness when she has the hint that I was not able to completely read her lengthy syllabus for recitation. Atty. Seña would crucify me for bluffing during recitation while Prosec. Garcia would ensure that all of our class cards are bound for fire. Dean Divina would give me a confused look when I score low (for his standards) in his quiz.

Finally, the professor calls the class off, and as I drag my feet along the imposing corridors of law school, I am just glad that this day is over.

I frankly do not have time to study at home. By the time I arrive at my rented unit at 9:45pm, I am already done for the day, exhausted and weak, but at least, beaming with optimism that I was able to get through. I’ll try to flip a few pages; I’ll make myself a hot cup of coffee, but the fatigue just makes me drowsy, and I tap out to my bed. Most of the time, I prioritize browsing what I will teach for the next day. I can’t come to class unprepared, and I owed it to my class to have knowledge of what I teach. Never mind my trashed recitations, I’m sure my classmates will understand and won’t judge me. In Filipino, “bawi na lang sa exams.”

I survived another day, and that went on for four years.

Graduation day came, and objectively speaking, I never thought that day would come. The next target would, of course, be the Bar Exams.

“Edi magreresign ka sa work?”

When I answered “no,” people were considering it as a suicide mission. How can I review for the Bar while working? I worked from Monday to Friday, eight hours a day, with work sometimes spilling over the weekends when I have to substitute for an absent co-faculty or co-reviewer.

“Paano ‘yung Bar?” they ask.

“Bahala na.” In my defeatist-slash-careless attitude, I tried to balance both Bar review (as the student) and CPA review (as the teacher). The task was daunting. They say that in order to hurdle the Bar, we must do at least two readings of our references, but I did not finish even my first. I felt like I went to the Bar ill-equipped, but it was a battle in which I should not back out.

32 hours of essay writing. 300+ essays. 800 points. Four Sundays of November. All four years of law school went down to this. After the last Sunday of the Bar, I sighed. This is all done. This is now out of my control.

And yes, I survived another day.

Law school is never easy. Every day is a struggle. I was academically confident for most of my time during my prelaw, but I rarely had that confidence as a law student, and even as a law graduate. Law school makes everyone rethink their intellectual capacity, and it made me doubt myself.

The burden doubles as a working law student. I had been asked many times if I plan to quit from work, perhaps on my last year in law school when review subjects come. My templated reply is: “If I quit work, I may have plenty of time to study, but I’ll be studying hungry and homeless.” For many working students like me, we do not meaninglessly work. Who wants less than six hours of sleep daily? Who wants to go to class unprepared? Who wants those shameful recitations? Who wants to juggle and attempt to balance double lives? For many working students like me, it was a matter of survival, it was a matter of getting through everyday. At the risk of sounding pathetic, getting your pay became a matter of having food to eat and having a place to stay. From a place of privilege, this may not be apparent, but the sacrifice of hours of sleep and the sacrifice of sanity offered by precious but missed social interactions are all for the continuance of what’s present, and for the achievement of our planned future -- of our dreams. I skipped vacations. I said pass on reunions. I missed parties. In fact, in spite of having two simultaneous employers, I had never joined a company outing since law school started, and that has been the life that I have been slowly accustomed to.

It wasn’t all stable. Overtime work sometimes have to be rendered and I had to miss a few classes. Teaching involves a huge deal of take-home work – crafting exams, checking papers, recording outputs, among others. Instead of reading my own lessons for my own grades, I read my students’ output for their grades. I am not ranting that the profession is such an inconvenience, for it is worthwhile, but I am stating that it is definitely not easy.

I flunked the scholarship that sustained me; I received a 29/100 on my Finals Exam in Criminal Law; I rushed 50 handwritten case digests in one night, disabling my hands from properly writing for the exams that came thereafter, I came in two hours late in an exam just so I can study a bit more – all this on top of failing relationships, failing health, and all other personal troubles and circumstances. People ask me how I manage and balance everything – the thing is they are not managed and balanced. Everything is rushed. Everything is chaotic. Everything was just about getting through.

It was not easy, but every single day, I thank myself for having survived another day. I thank myself for keeping myself together for four years.

Things were not all stress and failures. There were moments of victory. I met some of the most wonderful people in law school. I became a student of inspiring professors, some of whom I will admire for the rest of my life. Surprisingly, I was a little active in extracurricular activities (thanks, UST Law Debate family!) and in an unexpected stroke of blessing, I was able to obtain another scholarship in the middle of my law school stint (thanks, FLP family!) and discount on my Bar review (thanks, VLC!) Choosing supportive employers is likewise key, and I’m thankful to have mentors in my colleagues in Letran and ReSA. I can now likewise contribute to the defrayal of our family expenses and I’m now partly paying the monthly amortization of our family home.

I always say to my students who are struggling, it is when things become tough when it becomes more worth it in the end. It is when the tears have already dried that it feels good. It is when the rain has stopped that the heat of the sun becomes nourishing. Difficulty is not tantamount to impossibility, nor does it cause struggles to last until infinity. The struggle ends. The goal is possible. The way up may not be the gentle slope that we have imagined it to be; it is a steep uphill climb along rugged terrain. But when we reach the peak, the view is breathtaking.

I had every opportunity to quit. I am already licensed, and I can just continue practicing my former profession. When I flunked my exams, I could have already thrown the towel. When I lost my scholarship, I could have saved my money instead of spending it for tuition fees. There will always be reasons for us to quit. There are many exit doors, and they are just waiting for us to step out. Still, in spite of all of the hardships, I remained, I clung to that hope of finishing this degree. The journey is not smooth nor is it pretty, but definitely, the journey is meaningful.

This is for all of us who struggle to survive every day. This is for the people who continue to believe that there’s a good tomorrow in the sorrows of today. This is for all working students who take the burden of living double lives. This is for those who have less but strive for more. We turn our struggles into success. We make the hurdles our opportunities. We transform our fears into power.

Today, in this another Friday afternoon, after thousands of students taught, after 198 units of teaching, after 169 units of law school, after 8 Bar subjects, after 4 Sundays of the Bar after 4.5 years, we’re here, and we survived another day.

[Sorry sa entry sa essay writing contest.]

University of Santo Tomas – Faculty of Civil Law
Juris Doctor
Cum Laude 🥉
Top 6, 2019 Bar Examinations ✨


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6th placer sa Bar exam, ibinahagi ang masalimuot na pinagdaanan bago nakapasa 6th placer sa Bar exam, ibinahagi ang masalimuot na pinagdaanan bago nakapasa Reviewed by The News Feeder on 29 April Rating: 5

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