By Jose Mari Tirol
Only a few more days are left before your historic Bar Examinations this February 4 and 6, 2022.
You will make history in so many ways. Yours is the first nationwide Bar Exams; more than 400 of you are scheduled to take it in Panay Island, particularly at the Central Philippine University in Iloilo City. To be allowed to take the Exams you have shown proof that you are virus-free, which in a way befits your status as the first Examinees who will encode your answers on your laptops, rather than writing them on your booklets. And yours is the first Bar Exams, in a very long time, where there will be none of the customary send-offs, “bar operations”, and other activities involving the close physical proximity of its participants. The first one, in a very long time, that was postponed various times due to a continuing fortuitous event.
Those of us who took the previous Bar Exams can recall that these were administered in the traditional manner: around 6 months after our graduation, over four Sundays in Manila, and with pen and paper. While we took or Exams many years or decades ago, we can still remember and even feel the heightened tension and stress which started during (or even before ) the review months, and continued long after our 4th Sunday.
“Traditional” indeed: while the Constitution grants the Supreme Court the power to regulate the admission to the practice of law, it does not specify the mode, schedule, or even the coverage of the Bar Exams. On the contrary, the Constitution recognizes the Supreme Court’s power to promulgate the appropriate rules for these purposes.
Like those of us who took the Bar Exams before you, you too have prepared yourselves mentally and intellectually, and taken care of your emotional and physical well-being. However, our experience is so unlike yours. Our preparations pale in comparison to yours, the scope and breadth of your activities during your review include matters that we generally took for granted. For example, unlike you, it was comparatively easy for us to organize face-to-face study groups, and to decide where to go to destress. We salute you, not just as the pioneer batch who will take the Bar Exams virtually and during the time of the pandemic. But also because you did not back out, and decided to take the Bar Exams, notwithstanding its peculiar circumstances.
We know that your brave decision to take these peculiarly situated Bar Exams does not guarantee that you will pass them. Nevertheless, one thing must be recognized, and should be given weight: you decided not to back out and quit despite all of your challenges and trials. Yes, your decision to push through and not to quit is a choice.
Your choice is proof of your determination, fortitude, and grit. As well as your dedication to become the lawyers that we all desire you to be. These qualities that you have now will serve you well when you are called to the Bar. And then fulfil your roles as productive members of society, as ethical and competent agents of Justice and the Rule of Law.