Posted by: Elmer Brabante | March 3, 2011

Bar Testimonials

Am posting here an article by Janus Victoria that was first published at on 13 April 2009, which I find valuable re-reading especially while waiting for the Bar Exams results.

Ahh, the bar

By Janus Victoria
Philippine Daily Inquirer


CRAMMING FOUR YEARS OF LAW school into six months of reviewing before the Philippine bar exams requires as much strategic planning as perseverance. But the road to the bar is paved not just with hard work. Many examinees of years past added prayers. Not to mention homespun tactics for luck.

“There are as many ways of preparing for the bar exam as there are examinees,” says Ricardo Chan of the Class of 2005, University of the Philippines College of Law. “To each his own.”

Here’s what others who have been there and done that have to say to those who are now counting the anxious days and sleepless nights leading to the bar exams in September.

The review

Harvey Dychiao, 2003, Ateneo de Manila University, No. 2 in the 2003 bar exams

I HAD A WELL-PLANNED AND rigorous schedule. I started early on in terms of getting the materials I would be reviewing. By the start of the bar exam preparation period, I already knew which books and reviewers I would be reviewing, why I would be reviewing them, how many times I would be reading them and at what points during the review process I would be doing so. The most important thing is to be prepared. It goes without saying that you have to be aware of how you best absorb knowledge and how fast. Once you’ve got everything under the lid, believe in yourself and take constructive criticism well. You must realize that this is your journey and you’ve got to carry yourself towards the finish line.

Gaby Roldan-Concepcion, 1990, University of the Philippines

SINCE MY DAD WAS TRAINING me to be a masseuse (believe it or not, all through my childhood and even when I was a working student in law school, I had to massage him for at least an hour-and-a-half each night, whether or not I had an exam), I knew I had to get out of the house to prepare for the bar. So I rented an apartment with two friends starting from graduation on through September. I didn’t review at any school as I thought it would be a waste of time to have to dress up and go to school every day (that would have taken about three hours in unnecessary prep time). It was largely a self-study type of preparation for me with a rigorous and regimented calendar for six months, where each day was marked and each hour of the day accounted for. Waking up, sleeping and break times were vigorously implemented. It was worse than being in military school!

Cyrille Merioles, 2004, Arellano University

THE REVIEW WAS THE most gruelling part of becoming a lawyer for me. It was complete self-isolation as I study better when I am alone, with nobody and nothing around but my books. My bible then were the Codals. I carried them with me wherever I went. Before starting to read I prayed for peace of mind. I went to sleep at 12 midnight and woke up at 6 in the morning. I took a break for an hour or two during the day. A nap, TV and music occupied those day breaks. I listened mostly to classical music because it relaxed my mind. I listened to classical music even in my sleep.

Anya Palileo, 2008, UP

I MADE PHOTOCOPIES OF everything that people said were good reads, from handwritten notes to reviewers from other schools and even all the textbooks of the rumored examiners. I made a huge Manila paper-sized calendar of the months of May to August and noted how long I would study each subject. If I fell behind schedule, I’d do all-nighters at McDonald’s or Jollibee on Katipunan or Starbucks on Quezon Avenue. But then I’d get sick and wouldn’t be able to study for the next two days, so I paid P750 for a flu shot. The week after I got the shot, I still got sick! By July, I was calling my calendar “isang mapangarap na konsepto.” In the end, I read only 10 percent of the stuff I xeroxed!

Aldrich del Rosario, 2007, San Beda College

MY MOM TOLD ME TO have everything that I was going to use for the bar blessed. So we brought around 10 tech pens, jeans, four shirts, four pieces of underwear, four pairs of socks, my shoes and my eyeglasses to Manaog (Pangasinan) to have blessed. My bag was so full the priest wittily said, “Bar ba? Akala ko aakyat ng Everest, e.”

Judy Lardizabal, 2008, San Sebastian College, No. 1 in 2008 bar exams

I THINK I’D BEEN PREPARING FOR THE bar since my first day in law school. The five months of review was purely a refresher. In the run-up to the exams I put more time on reading up on subjects where I knew I was not doing too well. I allocated more days on subjects that would be given more weight in the exams.

The day of reckoning

Larcy Grace C. Jocson- Zorilla, 2000, UP

YOU PACK YOUR LUNCH just so your brain has fuel for the afternoon exam, but you’re not really hungry. You just force yourself to eat food that to you tastes like chalk. At one point during lunch break, I had to look for a deserted corridor and put together scattered cardboards on the floor to lay on and rest.

One Sunday the proctor asked me to lead the prayer. I froze and couldn’t remember a single prayer. I guess that was how tired my brain was. So I groped with the Lord’s Prayer, much to the amusement of the rest who, thankfully, filled in the blanks.

Yet another Sunday, just a few minutes after the second subject started, a seatmate started to incessantly tap her pen on her desk while staring in front of her, into the void. I thought she was still thinking, but when she didn’t stop for the whole period, and never even wrote on her booklet, I knew she was having a breakdown. Times like that you just breathe a prayer for that person and keep going.

Marissa Saba, 2004, SBC

I WOULD USUALLY TAKE FIVE sleeping pills to help me sleep but for the first Sunday of the bar exams, I thought I should add more so I would be well-rested. I ended up sleepwalking! I was waiting by the elevator in my pajamas when my fraternity brothers found me.

Anya Palileo

RIGHT BEFORE THE EXAMS, I TOOK Brand’s Essence of Chicken and I had another one for lunch. It tastes like hell, but my Chinese friend had said it was the secret as to why the grades of Chinese school children were high. In fairness, even if I didn’t sleep the night before Sunday, I felt my mind was still alert during the exams.

The nerve-wracking wait

Judy Lardizabal

I ALWAYS STOPPED BY the St. Joseph Church along Aurora Boulevard in Quezon City and prayed a lot. I also heard mass three times a week—on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Prayers made it all possible.

Jazmin B. Banal, 1998, UP

UNLIKE MY CLASSMATES, I did not go to Manaoag because I felt doing so would be sacrilegious and might only offend God. On the night of the announcement itself, I hang out in Malate with a friend and ended up at the Office of the SC justice who headed the bar committee. And while everyone in the room, including the justice, was congratulating my friend for landing in the Top 10, I still did not know if I had made it or not. I started thinking of an exit line in case I failed. The funny thing is I also dreamt that I was in the Top 10 but Inquirer used a really ugly photo of me on the front page!

Anya Palileo

WHILE WAITING FOR THE RESULTS, I stocked up on good deeds—I refrained from backbiting, I was courteous to slow waiters, etc.—para walang bad karma. I begged everyone I knew to pray for me. I did everything the spam mail said: “Send to so and so and you will get 12 years of good luck.” I recited novenas. I climbed Kamay ni Hesus in Quezon. I prayed to my dead relatives. And, lastly, I made a pact with two fellow bar-takers that on the day of the results’ release, we’d be out of Manila. When the news broke out, we were in Angeles City—flying a plane!

Alfonso Miguel Siason, 2008, UP

I SPENT THE WAITING PERIOD CATCHING up with old friends and my family. After vacationing with blockmates and meeting up with my closest friends in Manila, I went home to Iloilo and hang out with my family and high school friends. This insulated me from “bar talk” until the month of March.

Friends who had taken the bar before me suggested I be in Manila during “release season” as it would be torture to not be around people who understood the stress.
The day of the release was the longest day of my life. I’ve been through a four-hour wisdom tooth pulling session and I can honestly say this felt far worse.

Vanessa Cancio Raymundo, 2008, SBC, No. 10 in 2008 bar exams

TWO DAYS BEFORE THE results came out, I could hardly sleep and eat. I was so afraid that I would not make it. The only thing I could do then was pray harder than ever. Several times I found myself teary-eyed at Holy Mass.

Honestly, after I took the bar exams, I thought to myself that, with the kind of answers I gave, I could only pray to pass the bar. All I asked for was [a score of] 75% because I feared that if I asked for more, it would be asking too much, if not the impossible. That was why I was very surprised and happy that I was among the Top 10!

My friends and I used to make these silly jokes about having our names and pictures posted on the topnotchers’ wall in our school library. A part of me then really wanted to be on the list, but a bigger part of me thought it could never happen. But it did! It was all so surreal.


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