By: Ador Vincent S. Mayol May 03,2017 - 11:36 PM
CELEBRATION: Bar topnotchers Karen Mae Calam Bar passer number 1 (left) and Anne Margaret Momongan number 7 celebrates after hearing they top on the bar exames at their office in SGV accounting firms. The two bar topnotchers studies their law at the University of San Carlos. (CDN PHOTO/LITO TECSON)

CELEBRATION: Bar topnotchers Karen Mae Calam Bar passer number 1 (left) and Anne Margaret Momongan number 7 celebrates after hearing they top on the bar exames at their office in SGV accounting firms. The two bar topnotchers studies their law at the University of San Carlos. (CDN PHOTO/LITO TECSON)


The result of the 2016 Bar examination was not just a triumph for Karen Mae L. Calam, who became the first law graduate of the University of San Carlos (USC) to top the Bar.

It was also a historic victory for USC in Cebu City, Silliman University in Dumaguete City and all province-based law schools.

For the first time in the history of the Bar exam, no one from the prominent Metro Manila–based universities that used to dominate the exam made it to the top ten.

Moreover, this Bar exam is also noted for its 59 percent passing rate, one of the highest in recent history.

Lawyer Joan Largo, dean of the USC College of Law, was ecstatic when she learned that four of their graduates landed in the top ten.

“I’m overjoyed by the fact that we clinched the top spot with three other Carolinians in the top ten,” she told Cebu Daily News over the phone yesterday.

USC, the oldest university in Cebu and one of the top-performing law schools in the country, also earned another feather on its cap when all its 70 graduates who took last year’s Bar exam passed.

“This is a validation of all the hard work, passion and dedication poured in by professors, students and administrators of USC,” Largo said.

Calam, a native of Bukidnon who is working in Cebu City, shone the brightest after she clinched the top spot with a rating of 89.05 percent.

She is not just USC’s pride. Calam is the first law graduate from Cebu to ever secure the number one place in the Bar examination — considered the toughest licensure examinations in the country.

The 30-year-old Calam was joined by three other Carolinians in the top ten: Fiona Cristy Lao placed third, Anne Margaret Momongan ranked seventh, while Jefferson Gomez secured the eight spot.

Alanna Gayle Ashley Khio of Silliman University took the second place, with two other from the same university also making it to the top ten (story on page 2).

Sweet feat

It was a sweet feat for USC which has produced at least 25 bar topnotchers since the university opened its College of Law in 1937 but had never taken hold of the top spot until Wednesday.

“It is also an affirmation that quality education can be had in USC and Cebu. Hard work truly pays off, and what a gift this has been for USC Law’s diamond year as a college,” the law dean added.

Calam bested the record set by another USC alumna, Athena Plaza, who ranked second in the 2015 Bar examination with a rating of 87.25 percent, and former Cebu governor and congressman Pablo Garcia, who ranked third in the 1951 Bar exam. Although the latter’s rating, 91.5 percent, remains the number to beat in the school’s history.

A total of 3,747 out of 6,344 examinees passed the Bar exam held at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) in all Sundays of November last year.

The 2016 exams registered a passing rate of 59.06 percent — the highest in 16 years.

The performance of Calam and the three other USC graduates continued the trend in recent years of a Cebu law school making it to the top ten in the Bar exam.

The ‘God factor’

In an interview, Calam only has thanks to and praise for the Lord to whom she entrusted the bar exam.

“God is just so amazing and merciful. He gave me beyond what I prayed for,” said the 2016 Bar topnotcher, a devotee of the Sto. Niño de Cebu, the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Jude Thaddeus, Padre Pio and Archbishop Teofilo Camomot.

Calam was not among the top ten law students in USC, but she believed that she would make it in the top ten of the Bar exam with an extra help from God.

“I prayed that I’ll be among the top ten because you always aim to be on top. At least if you fail to be in the top ten, you will still pass the exams,” she said.

“But I did not expect to be number one. To pass the Bar is more than enough,” she added.

Calam, also a certified public accountant, dedicated her successes to her father, a former military man, and her mom who works as an administrative head in a hospital in their hometown in Kalilangan town, Bukidnon.

“People in our place were afraid to dream big. In the province, education is that big a priority. It’s really just about everyday living. My parents wanted it for themselves but were not able to achieve it due to some reasons,” she said.

“Whatever they dream of, my sister (a doctor) and I are fulfilling it for them. I offer my achievements to them. This is my gift to my parents. I really don’t own all praises. It’s for my parents and God,” she added.

Mindanawans all
Calam was not the only one from Mindanao who made it to the top ten, according to a report from Mindanews.
Athalia Briones Liong of the Andres Bonifacio College in Dipolog City placed third while Justin Ryan Duque Morilla of the Ateneo de Davao University in Davao City was the fifth placer, the report said.
Calam said she wants to inspire people studying in public schools that success can be achieved through hard work and prayer.
“It’s not impossible to have something as big as this. Even if you don’t want to become a lawyer, just never doubt yourself,” she said.
Calam, who is set to marry another lawyer in August this year, said she has no idea yet as to what particular career she will engage in.
“I really have no particular plans yet. All I want to do now is to go to the Basilica del Sto. Niño and offer all prayers and thanksgiving to God,” she said.
“I cannot speak in behalf of all lawyers, but for me, the reason why you’re given the blessing to be a lawyer is to be able to help other people. Lawyering is not associated with money. There are those who understand that it’s about public service,” she added.

We are brilliant too
And what does she think of why not one of the examinees from Manila-based law schools landed in the top 10 in last year’s Bar?
“It’s how barristers answer and how the examiners appreciate the answer. For me, not one school owns the best. All I can say is there are brilliant people outside Metro Manila,” Calam said.
Calam and her close friend Anne Margaret Momongan, also from USC, now works at the Sycip Gorres and Velayo (SGV) accounting firm in Cebu City. They both hugged each other and held in their arms an image of the Sto. Niño when they learned that both of them are in the top 10 of the bar exam.
Momongan, 29, said becoming a lawyer has been her dream since she was a child, especially since there was no lawyer in her family.
Momongan’s parents are both Commerce graduates. In 2009, she took and passed the licensure examination for certified public accountants (CPA).
She then decided to pursue her dream of becoming a lawyer.
“The Bar exams were extremely difficult. Every Sunday, after the Bar, I would cry out of exhaustion. But I surrender everything to the Lord and pray to the Lord,” she said.
“Every Bar taker’s secret dream is to be on top. Of course, you don’t want to admit it because there’s even no assurance that you’ll pass. But I told the Lord that His will is always the best for me,” she added.
Another USC graduate, Jefferson Gomez, was elated when he learned that he ranked eighth in the Bar exam.
“It was not an easy task. It was a long one. But as the result came out, it was all worth it. I am very thankful. It’s really a big thing for me to be in the top 10,” he told CDN.
CDN also contacted Fiona Lao, who ranked third, but she could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The Bar exam, which is given for four Sundays in November, covers Political Law, Labor Law, Civil Law and Taxation, Mercantile Law, Criminal Law, Remedial Law, Legal Ethics and Practical Exercises.
The oath-taking of the new lawyers will be on May 22 at 3 p.m. at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.

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TAGS: bar, big, Calam, Carolinians, Examination, Karen, USC, wins

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