By: Ador Vincent S. Mayol April 26,2018 - 10:48 PM

THE BEST AND THE BRIGHTEST. University of San Carlos Bar topnotchers Ivanne D’ Laureil Hisoler, 4th placer; Christianne Mae Balili, 2nd placer; and Rheland Servacio, 7th placer, share a light moment as they meet in the office of University of San Carlos (USC) College of Law Dean Joan Largo on April 26, 2018, hours after the Bar examination’s results were released.

3 USC graduates in the Bar’s Top 10

Christianne Mae Balili took the Bar Examination with a heavy heart in November last year.

Not only did she lose a grandmother just days before she tackled what is considered to be the toughest licensure examination in the country, Balili also bade goodbye to her greatest fan.

“My grandmother believed in me so much. She was my favorite. I was really heartbroken during the exams,” she said as she wiped tears off her eyes.

Instead of wallowing in despair, the 32-year-old graduate of the University of San Carlos (USC) in Cebu City kept her focus and pushed herself hard to achieve a dream she and her grandmother both shared.

That dream just became a reality.

Balili landed second in the 2017 Bar exam with a rating of 90.80 percent, just a few points behind the highest score of 91.05 percent garnered by Mark John Simondo of the University of St. La Salle in Bacolod City.

Two other Carolinians made it to the top 10. Ivanne D’laureil Hisoler placed fourth with a grade of 89.55 percent, while Rheland Servacio landed seventh with 89 percent.

Stephanie Claros of the University of San Jose-Recoletos ranked 15th while Ella Mae Mendoza of the University of Cebu secured the 17th spot.
Unlike previous years, the Supreme Court, this time, decided to reveal the names of top 20 Bar examinees instead of the usual Top 10.


Lawyer Joan Largo, dean of the USC College of Law, was overjoyed as the steady trove of topnotchers in the storied history of the university continued.

“I’m extremely elated of the Bar exam results. Proudly Tatak USC. Last year, some have misgivings that maybe it’s just a one-off deal. But this batch proved them wrong,” she said in an interview.

In the 2016 Bar exam, USC graduate Karen Mae Calam clinched the top spot and became the first law graduate from Cebu to ever secure the number one place in the Bar exam. Calam was joined by three other Carolinians in the top 10 in the 2016 Bar exam.

“It always is a combination of factors. First of all, we are clear with our goals. We know what we want, so we know how to get there. We map out strategies on the basis of our goals. And then I have the best professors you could wish for; the most dedicated in the craft,” said Largo.

“I also have the best students. Many are working students but no one ever asked for special treatment. They know what it takes to be a lawyer. We have excellent faculty, students, administration, and facilities. That’s why you have excellence along the way,” she added.

To date, USC, the oldest university in Cebu run by the Society of the Divine Word missionaries has produced about 25 top placers in the Bar exam, making it one of the top-performing law schools in the country.

Balili’s grade of 90.80 percent bested Calam’s 89.05 percent grade in the 2016 Bar exam.

The grade to beat in the school’s history, however, is that of former Cebu governor and congressman Pablo Garcia, who despite ranking third in the 1951 Bar exam, got a rating of 91.5 percent.


Although she aimed to be in the top 10, Balili said she didn’t expect to place second in last year’s Bar.

“I was really very nervous today. I even felt dizzy. My childhood dream came true. The feeling is surreal,” she said in an interview.

Balili, a native of Labason, Zamboanga del Norte, was a working student at USC.

She said she had to juggle work and studies so she could pay for her school dues.

“I was a full-time student and at the same time a full-time worker. Juggling time was really a challenge,” she said.

Balili, the salutatorian of her batch, hoped to transcend the brand of lawyering the country has.

“In San Carlos (USC), we’re taught not just excellence in academics, but also good virtues. We’re not only taught how to be an intelligent lawyer, but also how to be morally fit. I think what I can do to improve the status of the profession is just to be a good lawyer,” she said.

Balili, also a Certified Public Accountant, worked at SGV accounting firm in Cebu City before she studied law. At present, she’s working at the Cebu office of the Angara Abello Concepcion Regala & Cruz Law Offices (ACCRALAW), one of the most prestigious law firms in the country.


Hisoler, who ranked fourth, was also ecstatic with the outcome of the exam.

“The training we had in USC was very hard, but it was all worth it,” she said.

Hisoler, also a registered nurse from Cebu City, said she didn’t plan to become a lawyer.

“I wanted to become a doctor but I got overwhelmed by the medical field. So, inspired by my uncle, I tried out law school,” the 27-year-old Hisoler said.

Servacio, for his part, said prayer and hard work paved the way to success.

“It’s just a matter of giving up everything because of a dream. It’s a matter of diligence and of course prayer,” said the 26-year-old son of an entrepreneur from Cebu City.

Servacio hoped to be the kind of lawyer who could help improve the condition of the country’s legal system.

“We’re taught that what we don’t have, we endeavor to have, and what we have, we share. It should not just be lawyering for our interest or for the interest of our clients. It should be for the improvement of the entire judicial and legal system,” he said.

A total of 1,724 out of 6,750 examinees passed the Bar exam held at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) in all Sundays of November last year.

The 2017 Bar exam registered a passing rate of 25.54 percent.

The Bar, the only licensure exam that is not administered by the Professional Regulations Commission, covers eight subjects: political law, labor law, civil law, taxation, mercantile law, criminal law, remedial law, and legal and judicial ethics.

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TAGS: bar exam, graduates, top 10, USC

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