CEBU CITY, Philippines – Despite the hurdles and delays, the recently concluded Bar Examinations was the #BestBarEver for Angelique Mhar Bilagantol.
Angelique is an aspiring lawyer. Born and raised in Surigao City, the 25-year-old flew and stayed for a few years in Cebu to pursue her dreams.
She was among the approximately 1,200 bar takers who made history last February 4 and February 6 for being part of the first regionalized Bar Exams.
“I always aspire to be somebody that can help others. I often ask myself, based on what I have and I don’t have, what can I do?. And I told myself, I wanted to become a lawyer,” said Angelique.
She began her entire law school journey at the University of the Philippines of Cebu (UP Cebu), taking up Political Science in 2013.
Then right after earning her degree, she proceeded to study law at the University of San Carlos (USC) in 2017.
Her batch of Juris doctors was supposed to take the bar in 2021 but then COVID-19 happened. For Angelique, facing an uncertain path was difficult.
When the pandemic came, she and her schoolmates had to abandon what they’d become used to, and adjust to an all-new setting: online classes.
In Angelique’s case, it involved moving back to her hometown.
“I was worried. It was 3rd year, 2nd semester — the hardest semester in USC law. The sudden shift left us confused and unorganized. We have to adjust everything,” she said.
“How we study, manage our time, answer the quizzes and exams, answer recitations, among others. For me, I went home to the province, I have to adjust attending classes while at home since ever since college I am away from family for school,” she described.
But the hard times did not stop there. The bar exams have to be postponed a couple of times as threats of the pandemic continue, and restrictions are still in place.
Angelique coped with the unpredictable changes by studying more.
“It was hard especially financially since we also have to extend our budget. Scheduled plans have to be re-scheduled again. But on the bright side, we got more time to study,” she said.
In spite of all of these obstacles and gloomy developments, Angelique kept her chin up, reminding herself how far she had reached.
“What made me keep going? First, my family. Second, I always tell myself that everything that I worked so hard for will be put to waste if I give up now, so might as well get through it,” said Angelique.
But above all, Angelique was glad that they won’t have to travel further north just to take the bar examinations. Plus, their family and friends don’t need to break their finances just to show their support for her.
“It was indeed favorable, especially for us in Visayas and Mindanao. Fewer expenses, no need to adjust physically, mentally, and psychologically to a new environment, and our support system are closer. Our family need not spend on expensive tickets and accommodation just to support us in our Bar journey,” Angelique said.
“For me, being a lawyer, it’s like having superpowers. You see, you can save an innocent from going to jail. You can help a farmer against land grabbers. You can protect the battered spouse from the abusive spouse, etc. There is so much you can do when you are a lawyer. But of course, I also want that sense of pride and respect when we think of lawyers…and I love Legally blonde.”