Faces of Cebu Life! People and Ideas

FACES OF CEBU: Vhal Roncesballes, 28, New York Bar Exam passer

CEBU CITY, Philippines – As Filipinos, we may have been in situations where we find ourselves putting our dreams on hold to prioritize something else, especially if it is for the sake of our family’s future.

It’s as though this particular legacy was an inescapable destiny, and Vhal Roncesballes from Consolacion, Cebu, was no exception.

There were moments when he felt disheartened and weary while chasing his dreams, but when an opportunity finally emerged  for him, he regained his determination and scaled the heights of his aspirations.

This achievement not only filled him with pride but also brought honor to the entire Cebuano community.

Roncesballes, who is 28 years old as of this writing, spent his childhood years in Lamac, Consolacion, Cebu. He admired his grandfather, Baldomero Nadal Jr., a retired police officer who had cherished dreams of becoming a lawyer.

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Roncesballes received invaluable guidance from his grandfather, who instilled in him essential life lessons and values. Little did Vhal know that years after his grandfather’s passing, he would passionately embrace his late grandfather’s unfulfilled aspirations, embarking on a journey to become a lawyer and make those dreams a reality.

Cebu lawyer new york

Vhal Roncesballes

Roncesballes completed his education at the University of San Carlos and finished his legal studies in University of San Jose-Recoletos.

In 2021, while still on the process of finishing his Juris Doctor degree, he and his then-girlfriend, Annika Gabriente tied the knot and relocated to the United States to start their new life as a married couple and to follow her wife, who had plans in working in the US.

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This is when Roncesballes had to make a difficult decision.

Cebu lawyer new york

Vhal Roncesballes with wife, Annika Gabriente-Roncesballes in Manhattan, New York.

“We had to make a decision if mu kuyug ko karun or mu apas ko after nako makapasar sa bar sa Philippines. I decided to choose my wife thinking ‘what is for me is for me’ so if para nako ang ma lawyer then ma lawyer ra jd ko […] I have decided to put my dreams on hold kay I want to see my wife achieve her dreams,” Roncesballes shared with CDN Digital.

Roncesballes continued his studies for his Juris Doctor degree remotely due to the COVID pandemic. He was thankful for the chance to finish his studies online so that he could work on the side. He worked in fast food chains to help his wife pay the bills while seeing his classmates in the Phillippines preparing for the upcoming Bar Exams.

While completing his Juris Doctor degree and preparing for the New York Bar Exams in July 2023, Vhal took on a job at a fast-food chain.

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“I applied in a fast food chain tig cut ko ug mga boxes and tig luto sa mga patty it was my first job after sa lawschool suya kaayu kos ako mga friends ga andam sa bar exam, aside ana nga job ga work sad kog laing jobs ga work kog restaurant tig luto ug tig limpyu and tig assist pud ug photographer,” he added.

Vhal Roncesballes’ setup upon preparing for his NY Bar Exams 2023

And, as if the heavens have listened to Vhal’s prayers, he was given a chance to finally work in a law-related workspace in Maine, USA.

Afterwards, he tried applying for the New York State (NYS) Bar Exams in 2023 with the reason of pursuing his dream.

Upon seeing his then classmates achieve their feat of becoming lawyers, it inspired him to strive more. After all, it is never too late to pursue dreams, albeit being in another country.

And, after a tedious process of submitting and fulfilling documents for the NY Bar Exams, Roncesballes finally received the go-signal that he could sit in for the exam.

“Although happy ko, a lot of negative things ako na think knowing dili kaayu dakog chance ang mga foreign graduates mu pasar, […] maka anxious kaayu pag first day sa exam ang mga taw from prestigious schools nga sa salida ra nimo ma dungan and you are taking the same exam as them! I believed in myself and I know nga I worked hard.”

Cebu lawyer new york

A proud Cebuano, Vhal Roncesballes.

On October 19, 2023, after almost two years of trying new things while waiting for his perfect time, Roncesballes not only passed the NYS Bar Exams but also exceeded his own expectations with an impressive score.

Alongside his wife Annika, who has now achieved the status of a United States Registered Nurse (USRN), they are eagerly anticipating the promising future that awaits them, thanks to their latest accomplishments.

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“My story is proof to trust the process and always know nga you can only connect the dots looking backward. Ive been through a lot, which makes this success even better,” Roncesballes added.


TAGS: Cebu, Cebuano, law, lawyer, people
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