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FACES OF CEBU: Paulo Batulan, lone Cebuano topnotcher in 2023 Bar exams

The 27-year-old Paulo Batulan ranked 8th among the 3,812 Bar passers with an 88.25-percent score. Batulan who currently resides in Barangay Mabolo, Cebu City, is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) by profession. | Photo from Kolorhaus via Paulo Batulan

CEBU CITY, Philippines — Nothing can beat the surprises that life can give us when we do not give up to reach the success we all dreamed of.

“Delayed success.”

This is how the lone topnotcher from the University of San Jose-Recoletos described his achievement in the 2023 Bar Exams.

Twenty-seven-year-old Paulo Batulan ranked 8th among the 3,812 Bar passers with an 88.25-percent score.

Batulan, who currently resides in Barangay Mabolo, Cebu City, is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) by profession.


Upon learning that he was one of the topnotchers in the 2023 Bar exams, he just cried his heart out while exclaiming, “Oh my God. Thank you, Lord,” a couple of times. His family was also emotional when they learned about what he has just achieved.

Batulan is the first lawyer in their family, hence, he dedicated his success to his loved ones especially to his father, whom he described as a “frustrated lawyer.”

He said his father was his inspiration to enter law school because the latter was only able to finish third year in law school because he was assigned to other provinces as a regional accountant of the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation.

“I made it a challenge to get the title. I will work hard for it. This journey is not just about me but also about my family,” he said.

Batulan said that his father is also a CPA and is a retired regional accountant of an insurance corporation. He now works as a consultant and a bookkeeper for some clients. It would have been Batulan’s path if he did not proceed to law, according to him.

Batulan posed for a photo during a press conference hosted by USJ-R on December 5. | CDN File Photo by Niña Mae Oliverio


But as he said, topping the Bar exam was a “delayed success.”

“I told my older brother I may not have topped the CPA licensure exam but I topped the Bar exam. He said that it was a ‘delayed success’ but even if it is delayed, the important thing is the success,” he said.

With this, he acknowledged that not all unfortunate things in life are considered a failure, but instead, these are just challenges and obstacles that needed to be hurdled so that at the end of the day, these failures can be stepping stones toward the realization of one’s dreams.

Given that he did not top the CPA licensure exam, Batulan said that topping the Bar exam was not a form of reclaiming the missed top spot.

“Not necessary that I reclaim it, but I saw a chance and hint of my capability that I can achieve it (the top). It is also not a form of revenge because I am happy with the result that I got back then since I also received offers from big accounting firms, but I chose to work at the BIR because my heart is in the service of the people and now that I am in this position, I will make sure to remain my service for the public,” he said.


Besides being hardworking in making his notes for studying, setting his priorities first was among his recipes for success.

“I made sure that I have a checklist of my priorities, then I also made sure that I already performed my responsibilities so that when I get home, my priority is my studies in law school. This goes vise-versa. I should do well in my studies so that I would not have any problems with my job. This is my way of being organized,” Batulan said.

Batulan is an examiner at the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) in Mandaue City for almost six years, where he conducts audits of the companies by checking their regulations on taxation, national internal revenue code, among others.

He shared during a media interview that juggling his work and law school was not easy but knowing his priorities helped him get through walking the tightrope.


Batulan graduated in 2016 with a degree in Bachelor of Science in Accountancy as Magna Cum Laude, took his CPA licensure in 2017, and earned a masters degree in Public Administration in the first week of June 2019.

In the third week of June 2019, he enrolled in law school, and earned his Juris Doctor degree in May 2023 as Cum Laude of his batch.

Being a lawyer was not actually his dream, Batulan told CDN Digital, but he said that being a CPA-lawyer is a different prestige.

“Having a CPA title has its own prestige, but the pride of being a CPA-lawyer is different,” Batulan said in mixed English and Cebuano.

(From left) Atty. Jonathan Capanas, CPA (Dean of USJ-R School of Law), Rev. Fr. Leopoldo Estioko, OAR (USJ-R Vice-President for Finance), Paulo Batulan, and Atty. Christian Fernandez (BAROPS Adviser) | CDN File Photo by Niña Mae Oliverio


Now that another title was added in his name, he wants to be part of the faculty of his alma mater’s School of Law to teach aspiring lawyers because he always wanted to be an “instrument” to those who want to be lawyers.

“For now, since I still cannot put my title (lawyer) into practice because I am still tied up with a government agency, I will work hard to be part of the faculty and in my own ways,” he said.

Batulan shared exclusively with CDN Digital that he really wanted to teach, because even in their office, he also conducted seminars. He found it “amusing” when learning that people get to learn difficult topics from him, a sign that he was able to deliver the lesson properly.



TAGS: bar exam, Cebu, education, FACES OF CEBU, law, topnotcher
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