2 USC graduates top Bar exams

By: Ador Vincent S. Mayol May 03,2016 - 11:10 PM
TOP 2 BAR EXAMINER/MAY 3, 2016: Atty. Jean S. Largo (left) University of San Carlos (USC) Dean colledge of Law embraces Athena C. Plaza for passing number 2 in the 2015 bar examination.(CDN PHOTO/JUNJIE MENDOZA)

University of San Carlos (USC) Dean Joan S. Largo (left) congratulates Athena C. Plaza for placing second in the 2015 Bar exams. (CDN PHOTO/JUNJIE MENDOZA)

Athena Plaza was taking her lunch at home yesterday when she received a call from her law school dean.

“I was caught by surprise. The announcement came a bit earlier,” she said.

The 25-year-old graduate of the University of San Carlos (USC) landed second in the 2015 Bar Examinations.

She got a rating of 87.25 percent, just a few points behind the highest score of 87.40 percent garnered by Rachel Angeli Miranda of the University of the Philippines.

Another USC graduate, Jecca Jacildo, ranked 8th in the Bar Exams with 85.85%. (see table for complete list of Bar topnotchers and pages 8, 9, and 11 for list of passers).

Plaza and Jacildo were among the 1,730 examinees who passed the Bar exams, considered the toughest licensure examination in the country.

Plaza bested the record set by USC alumnus, former Cebu governor and congressman Pablo Garcia, who ranked third in the 1951 Bar exams although the latter’s rating, 91.5 percent – remained the number to beat in the school’s history.

USC has produced 20 Bar topnotchers since the university’s College of Law opened in 1937.

The performance of Plaza and Jacildo continued the trend in recent years of a Cebu law school making it to the top 10 in the Bar exams usually dominated by Manila-based universities.

In the 2014 Bar Exams, Michelle Liao of the University of Cebu (UC) placed fifth with a passing rate of 84.5 percent.

The only child of a retired policeman and a public school teacher confessed she aimed to top the Bar exams in a bid to be the first USC graduate to achieve such a feat.

“Honestly, my mindset is to be number 1 because no USC law graduate has achieved that yet. I really prayed for it,” she told reporters in an interview at the university’s College of Law in downtown Cebu City yesterday.

Although she didn’t make it to the top, Plaza was grateful for the blessing God has given her and for the honor she gave to her school.

“To be top 2 is enough for me to thank the Lord. I think this would inspire more students especially from what they call ‘provincial schools’ to aim for the highest position. I hope in the near future, a Carolinian will finally grab the top spot,” she said.

“If I had doubts, it would have been an insult to my education. I’ve been on top of my class and USC prepared me well. I owe it to my school,” she added.

Jacildo, a native of Cagayan de Oro, was in Manila when the results were released. She could not be reached.

Dean Joan Largo of the USC College of Law said they were expecting Plaza and Jacildo to be among the Bar topnotchers.

Plaza, she said, has been their top student in the class and had given USC numerous recognitions, including the ANC Square Off titles, and the Philip C. Jessup International National Law Moot Court Competition.

“She was everywhere and still excellent in all of those. She is exceptionally brilliant and yet very humble and grounded. She’s really the embodiment of what USC is all about: excellence but at the same time humble,” Largo said.

Jacildo, she said, is equally diligent and hardworking.

“Jecca is actually number two in their batch, next to Athena. Jecca is just as studios, brilliant and humble as Athena. Both of them really have well-rounded personalities,” Largo said.

In college, Plaza graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration major in Legal Management. In law school, Plaza graduated cum laude.

USC, one of the top performing law schools in the country, got a passing rate of 81.25 percent in last year’s Bar exams. Fifty two of its 64 examinees passed the Bar Exams.

Plaza said she prepared for the Bar Exams by constantly studying and praying. She said she had to forego going out with friends and using social media so she could focus on her studies.

“Right after graduation, I gave myself a few days to relax and then I started the review and I reviewed every day without break. I believed any break would disrupt my momentum, and that worked for me,” she said.

To anyone who aspires to pass the Bar Exams, Plaza advised them to work harder and to trust in God.

“My battle cry is always have faith in God first and foremost, and then believe in yourself and in the people who love and support you. All you need is faith,” she said.

Asked who her inspirations are, Plaza said “parents, school, and Dean Largo.

“I always prayed that God will grant my prayers so that my parents, the school, and Dean Largo will be proud of me,” she said.

Plaza said she doesn’t have any plans what to pursue next, saying she just want to seize the moment.

“I still want to let the news sink in first and I’m hoping to look for a job. Right now, I really can’t say what it would be,” she said.

About 6,600 aspiring lawyers completed the exams held in all Sundays of November at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila. 1,730 passed the exams.

The passing percentage of 26. 21 was the sixth highest since 2001.

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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