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The Praying Begins

(Article Published in the Sunstar Manila, Jan 7,2016)

With the Christmas holidays over, takers of the 2015 Bar Examinations and their families, begin the New Year by undergoing a new phase in the bar candidates’ rite of passage: watchful waiting for the outcome of the years of preparation and buckets of perspiration that they had all put in, just to become members of the Philippine bar.

What to do between now and the release of the results which is expected, on account of the record number of those who took the exams last November, no earlier than a week before Palm Sunday, is a difficult question.

Praying is a common recourse. Some make novenas to their favorite saints; we more senior graduates of the Ateneo Law School gravitated towards St. Thomas More, whose statue, complete with the vestments of a King’s Chancellor, stood atop the circular chapel on Padre Faura Street, Manila, with physical oversight of the Department of Justice, the Supreme Court, and a little further on, the Court of Appeals at what used to be known as Florida Street.

Not many of the more recent Ateneo law graduates pray to St. Thomas More nowadays. The old campus at Padre Faura, having been sold by the Jesuits to a local taipan had become a mall. The law school itself, after a short stint on a street parallel to Buendia, had moved to Rockwell by the Pasig River, walking distance to the former Meralco Power Plant, now also a mall.

And the imposing statue of the King’s Good Servant But God’s First is presently in the shade of a low storey building in Loyola Heights, Quezon City watching over the horrendous vehicular traffic of bringers and fetchers of the University’s faculty and undergraduates entering and exiting at Gates 2 and 3.

Aside from St. Thomas More, other favorite objects of prayer petitions are the Mother of Perpetual Help in Baclaran and the Black Nazarene in Quiapo. Those staying north of the Pasig have lately been directing their pleas for intercession to Saint Pio on C5 near Eastwood Mall.

Praying, however, does not use up all the bar takers’ waiting time. Whiling the hours away, shifting from various social media sites is most unproductive, albeit amusing at times. What else may the bar takers do while waiting for the results?

Does one start by applying for a position in a law office? I did that nearly fifty years ago and agreed to be the most junior member of a law firm located on Roxas (then named after Dewey) boulevard. I had had to contend with the most menial jobs in the shop: draft motions for postponement; appear in court to plead for a resetting because the handling lawyer could not, for lack of preparation or inability to fabricate a medical certificate to enter his own appearance; meet with an angry client who had received at his residence notice of a court decision adverse to him; do research in support of the office’ outlandish theories, etc. I was even sent out to meet, somewhere in Central Luzon, province mates of my boss who was toying with the idea of running for Congress.

Or does one dive into the waters of trial practice by attending the sessions in chosen salas and see first hand how cases are actually heard on a day to day basis? This approach which was taken by one of my former professors when he was waiting for the results of his own exams, is best done by attending the proceedings conducted by the bar candidate’s former teachers. Law professors who are also members of the judiciary appreciate this interest shown by their students and make conscious efforts, usually by questions directed at the lawyers of the contending parties, to make the bar taker watching understand what is going on. The resulting scenario is akin to the old Greek plays where a narrator off stage (the Chorus) tells the audience how the hero is about to meet his hubris.

A few weeks of court watching is more than enough to make the bar candidate realize how different the Trial Technique he read in the law book is very different from what really goes on in the courtroom.

A downside of court watching is that the bar taker earns no income in the process, unlike working right away in a law office, where usually some transportation money is provided by the client for his court appearance. With judicious use of tricycles instead of taxis, the surplus of the transpo stipend can pay for the bar. Taker’s quick lunch at Chow King, compensating for the lowliness of one’s position at the office.

Those bar takers who had taken leaves from work in order to have some time to review for the bar could go back to their employers to resume their duties, or better still angle for a rung a step or two higher than his or her last post. This is strategy, however, is double-edge: it’s ok if the bar taker eventually passes, but could be awkward, if he unfortunately does not make it.

       (Reynaldo "Gerry" Geronimo is a partner at the Romulo, Mabanta, Buenaventura Sayoc & De los Angeles law office. He is known as The Trust Guru and maintains a website, www.thetrustguru.com.)

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