Saturday, March 29, 2008

Covering the 2007 Bar Exams Results

"Abogado na ako! Abogado na ako! (I'm a lawyer already!)," an examinee shouts amidst the nervous crowd waiting for the results of the 2007 Bar Examinations at the Supreme Court.

At another side of the hall, an old man calls who could be his brother or a family member and announces the good news: "May lawyer na tayo," he says.

Pride filled the august halls of the Supreme Court. At that moment success almost feels tangible you could taste it, and happiness is not just a concept but a real feeling. One could almost see a whole new world of possibilities open.

If only for that one singular moment of victory, I would want to take the bar.

But not for now. Right now, I am an observer, a reporter covering it.

Covering it for quite a couple of years already did not make me immune to a wide spectrum of emotions from pride, to quiet defeat, to a steadfast optimism.

The Supreme Court initially announced that it would release the results Friday but postponed it to Saturday.

It was my day-off but Vic, my senior desk asked me Friday to cover it since I'm the one responsible for the justice beat.

My sources told me that we could expect the results to be released after lunch so I was at the compound at around 11 am.

Already, there were examinees outside the Supreme Court awaiting the results.

I did an advancer for Balitanghali where I reported that a source said that the results could be released at 2 p.m.

But 2 p.m. passed and still there were no results.

The waiting and growing number of examinees were impatient. They tried to enter the Court's lobby where the LCD projectors were put up. The projectors would scroll the names of the country's new lawyers. But the doors unfortunately had to be shut for fears of a stampede.

Inside, my fellow reporters from print and radio spent the idle the time chatting and taking photos. Or when these became tiring, we just sat there and listened to music which the Supreme Court PIO piped into the stereos.

While waiting, Supreme Court spokesperson Atty. Jose Midas Marquez sent a staff to ask how many mediamen were down in the hall -- so he could send over some merienda.

Feeding waiting mediamen means one thing -- the wait will be longer.

Which was what happened. Those of us who smoke, smoked outside, striking idle chatter with the guards and the examinees. At one point, an old man, most probably a father of an examinee saw one of the projectors scroll names. That particular projector had "List of 2007 Bar Examinees" as a heading.

"Ito na! (This is it!)," he shouted. Almost immediately, the crowd gathered towards the door. Some shouted. I had to tell him it was just a test run to paciyfy him, and the names were from a previous bar exam result.

After a couple of minutes more, Associate Justice Adolfo Azcuna emerged, accompanied by Atty. Marquez. We positioned our cameras, the print reporters, their recorders and the radio guys alerted their respective stations for the upcoming announcement.

Finally, Justice Azcuna spoke. "Congratulations!" he said.

He announced that 1,289 out of the 5,626 examinees hurdled the bar examinations. That's 22.91%.

He confirmed however that only 5% originally passed the exams but the bar committee decided to lower the passing rate to 70% from the traditional 75%. He attributes the low passing rate to what he terms "unusually strict corrections" made by some of the members of the committee.

After answering questions from the press, he then orders to let the projectors scroll the names of those who passed.

I had to rush to our live camera set-up to break the news. I did not anymore prepare a script but instead relied on bullets: topnotcher from Ateneo, Mercedita Ona; lowered passing rate from 75% to 70%; 5,626 examinees; 1,289 passed.

I could hear the shouting in the background. From where I was standing, I could see examinees jumping and hugging. While some cried in the shoulders of their friends, hugging.

I was overwhelmed, I had to breathe deep to avoid cracking my voice in the middle of my report. Moments like these, show tangibly the demarcation line between the hardships of six months of preparing for the bar and the bliss that comes after it.

After my live report, I went around to take in the euphoria, though not mine, it nevertheless felt good to stand in a celebration.

Not far away from me was a group of friends. They were very happy and they were cheering someone. I approached them and asked a girl who turned out to be a passer.

"How do you feel?" I asked, however obvious her disposition was.

"I'm so happy! Thank you for all those who prayed for me," she said.

I asked for her name for my report's chargen later on. "Caroline Exconde," she said.

"Atty... Caroline Exconde?" I repeated, stressing the new title she has acquired, and wished her luck.

In the crowd, an elderly couple, who must be in their late 60's stood out. They could not be bar takers, I thought to myself. I asked my cameraman if they had shot a video of them. He said yes, and told me they were there for their grandson who did not pass the exams.

In the office I previewed the tape and saw their interview.

The old man's name was Felipe Mariano. He said they had been waiting at the Supreme Court since 1 p.m. But when the results finally were announced, their grandson's name was not there.

Still it did not dampen the old man's spirit. "Ganyan naman yan talaga anak. Try and try until you succeed. Baka sa susunod, makuha na n'ya, (That's the way it goes, son. Try and try until you succeed. Maybe next time, you'll pass)" he said with a sparkle in his otherwise tired eyes.

Such wisdom, such hope, in the midst of chaos and jubilation.

It seemed like what he was saying was that life is a lot like taking the bar exams: we encounter defeat, once in a while. But it should not be a reason to surrender. Experiencing defeat makes victory a lot sweeter.

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