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Super Support September 18, 2007

Posted by Janjan in All, I, Lawyer, Seriously now….

September 15, 2007 – It’s a slow Sunday in my hotel in Manila, and I’m still grappling from the profundity of my trip here. This is the fifth Bar Operations that I’ve done in my life. The first two were done when I was still a law student and an active of the USC Bar Operations. For both those two times, I went there as a Team Leader, directing and managing the operations of the Bar Ops for the third Sunday of the Bar. This was for the Bar Exams of 2002 and 2003 respectively.

The next three Bar Operations that I’ve attended to were already when I was a lawyer. I was in Manila twice for the Bar Exam of 2006, and finally now, it’s my fifth Bar Ops for the Bar Exam of 2007.

It is admittedly tiring and expensive work. Back when I was active in my school’s Bar Operations, third Sunday was a dreaded time slot because this was the Sunday when the barristers are at their surliest, having just faced the rigors of the past two exams, and still having to go through the fourth (which is the last).

So what exactly is Bar Operations? Simply stated, Bar Operations, or Bar Ops, is just showing up in Manila to attend to the needs of your friends, family and classmates who are taking the Bar. It can take the form of a simple flying over to Manila to cheer, wait and anticipate the taking of the barrister of the exam over at De La Salle University in Taft Avenue, Manila. Or, it can be an elaborate and well-planned affair, just like the Bar Ops of my school, the University of San Carlos.

In USC, Bar Ops is a very big and well-coordinated activity that requires funding in the hundreds of thousands to pay for expenses such as the ticket fare of a 10- to 15-man crew flying to Manila and back to Cebu, four times for the month of September; hotel rental for the said team; photocopier rental, and its related sundries, etc. etc. We house all our barristers in one hotel near La Salle every Saturday night, where they are then given last minute lectures by our professors, and given dinner for Saturday night. The barristers are treated like special guests… during my time, I was witness to many caprices. For instance, there was this barkada of lady barristers who requested 5 sheets of Manila paper during Saturday night. We were wondering about what they would do with these 5 sheets and later on found out that they used it to cover all the mirrors in their room because they didn’t like looking at their faces when they were taking the Bar. Back when I was taking the Bar, one of my friends asked a pretty Bar Ops member to give him a back and neck massage. We laughed when the girl actually complied and did give him a pretty decent rub.

I would like to elaborate more and more about the actual Bar Ops but confidentiality prevents me from doing so. USC runs one of the best Bar Ops in the Philippines, and we jealously guard our trade secrets and processes. It is one of the reasons why USC is one of the top five law schools in the Philippines, and the number one law school in the Visayas and Mindanao. How good is our Bar Ops? The training in USC Bar Ops is so good that any of its Chairmen and their executive officers could effectively run an NGO after the experience.

I guess, the mens rea of this article is to discuss the necessity of having a Bar Operations and the reasons why parents, siblings, friends, and classmates of a barrister should be in one.

I was a barrister once. I know what taking the Bar is like. The emotional strain of taking what could be the biggest exam of your life. The cumulative weight of four years and six months of hard studying, expensive costs, and heavy emotional and time investment. The six months of separation from family and friends living in an urban jungle where you don’t know anyone. Believe me, the stakes are high for each and every barrister, and you are gambling it all away in one exam… one exam where only two out of ten examinees will become lawyers. Nobody is spared in this exam, nobody. I have a friend who got a weighted average of 87 in one of the Bar Exams and should have rightfully been in the Top 5, what with grades like 98 in Remedial, and 85 in Labor. But instead, she failed the Bar Exam. Why? Because she got a grade of 49 in Political Law. Just one more point… just one more point… all she needed to get was a 50 in Political Law and she would have fronted the headlines of our country. But instead, she did not pass. She got disqualified (DQ’d)

That’s how cruel the Bar Examinations can get. One point spelled the difference between failure and glory. This my friends is the gun in the Russian roulette that all barristers are made to go through each and every time they take the Bar exams.

It is during these four Sundays of September that barristers are at the lowest ebb of their professional lives. We have just went through six months of review where we did nothing but read, read and read, trying to remember the everything that we learned during four years in law school, compressed in six months. Sometimes, even the best among us crack. The Bar is rife with tales of people who had nervous breakdowns. Last year, someone started singing and throwing tantrums in McDonald’s near La Salle, and when asked where he was from, he said he was from San Carlos. Someone brought one of our Bar Ops over thinking the man meant that he was from our school. It turns out that he is actually from San Carlos, a town in Negros Oriental.

In USC alone, there are tales of the USC barrister who went berserk a week before the Bar and wielded a knife against her fellow dorm-mates, babbling nonsense about imaginary enemies. One of my best friends in fact, almost quit the Bar Exams halfway through September, utterly convinced that he was going to fail it and that the Bar was hopeless. When he informed me of this decision, I quickly flew to Manila, bringing with me his plane ticket back home to Cebu. Fortunately, I was able to talk him out of quitting the Bar and finishing it, results and hurt feelings come what may. It turns out that contrary to what he believed in, my best friend did in fact pass and became a lawyer. Had I not flown over to Manila and given him a good bitch-slap in the head, he would not be a lawyer now.

I am trying to highlight the fact of each and every barristers’ vulnerability during the Bar. Now, more than ever, the barrister needs the support of his family, friends and school to give him the needed moral and emotional support to push him through the four Sundays of September. Believe me, moral support is NOT overrated. Contrary to what most people believe, Bar Ops is NOT about the tips of the exams, nor the last-minute lectures by teachers, or the free meals. Those are just the auxiliary concerns of the barrister. What the barrister really needs and wants is someone to show up for him or her. Someone to cry on when they feel like giving up. Someone to remind them of home and that somebody is waiting for them after the Bar is over. Someone to pamper them and cheer them

I know what it’s like because I used to be one of those barristers, and friends showed up for me to cheer me on. When I took the Bar, my friends among the third-year Law students of the then future Batch 2007 joined the school’s Bar Ops and did their best to make my Bar Exam a comfortable experience. But in particular, I would like to cite my best friend Raymond who showed up and rented a car for his other best friend’s personal use and mine. He bought us a whole bag of groceries for consumption while studying during Saturday. After the exam, he took us to Max Fried Chicken for a very comforting hot meal. And when my name was announced as one of the successful examinees, Raymond ran an ad on a local newspaper congratulating me for my success. He stood in as my representative when I took the Lawyer’s Oath.

To reiterate, a barrister needs emotional support during the Bar. More than anything, now is the time to break one’s piggy bank and fly over to Manila to give him or her your unconditional love and pampering. Now is the time that you show them how important they are in your lives.

I’ve been on a personal Bar Operations after I became a lawyer, fully intending to keep my promise to those who are close to my heart that I WILL be there for them when they take the Bar Exams. In gratitude to Raymond, when he took the Bar after me, I took frequent trips to Manila both to coach him during the review AND to see him through second and fourth Sunday of the Bar.

Now, I’m showing up for all my friends among the USC Law Barristers of Batch 2007. These are the people that I took under my wing during law school, whom I tried to be a surrogate big brother to. I promised them that I would be there for them when they take the Bar, and here I am now in Manila to fulfill that promise, with good luck candies and bookmarks in tow. In gratitude, one of the girls gave me a long and tight hug and thanked me for showing up all alone to support them during the Bar.

Yes, in all these instances, I flew in at my own personal expense. Yes, the price and cost of flying over is staggering, not to mention the time forgone that should be spent working on pleadings and contracts that are due next week. I will have to work much longer hours next week to make up for lost time.

But you could not put a price tag on friendship. I may have lost a lot of time and money coming to Manila this week, but in doing so, I have cemented my friendship with people who are worth the time and money. And that, for me, is more valuable. *Cue orchestra music playing the strains of “That’s What Friends Are For”, as cherry blossoms fall over my head while I gaze dolorously at the setting sun*

So, if you know someone who is taking the Bar or is about to take the Bar, and you value this person dearly, please… go on a personal Bar Ops. You could join your school’s own Bar Ops program, or you could do it on your own, but in any case, please be there. The barristers need you, now more than ever. They need you to pacify them when they’re feeling cranky, they need you to reassure them that they can and will indeed pass the Bar. There’s one more Sunday left before the Bar Exams of 2007 is formally over. It’s called Fourth Sunday, the best and most fun Sunday to attend to. You will see people partying on the street, some of them running through naked (I schitt thee not!), splashing the barristers with beer and champagne, playing loud music and drums. It’s a lot like the crowd waiting for marathon runners at the finish line. Would finishing the race be just as fulfilling knowing that nobody waits for you at the end? Please, if you can spare the time and the money, go and join your dearly beloved barrister.

In closing, Bar Ops is not about the tips and the notes, the last minute lectures or the spoiling of the barristers. It’s about being there when someone needs you the most. It’s about showing that you care and value someone enough that you would take the time and money to go to Manila. It’s about giving that little emotional push to catapult your barrister over the finish line. Believe me, just being there makes all the difference in the world.

And with that, I join my prayers for all the family and friends of the barristers of the Bar Exam of 2007. May they have the strength, peace and spiritual guidance to see all of these through. Good luck and God bless!


1. randyb - September 20, 2007

Very well said, bro. Lifelong friendships are cemented during bar review and the Sept. bar month itself. Stumbled upon your blog through MLQ3 (your blog rocks, dude). Looking forward to your future posts

2. northwolf - September 20, 2007

Thank you. 🙂

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