MANILA -- A law student from Ateneo de Davao University fought off colon cancer to become one of 14 "excellent passers" with the highest scores in the 2020-2021 Bar exams.
It was rough sailing for Francis Dulay who was diagnosed with colon cancer in September 2018, just when he was about to start his final year in law school.
"When I was diagnosed with cancer, I was in my first semester of fourth year. I was about to graduate [in] 2019... When I was diagnosed, I was forced to stop. My plans were shattered," he said in an interview with ANC's Rundown.
In October 2018, he had his first surgery to have the tumors removed. An infection prompted more surgery. A biopsy also showed he had an aggressive type of cancer that needed chemotherapy.
Dulay targeted a return to law school in November 2019 but was held back yet again after his oncologist advised him that his colostomy bag needed to stay.
In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced lockdowns all over the country. Dulay, however, was finally allowed to remove his colostomy bag and go back to law school where he met his girlfriend.
"She provided me with notes, gave me vitamins and memory boosters; she did everything she could and shared everything she had," Dulay said in a Facebook post.
The distance learning setup during the pandemic was ideal for Dulay as he was able to study from home while recovering and finally finished law school with his girlfriend.
On Tuesday, April 12, the Supreme Court announced that 8,241 of the total 11, 402 law graduates who took the Bar exams last Feb. 4 and 6 passed the exams.
Of the 8,241 who passed, 761 scored 85-90% while 14 were named excellent passers for getting grades higher than 90 percent.
Dulay is one of the 14.
Dulay attributes his success to his family, his girlfriend who also passed the Bar with him, and his grandparents. He plans to stay with the law firm he currently works with.
"Please let me show off God's greatness. He made me a testimony that God's Plan is the Best Plan," Dulay said in a Facebook post.
'WE HAVE TO WORK HARD FOR IT'
Another Bar taker who earned recognition in the recent Bar exams for being one of the 14 excellent Bar passers is University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law magna cum laude graduate Danica Godornes.
Speaking to ANC, Godornes said she was nervous about the result of her exam before it came out.
"One of my professors always told us not to expect that we'll pass the Bar, so we have to work hard for it. I never had any expectation about the results of these 2020 and 2021 Bar exam," Godornes said who hopes to study Master of Laws and teach in law school in the future.
NEW BAR EXAMS FORMAT INNOVATIVE, ACCESSIBLE
For the combined 2020 and 2021 batches, the Supreme Court introduced digitalized and localized Bar exams.
The examinees take the test on their laptops at 31 local testing sites across the country.
Aside from easing concerns with their penmanship, the regionalized digital Bar exams helped lessen expenses for the Bar takers as they could stay close to loved ones while taking the Bar.
"The regionalized format helped me because I do not have to travel here in Manila just to take the Bar exams. I can take the Bar from Davao where I am more familiar and in close proximity with my family and friends," Dulay said.
"I also gave credit to the Justice [Marvic] Leonen for the innovative way that he handled the Bar exams since it was the first regionalized and localized Bar exams. I think it made the exam very accessible, especially to those people who are in the province," Godornes said.
NO TOP 10
Godornes said recognizing all exemplary and excellent passers instead of the conventional top 10 is more beneficial for the examinees and in the legal profession.
"As for the top 10, I also share Justice Marvic Leonen's sentiments about it. I think his current design of announcing those with exemplary status and also those with excellent ranks is more beneficial to the examinees because everyone is getting their due recognition," she said.
"I think all of the new innovations introduced by Justice Leonen are good and beneficial for profession itself," she added.