MANILA (UPDATE) - Karen Mae Calam, a graduate of the University of San Carlos in Cebu province, preached the power of faith after learning that she topped the 2016 Bar examinations.
Calam, who topped the exams with a grade of 89.05 percent, revealed that she prayed for the Bar exams ever since starting law school.
The Bar results, she said, was a "merciful and amazing" gift that was beyond what she prayed for.
"When you take the exam, you just go there and give it your best shot. I really didn't expect na top one talaga although you pray for it from God. You pray for it as early as when you start law school," Calam said in an exclusive interview with ABS-CBN News Channel.
"I didn't expect that God will give that very good and merciful and amazing -- but he gave talaga that top one. That's beyond, beyond, beyond what I prayed for from him."
Calam also credited the importance of working hard for one's dreams in her success.
Calam, who is also a certified public accountant, said she studied for at least 6 hours every day, but made sure that she had time to unwind.
Calam said she will celebrate her hard-earned victory by offering prayers to the Child Jesus, one of her patrons, at the Basilica of Sto. Niño in Cebu.
She added that she may go on a Visita Iglesia to "make sure that I did not forget the Lord above, who gave this blessing to me."
A total of 3,747 passers out of 6,344 exam-takers passed this year's Bar.
Three of Calam's fellow University of San Carlos graduates also made it to the top 10, including Fiona Cristy Lao who placed third, Anne Margaret Momongan at sixth place and Jefferson Gomez who ranked 7th.
Momongan, Calam's close friend, echoed the topnotcher's surprise at the exam results.
"We feel so blessed. It's like a dream come true," Momongan told ABS-CBN News Channel.
The Bar passers will take their oath as full-fledged lawyers at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay on May 22.
Calam told ABS-CBN News in a separate interview that she was not ashamed that she studied at a public school for her primary and secondary education.
She studied at Kalilangan Elementary and Kalilangan High School in Bukidnon, and had to bear the long commute to school.
She said transferring and studying in a highly urbanized city like Cebu was a great leap of faith as she needed to work independently.
"Dream big, trust yourself and work hard for it 'cause if you will give all your best and you ask guidance from the Lord and the people around you, it's really not impossible," she told the regional news team in a mix of English and Cebuano.
She earned her Accounting degree from the University of San Carlos, and returned to her alma mater four years after to study Law to expand her horizons and accept bigger challenges.- With a report by Joworski Alipon, ABS-CBN News