Bar topnotcher of 2013 Nielson Pangan was not even among the top 20 students of his graduating class. Nor was he in the best half of his class at the University of the Philippines (UP).
That was why Pangan could not believe it when he learned he topped the Bar exams held in October 2013. Pangan garnered the highest score of 85.80% in that batch.
In a television interview, Pangan said he did not even expect to land in the Top 10.
“I don’t know what happened. I’m shocked. This is totally unexpected,” the new lawyer said.
Second placer Mark Oyales also graduated from UP. He was ranked fifth in his class and graduated cum laude. But his shining performance in class and in the Bar exams belied the struggle and the ordeal he went through in law school, while reviewing for the Bar and after the gruelling tests.
He shared the spot with Dianna Louise Wilwayco of the Ateneo de Manila University.
Oyales is no stranger to financial difficulties, but nothing prepared him or his family for the biggest blow that left them reeling a week after he finished taking the Bar—Super Typhoon Yolanda.
The Oyaleses, who hail from Leyte, were among the millions who lost their homes and livelihood when Yolanda levelled entire communities in Central Visayas.
Oyales’ father was a supervisor at a security agency in Tacloban City, while his mother had a small rice business.
The hardships that he and his family went through made his brilliant performance at the Bar more meaningful.
“I am dedicating this achievement to my fellow Warays,” Oyales, who got a grade of 85.45 percent, said.
He narrated to The Manila Times in a phone interview that he managed to finish his legal studies with the help of scholarships and the financial aid given to him by several of his law professors, among them former UP law professor and Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza and his spouse, UP College of Law Associate Dean Concepcion Jardeleza.
To support himself, Oyales worked as a Research Assistant at the UP Law Center Bar Review Institute, which he said helped him in his studies because his tasks mainly involved academic work.
Before entering law school, Oyales graduated cum laude with a degree in Biology from the UP Visayas-Tacloban Campus, which was totally devastated by the super typhoon.
According to one of his classmates, Diega Villanueva, a senior law student, Oyales said he originally wanted to become a doctor. But he took up law because his family could not afford to send him to medical school.