ALBAY, Philippines – Jaime Guerrero first took the bar in 1996. He passed 24 years later. His son now calls him “Atty Popsy”.
Guerrero, 58, is among the 2,103 examinees who passed among the 7,685 who took the 2019 Bar examinations.
Guerrero had failed many times since his first take, when he was 34, shortly after he graduated from law school. Guerrero said what kept him motivated was each time, he would almost make it.
"I'm almost making it each time with just a few decimals from the passing mark," he said. He believed that it would only take one strong push for him to finally pass.
There was that year when the Supreme Court lowered the passing rate to 72%. Still, Guerrero failed. Ironically, before that particular exam, Guerrero got a higher grade – 74.85% – still less than the passing mark that time. (For the 2019 Bar exams, the Supreme Court en banc lowered the passing grade to 74%, according to Senior Associate Justice Estela Perlas Bernabe, also the Bar Chairman.)
It served like a joke on this family man who has been working as an information officer at the Department of Health (DOH) in Bicol. He shelved his dream to become a lawyer for a while.
In 2017, Guerrero found a renewed interest in taking the bar exam again when the University of Santo Tomas – Legazpi offered a special class for repeaters.
The Supreme Court had already lifted the 3–strike rule. Those who want to retake the bar can take a refresher course.
While he failed to make it yet again, Guerrero's score was so close to the passing mark.
His friends and former classmates who are already judges, prosecutors, and successful lawyers rallied around him and encouraged Guerrero to enroll in a personal coaching class.
Guerrero thought it was a good idea and reached out to someone who offered the class. But the instructor did not return his call after learning that he had already taken several bar exams and failed.
"I felt insulted," Guerrero said. But that incident strengthened his resolve, drawing strength more than ever from his family and friends who know him as someone who never gives up.
Guerrero said that in preparing for the 2019 bar exams, he got himself a “silent corner” inside and outside his house.
“I looked for psychological comfort, where I feel and hear all my silent readings because of this piece of advice: focus," Guerrero said.
He studied all day and did some light reading on the SC website during lunch breaks. He studied and read until his eyes got tired.
In his silent corner, Guerrero was accompanied by a few books and notebooks on which he would practice writing his answers, following his friends’ advise. This helped build his confidence, he said.
Guerrero’s children fueled his dream – from small gestures to grand ones. At home, they minimized their noise so that their father can concentrate on studying.
When Guerrero had to temporarily stay in Manila to prepare for the bar, they paid for his review classes and lodging to augment the personal loan he took to finance the expenses he would incur preparing for the exam.
Finally, Guerrero is now a lawyer. He plans to start his own private practice although he has received offers to work in government agencies, including the DOH.
Guerrero said he will decide which path to pursue after he takes his oath.
"After all those years of trying, I finally made it and that washed away all the pain stuck in my chest," Guerrero said, adding: "Never give up. You will never know when it's your time.” (READ: 'Try and try': Bar 2017 takers say failure is not the end)
Jet Guerrero is a proud son, who echoed his father's words in a Tweet he shared shortly after learning there's a new lawyer in the family:
“This is my 58-yr old dad showing his officemates the #BarResults2019. Kaya jusko, kung may pangarap kayo, kahit anong edad niyo, let’s go at abutin na natin yan! My heart is full na, Lord. Thank you! Congrats, Atty. Popsy! #BarExam2019”
(That is why, mygod, if you have dreams, no matter how old you are, let's go, let's reach it!)