For Ramil Comendador, Ibarra Mariano, and Zosimo Bolaños, no obstacle is too big or too high to stop them from becoming lawyers. Read their stories below:
Ramil Comendador rose to social media fame after he was interviewed by TV news crews on May 2, 2017, when the results of the 2016 bar exams were posted at the Supreme Court in Manila. That day, Comendador, now a lawyer, found himself tearfully telling reporters that he worked as a janitor at the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
Growing up in the remote island of Catanduanes in Bicol, Comendador says he only dreamt of one thing: to put an end to his family’s story of poverty. And to him, education, “the great equalizer,” was his ticket out of that vicious cycle. For six years, Comendador worked as an upholsterer in Manila while taking up short courses in computer science and stenography. Afterward, he was hired as a utility man at the Comelec. That was where he realized that there was “no way up” for him unless he had a college degree.
With his family as his inspiration, Comendador entered law school, juggling his roles as an employee, student, husband, and father. It took five years of law school and what to him seemed like a lifetime of struggle before his vision began to bear fruit. On May 22, 2017, at the massive arena of the SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City, Comendador was among the 3,747 new lawyers who officially took oath and affixed their signatures on the Roll of Attorneys, the official list of all lawyers in the Philippines.
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Ibarra Mariano is a retired Police Colonel who served the government for decades. The proud Taclobanon was an officer of the Philippine Constabulary, now known as the Philippine National Police. Now, at age 87, Mariano says that he has yet to fulfill his dreams in life. “I wanted to become a lawyer before I die,” he tells ABS-CBN News.
Mariano graduated from Philippine Law School in 1967. However, it was only after his retirement in the year 1995 that he had the opportunity to take the bar examination. Unfortunately, he failed with a 70-percent grade, slightly short of the passing grade then.
Decades later, Mariano is still following his dream, and is once again out to test fate by being among this year’s 8,701 bar examinees. He still has one set of examinations to take this month, and Mariano feels optimistic about the outcome of the exams. “I am praying to God that I’ll be given good health to finish the bar examination so that, I hope, I become a lawyer by next year,” he says.
Zosimo Bolaños is a former Dean of the College of Criminology at the Lyceum of the Philippines-Batangas. He was also a Chief of Police with the mandate, as he saw it, “to professionalize what then were mostly uneducated, politically appointed members of the police force.” After his retirement at the age of 66, and the death of his wife of 38 years, Rosalinda, Bolaños faced an uncertain horizon. “By abrupt reduction in physical and mental activities, I was afraid my productivity would suffer an irreversible trend,” Bolaños says. Months later, he enrolled in law school.
According to Bolaños, his being senior in years to all of his law school classmates did not faze him. As a matter of fact, he enjoyed a lively relationship with them, and never felt he was “a liability or nuisance.” “While I sought their help in the interpretation of some complicated legal issues, my long experience in criminal law enforcement enlightened them when they were dealing with unfamiliar terms,” he said.
On March 27, 2013, Bolaños graduate from law school at age 70. He is yet to pass the Bar, which he has tried to do for three times now. Nevertheless, being the feisty man that he is, Bolaños says he is likely to make a fresh stab at the Bar examinations. “If a genius like the late Senator Claro M. Recto failed in his first attempt; no wonder others less scholarly than he might suffer the same.” He determinedly says, “I have not raised the white flag yet.”