June 21, 2024

Otso was the plate number of my car when I served in Congress and when I hung it up, never did I imagine that in the future, it would play a major role in my life and that of our son Anton.
The moment the Supreme Court announced that it was releasing the results of the Bar, sleepless nights and hard prayers were the rule of the day in our household and the most tedious, longest hours of the day. Anton and the family were going through the traumatic wait and ultimate challenge to prove that he was worthy of becoming a member of the noblest profession of the land. The prospect of going through the rigors of taking the Bar again, wherein four Sundays of November, he was expected to know all the laws and appropriate jurisprudence in Political Law, Labor Law, Civil Law Criminal Law, Remedial Law, Taxation, Commercial Law, and even Legal Ethics, was torturing him.
Aside from the fact that he must be able to write legibly for the examiners to correct, he must be physically fit to take the strain and be mentally awake to fight off being blocked-out. It’s never easy folks, with the examiners out there to make sure you fail instead of pass by providing two modes of failing – one, by obtaining a below 75 percent average and whichever the Supreme Court en banc decides, or two, by getting a low score of below 50 in any of the subjects. Thus even if you get a 99 percent average in all other subjects but in one, you obtain a 49 percent average, you flunk. Out of the original 8,000 plus examinees, around 7,600 survived the four Sundays of hell, thus tell-tale signs of doom was in the air aggravated by the pandemic.
On April 27, Monday, I went to the law office and by my lonesome started printing banners which in fine were saying “Congratulations Atty. Anton Luis Arevalo Avila for hurdling the 2019 Bar Exams!, Job well done!, Thank you Lord for the blessing!, Thank you Mama Mary,” and many more messages. I went home and stashed the banners secretly in a bottled water carton box. Knowing that the D-day was nearing and confident that as sure as the sun would rise, Anton would pass the Bar. Chutzpah on my part as usual but I am sure Manong Benny Carantes would say I earned the bragging rights over this.
Tuesday was toxic as it was. It was the special en banc session day of the SC and I was pestering insider friends for an advance copy of Bar passers but wala pa, although they promised I would be the first to know after the Chief Justice of course. Another night of tossing, anxiety no sleep, and thankfully the end was in mercilessly sight, otherwise if it took longer, a nervous wreck all of us would be.
Wednesday, the day of release of the results and as I geared up, I was murmuring to myself, “This is it pancit!” The homily of Rev. Fr. Tito Caluag on his early morning TV mass was assuring. “It is the last day and He will raise him up.” At 8 a.m. at the SC website, it advised the public to be on standby for the 2019 Bar passers. At 11:01, someone sent a private message to Bernie that Saint Louis University has topnotchers, Nos. 8 and 10. No names yet but our hearts were throbbing, baka fake news. Dean Rocky Delson of San Beda Law School texted “Congratulations apo!” I asked him if Anton was indeed in the top 10 and he said yes, No.7. Then the “SC insiders” called and all hell broke loose and the rest is history as the hysterical video of Menggay who had the presence of mind to record our shameless reaction for the whole world to see on Facebook, ABS-CBN, TV 5, Bombo Radyo, and all. Nakakahiya man aminin but proud Avila family we were.
Anton jumped from his bed and we gave each a bear hug and there was happy screaming, tears of joy, and heaven on earth feeling. After the ruckus died down, the first order of the day was say, “To God be the glory! Thank you, Lord, thank you, Jesus, Mama Mary, Lady of Manaoag” and all those saints and religious who prayed for him.
The greetings are endless and we are in awe of them. Friends and family greeters say it is genetic. The river never rises above its source but in this case I humbly yield to the offspring. With the 87.5 percent average making him No. 8 over my 80.7 percent No. 11 alphabetic rating when it was my turn, “Me entrego voluntariamente a mi hijo Anton.” I surrender willingly to my son Anton. At least, and with due respect to him, I remain on record to be next to the late Senator Miriam D. Santiago’s 79 percent. Our college professor, Atty. Tony Espiritu, said, “Mana sa ina” and my repartee “Kaya No. 8, mana sa ina. Kung mana sa ama, siya ‘yung No. 1.” Waley! As Ton’s expression says.
My only problem now is when I was dean of the SLU School of Law, I made a commitment to the faculty and student body that whoever of our Bar takers would top the Bar, I would give him a brand-new car. Eat my words now although I could argue na top means No. 1 or that the promise has prescribed kasi over 10 years ago na siya and the Civil Code says it is now unenforceable, or maybe SLU President Gilbert Sales would do it as a gesture, although doubtful.
But what the heck, maybe Metrobank bosses Nonette, Susan, and Edwin can trust me with another car loan over and above the existing tremendous ones and we will willingly give it to Atty. Anton Luis Arevalo Avila, No. 8 in the list but in our eyes and yours, No. 1 pa rin in the 2019 Bar Exams. Worth it all. He is my son. Sigh!