MANILA, Philippines – When the 2016 Bar Exams results were about to be released on Wednesday, May 3, Nia Rachelle Gonzales was visiting the grave of her mother at the Eternal Garden Memorial Park in Batangas City. She said she needed quiet time with her mother, who died 19 years ago.
The silence was broken with the announcement of the results while she was on her way to a cathedral. She did not only pass the Bar. She placed ninth among the 3,747 Bar passers. (READ: Highest in decades: Over 59% pass 2016 bar exams)
Karen Mae Calam of the University San Carlos in Cebu topped the exams with a grade of 89.05%, besting over 6,000 others who took the grueling tests in November 2016. Gonzales, got an average of 87.50%, tying with Marie Ybio from the Silliman University.
Gonzales is the second Bar topnotcher of the University of Batangas in recent years. Before her, in 2013, Rudy Ortea ranked third place in the Bar Exams
“Di ko alam kung anong na-feel ko after po…Naka-receive po ako ng call. Napa-iyak na po ako sa jeep,” Gonzalez said.
(I cannot describe what I felt when when I learned about the results. I received a phone call. I couldn’t help but cry while in the jeep.)
Gonzalez believed that although her mother is no longer with them, she would have been proud of her achievement.
“I want to show her that I’m okay; that even if I didn’t grow up with her by my side, I was raised well by my father; and that I will try my best to be a good mother to my children,” she said in a mix of Filipino and English.
Gonzales is the youngest among 4 siblings. She was raised by his 74-year-old father, a poultry farmer. Her sister, a doctor, and her 2 brothers who went into business were raised by their mother.
A mother’s sacrifice and courage
Gonzales pursued law at the University of Batangas in 2010 but stopped after the first semester.
“I just tried law school, but I realized that it wasn’t my calling because I didn’t feel that I wanted it badly,” she said.
After leaving law school, she married a cop and gave birth to her first child in 2012. However, it was her own family that became her inspiration to continue her studies, believing that they would have a better life if she pursued the law profession.
Gonzales said that it was not easy juggling family with study. When she returned to law school, her eldest was only two months old.
“I wasn’t able to do the things that typical mothers do – staying at home to be with their children. Other people think that I didn’t give my 100% as a mother because my priority was law school. What they didn’t realize was that I prioritized law school because I was thinking of my children’s future. I do this for my children and not for my own sake,” she said.
Gonzales advised other mothers to keep on giving their best for their children even if they are pursuing a career.
“Kahit mahirap sa pakiramdam bilang ina ang hindi sila makasama palagi, maalagaan at maasikaso, tiis lang, basta magkaroon sila ng magandang kinabukasan. Para sa kanila ito,” she said.
(Even though it pains me as a mother – being away from my children and not being able to take care of them – I will sacrifice just to give them a good future. This is for them.)
After working with a regional trial court, Gonzales plans to be a public attorney. – With reports from Khrizel Coronel and JC Salas/Rappler.com
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