Ending alma mater’s 32-year drought, Bar topnotcher wants to give back to Baguio

Diwa Donato
Ending alma mater’s 32-year drought, Bar topnotcher wants to give back to Baguio
'I saw how a lawyer can help a person no other profession can,' says Saint Louis University's Anton Luis Avila

MANILA, Philippines – Anton Luis Avila wanted to make his community proud.

As results of the 2019 Bar exam were released on the Supreme Court website on April 29, Avila was  anxiously refreshing the page when his family barged into his room, screaming in delight over his hard-earned feat. (READ: 2019 Bar passing rate: 27.36%, higher than 2018)

Out of the 2,103 passers, Avila ranked 8th place in one of the toughest licensure examinations in the country.

The Saint Louis University (SLU) graduate ended his alma mater’s 32-year wait to return to the roster of topnotch law schools.

Avila, who graduated with a degree in BS Applied Mathematics at the Ateneo de Manila University, was born and raised in Baguio City. Pursuing law was his way of giving back to his beloved hometown. (READ: Bar 2019: Provincial schools again emerge on top)

Surprisingly, the law profession was not his childhood dream. It was only some 6 years ago when he decided to become a lawyer. This was when he witnessed his father, Edgar, work on a labor case.

Edgar, a councilor and former dean of the SLU School of Law, inspired his son to also help their community through legal assistance.

“I saw how a lawyer can help a person no other profession can. That inspired me to pursue a fulfilling profession dedicated to public service as it caught me at a time when I found myself lacking purpose,” Avila said.

He said he wanted to help advance the pursuit of justice in the place where he grew up in, rather than leave and work abroad.

“That’s why I decided to study law here, so that I could contribute to the administration of justice here in Baguio City on the ground level as a private practitioner of law,” said Avila. “That means doing the nitty gritty of legal work, from actually talking to persons regarding their rights and perceived violations to fighting for their cause in court.” 

Avila also hoped that could teach again, but now as a law professor. He considered teaching as one of his “most rewarding experiences.”

He had taught mathematics for some time at SLU, and had a keen interest in music. In his college years, Avila was part of the Ateneo Glee Club. He later studied music at the University of the Philippines College of Music for a year. Their family also owned a music store named Musar.

No expectations

Despite being a consistent dean’s lister, Avila did not expect to be in the top 10 of the 2019 Bar. (READ: Bar 2019 topnotcher is jeepney driver’s daughter with a heart for public service)

“I was preparing myself for the worst. Not that I didn’t prepare for the Bar; I did. I know everyone – just as I did – gave their best shot,” he said.

“I am filled with gratitude simply by the fact that I passed the Bar. Topping the Bar is just icing on the cake,” Avila added.

He also shared that he prepared for the Bar just as how any law student would: by reading a lot. He emphasized that there is no substitute for hard work but that there were also things beyond one’s control in the Bar exam.

“Your health on the day of the exam, who the examiners are, their style of writing, the mood of the examiners when checking your notebook – those things you can’t control. You lift it up to the Lord,” he said.

The topnotcher also said that “the study of law is a daily battle against self-doubt.”

“Everything will work against you. You will get called to recite cases you didn’t read, professors will assign you readings which you will not finish, you will try to finish exams that are impossibly long, among a million other things you have to deal with in law school,” he added. 

His advice to law students? “Enjoy the struggle or at least, appreciate it. Those challenges will give you a brave heart and nerves of steel to face the bar examinations and ultimately, the practice of law.”

He added: “At the end of it all, you will see a light shining through the darkness. I know I did.” – Rappler.com

Diwa Donato is a Rappler mover and political science graduate from Saint Louis University, Baguio City. More at @diwadonato on Twitter.