Before acing 2019 Bar, topnotcher recalls not getting into dream school

Leandro C. Tulod
Before acing 2019 Bar, topnotcher recalls not getting into dream school
Despite facing disappointment early in his bid to become a lawyer, Jun Dexter Rojas goes on to become the first Bar topnotcher of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines College of Law

MANILA, Philippines – Jun Dexter Rojas achieved a historic feat for the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) College of Law as he became its first topnotcher since its inception in 2001.

Out of more than 7,000 examinees, Rojas emerged 9th, with a grade of 87.5765% cementing his spot in the list of 2019 Bar topnotchers on April 29. (READ: Bar 2019: Provincial schools again emerge on top)

For Rojas, his journey to the legal profession was not an easy one. While he graduated with a degree in political science at University of the Philippines (UP) Manila in 2004, it was only 11 years later that he was finally able to enter law school.

Being the breadwinner of the family, Rojas had to put his dream of becoming a lawyer on hold and prioritize supporting his siblings’ studies.

It was in 2015 when Rojas was finally able to apply for law school.

Being a former Iskolar ng Bayan, he wanted to go back to his alma mater and study at the UP College of Law. He had high hopes of hurdling the application process since he was a graduate of UP after all.

“Like many others then, and many still, I wanted to get into UP Law, with all its rich tradition and glorious history. I thought I had a good chance. Besides, I already have a UP degree! They must let me in,” Rojas said in an open letter to the PUP Law community.

Rojas said he diligently prepared for the UP Law Aptitude Exam (LAE), buying a review book and brushing up on his grammar. He took two law school entrance exams: UP’s and PUP’s.

He passed PUP, but he was more interested in the UP results.

When the UP LAE results came out, his name was nowhere to be found on the list of passers. Devastated, Rojas thought that by UP Law’s standard, he was not good enough.

“I thought I was a failure,” he said.

He decided to enroll in PUP instead. Though it was not his first choice, he was nonetheless thankful for the law school’s welcoming culture that embraced him from the very beginning. In 2019, Rojas graduated as batch salutatorian.

No shortcut to becoming a lawyer

In a radio interview, PUP College of Law dean Jim Festin described Rojas as a hardworking student who kept going to school to look for a space to study even when classes were already suspended. Festin was also elated to have the first Bar topnotcher under his watch.

As a way of giving back to PUP, Rojas hopes to teach law at the school.

“To Dean Festin, the PUP administration, and my beloved law professors, I am deeply indebted to you. It is a debt which is beyond my means to repay. And so, as a humble attempt to compensate, please allow me to join your ranks. I believe you will agree that we have barely scratched the surface,” he said.

The Bar topnotcher urged struggling law students to trust the process, and remember that there is no shortcut to becoming a lawyer.

In the process, remember that the law can be harsh, and so should a law school. Remember that when you become lawyers, you won’t be concerned only about yourselves…. You will be responsible not only for your client’s life, liberty, and property, but also of their loved ones and probably even their communities,” he said.

He also emphasized the importance of reading as the best antidote to overcome law school rigors. 

“Drown your fears, doubts, and sorrows with books, and you will never go wrong. Remember that every flip of the page is a step closer to the title Atty,” he said. –

Leandro C. Tulod is from Caloocan. He studies law at Polytechnic University of the Philippines.

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