MANILA, Philippines – He was reviewing for the Bar when Christopher Lao, a University of the Philippines (UP) law student, endured cyber-bullying after broadcast giant GMA-7 showed him attempting to drive his car through floodwater.
Lao, who then defended his right to be “informed” about the flooded road’s situation, is now officially a lawyer.
He was among the 1,913 Bar Exam passers for 2011, whose names the Supreme Court bared Wednesday, February 29.
Lao suffered insults from netizens in August 2011 after GMA-7 cameras caught the incident involving him and his car, with the exasperated law student reasoning, “I was not informed!”
In a phone interview, Lao told Rappler he almost didn’t take the Bar because he lost “so much confidence” after netizens ganged up on him, to the point his name became one of the Philippines’ Twitter trending topics.
Minutes after the SC announced the Bar Exam results, Lao's name again rose to become a Twitter trending topic. He is the 10th trending topic in the Philippines as of posting time – trailing the bar topnotcher, Raoul Angelo Atadero, by only 4 notches.
“The level of bullying that I experienced can affect anyone’s confidence,” he said. “I was always crying every day and I feared that I could not move on and could not fulfill my duties as a parent, even.”
Lao’s perspective changed, however, when he started to “detach” himself from material comforts and stopped giving excessive value to his reputation. “Reputation is very limiting because it boxes us. We are scared of failure because (of this),” he said.
“I was no longer afraid of failure…I was done with reputation, I was done with that,” said Lao, who went under medication due to the cyber-bullying he endured.
“I asked myself, ‘Why am I not gonna take this Bar? Only because people might again derive joy from my potential failure?’ I’m done with that. They’ve said whatever they want. I just said, ‘It’s time to do things that will make my loved ones proud, myself proud, the Lord proud,’” he said.
Lao has generally recovered from last year’s bullying incident, he said, so much so that he managed to appear in an online ad of the Bank of the Philippine Islands on auto-insurance.
“It was a welcome gesture for me, especially from a big brand,” he said.
Lao said he didn’t mind if Filipinos would again laugh at him for spoofing his own misfortune. “I won’t mind because I will get paid for this,” he said in jest.
The new lawyer, a member of Victory Christian Fellowship, said his faith in God helped him bounce back. “I figured that I was able to wake up every day because I felt that I was worth something,” Lao said. “A part of my worth came from the things I have accomplished, and a part of that was from the Lord.”
"I feel I have the Lord to count on." – Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.