Marianne L. Saberon-Abalayan
On December 5, 2023, at noon in Davao City, Juan Antonio Mendoza, a swimmer from Davao City, couldn’t contain his anxiety, causing his hands to shake. Unaware of his hunger, he eagerly awaited news.
The Davao City swimmer’s unease vanished in an instant when a private message arrived from one of his University of Southeastern Philippines (Usep) Law underclassmen who managed to access the Supreme Court website, shared the news that Antonio’s name was among the successful bar examinees.
In a burst of joy, Antonio shouted, joined by his father, Lionel, and brother Vince. His mother, Antoinette, couldn’t hold back tears. The Mendoza family’s living room transformed into a scene of pure celebration as Juan verified his name on the livestream.
“When I knew I passed, I felt so happy that I shouted and jumped. I couldn’t believe that I made it. I savored that moment of extreme happiness, and then I felt a sense of relief. I felt my worries go away and I just felt relief,” said Antonio, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Agribusiness Economics at the University of the Philippines (UP) Mindanao in 2019.
He dedicated his achievement to his grandfathers, who had always desired to have a lawyer in the family, and to his parents, who unwaveringly believed in his capabilities.
The accomplished 24-year-old swimmer opted for a self-study approach in preparation for the Bar exam.
Juggling work commitments, he devised a daily routine, mindful of not overburdening himself with prolonged study sessions.
His schedule involved working in the morning, dedicating the afternoon to study, squeezing in a brief exercise session, and resuming his studies in the evening.
He grappled with mentally and emotionally readying himself in the days leading up to the Bar exam. The mounting nervousness became palpable as the exam approached.
He said, “Fortunately, I was able to sleep well, but I get really anxious during the day because I didn’t know what to expect, and I constantly doubted whether I was ready to take it or not. A huge help during the days leading up to the Bar exam was the support I received from my family, friends, and the Usep School of Law community.”
Acknowledging the constraints of his demanding schedule, he admitted that law school during the pandemic left little time for his passion for swimming.
Reading consumed much of his day, but whenever possible, he seized the opportunity to swim, allowing a brief respite from his rigorous routine.
Swimming has been a significant aspect of Antonio’s life, having clinched gold medals in the 2018 Philippine National Games (PNG) in Cebu and the 2017 State Colleges and Universities Athletic Association (Scuaa) National Meet.
He said swimming was pivotal in benefiting him physically, mentally, and emotionally.
“Physically, swimming kept me fit and was a great stress reliever. Mentally and emotionally, swimming taught me that there are always good days and bad days, but every day is an opportunity to learn.”
He approached each day without expecting perfection, recognizing that setbacks were inevitable.
Whether facing exam failures or challenging recitations, Antonio embraced each experience as a chance to learn and continually improve. MLSA
Marianne L. Saberon-Abalayan