The results of the Bar Exams 2023 came out on the afternoon of December 5, 2023, and among the 3,812 out of 10,791 who passed was James Benedict "JB" R. Gutierrez.
JB, 31 years old, is a career government employee, and is currently living in San Juan.
In an interview with Smart Parenting, JB shared his inspiring bar journey.
"Believe it or not, becoming a lawyer was not my childhood dream," he shared. "I actually wanted to be a doctor when I was a kid. However, even as a child, it was usual for me to be in the company of my mother whenever she had to attend the different proceedings for the cases she filed against her estranged husband—my father—to whom she was lawfully wedded but who had several mistresses after my mom. I guess the environment kind of grew on me."
As JB grew up, his life changed a lot from what he expected as a kid. The big difference in how he lived made him understand and care about people who are living within or below the poverty line.
From being an out-of-school youth to lawyer
He was in elementary and a consistent honor student when his beloved relative suffered from a critical illness, which led to financial problems.
"My grandmother, whom I was very close to, was diagnosed with lung cancer and later died. The breaking point was when we had to spend more than three months in the hospital, this left my family all but bankrupt."
At that time, he had no choice put to stop schooling. This went on for five years.
"Nakakahinayang din kasi there were moments when I would be able to get in touch with my old classmates tapos I can see them growing up and attending school normally, tapos I was stuck at home. Buti na lang, my mommy and my tita, the only family I have, are both supportive sa hilig kong magbasa, so from time to time they would bring home books kapag may kaunting ipon. This, I think, allowed me to preserve (or perhaps even further) what little elementary knowledge I had back then."
Thankfully, his family learned about the Department of Education's Alternative Learning System (ALS). He applied for the Accreditation and Equivalency Test, which enabled him to skip Grade 6 and high school.
Through the help of his family and sponsors, JB got back into formal schooling as a working college student.
How parents can support children in academics
We asked JB how parents can best support their children who are studying or are going through their bar journey.
"I think no one really understands what a bar taker goes through without them going through the same journey as well. There are lots of times when bar takers would simply break down, cry, doubt themselves, and lose all hope. I'm just thankful that I have a wonderful support system," JB said.
"Big dreams are never handed to us on a silver platter." —Atty. JB Gutierrez
"Siguro, in the middle of all of this, the best way to support their children is to not add to the stress that is already piling up inside [them]. If there are minor disagreements or unnecessary confrontations at home which could be avoided, then please do so. This is the time na pinaka-need nila 'yung peace at calmness sa bahay. There is a raging battle between them and all the readings they have to study, and between them and whatever willpower remains in them. Be the peace that they sorely need in their last stretch to fulfill their dream of becoming a lawyer."
He added, words of encouragement help a lot. "As I said, may time na talagang pagduduhan ng bar taker 'yung capacity niya, 'yung kakayahan niyang i-cover lahat ng subjects nang may nare-retain, and simply, their ability to soldier on. In times of doubt, be the shoulder na puwede pong sandalan at iyakan ng inyong anak. Never underestimate too the power of words. If, from time to time, you can express words of encouragement, please, the best time to say it would be now."
New lawyer's advice to youth: 'There is value in persevering'
"It really sounds cliche, pero totoo 'yung "never lose sight of your 'why.'" Having something to chase in front of you is a good motivation, regardless of what it is you seek to do. If at first it seems really big, try to break it down into more manageable pieces. For me, perhaps, the ultimate goals are to be of better service to my fellowmen and, at the same time, to provide for the well-being of my family, since I don't want my children to suffer the same situation I was in back then."
JB offered practical advice to young people who feel insecure about the greatness of their dreams, "Looking at the big picture, we sometimes become discouraged kasi eh, but by breaking it down into smaller pieces, we get a sense of where to start doing what. You want to join a certain profession? Then you could start early by focusing on developing certain skills that would help you get better at it, or maybe join clubs or organizations and build connections with those whose goals and values would enable you to grow into a better version of yourself."
He explained, "But once you have all these little things surrounding you kasi, once you begin doing the little things that contribute to the larger goal, it's also easy to get lost in the chaos, that's why it's important to remember your "why." Of course there is value in persevering. Big dreams are never handed to us on a silver platter. We really have to work hard for them and to never give up."
Finally, he left a message to his fellow public servants.
"Do not lose hope or get jaded in what we do, kasi these are the same things that give hope and life to the less fortunate."