Philippine Bar Exams Trivia

(Originally posted in 2006 on my previous website. Updated 22 March 2017.)

1st Bar Exams:

  • 1901 with only 13 examinees

Highest Grade of All Time:

  • 96.7 in the 1954 Bar Exams by Florenz Regalado of San Beda College

2nd Highest Grade of All Time:

  • 95.95 in the 1954 Bar Exams by Renato L. de la Fuente of San Beda College

3rd Highest Grade of All Time:

  • 95.85 in the 1949 Bar Exams by Anacleto C. Mañgaser of the Philippine Law School (PLS)

4th Highest Grade of All Time:

  • 95.5 held by Manuel G. Montecillo of Far Eastern University (FEU) in the 1948 Bar Exams &  Antonio R. Quintos of Ateneo de Manila University in the 1954 Bar Exams

5th Highest Grade of All Time:

  • 95.3 in the 1944 Bar Exams held by Jovito R. Salonga of the University of the Philippines & Jose W. Diokno, who did not finish his law studies

Bar Topnotchers (1st Placers) to become Presidents of the Philippines:

  • Manuel A. Roxas (University of the Philippines), 1913 Bar Exams with a grade of 92.

  • Diosdado P. Macapagal of the University of Sto. Tomas, 1936 with a grade of 89.85

  • Ferdinand E. Marcos of the University of the Philippines, 1939 with a grade of 92.35

Other Bar Placers to become Presidents of the Philippines:

  • Sergio S. Osmeña (University of Santo Tomas), 2nd Place – 1903 Bar Exams

  • Manuel L. Quezon, (University of Santo Tomas), 4th Place – 1903 Bar Exams

  • Elpidio R. Quirino (University of the Philippines), 2nd Place – 1915 Bar Exams

  • Carlos P. Garcia (Philippine Law School), 6th Place – 1923 Bar Exam

The only non-Bar Placer to become the President of the Philippines:

  • Rodrigo R. Duterte of San Beda College, 1972 Bar Exams

Facts about the Jose W. Diokno Legend:

  • Diokno was born on February 26, 1922.

  • Diokno earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Commerce Summa Cum Laude in 1940 at De La Salle College (now De La Salle University).

  • He took the CPA Board Exam in 1940 while he was in his second year in law school and placed No. 1.

  • In 1944, he petitioned the Supreme Court to take the Bar Exams without a law degree.

  • The Supreme Court granted his petition, and he took the Bar Exams in 1944 and tied with the Class Valedictorian of U.P. for the 1st Place with a grade of 95.3.

  • Diokno is the only one who placed 1st in both the CPA board exams & the Bar Exams.

Facts about the Claro M. Recto Legend:

  • Recto was born on February 8, 1890, at Tiaong, Tayabas (now Quezon Province).

  • He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Ateneo de Manila where his grades were all perfect (1.0), except only for one 1.3. He was conferred by Ateneo with Maxima Cum Laude honors (highest honors conferred by Ateneo).

  • He took the Bar Exams in 1913 while he was still in his senior year in law school at the University of Santo Tomas – and FLUNKED.

  • He finished his law degree in 1913, Class Valedictorian, University of Santo Tomas.

  • The 1913 Bar Exams marked the first time that the test questions in Civil Procedure were in English, a new language in which Recto could not express himself very well.

  • Justice Fischer, the examiner in Civil Procedure, also noted that Recto’s handwriting was very difficult to understand.

  • Justice Fischer gave Recto a grade of 41 which automatically disqualified him.

  • Recto took the Bar Exams again in 1914 and passed. The No. 1 topnotcher of the 1914 Bar  exams was Manuel Goyena.

  • After passing, Recto wrote two books on Civil Procedure.

  • When Recto studied in Ateneo and UST, the medium of instruction was Spanish. Manuel Roxas, on the other hand, UP’s Class Valedictorian who topped the 1913 Bar Exams was a product of the US public school system and had spent a year in Hong Kong to better equip himself with American English before taking the Bar.

Facts about the Ferdinand E. Marcos Legend:

  • Marcos was born on September 11, 1917.

  • In college, Marcos’ principal interest was the .22-caliber college pistol team.

  • On September 20, 1935, Julio Nalundasan was at home celebrating that day’s Congressional election victory over Mariano Marcos when he was shot and killed by a .22-caliber bullet alleged fired by the 18-year-old Marcos.

  • On December 13, 1938, Marcos was arrested for Nalundasan’s murder but he successfully petitioned for release on bail, allowing him to complete his law degree from the University of the Philippines.

  • In 1939, Marcos was found guilty and sentenced to a minimum of 10 years in prison.

  • Jailed, Marcos spent six months writing his own 830-page appeal while reviewing for the Bar Exams at the same time.

  • Marcos posted bail to take the 1939 Bar Exams and passed with scores so high he was suspected of cheating.

  • Legends say that his unofficial Grade was 98.5 and so he was summoned to appear before the Supreme Court en banc for an oral re-examination, after which his official grade was released as 92.35.

  • Marcos is the only Bar candidate who was called by the Supreme Court for an oral re-examination.

  • In 1940, Marcos orally argued his own case in front of Supreme Court Justice Jose P. Laurel and on October 22, 1940, he was acquitted of the charge of murder and forthwith liberated from imprisonment.

  • The next day, he returned to the Supreme Court where he was administered his oath as a lawyer.

1st woman to Top the Bar (1st Place):

  • Tecla San Andres-Ziga of the University of the Philippines placed No. 1 in the Bar Exams of 1930 with a grade of 89.4. She served as Senator of the Republic of the Philippines from 1963 to 1969.

2nd woman to Top the Bar (1st Place):

  • Cecilia Munoz-Palma (University of the Philippines) became the 2nd woman to place No. 1 in the Bar Exams in 1937 with a grade of 92.6. She later became the 1st woman Supreme Court Justice in 1973 and the 1st female President of a constitutional commission in 1986.

Bar Flunker who Placed 1st on his Second Take:

  • Francisco Noel R. Fernandez (University of the Philippines) failed in the 1993 Bar Exams but placed No. 1 in the 1994 Bar Exams with a grade of 89.2.

1st Aeta Lawyer:

  • Wayda Cosme (Harvardian Colleges) passed the Bar Exam in 2001 to become the 1st Aeta Lawyer.

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