No amount of prayer, if not coupled with hard work and perseverance, can make one pass the Bar.
Mae Diane Azores, a driver’s daughter who topped this year’s Philippine Bar examinations, believes in this.
To be a lawyer is something Azores felt she was meant to become, a dream she held on for so long.
She held on to that dream tighter when a friend suffered a tragic death in 2011. Investigations showed that her friend was raped. The case remains unsolved.
“What happened was so frustrating that it motivated me to take up law,” Azores said in an interview.
Growing up in Bicol region where devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and other Marian images is common, being religious is second nature to Azores.
Her parents even had to spell her name and that of her brother’s with eight letters because the number is associated with Mary
The Feast of Mar’s Nativity is observed on September 8 while the Feast of the Immaculate Concepcion is celebrated on December 8.
“I have always felt a connection with it and my mom believes it is a lucky number,” said the 25-year old new lawyer.
So, after taking the Bar exams, she prayed that she would land on the top 8.
“My prayer always goes like: ‘Mama Mary, please intercede for me. You know all the hard work I put into this dream and so if it’s your son’s dream, if it is Jesus’ will, please intercede for me and Lord, please make me a topnotcher. At least 8th,'” Azores said.
“Something in my heart felt like Mama Mary said ‘Okay, I got this,” she said.
“You have to have faith because worry is useless,” the young lawyer added.
To free herself from worries before the exams, she went to the parish church and had her pen, papers, and even the clothes she would would wear during exam day blessed.
On the day the results were scheduled to be announced, Azores could not help but be worried.
She planned to visit several churches with a friend to pray, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, she had to face her anxieties alone in her room.
“I told my family to just leave me alone and that I would pray and then when I’m already calm, I’ll go out and ask for the exam results,” she recalled.
She was nervous and started crying. “When I was in law school, when I’m nervous it would mean that I would fail the exam or subject,” she said.
She knew, however, that what she felt that day was beyond nervousness, and it bothered her more.
She opened her mobile phone and read a Bible passage from the Book of Psalms on her phone’s wallpaper.
“My phone says, be still, I am God. But I’m not still, and I can’t continue to not be still,” she said.
“So I went to church and prayed that Lord will give me the strength to accept whatever the results will be,” she said.
When she came back home, she locked herself in her room, attended online Masses, and prayed the rosary.
After all the worrying, crying, and praying, she finally felt she’s ready to accept the results, whatever it may be.
She opened her phone, and checked on the messages. She did not get what she prayed for. She got more than that.
She got the highest overall rating of 91.049 percent among the 2,000 aspiring lawyers who passed the Bar exams.
“The prayer to top the Bar, at least top 8, is actually quite a long shot. If I didn’t top the Bar at all, I wouldn’t be frustrated as long as I pass,” she said.
“That’s why my prayer is always if it’s according to Jesus’ will,” she added.
The first thing she did was pray and thanked the Blessed Virgin Mary and Jesus and all the saints she prayed to for intercession.
And then she went hysterical.
Azores admitted that she is a competitive achiever and she always wanted to do better.
She took up Accountancy in her undergraduate school to fulfil her mom’s dream for her to be an accountant. She graduated top of her class, and passed the board exams.
While taking up law, she worked for the Commission on Audit.
“It was difficult because I was working while taking up law. It’s really a test of perseverance and hard work,” she said.
“Through faith and prayer, I was able to sustain,” added the new lawyer.
When she finished her law degree, the school dean told her to do a research how to top the Bar exams.
She was not sure if the teacher was serious about it, but she did it.
“I watched interviews of previous Bar topnotchers and applied some of their study tips,” said Azores, noting that most admitted to long hours of study.
Azores had to commit herself to give everything she has. She knew she had to.
During reviews, she would wake up at four o’clock in the morning and study for 10-12 hours a day.
Her “not-so-secret formula,” however, remains to be prayers, something that was already proven when she passed the Accountancy board exams.
When her friends would invite her to pray on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays, she would not go. Why waste time when you can go on Sundays, she thought.
Then the pressure became overwhelming, she was left with no choice, but to hold on to faith. “I realized that I’m calm whenever I pray, I feel more confident in myself,” she said.
“That’s when I admitted that I can’t do this alone and I really need someone more powerful,” said the young lawyer.
“My faith grew, really,” she added.
Azores has always been close to the church, saying that being in church calms her.
“I need to constantly remind myself of what I can accomplish if I stay positive,” she said.
In front of her study table is a “vision wall” where she posted notes and quotes, most of which are from the Bible.
One note reads “You will only take the Bar once, and you will top it!”
She said in jest that maybe God just saw the phrase “top the Bar” on her wall and didn’t bother that she was actually just asking to be on the 8th place.
“Claim everything in Jesus’ name, and it will be given to you,” she said, adding that “if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s to never limit what God can give you.”
“Really,” she said.