A 64-year-old man became a source of inspiration after passing the 2023 Bar exams, proving that it's never too late to go after his dreams.
In an interview with PhilSTAR L!fe, Valentin Laurena Bonite said no words are enough to describe the feeling of being among this year's 3,812 bar exam passers at his age.
"I broke down when my son Gus called out from the other room saying, 'Pa, lawyer na 'kaw.' I did not know he was also watching the livestream—it was just that in my computer, the streaming was slower. When it finally appeared on my monitor, I immediately called Mama," he told L!fe.
"The joy is simply indescribable. There are no words," he said.
A slow and taxing journey
Bonite enrolled at Xavier University in 1999 and graduated in 2009. Aside from working for the Commission on Audit and a pharmaceutical company, Bonite also served as vice mayor in Gigaquit, Surigao del Norte from 2001 to 2004. The years he spent at work and public service made him put his dreams of becoming a lawyer on pause.
"I ran and won as vice mayor in our town. It was a mistake. I dabbled into it thinking about changing politics. I was grievously mistaken. Politics will change you. So I decided to leave and pursue my dream again albeit slowly," she said.
According to him, he decided to give his dream another shot this year after failing the Bar thrice—in hopes of being a lawyer before he turns 65.
He told L!fe that the Supreme Court (SC) requires all those taking the Bar examinations for the fourth time to go on a one-year refresher course by enrolling and passing all eight bar subjects divided into two regular semesters. The 64-year-old aspiring lawyer did not finish it in one year, but completed the first and second semesters in two years.
"It was good that refresher courses were offered online. Even if I was abroad to visit Mama, I was able to enroll the second semester while there," he said.
Together with his wife, whom he fondly calls "Mama," they processed his Bar exam applications online and sent them to his youngest son, Gus.
"We processed my application for the bar exams abroad with Mama helping me with everything especially finances. We have to send via FedEx the hard copies of the documents required to Gus so he can send it to the SC after inserting the additional requirements which were in his possession. Then also, it is a must that we also enroll in a pre-bar review course," he recalled.
Bonite admitted to having a hard time studying for one of the biggest exams of his life, adding that he usually felt sleepy after reading just less than ten pages of his reviewers.
"While abroad, I spent all my free time reading. The day usually started at five. I prepare breakfast for Mama and after, I would drive her to work. That is when I start reading which is regularly interrupted with short naps because biscuits and anything are not enough to fight off sleepiness," he said.
When the Bar drew near, he recalled worrying about how it would all turn out for him.
Bonite is grateful that he was able to claim the dot in Atty. at 64. Enrolling in a review center helped him as it "was able to cover almost everything that came out in the Bar exams."
For Bonite, practicing law after his feat could be "something dependable to fall back into when mama finally settles down from abroad." He added, "I don't want my sacrifices, the cost, the sleepless nights to go to waste."
As an attorney, Bonite is looking to improve the justice system in the Philippines. "If given the chance, I want to be able to help the victims of the past bloody administration obtain justice. cannot afford any delay considering that the previous administration just ended," he explained.
For aspiring lawyers, the lawyer has this to say: "Refuse to get distracted. Focus on your dreams, for no dream is unattainable if you pursue it relentlessly."
"Now, I can rest on the fact that I was able to make my beloved wife and children proud. Above all, I am grateful that God has chosen me to be His instrument in serving the least of our brothers," he concluded.