Dream comes true for Ateneo law grad

Rainier Allan Ronda - The Philippine Star
Dream comes true for Ateneo law grad
Photo from the ADMU website shows valedictorian Sean James Borja addressing the Ateneo Law School Class of 2018 during graduation rites.

MANILA, Philippines — Topping the 2018 Bar exam has always been Sean James Borja’s dream.

The 27-year-old underbar associate of the Ortigas, Pasig City-based Gulapa & Quicho Law or GulapaLaw said yesterday hopes were pinned on him by the Ateneo de Manila community as well as family and friends to top the Bar.

Borja was overwhelmed with happiness that he has delivered, he said.

In an impromptu media briefing at the GulapaLaw offices yesterday afternoon, Borja said he had also set the goal of topping the Bar when he started his law studies.

“Actually going into my first year of law school, it has been my dream to top the Bar,” he said. “I’m just really thankful that it happened.

“I hoped, I prayed. But I did not really expect it,” Borja told media.

“In terms of expectations, definitely not, it was a very difficult exam, especially Taxation,” Borja, who wants to be a good example to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community, said.

In an interview over ANC, Borja said his topping the exam with an 89.3-percent rating is another example that persons belonging to the LGBT community can accomplish more in life. 

He added that people in the LGBT community, who are often stereotyped, also succeed outside the cosmetic industry and entertainment business. 

“I think what I would really want to show is to keep pushing my limits to show that people like me, people from my community, can achieve so much if people will just listen and look out for us,” Borja said.

Borja also said he has seen many LGBT persons who have excelled in the fields of law, science, business and the arts.

For her part, Bar exam seventh placer Patricia Sevilla said she was thankful to God for blessing her.

“I still can’t believe that this is really happening. Everything still feels surreal. But one thing is for sure – this is all God’s work. I would not have passed, more so, topped the Bar, if it were not for him. His grace and mercy, coupled with the unending support of family and friends, made this possible,” Sevilla added. 

Rigorous review

Borja added that he had a rigorous Bar review schedule in the months leading to the November 2018 exams – getting up at 6 a.m., having breakfast and going to the gym and studying from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

A friend called him yesterday and told him he topped the Bar exam.

As he stepped out of the shower, he was shouting with joy.

Borja’s parents, who were at home with him, joined him in his gleeful shouting.

Borja took up Bachelor of Science in Legal Management, also at the ADMU, graduating magna cum laude and program awardee.

“The series of exams was just really difficult compared to the previous years, so many questions were asked that were not asked before. But I did hope a lot actually, I prayed: sana Lord, I’ll top the Bar,” Borja said.

Amid all the pressure, he said in the end, he decided to set the goal for himself.

“Topping the Bar is already a feat in itself,” Borja said.

“What I told myself was: OK, If I’m going to top the Bar, it’s because I want to do it for myself, I want to achieve it for myself, not because I was pressured by other persons. And so that’s how I found the peace,” he added.

Now Borja intends to give his all as a junior associate in the law firm.

“I do plan to establish myself in this law firm, my position, especially since I’m just new here. I do want to offer whatever I can to this firm. I like the fact that this firm specializes in government contracts, (public-private partnerships) and so I would want to help the society through these PPP projects that we will assist,” Borja said.

Fourth placer Daniel “Fords” Fordan is also an underbar associate at GulapaLaw.

Lawyer Aris Gulapa, the law firm’s founder, said he was proud of the performance of his new recruits in the Bar exams.

“Sean and Fords were my students in Ateneo Law. They were brilliant as students but we hired them not because of their potential to top the Bar exam but because we saw in them the potential to be great lawyers who would be committed to doing even the most ordinary things extraordinarily well,” Gulapa, who also earned his law degree with honors from the ADMU College of Law, told The STAR.

Borja is the first lawyer in his family.

His father is engaged in micro-finance while his mother, after retiring as a nurse, joined the family’s micro-finance business.

Borja is third in a brood of four.

He reportedly mentioned his pride in being a member of the LGBT community in his graduation speech.

Borja plans to attend the next LGBT pride march. – With Evelyn Macairan

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