MANILA - Shouting, dancing, and even a mini-brass band added festivity to the countdown to the last day of the annual Bar exams in Manila on Sunday as schoolmates came to give personal support to the prospective lawyers.
Crowds gathered at the street across the exam site at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) as early as 5 hours before the beginning of the test at 7 a.m.
On the final day of the so-called "bar ops", representatives of various law schools from all over the Philippines provided meals, snacks, drinks, toiletries and medicine in "care packs" for their schoolmates.
On top of these packs were hugs and messages of encouragement for the barristers, just as their other schoolmates did for them in the past 3 Sundays of the Bar exams.
"Pang-support po ito sa kanila. It's very assuring that they can see us all the way from Bohol here supporting them," said Zeah Zamora of Holy Name University.
Jose Ferdinand Sarbues of Colegio De La Purisima Concepcion in Roxas City, Capiz admitted his nervousness on his second time taking the test.
"'Pag pumunta ka na papasok ng UST, masyado talagang pressured kaya kapag andiyan yung mga kaklase mo, schoolmates, nakakagaan ng feeling," he said.
Parents like Lorna Bongalon from Manila also sent off their children to the exam site.
"Simula't simula hanggang ngayon andito ako palagi nakatutok sa kanya," she said.
Representatives of each school tried to outdo each other with chants supporting their examinees. The Urdaneta City University brought in their own brass band.
In an expression of solidarity, law colleges from the Cordillera region such as the Saint Louis University, University of Baguio, and University of the Cordilleras led participants in indigenous Igorot dances. Schools from elsewhere also joined them.
Manila Police District director Brig. Gen. Bernabe Balba described the Bar exams over the past 4 weeks as peaceful, with the exception of a row among Bar ops participants on the first day, November 3.
"In terms of security, I can say peaceful ang conduct sa last 3 Sundays and we are hoping ma-continue natin na tahimik at mapayapa ang pag-eksamen ng ating future lawyers," he said.
Balba added, 500 police have been deployed around UST, and security measures such as a liquor-selling ban in the vicinity have helped assure a smooth conduct of the exams.
Manila City Mayor Isko Moreno and Vice Mayor Honey Lacuna also came in person to support the examinees and Bar ops participants from the city's two public colleges--Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila and Universidad De Manila.
Moreno, who did not finish his law degree because of his election as vice mayor in 2007, said he himself participated in Bar ops when he was at the Arellano University.
Members of the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers also showed up outside the exam site. They held up a streamer condemning the killings and harassment of lawyers, judges, and prosecutors as well as pictures of those killed.
The group urged the Bar examinees to remember their responsibilities to serve the country once they pass the Bar.
With 8,245 Bar candidates initially expected to take this year's exam, the Supreme Court said the number of examinees went down to 7,691 on the second exam day, November 10.