The Philippines. Helped By Unseen Forces

A new lawyer from the Philippines proves that nothing is impossible if you work hard, find ways, and most importantly, believe in God and His guidance.

As expected, he wasn’t the only one in the room. He was, after all, taking a licensure test. Apart from the proctor, there was a lady beside him. But she was not taking the exams; he was the only one answering questions.

Anthony Mark Emocling was the only one in this big room in Ateneo de Manila who was taking the bar exams – unlike his fellow examinees in nearby rooms and testing centres. He was the only one because he was a special case, not that he was a prince or politician’s son who needed security. The Supreme Court of the Philippines appointed the woman next to him to act as an encoder as Emocling is visually impaired.

“I’m the only examinee in the room since it is an assisted type of exam,” said Emocling. “The setup meant I was assigned to a room with the encoder and proctor or supervisor. The encoder read the bar questions for me and I dictated my answers to her, then she would type it on the laptop.”

Coming in at rank 1407, Emocling made history, becoming the first visually impaired person to pass the Philippine bar exams.

With a flurry of congratulatory greetings from family and friends, people shared that Emocling had told them that he would someday be a lawyer. One exchange dated a decade ago, when Emocling told his friend that he would be pursuing law.

Emocling said that he had not been born blind, but growing up he was wearing a pair of eyeglasses due to his near-sightedness. “I was already myopic from age four”, he said, “I was already using glasses.”

A few years after his first trip to the optical shop, lady luck would turn on him and he would lose his sense of sight. “I lost my eyesight when I was 10 years old because of total retinal detachment,” he remarked. His mother stated that it was genetics.

It took some time to adjust, but he coped with his loss of eyesight, as he said with “prayers and support from my family.”

His family encouraged him to fulfil his dreams, one of which was to become a lawyer. Even more so, from his early childhood until today, his family ensured he hung on to his Catholic faith. This proved to be beneficial during his review period.

“My faith helped me during the review and bar exams”,  he pointed out, “because that time was depressing and disheartening.  The review for the bar exams is also a test of character. The volume of reading materials is very challenging.”

Unlike most reviewers who can skim or scan books and articles, it was different for Emocling. His disability stood in the way. Some would pause and ask how many of these review notes can be read by touch. Unfortunately, “nothing is in braille,” he recalled.

Still, he pushed on and found a way to study. He told us his study tactic, “I convert them to an accessible format to be downloaded on my phone and for me to listen to.”

Imagine the hours he had to focus on a single voice that would help him gain as much information as he needed. It’s not that easy to highlight a verse or even to rewind or fast forward to a certain chapter. This probably adds to the reasons why Emocling felt depressed during this time.

It was also why, during his review, he would often turn to God. “Every time I pray, I feel relaxed and at peace,” he revealed, highlighting His presence in everyday prayers.

Emocling’s story is inspirational. Moreover, his disability is not a hindrance for him to fulfil his childhood dream of someday being called an attorney. Instead, he pushed himself to find the right amount of determination, graduating cum laude for his pre-law course in Political Science, continuing on to law school, and finally becoming a lawyer.

Emocling concluded. “There are unseen forces that have helped me, that God’s love, protection and guidance were there for me during my bar exam journey.” (Ana Valenzuela)

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