Anthony Mark Emocling’s journey to becoming the first blind BAR passer was filled with challenges and setbacks. After failing the Bar exams three consecutive times in 2017, 2018, and 2019, Emocling, who lost his sight at the age of 10, never lost sight of his goal to succeed in life. Last Friday, April 14, the 33-year-old Emocling made history as the first blind Bar exam passer since 1901.
Out of 9,183 examinees who took the Bar exams in November, a total of 3,992 passed, resulting in a national passing rate of 43.47 percent. Emocling, an alumnus of the University of Baguio, ranked 1407th among the successful examinees. He became the second blind Bar examinee from the university, following Christopher Yuman in 2014.
Emocling completed his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science at the University of Baguio in 2013, graduating cum laude. He then pursued his Juris Doctor degree, which he completed in 2017. Emocling had been visually impaired since the age of four due to myopia or nearsightedness. However, at the age of 10, a weak retina led to total blindness.
His aspiration to become a lawyer began during former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada’s impeachment trial in 2000-2001, shortly after he became blind. Emocling was captivated by the way lawyers explained things during radio talk shows he listened to on a borrowed radio. During this time, he first encountered former UB School of Law dean, Pablito Sanidad Sr., who later became his dean in law school.
Emocling faced numerous challenges throughout his journey to becoming a lawyer. It was his fourth attempt at the Bar exams in 2022 after failing in the previous years. Despite moments of doubt and difficulty, he persevered, motivated by the belief in his abilities and the support of his family and friends.
As a visually impaired law student, Emocling faced additional obstacles, such as the lack of suitable books and materials for blind students and stereotypes against people with disabilities. He relied on screen reading software to access law books and resources, as there were no braille versions available. Traveling from Baguio to Manila for review centers posed another challenge, but the transition to online review platforms made it more accessible for him.
During the Bar exams, Emocling had a special setup. A designated encoder assisted him by dictating the questions, to which he provided his answers for encoding on a laptop. Despite mixed feelings during the exams, Emocling welcomed the digital format, considering it favorable for someone with visual impairment.
Emocling’s success as the first blind BAR passer is a personal triumph and an inspiration for others facing adversity. He plans to specialize in human rights, particularly advocating for persons with disabilities, whom he believes are the most in need of legal assistance. Emocling aims to be a voice for the marginalized sector, fight for their rights, and promote equal access to resources and opportunities.
To aspiring lawyers, Emocling advises using failures as stepping stones toward fulfilling their dreams. He emphasizes that setbacks and disappointments are part of the journey and should not be seen as the end. Emocling encourages perseverance and reminds his peers that law practice is a sacrifice to serve the people.
As for his career plans, Emocling is still considering whether to work for a law firm in Baguio or Manila. Regardless of his decision, Emocling’s accomplishment serves as a beacon of hope and a testament to the power of determination and resilience in pursuing one’s dreams.
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