Bar exam topper: Gay and proud of it

First published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer / 09:10 AM May 12, 2019

Number one bar exam topnotcher Sean James Borja of Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU) frankly admitted he is gay, but debunked “the myth that members of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) are meant only for entertainment.”

He was bullied, discriminated against and deprived of opportunities just because he was thought to be “not good enough,” just because he “was different.”

Well, in the Foundation for Liberty and Prosperity (FLP), we did not treat him differently. Like all the other legal scholarship applicants, we gave him the same opportunity without any discrimination as to gender, race, color, religious belief, economic status or political affiliation.

All we required from him were basically the same as from all others: (1) academic excellence plus leadership qualities, and (2) ability and willingness to internalize and espouse the philosophy of liberty and prosperity under the rule of law. Outstanding in these requirements, he was chosen along with 20 others when our scholarship program — funded by the Tan Yan Kee Foundation (TYKF) at P200,000 per scholar per year — began in 2016.

And we were proven right, because since then, he has excelled in everything expected of him, like topping his class at Ateneo, winning in moot courts here and abroad, and acing the bar exam. Indeed, he is excellent, diligent, dignified and gay, and we’re mighty proud of him!

For topping the Supreme Court tests, we are awarding him an additional cash of P200,000 plus another P25,000 for being the valedictorian at Ateneo.

Aside from him, every one in the first batch of FLP scholars who graduated in 2018 passed the exam. One of them, Katrina Monica Gaw, also of AdMU, copped fifth place and will receive an extra P100,000. Others in the batch are: Karina Mae Badua (UST), Ervin Fredrick Dy (UP, 17th place), Rexlyn Anne Evora (PUP), Summerson Macasarte (St. Thomas More), Nigel Carmelo Reago (La Salle), Jose Angelo Tiglao (La Salle), Althea Vergara (USC) and Vanessa Gloria Vergara (AdMU).

For topping their respective classes, Evora, Reago and Macasarte will also get P25,000 like Borja. Another FLP scholar during his junior year, Jose Noel Hilario (UST), will also get P25,000 for graduating cum laude during his senior year.

Currently, the FLP scholars (also at P200,000/year) are fourth year law students Leo Francis Abot (AdMU), John Anthony Almerino (USC), Micah Celine Carpio (La Salle), Alvin Paulo Cortez (AdMU), Mikael Gabrielle Ilao (U of Cordilleras), Alimar Mohammad Malabad (San Beda), Kenneth Glenn Manuel (UST), King Anthony Perez (U of Cebu), Jun Dexter Rojas (PUP) and Ma. Vida Malaya Villarico (PUP).

Our third year scholars are Banoar Abratique (U of Cordilleras), Pamela Camille Barredo (FEU), Angelette Bulacan (FEU), Stephanie Mae Domingo (U of Cordilleras), Maria Carissa Guinto (San Beda), Patrick Angelo Gutierrez (FEU), Mayumi Matsumura (AdMU), Juralyn Lilian Obra (U of Cordilleras) Carmella Gaye Perez (USC) and Edrea Jean Ramirez (UST).

The board of judges was composed of Justice Antonio T. Carpio (chair), Dr. Edilberto C. de Jesus, Dean Joan S. Largo, TYKF executive Elizabeth T. Alba and Prof. Tanya Karina A. Lat, members.

Aside from the scholarship program, FLP also sponsors a Dissertation Writing Contest funded by the Ayala Corp. Chosen winners a few days ago were: Josiah David Quising (FEU), first prize—P300,000; Diana Lou Boado (Lyceum), second prize— P200,000; and Charles De Belen (San Beda), Beverly Lumbera (Lumsa U, Rome, Italy) and Clarissa Mae Sawali (FEU), three third prizes at P100,000 each. Five finalists — Gwendolyn Ann Banaria (FEU), Jose Angelo Blay (La Salle, Lipa), Arvin Paolo Cortez (AdMU), Justin Ian Manjares (AdMU) and Marlouize Villanueva (USC) — will receive P20,000 each.

The dissertation board of judges was composed of Justice Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe (chair), retired Justice Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez, Philippine Association of Law Schools president Joan S. Largo, Ayala Corp. general counsel Solomon M. Hermosura and lawyer Joel Emerson J. Gregorio, members.

All the prize recipients will be honored at an FLP convocation at the AdMU auditorium in Rockwell, Makati, 5 p.m., May 18, 2019.