'No short cuts': PUP Bar topnotcher advises aspiring lawyers, fellow PUPians

Emy Ruth Gianan, News, Communication Management Office

When Frodo and friends set out on a long journey to destroy the ring in J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic fantasy The Lord of the Rings, he was warned of the dangers of taking short, alternative routes. The other hobbit Pippin said: “Short cuts make for long delays.” These words hold much truth in fiction, three chapters worth of delay; but equally so in real life. Atty. Jun Dexter Rojas strongly affirms this when asked about his law school journey. 

2019 Bar Examinations’ 9th placer and Sintang Paaralan’s first-ever topnotcher is no stranger to challenges before achieving his much-awaited dream. An aspiring lawyer, Atty. Dexter had to wait for a decade before entering law school, fail entering his dream school, and balance work and studies during his first year. It was no easy road, but our topnotcher trusted the process and remained motivated amid the hurdles he faced. During his waiting years, he helped his parents finance the education of his younger siblings, married the love of his life, and started building a family. He reviewed hard for law school entrance examinations. Having finished a degree of Political Science from the University of the Philippines (UP) - Manila, he thought it best to continue studying at his alma mater. In his heartwarming letter published on Facebook, Atty. Dexter shared he did not make it to UP Law Aptitude Examinations (LAE) and thought he “was a failure.” 

The Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) College of Law proved to be Atty. Dexter’s second home. The two-decade old College headed by its able Dean Atty. Gemy Lou Festin happily embraced him into the fold and honed an already hardworking and diligent student reach his dream. For Atty. Dexter, it was difficult to balance law school with work especially during his first year. As a property developer then, a lot of his time was spent talking to people and managing real estate. An hour or half of rest are precious minutes he converted into study periods before coming to class. On his second year, he and his wife decided he quit work and focus on studying.  

“No short cuts sa law school. Malaki ang volume of information to digest and then iyon ding complexity of information. Hindi sapat ang memory aides, kailangang motivated magbasa kahit majority sa amin sa klase ay working students,” Atty. Dexter shared when asked about his perspective on law school. Because most of his time was spent studying hard, he timidly shared that he remembered the names of his classmates only later.  

His first and second years have birthing pains and their professors are very strict. Several of them experienced “mapahiya” especially when they failed to study fully for the class. He jokingly called this as “Jurassic Park” era. When they entered their junior and senior years, their teachers were more friendly and focused on coaching them for their upcoming bar examinations. When asked about the courses he took during his four-year stay at PUP-COL, he said that tax was the most grueling while civil law subjects are his most favorite ones to take. “Civil Law subjects like Family Law and Obligations and Contracts are immediately applicable and relatable to the public. Tax naman ang pinakamahirap.” This year’s batch would have to study the country’s new tax schedule under the TRAIN Law. 

He is deeply grateful to his wife for supporting him while he pursued his lifelong dream of becoming a lawyer. He shared funny stories of forgetting to complete household chores like cleaning the house or throwing the garbage during his non-study periods. “Best moments ay kapag lalabas na ang grades. Dapat maganda ang lumabas kasi ito nalang pambawi ko sa aking wife kapag may nakakalimutan akong gawaing-bahay.” 

During his third year at school, Atty. Dexter was fortunate to receive financial support from the Foundation for Liberty and Prosperity (FLP) founded by former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban. The illustrious scholarship program, jointly supported by the Tan Yan Kee Foundation (TYKF) and screened by no less than the most senior Supreme Court Justice, reimburses the tuition paid and provides for book allowances to chosen students. PUP-COL's class valedictorian, Via Villorico also received FLP-TYKF support, alongside Rojas. 

Currently, he works at an Ortigas-based law firm. He looks forward to joining the ranks of his professors at law school as he already accepted the invitation of Dean Festin to teach at PUP. He says he is excited to meet new PUP students. 

Even with a title and topnotcher tag attached to his name, Atty. Dexter emphasized the value of humility and public service. “We should never forget the purpose of a lawyer. It is not a business but a profession, and it’s purpose is public service.” He also advises both aspiring and fellow lawyers to remain abreast and be involved in addressing socio-political issues and various forms of social injustice such as the looming global recession brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. “Ang abugado, nakikinig lalo na sa injustices na nasa ating paligid. Lawyers should also speak out.” 

Atty. Dexter is also thankful to the PUP community for their warm support especially when he learned of his topnotch success. In an effort to express his gratefulness to his well-wishers and fellow PUPians, he spent the rest of his weekend prior to this interview replying to each message. He was overwhelmed, elated, and encouraged by the warmth of Sintang Paaralan’s love.  

Towards the end, he urged PUP students to work hard and study hard because the community recognizes our efforts: “Nakita ko na how united PUP can be in cheering for their graduates and celebrating their school’s achievements. While being students, study very hard, so that someday you can also contribute further PUP’s rich tradition and history, and in a way you are serving the people. In a way hindi nasasayang ang people’s taxes sa pagpapaaral sa inyo.” 

Though the road may be long, winding and harsh at times, Atty. Dexter Rojas' triumph is another proof that diligence and hardwork bring the sweetest victories to its ardent warriors. ### 

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