Portrait of a bar topnotcher

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Sunday, April 20, 2014

MANUEL ELIJAH SARAUSAD Sarausad is the latest bar topnotcher from the University of Cebu’s (UC) College of Law, which was opened about 12 years ago. It has a special place in the heart of UC owner Augusto Go as he is also a lawyer.

Sarausad is a simple guy who plays the piano and the guitar and sings (but not for the public). He reads John Grisham and Paulo Coelho, and admits that ,yes, he aimed to be in the top 10 in the bar exam as did all his other batchmates: from their first year in the college of law, they were told that a car would be waiting for them if they made it to the top 10, which is what “topnotcher” means.

That was something to work hard for. And that paid off. In his case, he said landing in the top 10—he placed sixth in the bar exams—and getting that car would be a bonus.


To pass was, for him, necessary as he said: “Failure was not acceptable.” This is because he already has two children (Lourdes Vhiel Marie and Mary Elise) and his wife, Liezl, has been supporting him and their two kids in the last two years of his law schooling.

The road to his becoming a lawyer was one with many detours. Sarausad is from Carcar City. He was a valedictorian when he graduated from elementary school at the Carcar Central School, and was again a valedictorian in high school, this time at the Abellana National School in Cebu City. He pursued pre-medicine for a year, then felt that he wanted to be a priest. So entered the Redemptorist seminary during which formation he took up philosophy at the University of San Carlos.

After his college graduation, he knew priesthood was not for him and so got out of the seminary. (His father and an older brother are also ex-seminarians.) He then taught in high school for two years but realizing teaching was not for him, he decided to take up law, influenced by his father, who is a law graduate but who did not take the bar.

He chose to study in UC for the scholarship it offered, as well as for its nearness to his family’s residence. Although he finished college with cum laude honors, he said law school was challenging. He had the advantage of his background: his formation years in the seminary gave him a good knowledge of logic and philosophy, and trained him in public speaking and in written communication. In fact, he went back to the Redemptorist community a week after the bar results came out to thank his formators, who were also praying for his success.

He said studying law was hard. There was always a test or an assignment every day but for all that, the school atmosphere was warm and welcoming. Because of the limited number of students, there was “good bonding.”

His advice to would-be lawyers is first “to be committed to be a lawyer; because along the way you might get discouraged. There are topics that are difficult and might faze you.” And second, he says: “Don’t take daily lectures for granted. That is what helped me in taking the bar examination. Basic laws are the topics in the exam.”

Sarausad says he might work in the Office of the Solicitor General who has offered him a job. He will try it out for a year, see how it goes and if he feels he fits the job, he will stay there and bring his family over to Metro Manila. If this does not work out, he will turn to private practice, which is what he wants to do in the future.

Whatever challenge the future holds, Sarausad is certainly equipped to meet it.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 21, 2014.


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