How Mabini, Osmeña, Del Pilar fared in school | Inquirer Opinion
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How Mabini, Osmeña, Del Pilar fared in school

The quarantine spoiled this year’s public spectacle of joy and sorrow outside the Supreme Court with the release of the bar exam results.

Seven of the top 10 are women, five with the highest marks. Imperial Manila was trumped by two from Legazpi, and one each from Palawan, Baguio, and Bacolod. Ateneo and UP failed to make the Magic 10.


The bar exam results remind us of lawyers who became presidents. Three were number one: Manuel Roxas (1913), Diosdado Macapagal (1936), and Ferdinand Marcos (1939); three placed number two: Sergio Osmeña (1903), and Jose P. Laurel and Elpidio Quirino (both 1915). Manuel Quezon placed fourth in 1903.

Rodrigo Duterte, admitted to the bar in 1973, is the first lawyer to be elected since Marcos. In between, we’ve had a housewife, a general, a B-movie actor, an economist, and a self-employed fourth-generation politician.


While Mr. Duterte holds the distinction of being our only lawyer-president not to top the bar exams, grades and rankings don’t always matter.

The University of Santo Tomas archives have preserved many handwritten transcripts of famous alumni with Spanish-era grades whose modern equivalents are; Sobresaliente/Excellent/A; Notable or Aprovechado/Very Good/B; Bueno/Good/C; Mediano/Fair/C-; Aprobado/Passed/D; and Reprobado/Failed/F.

Sergio Osmeña’s secondary school grades from Cebu were noted in UST in July 1894, since it acted like our Department of Education today, consolidating all academic records. Osmeña’s grades: Year I: Latin Grammar 1, Spanish Grammar 1, Doctrine and Sacred History, all Notable. He slipped in Year II: Latin Grammar 2, Spanish Grammar 2, Geography, all Bueno; and improved from Year III: Analysis and Translation of Latin and Greek, Universal History of Spain and the Philippines, Arithmetic and Algebra, all Sobresaliente; Year IV: Rhetoric and Poetry, Geometry, and Rectilinear Trigonometry, Sobresaliente. He had Notable in French, and no grade in English. Legend is that he learned English from Rizal’s common-law wife Josephine Bracken. Year V: Logic and Moral Philosophy, Physics and Chemistry, Natural history, Sobresaliente. No subjects repeated.

Manuel Luis Quezon y Molina’s transcript, dated February 1894, lists all the secondary school subjects as Osmeña’s above. Quezon began his studies in Letran and completed them in UST, with all grades marked Sobresaliente. These grades do not explain why Osmeña played second fiddle to Quezon.

Apolinario Mabini’s transcript from February 1894 is not surprising. He was taken in by Emilio Aguinaldo not for his shiny bald head but for his “ulong ginto,” referring to a brilliant, homegrown brain. Mabini had a Teaching Certificate and a Law degree. His UST grades are, for Pre-law courses: Metaphysics, Sobresaliente; General Spanish Literature and Critical History of Spain, Bueno. Year I: Elements of Natural Law, Institutions of Canon Law, Economics and Statistics, Sobresaliente; Year II: Roman Law, Patronato de Indias and Ecclesiastical Discipline, Sobresaliente; Year III: Spanish Civil Law 1, General History of Spanish Law, Penal Law, Political and Administrative Law and Colonial Legislation, Sobresaliente; Year IV: Spanish Civil Law 2, Mercantile Law, Elements of Public Estate, Sobresaliente; Year V: Procedural Law, civil, penal, canon and administrative, Theory and Practice of Redaction of Instruments 1, International Public Law, Sobresaliente; Year VI, Procedural Law, civil, penal, canon and administrative, Theory and Practice of Redaction of Instruments 2, International Public Law, Sobresaliente.

Marcelo H. del Pilar y Gatmaitan obtained his Bachelor of Philosophy on Feb. 16, 1871. His grades are not as stellar as his patriotism. As of March 1881: Canon Law 1, Mediano; Roman Law 1, Aprovechado; Canon Law 2, Mediano; Roman Law 2, Sobresaliente; Civil and Mercantile Law, Aprovechado; Extension of Civil Law and Spanish Civil Codes, Aprovechado; Penal Law, Aprovechado; Public Law, Administrative Law, Colonial Legislation, Economic, Political and Statistics, Mediano; Judicial procedures, practice and oratory forensics 1, Elements of General Literature and Spanish Literature, Sobresaliente. He had no grades for Year VII as he took a six-month leave.

By itself the data are trivial, but aside from humanizing historical figures, their low grades make us smug, while their sobresalientes shame us into doing better.

Comments are welcome at [email protected]

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TAGS: Del Pilar, law school, lawyer, Mabini, Osmeña, president, schooling
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