Yearning For Direction: An Interview with Atty. Ibs Silongan

Updated: Jan 9

Career Counselors in College try so hard to instill in us the benefits of having a solid career plan with workable time lines. It is the ultimate goal of most of us to have a carefully planned road map of where we want to be after college. Of course, it is ideal to know exactly what we want right from the start so we don't have to stray and lose motivation in the process.


However, there are also those who struggle to know exactly what they want to achieve. Even with much prodding from those dear to us, it seems impossible to have a specific career goal.





Atty. Ibs Silongan takes us to her journey to becoming a Lawyer. In an interview, she tells us about a turning point in her life that made her achieve her mom's wishes for her.


Read on what prompted her to persevere and pass the bar.



Barrista Solutions: What prompted you to take up Law?


Atty. Ibs: I want to say I took up law because I want the opportunity to be of value to the community but…that wasn’t it.


To be honest, I was just following my mom’s wishes when I decided to take up law. After college I had no idea what I wanted to do in life. Of course, I knew I wanted a good life- house, car, travel, fun, etc. But I had no idea what career path I wanted.


Up until the bar exams, I wasn’t sure what I wanted. Consequently, I failed the bar exams. Twice. It was an embarrassment. I graduated in high school with honors and I went to a premiere state university so failing the bar exam was a blow on my ego. Apart from that, there was growing shame inside me that I was still dependent on my mom for money. I wanted a life and I did not like where I was in life at that time. I was 35 then.


Can you imagine my urgent sense of yearning for direction in my life at that time? It was a turning point. Either I get myself together or life will happen. So, for the third time, I decided to sign up for the bar, studied, and thankfully passed.





Barrista Solutions: How did you study?


Atty. Ibs: I basically just read and read and read.


Law school is not more of I.Q. It is more of I WILL (I will read. I will memorize. I will study.) No matter how smart you are, if you don’t read, you won’t know the law. There’s just no short cut.


Barrista Solutions: What was your usual routine?


Atty. Ibs: We have different learning styles. In my case, I have to read in advance to understand what the professor is talking about otherwise I’d just space out. So that’s what worked for me in law school.


For the Bar Exams, I basically, I set several pages that I should finish in a day and once I’m done, I was free to do anything. I’d go out and see friends, or go to yoga class, or stay home and watch series, or just completely space out and do nothing. But I tracked my progress. I recorded my study hours, checked pages I’ve accomplished, number of days left, etc.


Barrista Solutions: Did you have time to socialize, join organizations and other school activities?


If yes, what are those organizations or activities?


Atty. Ibs: Yes. I “made” a lot of time to socialize.


During law school, I did lot of non-academic stuff. I joined Tau Mu (a fraternity of law students, lawyers, and other professionals). I also joined Forensics, the debate organization in law school.


They say law school is a very jealous mistress. Law school must be your occupation and socialization, just a preoccupation…so knowing how to prioritize is crucial otherwise be ready to face consequences. Take it from me.


Barrista Solutions: How did your organization help you while you were studying Law?

How did your organization help you while you were preparing for the Bar?


Atty. Ibs: My organization gave me access to materials and resources. They provided support. They also provided sweet distraction in law school. Most importantly, during the Bar Exams, it was my organization that looked after my food, hotel, and the infamous bar tips and materials from everywhere. The stuff I needed were basically delivered to my doorstep. They kept me sane…both in law school, during the bar, and, most importantly, in life.


I’m very thankful to Tau Mu indeed.





Barrista Solutions: What were the challenges you encountered while studying Law?


Atty. Ibs: The biggest challenge was that I was not motivated to study because I was not sure if becoming a lawyer is what I wanted to do. But I had to graduate because that was my deal with my mom.


I envy students who knew certainly and clearly that they wanted to become a lawyer. They are like arrows fired from a bow stretch so taut they were going straight for the aim.

You know they say if you don’t know what you want, you’d basically be everywhere. And to be everywhere is to be nowhere (said Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina).


So, I think it would be helpful to really know what or where you want to be.


Barrista Solutions: What was your greatest motivation?


Atty Ibs: In all honesty, my mom. You can see from my answers I’ve mentioned my mom several times. She was the one who got me into this. I thought if I finish law school then I could do business or something else.


You know what Denzel Washington said: “do what you gotta do so you can do what you wanna do.” That’s what I told myself.


Later, though I didn’t expect lawyering would be what I’d end up wanting to do. Really. It’s like an unseen hand helped me out of it and guided me right back to it. Funny, but that’s exactly what happened. Story of my life. I have my mom to thank for. Seriously.


Barrista Solutions: What adjustments did you make when you were preparing for the Bar?


Atty. Ibs: I had to follow a schedule. I had to refuse invitations. I had to cut back on social media. I asked my friends to support me. I also had to improvise. I had to help myself. I even googled “how to study” or “how to not sleep while studying.”


Seriously though, I put in some effort. You must.





Barrista Solutions: What was your reaction when you passed the Bar?


Atty. Ibs: I cried. Seriously. All the years of disappointment I brought to my mom, all the years of frustration because I felt I did not amount to anything—suddenly I felt they had been washed off… I just got out of damnation.


You know they say the sweetest redemption comes from real damnation.


Barrista Solutions: How significant was it for you to pass the Bar?


Atty. Ibs: I didn’t think it was significant until I needed to have a life.


After two bar exams, I felt like I was against the wall. I had no fall back. It was too late to decide to get a different career. So, I had to take and pass it or endure starting all over again.


There was a sense of necessity and sense of time running out. So, I just decided to bolt for the finish line than join another, different race.


Barrista Solutions: What is your advice to the Barristas out there?


Atty. Ibs: I think those who really want to become a lawyer know what they need to do and won’t need an advice from a lawyer with my kind of school history.


But to the barristas who, like me, fooled around in school, just pay your dues! In fact, do twice what the goody two shoes students do. Read. There’s just no short cut. Sorry.


You know what they say in boxing: “If you cheated in training, you’d be found out in the ring match.”





Atty. Silongan is a graduate of the Ateneo De Davao University College of Law. She is now a Partner at Yap Librado Principe Silongan Law Office.


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