Bar Boys: A New Musical reminds me of why I’m in law school

I see my own experience—the ups and downs of would-be lawyers

Bar Boys
'Bar Boys': It deserves a re-run.

Bar Boys

Bar Boys: A New Musical, an adaptation from the critically acclaimed film by Kip F. Oebanda and staged recently by Barefoot Theater Collective, goes beyond portraying the typical struggles of law students within the confines of a classroom. It’s not merely about endless readings, understanding the intricacies of the law, or enduring nerve-wracking recitations. Becoming a lawyer isn’t just about dreaming of being the country’s best, or at the very least, passing the bar exams. There’s much more to experience before reaching the finish line—self-doubt, the temptation to quit, and failures. Yet, by persevering and moving forward, success is attainable. Above all, the play deeply moved the audience and referenced a deeper reality, touching on themes of justice, money, family, conflicts of interest, friendships, social issues, inequalities, and faith.

Bar Boys

From left, Torran (Jerom Canlas), Chris (Alex Diaz), Erik (Benedix Ramos), and Josh (Omar Uddin)

Bar Boys centers around the dreams of four young friends—Erik (Benedix Ramos), Chris (Alex Diaz), Torran (Jerom Canlas), and Josh (Omar Uddin)—who enter law school.

Erik comes from the most underprivileged background, with his father Paping (Juliene Mendoza) working as a security guard in a factory. Due to financial difficulties, Erik considers giving up. However, Paping insists and sacrifices by selling their TV, where he watches his favorite K-drama, just to support his son’s tuition—a sacrifice typical of Filipino parents who prioritize their children’s education. Most importantly, Paping continually reminds Erik to keep the faith, believing that prayer can resolve all problems.

Chris is the wealthiest of the four, exceptionally intelligent and privileged. Despite seeming to have it all, he struggles with his relationship with his father, Atty. Maurice Carlson (Nor Domingo), whom he strives not to emulate.

Torran upholds the family tradition, supported by his understanding mother (Gimbey dela Cruz), who shows real love and support, especially during Torran’s coming out moment.

Josh is the most enthusiastic among them, advocating for environmental causes that he hopes to pursue after law school. His enthusiasm and commitment to his cause are palpable, yet he encounters setbacks that test his resolve and ultimately lead to difficult decisions.

Each character’s narrative in the play reflects a diverse spectrum of motivations and challenges within law school. From the pursuit of justice and familial legacy to personal identity crises and the realization that law school may not be the right fit for everyone, their stories resonate with the varied experiences of law students everywhere.

‘Buhay, kalayaan, at pag-asa ang siyang nakataya sa bawa’t batas at artikulong inyong binabasa’

“That’s what you think, I don’t care about what you think!” This famous line of Justice Hernandez (Sheila Francisco) in the play resonates deeply with every law student. It underscores a fundamental principle of legal education: Our laws are codified, and answers in recitations must be grounded in the law or jurisprudence, not mere personal opinions or beliefs.

Justice Hernandez in the play exemplifies the archetype of a feared professor, one whom every law student dreads encountering. However, unlike other intimidating figures, Justice Hernandez commands respect for embodying integrity—a trait my own law professor often emphasized as defining a lawyer whom money cannot buy.

While Justice Hernandez represents the serious and formidable side of legal education, there are also professors who bring a lighter, more approachable demeanor to their teaching. These “bubbly” professors balance the rigors of legal study with a more engaging and supportive style, providing a diverse experience within law school.

In the intense atmosphere of law school, every word holds immense significance. Changing or missing the word could change the meaning of the law. Missing even a single detail could jeopardize a case—a stark reality vividly portrayed by the play’s quote, “Buhay, kalayaan, at pag-asa ang nakataya” (Life, freedom, and hope are at stake).

Law school is not for everyone. Along the journey, there are dreamers who lose their way and choose to quit. However, quitting does not equate to failure; I believe that better opportunities await these individuals. Just move, for it is in moving that you will discover your greater purpose.

Outside of the classroom, friends play a pivotal role in a student’s life, especially in law school. In the case of the four boys in the play, their friendships are tested and strengthened by their shared experiences outside the lecture halls. When Torran joins a fraternity, it introduces a critical subplot that touches on the societal issue of hazing and the promotion of anti-hazing laws. This storyline underscores a prevalent and serious issue that continues to affect students in various educational institutions today.

Why do we enter law school? Often, we say it is for justice. We want to change how people perceive the justice system of our country and fight for the cause of the underprivileged. Despite these noble reasons, the play highlights the fact that some lawyers end up serving politicians, the rich, and those with power and influence. Thankfully, there are still lawyers who fight for what is right. Atty. Cruz (Topper Fabregas) is one we should look up to.

Nawa’y ang hustisya ay para sa lahat! Sadly, in our society today, justice often seems to be reserved for those who can afford to pay, those who can afford to bend the truth.

In one of the scenes, Paping is laid off by the factory where he works as a security guard. In his quest to claim indemnities and damages, the play reveals a stark reality: Money is everything. He is bribed to retract his complaint, credible witnesses are paid to avoid hearings, cases are unreasonably delayed, and documentary evidence is tampered with to alter the facts. However, Paping’s unwavering commitment to justice doesn’t allow the dark side of the system to deter him from fighting for his rights.

Paping is laid off by the factory where he works as a security guard. In his quest to claim indemnities and damages, the play reveals a stark reality: Money is everything

Erik has always been dedicated to the pursuit of justice. Despite encountering setbacks and not achieving his goals to as quickly as he hoped, he continues to fight tirelessly.

Chris finds himself grappling with a conflict of interest involving his father and friends. On one side, there’s the lure of money that bribes Paping to drop his claim, while on the other side is the principle of fighting for what is right and just. This dilemma strains his friendships, as he is criticized for not upholding the principles they have long fought for.

Paping dies before he can attain justice. It is a stark reality that achieving justice can take decades, even for minor offenses. Why is this so? Perhaps it’s due to influence, an overwhelming number of cases, or most certainly, delaying tactics by the parties involved.

Another scene that caught my attention highlighted the difficulty the poor face in affording attorney’s fees. Despite being provided with lawyers through the Public Attorney’s Office, people often prefer hiring private lawyers for faster results. In this play, Paping gives up his precious vinyl records, which he often listens to on his old turntable, to pay for legal services of Justice Hernandez. This illustrates that the poor are willing to sacrifice even their most cherished possessions to show appreciation for legal assistance. In real life, farmers might pay their lawyers with their harvests or, in the worst cases, portions of their land.

Bar Boys isn’t just a story of struggle. Towards the end, it conveys success, acceptance, and finally attaining justice.

Passing the bar exam is the main goal of every law student. A familiar scene captured in the play depicts bar examinees and their supportive families and friends waiting anxiously for the bar results at the Supreme Court. Some fail, while the fortunate ones pass. Tears are shed both in joy for those who succeed and in sorrow for those who do not.

As expected, Chris passes the bar exams with flying colors.

The most noteworthy moment for me was Torran passing the bar exams and announcing it to his family. The pressure of high expectations has been weighing heavily on him. After the bar exam results are announced, his family prepares a tarpaulin and food for the entire community to celebrate Torran’s success. It was humorous to witness that when Torran initially tells them he did not pass the exam, they quickly swap the tarpaulin for one that still congratulates him for doing his best. However, it turns out to be a joke—Torran actually passes the bar.

What touched me the most was the scene where Torran comes out to his mother about his sexuality. Despite the standards and discrimination of his mother’s generation, her unwavering support and acceptance are heartwarming and profound, showing unconditional love and acceptance.

Erik is one of the unfortunate ones who do not pass the bar exam. On the verge of losing hope, he finds himself struggling with doubt and disappointment. However, through the guidance of Justice Hernandez and his promise to his late father, Erik finds the strength to persevere. Despite his initial failure, he refuses to give up. He continues to strive, learn, and improve himself. He passes the bar exam on his second attempt. His determination pays off when he eventually wins the appeal in Paping’s case, proving that resilience and dedication can lead to success even in the face of adversity.

In the end, as promised, they meet at the finish line.

As a law student, I found the show highly relatable, reminding me of the very reason why I am in law school. We witnessed the immense sacrifices and resources needed to pursue such a dream. We were amazed by the perfect portrayals of the roles, with each character given the chance to own their spotlight. Every line and dialogue conveyed a meaningful message, and the music and choreography were well thought-out, showcasing genius writing. Every detail warmed and broke the audience’s hearts—it made us laugh, but it made us cry even more.

One important message from Bar Boys: A New Musical: Just fight, it will all be worth it! Claim that dot. You’ll be a lawyer for the people!

The cast at curtain call at the Power Mac Center Spotlight Blackbox Theater

About author


He is a 28-year-old Speech Communication and Broadcasting graduate of the University of the Philippines. Currently, he is a third-year law student and works as a lead researcher in a publishing company.

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