Bicolano Bar Top-notchers Through The Years

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Since 1930, a total of seven (7) Bicolanos have bagged one of the most coveted titles in the Philippines: a bar exam first-place top-notcher.
  • Tecla San Andres-Ziga † (1930) of Naga City was a senator and the first woman to top the bar examination

  • Gregorio R. Castillo † (1957) of Buhi, Cam. Sur is a Yale graduate: Masters in Law

  • Edwin R. Enrile (1999) of Naga City, Camarines Sur passed during a year with the lowest rate in history (16.59%).

  • Aeneas Eli Diaz (2003) of Sorsogon City, Sorsogon, is the founder of DC Law, a firm that specializes in litigation, intellectual property and corporate-commercial law practice.

  • Reinier Paul Yebra (2009) of Daet, Camarines Norte, is the first student from San Beda who topped the exams in over 40 years.
  • Mae Diane Azores (2019) of Legazpi, Albay is a jeepney driver’s daughter who sees her future in Labor Law, pushing for resolution of unfair labor practices.

Since 1930, a total of six (6) Bicolanos have bagged one of the most coveted titles in the Philippines: a bar exam first-place top-notcher.

In what could be one of the most historic releases of the annual bar exams for future lawyers (no results were posted at the Supreme Court premises physically due to COVID-19 regulations which usually draws crowds of hundreds, only online), a young Certified Public Accountant from Legazpi, Albay bagged the most coveted title among takers.

2019 Bar Exams topnotcher Diane Mae Azores is from Legazpi, Albay with UST-Legazpi as her Law School (photo from @bestofbicolofficial Instagram)

Since its inception through the administration of the Supreme Court of the Philippines and through the Supreme Court Bar Examination Committee, the Philippine Bar Examination has had Bicolanos gracing its top ranks of passers.

Here’s a brief on the six (6) notable Bicolanos who ranked first during their respective Bar Examinations.

Sen. Tecla San Andres-Ziga †
🥇First Placer, 1930 Bar Exams (89.4 score)
📍 Naga City, Camarines Sur
📕 University of the Philippines
Photo from

Tecla San Andres-Ziga was a congresswoman and a senator and is also the first woman who topped the exams for future lawyers.

In the Congress and Senate, she held various posts to support the welfare of women and children. She married to Venancio Ziga, former governor and congressman from the first district of Albay.

Atty. Gregorio R. Castillo †
🥇First Placer, 1957 Bar Exams (89.15 score)
📍 Buhi, Camarines Sur
📕 University of the Philippines
⚖️ 19.77% or 615 passers out of 3,110 takers
Photo from www.

Gregorio R. Castillo co-founded the firm Castillo Laman Tan Pantaleon & San Jose.

Graduating cum laude and valedictorian of his UP Class, he finished his Masters in Law at the prestigious Yale University.



Atty. Romulo D. San Juan
🥇First Placer, 1970 Bar Exams (87.5 score)
📍 San Jacinto, Masbate
📕 Far Eastern University
⚖️ 27.9% or 491 passers out of 1,835 takers
Photo from Facebook

Atty. Romulo D. San Juan is the chief executive officer of SubicWater.

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Atty. Edwin R. Enrile
🥇First Placer, 1999 Bar Exams (88.5 score)
📍 Naga City, Camarines Sur
📕 Ateneo de Manila University
⚖️ 16.59% or 660 passers out of 3,978 takers
Photo from

Atty. Edwin R. Enrile marked a historic moment in Philippine Bar Exams as the first equally-tying top-notchers with former Senatoriable Florin “Pilo” Hilbay (both at 88.5 scores; the first, in 1946, had two top-notchers with two different exams date).

He passed at the year when the Bar exams produced one of the lowest passing rates in history, at 16.59%.

He currently serves as the Undersecretary for Legal and Special Concerns and Chief of Staff of the Department of Tourism.

Atty. Aeneas Eli "Anel" Diaz
🥇First Placer, 2003 Bar Exams (88.53 score)
📍 Sorsogon City, Sorsogon
📕 Ateneo de Manila University
⚖️ 20.71% or 1,108 passers out of 5,349 takers
Photo from

Atty. Anel Diaz is the son of the former acting governor of Sorsogon, Elizalde Diaz during the Aquino administration, who passed away when Diaz was only 25.

His other role model, his aunt Lilia Diaz, was ambushed and killed during the year when he was taking the Bar, making things more difficult for him.

He was considered as Ateneo de Manila University’s dark horse, ranking 14th in class and eventually emerging as the top-notcher during the exams.


Atty. Reinier Paul Yebra
🥇First Placer, 2009 Bar Exams (84.8 score)
📍 Daet, Camarines Norte
📕 San Beda College
⚖️ 24.58% or 1,451 passers out of 5,093 takers
Photo from

Atty. Reinier Paul Yebra ended a forty-year drought for a top-notcher from San Beda College (the last one was Rodolfo Robles in 1967).

Together with classmate Charlene Tapic who placed second, it was a banner year for San Beda College, one of the leading law schools in the country.


Atty. Mae Diane Azores
🥇First Placer, 2019 Bar Exams (91.05 score)
📍 Legazpi City, Albay
📕 University of Sto. Tomas - Legazpi (former Aquinas University)
⚖️ 27.36% or 2,103 passers out of 7,699 takers
Photo from UST Media Alumni Public Affairs

Leading a historic batch of lawyers (with the results announced during the Covid-19 pandemic), Atty. Mae Diane Azores proves that focus and determination is key.

In an interview, she admitted quitting social media for a time and frequent prayers were part of her daily routine.

In one of her tweets last year, she shared a glimpse of her ‘vision board,’ a method used by many successful people believing in the Law of Attraction

Are we ready for our seventh? Yes! ■

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