Tax Senior Associate places 4th in bar exams

Tax Senior Associate Dawna Bandiola

There’s nothing as exciting as an epic comeback. The journey to the top of Dawna Fya O. Bandiola, a senior associate from SGV’s Indirect Tax Team, has been generating considerable media attention recently because of its message of hope and overcoming obstacles during this unprecedented crisis.

Dawna grew up in Cavite where she finished her primary and secondary education. In 2014 she graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Information Technology (IT) from Lyceum of the Philippines University, Cavite and immediately proceeded to take up law at the San Beda College in Alabang. Dawna’s academic performance may be described as exceptional. At an early age, she exhibited a high sense of focus and commitment in her studies. She is an achiever who consistently reaches her goals when she sets her mind to it. She finished in the top 10 of her law school class and immediately took the bar exams in 2018.

Dawna (fifth from left) with Tax Principal Stephanie V. Nava (SVN) and other members of SVN cluster

Dawna joined SGV as a senior associate in the Indirect Tax Division while waiting for the results of the bar exams. Despite considering taxation as the hardest law subject, she decided to join SGV to challenge herself and conquer her weakness. Dawna excelled as a senior associate. She is highly motivated and was eager to learn new skills. A highly collaborative individual, she contributed significantly to the completion of several engagements. “I found work in SGV very satisfying and worthwhile. While some tasks are extremely difficult, the work is intensely interesting. I also love the people I work with.”

However, after a couple of months, Dawna was constrained to leave the firm to again review for the bar exams. During this period, just like any aspiring lawyer, Dawna felt devastated for not finding her name on the coveted list of 2018 bar exam passers. “I cried a million tears. It felt like the end of the world. The pain crippled me. I couldn’t believe it. I studied so hard and sacrificed so much. I started to question my self-worth and had feelings of inadequacy.”

Dawna realized she was facing her toughest challenge. “I prayed and lifted my pain to the Lord. Then I picked myself up and started reviewing for the next bar exams. I knew then that I can no longer change the past, but I can still shape my future. I refused to let the setbacks overcome my dream to become a lawyer.”

Dawna with her family

For several months Dawna studied diligently for the bar exams. She stayed focused and kept her thoughts in proper perspective. She eventually rejoined SGV to pursue her career in tax. “Back then, I was worried that no reputable firm would hire me. But SGV trusted and hired me again. I am thankful for the opportunity.”

On 29 April 2020 Dawna’s dreams finally came true. She not only passed but placed fourth in the 2019 bar exams, an achievement she now shares with former President of the Philippines Manuel L. Quezon (1903 bar exams) and former Supreme Court Justice Adolfo Ascuna (1962 bar exams). According to Dawna, “Everything is beautiful in God’s time. We must learn to pray and be patient for God’s time is the best time.” About the challenges she faced, Dawna shares that “The hardest times often lead to the greatest moments so embrace challenges for they are inevitable. Trust in God’s plan.”

Dawna’s journey to success amid the COVID-19 crisis has been inspiring many people. She is a symbol of resilience despite adversity and tough times. Dawna’s journey has shown that the greatest glory in life is not in never falling but in rising with each fall.

Dawna plans to continue her career as a tax lawyer in SGV. Congratulations and keep shining, Atty. Dawna! Your SGV family is very proud of your amazing achievement.