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Little Man, Big Miracles

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BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines — Mark Steven Mayo seems to live a charmed life.

He graduated with a Political Science degree, cum laude, in the University of St. La Salle here, then became a law scholar in same university.  He passed the bar examinations with very minimal preparation, and now has a full life ahead with seemingly endless possibilities.

People close to Mark Steven (fondly called Mayo even by closest acquaintances) know he has all the trappings of a young, extremely talented man in a hurry: smart, confident on the verge of being cocky, extremely sharp.  

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And also, exceedingly blessed.

When the results for the recently concluded bar examinations came out, Mark could remember the most minute detail, including his mother’s breakdown, and the fried chicken he ate later that evening.

Mark Steven Mayo. | Photo by Banjo C. Hinolan
SMALL MAN, BIG DREAMS. Mark seems to live a charmed life, one of a series of fortunate events where everything seems to fall in place.| Photo by Banjo C. Hinolan

It was the same type of food he ate the night a miracle happened.

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The day was December 1. 

There was nothing unusual on that day except that Mark felt the first signs of a stiff neck, and incredibly sore one at that.

What started out as a stiff neck eventually developed into a debilitating illness, which came to a point when he could hardly move from the soreness. 

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The eventual CT scan confirmed what is probably most people’s greatest fear: cancer. 

“Four doctors were unanimous in their findings:  it was Stage 4 lung cancer,” he reveals.

He was overcome with a “strange” feeling, of worry, of thinking it was the end. 

The thoughts, he says, would usually come right before he went to sleep, that uneasy hours of wakefulness in bed when the brain prepares the body for rest.

But for some reason, he reveals to DNX, he felt in his gut that his cancer was just a test, a challenge.

“I am not a very religious person, but I have developed somehow a personal relationship with my Creator.  And when the shocking news came, my mindset was:  this is a test from God… so I stood my ground, and accepted it as a challenge,” he says.

Two weeks later, the biopsy came.

Mark remembers the pain the most especially when the needle started entering his body to get the much needed tissue sample. He remembers lying face down, for a full 45 minutes as the results for the biopsy came out.  He remembers the words of encouragement of his cheerleaders, Councilor Al Victor Espino, and his girlfriend, as he was close to giving up because of the pain.

Then the results came: NEGATIVE.

One of the first people he contacted upon learning the good news was Bacolod Cong. Greg Gasataya, for whom Mark works as congressional staff.

His family, meanwhile, celebrated the good news. 

A miracle, indeed.


Small. Wiry. Lean. 

Physically, Mark is not remotely intimidating.  But once he opens his mouth to speak, one feels compelled to listen.

And it’s not just his brains that make up for his stature.  His dreams are also larger-than-life, something that not even a health scare could derail (although Mark admitted it nearly did so).

After all, he leads a life that seems truly blessed, something that even the most cynical minds would be hard-put to deny.

For one, his entry to the law world was everything but providential.

“It was a day before enrolment and I was not prepared, financially,” he reveals.

And then, a Good Samaritan offered to shoulder the initial expenses of law school: the enrollment fee plus books.

That gave him leg up, and soon, he became an academic scholar.  His paychecks as part of the congressional staff of the Bacolod solon started coming in, so that means enough resources to shoulder expenses for his law books (which are notoriously expensive).

He got by through sheer hard work, and the help of people who saw his potential.


“It must be the laswa (vegetable soup).”

Mark jokes that the key to his success when taking the bar was the laswa – a vegetable soup made usually from okra, ampalaya, alugbati, and tugabang – that he and his housemates cooked regularly in a condo they shared in Manila while prepping for the bar exams.

Housemates, incidentally, included two other bar passers, including one of the bar top-notchers, Bebelan Madera, who placed 10th in the examinations.

He recalls how, in the frantic race towards D-Day, he had “no time to prepare”.

“I didn’t know where to stay, where I can review.  So I took online classes instead,” he says.

He eventually attended mock bars during the months leading to the examinations, going to Manila once in a while for overnight stays so he could attend mock examinations.

A month before D-Day, he decided to stay in Manila to get acclimatized to the culture, and to prepare himself psychologically.

“It was challenging because I had no plans,” he says, adding, “Maybe the best plan is having none at all.”

Now, Mark is ready to take on the world.

And his (second) life is just starting to take shape. 

Indeed, Mark Steven Mayo is living a charmed life.  And he is taking on the world one dream at a time.

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Hannah A. Papasin
Hannah A. Papasinhttp://facebook.com/hannah.mariveles
Writer. Critic. Professor. She started writing since primary school and now has two published textbooks on communication. A film buff, she's a Communication, Media Literacy and Journalism Professor of the University of St. La Salle-Bacolod, and has a Master's Degree in English.
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