Je suis avocat

May 4, 2016. Gusto ko iparating ang taos-puso kong pasasalamat sa lahat ng bumati. Hindi ko man kayo mapasalamatan isa-isa, nabasa ko lahat ng mga messages ninyo at masaya ako na bahagi kayo ng kaganapang ‘to.

Congratulations to all the parents who made this happen for all us new lawyers. This achievement is yours. Congratulations and thank you!

‘Di ko alam kung sa Pilipinas lang ganito natin idina-dakila ang pagiging abogado. I have a theory that more than the fact na napakahirap maging abogado sa Pilipinas, malaki ang pagtingin natin sa mga abogado at ganoon na lang kung ipagdiwang ang pagkakapasa sa bar exam dahil sa pangangailangan ng indibidwal, pamilya, at mga grupo na pangalagaan at ipaglaban ang kani-kanilang interes. Perhaps a manifestation of the many contradictions in society, or of its weak institutions that families celebrate having the advantage of having a lawyer to protect their interests. But that is for social scientists to discuss adequately.


One of the things we were taught in law school that I absolutely hated is the legal maxim “Dura lex sed lex” — “the law may be harsh but it is the law”. This is the favorite legal doctrine of parties who have the law in their advantage. But in a society such as ours, advantage is not determined solely on who is right against who is wrong. It is largely determined by economic and political capital. Laws are not inanimate sets of letters that form themselves out of a sense of justice, they are shaped by social, economic and political forces that exist and prevail at any given time in society.

In my opinion, laws are not supposed to be harsh. Laws are supposed to facilitate justice, not impose harshness. It is no wonder that this doctrine has consistently been used throughout history to justify martial law, slavery, death penalty, oppression. It compels resignation to a prevailing order, para bang, eh yan ang batas wala tayong magagawa. Of course meron tayong magagawa.

In French the word for lawyer and advocate is the same, it is “avocat”. It is likewise the same for the Spanish and the Italians.

A linguistic reminder that as lawyers we are called not just to become passive instruments of the legal system, but active advocates of justice. Justice in its basic sense, which I believe is, or is supposed to be, innate in our collective sense of humanity and goodwill.

With the national and local elections just a few days away, I think this is also an opportune time to remind ourselves that the leaders who we will elect will have the power to shape the laws and policies which will compel our obedience, or perhaps resistance, in the coming years. I say resistance, because we as advocates, we should not be afraid to challenge laws that do not serve justice, especially for those who do not have the advantage of the law and the legal system on their side. I am not advocating for the violation of the law, but is possible and it is our moral obligation challenge political and economic forces that shape and execute unjust laws. Dura lex sed lex is an awful awful legal theory.

That being said, congratulations to the new lawyers and your families. see you not just in court, but in many other places where justice needs to be served!

Je suis très inquiet

May 2, 2016. “Bonsoir. Je suis très inquiet ce soir. Je nageais juste vingt tours dans la piscine pour effacer mon esprit. Parce que, demain, les résultats des examens du barreau seront annoncés.

Je prie pour que demain, dans ma prochaine vidéo, je peux me présenter comme un avocat. Jusqu’à ce que ma prochaine vidéo, au revoir!”

Caramoan with Family (Day 3)

April 17, 2016. Today is my mother’s actual birthday, the very reason our family went on a trip to Caramoan. As a devout Catholic, her first request was for us to visit the town proper of Caramoan to have mass in the church. The trip from the resort to the town proper was through a boat ride that took almost an hour. We didn’t get to town early enough, however, so we contented ourselves meditating in prayer inside the church.

Before leaving town, my parents made their usual rounds of souvenir shops for trinkets and other pasalubong to take back home.

The boat ride back to the resort was a rough ride against strong currents. After the turbulent trip, my mother claimed to have finished praying all mysteries of the rosary!

After lunch, my sister and I went to the resort’s beautiful infinity pool overlooking the cove and several islands, including Catanduanes province in the horizon.

Later this afternoon, we all went to a brief trip to the national park’s lighthouse, obviously atop of the park’s highest peaks, to marvel at the sunset and absorb further, in peace and tranquility, the sight of this majestic piece of paradise.

Caramoan with Family (Day 2)

April 16, 2016. Our second day in Caramoan was spent island-hopping.

Caramoan is a large rural municipality in Camarines Sur where Caramoan National Park is located. It boasts not one long stretch of beach but hectares of jungle with a coastline that boasts many coves and beaches, and dozens of islands scattered over the surrounding seas.

The beaches are as diverse as their number. There are beaches that have white, powdery sand, beaches that have huge rocks, beaches that have coarse pebbles, beaches that are secluded by towering limestone rock formations and thick foliage, there are beaches that are visited by many, there are those that lend visitors tranquility in isolation. Take your pick. It will definitely take more than a day to hop through all these islands and coves. My family was only able to visit a handful of islands and coves during this particular day trip.

Traversing the seas to go from one island or cove to another is like a boatride through Jurassic Park with all the foliage and mountains. It was a scenic trip that I had expected from a trip to Palawan, but not from a trip in Luzon. It was pleasant surprise. It was not, then, a very difficult decision for producers of the reality-show Survivor, in its many syndicated versions across the world, to pick Caramoan as one of their choice exotic settings. (No Survivor cast sightings here though!)

Caramoan with Family (Day 1)

April 15, 2016. It has become a tradition for our family during the summer to take a trip to celebrate my mother and my brother’s birthdays. This year, we went to Caramoan, in Camarines Sur.

Our first day was spent settling in our resort accommodation and going on one of their beach-hopping tours in Caramoan National Park.

We took the first plane in the morning to Virac, Catanduanes, and a shuttle to Codon, also in Catanduanes. From there, we took a speedboat to Tugawe Cove Resort in Caramoan, Camarines Sur. Located near the tip of Caramoan peninsula, Tugawe Resort is situated adjacent a small village separated from the rest of the municipality and town proper of Caramoan by the jungles of Caramoan National Park. Its isolation lends the place a very peaceful and exclusive feel, but likewise makes getting anywhere else journeys by themselves. Mobile network signal is likewise hard to get by, but who would really need that if you’re after a quiet and tranquil retreat? The staff are very hospitable and friendly. From experience, they go out of their way to grant specific requests to make their guests’ stay comfortable and memorable.

Should all SUC students study for free?

February 1, 2016. Should all [state universities and colleges] students study for free? This question was asked of several candidates for the Senate elections in a forum held last January 29 at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman. Not all Senate hopefuls agree.

Many candidates rely on the often invoked mantra that justify tuition increases in state universities: “Rich students should pay,” or, “Those who can pay must pay.” These are all but familiar lines that are invoked by those who support and continue to support the current “socialized tuition scheme” in UP.

So should all students study for free? Absolutely, yes!

“Those who can pay must pay” is a farce. We fund university education of young Filipinos based on their potential to contribute to the advancement and progress of society. And that is not measured by ability to pay tuition, but by merit (measured by entrance exams, among other tests). So what if a student comes from a well-off family? If he has the aptitude to help in the progress of this country, subsidize him!

That we compel families to pay tuition in state schools, even if it is just a fraction of the cost of education, seriously puts students’ moral obligation to “give back” at great doubt. What are they to give back? At present rates of tuition in UP, students and their families practically pay for the education themselves. This becomes especially problematic when the university imposes return service agreements or contracts that mandate graduates of health sciences degrees to serve in the Philippines for a certain number of years on pain of penalty–which is a reasonable obligation if students were full scholars.

Now, if the problem is we want more youth from poor families to enter UP and other state colleges, the remedy is not “socialized tuition” which really is post-facto and seriously does not address the issue especially because of extraneous costs of education that are not covered by typical matriculation. In the almost three decades of “socialized tuition” in UP, has it increased admission from poor families? No, absolutely the reverse! It is an income generating mechanism and a scapegoat for state abandonment. Public basic education should be fully subsidized and improved so that all children are able to develop the aptitude for higher education regardless of economic background.

Read more: UP education: Burden of students or the state?

Baguio with Family

January 15-16, 2016. The family spent a night and two days in Baguio to celebrate my parents’ wedding anniversary. A sentimental trip it was because Baguio is where they celebrated their honeymoon back in the late 1980’s. It is likewise the venue of many family vacations as a young child together with my brother.

The family went for a stroll in Burnham Park and went for a boat-ride in the park’s manmade lake. My siblings went for a bike ride around the park too. Later that day we went to La Trinidad for its strawberry fields.

Don’t worry about offending me

January 8, 2016. Do not worry about offending me. From my family, to my school, to the organizations I belong to, to work that I have had to do, I’ve long been in environments where I naturally tend to hold a contrary opinion, or hold on to beliefs my family, friends and colleagues are against. Thus, don’t worry when you argue with me, I’m used to it.

Always, I hold on to my principle of assuming good faith in every man, relying on the basic humanity that binds us all, and the many experiences we all share, despite differences and conflicts. People will always be, to me, more than the sum of their opinions. They are my fellow human beings. As long as we do not breach out basic sense of humanity and good faith in arguing, I am okay.

Take note however, that respecting another person’s opinion doesn’t mean I would just stay silent too. It irks me a lot when people just invoke “respeto lang!” in order to prematurely end debates and conversations. It stifles our pursuit of the truth. If I think some people are wrong, I first try to understand the context of how such wrong opinions have been formed in their minds, but I would also make an effort to challenge these opinions, not because I don’t respect the people who hold them, but because I just really think they’re wrong.

Thus, I find it unnecessary to say, “no offense” the way many people do, because I think that should be a given. I find it odd, especially in our culture, where challenging beliefs and opinions is seen to be offensive. People should not take offense when their beliefs or opinions are challenged.

Admittedly, there are also times when I do stay silent. Sometimes, it’s because I just don’t care, a person’s opinion doesn’t matter to me, or the person doesn’t matter at all in the first place. Most of the time, I concede when I realize I’m wrong. I’m not a very proud person, in the sense that I genuinely don’t mind admitting when I’m wrong. But more often, I think challenging opinions and long-held beliefs, or trying to approximate the truth in any situation is a process that doesn’t begin nor end in one engagement. Parties have to go through different phases and stages necessary before arriving at their respective enlightenment. So I do let things be, at times.

I find myself writing this because over the course of the past weeks, I’ve seen how heated arguments over political candidates and the upcoming national elections have become in social media. Also, I’ve realized how colleagues are failing at their effort to convince others to side with them. Soon enough I may find myself joining these conversations. And this serves as a reminder to myself, and to others on how to engage in conversations with me over opinions and controversies.

Assertive but not aggressive. Diplomatic but not timid.

Kowloon and Hong Kong Island

December 3-6, 2015After spending an overwhelming part of the year preparing for the bar exams and actually taking them through November, a trip to Hong Kong (probably the nearest foreign destination for residents of Manila) seemed to be a great idea, at least for someone like me who enjoys traveling.

It had been four years since my last trip to Hong Kong with my family and much of it was spent in HK Disneyland. For the first two days of this particular sojourn, I had the privilege of going about my way alone, unhampered by any packaged itinerary or the whims of travel companions.

HK 13

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Lamma Island, Hong Kong

December 4, 2015. Lamma Island is a short ferry ride from Hong Kong Island. One of Hong Kong’s less inhabited and less visited islands, it usually attracts local Hong Kong residents and tourists who wish to escape the intensely cosmopolitan vibe of the city.

There are two charming villages on the island bound together by a trail that crosses through a small range of hills running north to south of the island. Aside from an imposing and ubiquitous power plant that seemed out of place, the island was indeed a serene escape from the bustling commercial activities of Kowloon and Hong Kong Island.

I arrived just in time for lunch at the village of Yung Shue Wan at the northern part of the island. After a hearty meal of succulent shrimps cooked in scrambled eggs, I wandered about the quaint community, walked to a beach called Hung Shing Yeh, and then trekked through the “family trail” that traversed the rolling hills of the island southwards to the fishing village of Sok Kwu Wan.