At the beginning of the year, one of my close friends in law school asked if I had been to Bali, Indonesia and if I, along with our other friends, wanted to tag along his trip. I had just spent two weeks in Sri Lanka and the UAE at that time, so I was not precisely raring for another journey. Bali is neither, likewise, on my list of preferred destinations, as I felt back then that it was too mainstream a vacation. I am a snooty traveler like that. I would have instead saved up for more challenging or unpopular destinations. The only factor that enticed me was that it would be a trip with my friends.
To give some context to my eagerness towards the invite and the novelty of the idea–I have never traveled overseas with friends. I’ve gone backpacking for months, in total, traveling through India, Sri Lanka and most of Southeast Asia on separate occasions–but these were all by myself. In other instances, I would be traveling with my family on less ‘adventurous’ and more convenient destinations, but never with friends. Thus, despite my initial hesitation, I said, let’s go! I booked my ticket half a year in advance of our planned escape. Soon enough, I warmed up to the idea and looked forward to it as the date approached. I even volunteered to handle the itinerary planning, hotel bookings, and all the ground arrangements with a local driver.
It turned out to be a memorable trip. I have enjoyed traveling solo all these years, but traveling with friends who you get along with is immensely gratifying. Bali, likewise, exceeded my expectations of a mainstream travel destination.
I shall be posting my chronicles of the trip on separate blog entries pertaining to particular days and destinations during our vacation over the next few days.
A slight problem in setting a weekly schedule of publishing blog entries is that life’s stories and continuing narratives don’t begin and end on Sundays when I usually conclude wrap up my stories. Many events are bound to happen and overlap multiple weeks. Thus, there is the slight discomfort in writing about something that hasn’t ripened into a complete narrative, just because it is a Sunday.
This week, for example, started off like how most of my usual work weeks do, but near the end of it, I embarked on a trip to Bali, Indonesia with my law school buddies, and as of writing–we are still here and the trip is still on-going. There is, then, a reluctance to include this part of the week in this narrative.
Without the trip to Bali, this week was just a largely uneventful week at work in the law office. The only remarkable thing of note was that during last Wednesday’s Eid al-Fitr non-working holiday, I caught up with two groups of friends I have kept (and who have kept me!) over the years (and decades), despite and notwithstanding my propensity to drift apart whenever I venture into new pursuits in life.
One of the advantages of setting a target of just one blog entry a week is that I am able to allow myself the time to process my thoughts for at least a handful of days before publishing them. A week’s contemplation over certain feelings over daily events makes for better-worded recollections. This is not to say that there is no value in honest spontaneity, but those are better suited for Twitter or Facebook (if those thoughts get published at all). I wouldn’t say that more ruminated expressions are less genuine, but rather they are more circumspect and, well, a little more–polished. Most of all, I also get to avoid any prospective regrets should I want to take back whatever I might have initially wanted to say. Thoughts and feelings undergo processes, and they change over time–in this case, days, at least. I don’t usually harbor my initial reaction to most of life’s circumstances.
This week I informed the partners at the law firm of my acceptance offer from the Université Paris II, and that in pursuit of said offer, I would be leaving the office in the next month or two. The next day I was offered a generous alternative in consideration of any possibility that I might delay my prospective studies to next year. The firm’s upcoming projects and incoming cases were discussed including the role I might play in facilitating various transactions should I stay a little longer. It was flattering and it made me grateful, more than I have always been since I started with the firm. It made me reflect on the value of the work that I do as a lawyer, specifically in the cases and the projects that we handle. It also made me recall how fortunate I have been to be accommodated by my bosses at a stage in my legal career where I had little to no experience in civil, commercial, labor and tax cases–having come from purely administrative work in a government agency. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. The professional and legal experiences I have earned and learned the past year gave me enough confidence in what I do.
I am honestly undecided as of today, but I am taking all circumstances into serious consideration.
Anyway, this week saw me going to court twice, in Manila and in Quezon City. I rarely do court work, so I take note whenever I do.
One legal challenge that excites me at this point is having a judgment of acquittal of an opponent overturned. You see, a primordial rule in criminal and constitutional law is that a judgment of acquittal is immediately final and executory and that it cannot be appealed, in compliance with the prohibition on double jeopardy. In other words, once a person is acquitted of an offense, that judgment of innocence (or presumption thereof) cannot be disturbed anymore. That’s it, that’s the challenge. What is the remedy if one maintains the belief that the person is truly guilty of the offense?
As I contemplate the seriousness of my LL.M. (Master of Laws) application, I am beginning to have early anxiety attacks. It is possible, after all, to be anxious and excited at the same time.
There have been lingering thoughts that bogged me down the entire week, mostly involving myself having to reassess my motivations and weighing them against the fear of uprooting myself from the Philippines and the uncertainty that comes with it. Does this endeavor really fit my desire to be of service, to find my place in the world, to be happy and find fulfillment? This really just started as a post-bar exam fantasy that I set into motion a few years ago, with no serious expectation that I’d actually get to do it. And yet, here I am today. I have yet to completely wrap my head around the idea of leaving.
Part of my anxiety is due to the fact that, a few days ago, I received a rejection letter from one of the French law schools I had really looked forward to attending. It is that law school that I often had in mind when I daydream being in France. Thus, the rejection disrupted my fantasy. It took me a day or two to get over it. I realized quickly enough that I have been through too many failures that have landed me exactly where I am right now, so I shouldn’t be too impaired by rejections. Experience has taught me that rejections and failures have always brought me to life situations that I wouldn’t anymore imagine not having gone through at this point. So, yes, this bound to lead me somewhere great.
This week’s personal highlight is my receipt last Friday morning of my third admission letter from a university in France–this time from the Université Paris II – Panthéon-Assas. Assas is touted as the top law school in the country and I couldn’t be more excited to have been considered worthy of unconditional admission.
But first, a quick rundown of this week. Monday was midterm election day in the Philippines. I voted in my maternal hometown of Sta. Maria, Bulacan. I voted for opposition and independent candidates for the Senate, for Kabataan Party-List for the House of Representatives, abstained from voting for a district representative, and undervoted for candidates in the local government, largely because I didn’t know most of them. Tuesday, a lot of people (at least in my social circle and my family) went back to school and work disheartened and concerned with the results of the elections, early counts then showing (and as they still do) that the opposition was routed and President Duterte is set to gain supermajorities in the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Today, Filipinos went to the polls for the midterm elections to elect the country’s new set of lawmakers and local government officials.
In particular, this election will see half of the 24-seat Senate filled up with 12 new Senators, and at least 300 new district and party-list representatives who will serve in the House of Representatives. It is widely perceived that majority of President Rodrigo Duterte’s allies will sweep their respective elections. (To be clear, many of these politicians are already entrenched names in the ruling class, who have simply coalesced en masse under the banner of the President because of his enduring popularity. )
I have not felt as strongly in a general election as I have for this year. It even trumps the 2013 midterm elections where I was party-list nominee for the House of Representatives. That year felt like a contestable election, you know, where contending parties had fighting chances to challenge incumbents, and offer alternatives. This year? There is an overwhelming sense of despair because all odds appear to be stacked against any and all opposition to the current administration.
I’ve always intended to restart my blog, but couldn’t identify exactly what has been holding me back. I realized recently that it was the very concept of rebuilding that has impeded the effort before it even got going. I’ve always thought that in order to restart this blog, I had to rebuild from where I left off, reconstruct my archive of blog entries and then reconnect so many dots from the last time I published entries regularly almost a decade ago. Such task always felt so overwhelming I never got myself to actually start.
It’s like having to produce and exhibit Avengers: Endgame (2019) when everyone has forgotten about all the other prequel Marvel films. I don’t really have the time to explain everything from Iron Man (2008) or Captain America: The First Avenger (2011).
I started my “online journal” on October 2000, when I was a twelve year-old high school freshman. That online journal, which I maintained until around 2010, bore witness to my formative years in high school and college, and everything in between. Since I stopped blogging, innumerable changes have happened. I’ve gone through law school, became a lawyer, travelled the world, been through several life-changing moments. I grew up. I don’t know where to begin without having to contextualize blog entries from where I left off. It felt like starting my blog necessarily meant having to reconnect all the dots from 2010 up to the present day. And boy, those are a lot of dots!
Thus, the resolution is just to start without having to think of reconnecting dots past. Let’s start from scratch. A clean slate. Imagine we are meeting for the first time, and you know nothing about me. I’ll simply tell you things about myself as we go along.
So, hello there, I am Victor Villanueva. I am a lawyer from Manila, Philippines. Nice to meet you.
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. Othwerise, what are lawyers for, really?