Initial reflections upon finishing the 2015 Bar Exams

November 30, 2015. I have just hurdled the infamous “bar exams,” the licensure examinations for aspiring lawyers in the Philippines.

Besides actually passing the exams, successfully concluding the eight (8) examinations scheduled over the four (4) Sundays of November is a significant milestone for all law school graduates, having gone through four or five years of law school, in itself a struggle and a feat. It is the culminating point of the journey taken by many young and aspiring lawyers. As with any culminating point or climax, it is treated with much significance by those who share the same epic narrative and by those who share our aspirations.

This conclusion is of great relief for me, in particular, I would dare say, because it did not take me four or five years—it took me seven years of arduous study which I began back in 2008, as an idealistic 20 year-old fresh graduate from film school. Wide-eyed but terribly unacquainted with the intensive study necessary, I got myself dismissed from the University of the Philippines (UP Law) after a year and a half for failing two basic subjects. I took a break for a little more than half a year, and began another parallel journey in the University of Santo Tomas (UST Law), where it took me many more failures and five more years before I finally made it to graduation day.

I would normally attribute my lackluster academic performance to my many involvements beyond the classroom from the student council to national politics, and the many distractions in between, but that would sound like I am making excuses—I am making none. All my involvements were conscious decisions, and some were mistakes, and I live by my failures not with pride but with a badge of honor. After all is said and done, I graduated law school and I finished the bar exams! I’m over and done with it.

All that is left now, is the anxious and hopeful yet guarded optimism in awaiting the results. I would never wish to have to go through it again and prepare to re-take the exams in the unfortunate circumstance that I don’t pass. Just the thought gives me daytime and conscious nightmares, if there were even such things. Perhaps it is borne, too, of the exaggerated significance Philippine society and Filipino families have placed on this certain profession (a congition I do not agree with, by the way, but that is for another blog entry for me to discuss).

It is time, now, for much needed rest.

Tokyo with Family (Day 5) – Hakone

April 6, 2015. Our last full day in Tokyo was spent outside the city in the resort area of Hakone (箱根) almost a hundred kilometers southwest of Tokyo.

On a good day Hakone offers spectacular views of Mount Fuji. On this particular day however overcast skies and slight drizzles hid much of mountain and the hues that would’ve otherwise made such a picturesque setting for a day trip.

After a brief stop in one of the stations on the slopes of Mount Fuji, we proceeded to a quaint hotel where we had lunch. Next, we rode a ropeway to the sulfur springs of Owakudani (大涌谷), where Hakone’s sulfur cooked black eggs are made. Our last stop was on a ferry through Lake Ashi (芦ノ湖).

Tokyo with Family (Day 4)

April 5, 2015. A visit to a Disney theme park in one city didn’t seem to be enough for my folks, we just had to go to another Disney theme park in Tokyo, Disney Sea. It would have been the more interesting theme park visit because it deviates from the classic Disneyland blueprint. However, the rains and the cold really dampened the mood, after seeing most of the park’s sections, all we wanted to do was go home and stay dry.

Tokyo Disney Sea, unique to Tokyo, is made up of seven themed “ports of call”–Mediterranean Harbor, Mysterious Island, Mermaid Lagoon, Arabian Coast, Lost River Delta, Port Discovery and American Waterfront.

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Tokyo with Family (Day 3)

April 4, 2015. Our third day in Japan was spent with a tour group with a half-day itinerary to two of the city’s iconic landmarks — Tokyo Tower (東京タワー) and Meiji Shrine (明治神宮). In between, our shuttle made brief drive throughs of other landmarks in the city.

In Meiji Shrine we were fortunate to have witnessed a wedding ceremony and a miyamairi (宮参り, literally “shrine visit”) a traditional Shinto rite of passage for Japanese babies.

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Tokyo with Family (Day 2) – Tokyo Disneyland

April 3, 2015. Tokyo Disneyland is Disneyland anywhere else in the world. All generally follow the same blueprint and themed sections, with some particular variations in attractions. If you have been to other Disneylands, this will be a familiar trip.

It was a weekday and despite the overcast and occasional drizzle, hundreds of school kids in their uniforms were in the park, which seemed as busy as it would have been on a weekend. Lines were long, so if you’re not prepared to stand in line and wait for at least half an hour for each ride, forget it! Ha ha. If you’ve been in a similar ride or attraction in another Disneyland, it’s probably quite the same.

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Tokyo with Family (Day 1)

April 2, 2015. My family visited Tokyo, Japan right at the peak of the year’s bloom of cherry blossoms (sakura 桜). Part of the awe of the spectacle is the transient nature of the full bloom of flowers, which only happens roughly within the span of a week or so at a particular place, which makes one cherish the experience even more. This likewise explains why upon arrival, hanami (花見) or viewing the cherry blossoms was the first thing our family did.

In fact, the short-lived character of the beautiful bloom symbolizes many aspects of the sakuras’ cultural significance to the Japanese, centered on the beauty of life and its many aspects and their fleeting existence to be relished at their peak.

By the end of our short 5-day trip, the bloom had waned and the flowers have started falling down.

We were fortunate enough to be billeted in a hotel within walking distance from one of the best places in Tokyo to view the cherry blossoms, Chidorigafuchi (千鳥ヶ淵), or the moat the surrounds the northeastern part of the Imperial Palace.

As with any scenery that have been become familiar not by actual sight but by dominant cultural portrayal and association in visual media, seeing the cherry blossoms of Tokyo for the first time in person was a surreal experience. The trees in full bloom was indeed a sight to behold, especially as set against the cosmopolitan vibe of Tokyo.

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Learn how to cry!

January 20, 2015. After watching ‪Pope Francis‬’ speech in his encounter with the youth, I am even more amazed and inspired with his words and ideas. I hope the message is not trivialized or watered down because the message is actually a very strong criticism and challenge for many of us young students.

He did not speak simply of the love we are so used to. He was speaking of the love of Christ, through others, especially the poor. That is why he extolled that we have to “learn how to love and be loved”! Because we don’t! He even said it is the “most important subject we have to learn in a university” which is a strong criticism of how our universities are run. We are not being taught how to love others with true compassion. The focus has always been on becoming employable professionals for a ‘globalised’ future. We have lost our sense of community and compassion with society!

When he told us that we have to learn to cry, certainly hindi niya tayo sinasabihang maging iyakin. It is not an affirmation of young people’s propensity to cry when they are heartbroken. NO! It was his way of emphasizing his message of compassion, of feeling and suffering with the poor and the abused. We do not weep with the oppressed and the abused because we do not feel their suffering. That is what the Pope meant when we have to learn how to weep!

He actually criticized how many of us practice our brand of “compassion” through charity. The Pope said “It’s a compassion that makes us put our hands in our pockets and give something to the poor. But if Christ had had that kind of compassion he would have greeted a couple of people, given them something, and walked on. But it was only when he was able to cry that he understood something of our lives.” Hindi sapat na ‘tumutulong’ o nagbibigay lang tayo sa mga inaapi. We have to learn how to “cry” with them.

He actually criticized many young people with his words. He responded to “Ricky” after he narrated how he helped the poor with his project. Thank you Ricky, the Pope said, but he asked him “You give and give help but do you know how to receive?” The camera didn’t show it but Ricky probably answered yes to the Pope but the Pope gestured to Ricky not so say it but “answer in your heart.” Because the Pope knew that many young people today don’t know how to receive because we think we “need nothing” and that we are “self-sufficient”. He kept repeating these words throughout his speech.

Young students today are so used to occasional charity works and relief operations, which makes us feel good for helping others. But the Pope asked us, “Do you ask the poor to give you the wisdom they have?” The Pope emphasized this when he repeatedly told us the we “lack one thing” and that we have to “learn how to beg” and “become a beggar”. We keep giving and yet we do not “let ourselves be evangelized by those [we] serve”. It is so often that I see and hear to many young students with matapobre comments against the poor, na que sa tamad, na que sa puro bisyo, na que sa anak nang anak. But the Pope now challenged us, “Do you let yourselves be evangelized by those you serve? This is what helps you mature in your commitment to give to others. Learn how to open your hand from your very own poverty.”

Let us go to the ‘peripheries’! Let’s learn from the plight of the marginalized and the oppressed. “Let us open our eyes, hearts, and minds to the corruption, social inequality, and the evil reigning in our society — and let us collectively and actively struggle against the system that perpetuates this.”

Blessed

January 18, 2015. I have a nagging discomfort with the word “blessed” and how its use has proliferated the past days. Others are unblessed?

And I pose this as a genuine question. I mean, the way we use “blessed” (ex. ‘I’ve been blessed with a good family, good education, with happiness, I’ve been blessed by the Pope, etc.’) like it was some special advantage from God. Eh ‘we are God’s children’ right? Maybe we shouldn’t call blessings things which everyone deserves. We make it sound like God plays favorites among us.

Backpacking Taipei (Day 3)

December 10, 2014. Jiufen (九份), an hour by train and bus from Taipei, is a small mountain town with a network of streets and alleys with steps that run up and down the slopes, adorned with red lanterns and lined with small shops and tea houses.

To get there, I took a train from Taipei to the town of Ruifang (瑞芳), and a short bus ride up the mountains to Jiufen.

The picturesque town, with a good view of the Pacific Ocean at some points, served as the inspirational setting for two iconic films — Hayao Miyazaki’s animated film “Spirited Away” and the Taiwanese historical drama “A City of Sadness”. I’ve seen both films so this particular day trip was awesome.

I returned to Taipei just before sunset. My last few hours in Taiwan was perfectly punctuated by a climb to Elephant Mountain (象山) which served perfect views of the city with the imposing Taipei 101, and dinner at a Korean barbecue restaurant in Ximending.

This wonderful short trip to Taiwan deserves a repeat, and I vowed to return.

Backpacking Taipei (Day 2)

December 9, 2014. First stop for the day was the Longshan Temple (艋舺龍山寺) of Taipei, one of the city’s oldest Buddhist temples. I made a visit in the morning and was able to witness residents pray. I am not familiar with the rituals but seeing locals conduct themselves in the temple was an interesting sight.

I then proceeded to the Huashan / Songshan Cultural and Creative Park 松山文創園區). It is an old tobacco factory that has been transformed into a culture and arts center where exhibits, performances and other cultural activities are held. However, at the time I visited, which was late in the morning, there didn’t seem to be any activity of sorts. Nevertheless, there were interesting shops and restaurants to visit.

For lunch, I went to Yong Kang Street (永康街) near Dongmen Station. This street is lined with different types of restaurants including one of Din Tai Fung’s original branches. I ended up having lunch at a restaurant (I forget now, I don’t take notes when I walk around) which served noodles and other Taiwanese staple. I had minced pork rice and shrimp rolls.

After strolling the entire length of the street, I decided to go to Da’an Park, just a train station away. It had already started raining when I got there so it wasn’t very ideal to go for a walk. I attempted hiring a bicycle but apparently, it required a registered card to hire. I wandered instead at the impressive train station of Da’an for a bit before taking the train to Tamsui.

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