June 11, 2019. This was my penultimate day in Bali. My friends and I booked our flights separately, and we were to return to Manila on different days. I was going ahead because I wanted a full recovery day before going back to work the next day.
So on our last day together in the island, my friends and I spent a good part of the afternoon exploring the Garuda Wisnu Kencana (GWK) Park in south-central Bali. GWK is a cultural theme park centered around the gigantic 21-story tall monument depicting Hindu deity Vishnu riding the legendary bird Garuda. The entire complex felt like a modern theme park complete with standard theme park amenities and shops, minus the rides. It’s a relatively new development on the island, and I think they plan on setting up more amenities in the next few years.
There is an hourly cultural show at the amphitheater where Balinese dancers perform different sets of dances, depending on the schedule you get to watch. That afternoon, we were able to catch the Barong Keris dance, which depicts the mythological tale of a half-lion spirit beast and a Bali noble family. To be honest, I had to rely on the pamphlet to understand what was going on.
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 and wrap up my posts. 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.