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.
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.
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.
To close its celebration of its Quadricentennial, the University of Santo Tomas is holding a two-day festival (January 25 – 26) that hopes to recreate UST in the “perspective of the cultural milieu of old Manila at the turn of the 19th century” through “period costumes, songs, dances, poems and festivity.”
This, I think, is a great opportunity for us to appreciate the role of UST students in Philippine history. It was, after all, the period of Jose Rizal, Emilio Jacinto, Apolinario Mabini and Padre Jose Burgos. However, I am disturbed by the tendency of the administration and many students to regard this celebration as a mere pageantry of costumes and deodorized commemoration of whatever concept of grandeur they have of “old Manila,” devoid of any socio-political context of its times.
Tisay celebrated her fourth birthday last Monday. We had planned to spend Sunday in a theme park, but since the metro was still reeling from the aftermath of tropical storm Ondoy, we decided to have a simple feast of Chinese food at home.
We had a small sansrival cake for Tisay but we even forgot to buy proper birthday cake candles, so we made do with a medium-sized wax candle. Tisay’s understanding of “birthday” unfortunately, is of a party, so all along up until today she doesn’t believe it was her birthday. She insists that she still has to celebrate her “birthday” distinct from the simple celebration we had last weekend. If the weather permits, we will push through with our trip to the theme park this weekend. I think she even expects to give a blow-out bash to her kindergarten classmates.