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. Othwerise, what are lawyers for, really?


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!

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.

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.

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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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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