July 20-26, 2020. The first half of last week was spent contemplating on and preparing last minute necessities for my impending departure from Manila. I made last minute trips to the mall, saw some friends, and finally got myself to pack the relatively few things I would be taking with me–considering that I would be staying abroad for a year. They all fit in just one suitcase and a duffel bag, actually. I flew out of Manila on July 22 and arrived in Paris the day after, spending a brief layover in Doha, Qatar. I wrote a separate blog entry narrating the experience of the entire transit.
The level of pre-departure anxiety I am feeling at the moment surpasses the anxiety I felt when I was first about to leave for Paris for my first year of graduate studies. Surely, the second time shouldn’t come off as uneasy as the first? But, hell, now it does. Maybe because I now know how lonely and difficult it can get, I now know how cold, literally and figuratively, it could be. Most importantly, I am leaving at a time of great uncertainty for everyone with regard to the situation of the pandemic, especially for loved ones who I will be leaving in the Philippines, compounded with the political situation that many friends and colleagues will be facing. Everyone will staying home to weather the storm, why am I leaving?
I had looked forward to the start of July to restart writing on this blog–the beginning of the second half of the year seemed like a convenient and appropriate marker to start, I guess, any habit that one wishes to keep for the rest of the year or even longer, sort of like New Year’s resolution at midyear.
I’ll go ahead by stating the obvious–for everyone else I am quite certain–the first half of the year has been defined by the coronavirus pandemic and our collective response and experiences around it. Besides that, I am sure so many other things have happened in our respective communities, societies, and our personal lives. As to my own, I don’t know where to start. It isn’t even just the first half of the year that I’m making up for lost recollection–it’s the entire year since my last blog entry in June of 2019. This includes the entire time I was in Paris as a graduate student, the defining experience of the last twelve months.
Perhaps that’s where I should start with this brief recap. A few weeks ago I had just officially completed my Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree in European law at the Université Paris II – Panthéon Assas. (The last three months of which I spent at home in Manila, through online classes with our professors. I chose to fly home for refuge last March after everything went coronavirus haywire in Europe and Asia). My year in Paris was a remarkable experience I sincerely wish I had kept in better posterity in an online journal, with photos and well-written prose, rather than through bits and pieces of tweets and Instagram posts and private snapshots on my phone. More than the masters program, it is the experiences with new friends in Europe, and the many travails of trying to adapt in a seemingly impenetrable society in Paris, that truly made a lasting impression on me. I will try to write more about these experiences through bits and pieces of recollection in future blog entries perhaps.
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?
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.