Tuesday, September 23, 2008


"The bar exam, however, is not law school, and it is not the practice of law. It is a contorted alternate universe where mediocre and good enough are the proven roads to success. As such, now is the time to stop trying to be perfect and to get comfortable with your mediocrity."
--David Galalis

A professor of ours in law school told us during our freshman year that we should not fear the bar exam. After all, he said, what will be tested is simply our basic grasp of the fundamental concepts of law. We kept this advice in mind, but having been aware of its notoriety and high mortality rate, the bar exams still lingered at the back of our minds.

Soon however, after reading hundreds of cases, memorizing and understanding a hundred more codal provisions, and undergoing an intense and sadistic tradition called "recitations", (I believe "interrogations" is a more apt term), we began to forget about the bar exam; we were more concerned as to how we could survive law school. This was exacerbated by the fact that our law school kept reminding us that we were taught how to become good lawyers and not simply to pass the bar exam. Whereas other law schools were reputedly "bar-oriented", ours tried to distance ourselves from the bar exam and anything intimately connected to it.

As such, we discussed voluminous cases, some amounting to more than a hundred pages per case. Multiply this by at least 20 cases discussed per subject and taking up at least two subjects a day, add to this the codal provisions and the commentaries or the reviewers to supplement the cases and the codals, and you will come up with mind-boggling numbers and statistical data that will make your head hurt. However, the question still remains: How does one become a good lawyer if he does not obtain his license to practice law in the first place?" Yes we were still concerned about the bar, but there were other more important concerns that we needed to address.

The "bar fear factor" began to rear its ugly head again during our senior year, while we were taking our electives and optional review classes. We were introduced to laws that were included in the bar coverage but were not thoroughly discussed during our first three years in law school. The harsh truth became apparent to us: the bar is already lurking just around the corner, and it seems as if we were hardly prepared for it. It was an inevitable hurdle that we needed to overcome, and yet we weren't too familiar with the hurdle in the first place.

And so a year later and we graduated, something which, as a friend correctly quipped, was anti-climactic: we were bonafide graduates of our university, our school, at the very least, believes that we already know the law. The only question is whether we can practice it or not. The only issue is whether we can become that which we worked so hard for during the past four years: a bonafide, full-fledged officer of the court, a lawyer.

The six months after graduation was pure torture. I decided to take review classes in Ateneo Law School as it was closer to our house. Despite trying my best to look and feel confident, I became restless and paranoid. I can't help but feel overwhelmed due to the voluminous amount of reading materials that you have to cover in preparation for the bar exam. As such I was introduced, albeit unpleasantly to the monster that we call the "bar exam".

The bar exam, the most anticipated, yet highly dreaded professional licensure exam in our country, or so according to law students and members of the legal profession. The longest four sundays of september that a law student will ever experience in his or her entire life. It would seem as if the proponents of this exam deliberated and for reasons unbeknown to us, conspired to pre-emptively punish those who want to become lawyers. They decided that four gruelling years of law school wasn't enough, and thus specifically designed this exam to be the ultimate test of how far one barrister can endure psychological, intellectual, and emotional torture, after already enduring four years of continuous (some may even say ritual) torture. Make no mistake about it, taking the bar exam is a humbling experience.

Contrary to the popular notion that the bar exam is simply a test that measures whether a person knows the basics of our law and jurisprudence and hence, is fit to practice law, most barristers discover that it is not a simple test whose outcome is based mostly on what you studied, or what you have learned from law school. On the contrary, more often than not, it is the various nuances that would greatly affect the outcome of the exam i.e. other factors other than your abilities can greatly affect the outcome.

For one, it is not an objective/enumeration type of exam. Although reforms are slowly being introduced in order to convert it to a part objective and part essay exam, 80 to 90% of it is still in essay format. Furthermore, answers are to be written by hand. This factor alone tests one aspect that is not in any way related to law practice; your handwriting. An essay exam will also test your reasoning skills, and how logical you can present your answer. The latter, I must admit is important, as lawyers earn their bread and butter by how well they can reason out their respective arguments, stand, or advocacies, assuming they do make a stand in the first place.

Moreover, you will be tested on eight subjects, Political Law and Labor Law on the first sunday, Civil Law and Taxation law on the second, Commercial Law and Criminal Law on the third, and Remedial Law and Ethics & Forms on the final sunday. As such, the bar examinations, gained its notoriety for the sheer brutality of the exam and the questionable procedure, method of administrating and correcting itself. Now it becomes easy to understand why most lawyers, when asked what is the one thing that they would never want to do again in their entire life, would quickly say: "take the bar exams".

And so, I cannot help but feel some discomfort and queasiness. Feelings that have been long gone or at the very least supressed are stirred; of late nights, depression, anxiety, stress, and yes, even despair slowly rise once again. On the other hand, memories of drum beats, beer shower, bar ops, messages of love and support from your family and friends bring back a smile and a sense of gratitude for all those who believed in you. And yet despite all of these, there still remains something unsettling about one of the most crucial and significant points in your life, that you can't help but feel nostalgic, and yes, even nervous for those who are about to undergo the same experience as you did.

For this is september, this is the month where thousands of people will pray together in unison and for the same purpose. To be able to survive the bar exam. Thousands of people will be very, very afraid. And why shouldn't they? They are going to take the bar exam. They will be going to war.

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Fierce and Fabulous?

There are some things in life that make you bite your lower lip in subtle anger, so much so that you do not even notice that you actually bit too hard and hurt yourself, albeit gently, in the process. In my case, I bit my lip once when GMA confessed to cheating her way to the presidency, i bit my lip again when I was being reprimanded by a judge in front of everyone for a mistake that was not mine to begin with, and finally, I bit my lip again when a "big-time" lawyer put me down in front of my mother by belittling my undergraduate course and by basically implying that I will not amount to anything.

Then came a certain Ms. Malu Fernandez and a couple of articles that need to be read in order to be "appreciated". Read the article that started it all here. Apparently she thought that she didn't piss enough people off with her first article so she decided to write some more gibberish here.I don't read manila standard and I only became aware of the articles through a friend who sent it to our yahoo groups. I don't think I need to read all of Ms. Fernandez's previous articles in order to appreciate her style of writing or her socio-economic background.

After biting my lip while reading her articles, I felt that I needed to get something off my chest and i needed to do it immediately. Because I could not afford a boxing workout at the nearest gym or a soothing body massage from the nearby spa, I was thinking of borrowing a gun and blowing off steam by dropping by the nearest firing range. That was until my friend told me that he did not want me holding his gun. I did not have the luxury of time. Thus, I thought that I should write Ms. Fernandez or her editor a friendly letter from a concerned citizen. I immediately wrote down what I thought she and her editor should know and sent it to every e-mail address that I was able to see in the manila standard today website. I tried my very best not to get personal. I do hope I succeeded in that. See, Mr. "big-time" Iawyer. I will amount to something someday as long as I am patient, sober, and as long as my friend patently refuses to lend me his gun.

Here it goes:

To The Good People of Manila Standard,

This pertains to Ms. Malu Fernandez's article entitled "From Boracay to Greece" in her "Fierce and Fabulous" column last June and her subsequent article dated July 30, 2007 entitled "Am I being diva? Or do you lack common sense?" I have never sent a letter to any broadsheet despite some offensive articles that its editors decide to publish. Ms. Fernandez's articles were a cut above the rest though, her comments went too far.

I've read opinion columns chastising homosexuals, unfounded accusations, libelous slurs, articles about spending money ostentatiously without regret, and the like, yet none of these succeeded in making my blood pressure rise above its normal levels. To wit: “The duty free shop was overrun with Filipino workers selling cellphones and perfume. Meanwhile, I wanted to slash my wrist at the thought of being trapped in a plane with all of them."
Furthermore, she also wrote: “…I heaved a sigh, popped my sleeping pills and dozed off to the sound of gum chewing and endless yelling of ‘Hoy! Kamusta ka! Domestic helper ka din ba?’ I thought I had died and God sent me to my very own private hell.”

What did our OFW's ever do to her to deserve such nasty remarks. What was it that was so morally offensive with selling cellphones, perfume, the sound of gum chewing, and endless yelling of "Hoy! Kamusta ka! Domestic helper ka din ba?" Maybe she can enlighten us in her subsequent articles as to how they offended her with their actions.

I tried to look at her article from a holistic perspective and it didn't make any sense either. Those words were out of place, annoying, and irrational to say the very least. It would have been alright it this were a private letter that she sent to one of her high-society sisters, but this is was an article that she wrote for the fourth largest broadsheet in the country. Did she really have to say those unnecessary remarks? Did your magazine really have to publish that article? Where does ethical journalism and accountability lie in any of this? Being in the media entails certain responsibilities and a modicum of propriety. One can't say anything that he or she wants whimsically just for the sake of "expressing" one's self. Your magazine is not her blog, nor is it her own private space.

Ms. Fernandez, in her subsequent article dated July 30, 2007 entitled "Am I being diva? Or do you lack common sense?" seemed irked that some readers found her untoward comments toward OFW's offensive. Instead of explaining why she thought she was funny, or maybe why her comments were done in good taste, she merely shrugged all her detractors aside and took comfort in her right to freedom of speech, her stint as a professor in UP, and the politicians in her family. Furthermore, instead of being rational and confronting the issues that her critics brought up, she opted to offend more people by insulting their intelligence. To wit: "The bottom line was just that I had offended the reader’s socioeconomic background. If any of these people actually read anything thicker then a magazine they would find it very funny."
That was not the bottom line. The bottom line was just that she had offended every single Filipino who took pride in their fellow Filipinos that are being perceived by many as unsung heroes.

She tried to take refuge in her claim that she was merely stating the facts. Really now? Unless she can prove that someone else shares the same sentiments that she does i.e. "slashing one's wrists at the thought of being trapped in the same plane with OFWs", or considering the sound of gum chewing, and endless yelling of "Hoy! Kamusta ka! Domestic helper ka din ba?" as their own private hell, I'm not buying the "statement of facts" argument as of yet. Furthermore, she said that she and her friends found the article funny. Well, sadly, it was not funny, not through any stretch of the imagination. It was not even amusing to say the very least.

Poking fun is entirely different from blatantly making fun of an entire group of people who didn't do anything to deserve such an act. Humor has its limits. She did not simply poke fun at them, she wanted to show everyone how seemingly pathetic their way of life was compared to hers. And for what reason? To provide comic relief at the expense of our OFWs? Wouldn't you say that it was cheap and low of her to do so? There are certain lines that shouldn't be crossed. Your freedom to express your ideas or to make fun of your surroundings is not a license to chastise your fellow human beings. Nor should your freedoms be used to justify wanton disregard of basic decency and common courtesy.

To the editor of Ms. Fernandez's column, please try to see to it that Ms. Fernandez adheres to your profession's ethical standards. We don't need another Filipino writer telling us how she hates her fellow citizens by their very nature and without fault on their part. Maybe I am just an ordinary citizen who cannot, in Ms. Fernandez's words "read anything thicker than a magazine". Maybe I will never reach the level of intellectual depth that she has attained. But as far as I am concerned, one need not "read anything thicker than a magazine" to get offended when someone dishes out vile comments towards his or her fellow human beings capriciously, without any trace of guilt or remorse.

My message to Ms. Malu Fernandez is simple. Grow up. If you want to write your lifestyle articles and talk about your wonderful escapades in the cool, sandy beaches of the world or your exhilarating voyages in exotic and far-flung locations then do so. Nobody's stopping you from giving everyone a blow-by-blow account of how wonderful your shopping experience went, or how refreshing that sip of pina colada tasted. Just don't insert thoughtless and harsh remarks about people who you in your own well-written words, you "will never get the culture of". Don't step on them just because you feel that they are one rung below you in the social strata. How would you feel if one of our OFW's who were with you on that plane wrote an article about a louis vuitton lugging primadonna who sat in economy class yet felt and acted as if she were a princess seated in first-class? Wouldn't you be offended if they related their experience and perhaps their feelings of uneasiness and discomfort using your own words?

Ms. Fernandez, I am also looking forward to the bold claim in your July 30 article that: "Although I could mention that it is easier to understand someone who has a lower socioeconomic background that would entail a whole other page." I am quite interested as to what evidence you can come up with in order to prove this bold claim. Furthermore when you claimed: "and frankly I don’t want to be someone to bridge the gap between socioeconomic classes. I leave that to the politicians in my family who believe they can actually help.", don't worry, I don't think you and your "family of politicians'" words or actions will magically bridge the gap between socioeconomic classes, as it would take more than one article and definitely more than one "family of politicians" to do what thousands of principled Filipinos have been trying to do for the past century.

Finally, I sincerely hope that you become more sensitive to the feelings of those around you, many of them not well-cultured or high-society through no fault of their own. If, in your opinion, their annoying behavior, or their very nature offends your own sense of morality then keep your personal comments to yourself, after all they cause you no physical, mental, emotional, or psychological harm, nor are they doing any horrendous or vile act of moral depravity. Just smile, continue writing your columns about how soft and comfortable the plane seats are, or maybe how attentive and respectful the flight attendants are, and let our OFW's be. They've paid their dues too and have every right to be in the same plane as you are. The only difference is, they will be off to work for their families in a foreign country, risking life and limb just to make some money; whereas you will be off for your personal enjoyment to see the sights of Greece and marvel at its pristine beauty. Please keep on writing Ms. Fernandez and humor us with your "acerbic" wit in order to remind us in the "fierce and fabulous" manner that indeed, this is a wonderful world that we live in.

Respectfully Yours,


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Friday, August 18, 2006

Don We Now Our Hate Apparel

"A bigot is a prejudiced person who is intolerant of opinions, lifestyles or identities differing from their own. The origin of the word in English dates back to at least 1598, via Middle French, and started with the sense of religious hypocrite, especially a woman. Bigot is often used as a pejorative term against a person who is obstinately devoted to their prejudices even when these views are challenged or proven to be false. Forms of bigotry may have a related ideology or world views."
-wikipedia definition of a bigot

When an animal is cornered or threatened in a particular manner, three things may happen: one, it may become nervous and stay in a corner, two, it may run as fast as it could, or three, it may fight back. I understand that it is but human nature for a person to snap back at someone when he or she feels threatened. That is human nature, that is what we should expect, and that applies to all sexes or potential permutations of gender as we know it in the near future.

Before I say my piece allow me first to make it clear that I am not Justice Isagani Cruz's lapdog, nor do I worship him. What I do admire in him is his integrity, dedication and competence in his chosen profession and in his field. True he may blindly adhere to his beliefs. But those are his beliefs and his alone. He is not asking you to believe him, nor is he telling you that he is right. What I do believe in is sticking to the fundamental notion of right and wrong, not only in substantive arguments, but in the method or process of delivering those arguments as well. And well, as cheesy as it may sound, I firmly believe in the old saying that two wrongs can never make a right.

Before I go any further, check out the column of Mr. Justice Cruz, the reply of Mr. Quezon, an article by a news program host, and another one by a lawyerwho tried to defend Justice Cruz.

Some people called Justice Cruz a bigot. Do I hear the pot calling the kettle black? Or do we simply justify this by rationalizing said act as a defense mechanism or an act of self-defense? Otherwise, this might have been a case of overkill. Though Justice Cruz drew first blood, was there any chance that anyone will believe him? Worse, will his column stoke the brushfires of an anti-homosexual revolution? What was the extent of the damage done? Was the payback proportional to the potential damage or was the reaction too much?

I am not trying to provide for a simplistic perspective of the issues involved at hand, hell, the concept of sexuality has long, and deep-entrenched roots that I would not attempt to discuss for the sake of brevity. What is deplorable is the method used to prove Justice Cruz wrong. What would have been better was for the response, or the reaction of the offended parties to be decisive yet in order, firm yet in place, and for their arguments to be substantive and not personal. Attack his arguments based on their merit or lack of it. Don't simply come up with a piece-meal rebuttal and argue by examples or by historical account. Prove him wrong in the proper venue. Engage him in debate or any other proper intellectual discourse. Don't simply discredit his reputation and assume that he is the devil himself just because he had the guts to tell everyone what's on his mind. Last time I checked, freedom of speech is still given its two-cents worth in this country.

It’s funny that the gay community has reacted so harshly insofar as this opinion is concerned. When the Inquirer personnel for reader’s advocacy was interviewed she expressed horror in the fact that the letters sent to their office as a result of the said column was unprecedented, even more e-mails than the Garci controversy? You mean Mr. Cruz's actions were more horrific and objectionable compared to what our "leaders" do? There's the rub. Allow me to digress a bit. That brings me to our problem as individuals, we Filipinos only tend to focus on sensationalism and not substance, on interests of one particular group, but not that of the entire nation and future generations as well, on so-called controversial and sensitive issues per se, but not on controversial and sensitive issues that should involve the entire civic community. But hey, though we are one nation (see any recent encyclopedia), we should look after the more important interests of our own constituents and our own factions right? But that is another post. My apologies for ranting. I just have a thing for sense of priorities.

Make no mistake about it, I respect the homosexual community. I've worked with them and I know that they are some of the most brilliant and talented people in our society. What I hate is, well, hate towards somebody just because they think that the person they hate hates them back and the conclusion that this projected hate would necessarily cause other people to hate them who feel that they have been misunderstood and hated long enough throughout the entire course of time, with the lattermost group of people thinking they can do anything when they feel offended. We can't work on mere assumptions people. Journalists should know that. Intelligent, sensitive, creative and talented people should know that even more.

Bigotry cuts both ways. If you are intolerant of the opinions of others insofar as your orientation or personality is concerned, then that is fine; provided that you engage him properly. There are certain lines we don’t cross. Name-calling and personal attacks are good examples. Telling me that: "well he played dirty first, doesn't that give me the excuse to also play dirty?" just means that you are sinking to his level, and, assuming that his bone is already as black as tar, then doesn’t that also make your bones dark, or gray at the very least? Please don't attack the person who made those arguments without even considering what this guy had done or had been through. A blind attack on his credibility as a writer and his worth as a human being reeks of bigotry, albeit on a smaller level.

Remember that the only thing worth protecting is one’s honor, name and reputation, without it, you’re as good as dead. Moreso with a man the stature of Mr. Justice Cruz who, (and you can confirm this) has an untarnished reputation and track record when he served as a Justice of our Supreme Court. Assuming that his opinions were ghastly, obnoxious and crude, would you sentence this man to eternal damnation and the fiery depths of hell just because he lived in an entirely different era, his mind shaped by an entirely different set of traditions and ideas through no fault of his own? What should you do? Do you stop him from writing? Prove him wrong by engaging him in a contest of name-calling? Sink to his level and also be stubborn, commit huge leaps in our senses of logic, and come up with irrational generalizations? Or do you need to become more mature and level-headed, and begin your constructive rebuttal systematically and effectively? Does fighting fire with fire solve anything? Or is it more fun for us spectators to see who gets burned first?

In our country, with the freedom to express ideas comes the freedom to rebut or at the very least question the ideas or values that we have held and that we are now holding on to dearly, no matter how precious, valuable, or sacred it may be. Nobody is safe from being a target. No topic is too taboo to be discussed. This is the essence of our society being a marketplace of ideas. Sure he may have published it in a newspaper, a company that has its own sets of rules and guidelines to follow, but seriously, how many columnists strictly follow the rules?

And yes, the word bigot equally applies to you who called Justice Cruz a bigot. Shame on you for being so mature and professional. The guy's column is not a call to raise arms against homosexuals. He didn’t even lump all homosexuals in one class. He just wanted to identify those whose acts displeased him, and particularly why their acts were displeasing and why it was displeasing to him. It was his opinion and that's that. Those of you who think that the people who read his column are too immature and foolish to think that facts and opinions are one and the same should think again.

And for crying out loud, be mature and civil enough not to resort to name-calling. If you take a look at Justice Cruz's life as well as his acts, you will find out that he has lived a more moral and decent life compared to most citizens who try their best to cover-up for their sins by doing seemingly charitable and humanitarian acts to appease the media and the unknowing public. At least Justice Cruz was mature enough to differentiate those whom he didn’t like from those that he respected and was decent enough to say sorry to those that he may offend. Grow-up. Be men, or gay men or a human being if you will. Don’t think that just because you were offended or injured, necessarily means that you can get away with anything that you want. In the tribunal of common sense and decency, nobody’s special. You have the same rights as he does and vice-versa. Think first before you act, or react for that matter. Playing dirty cannot be justified whichever way you look at it.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A Death in the Family

For what is it to die,
But to stand in the sun and melt into the wind?
~Kahlil Gibran, from "The Prophet"

Death has never seriously bothered me, well, my own death at least. Truth be told, I never cried at any wake or funeral, nor have i placed myself in a situation where I was so depressed that I refused to get out of bed for a day or two. Until recently.

While growing up I never had the benefit of an older brother looking over my shoulder, giving me advice, or simply being there whenever I needed somebody to tell me that everything will be ok. When I was in high school, I was given the burden of being the class guidance counselor, a monkey in khakis and white polo shirt giving advice to other monkeys in the same attire if you will. It was not a fun job, knowing fully well that sure, I may be privy to their darkest secrets, and sure, I had the opportunity to fine-tune my petty god complex at that time by acting all high and mighty by dishing out unsolicited advice after advice; but after this, i knew that I was alone. Alone to sulk and to keep my problems within.

This is the reason why it always made me happy to go back to my hometown. Nevermind the four to six hour land drive over man-sized potholes, the threat of ambush, or the absence of a decent beerhouse where I can drown my sorrows away; it always felt good to come back to a place that at one time or another, I truly called "home". Nevermind all the shenanigans, for this is the place where a close relative of mine lived; a relative whom I always looked forward to seeing: My Kuya.

He was the only son of my dad's eldest brother, the latter already being deceased. Fourteen years older than me; tough, funny, kind, and religious. He was the first person I would go to upon arrival. We would talk about anything under the sun, politics, business, religion, and other topics that would come to mind. He was like a brother to me. He stood up for the family, fought for the family, and even bled for the family. He was my dad's right-hand man as I was yet too young to help out in our family business. Sadly, he also loved to binge on food and alcohol. He was already hospitalized a couple of times, diagnosed with diabetes and heart problems, yet despite these, he always remained cheerful and kind-hearted. He continued to live a normal life, until he suffered a major heart attack.

He was brought to the nearest city and was hospitalized for almost a month. The doctors found out that he had to undergo a double heart bypass operation, but that the facilities in the hospital where he was confined was not up to the job at hand. He was brought to Manila, UST hospital to be specific, where he stayed in the intensive care unit for four days. I wasn't able to visit him during the four days as the only scheduled time that visitors were allowed inside the ICU was in conflict with my class. I was suppose to visit him on the fifth day, a sunday, when he was scheduled to be transferred to a regular room. The operation was scheduled on Monday, he died Saturday night from a massive heart attack.

Fate has a cruel way of telling us how much we take things for granted. It stresses its point with much aplomb everytime it rears its ugly head. Yes I was able to make it to the hospital Saturday night; I was only minutes away from the opportunity to have talked to him one last time. Instead all I could do was weep, comfort his sister, and think about what might have been had I visited earlier.

Days passed by and I was still in shock. I refused to talk to anyone, I was too depressed to do so. It was only after a few weeks that I was able to accept what had transpired. I tried to rationalize, that if there is any justice in this world and in the next, then he should be staying in a place far better than heaven. Still, the pain lingers, though not as strong as before.

There is an old saying that he who dies never really does for his memory will live on amongst us. He was a cousin, a role model and a friend. I will always remember him for being the brother I never had, and in my deathbed, I know that I will take great comfort in the fact that we two shall meet again.