What made you decide to become a lawyer?

After euphoria comes nostalgia

This question reminds me of a surprise quiz on my first day in law school.
The gist of my answer then was this: I wanted to become a lawyer because of the gavel.
The judge’s gavel represents power.
The hand that holds the gavel has the power to end or restore a person’s life.
It has the power to levy or liberate one’s property.
It has the power to enforce a right or to deprive the exercise thereof.
I wanted that power.

But young and short-sighted that I was, I failed to see that the gavel is not just about power.
More than power, it represents justice.
The hand that holds the gavel has the responsibility to dispense justice at all times, at all cost.
For no one can be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process.
Due process is the essence of law.

They say that near-death experiences make you see things clearer and help you realize what are essential. The birthing pains of the last bar exam did just that for me. Tired and exhausted from four Sundays’ writing, I looked at my calloused hands and tried to picture a gavel in it. It didn’t work.
Fibisco’s “magduling-dulingan” trick didn’t deliver either.
And then it struck me.
That although my hands are now empty, I can do as many things with these hands – if not more.
I can hold another hand and give hope to someone who was deprived of his day in court.
I can loosen the cuffs and free a man from persecution.
I can raise my hand to protest flagrant violations of human rights.
I can snap my fingers to demand for the speedy disposition of cases.
And when the odds seem not to be in my favor, I can bring these hands together in prayer for courage and guidance.
The sound of the gavel pounding on wooden plate may mean that judgment has been promulgated, but the sound of hands clapping in unison is sweeter to the prevailing party to show that truly justice has once again been served.
Indeed, due process is the essence of law.
And they’re in my hands now. I can make it happen.

Now I look at my hands and I’m instantly reminded why I decided to become a lawyer.
Two hands.
Two words.
Due process.

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So help me God.

Another milestone at 25.

On April 28, 2009, exactly 25 days after the release of the bar exam result, I took my lawyer’s oath at the plenary hall of PICC, alongside the rest of the 1,310 new lawyers who hurdled the 2008 bar examination.

The ceremony lasted for almost two hours.
We were advised to come at least 2 hours early, but we arrived at the venue quarter past 1.
The entrance for the inductees and guests (two for each inductee) were separate.
It started at exactly 2pm.
My parents were still outside the plenary hall waiting in line when the national anthem was sang.
Security was very tight. No cameras and cellphones were allowed inside the plenary hall (although some were able to sneak in their cam).

Inside the plenary hall, the predominant color was black.
The inductees in toga occupied the front rows while guests were at the back rows and the balcony (including my parents).

Facing us at the right side of the stage were the law school deans.
On the left side of the stage were 8 empty seats for the bar examiners. And on center stage was a long table for the 15 Supreme Court Justices.

The crowd hushed as the spotlight was focused on center-stage to herald the unveiling of the bar examiners.
Amidst cheers and jeers, their names were called in the order of the bar exam subjects:

Political law and Public International law – Atty. Juanito G. Arcilla
Labor law and Social Legislation – Atty. Salvador A. Poquiz
Civil law – Atty. Cynthia R. Del Castillo
Taxation – Atty. Victorino C. Mamalateo
Mercantile law – Justice Sixto C. Marella, Jr.
Criminal law – Justice Rodolfo G. Palattao
Remedial law – Justice Lucas P. Bersamin
Legal Ethics and Practical exercises – Justice Francisco P. Acosta

The biggest cheer was given to Labor law examiner Atty. Poquiz and the new SC Justice Remedial law examiner Justice Bersamin, while the loudest jeer was given to Taxation examiner Atty. Mamalateo and Criminal law examiner Justice Palatao.

The SC Justices then entered the stage to complete the majestic picture. Seated at the center, of course, was the Chief – CJ Reynato Puno.

2008 Bar Chairman Justice Tinga lighted up the hall by his witty comments about the bar examiners. Like this particular examiner was a faculty of UE, when he was the school dean. This one examiner graduated magna cum laude, but Tinga was his teacher.
He ended with a promise (more like a threat) that next year’s bar chairman Justice Nachura will beat this year’s all-time record of the most number of examinees by having the most number of bar passers.

It wasn’t my first time to hear the Supreme Court hymn because it was a monday when I applied for my Bar exam permit at SC, so I’ve attended their flag ceremony.
But I sure was surprised when the Lawyer’s Oath was sang by the Arellano chorale group!
More worried than surprised actually.
So they’ve sang it, does that mean we won’t be reciting our oath the conventional way?
All the memorizing of the oath since first year law for nothing?
I was ready to protest =).
Good thing, the master of ceremony next made us raise our right hand to recite our solemn oath.
There’s so much history (and yes, drama) in that oath, I just can’t miss that.

The petition to accept the inductees to the Philippine bar was confirmed by CJ Puno, without any objection thankfully.

Now it’s official.
I am Atty. Kareen May Eulin Argenio of Catarman, Northern Samar.
So help me God.

(P.S. Special thanks to Atty. Aaron Tampon for making the whole experience less impersonal. )

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IT IS FINISHED (An Easter Reflection)

The Gospel According to John 19:30:
When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished”. Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

It is finished. Natapos na.
Ini an ikaunom nga pulong ni Kristo dida sa Krus.

Natapos na. Nahimo na niya an kaburut-on san Diyos Amay –
An igpas-an sa krus an aton mga sala para an bugos nga katawhan matubos.
Kay Siya gud la an makagsumpay san dalan ngadto sa ginhadian san Diyos –
dalan nga ginguba, ginlinog san sala.

Natapos na an aton pagkauripon san sala.
An kan Kristo kamatayon sa krus mao an nagsimbulo nga kita nga magpakasasala, natubos na.

An Griego para sa “natapos na” mao an “tetelastai” nga an karuyag signgon “paid in full”.
Sa kadaan nga panahon, kun an sayo nga tawo nakabayad na san iya utang, siya in naghihiyok,
naglulurulukso, ngan dara sin kalipay nakagsiyagit sin “tetelastai” para hibatian san ngatanan nga
siya bayad na.

Mao man si Kristo dida sa krus.
An pagbagaw Niya sin “natapos na” in dire sayo nga pag-ungol kay siya nagupo,
napirde san kamatayon, kundi sayo nga pagsiwangag sin pagkamanilampuson.
Kay an Iya misyon didi sa kalibutan natapos na.
By his wounds, we are healed.
By his death, we have eternal life.
His passion is His mission.

An kan Kristo misyon natapos na, pero an aton tagsa-tagsa nga misyon dire pa.
Tama la nga ini nga pulong mao an ikmaunom, dire an ikapito o katapusan nga pulong.
Kay para sa kadam-an sa aton, an ira misyon dire pa tapos, kundi nagpapadayon pa.
An iba ngani, matikang pala. Sayo na ak.

Natapos pala liwat ak kalbaryo sa Bar Exam, pero ak kinabuhi as abogada, natikang pala.
Bago makagamit siton nga 3 letters (A, T & Y) bago sa ak ngaran, kailangan malampasan ko nguna
iton nga bar.
Kada-domingo sa bugos nga bulan san Setyemre, walo iton ka-oras nga magkulop nga sinuratay
tungod kay written exam man an bar.
Maguol sa kamot, stressful, ngan bawal gud magkasakit siton nga mga panahon.

Looy sa Diyos, nakatalwas ak gihapon.
Pero 30% effort, 70% prayers gud adto.
Dire ak makatake much credit sadto kay ako mismo dire ak kontento sa ak preparation.
Cramming ak sadto pirme. Halos tag-2 hours la ak katurog the night before each bar sunday.
Salit nakasugad gud ak nga ak pagpasar by His grace adto.

An ak pagkukulang sa preparation, ginpun-an ko man liwat sa gulpi nga pangamuyo.
Full force man liwat sadto ak prayer brigade.
Ak bug-os nga pamilya, kasangkayan, kaurupdan, ngan ak extended family sa cfc,
mga parokyano sa katilingban san Cawayan, UEP, ngan Lavezares.
Special mention gihapon ak iroy nga gulpi an luhod-luhod sa mga simbahan sa Manila samtang nag-
eexam ak. Sige ak burn the midnight candle, sira man didi sige liwat panadok kandila.

Sa prayers gud ak naghugot sin kusog ngan confidence.
Bago magtikang an exam, giniexercise ko nguna siton ak kamot para mag-upay man ak agi.
Prayer siton ak ginsusurat.
Ak kapot siton sa exam room, ak sign pen sa too nga kamot
ngan an blue rosary nga hatag ni Mana Zeny Peñaranda sa ak wala.
Kusog siton ak kapot nga rosaryo labi kun di ak sigurado sa ak answer. =)

Pero mas matanglay kun dire man mas makuri pa sa actual bar exam an paghinulat na sa result.
Pasakit gud an paghinulat, kay dida na nasulod an doubt, an temptation to succumb to defeat,
to lose faith.
Ak prayer siton nga time, an kan Kristo man ta prayer bago siya ginlingo
sa Garden of Gethsemane – garden of doubt nga:
“Father I know that you can do everything.
But if it is possible, let this cup (of suffering) pass from me.
(Let me pass the bar). But let your will be done, not mine.”

San day of release na sa result, ginkinulba ak siton.
Biyernes adto gingawas, mala liwat biyernes santo am balay. Naduroy la ak kulba.
Ak ginhimo, nagbasa ak book of Psalms sa bible.
Gin-alternate ko an mga salmo sa pagpasalamat, salmo san pagtapud sa Diyos, ngan salmo san
pagtangis tungod san maraot nga palad.
Dida ak siton nainspire pakipustahay kan Lord.

Bagaw ko, “Sige Lord, kun papasaron mo ak, magspeaker ak sa siete palabras
an ikaunom nga pulong, Natapos na.
Pero kun dire mo ak papasaron, ata an ikaupat nga pulong akon,
an Dyos ko, Dyos ko, kay ano nga ginpabay-an mo ako.”
So is it a deal or no deal? One more or no more?
Kan Lord final answer was no more. No more bar exam for me.

Ak kalbaryo sa bar exam nagtutdo sa ak nga an aton Diyos namamati san aton mga pangamuyo.
This God can hear.
Kunta kita man liwat mahibaro pamati sa Iya kaburut-on sa aton.
Kun pahuwayon ta at tv kun SNN na an palabas,
pahuwayon ta at baba pinanlibak sa at hipid,
pahuwayon ta at huna-huna pag-inihap san may mga sala sa at,
mas mabati kit tiupay kun nano an kaburut-on sa Diyos sa aton mga kinabuhi.

Damo didi an kag-anak.
Maaram siguro kam sa feeling kun an iyo anak dire nasunod dayon sa iyo sugo, pabungul-bungol,
di man paniyan-niyan, damo la an pasangilan. Di ba pareho la iton san pagsulay sa iyo sugo?
Justice delayed is justice denied kumbaga.
Delayed obedience is disobedience.

An dire man kag-anak didi, dire liwat exempted. Kay kita ngatanan mga anak san Diyos.
Ngan bilang anak san Diyos, angay la nga tikangan ta man an pagsunod san kaburut-on san Diyos.
Christ’s life, from conception to his death on the cross, was all about following His Father’s will.

Bugto ko kan Kristo, tama na an pabungol-bungol, an paniyan-niyan, an pabuwas-buwas.
Kay maupay kun nakasiguro kit nga makaimod pa kit Santino buwas.
Maupay kun nakasiguro kit nga may bukas pa.

Student ID man o Senior Citizen’s Card im gamit, it’s never to late to start a life dedicated
for God’s purpose.
Rick Warrren, author of the best-selling book “A purpose-driven life”, said that:
A life of worship, a life of fellowship, a life of discipleship, a life of ministry,
and a life of service, is a life well-lived.

Mao kunta iton nga kinabuhi an aton hingayapon ngan talinguhaon para sa aton kalugaringon,
sa aton anak o magiging anak, sa aton pamilya, sa aton komunidad, sa aton nasud,
ngan sa bug-os nga kalibutan.

Para kun umabot na an takna nga kita kinahanglan na bumaya sa kalibutan ngan umatubang
kan Kristo, masugad ta man liwat nga:
Bro, ako liwat, an akon misyon, Natapos na.

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2008 Bar Exam Result: IF IT’S A NO

The results of the 2008 bar exam is due for release days from now. I am anxious.
I stayed in manila for months, out of anyone’s sight. I fossilized in my QC-HQ.
I preoccupied myself with reading, movies, weight management, and spiritual devotion.
I consciously developed good habits, revelled in my new rituals, and communed with God on a daily basis.
I planned on staying here until after the results are out. I was doing just fine.

But as the countdown begins, the pressure is mounting – I’m beginning to doubt my courage.
Every time the breaking news are flashed on tv, I would stop breathing.
Some days, I can think of nothing but the bar result. They follow me even in my sleep.
I’ve seen the two sides of the coin, so to speak. I’ve dreamed of flunking and I’ve dreamed of passing the bar.
The flunking bit was far more realistic, the uneasy feeling stayed with me long after I rose from my bed.
Now I’m really shaken. The courage I had before is being replaced by fear. Fear of what’s about to happen.
Fear that my heart might not withstand the impact. I need a cushion of protection. I need my family. I’m going home.

Right then and there, I booked a flight to Catarman.
Besides, I rationalized, if it’s a ‘no’ I’ll have to go get my books anyway. I can’t avoid them forever.
It’s not their fault if I fail. They’re not the enemy.
Since they’re not my enemy, they should be my ally. So I’ll fight this out with them at my side.
That’s what families are for. Win or lose, pass or fail, they’re involved in this.
Fact is, they’ll be associated with my victory or defeat.
Sink or swim, we’ll be in the same water – the least I can do is let them in on the boat ride.
And a hell of a ride this one’s going to be. The results are due for release sometime next week.
I’m just hoping that I would be in Catarman before the result is out. The anticipation is killing me.

But supposing it’s a no? What if my name’s not in http://www.sc.judiary.gov.ph official list of 2008 Bar Exam passers?
Or if that site is busy, what if I Google my name in the internet and it yields ‘0 result’? What then?
Oh I’d be really crashed. I’d be disappointed. I’d cry. I’d go to my room and stay there for 40 hours.
I’d talk to no one. I’d sleep on it and dream about it, and when I wake up I’ll be extremely thankful that it was just a dream.
But then I’d realize it was not a dream. A new wave of pain would rush through me. I’d try to sleep back, but I couldn’t lull myself into sleep.
I’d look at the sky. I’d search for God in the clouds. I’d seek enlightenment from the stars.
The cold night’s wind would breeze through my face. I’d be reminded of the cold reality like a slap in the face.
Now that’s the truth I’d try to forget every night, the same truth I’d have to wake up to everyday.
Unfortunately, this is also the kind of truth that people (outside my family) will find hard to forget.
I may ascend in the social ladder by some notable deeds or good fortune,
but a mere mention of this truth (a major screw-up in the past, each of us has one, this happens to be mine)
and I’d plummet to the bottom of the feud chain.
Time heals all wounds, true, but time can’t do anything about the stigma that’s been indelibly printed in my hands and feet.

But I can do something about my growling stomach. I haven’t eaten since the news came out.
I’d go downstairs to grab some food. Starving myself was not how I imagined my death.
I’d eat ice cream – double dutch, extra creamy, on the container, without spoon – the kind reserved only for the major major heartaches and low times. Flunking the bar exam is so in that category, I deserve a gallon.
So there I eat with gusto the cold treat. I think of nothing but the explosions of taste in my mouth.
I sting my tongue and shock my teeth with each bite of coldness, hoping to numb the deeper pain I feel inside.

What did I miss out? Where did I fall short?
Those who did make it were good students, but I had more potential than them.
Intellectually speaking, I was a far cry from them. Don’t you dare remind me about modesty.
That’s the last thing that could make me feel good at moments like this. Never had I felt this low.
Sure there was one time, when my heart was seared in open flame. That was my first broken heart, but that was different.
My heart’s been fed to the dogs alright, but I survived it with barely noticeable a scar.
This one, though, would definitely leave an ugly scar right on my face.
I’be branded for life – a bar flunker, a social outcast, a failure, a loser.

Thankfully I’ve had some practice on how to lose once or twice, on a smaller scale of course.
It taught me that everything shall pass. To keep holding on, never give up, for the best part is yet to come.
If anything, this bar experience (from pre-bar review, to the actual bar, and to my post-bar retreat) drew me closer to God.
I had to fail so He could catch me – so I could feel His power, and so I could learn to trust Him.
The Bar is so great a voyage that one cannot embark half-heartedly, I know that now.
If you’re half prepared, full faith – you’ll capsize midway (there are exceptions of course).
If you’re fully prepared, but lack faith – you’ll run aground before you even get past through the shallow waters
(full effort is not full victory, unfortunately).
If you’re half prepared, and of lukewarm faith – expect to hit the iceberg and soon declare mayday.
Lucky for me I grew up in a coastal town, I don’t have a problem swimming to the shore if it ever gets to that.
What I worry about are the sharks deep under that will come charging at the slightest hint of blood, of injury, of defeat.
A feeding frenzy they will be, and I – in the middle of it all as the humbled prey.
Spare me dear Lord…if I have to die, let it be quick and painless.
If it’s a no, it’s up to You.

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Filed under 2008 Philippine Bar Exam, Kill All The Lawyers, Suicide Note

“IN HER WOMB”

This is a poem I wrote for my Mom on Mother’s Day…

Song:

  • During those nine months in total darkness,

    Your voice told me it was okay.

    That even if I couldn’t see you, you were with me.

  • And when it was time to see the light, we parted,

    but the tie that binds us remained long after the cord was cut.

    Nothing, not even distance, can separate us.

  • For in my world,

    before there was even music –

    there was YOUR VOICE.

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