Monthly Archives: May 2009

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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Filed under Law Prophet, Politically Correct


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


  • 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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    Filed under Fountain Pen, Poet, Interrupted

    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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    Filed under 2008 Philippine Bar Exam