In one lechon-perfumed room in a (literally) dusty hall in U.P., my last class in law school ended with applause and the customary photo shoot with the professor. We were talking about quasi-delicts and how motorists were always at fault when hitting pedestrians and how hitting them with our car’s side-mirror could be our own way of urbanized revenge. This was a four hour make-up class but it was all lectures now since time was of the essence. The room was filled with only my professor’s voice – trying to hack its way to the end of the syllabus and wrap up this review class. Outside, the waxing moon hung under a clear, night sky peppered with its many stars. The walk to the car took a minute or two since I was parked in the annex, which I dubbed as ‘The Swamp’ since during the rainy season it does turn into a veritable swamp. The way was dark, serene and peaceful — a perfect opportunity for me to be mugged.
On the walk back, I thought about Room 307 and how I had my first class there during my freshman year. Ugh freshman year, I thought, how stupid of me. I remember classes in Persons and Family Relations and Legal History and Constitutional Law 1 and how I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. Many times, time just went by in flashes, like broad strokes in some post-impressionist, modern art painting indistinguishable from vomit: exams here, recits there, a head hunched over some papers under a lamp, empty cups of coffee by the side, the tune of jazz in the background, a rosary by the book stand, a stack of books, notes scribbled on loose sheets scattered on the floor, a jacket hanging on the back of the seat, hands aching from shrinking text to fit between the lines in the codal, memories of 5s and of 1s, victories like making it in the OPF and staying there, defeats like Oblicon, deus ex machinas like Oblicon and the 2013 bar results, wondering if I should join a frat, deciding not to, dates with Urie and our movies and dinners and chats – my sanity in this endless sea of unreason.
In hindsight, I could do with more walks in the oval now that school is over and only a few exams stand between me and graduation and then the bar and then I shall fade and diminish and sail over the sea to Valinor.
To friends who left ahead of me:
Eager eyes with hopes we had
when we set our roots to the earth;
a seed in the wind, dust from the wings of moths.
To grow we must at nature’s call:
a journey’s end, four years to come;
with faith and hazard our only friends.
True: in the rains do branches wear their leaves
so ripe and green — the shades above our heads
from dangers yet unknown, unseen
What story could they tell of an inferno — those that
have yet to feel its heat? August passes and April
comes with its thirsty glare. Up we gaze to see
no clouds but the sky: blue and bright with our
death — and some fall: brown and crisp to the earth.
And here we remain to see another May
until for need of lumber the axes come
and take for them those of us as they say.
Nothing in OLA is ever simple. Waking up at 530am and waiting a whole day for a 10-minute meeting to soak up insults is something I could never get used to. We wait all day and she expects us to thank her for allowing walk-ins. I was never too good at kissing ass and have always mistrusted flatterers, sycophants, and bootlickers. What has OLA brought me other than anxiety, countless hours wasted, and money thrown away on that false altar? And for what? Two letter P’s – since that’s what we all get on our transcript. Nothing else matters.
But one song played in my head as I left that infernal office:
The words of T.S Eliot continue to haunt these last moments of my law school sojourn. Time and again I ask: will these four years of toil end with a bang, or whimper? For now, at least, it most likely seems to be a shrug. My classes this last semester mostly fall and end late at night, which fortunately means the drive back home is easier due to the light traffic. The classes are all review classes and, consequently, all ineluctably boring. Only at the end of these four years did I realize, however, that skepticism is a virtue when it comes to a prof’s lessons. An example: for three years we have been discouraged to answer questions with: “It depends.” Now, in one class that is the answer in several questions on recitation. So what’s the deal? For what it’s worth, this pivot did result to an insight in the profession that I will soon be joining: that it is in many ways still an art. Many professors these past three years have indulged in their teaching the law as a science that seems to lend it an aura of precision and mathematical certainty. For a large part of the past three years, studying law was mainly finding answers to questions, which, to be fair, is probably the most expedient way to formulate and check exams. But what about that skill of producing answers to questions? The writing of pleadings in itself is a craft – something that I hardly had any experience in – and something that I expect to be immersed in soon. In undergrad this production of answers was derogatorily referred to as bola, but whatever we call it – that was precisely what won Grace Poe’s case on citizenship. During those hour-long drives to school, I go through recordings of the oral arguments in Poe-Llamanzares v. COMELEC just to observe how these counsels made and delivered their argument (with, of course, the benefit of hindsight). It was truly a treasure to go through the interpellations once again.
Perhaps it is this act of production that draws the cloud of suspicion on lawyers, and perhaps justifiably so. Persuasion, after all, is a powerful skill and more so if the effects of such persuasion can contribute to the formulation of law. But the brute fact remains that some people just have a propensity to lie. Hell, even in law school people lie all the time. But I suppose nothing of that is new or even scandalous these days.
In light of the monotonous and dreadfully boring classes and hours spent on bar review this semester, I was fortunately referred by a friend to a book on Christian philosophy. With the abrogation of true electives such as Roman Law, it is hardly a surprise that law schools these days have turned into veritable factories that produce docile bar-takers. Whatever grandeur, culture, or grace that the law had was probably lost ages ago no matter what that damned signed says in the entrance to Malcolm Hall. Sure we’ve heard Manresa and Sanchez Roman mostly in passing (whether jokingly or not) by the older professors. But what about Homer, Cicero, Aristotle, or Aquinas? Those names were probably all relegated to some weeks of recitations in Legal Theory and then lost right after the semester ended. It was largely due to the discontent with the monotonies of classroom study and the lack of any interesting electives that I decided to read up on other subjects.
So can one self-study metaphysics? I laughed the first time I thought about it. It seemed ridiculous. But the ridiculous ideas are usually the most entertaining ones: so I tried it. Owing to perhaps G.K. Chesterton’s biography on St. Thomas and a few chapters of the book in the picture above – I can say that I won’t be putting it down anytime soon. It is quite a relief to wrestle with ideas like this on a Sunday – call it a break from the day-to-day pressures of being “productive” or “useful”. In that sense I can savor what is left of weekends before I re-enter the workforce next year. Ciao!
There goes another year. It’s quite striking how time flies (though for a senior law student, Time can’t fly fast enough!). A little over three years ago, I read Tolentino for the first time for Persons. Back then I had no idea how to read for class then (heck, I had no idea how to do be a law student). Cases came piling up and the recits came. Readings here and there, seven hectic enlistment periods, at least two instances when I thought I was going to fail a subject, and more than a thousand kilometers of driving – such was academic life for the past three years. Looking back and with a restrained chuckle of desperation, I throw back the question to myself of why I wanted to be a lawyer in the first place. I suspect the question will return (and more emphatically, if I may add) during bar review and on the first day of work.
Outside there is the intermittent sound of fireworks. A sound that bears a strange similarity to a small firefight – a sound I’m all too familiar with after clocking nearly 30 hours playing Fallout 4. Fallout 4: in a sequence of uncanny events, that game actually proved to be the catalyst for me buying a new desktop just to play it. It was a comforting thought that I can still enjoy playing games, given that I could only do so in between semesters.
From law school to Fallout 4 – talk about digression. But hey, maybe it’s good to digress every once in a while. The year 2016 will be remembered for many things – many things. Many, including I, may feel that 2016 itself is a digression (from more reasonable times lol). And yet the show goes on. Oh that reminds me, a few days ago my Mocha Uson blog post got over a hundred views. A hundred views! That’s almost as much as a whole year! Thankfully, it has normalized now and this blog can return to its regular state of oblivion. Heh. Happy New Year, reader!
If only I had known all the facts three and a half years ago while I was applying for the LAE, maybe I would have reconsidered.
Senior year feels like it came too fast. Time is just a cool breeze in this desert: so brief, so fragile, so fleeting. At one point I knew myself as a freshman wondering what the hell a digest was and dealing with the day-to-day grind. It was simpler then when all I needed to do was learn the law. Books, codals, reviewers, and recits – that was the rinse cycle, it was the routine. But it’s different now. To a certain extent, learning the law still occupies my time in reviewing the lessons for class. But then there’s OLA.
People always told me that things get better as the years go on. They were wrong every year. Every year is harder, every year I understood better that the administration doesn’t give a shit whether a student lives or dies (truth), although they might be disappointed in the dying part since there would be lesser bar passers (provided he was a diligent student). Unless you have a well-known family name, or contacts in the college, the simple truth facing an ordinary student is just this: nobody cares.
As the years went by, I noticed a strange feeling in me that follows after I notice how someone is awestruck by the UP Law institution. Think of it this way: it is much like a gladiator’s ghost looking at a tourist walking into the ruins of the Roman Colosseum. They walk in the front doors and into a wide hall and gaze upon the Roman text etched in stone in front of the theatre. They see an institution of honor and excellence with deep foundations and high walls of concrete. They see the names of honorable men and women. They see their titles set in stone: enduring, eternal. But the ghost sees only two things: blood and sand.
Dramatic? I don’t intend it to be. It would have been funny if it was freshman year. But now with only a semester and a half to go before graduation, seniors are too old to be complaining about law school. It is what it is. This is what they miss in the brochures and websites and testimonials and media coverage and the bar topnotcher list. Four years of your life dictated by the whimsical moods of professors and the administrators: they should have included that in the brochure.
Thus passes another year
another month, another day
racked with fear and ending so far in May-
a fitting ending bringing with it calls
for a futile disconsolation: one for the faults,
falls, flaws of each examination
forced under paper and pen.
But at the end? Only in our own ignorance must we
remain – lest we crack our minds juggling
between grades of tolerance or of merit.
Thus passes another year
the third of four to end this
devilish sojourn: one began in dreams
and the naive nature of newborn children;
but in beginning, quickly ending as a dream ill-bidden
in the night – tainted by the tendrils of untested
maturities. To Them: what light is it They see at the end
to cost so much to make virtue bend into crooked
spires – mere steps up to Their peak of ambition?
What sums do pride and arrogance offer as a ransom
to such degree? To what end will our trust in them be?
Innocence often laces those early temptations
to stray the path in tiny steps; little cracks, but
with habit’s perseverance, and time, heralds
malice to greet our Innocence’s disappearance
in the unholy abyss of our own making.
What can the Law offer on its laureled crown
when its virtues are all but laid down bleeding
at the altar? Must it be a kingship unnaturally
won with Virtue hanging only by the crimson drippings
of the assassin’s blade? Would that it were better
if these stirrings stirred us only in our grave.
Climb, climb, and climb! Beginnings are no test
of mettle – all start with nothing but friendships
so innocent that, when cut, bleed only jests. Grit
often lies unperturbed ’til provoked
and, when roused, unyielding to those evils.
Trust yields folly and allies, when allied, abandoned
go their own way. Must there be such a myth as Integrity
now where ill deeds go under the guise of its complicity?
Call it not integrity then, but vanity. O, vanity –
precious lists of titles and deeds commended,
of names dropped, and posh socials attended?
Lay them as glitter and gold, and around your crown adorn
as your reward, yet all not worthy enough to earn one thorn.
Thus passes another year
one in three that were and one that will be.
Dissolved now are those persons that we knew
before so early under masks of acquaintance.
Friendships half in bloom but nipped away by
examination or by professors’ recreation.
Happy are those who live above all the struggles of the rabble,
for theirs is the glory and praise as our school’s preamble,
while we scurry along the table’s edges fighting over scraps.
Yet let not empathy crawl on their lips, or limp on top of their other
sympathies to the fallen. Mere words less deeds are but trees uprooted
and drifting among the weeds on the tides of their many vanities.
Now, Time and Toil have torn away our masks and to our
horror, revealed those who had or no disguise.
It was only on Saturday that I felt that the first week of working as an intern was over. Six days ago, it was Sunday then, I was swimming in panic at the seemingly trivial question as to what the dress code was at the office. The issue of a necktie was of paramount importance at the time. Aside from the dress code, there was also the matter of parking, of travel time, of food and water supply, and of parking fees. Sure, it wasn’t like I was going on Man vs. Wild, but I guess we can bend the notion of what “the wild” is with a little imagination. With all that I just ended up sleeping it off.
When Monday finally came, I was lucky there was no catastrophic event like getting pulled over for a traffic violation in Makati or bursting a tire along EDSA. Things were surprisingly smooth with only an orientation during the morning and a whole afternoon of intense sitting. It was the deep breath before the plunge I suppose. True enough, all the work came in the following days. Tasks were assigned and I, along with the other interns, did our tasks in silence like monks in an abbey. Monday was also the day when the LocGov grades were released. It was also the time I found out that three people in our class did not make the passing mark. After that, the rest of the day just crashed.
Indeed, the first week was full of surprises. One of them was picking up the parking bill as I left work on the first day. I scrolled my eyes down to the bottom: P175.00. There would have been tears if weren’t for the magic words from the HR – “reimbursable parking expense.” Gotta love perks. The drive back home after work was a tough one. There’s always the traffic and the usual jerks on the road. Long drives going home always remind me of that first job at Red Cross near the North Harbor. Driving for almost two hours every day. I couldn’t take it and left after two weeks. It seems EDSA was the real test for ideals.
The days went by quickly. As soon as the work came falling on my lap, the hours just kept burning. Time-out was at 6 o’clock and the drive back home took around an hour. Back home there was just enough time for a meal, a shower, and (if I’m lucky) an hour for personal reading, and then sleep. The day began at half past five in the morning or a quarter to six due to the snooze function. Shower. Breakfast. Change. Drive back to the office and the cycle continues. The only relief is the return of friday nights. For a change, I don’t have anything to worry about on saturdays. Weekends were what they were before law school – ends of the week. My bag stayed zipped throughout saturday and sunday and it felt great. Such is life for the next five weeks.