Icing on the cake
I was in the fourth grade when I decided to be a lawyer like the late Sen. Rene Cayetano. He was my idol.
It has been 11 years since then, and that dream is still a dream. In 2010, I took the Law Aptitude Exam (LAE) of the University of the Philippines College of Law and flunked it. I was not really expecting to pass it given my mediocre grades. But somehow, I hoped for a miracle, for me to make it to the Top 200.
But contrary to what actress Nora Aunor said in the past, there are no miracles, just dreams backed by hard work.
My classmates and I had looked forward to taking the LAE primarily because we wanted to go to Cebu. Before our batch, there was no testing center in Iloilo City; the only one in the Visayas was in Cebu.
I loved to travel, so my main goal was to get to Cebu. Taking the LAE was just the icing on the cake.
My classmates and I informed our parents of the expenses and they were more than willing to give us what we needed. We were hugely disappointed when it was announced that there would be a testing center in Iloilo, and that the trip to Cebu had been canceled.
But when, in 2011, I heard that there was only one testing center for LAE 2012 and that it would be in Diliman, Quezon City, I was shocked—not really for myself but for those other students who wanted to be lawyers and needed to take the exam.
Their chance to study in one of the country’s prestigious law schools would depend on money, not just for the testing fee but also for airfare. They would need an allowance for their daily needs during their stay in Diliman—an expensive prospect, at least for a daughter whose father is earning a minimum wage.
I realized what a simpleton I was. The LAE was just the icing on the cake for me, but it was the core of other people’s dreams. It may make or break them, but for me, it was just one of the exams I had to take.
I want to be a lawyer because it has been my dream since I was 10, and people called me “attorney.” Others become a lawyer to help their community. For me, it means being famous. For others, it means fighting for their rights.
I remember some people I met in past immersions. They asked me to help them after I become a lawyer. Their only source of hope is a lawyer willing to help them. And I can’t help but feel guilty for becoming a slave of my own desire.
I still want to be a lawyer. That has not changed. I just need time to evaluate what I really want to do with my life.
But this luxury of being able to think of what one really wants to do is not enjoyed by many people. And maybe having only one law testing center in the country has its good effects. I just don’t see how it can benefit people from faraway places who cannot afford to fly to Manila in the bat of an eyelash.
Nuelene N. Gallos, 21, is a political science-economics graduate of UP Visayas.
By Kotch Agcaoili Agudo
My every birthday is a bitter-sweet event. You see, my family celebrates my birthday every 12th day of January, then, five days later, we remember our father’s passing. One day I thank God for another year of my wonderful life; five days later, I resent him for taking away someone who could have completed it.
My father was already married to my mother—meaning, he had a family to feed, and children to play with—and was a government employee when he took up Law. He took the bar exam in 1989. He was one of the few who passed it but, perhaps, the only one who never knew he did.
Before the bar results were released, he disappeared. Months passed before he was found floating in Cagayan River. I was three years old then: I did not understand the concept of death, what father’s death meant to our family and how painfully it frustrated his career as a lawyer even before it could begin. Tatang, my grandfather, never cried during my father’s wake. But he cried the entire day, holding a newspaper that carried the bar exams results, with my father’s name on it.
We never found justice. Or justice never found us. No one was imprisoned, no case was filed, there were no suspects. His murder was, in a sense, a perfect crime. Twenty-three long years have passed since then. In our case, justice is no longer delayed, it has long been denied.
So we decided “to put justice in our own hands.” Our eldest is now a lawyer, and I and our youngest are currently in law school. I sometimes wonder why I persist despite the lengthy reading assignments, everyday recitations and the uncertainty of passing each subject. Then I think about my father, about his dream, his tragic death, and the elusive justice that continue to haunt our family. I am pursuing law because I believe that somewhere, somehow in our justice system, I can still find justice for my father and our family.
Lately though, with our justice system engulfed in controversy, I have begun to harbor doubts about my search for justice. Many of us who are justice-deprived take comfort in the idea that our Judiciary is the most trustworthy of our government institutions, believing that the judges are impartial, and that they use their conscience and best light in deciding cases. This is the ideal, and we cling to this view.
So the allegations against Chief Justice Renato Corona disappointed us. They only fanned our fears that the 23 years of hoping for justice for my father may all be a futile exercise.
For weeks now, the entire nation has watched the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Corona. We are impressed with the brilliance lawyers are exhibiting in arguing their case. We have seen how our senator-judges deal with issues presented before them. This impeachment trial will tell us whether or not we voted for the right people who now represent us in the impeachment process. The impeachment trial against Chief Justice Corona will be a showcase on how justice is administered in our courts.
It is wrong to presume that when people question the Chief Justice’s integrity and sense of fairness, they are in effect attacking the entire justice system. Let us not make things worse by making obscure conclusions. Our justice system is my family’s only hope that we can find justice for my father by seeing to it that justice is served equally to one and all.
Kotch Agcaoili Agudo, 26, is a 3rd year Bachelor of Laws student at San Sebastian College-Recoletos, Manila.
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