The class was dead silent, all eyes were watching the index cards being shuffled. All thirty or so students praying that their name wouldn’t be called. It was an ordinary recitation day at the UP College of Law.
“Miss de la Cruz!” he snapped. I choked, and then stood up. I had read all twenty cases last night, put little pink post-its on them, made marginal notes and highlights to separate the issues.
And then, the question. “Could you distinguish personal service of summons and service of summons by mail?”
WTF. That was like, the easiest question in the world right? But for some strange, crazy, hormonal reason, I couldn’t string my answer into a decent English sentence. His face was in utter disbelief, glaring and getting redder and redder by the second.
And then…. I cried. Really cried. Shaking-shivering-uhog-releasing kind of crying. A blathering mess, that I was. Like quivering red gulaman.
“Putangina. Umupo ka na nga.”
Yes, friends, my worst recitation experience in my entire life, and the only time I cried in front of class EVER (including kindergarten), happened when I was twenty two years old, with a college degree. It was care of Marvic Leonen.
My favorite teacher of all time. Then, still and always will. And apparently, I’ve made no secret about it.
Regular readers of this blog and my circle of friends know how I view the law, my role as a lawyer and how I situate what I do in the broader social context. I think I discussed it most clearly in this blog entry inspired by a meeting with coconut farmer-leaders. I’ve always proudly said that all these I learned from my three favorite teachers in law school: Dan Gatmaytan, Teddy Te and Marvic Leonen. It’s one thing to say to law students to go out and make a difference and whittle down structures that oppress and alienate — that’s the stuff your standard graduation speech is made of. It’s quite another to actually say that the legal system of which you (as law student) are part, is actually one such structure that oppresses and alienates. Marvic Leonen made no bones about it: in fact, that was the premise of his elective course Law and Society. Critical Legal Studies.
Sometimes, I feel a little pang when I go out with my law school friends and I see how much the legal profession has paid off for them. Nice restaurants, expensive things, vacations on a whim, that sort of stuff. I guess there are times when I get envious of these accoutrements, and wish for a lifestyle that resembled theirs. I get envious when they talk of their own room and own secretary when, in my teachers-village world, Golda and I fight over internet cables and the last pandesal, I xerox my own pleadings, and have on several occasions travel on motorcycle to far flung rural areas. But like Marvic told me on one of those days approaching graduation, “It’s a life-choice, Jae. There will be many reasons for you to give up, but I hope, in the course of your journey, there will be more reasons to stay.”
The person who said that is now Dean of the UP College of Law (still the best law school in the country… hehe… can’t resist. I’m elitist that way. :p ) I really hope that he can bring back Malcolm to what it should be: a PUBLIC LAW SCHOOL cognizant of its obligation to the Filipino people, and not beholden to rich law firms who sponsor classrooms and etch their names in the stained-glass classroom windows.
Congratulations, Dean Marvic Leonen! Good luck and God bless.🙂