Posted by: Jae | March 29, 2008

Dean Marvic Leonen

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. 🙂



  1. Claudette told me the news and I couldn’t believe my eyes. Dean Leonen was also one of my faves. The other faves I had were Prof. Muyot, Dean Agabin, and Prof. Te. Their classes were the most difficult, the most challenging… and I loved them more for it.

    P.S. I cried in class, too… but not in one of Dean Leonen’s. 🙂

  2. Sayang, our batch never got to have Professor Muyot. 😦

    these will be interesting times for the college, that’s for sure…

  3. tandaan… walang umaasenso na abugado kung pro bono o mga pipitsogin na mga kaso ang hawak lang. paano ka naman makakatulong sa mga mararalita kung wala kang pangalan bilang abugado? di ba malakas ang dating ng isang abugado sa korte kung naka kotse sya kaysa kung naka tricycle lang? tuwid na tuwid nga ang inglis ng abugado pero mukhang kenkoy naman ang ayos. ano ba yan? kung ako ang client nun, mabuti pa siguro na mag-plead guilty na lang ako ka agad…hehe. ;p

  4. ok ang may kotse, mas convenient at mas kumportable. at siguro, one day, mapapag-ipunan ko din yan. pero kung ang pinambili mo naman ng kotse ay bayad galing sa pagtatanggol halimbawa sa management na nang-api ng manggagawa, or landowner na nag-illegal conversion, baka mas ok ang tricycle na kumakarag-karag.

    (yung susunod na bahagi, di na addressed sa iyo, kulas, pero provoked /inspired by ur comment.)

    when explaining my (strange) life-choice to friends or family, i like comparing law with medicine. sa medicine, pag doctor ka, and you choose to work in some big hospital like st. lukes, hindi ka lang nakakatulong sa lipunan to the same degree na nakakatulong ang say “doctor the barrio”, pero hindi ka nagcocontribute sa problema. hindi ka nananakit ng isinantabing sektor.

    pero, at ito palagay ko lang naman, it is the nature of the legal system, i suppose, na when you opt to make a very lucrative career out of it, makakasakit ka ng maralita. lalo na kung bata ka sa lawfirm at di pa makapili. labor cases galore in favor of management, AR cases in favor of the landed..the works. (syempre may exception, like kung family-law lawyer ka..)

    gusto ko linawin im not being self-righteous here. fully naaarok ng isip ko ang logic sa mga statements na “im doing this for my family’s future” o di kaya “nag-iipon lang ako ng pera, tapos mag-NGO na din ako.” o di kaya “training ground ko ito.” lalo na yung huli, naiintindihan ko talaga yon.

    i guess one peculiarity about me is, mahina talaga sikmura ko. kahit naiintindihan ko pa ang long-term strategic value ng paglalawfirm temporarily, for example, “para mag-ipon”, pag may kaharap na ako ng kaso na palagay ko hindi tama, alam ko hindi ko kakayanin. kasi nangyari na sa akin ito before, isang kaso na manifestly unjust, kailangan ko pagtanggol ang isang nasa mali. yun ang naging gauge ko for knowing na i cant, i just cant, be a lawyer who can be dispassionate about higher questions of social justice.

    this is just me. this is something i dont foist on other people. i have more friends in traditional law firms than in NGOs. this isnt a judgment on them.; this is, perhaps, an acknowledgement of a personal quirk.

    of course, may posibilidad na dumating ang araw na sabihin ko, teka, mag traditional lawyering ako. pag may tuition fees na na kailangan bayarin. o may malalang sakit na dapat tugunan. hindi ko sinasabing walang posibilidad na mangyari yun.

    ang sinasabi ko lang, right now, at this very moment, im happy where i am. im happy to be with the people i work with.i feel blessed that there is no disjunct between what i believe in and what i do.

    at nakakapanood ako ng sine at nakakapa-foot spa naman ako paminsan-minsan so…. ayos lang. ok pa. hehe.

  5. When Alpha of PVO told me the news, I jumped around my office and shouted “yeba!!” hehe

    I quaked in his class and spent countless hours writing notes, when we were not allowed to bring books or photocopies to class. But still, civ pro was one of the best classes ever!

    And of course, Law & Society remains as my favorite course 🙂 My internship in LRC-CDO is still the best time I ever had in law school.

    Rhia is inviting me to join LRC-CDO, their lawyer there has resigned. I’m still thinking about it. I lack the confidence, di ko alam kung kakayanin ko, kasi alam nyo na naman na mas mahirap talaga ang trabaho ng ALG lawyer. I need to muster my courage pa…

    But for now, I’m just ecstatic that Marvic is now Dean!!

    (I cried with Prof. Disini – and not because of him, but because of our blockmate who made a face when I didn’t give the right answer, oh well!, I hope she’s happy with her life now – hehe bitter ba? )

  6. claudette,

    na-excite naman ako sa possibility na mag ALG ka. hindi naman mahirap. mahirap lang kung sanay ka sa mataas na purchasing power, hehehe. pero kung jologs ka lang din, kering keri yan. sobrang saya. 🙂

    ay. ayoko na tanungin kung sinong blockmate.


  7. my interview at UP Law is just a day away and I’m still grappling with my demons in how to best answer the question “why do you want to be a lawyer?” this blog makes me realize why…. thanks and more power to you 😉 keep inspiring people 😉

  8. in your profession, walang puwang ang mga pusong mamon-a term used by erap (hehe). kailangan din na paminsan-minsan yung little evil portion of your heart has to beat also para umasenso ka naman. but i understand and respect the principles that you adhere to. inuman na lang kaya. may isang two-four ako dito. ;p

  9. jet – salamat! and good luck. 🙂 be sure and make another comment here after you sucessfully make it through the interview.

  10. congrats kay dean marvic nga. also one of my favorite law profs in UP. kahit sobrang nakakatakot at magthink-twice-thrice-to the nth count ka whether to go to his class without having finished reading the cases and the text dahil sa takot, gusto mo pa din pumasok kasi you’ll really miss a lot.

    alam mo ba, i have once personally viewed being a lawyer as the least kind of profession fit when doing developmental work. ilang beses ako nagisip na sana naging doctor ako at nagdoctor sa barrios, or nag-agriculture and do technical support for farmers… apparently the law is, if not always, so far away from the realities of the marginalized. worst, it does the most wicked things to make their lives more miserable. here lies the reason why we need law people to do developmental work – not only in litigation but bridging the widest gaps of law, policies, and human lives. now i see relevance.

  11. amen, amen!

  12. hello!

    i just happened to pass by your site when i was researching on dean leonen…wala lang habit lang because i really love him.

    i got chills reading your post. sobrang welcome break sa akin to read a post na talagang isko ang dating, para kasing since i started law school ibang mundo na siya, far from undergrad.

    no offense pero parang feeling ko nasa ateneo ako or something, kahit yung manner of thinking unti-unting nawawala yung pagka-masa

    sabi nga ng blockmate ko, sa malcolm lang siya nagtataglish, kahit nung usc election campaign nahirapan siya mag shift back to ‘tibak’ mode.

    anyway, minsan, sa sobrang pagkafrustrate ko nagka-episode din ako na sana nag med na lang ako kase feeling ko mas makakatulong ako. i figured, because law is such a biased profession na nadadala lang sa ng pangalan, galing sa pagsasalita, at pulitika.yung skill of actually being a lawyer fades into oblivion unlike med, kung hindi mo alam ang gagawin, you can’t and shouldn’t bluff your way out of it. frustration ko kase sa class na just because this person’s dad is big in the law community, kahit na sobrang sablay siya everytime yung grades niya mas mataas pa than most of us (i know…sobrang gc)…nagpapasalamat na lang ako kay sir barry, at least siya wala siyang sinasanto.

    ayun po, just ranting…ang hirap kase mag open ng mga ganitong saloobin sa mga tao na hindi taga law, or kahit taga law din.

    i’m looking forward to reading more of your stuff.

  13. I guess I have nothing so important to comment on this blog. I just loved reading your write, Jae. Ano bang alam ko sa law. Hubble shifted to astronomy from law because he found the latter boring. Even the previous sentence does sound anachronistic and is not meant to sound hostile.

    Pero I must say I love the way you write. B.S Mathematics ako Jae. Pero gusto kitang blow-out pag-uwi ko. I want you to meet my daughter, perhaps maturuan sa pag-sulat. She’s editor-in-chief ng Magnificat sa Miriam.

    Views do change. I cannot be judgemental on what people write here. What one has written could be a 180-degree turn on what they’ll write several years later. But I can see the passion married with intellectual positivism in your blog, Jae.

    Keep it up.

    Senior Systems Analyst — Al Juffali Group
    Saudi Arabia

  14. dean marvic sana turuan mo din ang iyong estudyante na talagang pang heaven ang mga attitude. . sana punta sila dito sa sariff aguak atmagtanong kung ano ba ang pinanggagagawa ng mga ampatuan. sana maging isa kayo sa na chain saw ng buhay ng mga ampatuan. yun po ang panalangin anmin na taga mindanao

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