April 20, 2024

The Saint Louis University School of Law will celebrate its 70th years this March 23.
After finishing my bachelor’s degree in Business, I enrolled at the then College of Law.
Our batch started with 25 aspirants determined to join the noblest profession. Before law, my naughty mind always thought that “prostitution” was the oldest although both have similarities – “money down before laydown, joke!
Among my classmates was police officer, Robert Valentin, former teachers at San Jose High School now retired Judge Sabo Orallo and former National Commission on Indigenous Peoples Director and former Mountain Province Administrator Ador Batay-an respectively, Union of Faculty and Employees of SLU president Religion Department Rolly de la Cruz (+).
I was studying part-time while teaching at the then Baguio Colleges Foundation Comsec Department recruited by Dean de la Cruz barely out of college at age 19 and then transferred to SLU Commerce with Dean Gabino Garoy.
The lucky full-time students were Jane Buclay, now Mabalot whose husband and son – Bob and Bobby were also graduates of SLU, Grace Meris, Fiscal Ferdie Suanding (+), retired Benguet Prosecutor Andres Gondayao, Siliman Law Dean Joel Obar, Prosecutor Raffy Lampitoc, Manny Cabanlig (+) among others.
The core of professors was led by Dean Francisco “Ikong” Reyes, Judge Salvador Valdez, attorneys Fernando Cabato and more who guided us through a labyrinth of laws, jurisprudence and statutes reciting “nullum crimen, nulla poena, sige lege” 10,000 times.
By the end of the four year course only eight of us remained and after almost 35 years only four of us remained in active membership with the Bar, while the rest have retired, gone into private endeavors and simply enjoyed life and the others went to the great beyond.
People go to Law school and vow to spend ridiculous hours reading books and have no life outside of school.
One would think that inside the classroom everyone seems so intelligent and well prepared except yourself. In recitations, everyone would raise their hands and spout out words that sometimes made no sense to those who have not read the cases and have no clue or inkling like me. It made me feel like I was surrounded by legal eagles who were geniuses.
Our batch, the working species, most of all, developed a style of cramming, right before the exam or recitation and still get a 95 percent grade.
As for life-outside-school, after every class we made sure to trek to Macabalo’s Barbershop and Bar at the second-floor basement along General Luna, side-street Silvertone Hotel to have a daily-dose-of-gin-with-cornik as pulutan where we swap war stories and opinions in loud voices the way first-years do, to announce to the universe that they are disciples of the law.
Now, I realize that most of what we were saying meant nothing and Law students just love hearing themselves speak and love sounding smart to impress others. This indicated that we had no clue what we were talking about. The fun part though is we would tell and retell stories of classroom antics which were a-plenty.
After the Bar, Rolly and I joined the Cabato Law where we obtained the invaluable experience mentored by Judge Federico and later Judge Nanding and of course, Tom Rufino.
Life as a practitioner was comfortable although the first three years was financially difficult as our appearance fees were live or fried chicken, vegetables and once in a while, P200 from generous clients.
In 1992, I joined the House of Representatives and two years into my term opened my own law firm at Session Road with Attorneys Justin Licnachan, Lulu Reyes, Bien Maceda, Ruth Bernabe and Nans Opiana.
Later on, we were joined by Danny Manggalay, Gardy Taqued, Paulyn de la Cruz, Edwin Marquez, John Ray Libiran, Atang Arevalo-Manaois and Joan Cadio.
Some joined government and now we have Bien, Edwin, Gizel Dalloran-Onahon, Julien Peralta, George Baywong III, Anton Luis A. Avila, Val Pamplona, and Gema Bauzon-Piza.
John Ray is now Dean of the University of Baguio School of Law.
After my two-term stint in Congress, I went back to where I belonged – practice of law and accepted the deanship of the SLU COL introducing various innovations reaping the harvest myself when our son Anton landed 8th in the 2019 Bar.
Today, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines will honor me as one of the pillars of justice and Saturday, SLU Law will confer a juris doctor degree to all of us. Indeed, at the twilight of my journey as a lawyer, life has treated me well.