On June 25, Anton Luis Arevalo Avila raised his right hand and in the presence of the gods of Padre Faura in a special en banc session presided by the Chief Justice.
Together, they recited the lawyer’s oath: “I do solemnly swear that I will maintain allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines, I will support the Constitution and obey the laws as well as the legal orders of the duly constituted authorities therein; I will do no falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any in court; I will not wittingly or willingly promote or sue any groundless, false or unlawful suit, or give aid nor consent to the same; I will delay no man for money or malice, and will conduct myself as a lawyer according to the best of my knowledge and discretion, with all good fidelity as well to the courts as to my clients; and I impose upon myself these voluntary obligations without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion. So help me God.”
In one swoop of the magic wand, he was formally admitted to the Philippine Bar.
With moist eyes, we watched him recite the very same oath I took way back in 1985 at the PICC. The beauty of having the oath-taking via Zoom was the unlimited family and friends present to witness the historic event, unlike in PICC where each successful examinee was allowed only two guests because of the number of new lawyers. But unlike the usual oath-taking, where the top 10 placers are given front row seats and announced according to ranks, this year was different although it does not take away the fact that Anton is ranked eighth and of course, the bragging right is a forever mantra for us all and yes, he got his brand new Rush too.
After he signs the roll in August, he would step into the world of the nitty gritty practice of law, his choice. In the real world, the true worth of being called an attorney is when a lawyer engages in the practice where he must have the wit, eloquence, skill, and capacity to think on his feet in a second or two. It would especially be hard for him not only because of the pressure of his being a Bar topnotcher, but also because of his last name and lawyers would have a field day pouncing on him, but he will survive, I am sure.
Of course starting a practice is starvation era in a new lawyer’s life. Anton had several invitations from government and private offices, the highest offer being a whopping P220,000 a month with bonuses, a call from the Solicitor General, be a prosecutor with the Department of Justice with the pre-requisite of two years waived but from day one, after the results were announced, he was publicly saying that he wanted to serve the city of his birth.
I have always told those who wanted to join our firm that there is no such thing as a “superstar” in the law practice and all of us (I, with Nanding Cabato, Damaso Bangaoet, and Tom Rufino) started from the bottom and worked our butts out, with the next few years not earning a decent income to finance your needs.
I remember getting live chicken or sacks of potatoes as attorney’s fees during an era where appearance fee was P150 per. Ask Lee Tadeo or the Mandarin boys. Those who said yes to the challenge and signed up without batting an eyelash, past and present included are Justinian O. Licnachan (+); Ma. Lulu G. Reyes; Bienvenido M. Maceda, Jr.; Ruth P. Bernabe; Ma. Nenita A. Opiana; Gardy S. Tacqued; Daniel D. Mangallay; Glenda G. Lim; Paulyn Aquino de Castro; Edwin U. Marquez; John Ray M. Libiran; Ma. Tarahata Arevalo-Manaois; Leila Navarrete; Joan O. Cadio; Katrina DC Avila; and George C. Baywong III, among others who in their own right now are doing well in their respective careers.
Our lawyers lived honest, honorable lives with non-negotiable principles and integrity. As an office policy, we did not accept drug-related cases and maintained the dignity of our profession keeping as our bible and holy grail, the lawyer’s oath. Patience was a virtue, knowing that those who rise too fast often fall just as quickly. In time, practice became lucrative in a sense. It made one “comfortable,” not rich but the reward after winning a case or getting an innocent man wrongly accused freed was “a sense of fulfillment that is incomparable to anything.”
The chair of the 2019 Bar, Associate Justice Estelita Bernabe, said it all: “My young lawyers, you will have your own lives to live and your own stories to tell. As authors of your individual careers, never allow anybody else to hold the pen.”
Banish the illusion of perfection and do not be afraid to take calculated risks. I have often heard: When making a choice, go with your heart even if it terrifies you. Hardly will there be a perfect first choice; and rarely will everyone have a perfect beginning. And so, do not be anxious and just treasure every experience.
Welcome to the Bar and see you in court, Atty. Anton. Sigh.