"I made sure I did not shortchange the School"

MY LIFE is an example of total transformation. My family started with an uncertain future, not sure of how to cope with poverty. My father was a welder, my mother a housekeeper, both elementary graduates. I am the third of seven children. Migrating from San Juan, Batangas to Batangas City, my father mustered the courage to put up a small welding shop on a rented lot. It was made of light materials which also serve as our house. All of his children, regardlessof age or gender, took turns in helping in the shop. My mother, apart from taking care of us, took  odd jobs, from direct selling to being kubrador (collector of bets) in the illegal numbers game of jueteng. Despite their lack of education, my parents never lost hope and kept dreaming, and working, for our bright future.

God is good to my family and me. He gave me the Sisters of Mary, a living example of charity at its best, giving without expecting anything in return. Without Fr. Al and the Sisters I may not be the same person that I am today. God’s grace coupled with determination and hard work enabled us to move from a welding shop to a modest family home, no longer made of light materials, constructed with the help of my sister who worked as a nurse overseas. Modesty aside, my three sisters are all nurses; my three brothers are an educator, a computer professional and dentists respectively. I took the bar and passed in 2000. I thought part time while attending law classes in the evening. I joined government service in 2001 as executive assistant to the Secretary of Justice. I am now State Council in the Justice Department, handling the variety of the assignments: office work, rendering opinions, attending inter-agency meetings, and representing the government in trade negotiations here and abroad, among others.

After the Sisters of Mary, my second grace was a college scholarship. Though we could work after graduation, say in a machine shop for which we were thoroughly trained, the choice to go to college instead seemed made for me.  With my slight build, I could not take up work meant for big boys. Besides, my family had already been scouting for any college scholarship for me, and they chose a school where a Political Science course was offered, and for me to take it from there towards a Bachelor of Laws. I’ve always wanted to be a lawyer. It was clear to me from the start. As high school class salutatorian, I could apply for partial scholarship. I took the qualifying exam for full scholarship under Presidential Decree No. 451, which mandated fund for poor but deserving students. It was a long shot, since one scholar was chosen for every 500 freshmen enrollees. But the freshmen enrollment hit one thousand and I was accommodated as a second scholar. Thus I was a full scholar for my entire college course. I was active in school, gained popularity and respect for my academic standing and for writing in the student paper (which I later served as editor- in- chief), until I finished AB Political Science cum laude in 1996. I made sure I did not shortchange the school or anyone for giving me the scholarship.

God is good for while we stood onstage during graduation, the college president offered full scholarship in the College of Law to the four honor students from the College of Arts and Sciences. Only a friend and I took the offer and enrolled in the College of the Law of the University of Batangas when the Semester started. The next four years were a mixture of things that I enjoyed doing and hard work. Since law classes were held only during nighttime I decided to take a day job in 1997 as college instructor in the same school. I was running expenses even as I had to help out supporting my other siblings, I needed the income. At the same time I was again active in school: I was president of the student council and editor-in-chief of the law journal. I maintained my academic standing while making sure that I thought my students to the best of my abilities. I succeeded in juggling these occupations and finished my Bachelor of Laws as class valedictorian.

On top of all this, my law school days were especially interesting because of the running competition I had for the highest honors. My competitor is another friend who is now my wife. We got married in December 2006. She was my girlfriend for eleven years. She too is now a lawyer, working for the Bureau of Immigration. We are blessed with a beautiful daughter, Lara Ysabel.

I cherish the memory of Fr. Al and the Sister who take care of us. I recall Fr. Al’s homilies which were truly substantive food for the soul. I remember Fr. Al when he was physically strong and when he was debilitated by disease. And when I see the children now, with hope in their eyes, and singing in their sweet voice, I understand and appreciate the sacrifices that Fr. Al and the Sisters went through for us. I will never forget I was like them, one of the poorest of the poor.  I will never forget the guiding principle that Fr. Al thought me-that he was only God’s instrument in making sure that a poor kid like me will have a fighting chance in the world out there. And it is up for us, his children, to continue in our humble way being living examples of Fr. Al and the Sisters of Mary. 


Batch 1992, Biga Boystown
Assistant Undersecretary, Department of Justice