In June 2006, I attended the 72nd biennial convention of the International Law Association (“ILA”) at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto, Canada.
I was part of the delegation of lawyers from the Integrated Bar of the Philippines of Quezon City complemented by a number of Metro-Manila judges and other government functionaries from the Philippines such as: then Governor and Mrs. Vicente Valera from Abra, a province in the Ilocos region; PCCG Commissioner Camilo Sabio, Quezon City RD Chief Elbert Quilala, among others. The current President of ILA-Philippines then was the Late Gen. Guillermo Picache, who also was a lawyer and who was then President of the Asia Brewery Incorporated.
My room mate was Judge Erwin Ramizo, a competent and hardworking magistrate who is assigned at the Regional Trial Court (“RTC”) of Pasay City, Metro-Manila, Philippines.
We took more than 32 hours of travel from Manila to Toronto, as the organizer particularly the one who booked our flight plausibly scrimped on costs. We took a Southern China plane from the NAIA (“Ninoy Aquino International Airport”) in Manila to Xiamen, then another plane to Beijing, then an Air Canada plane to Vancouver and finally, another Air Canada plane to Toronto. What was aggravating was the fact, another indication of scrimping, was that every time we transferred planes we have to lug our luggage and have it checked-in anew, for each and every flight. I pitied Judge Teodoro Bay of RTC, Quezon City who traveled with his wife as they have to lug their heavy luggage and every one in our group tried to help them with their luggage. Judge Bay and his gracious wife planned to stay with their relatives living in Ontario after the convention.
I was excited to come to Canada as it was my first time to fly to Canada and I also wanted to meet my fraternity brother, Roman I. Dinglasan, whom I have not seen for a long time. And as I have always been boasting through my emails to him that my wife Criselda (“Dang”), who is a culinary chef, bakes the most delicious chocolate cake in the whole universe, Roman challenged me if I could bring the home-baked cake from Manila to Toronto, Canada. And there I was, hand-carrying the chocolate cake, always conscious that I have to really carefully hold on to the box. I was carrying the box as though I were carrying a bomb equipped with motion-sensors that a sudden jolt, a push or a bump, could let it explode. So, I was meticulous in my steps and my movements, with myself behaving like a ring-bearer in a nuptial holding on to the cake with my both hands, palms facing upward supporting the bottom of the box, as though offering the cake to the gods. And I would ask help from my group mates to substitute, every time I have something to do with my hands.
What was funny was that when we reached Beijing, the airport authorities suspecting perhaps that something could be inside the middle of the spongy chocolate cake (perhaps, a BOMB!) subjected the cake to a punctilious check. Thus, airport police officers in Beijing, about THREE (3) of them, took turns in piercing the cake with thin but long bamboo sticks vertically and horizontally, as though they were trying to catch a ring or a hook from inside the cake. And the cake was eventually given some sort of a “clean bill of health”.
We arrived in Toronto almost around 8 PM and as Roman fetched me at the airport, he brought me to eat a meal of hot noodles at Toronto’s Chinatown and thereafter he brought me to Fairmont Royal York Hotel (“Fairmont”) which he said was the favorite hotel patronized by royalty and VIPs.
The speeches during the convention on subjects that seem to be so scholarly proved boring and that what brought us the daily excitement were the buffet meals and the drinks which invariably included premium wine.
And as usual, in a congregation of adult Filipinos unaccompanied by their wives, except for Judge Bay and Gov. Valera, we eventually found ourselves converging one night at Toronto’s Yonge Street where striptease bars abound.
Well, for some kind of trivia about Yonge Street, is that it is touted and bruited about as the longest street in the whole world. But more than that I saw the tallest striptease dancer in one of the striptease bars, beautiful lady but looking like an enormous giant.
When the striptease act begun, one of the Filipino judges who quipped in the vernacular: “Eh, hindi naman tayo kakilala dito eh, lalapit ako para mas maganda ang panoorin!” [English translation: Well, we are not known here in this part of the globe, so I will bring my chair closer to the stage for a better view.”]
So the aggressive magistrate, brought his chair nearest to the stage (he was actually about a foot away from the edge of the stage while all the others were about 4 to 8 meters away from the stage) as though he was some kind of an art critic descrying, scrutinizing and examining in detail every curve, crease and color of the stripteasers’ body and skin.
And as we got all benighted, the next day, it was so hard to keep our bodies awake as the soporific effect of the cool ambience and the enticement of the soft bed just a couple of floors up from the convention venue, kept tugging us out of the convention doors.
So, I and Judge Ramizo, decided to go up our room after taking a hearty lunch from the buffet meals, and doze off on our beds at our assigned room upstairs.
When I woke up, and checked the clock, it read 8:30 and I immediately concluded that we might have overslept. I jumped into the bath room, took a quick shower and woke up Judge Ramizo, telling him that we are already late for the morning schedule as the convention proceedings start promptly at 8:00 AM.
I darted out of our room, as all the hand-outs for the day’s scheduled were usually being disseminated at the start of the day’s session, fearing that I might not get any copy anymore (while Judge Ramizo hollered: “Sige, sunod ako at ikuha mo na ako ng handouts ko ha.” [English translation: “Okey, I will just follow and please get my copies of the hand-outs too.”]
When I reached the convention hall, I got surprised as I found the convention hall empty with a crew of janitors cleaning the hall. Thinking that the convention may have transferred to another venue within the hotel, I asked one of the janitors as to where the participants of the ILA convention went. The janitor gave me a puzzled look and told me: “Perhaps, they have gone up to their rooms and may be sleeping by now.”
It was only then that I realized that I mistook the clock’s 8:30 PM as 8:30 AM of the following day. When I headed back to our room, I met Judge Ramizo along the hallway and I deprecatingly told him, while I checked my watch: “Just please do not declare me in contempt of court, sorry for waking you up, today is still Thursday and our convention’s resumption will still happen tomorrow morning. It is not 9:00 AM now, it is 9:00 PM still.”
And Judge Ramizo, with a snicker on his face, and myself with a downcast look repaired back to our room to sleep.
The following day, as it was Poland’s Lech Walesa who was scheduled to speak and as I tried to make up for the inconvenience I caused Judge Ramizo, I did my best to ask the Polish leader to have a photo-opportunity with the Philippine delegation. And Polish leader Lech Walesa willingly obliged.
As it was nearing the end of the convention, I kept on accumulating give-away items which are bountifully being given out to participants. In fact, those items supposedly donated by the many sponsors of the convention, are lumped in heaps atop a long table at the edges of the hall where the buffet meals are being served. My customary pick are the ballpens with the logo of the ILA on it as well as a round-looking item which is called PUCK, also with the ILA logo. Actually, as I belatedly remember a PUCK is used as the focus of play in ice hockey. It actually is a round disk made of rubber about 1 ½ inches thick and which doubles up as paper weight.
As I was not as yet then too computer-literate, I skipped getting items from what I saw are piles of pint-sized looking gadgets heaped unto the brim of a huge crystal receptacle. I was wondering why it was a favorite pick from among the Caucasian participants to the ILA convention.
I eventually learned that those gadgets apart from pens, paperweights, etc. were useful as part of the computer-culture. As I knew nothing about that gadget, while I picked up a lot of pens and paper weights as “pasalubong” [English translation: pasalubong is a “homecoming gift to kith and kin”] for my colleagues in my law office, I kept on avoiding the gadget. But as I learned afterwards, upon my return to Manila that those were USB flash drives now termed as USB memory sticks or sometimes called jet sticks. On hind sight, I thought I should have scooped a handful of them too, considering the expensive nature of such gadgets.
After the convention, Roman fetched us and eventually brought us to Niagara Falls, an episode which I will narrate in my next blog on this subject.