[Facade of the MALCOLM Hall, the building in UP Diliman which houses the University of the Philippines-College of Law. The hall is named after the first dean of the College, the American Law Professor George Malcolm.]
When I was still an undergraduate student taking up a course in Economics at the University of the Philippines (“UP”) in Diliman and eventually in UP Manila (when I became a working student), I once did a research at the UP College of Law library. I was so amazed when I did my research at the UP Law library at a time when the UP College of Law was just a one-building affair, the MALCOLM Hall.
During the sixties, MALCOLM Hall hosted under its wings two colleges aside from the library: the College of Nursing and the College of Law. The College of Nursing virtually occupied the first floor and the College of Law and the Library at the higher floors until the College of Nursing got transferred to UP-Philippine General Hospital in 1977.
My amazement when I first had the chance to visit the UP College of Law library was that the library was very quiet and so sedate as compared to the somewhat clattery ambience particularly the seemingly restrained but still noisy chatter at the UP Main Library then. Also, the furniture and appointments at the UP Law library then (i.e the tables, chairs and the stand-up cabinets which contained the catalogue cards, etc.) which was located at the higher floor of the Malcolm Hall were so classic and so rococo. Thus, my awe and amazement as well as interest to enter the UP College of Law someday, got all the more piqued.
Also, I got so awed and dazzled by a perception imbedded then in my mind that the students at the UP College of Law are the more intelligent and virtually the cream of the crop of the UP Diliman community. When Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago became Editor-in-Chief of the Philippine Collegian in 1968, while she was I think in her junior year at UP Law, it was the first time that I encountered the word “concomitant” which I think she used in the maiden issue of her editorship at the Philippine Collegian. And from then on, I oftenly used the word theretofore, which to me then was highfalutin. I got so fascinated by the bombast and bluster of Sen. Miriam’s style and language for which reason, I tended to become pompous at times in my use of words too.
Also, during student council elections those days, most of the time when I was still an undergrad at what was called then as University College based at the Palma Hall (eventually referred to during those sequel years as A–S as acronym for Arts and Sciences Building), the candidates for Chairman of the UP Student Council would invariably come from the UP College of Law.
Thus, when I passed the law aptitude test as well as the interview by a panel of UP Law professors, notably Prof. Ruben Balane, to allow me to enroll as freshman at the UP College of Law, I felt that I will then become among UP Diliman’s cream of the crop.
I was then working as Research Assistant at the Institute of Philippine Culture at the ATENEO, and after I finished my 6-month contract at the IPC, I worked at the Tondo Foreshore Dagat-Dagatan Development Project of the National Housing Authority (“NHA”) also as Research Assistant, when I was freshman at the UP College of Law. My seatmate then was my fraternity brother, recently retired Manila RTC Judge Felixberto T. Olalia, Jr. (“Jun”), who was seated to my left at the front row of the class. Eventually however, Jun moved to the day section as he was actually working in the office of his father, the eminent labor leader Ka Bert Olalia, who was the acknowledged founder of the Kilusang Mayo Uno. Other members of that evening class which I think initially numbered about FORTY (40), was the late Dionne “Dionne” Laurico, seated next to Jun and who became an Alpha Phi Betan, but who died young. His fraternity brother, Mario “Mar” Turingan, who was also with us in the evening section (the younger brother of one of RAM’s founders, Col. Felix Turingan), also died young.
Others who were seated at the front and second rows were: Peter Paul Pineda (“Peter”), Annette Sandico (“Annette”), Gina Calleja (“Gina”), Jose Osana (“Joey”), Imelda Baun (“Imee”), Mario Clutario, Jr. (“Mar”) and Romeo Legaspi (“Romy”). Peter and Annette got married to each other and neither of them pursued the dream to a law degree. Eventually however, Peter became the chief of staff of our more notable senators. Imee who was a Central Bank officer then appeared too prudish but strict, but she did not finish the law course too. Gina, who was almost always redolent then in class, migrated to the US and is currently working as Lead Legal Document Specialist in a topnotch law office in New York. Mar became a public prosecutor and is diligently doing his prosecutorial chore at the Antipolo City Prosecutor’s Office. On the other hand, Romy who always seem to enjoy practicing his debating skills with Joey, respecting any topic under the sun, migrated to New York too, where he continuously works as an immigration lawyer.
Those who were seated at the back were the following: Mario Mina, who chose not to finish his law studies but eventually married a UP Law lady-lawyer, Atty. Nonette Corcino of UP Law Batch 75; Cecilio “Cel” Gellada who is currently the Head of the Legal Department of PSALM; the late Ed Roden Kapunan, who became Atty. Lorna Kapunan’s hubby and became an RTC Judge (except that Ed eventually moved into the day section); and the late Jaime “Jimmy” Nagrampa, who was the co-founder of the law office which I am now managing) .
Somewhere seated in the middle part of the classroom were: the late Eric Rodriguez who became an active member of the Couples for Christ together with one of his law partners, Leonides “Nides” Respicio who actually belongs to UP Law Batch 1978; Conrado “Ding” Dar Santos who is now the Head of the Labor Cases Department of the Quasha Law Office; and Agaton “Tony” Abellera, who has not shown up in our reunions (perhaps, he might have RELOCATED to a distant land) but who during our student days acquired the habit of gradually displacing, moving and RELOCATING the chair in front of him every time he would be called to recite in class. Cel lately confided to me that the reason he would always come in late for our Political Law class under Prof. Carmelo Sison was a deliberate machination. He further explained that since it was Prof. Sison’s rule to call first for recitation those who would come in late, Cel made sure that he is much prepared to recite the assigned cases. And having been called first, he would not be so stressed throughout the remaining minutes of the class.
When Dionne, Mar, Ding and another UP Law 1979 grad, Edwin “Edwin” Sales (who actually belongs to the day section), graduated in 1979, I facilitated their employment as Hearing Officers at NHA’s Tondo Project while they await the results of the Bar examinations. Among them, it was only Mar who opted to remain at NHA until his untimely death. Anent Joey Osana, I will partly discuss about him further in the latter portion of this BLOG.
There were others who made lasting impressions among us during our evening class but who took their pre-law degrees from the provinces and one of whom is Jose “Joe” Camano, who migrated to Michigan, U.S.A. in 2000. He was originally enrolled at the evening section but transferred to the day section the following semester. Like others, he did not want to prolong his law studies for another year. At the UP College of Law, the morning or day section curriculum is spread through FOUR (4) years, while the evening section which caters to working professionals goes through a longer span of FIVE (5) years.
Joe Camano, whom I fondly called Pading Joe, which is Bicol term for “Kumpareng Joe” left his law practice to join his wife-nurse and children in the US. He initially worked as an IT help desk at the Ford Motors and Chrysler for a while then opened up his own business selling computer hardware. A freak traffic accident involving Pading Joe’s wife traumatized her and she could no longer drive to work. Thus, Pading Joe sold his business so he can drive his wife to work and in between chauffeuring his wife, he babysits his two grandkids. Joe is a great loss to the lawyering profession in the Philippines. I know him to be hard working, diligent and so passionate in advocating for a client. On occasions, that I have bumped into him in the court corridors –always, the spark of friendship rekindles.
During our UP Law freshman year, I truly found Pading Joe as studious and intelligent as he would dissect and analyze the legal issues in our discussions with fluid perspicuity. I admire Pading Joe even more as he was so courageous to have bravely expressed his mind and questioned a Supreme Court decision on the interpretation of the Spanish term regarding the matter of “semilla alimenticia” [I think it was the case of People vs. Arsenio Mesias, GR No. L-45749] in our Criminal Law 1 class under the eminent professor, Prof. Bienvenido Ambion.
Perhaps, Prof. Ambion had a rough day before that class of ours in the evening as instead of just telling Pading Joe that the Supreme Court was right and his (i.e. Pading Joe’s) perception was wrong, Prof. Ambion rebuked Pading Joe calling him even an UPSTART in the field of law and is therefore not yet entitled to question the decisions of the Supreme Court.
I remember that Pading Joe’s eyes and mine met, eyeball to eyeball, when I gazed from my front row seat to look at him as he was seated diagonally behind. My admiration reached its crescendo at that particular time as Pading Joe was erect with subdued smirk, a profile of unyielding belief in one’s conviction and defiant to the pummeling of even the most highly competent professor in the field. I smiled at him and he smiled back.
Pading Joe was suspended by the Supreme Court to practice law for one year in 2005, five years after he left the Philippines. But he wrote a book, “Censuring Back The Supreme” (Termites From Within) boldly complaining unto the Supreme Court on the railroading of the administrative case against him—i.e. without giving him the right to comment on his purported professional infraction; and by promulgating the suspension order “in absentia.”
In his book, he poured out his frustration over the sad state of the judicial system in our country. Joe also mentioned in his book that incident in Professor Ambion’s class and the quizzical look and amusement I have had seeing him baptized with fire and brimstone in one humid evening class session.
I do not have a copy of Joe’s book but I have casually perused a copy from a lawyer who in the past I had worked with in a probate of the will case, Atty. Eliezer Castellano. Eliezer migrated to Michigan too like Pading Joe and went back as a “balikbayan”. Eliezer’s son, Robert, a nurse, was hired by Pading Joe’s wife in the nursing facility in Westland, Michigan and it was this fated encounter that the two retired lawyers came to know each other in the U.S. It was my turn to find my friend again who had left the profession he dearly loves.
Eliezer asked me if I knew Atty. Joe Camano because Eliezer said, he happened to read in Joe’s book the name Walter Young who was “grinning from ear to ear” when the former was being upbraided by Professor Ambion one evening inside a classroom at the UP College of Law. Eliezer then was not so sure if I were the same fellow mentioned in the book and he was so ecstatic when I said Pading Joe was my classmate.
On hindsight however, that rebuff by Prof. Ambion directed at my classmate Pading Joe was normal in the UP College of Law. I felt that the esteemed professor might have seen in my classmate Joe, that irrepressible spirit which has to be nurtured and at the same time checked so the attributes of a good lawyer and a court warrior are polished like a sharp and shining sword – like a rough steel to be melted in the crucible to refine the edges and to temper its strength.
I saw my Prof. Ambion then as an accomplished blacksmith, while Pading Joe, as a steel about to be forged. That was in 1974. In 1979, most of my classmates had been forged – so we can face the rigor and stress of the profession and its vicissitudes. I actually got suspended due to my fraternity’s initiation rites which got reported by a parent of a neophyte (as I was then the head of my fraternity) and after which, I took a leave for a semester, I eventually graduated from UP Law in 1980.
In mid-year of 2015, I bumped unto Pading Joe again through FACEBOOK and I have never tired cajoling him to go back to the Philippines and resume his law practice. As a sweetener I offered him partnership in my law office in Cubao, Quezon City. Pading Joe was thrilled with the idea. As for me, lawyers should not be RETIRED; as lawyers (mostly the diligent, hard working, qualified and honest lot), are constantly REHIRED.
There were other UP Law students who caught up with our evening section batch, after having enrolled earlier, took a leave and stopped matriculating for some time, due to varied reasons. Notable among whom are: Victoria (“Vicky”) Sisante Bataclan who became Philippine Ambassador Plenipotentiary to Belgium, Ma. Loreto “Babes” Navarro, who became Vice-President of a reputable investment company, Proculo “Procs” Sarmen (whose key-chain tactic amuses me so gaily, as Procs aka Coluy would seem to mesmerize the professors while he fondles his bunch of keys with his right hand while confidently standing in recitation, putting the professor spellbound), who became NLRC Commissioner with work station in Cagayan de Oro; Talek “Talek” Pablo, who was connected with the Bureau of Customs and is until now working as Consultant therein, and the late Emmanuel RS (“Tonti”) Abad-Santos, the youngest son of the terror Dean of the UP Law during the 60s up to the early 70s. Tonti became one of my law partners too in the law office which I am managing.
There were UP Law studes then too who were actually originally from the day section but would subsequently enroll as evening students, after having landed a job. Notable among this group is Alpha Dayot (“Alpha”), who eventually for some time became a diplomat and who ultimately married a Pakistani diplomat.The demure and gracious Alpha whom Joey Osana fondly remembers as always on the GO, and who really seem to be almost always hurrying and scurrying , has put up a helpful FACEBOOK page for UP Law Batch 1979. Through this wondrous feat on the part of Alpha, communication among the UP Law 79 batch mates has all the more been fostered.
Another “Jose” whom I admire so much is my classmate Joey Osana, who emerged to be a top caliber taxation law expert and who has just retired as an eminent partner of SGV. Invariably, Joey topped most of the examinations in our evening section classes and would almost always get a good mark during class recitations. Joey graduated Magna Cum Laude at the University of the East and passed the CPA Board exams with flying colors. Joey is similarly acknowledged to be one among the more brilliant members of the UP Law Evening Class circa 1974-1979. More on Joey and the rest of our classmates in my next BLOG.