[At the Red Kimono Restaurant located at U.P. Technohub, we met our UP Law classmate, now NLRC Commissioner Proculo “Procs” Sarmen, with work station in Cagayan de Oro. Fortunately, Procs came to Manila to attend the yearly en banc session of the NLRC at its PPSTA, Banaue, Quezon City Head Office. From left to right: Cel Gellada, Babes Navarro, myself and Procs Sarmen.]
I came to know lately that among the law schools in the country, probably it is only the UP College of Law which offers day sections to its students. I have been told that most if not all law schools in metropolitan Manila conduct classes and do the teaching all in the evening. Teaching at night time has become the norm in other law schools in the national capital region and even in the provincial areas. About this night-time preoccupation, I remember that Prof. Ruben Balane once said in our Persons & Family Relations class, that the most exciting things happen in the stillness of the night.
Anyway, this evening schedule, I guess is student- friendly and most convenient as most of the faculty members are working in the judiciary, others are with the national prosecution service and some are legal practitioners.
With the horrendous traffic now in Metro-Manila, it would really be hard for someone working at the port area at the extreme western portion of the metropolis just like me and Ambassador Vicky Bataclan then, to timely reach Diliman for a 6:00 PM class. More so difficult for someone working in Makati to catch that evening class as one would have to rush and sweat it out while wedging to get into the jam-packed MRT coaches plying the EDSA route.
During the early 70s, a JD bus from the port area in Manila could speedily navigate the run through Quezon Avenue from the port area to Quiapo and up to Balara in Diliman within a span of 30 minutes. But today, during the rush hour at 5:00 PM’s dismissal time from work, it could take at least ONE (1) and 30 minutes.
All along, I thought that the travails encountered by working students like me, Amb. Vicky Bataclan, Gina Calleja (who eventually was gifted by her parents with a flashy yellow colored Mitsubishi Lancer car, to make her trip from Makati more relaxing), the late Jimmy Nagrampa who was then working at the Press Secretary’s Office in Malacañang, and all of the others in the evening section of 1974, was the heaviest of all working student burdens.
Anent these travails, Babes Navarro who also experienced the same toil of a working student, was Jimmy Nagrampa’s favorite classmate to jest with. The latter would exaggeratedly lament his troubles in commuting via a public transport from Malacañang and upon arriving in class, Jimmy would readily be wont to say: “Tayong lahat, halos amoy pawis na at nanggigitata na, pero si Babes mabango pa rin.” [English translation: “All of us would smell so foul and sweaty already upon reaching our evening class, but Babes would still be sweet smelling.”]
And that was because, though Babes was in fact working too; she was just working nearby as a COA representative based near the Vinzon’s Hall which is about 5 minutes away, via a leisurely gait to the Malcolm Hall.
But, it turned out that the most laborious experience by one among us, a UP Law evening student who caught up with us in 1975 and stayed as our meek and taciturn classmate, was really something for the books. It was that of Procs.
Proculo “Procs” Sarmen entered the UP College of Law in 1973. Actually, though a native of Surigao, Procs took his political science degree at the University of San Carlos in Cebu City and as he was then still out of job (having to fend for his studies on his own), Procs had to stop for a year. I remember that Procs was so diminutive then (around 90 pounds in weight), as though an elementary pupil who might have gotten lost after gallivanting into UP Diliman and landing thereby at the corridors of the Malcolm Hall. But I got surprised thereafter as I learned that Procs was a former Corps Commander during his ROTC days. Candidly, Procs struck me as a nice and kind-hearted person who was neither talkative nor rowdy but was in fact, possessed with a calm and dignified mien.
In 1975 after procuring THREE (3) jobs, he went back to UP Law. His day job was as Graduate Assistant at the Department of Psychology in UP Diliman, a very convenient work posting, as he was then based at the Faculty Center which is a kilometer away from Malcolm Hall. Procs was in fact hobnobbing with the likes of Prof. Alfredo Lagmay and Prof. Lenny De Jesus, etc.
His most exacting night job however, which starts after his dismissal from his evening classes at UP Law was at the Fort Bonifacio area at the NAMRIA. This night job ensued when Procs accidentally got acquainted and became friends with a businessman who was in the business of making maps. And this intrepid entrepreneur was able through his connections, to bag government contracts for the generation of all types of maps most particularly aerial and mosaic maps. I even learned that the aerial map and the model mosaic map which adorns the lobby of the Tondo Foreshore Project office at the Don Bosco compound in Tondo, where I worked then, were all churned out by Proc’s friend’s outfit.
Procs’ duty was to supervise and monitor the work being done by a team of employees pirated by Proc’s friend from a topnotch surveying company which was also involved in geospatial concerns. These people were all enticed and lured by Proc’s friend with handsome pay packages to moonlight in his company. Almost sleepless, they would all work the following day in their regular diurnal jobs.
The third job of Procs was at the Engineering Building, just a couple of steps away from the Malcolm Hall, where Procs was not actually required to be stationed on a regular basis. Procs was actually serving as some kind of consultant of sorts, as the outfit was also involved in some geospatial concerns particularly map making projects.
Procs has recently confessed to us that the reason why he was so quiet, so taciturn and so much gentle and lethargic was that he was almost always sleepless. But at times, he said, he would do forty winks while stationed at his Faculty Center-Department of Psychology’s work post, as most of the time; his bosses would be at their respective classrooms teaching Psychology subjects. And this daily and nightly grind of drudgery and toil went through the years spent by Procs at the UP Law, until his graduation in 1979. Actually, Proc’s bosses at the UP Department of Psychology never knew until his graduation, that he was a UP College of Law student.
One time, as Procs nostalgically narrated, perhaps having taken a toll due to sleeplessness and the incessant toiling which could have brought him much fatigue, Procs got hospitalized at the UP Infirmary a couple of days before Christmas. And he got eventually surprised by the Infirmary’s staff and Church volunteers who greeted him with individual gifts and their joyful singing of Christmas carols immediately after the midnight mass at the nearby UP chapel.
Back to UP Law…I could still vividly recall during our Trial Technique class under the eminent and topnotch criminal lawyer that time, Prof. Dakila Castro; Procs was designated to act as Judge in our moot court activity. I think, we in that evening class took turns in conducting the direct examination and cross-examination of our classmate, the late Dionne Laurico, who was made to stand as witness. Actually, Prof. Castro served as defense counsel while our other classmate, Mario “Mar” Clutario served as the principal prosecuting lawyer. Perhaps, just as to take a swipe at Prof. Castro, Procs promulgated a decision which was unfavorable to Prof. Castro’s cause. Thus, when Procs promulgated the decision which put Prof. Castro somewhat on the spot, Prof. Castro wittily announced: “If ever I become President of the Philippines, I will surely appoint Mr. Proculo Sarmen as the country’s Solicitor General!”
Procs might have not been appointed as Sol Gen, and remained only in the wish list of the good Prof. Castro. Nevertheless, Procs became a judge but no longer in the moot court. He was appointed as NLRC Commissioner (equal to the rank of a Court of Appeals’ Justice) in 2003 and is now the most senior NLRC Commissioner at the Cagayan De Oro station.
We, myself, Babes and Cel Gellada, met Procs recently over dinner at the Red Kimono at the UP Technohub on January 19, 2016. This time Procs appeared much more dignified in his intricately embroidered jusi barong Tagalog, and his calm and serene personality radiated once more attended by his old wit and his fresh and new vigor. In fact, Procs was sort of loquacious and energetic; not anymore meek, lethargic and silent.