Tuesday, July 10, 2012

How do you see your Law Professors?

We have different opinions about what kind of professors do we have. Sometimes, we call them lazy, demanding and frustrating! But what about the good things they have imparted to us? I've known lots of good professors during my stay in PUP-CEFP, they do not only teach what is asked from them to teach, rather, they share life's lesson which you can bring with you wherever you go and things you'll never learn inside the classroom --VALUES . Let me share with you a beautiful article I read in Young Blood (Yes, I'm a fan of this column). This is about an ordinary student and an ordinary Law Professor who taught him extraordinary lessons.

My other father


I have a father other than the one who gave me his genes. This one gave me my knowledge of labor law and created in me love for the law and the good that it can do for others.
I met my other father for the second time during the entrance interview at the University of the Philippines College of Law. He chaired a panel of five and began by asking me why I wanted to become a lawyer. He said that if he had P1 or P5 for every time he heard the phrase “because I want to help the poor,” he would now be a millionaire. I forgot how I answered; perhaps it was because I failed to address his question directly as my answer was what he expected: I wanted to help the poor.
After telling the panel about my concept of what a lawyer should be and my love for well written work, my second father asked me why the panel should admit me as a law student. I began my answer with “I think I deserve to be in UP because I work hard and I truly believe that I could help make a change.” He stopped me in mid-sentence and asked whether I would change the phrase “I deserve.” I apologized and said that it was not for me to decide, and that I would abide by the panel’s decision.
Thus began my journey into our unique Philippine legal system. Through the grueling everyday routine of reading non-literature, I relished the times that I would exchange a word or two with my other father while we were reading the morning newspaper at the library.
Then he became my professor in labor law. As part of our substantive law, labor law is important for the fact that all persons will and must work. It dictates the standards of one’s employment as well as the relationship between employee and employer rights. As there is always conflict between the latter two, we have a plethora of Supreme Court decisions discussing almost every conflict situation involving labor. To properly educate us on these conflicts, and the doctrines the high court uses to come to solutions, my labor law professor assigned more than the usual number of cases per class meeting.
I valued this labor law class particularly because I believed that I would not be in law school if not for Prof. Domingo Disini, who, in a manner uniquely his, taught me the value of humility in the entrance interview. As my professor, he made it a point to call me for recitation every day. Because of the difficulty of his recitation questions, I made sure to read all the cases that he assigned in the original. This usually meant that I would have to read, and more importantly, remember what I read, all through the night. One day, because of lack of sleep, I incurred an eye infection. With one eye closed and bandaged under my glasses, I still came to class, and even recited. My professor’s only remark was: “I hope that (referring to my eye bandage) is not because of the cases.” I just smiled.
Our chats at the library’s newspaper section continued years after our labor law class. I always made it a point to greet Professor Disini every time I met him. As with most fathers, he would not directly ask me how I was; he would just occasionally ask what year I was in and whether I was taking the bar exams. We never again discussed the varied issues of law as we used to in class until I was reviewing for the bar.
For a change in environment I chose to enroll at Ateneo School of Law’s bar review. Reviewing for the bar, I learned, was the time when a law student realizes the gaps in his knowledge. This initially causes a panic, which is eased with more and more study. I began every day by reading the newspapers at the Ateneo law library. As luck would have it, Professor Disini would also be there as he was also a review lecturer in the university.
We sat at this new newspaper area, which afforded better seating than the one where we sat in for years, and he still, as most fathers, would not ask how I was and would simply ask what I was reading and on which subject. I never told him that I had a less difficult time reviewing labor law as I felt that reading the materials that he had assigned in class more than adequately prepared me for this subject of the bar. I never thanked him for the lessons he taught me, for calling me for recitation every day and for indirectly forcing me to read all those cases to the point that one of my eyes closed.
Then came the bar exams. The exam on labor law was interesting as it had questions on issues that covered the “gray areas” of the law, the kind of questions Professor Disini asked during recitation. I remember the only advice he gave me on the bar exams: that one would have to rely on one’s “stock knowledge.” As I was writing my answers, I was thankful for the knowledge that I had in stock. And most, if not all, of this knowledge came from my classes with Professor Disini. I even heard his voice clearly stating legal points in my head, probably because I had recorded all his lectures without his permission and listened to them after class.
I learned that to be able to remember, one must be thoroughly acquainted with the facts; to learn lessons, one must take them to heart. More than the lessons I learned from Professor Disini on labor law, I will always remember his character and his simple but firm words of encouragement. Through our memories, ideas live on, but more than the ideas we have, we also remember those who selflessly shared their ideas with us, and with their sharing made us better persons.
I will always remember the manner in which Professor Disini walked the rooms of Malcolm Hall, his varied introductory stories in class, and our exchanges when he called me for recitation. In my mind these recitations were a form of conversation, in which he tutored me patiently on the finer points of the law. I remember how he spoke in a distinct manner, clearly emphasizing points as though in an outline. I remember how awkward it was to find that I was in the same jeep with him; I knew that although he owns cars, he chooses from time to time to ride a jeep despite being well into his 70s. More than these facts, I have realized that, like the voice I heard in my head during the bar exams, these memories cumulatively created a conception of Professor Disini in my psyche, kind of like a labor law conscience, like Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Our characters are a summation not merely of the experiences and lessons we learned on our own; we are also shaped by the lessons taught by the people we meet. I believe that this is the way we share ourselves with others and how parts of us live on. The effect that we have on each other may vary, but there are people who affect us profoundly—although they shape our characters subtly, like most fathers do. Although I never got to thank Professor Disini, I have realized that an expression of gratitude would be to use the knowledge and lessons he had shared to help others and make a change, just as I promised years ago during the interview when we were strangers.
John Paul Samonte belongs to the UP law class of 2010. He is presently waiting for his appointment as a public attorney.

So, How about you? How do you see your Law Professors?

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