Monday, November 5, 2007

Pardon Me

Pardon me. I don't want to go to jail because I'm innocent so I will just have to ask the President to forgive me. For what crime? For just being more loved by Filipinos. Can I help it if more people love me? At least, millions of Filipinos surely voted for me. But her - I'll just keep my mouth shut just in case she takes back the pardon she gave me.

Going back to the apology... You know, that "I am sorry" line is not really my thing. If I were to say I'm sorry, it would mean that I did something really bad (like stealing candies, or pulling someone's hair, or something more dreadful like lying to people's faces). But I really insist that I did nothing wrong.

Is it a crime to be loved by the poor? Why then should I apologize at all? If I have indeed committed a crime, the government would not even think of giving me a new job! I have actually heard that the government is eyeing a position for me as Anti-Poverty Consultant. Straight from detention and I have a potential job offering in the government. This is turning out quite nice. I won't be one those unemployed Filipinos. How many of them are there, anyway? Who cares! I won't be one of them once I become a consultant of this adminsitration.

I just love my friends!

According to some people, I did not sign my pardon; only my lawyer's signature was on it. Why do I have to sign? That would imply that I am admitting that I have faulted. So, I asked my faithful lawyer to prepare my petition and sign it for me. My lawyer can't do anything but sign his name because that is his job! At least, if he signed, my image is still innocent. I will always have a ready excuse for people's charges that I am guilty because I never signed the darned petition for pardon. Ain't I so smart? Sometimes, I really amaze myself.

So, for those of you who want violate the law and get rich at the same time, run for president, be impeached, be convicted and make friends with the current president who is hated by almost everyone, except her staff. You will not be pardoned, but you will also be admired by everybody for being the luckiest person alive!

Fatness First!

Fatness First!

I have always been called "tabachingching" when I was a child. Aside from being chubby, I think I am the only one in the family who is short and stout. The rest are tall and slim, with 24-inches-and-below waistlines. At 4'11", you won't call me tall. I would call myself "punggok" (little, elfin, tiny). I have been on the heavy side my whole life, except when I was still an infant and teething. In school, I would always squirm during the weighing in sessions at the clinic because I know that the weighing scale would somehow grimace at my heavy body. The only time I had a 24-inch waistline was probably when I was in grade four. I have thighs that can maim, crush and destroy. I have booties that one could use as a cover if there is a gun fight.

I grew up with older playmates, neighbors, titos and titas who saw all my baby fat and they would always tease me about it. When we would not see each other for a long time, their usual comments about me would be, "Ay ang taba taba ni Jaja, hindi na tumangkad." (Oh, Jaja is so fat. She never grew any taller.) That hurt a lot, especially when one is just a kid, who is starting to enjoy life and trying to understand why people talk to you that way. Sometimes, when I don't feel like I lost any pound at all, they would comment, "Uy, sexy ka ngayon ah." (Wow, you look sexy nowadays.) Was it sarcasm, or was it just optical illusion which made them say that? I wonder…

In college, I found friends who were really on the thin side. We would go out to the malls and look for clothes and they would be looking for the smallest size while I would try to squeeze myself in to a medium size just so I wouldn't feel too embarrassed that I would be looking for a large size. Add to that are the prying eyes of their relatives, and sometimes my friends themselves or classmates (I can still remember who you are, if you are reading this) would tease me about it. The comments and experience are all the same wherever I am. There would be colleagues in the university where I teach who would say first thing in the morning, "Ja, ang taba mo ngayon." (Ja, you look fat today.) Even the churchgoers, where I play the guitar for the choir during mass, would say things like that. As a retort, I once answered, "Bakit ka nagsasabi ng ganyan? Kapag pumapangit ka ba, sinasabihan ba kita na bakit ang pangit mo ngayon?" (Why do say things like that? When you seem uglier, do I tell you why do you look so ugly today?) And the poor person shut up. I regretted it, but I thought, enough of their comments. I don't care!

Sometimes, I feel bothered when people say that I am fat. But I am especially bothered by the fact that I get affected by those offensive comments. They made me feel ugly because I'm short and fat which should not be the case!The only concern I have regarding my body is not really the appearance but the clothes that fit me, and health, of course. It is hard to find clothes that would complement my bootylicious body. That makes me think about dieting, dieting and dieting. And after I convince myself to diet, I would lose a few pounds and gain it again in a few months. It has been a vicious cycle. Now I have enrolled in a gym, not to lose weight but to be be fit and healthy. And I wills tick by it, no matter what.

But I know, behind my imperfections, I have the brains to understand that I don't need to look good for these people. I just want them to realize that I am more than what they can see. I So in time, I have learned to accept myself and my killer thighs and booties. I excel in a lot of things, so long as I put my heart and mind to it. And so that's what I did. Now, I make money out of my profession as a lawyer and a professor and a trainer, I sell accessories that I personally make, I bake, I get paid for my singing abilities, I can do a lot more than one could ever imagine, I can give love as long as my heart could manage it and these don't require that I am at least five feet tall and less than 100 lbs. I love me!

It is a good thing that I have a family who loves me for who I am - a funny, comic person, who could invite hilarious laughs out of ordinary situations and stories. I am lucky I have a man who loves me, fats and all, and who drools over my booties that could make J. Lo run for her money. I am lucky I have dogs that likewise drool over me and consider me the best master in the world whenever I am with them. I feel lucky because although I am an inch short of five feet, in the courtroom, every counsel is treated equally. I feel blessed because in spite of my physical shortcomings, I AM BEAUTIFUL JUST AS GOD WANTS ME TO BE.

Bar, bar and Away!

Bar, bar and Away!

I could still remember that day as if it were yesterday. Last March 30, I knew the bar exam results were coming out that day and I was at the Severino de las Alas Hall, attending the Social Sciences Department’s End-of-Semester Workshop. I was green with nausea and anxiety but I knew I have been waiting for this day from the moment I first stepped into the walls of the law school I was attending. I was having dinner with my mother when my best friend called me up to say, “Hello, Atty.? Atty. Cajote? Congrats?” With my lips quivering I asked, “Pumasa ba ako?”. She answered, “Atty. Jannell Rodriguez Cajote, pasado ka, congrats!” I put down the receiver and started crying. My mother thought, “My God, my child didn’t pass!” And then I told her, with tears streaming down my face and voice trembling, “Ma, sabi ni Cel, abogada na raw ako!” And the tears continued to flow…

More than a month after that was what Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban said was "the penultimate step towards becoming a full-fledged lawyer." It is penultimate because I still had to sign the "Roll of Attorneys" before I could rightfully be called "Torni!" (attorney). With my head held high, I stood up straight, right hand raised, and took the oath that I sooooo wanted to take for as looong time – the Lawyer's Oath. It is an oath to keep the legal profession as a noble profession. It is a promise to help those in need of legal aid. It is undertaking to be the best counsel that I can be for my clients, for the Bar and my country. The voices of the 1,526 who passed the 2005 Bar Examinations echoed in the halls of the PICC as we uttered each line with fervor, pride, relief and other mixed emotions. Three days after, when I signed the Roll, I could still feel the tingling sensation in my spine brought about by a sense of fulfillment and relief- that after years of toil and sacrifice, my harvest has been laid for me to keep and enjoy.

Law school took quite a number of years of my life. My days were used up playing with “fire”. That is, attending classes and enduring the burning stares of my law professors as I ponder the answers to questions that could cause a severe nosebleed, and teaching in college at the same time. Prior to classes, I invoke all the angels and saints in heaven to pray for me that my professors would not pick my class card for the daily recitations. My nights were for dinner, studying, resting and contemplating why one earth I took up Law, financially broke and parents-dependent while the rest of my batch mates in high school and college were all probably "made." My weekends were spent "dating" with several justices of the Supreme Court. This means absorbing and understanding what they were telling me thru the decisions they have penned as contained in the Supreme Court Reports Annotated (SCRA), and again, wondering how on earth they could have made such lengthy decisions!

And so, the years drifted by without me noticing that I have invested in a lot of things ---- mountains of photocopied Supreme Court decisions, tears that could probably irrigate a farmland, caffeine overload and a few failing marks at the same time. Oh, not to forget the fact that my parents have greatly contributed to the coffers of the law school I was attending.

And then in just a split second, all the tears and frustrations just seemed so distant. Life has turned out the way I had hoped and prayed it would be.

It has been four months now since I signed the Roll. Frankly, it has been very seldom that I feel like I am really a lawyer. I may have clients here and there whose lives are being hounded by legalities but I still act the way I do, and talk the way I do. I am still a joker with a happy disposition in life, plus the prefix “Atty.”. I don't know what the future holds for me but I am sure I could not have done this without the support, love and prayers of my parents, my siblings (dogs and other pets included), my friends and loved ones, and the guidance and will of the Supreme Being who watches over all of us. For this, I am eternally grateful.

The pride that my Papa and Mama feel as parents of a lawyer is inexplicable. For every joy that I feel and the triumph I gain, they feel more than double of that joy and success. Because in every step of my life, they were the ones waiting behind, ready to catch me if I fall and ready to push me when I wish to proceed no more.

And so, the oath I made months ago was not only for tomorrow and today. It is something for me to keep and uphold for the rest of my life, to remind me that I am never above anyone and that I will try live up to the expectations that my new title brings, in the best way I can.

So help me God.

A Blank Diploma

A Blank Diploma

A friend told me that it's very seldom that schools give out real diplomas to their graduates during commencement exercises. Usually, what is awarded is a blank diploma- a blank bond paper, rolled up and tied with a ribbon. After that, you're one of the thousands of graduates off to the world in search of a new horizon.

Blank diplomas are probably given out because there is a tendency that they can get mixed up in the hustle of the ceremony. This then, prevents the annoying experience of getting a diploma with a different name.

But for me, it is blank because it is a symbol of one's future. It is blank so that the graduate will himself write his own future. It is blank because it is up to the graduate to decide what to write in it, when to start writing on it, and when to stop writing.

A blank diploma also symbolizes one's freedom to choose his own future. The graduate may choose to write on it. He may color it. He may draw on it. He may fold it. And he may tear it up and throw it away.

And just like any paper, that blank diploma may be easily crumpled, torn or drenched, depending on how the graduate treats it.

Just like that blank diploma, our future may be colorful or blank depending on how we want it to be, and what we want it to be. That blank diploma, which may soon be in our hands, signifies our freedom to pursue our future. And so, when we get that piece of paper, let us hold it carefully, because that is our hard work; that is our future… not a piece of paper… but our tomorrow.

- This is dedicated to the millions of Flipino students who will be marching on the stage to earn their hard-earned diplomas....

- this article was published in the Inquirer's Youngblood section on Marc h 28, 2006.