Ateneo Law School holds 72nd Commencement Exercises

July 20, 2018

The 72nd Annual Commencement Exercises of the Ateneo Law School took place on July 15, 2018 at the Meralco Theater in Pasig. 
 
Surviving four years of college alone is a daunting task. It takes a lot of emotional and mental stamina to get through it; four years of law school requires even more. For the 181 Juris Doctor graduates of the Ateneo Law School Class of 2018, July 15, 2018 was a bittersweet goodbye to the school and environment that had challenged and pushed them to their very limits. 
 
Administrators of ALS as well as the Ateneo Professional Schools were there to see the graduates off, including Dr. Antonette Palma-Angeles, Vice President of the Professional Schools; Atty. Jose Maria G. Hofilena, current Dean of the Law School; Atty. Sedfrey M. Candelaria, former Dean of the Law School; Atty. Giovanni F. Vallente, Associate Dean for Student Affairs; and Atty. Ma. Ngina Teresa V. Chan-Gonzaga, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.
 
Sean James J. Borja, the Valedictorian of the batch, roused the hearts of his batchmates with an empowering graduation address. “This will come as no surprise to many of you: I am an openly homosexual law school student,” he opened. Borja explained that being part of the LGBT community has made him want to excel even further, to prove his worth, and to work twice as hard. “When I got to law school, I promised myself that I would push it to the very limit. I promised that if there was ever a path where I could become my best version, I would take that path and see how far someone like me could possibly go.”
 
“Failure is not a disability, it’s just a bruise, and a setback can be the perfect setup for a comeback if you just make it happen,” said Sean James Borja to his batchmates. 
 
He shared his experience being part of the Ateneo Society of International Law. Rigorous trainings often made him want to give up and quit. But he persevered and four years later, there he stood on the podium at the Meralco Theater, addressing his batch and giving them parting words.
 
Going out into the real world means having to make deep commitments. In his quest to ease his batchmates’ minds in making such commitments more meaningful, he identified three important points.
 
  1. Remember the Myth of Sisyphus. For those not familiar with the myth, Sisyphus was cursed by the Greek gods to push a heavy boulder up a mountain. The catch, though, is that whenever he was able to reach the top of the mountain, the boulder comes rolling down the mountain. Sisyphus’ curse was to pick up the same boulder and bring it up the same mountain until the end of time. In life, we’re all going to have boulders to carry and as we make our way up our mountain, the world will be unrelenting in the failures and setbacks that will be in our way. When we fall off our mountain—the Bar Exams, or just even going out into the real world—I hope you remember Sisyphus and that the choice will always be ours. Either we let the boulder stay on the ground or pick up the boulder and aim for the sky. Failure is not a disability, it’s just a bruise, and a setback can be the perfect setup for a comeback if you just make it happen. Trust yourself, trust in the process, and know in your heart it will be worth it when you reach that summit. 
  2. Say no to entitlement. It doesn’t matter who you are. The world doesn’t stop for anybody, not even those who took up law. Let’s not be that person who waves the “abogado ako” flag as if it was our ticket to demand special treatment from anybody. And I mean anybody. Dispel the notion that we deserve respect, happiness, and all the other good things in life by default. Because as my mom and my dad taught me, anything worth it in life has to be fought hard and earned. 
  3. Do everything that you love for all the good people. It’s great to achieve things for ourselves, but when what and who we wake up for is ourselves alone, there will come a day when we’ll run out of energy and lose meaning in the things we do. Our dreams are fueled by the love and kindness that we get from the world, whether that be from somebody close or from a complete stranger. Have the sober recognition that we aren’t the only people making sacrifices here, and a lot of times, the people around us have made the bigger sacrifice just to see us get where we need to go. As we reach for the sky, never forget the people who would go through the nine circles of hell with us just to see us come through. Never forget the family and friends who have embraced and accepted us at our worst, and who have cheered us on without condition. 
 
The afternoon’s commencement speaker was Fr. Bienvenido F. Nebres, Rector of the Jesuit Residences. 
 
Speaking to a handful of graduating students in preparation for his address, Fr. Nebres asked them where they are in life and what their hopes and fears are for the future. There is relief, he said, as the students no longer have to deal with recitations and examinations. There is anxiety, as the Bar Exams still loom in November. 
 
Fr. Nebres, an Ateneo institution, shared his wisdom and life experiences with the graduates; particularly, his work with Gawad Kalinga. 
 
On passing the Bar, Fr. Nebres had this to say: “Many doors will open for you. You told me about law firms, about government positions, like in the Office of the Solicitor General, the road less travelled for some. You will, of course, have to ensure that you can take care of yourself and your family. Your family has many hopes and expectations for you. Each of you also has your own passion and dreams for your future.”
 
Fr. Nebres also discussed how to make a difference for the Philippines with the students. “You spoke of your worries and concerns for our country,” he said, “of joining rallies and often feeling frustration and helplessness. You spoke of positions that may become open to you in government, where you want to make a difference. But then you see Ateneo Law alumni in these positions – and you do not see them living out the values you have learned in Law School.”
 
“You wonder if you can be different,” he added.
 
He told stories, many from his own experiences in working with Gawad Kalinga as well as the government in trying to provide hot meals for the hungry in various places in the country, including Marawi. He emphasized how all of this progress began from the ground, as Ateneo graduates started to go “down the hill.”
 
Fr. Nebres encouraged the graduates to work in NGOs, but perhaps most importantly, in local government. 
 
He reminded the graduates that we do not move forward by bemoaning our weaknesses. “We move forward by building on our strengths.”
 
Professors, graduates, and their guests filled up the theater. 
 
“Yes, I hope your batch will have the opportunity to serve in high positions, where you can make a difference,” he added. “What I am asking you to consider is to move to the top through a road less travelled, beginning at the ground and getting to know and love our people. You will then have the heart to use your learning and skills to truly serve – because for you they will have faces and names and stories and you know you cannot fail them.”
 
“I invite you to join me in getting to know our country and people better.  You will find that there is a deep and lasting joy from coming to know our people.”
 
Fr. Nebres ended, “You will be ready to be the Ateneo Lawyer, who will lead and serve our country, keeping true to the ideals of the Ateneo Law School.”
 
Joining the Ateneo Law School J.D. Class of 2018 were eight graduates who were conferred with the Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree during the commencement exercises.

News Archive

  • Ateneo Law School holds 72nd Commencement Exercises
    Friday, July 20, 2018

    The 72nd Annual Commencement Exercises of the Ateneo Law School took place on July 15, 2018 at the Meralco Theater in Pasig. 
     
    Surviving four years of college alone is a daunting task. It takes a lot of emotional and mental stamina to get through it; four years of law school requires even more. For the 181 Juris Doctor graduates of the Ateneo Law School Class of 2018, July 15, 2018 was a bittersweet goodbye to the school and environment that had challenged and pushed them to their very limits. 
     
    Administrators of ALS as well as the Ateneo Professional Schools were there to see the graduates off, including Dr. Antonette Palma-Angeles, Vice President of the Professional Schools; Atty. Jose Maria G. Hofilena, current Dean of the Law School; Atty. Sedfrey M. Candelaria, former Dean of the Law School; Atty. Giovanni F. Vallente, Associate Dean for Student Affairs; and Atty. Ma. Ngina Teresa V. Chan-Gonzaga, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.
     
    Sean James J. Borja, the Valedictorian of the batch, roused the hearts of his batchmates with an empowering graduation address. “This will come as no surprise to many of you: I am an openly homosexual law school student,” he opened. Borja explained that being part of the LGBT community has made him want to excel even further, to prove his worth, and to work twice as hard. “When I got to law school, I promised myself that I would push it to the very limit. I promised that if there was ever a path where I could become my best version, I would take that path and see how far someone like me could possibly go.”
     
    “Failure is not a disability, it’s just a bruise, and a setback can be the perfect setup for a comeback if you just make it happen,” said Sean James Borja to his batchmates. 
     
    He shared his experience being part of the Ateneo Society of International Law. Rigorous trainings often made him want to give up and quit. But he persevered and four years later, there he stood on the podium at the Meralco Theater, addressing his batch and giving them parting words.
     
    Going out into the real world means having to make deep commitments. In his quest to ease his batchmates’ minds in making such commitments more meaningful, he identified three important points.
     
    1. Remember the Myth of Sisyphus. For those not familiar with the myth, Sisyphus was cursed by the Greek gods to push a heavy boulder up a mountain. The catch, though, is that whenever he was able to reach the top of the mountain, the boulder comes rolling down the mountain. Sisyphus’ curse was to pick up the same boulder and bring it up the same mountain until the end of time. In life, we’re all going to have boulders to carry and as we make our way up our mountain, the world will be unrelenting in the failures and setbacks that will be in our way. When we fall off our mountain—the Bar Exams, or just even going out into the real world—I hope you remember Sisyphus and that the choice will always be ours. Either we let the boulder stay on the ground or pick up the boulder and aim for the sky. Failure is not a disability, it’s just a bruise, and a setback can be the perfect setup for a comeback if you just make it happen. Trust yourself, trust in the process, and know in your heart it will be worth it when you reach that summit. 
    2. Say no to entitlement. It doesn’t matter who you are. The world doesn’t stop for anybody, not even those who took up law. Let’s not be that person who waves the “abogado ako” flag as if it was our ticket to demand special treatment from anybody. And I mean anybody. Dispel the notion that we deserve respect, happiness, and all the other good things in life by default. Because as my mom and my dad taught me, anything worth it in life has to be fought hard and earned. 
    3. Do everything that you love for all the good people. It’s great to achieve things for ourselves, but when what and who we wake up for is ourselves alone, there will come a day when we’ll run out of energy and lose meaning in the things we do. Our dreams are fueled by the love and kindness that we get from the world, whether that be from somebody close or from a complete stranger. Have the sober recognition that we aren’t the only people making sacrifices here, and a lot of times, the people around us have made the bigger sacrifice just to see us get where we need to go. As we reach for the sky, never forget the people who would go through the nine circles of hell with us just to see us come through. Never forget the family and friends who have embraced and accepted us at our worst, and who have cheered us on without condition. 
     
    The afternoon’s commencement speaker was Fr. Bienvenido F. Nebres, Rector of the Jesuit Residences. 
     
    Speaking to a handful of graduating students in preparation for his address, Fr. Nebres asked them where they are in life and what their hopes and fears are for the future. There is relief, he said, as the students no longer have to deal with recitations and examinations. There is anxiety, as the Bar Exams still loom in November. 
     
    Fr. Nebres, an Ateneo institution, shared his wisdom and life experiences with the graduates; particularly, his work with Gawad Kalinga. 
     
    On passing the Bar, Fr. Nebres had this to say: “Many doors will open for you. You told me about law firms, about government positions, like in the Office of the Solicitor General, the road less travelled for some. You will, of course, have to ensure that you can take care of yourself and your family. Your family has many hopes and expectations for you. Each of you also has your own passion and dreams for your future.”
     
    Fr. Nebres also discussed how to make a difference for the Philippines with the students. “You spoke of your worries and concerns for our country,” he said, “of joining rallies and often feeling frustration and helplessness. You spoke of positions that may become open to you in government, where you want to make a difference. But then you see Ateneo Law alumni in these positions – and you do not see them living out the values you have learned in Law School.”
     
    “You wonder if you can be different,” he added.
     
    He told stories, many from his own experiences in working with Gawad Kalinga as well as the government in trying to provide hot meals for the hungry in various places in the country, including Marawi. He emphasized how all of this progress began from the ground, as Ateneo graduates started to go “down the hill.”
     
    Fr. Nebres encouraged the graduates to work in NGOs, but perhaps most importantly, in local government. 
     
    He reminded the graduates that we do not move forward by bemoaning our weaknesses. “We move forward by building on our strengths.”
     
    Professors, graduates, and their guests filled up the theater. 
     
    “Yes, I hope your batch will have the opportunity to serve in high positions, where you can make a difference,” he added. “What I am asking you to consider is to move to the top through a road less travelled, beginning at the ground and getting to know and love our people. You will then have the heart to use your learning and skills to truly serve – because for you they will have faces and names and stories and you know you cannot fail them.”
     
    “I invite you to join me in getting to know our country and people better.  You will find that there is a deep and lasting joy from coming to know our people.”
     
    Fr. Nebres ended, “You will be ready to be the Ateneo Lawyer, who will lead and serve our country, keeping true to the ideals of the Ateneo Law School.”
     
    Joining the Ateneo Law School J.D. Class of 2018 were eight graduates who were conferred with the Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree during the commencement exercises.