Ateneo all the way!??

My father would be the most obvious source of inspiration for my matriculation in Ateneo Law School (ALS). He was a product of the Ateneo and often spoke of how the lessons he learned there guided him in his decisions. And these lessons on critical thought and reflection gave him strength throughout the tribulations of his career, to survive the rigorous demands of being a judge. For his strength, he was sacrificed at the altar of justice and left a stain on its mantle that serves as a reminder of the evils that must be eradicated from a system corrupted by so many. His assassination in 2004 left this legacy that nearly sent me running down the Hill and straight to the Oblation, questioning if I could survive what ALS demanded of me.

From the moment I knew I wanted to be a lawyer I just assumed that I would eventually matriculate in the same University that brought my parents together — ALS. I never considered the University of the Philippines as a serious option but decided to take the exam as a practice test for the ALS’ entrance exam. The chances of passing it seemed infinitesimal, so whenever anyone asked me I said it was Ateneo or nowhere.

Then one day I received a call. “La, pumasa ka!” my friend exclaimed. I had no clue to what he was referring to me and when he explained I still couldn’t believe it, he just had to be pulling my leg. Its repercussions did not sink in until I later discovered that ALS also accepted me. Suddenly, a dilemma was thrust before me. But to my mother, it was a non-issue. Every chance she got she would have her friends tell me that the choice was clear — there was but one school, ALS. But I was beginning to believe that maybe there was a reason I got into UP.

If I went to ALS it was a certainty that I would encounter many difficulties — a heavy workload, a strict system, and the emotional complications of attending my father’s Alma Mater. I grew up hearing my father speak of his day in ALS — the affinity for the Socratic method and the terrors brought by certain professors. He spoke of how he learned to rely on stocked knowledge, how to direct his focus, how to critically examine the problem before him – all disciplines that would help him all throughout his life. But most of all he spoke about how he found the love of his life in its four walls. As a daddy’s girl, I always looked forward to the day I could discuss the fine points of the law and argue like a lawyer with my father. I was robbed of that. Since I was given an option I did not feel like subjecting myself to emotional torture.

UP, on the other hand, seemed to promise me a relaxed four-year stretch before the stress of bar. It was a prominent school, well established in the generations of the past. Its prominent alumni overshadowed the disappointing bar passing rates. Best of all, I would not be reminded of the stories I could have traded with my father and I would not be subject to the same scrutiny since my father’s friends did not teach there. Everyone believed that I was suited for no other than the Ateneo but the complications were overwhelming. And as stripped down my choices to its pros and cons, I looked to my mother for guidance.

The Atenean Spirit

I am the only daughter of two equally strong-willed persons loyal to their rival Alma Maters. My father was a graduate of De La Salle University while my mother belonged to the first batch of females to have ever been granted entrance to Ateneo de Manila University. The only time that this became an issue was during the UAAP season where my father would insist to wear blue-green while sitting with my mom and prominent diehard Ateneans in Araneta Coliseum. But outside the season, his green archer passion was easily tempered by my mom’s blue fever. And as my mother always said in light of his subsequent enrollment in what was the Ateneo College of Law, “forgive him for his streaks of green, after four years he realized the error of his ways and was enlightened in the end.”

Her love for the University that promoted critical thought and self-examination was infectious. And so to Ateneo I excitedly went for my undergraduate degree with dreams of the interesting conversations I would be having at the breakfast table.

But before I could even take interesting subjects like Philosophy and History of Political Theory, tragedy struck and my father was taken from me. And it was the moments after, in my family’s darkest hours, that I witnessed the immense power of the ALS Spirit. And it would only be years later when I realize how it saw my family through. But my mother always knew therefore that there was no dilemma for there could be only one choice — ALS.

Hodgepodge alumni and the ALS way

The people who I had always identified with the Ateneo were those who frequently interacted with both my parents. Hence, they were those who at one point or another went to ALS. I associated their loyalty to my parents with their loyalty to the Ateneo. And so, when my father was killed I thought that it was that very bond that brought them to our side. But I was wrong.

ALS plays molds lawyers from various academic backgrounds — persons whose allegiance to ALS was clear and distinct from their allegiance to the Ateneo. As much as ALS is a part of the Ateneo, the reality that many of its alumni distinguish between its loyalties within the legal community and outside it, cannot be denied. While my mother was Ateneo all the way, my father was one of those with co-existing loyalties. He was proud of being a graduate and scholar of ALS but he was equally proud of his roots in DLSU.

This may seem like a fissure in the smooth veneers of the Ateneo but in truth, it is a testimony to the strength of its message and ideals. It highlights the unique position ALS has as a conduit to a larger community. And it ultimately benefits those at a crossroads, deciding what kind of lawyer they would like to be. So after entering ALS, either your Atenean spirit is given a new dimension with the ALS spirit or you are exposed to a new way — the ALS way. It was the ALS way that drew people in from all sorts of backgrounds to push for honors for my father’s life and protection for my mother’s.

My mother, her spirit, and my choice

Knowing all this, the choice had to be made. I was terrified of entering ALS and I explained my sentiments to my mother. I explained how UP may be the place where I could disappear and work my way to becoming a lawyer. We went through my issues with a fine-tooth comb and she one day said, “I will support you wherever you go. Your father would be very proud of you. Yes, the happiest days of my life were in Ateneo. And that it was in Ateneo that Daddy learned the skills that you so admire. So you have to know that I am sure that it is there that you will be able to find yourself and be more than a law student. You will have to face the many emotions you have avoided for three years. And it will demand discipline as you face them. Your emotions will never be an excuse for failure but at least you will be facing the real world and no longer hiding. You are making a choice and once made, you must stand by it and excel.”

It was then that I knew where I had to go. I resisted at first but was inspired by calm words of my mom reminding me that the traits I admired most in my dad were instilled by the ALS way. But four years later, I see that though my father’s work both initially scared me away and pulled me into ALS, it was my mother’s spirit that sustained me during all my low points and drove me towards service.

At the end of my years in ALS, I do not know if I have met the standards my father would have had or the hopes my mother has always kept for me. But I do know choosing ALS granted me an opportunity to grow in ways I had never imagined. I was pressured to keep up academically while dealing with emotions most would not comprehend. If that was not heavy enough, I was constantly reminded that my other interests had to be utilized to grow into the lawyer I could be so ALS’ many organizations became my outlet. After juggling it all, thanks to my mother, I leave ALS knowing that if I survived ALS with everything else on my plate, I’ll survive anywhere because I learned to do things the ALS way.

Luisa Rosales is a senior at the Ateneo Law School. In 2007, she graduated with honors from Ateneo de Manila University with a Bachelor of Arts Degree, Major in Political Science, Minor in Literature (English). She was also distinguished as the Departmental Awardee of her Major in the same year. She is a Member of the Executive Committee of the Ateneo Law Journal, the Board of Editors of The Palladium, the Environmental Law Society of the Ateneo, the Ateneo Campus Ministry, the Ateneo Society of International Law, and the Ateneo Lawn Tennis Team. She is also the Treasurer of the Ateneo Law Golf Club. She previously worked as an intern at the Supreme Court under Justice Roberto A. Abad, the Sandiganbayan under (†) Presiding Justice Norberto Y. Geraldez, and the law firm, Quisumbing Torres.