By Bernard Inocentes Garcia
I’VE been riding a bus to attend hearings in my hometown of Dumanjug and its neighboring town of Barili. I usually wake up at 5 a.m. and catch the 6 a.m. trip, and inside the bus I continue dozing off. About an hour later, I wake up in Carcar to the sound of “chicharon, chicharon, ampao.” Sometimes I buy, or sometimes I dream about chasing pigs.
It’s different when we’re in the mountainous area of Barili, because there I enjoy looking at the green fields with the rays of the morning sun signaling the start of a new day. The scenery reminds me of a drawing in grade school where the sun is a smiling yellow circle and the flowers below are smiling and swaying to its light. I also like it when it’s raining, and I could see the raindrops on the grass and on the glass windows.
I’ve been travelingon this road since childhood. Sometimes I feel nostalgic seeing the same school buildings lining a few meters fromthe high way, and when I seeschool childrenattending the flag ceremony, I am reminded of my friends back then, some of whom are now in jail.
I am lucky. I could have been a prisonerholding steel bars inside a congested jail, powerless, unless I’m a drug lord operating my turf inside the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa. Instead, there’s Raymond inside, who went to the same schoolwith me, andNardo, who gave me a rooster when I was a child. Drexler, Cocoy, Teban and many others are also inside the jail.
Sometimes in the city I feel rootlessness, but somehow in the bus I feel rooted and connected. I know soon I’d be in my place and meet people in my neighborhood, who are accused of a crime. I’m defending them partly pro bono, and I feel happy not because I’m a good man or a saint but because I find meaning in what I’m doing.
I try to make a balance in my life. For every time that I’ve messed up with life, or lied to her, or for every act of recklessness that broke my heart, ayeee Ha Ha!, I try to do something good, and doing it for those who are close to me is a no-brainer. I see the courtroom as my chance at redemption, or hell when I am unprepared and the judge is a freak.
In court, witnesses lie, lawyers are biased, and only the judge is impartial, ideally. But the courtroom is not a church where people kneel and ask forgiveness. It’s an arena where truth comes out in shades of grey, slowly, grudgingly, until it manifests itself in a clear light of day. True, the court is imperfect, but it’s still the best forum to get justice outside of friendly agreements.
Despite the bad jokes about lawyers, I see the bright side every time I go to court and see their passion in protecting their clients’ rights. The intensity and drama in the courtroom, the silence of the law office, and the joy of being part in people’s quest for justice and truth and in their need of legal advice in business or in life, these to me make up the heart and soul of the legal profession.
Recently, I took a bus one morning on my way to the court, and inside it while dozing off, I had a dream, which I think of until now. I dream that one day lawyers, or all men for that matter, will not be judged by the size of their car but by the content of their character. Because if the size of the car would be the measure today, then I’d be the biggest badass of them all: I have the biggest “SUV”: a bus. Nyahaha!