“Just when I thought I was out . . . they pull me back in.” Al Pacino, one of my favorite short actors (together with Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro, Danny De Vito and Robert Downey Jr.), said this memorable line.
It describes how I felt when Dean Carlota asked me, at the start of this current semester and at the start of his term as Dean of Law, to take over as Director of the U.P. Office of Legal Aid (OLA), the legal clinic of the College of Law. I had plans (which I had been praying for over the last two years) of leaving the College of Law simply because I felt that it was no longer worth fighting for as Dean Carlota’s predecessor was simply too much of a politician and a salesman for my tastes (note the number of “shortcuts” he allowed in enlistment procedure, which a lot of students are now “paying” for when Dean Carlota quoted chapter and verse of the rules to justify a “stricter” policy; note also the number of rooms forming the College’s patrimony and history that have been “sold” to those who have the millions to fund the renovation and name the rooms after them). I felt that law had been so “commercialized” such that the sheer joy I felt teaching law had evaporated; of course, it did not help that the former office holder was not one who believed in letting bygones be bygones.
I had been planning to finish the second semester, out of deference to Dean Carlota, and then ride off into the sunset as far as my teaching career was concerned. But then, Dean Carlota had other plans.
I prayed about accepting the OLA directorship. Having served at OLA, first as a law intern, and then for several years as Supervising Lawyer, I know just how difficult it is to serve there. Also, as a lawyer who has served indigent clients from the get-go, I know how challenging it is to serve such a clientele. But one thing that really prevented me from accepting it immediately was because of my current service as Branch Leader of Lingkod QC (a singles community of young professionals); my commitment to them was clear, definite and unwavering and I knew that taking on OLA would mean a slice of the 24/7 pie that was already small enough considering all the things I’m handling.
Yet, the Lord just assured me of one thing: abounding grace. The excitement I felt, similar to what I felt when I first became Supervising Lawyer at OLA, was an indication of blessing and, yes, grace; there was not only peace that I felt but also excitement and some joy at the prospect of serving again at OLA. I put my burdens upon Him and He assured me of the ease of His yoke and the lightness of His burden.
So, I accepted the Directorship of OLA and that means that I won’t be riding off into the sunset, just yet. The Directorship carries with it an academic credit of 6 units and an automatic load of 8 units or a total of 14 units—2 units in excess of the 12 units I’m required every semester to teach; so that means I won’t need to teach any subjects, unless I want to. Right now, I’m still discerning whether I should teach again or just simply devote my time to OLA. Offhand, I may handle one subject a semester just to keep my hand in but things may change with time.
Change does not come easy for a lot of people. My new post may mean changes, for many people, myself included. But abounding grace to take on this new service means also abounding grace to accept change—I pray for grace to be able to see clearly what needs to be done but also the grace to accept whatever change brings in my life.