Not to accept gifts that I could not afford to buy or I myself could not give to the giver in return is one of the many personal rules I have. I am also very picky as to the persons I ask favor from, or as to the favors I ask from them.
I have these rules because I do not take advantage nor I want to give the impression that I take advantage of the people close to me.
In Law School, I have grown close to people who have survived the kind of life I think I never would survive if I were in their place.
Take for example Erwin. Erwin is around thirty three years old. He is from Leyte. He told me when they were young, they roam the forest to collect fallen coconuts as well as coconut shells for firewood. He and his brothers sell them to buy food.
I forgot to ask about his high school days.
After high school, he learned that a friend was “adopted” by a nun and was sent to school. Erwin also looked for a nun who would adopt him and could send him to school.
His search brought him to Roxas City, Capiz at St. Mary’s Academy. There he served as a school boy mopping, sweeping and cleaning classrooms, halls and yards. He took up Commerce at a nearby College (Colegio de la Purisima Conception).
After graduation, he applied and was employed by the Rex Bookstore. He moved to Iloilo.
Rex Bookstore sells mostly law books. He served as a law book agent visiting law schools and professors promoting the books.
He came to know Judge Roger Patricio of the Regional Trial Court in Iloilo City. I forgot if by this time, Erwin had decided to take up law already or it was the Judge who encouraged him.
Judge Patricio is an intelligent and diligent man. Like Erwin. He also sent himself to school, law school, etc. In short, Judge Patricio is also a self made man.
Judge Patricio became our Remedial Law Review teacher. Mostly, it was because of him that I wasn’t afraid, as most of the bar examinees are, of the Remedial Law subject.
Erwin and I met at the University of Iloilo College of Law. It was there I came to learn a little of his story.
I never failed to tell him I admire his perseverance and intelligence. (Although he had difficulty expressing himself, he vividly recalled jurisprudence, and legal principles we studied years before). I also told him that if I were in his place I would never survive. His response surprised me. He said, of course I will because man is a survivor.
When we were in Law School, I did not ask anything from this man but his company. We were not yet lawyers but for me he was already a self made man. “Passing the bar will be my crowning glory. It will erase the pain brought by the hardships I enjured,” he remarked.
It takes vision and perseverance for a man who grew up in an environmnet like his to at least pursue higher education. Most of them give up, submit to fate and continue to toil in poverty without any hope of one day lifting themselves up.
Inspiration is the gift Erwin has given me, albeit unknowingly. Maybe he wondered why I always loved to be with his company. (I visited him at Rex Bookstore in Iloilo and have lunch with him, the drivers, collectors and the security guards who were all his friends). I was also able to visit Boracay Island for the first time once because of Erwin. (My girlfriend, who used to be my ex, was having a seminar in Boracay. I thought it was a great place to win her love back. But I had no money poor as I am. I confided to Erwin. Timing, they were going to deliver books and collect payments in Boracay. I only had to pay for my boat ride to the Island.)
I meditated about what I have given him, both knowingly and unknowingly, in return.
Honestly, I could not think of any.
Erwin is still alive working with Rex Bookstore in Leyte. He resigned from Rex Bookstore Iloilo to prepare for the 2006 bar exams.
March 7, 2017. Erwin is a prosecutor in Leyte.