RURAL VIEWS: Slippers, Multicab and Lawyers. By Danilo A. Balucos

“Ah, ok,” I answered. “I didn’t plan to drop by the mall,” I managed to add.

Since the year I passed the bar examinations, I have been struggling to transform myself from a sloppy dresser to “looking like a lawyer.” It has been difficult to try looking like what others expect me to be and abandon things to which I have been used to, especially the way I wear clothes.

It is all right with me to wear the prescribed formal attire in court. I am comfortable wearing long sleeves Barong Tagalog. As a lanky person, I think I look better in barong than in coat and tie suit.

When not in court, however, I am more comfortable wearing shirt, jeans or shorts and sandals or even slippers. I actually find it surprising when people are surprised to see me dressed casually. Perhaps, they expect lawyers to look “kagalang-galang” (dignified) wherever they are. Or perhaps, they expect me to at least look presentable even with casual wear. And that is a problem because, again, I am basically not a nice dresser.

When I am wearing barong, I usually take the taxi for practical reasons. It is unusually hot these days and I tend to sweat a lot partly due to my thyroid problems.

However, there are still many times when I ride in the ever reliable jeepney, or its tiny mutation, the Multicab.

Becoming more compact is a trend in technology. But it seems this trend of getting smaller is not good for our public transportation – from bus to jeepney, from jeepney to Multicab, and from Multicab to the accident-prone single motorcycle or “habal-habal.”

During rush hour one afternoon, I was squeezing myself in an almost full Multicab. As usual, those seated refused to give space to the new passenger and did not inch forward to the driver’s seat. Instead, everybody moved closer to the back exit, leaving the innermost space for me to go to by bending down and moving sideways in whatever space left between the knees of passengers on both sides. And I was carrying a heavy bag full of documents!

Heaving a sigh of relief when I was finally seated, I saw two students who were two years my junior in law school.

I said “Hi,” but one of them asked, “Di ba abogado na ka? Nganong ga-jeep ka?” (You’re already a lawyer, right? Why are you taking the jeep?)

Caught off-guard with that statement, I was not able to say anything. I just smiled. In my mind, I said “Yes, I’m a lawyer and I have the right to ride in a Multicab!”

There are some who unreasonably expect a lawyer to be somehow “above the ordinary.” They expect a lawyer to always rub elbows with the powers that be, and not to rub shoulders with passengers in a jeepney or, worse, rub knees with passengers in a cramped Multicab! They address a lawyer “attorney,” even if he is known to them before he passed the bar exams.

I still prefer my friends to call me by my name, especially in casual conversation. In fact, it is amusing for me that Nathan, the youngest kid at three years old in the compound where I stay, calls me “attorney” and instead of “kuya” or “tito.”

So far, I have adjusted a little in trying to look like a lawyer.

Although what matters most is substance, image also matters. I owe it to my colleagues to help maintain the profession’s collective dignified image.

It is nice to lo
ok like and be a good lawyer. I am proud to belong to the noble legal profession because I worked very hard for it. But to me, every profession or vocation is noble. I agree with Og Mandino that it is how you do and not what you do that determines the course of your life.

Just like in any other profession, the greater challenge is how to be a good person, whether you are wearing expensive shoes or ordinary slippers, and whether you are driving a luxury car or riding in a tiny Multicab.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Danilo Balucos, the first business manager of the Mindanao News and Information Cooperative Center, left to pursue law school, passed the 2006 bar exams and is now a partner in a law firm in Davao City.)