Q and A with Mylene Amerol-Macumbal: "Don't be afraid to dream. There is nothing impossible…"

Mylene’s parents are from Ditsaan Ramain and Pualas of Lanao del Sur but she grew up in Iligan city.

Her husband was the 9th placer in the civil engineering national licensure examination in 1993. Their 5-year-old son Rocky has the looks of his father.

In her blog, Mylene said she’s been excelling academically and that “academic excellence became a sort of habit, an identity which sets me apart from the rest.”

Mylene talks about her latest accomplishment in an interview with MindaNews’ Violeta M. Gloria. 

The interview took place at their residence evening of April 20, the  night before the College of Law-extension of the Mindanao State University commended her, with a motorcade around Iligan City and a program at the city plaza.

Q: Who is Mylene Amerol Macumbal?

A: I am a devoted mother and wife. For me, family comes first. I spent all my years in Iligan City. I was a  valedictorian in elementary and (third honorable mention) in high school.

I graduated magna cum laude in BS Accountancy at MSU-IIT in 2002 and ranked 18th placer in the accounting licensure examination. By way of parental arrangement, I married lawyer Arassad Macumbal, a judge in the conflict-affected towns of Munai, Bacolod and Maigo and who was also a topnotcher in civil engineering. He is ten years older than me. I reckoned that I said when we were arranged (to marry), “Who is this old man who’d like to marry me and yet too shy to court?” though I know that  Maranao culture allows arranged marriages.

I have been teaching taxation and business law at MSU-IIT for several years. It was my husband who prodded me to take up law as a post-graduate course. I graduated Magna Cum Laude and class valedictorian in March 2008. My husband jumped with glee that I ranked second in the bar when he learned the result. (The husband later professed that out of too much happiness “we forgot to hug each other.”)

Q: How does it feel to be the first Maranao woman to have topped the bar?

A.  I’m not the first Maranao to have topped the bar. Cjamal Boloto made it to the top ten in the 1960s as a graduate of a law school in Manila. But it’s right that I am the first female Maranao who landed second in the bar exam. It took almost five decades before another Maranao made it to the list. I am happy that I put MSU, Mindanao, the Maranao community and the Moro people in a positive light. I would be truly serving for them because it’s my obligation to help out.

Q: Are you going into politics?

A: Lawyering and politics are intertwined. It’s advantageous to politicians if they read and understand laws, especially that they are dealing with people. But politics isn’t just the field of lawyers. There is no specific plan to take. I still need to talk to my husband. But definitely I’d like to see myself as a trial lawyer. Maybe we’ll start first with the public attorney’s office (PAO) and then later move on to private practice.

Q: What were the difficulties that you hurdled while you studied law?

A:  Time management. I was teaching and I’m a mother and a wife. But I didn’t see that as a struggle but as a challenge. I did not see that as a chore. I love law and that made me ensure that I read a lot.

Q: Your husband is a judge. Was he a contributory pressure too?

A: My husband is my idol. He practices law professionally. I
will emulate him. I hope I will not go into ambulance chasing just to have a case and I hope I can practice my field by truly settling disputes and resolving issues as much as possible. My husband is my inspiration and my mentor. He was the first to have actually pushed me to study law; gave me added materials; and during the review he would call me up to motivate me to study.

He is an engineer, so he actually made my schedules and ensured that I stick to my study… so I also had a feeling back then that he might get angry if I won’t follow. 

Without him, I would have not made it.

Q: What are your thoughts on the peace process.

A: It’s a very complicated issue. People need to look back at our history to know why we have a Bangsamoro problem. It may be a political problem but it shouldn’t be addressed only by politics. The government should also seriously look into our socio-economic problem. The parties should have trust, must commit to agreements, and compromise somewhere. But I honestly don’t think that the problem will be resolved soon. Malalim talaga ang problema (the problem is so deep.) besides, we know that there is lack of sincerity to have genuine resolutions to the problem. There are so many misconceptions, that’s why a need to revisit our history.

Q: You will be addressing Iliganons in your commendation day. What would you say to them?

A: I am a Maranao but I was raised in Iligan City. I owe my education here and I thank the Iliganons for that. I hope that the commendation will not just recognize me as a bar topnotcher but also recognize the many Muslims who are living in this city.

Q: The 2010 election is forthcoming and..

A: I will be probably helping my relatives and friends who’d seek my legal service but definitely I would not be a candidate. Lanao del Sur is one of the poorest provinces, that’s why I do understand why we have rampant corruption in the system. Many will hold on to the blade of the knife by selling votes. I see many of our Muslim friends who are contented eating dried fish—they are already happy with that. Indeed, there is a wide gap in our social class… very wide in fact. I see our lands are arable but many of our farmers aren’t supported with social services such as irrigation for their ricefields.

Q: There are conservatives in your society that say public life is not the domain of Muslim women.

A: That sounds deep. It’s ideal for women to serve society. There are many women leaders now such as a woman president of Mindanao State University or a woman president who leads this country. We are not in a society like that of the Taliban. We Muslim women are encouraged to be educated. This is Islamic. We do study Shariah law too and in fact we recognize women who are in the battlefield. 

Q: You took up law in MSU-IIT but I learned that you cross-enrolled in MSU-main campus when you had your political review. Why?

A: The professor handling political review course in IIT was my husband (chuckles). I deemed it best to cross enroll in the main campus to avoid suspicion that my husband would be favoring me. Besides, I knew that Prof. Oga Mapupuno in Marawi was my husband’s mentor too when he was a law student himself. 

Q: What would you tell others who are aspiring to become lawyers?

A:  Don’t be afraid to dream. There is nothing impossible. Law students should study hard, pray harder because it’s a big factor, and believe in luck. I dare say these to all Maranao law students and to all indigenous peoples who should not be hindered by discrimination and social biases: you invest in education and it will pay off eventually. (Violeta M. Gloria/MindaNews)