The ULQ team with the guest speaker. L-R: Project Manager Angela Butalid, Deputy Commissioner Dino Aguirre, Universitas CEO Oliver Tuazon, Atty. Kyle Bollozos

by Carlos Victa*

When we think of people we admire, we tend to have mixed feelings of admiration and envy. Admiration for their achievements, but at the same time, envy for how lucky their lives turned out to be – much better than ours. We end up telling ourselves, surely, their achievements must have been planned, that where they are now was the result of decades of meticulous planning and hard work. We end up believing that the only way to succeed is to have a plan and stick to it with absolute focus.

But as usual, reality kicks us in the face and jolts us out of this ideal setup. We fail, plan again, try again, fail some more, and keep going with little to no results. We find ourselves stuck in some kind of cruel stagnation. It is not surprising that there are many a disillusioned soul who finds him/herself in this vicious cycle of hard work with no success.

What, then, is the solution? How does one get out of this vicious cycle? The answer, may just lie in the stories of Atty. Dino Aguirre, Deputy Commissioner of the National Privacy Commission. Dep. Comm. Aguirre shares valuable insights on the Study and Practice of Law

A graduate of UP College of Law and Harvard Law, Atty. Aguirre was invited as guest speaker at the Universitas Lawyer’s Quarterly (ULQ) to speak of his experiences and insights into the study and practice of law. While the ULQ was conceptualized as a venue of promoting the foundation’s vision of principled leadership in the profession, there is much that can be learned by those who  wish to build a career in any field, or aim to enter law school, or even those who aspire to make a name for themselves as early as their college years.

More than just describing his current practice, Atty. Aguirre wished to stress that where he is now was not the end result of decades of preparation and planning. If anything, a lot of it was merely chance. Chance that came as a result of timing and the skills he just so happened to possess at the time the job as Deputy Commissioner was offered to him. This unabashed fact would prove central to Atty. Aguirre’s main message for the evening: that the paths we take in life can never be predicted. Opportunity will, more often than not, present themselves unexpectedly. The question now is, are we ready to take them? Are we competent enough to rise to the opportunity?

The audience is composed of lawyers and law students.


It’s a tall order for anyone. If you can’t predict what life will throw at you, how can you prepare? This is where Atty. Aguirre brings up an old Michael Phelps commercial which emphasized that “it’s what you do in the dark that puts you in the light.”  The things you do when you aren’t in the thick of things will define you when you are called to the stand. This can be anytime, anywhere, and rarely during the time of your choosing. How to prepare yourself? Forget the meticulous planning. Life is too unpredictable. What you can control, however, are the skills you want to develop and the skills you will develop over time, especially when opportunities are not present – for a while.

In sum, certainty lies in knowing what skills you, as a person, want to develop anywhere you go. To prove this point, Atty. Aguirre illustrated the various positions he held before becoming a Deputy Commissioner. From his initial employ under Senator Edgardo J.  Angara, the Assistant Vice President of the New Ventures and Business Development team of PLDT, to starting his own firm which focused on Privacy – the practice of Law took him places he never would have been able to predict. What he was certain of, however, was that every job he took, was for his own development as a lawyer. This, in turn, was the reason why he was able to take such a varied path in Law. Every new job had new skills which allowed him to be ready for almost anything. Not all jobs paid equally and not all jobs had the same things for him to learn but, nonetheless, there was always something to learn that would help later on. This could not have been made any clearer in his Harvard Law application where his experience working with Senator Franklin Drilon provided ample basis for him to prove his worth to the oldest Law School in the United States. 

President & CEO Oliver Tuazon and Dep. Comm. Aguirre share insights.

Planning can only go so far. What matters more is how you are able to develop yourself and your skillset, whether it be for a career or life in general. It is only in focusing on your development, that one can be ready to take on new opportunities. This, Atty. Aguirre could not stress enough. It is the reason behind his aspirations in Law School and why he would move from different forms of Law Practice even if they seemed radically different. It is also why the payslip, was not the largest factor. Far more than the pay, it’s the skills you take out of any job you pursue that will matter in the long run. In anything you do, ask yourself, will your skills develop further? Or will you merely stagnate? It’s a question which any person, regardless of field, should ask themselves constantly. It’s what you do in the dark that determines what you will be in the light. Challenge yourself. In everything you do. If it’s easy, then perhaps it’s time to move on and seek more challenges.

But arguably, the most important means of improving yourself, according to Atty. Aguirre, is surrounding yourself with good friends. Friends who you know will do everything they can to raise you up, and you raise them in turn. Even the most difficult of situations, as he has seen in his practice, are always turned into avenues for growth especially if you have good friends to back you up. Good friends in fact are an even bigger bonus if they are smarter than you, as there is constant pressure to keep up with the pack. No one likes getting left behind. Running with this mentality can do much in preparing one for the challenges of the real world.

Attendees of the ULQ share insights and discuss key takeaways after the talk.

Project Manager Angela Butalid delivers the Closing Remarks

Atty. Aguirre closes his story with one last piece of advice, which may just be the best way of determining how your skills are progressing. “If you’re the smartest one in the room, there must be something wrong.” Indeed, in a world whose landscape is constantly shifting, it is best to never believe that you are finished. If you aren’t moving forward, it is more than likely that you’re moving backwards.


*Carlos Victa is a sophomore student at the UA&P School of Law, and is a volunteer for Universitas.


NOTA BENE: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and the speakers mentioned in the article, and not necessarily to the Foundation.

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