I realized that I haven’t actually posted a description of what I am doing for work, so here we go.
No amount of research could have prepared me for this job, or life here for that matter. This country is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced on a long-term basis before. I have obviously been to third-world countries and lived all over, but this is different. Excuse me for the first/third-world terminology, but it can illustrate what I’m talking about fairly well. There are aspects of first-world progress and wealth and consumerism, but there are also millions of people that don’t ever even see that world, let alone live in it. Walking through a mall you can feel like you’re in any western country, but then you walk outside and see a slum community across the street. These two worlds are pushed so close together, and at times overlap, but it is such a huge disparity that can leave you wondering where exactly you are.
For work, I am an intern at the National Union for People’s Lawyers. To borrow from one of my law school admission essays, The NUPL is a group of lawyers, judges, paralegals, and law students directly engaged in working to support various groups of marginalized people in the Philippines through providing legal services, advocacy, campaigns, education and research. Farmers, women, indigenous peoples, fisherfolk, trade unions, urban poor, and children are some of the groups affected by the cases that NUPL lawyers choose to take on with active defense when a sector or large group is having their rights violated. Lawyers and judges in the Philippines are far from immune when it comes to having their rights violated and they are frequently under attack, including being murdered. I am doing research on this subject and have created the most comprehensive and accurate database on attacks on lawyers and judges in all of the Philippines. There is a remarkable level of impunity in this country that continues to shock me, but it has also enhanced my desire to attain a legal education and degree in order to better understand and assist in situations like this one.
I have been given more responsibility than I expected upon accepting this internship position, and I am very grateful for the experiences afforded me. An average week contains tasks like: doing hours of research; attending meetings and forums with lawyers and activists; preparing documents for trials; reading and organizing case files; creating summaries of documents; attending case conferences; preparing presentations for lawyers and congressmen to give; and attending trials. I have already been asked to write an article regarding the research I’m doing for a book that will be published next year. I have attended many different levels of the Philippine judicial system, including the Supreme Court, for a wide variety of cases NUPL has taken. I spent three weeks in Congress meeting with representatives and discussing upcoming legislation that would protect individuals and agencies working to protect the rights of others. I planned a forum with a Congressman to engage other representatives in a conversation regarding the Human Rights Defenders Bill that NUPL lawyers worked on, and are pushing to get passed soon.
Some days are pretty slow and some days are insane. There really isn’t a typical day I could paint for you, but I am typically happy. It can be hard being this far from family and friends, but I think the holiday season was the hardest and now it has passed. I don’t like missing birthdays, weddings, graduations, and special moments, but that’s just how it goes sometimes. A huge amount of Filipino folks work in other countries to try to make more money for their families and themselves. Overseas Filipino Workers is the term, and they are all over this world- also away from their families, so I know I can do this for a year. I think I could do almost anything and live anywhere for a year. In the grand scheme of things, it’s really not very long.
Anyway, that’s a bit about what I’m doing for work over here. It keeps me busy, interested, and continuously learning. I have grown quite a bit since being here, especially building upon foundations from last year in Denver. I live a simple and mainly sustainable lifestyle, and I love it. I’m still obviously a work in progress, but I am working on it.