Contributors (Issue 6)

Abdulhamid Alawi Jr. currently heads the policy division of the BARMM ministry in charge of housing and human settlements. He is also an archivist and was a member of the project team for the Bangsamoro Museum in Cotabato City.

39-year-old Sitti Maryam Misah-Amirul is an architect from Jolo, Sulu. She is currently working at the Ministry of Public Works Sulu 1st District Engineering Office. She is a mother of three, a faithful wife, and a dedicated public servant.

Razul A. Ariz is a promising Maguindanaon writer and lexicographer dedicated to promoting the Maguindanaon language through various mediums. He showcases his linguistic prowess through translated poems, short stories, and other language-related content, often identified by his social media hashtag #mëgindëknown. Razul graduated Cum Laude in 2022, earning a bachelor’s degree in English Language Studies from Mindanao State University General Santos City. Currently, he serves as the Editor-In-Chief of the Kampilan Palimbang Writerhood, a pioneering writers’ group in his hometown, Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat.

Nelson Dino is engaged in writing poetry, short stories, narratives, novels, and song lyrics in different languages. In addition to serving as a history and language faculty member at the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) at Mindanao State University Tawi-Tawi College of Technology and Oceanography, he is tasked with being the director of the Cultural Affairs Office (CAO), supervising the Tambuli Cultural Dance Troupe, Gusi Lumba Music Guild, Dolphin Ambassadors, and University Marching Band.

Mirra-Edora Esmael is a faculty member of the Language Department of Mindanao State University—Tawi-Tawi College of Technology and Oceanography (MSU-TCTO) who is passionate about books, sunset, and coffee. She has been teaching for eight years, advocating for the creation of a culture of reading among her students and in her community. As a writer, her recent interests are in poetry and personal essays.

Aminah Fernando Kunting is an instructor of Language Development Resource Center, of Western Mindanao State University, Zamboanga City. She obtained her Master of Arts in English Langu Studies in Mindanao State University- Iligan Institute of Technology. She has always been interested in literature, most especially in indigenous people’s works and culture. She hopes to further her knowledge on these.

Daniel Luna is a third-year college student currently taking Bachelor of Arts in English Language Studies at Mindanao State University, Tawi-Tawi College of Technology and Oceanography.

An-Nurhaiyden Mangelen is currently studying law at the Ateneo de Davao University College of Law. He graduated Cum Laude and finished his Bachelor of Arts in English, majoring in Creative Writing at the University of the Philippines-Mindanao Campus. He tries to write on his spare time, and is blessed to have access to writing as an outlet for stress.

Sharmida M. Mawan is a 21-year-old Tausug born in Jolo, Sulu. She is the second daughter of Pakhar J. Mawan and Sherma E. Mansari. She was raised in a Muslim-Tausug environment hence her deep connection with her culture and ethnicity.  She is also campus journalist since junior high school, a leader, a volunteer and a peace mediator. She is currently a third-year college student of Bachelor of Arts in Political Science at Western Mindanao State University. She believes that nothing comes from nothing that is why taking risk is always the safest choice.

Lawyer Zeny-Linda Saipudin Nandu, SCL is from Jolo, Sulu, where she is a graduate of AB Political Science from Mindanao State University-Sulu as University Scholar, Cum Laude and Most Outstanding Graduate Awardee. After law school in Ateneo de Davao University, she earned MA in Islamic Studies from the University of the Philippines Diliman as Scholar and Dean’s Lister, while serving as Chief of Staff of Anak Mindanao Party-list Representative in Congress. Before the 2023 Bar Exams, she also passed the 2018 Special Shari’ah Bar Exams and 2019 Career Executive Service Exam, and since then, she has been in a limited (Shari’ah) law practice while at the same time working as Political Affairs Officer VI of Member of Parliament at the Bangsamoro Transition Authority in Cotabato City.

Si Ayessah Nesreen Banocag Pasagi, nakatira sa Balindong, Lanao del Sur, ay kasalukuyang nag-aaral ng BA English Language Studies sa Mindanao State University – Main Campus, Marawi City. Siya ay nagsusulat upang ibahagi ang kanyang mga pananaw at mga karanasan bilang isang Meranaw na nagsisimula pa lamang mag-explore sa buhay. Ang isa sa kanyang mga akda na may pamagat na “Every College Student” ay malayang nailathala ng Indiependent Collective noong 2023. Sa parehong taon, naging fellow siya ng ikaanim na Luntiang Palihan ng De La Salle University, Manila.

Anna Rahma Usman Sarip is currently a third-year college student at Mindanao State University – Main Campus Marawi City taking up Bachelor of Arts in English Language Studies. She is a Meranaw, born and raised in MSU, Marawi City. Anna or preferably called Apple, continues to thrive in life as she climbs upon the mountain to success. She also takes a lot of interest in trying different forms and genres of writing as she considers it a crucial point in advancing her knowledge and experience. Aside from that, some of her research works have been accepted on multiple paper presentations and conferences around the nation. Anna also spends her idle hours by taking care of her cats and kittens at home.

Jahara A. Solaiman is an instructor at the English Department of Mindanao State University-Marawi City, where she teaches English, literature, and art appreciation. Her earlier works have appeared in other literary anthologies, the most recent being Lawanen II (Gantala Press) and Ani 40: Katutubo (Cultural Center of the Philippines). In addition to creative writing, she loves imparting her love of art (she works with colored pencils, watercolors, and acrylic) to her students.

Hasmeyya Tiboron, 25, is a creative nonfiction writer from Cotabato City. She has a degree in Philosophy from Mindanao State University – Main Campus but she’s not an atheist. She loves coffee.

Almayrah A. Tiburon is a native Meranaw writer from Mindanao State University, Marawi City. She composed the official school hymn of Philippine Integrated School Foundation (PISF). Two of her books on fiction Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 have e-book versions aside from printed ones. Her works have been published in respected periodicals and anthologies such as Umaalma, Kumikibo, In Certain Seasons: Mother Write in the Time of Covid, Likhaan: The Journal of Contemporary Philippine Literature, Aruga: Mga Sanaysay ng Pagtanggap at Paglingap, Ani 40: Katutubo where she served as the editor of the Meranaw section of this book, BioLente: Mga Bagong Katha sa Danas ng Dahas at Banwa, Laoanen:  Kababaihan/ Digmaan/ Kapayapaan, CNN Philippines’ Best Books of 2018 Lawanen 2: Mga Alaala ng Pagkubkob which she also served as editor of this book, Mga Haraya ng Pag-igpaw, Bangsamoro Literary Review, Liwayway, Danas: Mga Pag-aakda ng Babae Ngayon which was named among The Best Filipino Books of the 2010s by CNN Philippines, Likhaan’s Dx Machina: Philippine Literature in the Time of COVID-19, Sulatan sa Panahon ng Pandemya, Mindanao Harvest 4: A 21st Century Literary Anthology, and Asymptote Journal. She is the author of Thotholan: Mga Alamat at Pabulang Meranaw, and Salamin At Iba Pang Panglaw which was among the Top 5 finalists for the Best Books of Short Fiction (Filipino) in National Book Awards 2019. Her literary interests also cover the folk literature of the Meranaw people. She wants to encourage Meranaws and other Mindanaoans, whose voices are seldom heard in the literary scene, to write about their sentiments and be published.

Blessing in disguise

Daniel Luna 

Image by Petr Ganaj (Pixabay)

Omar, a twelve-year-old boy, his brown eyes large, hefty as the earth itself, carries tales of resilience. His hair, black as a raven’s wing, coils into tight curls that mimic the sloppy paths he navigates daily. His lips, round and chapped by the relentless sun, seldom separate for words, speak volumes about his toughness. And his nose, broad, flat, and evocative of Emilio Aguinaldo, mirrors his strong heritage. An orphan, void of the warmth of familial ties, stands alone in his struggle for survival. He became his own savior, grappling daily to secure his basic needs. He barely managed to eat even once a day.

He lives in a small house, or we say kubo in Filipino language, nestled in the heart of the slums. Standing steadfast, an island of resilience amidst a sea of hardship, crafted from wood, bamboo, and nipa, the house’s skeletal structure is composed of seasoned wood that bears the weight of years and stories. The wood, weathered by time and elements, carries a patina of age, its grain a roadmap of survival against adversity. Encasing this wooden frame are walls of bamboo, woven together with the precision of a master craftsperson. Each bamboo stalk, standing side by side, mirrors the close-knit community of the slums, individual yet intertwined. The walls, a patchwork quilt of bamboo, provide a shield against the world. Crowning the house is a roof of nipa leaves, a thatched tapestry of nature’s own design. The leaves overlap like scales on a dragon, forming a protective shell against the tropical rain and sun.

One day, in the heart of the mangrove forest, Omar chanced upon a small, black creature. It had four stubby legs, a face and tail elongated like the waning crescent moon, and tiny, pointed fangs that added an intriguing intensity to its tiny form. At first, Omar feigned ignorance, treating the creature’s presence as an illusion. Yet, the persistent creature trailed him like a loyal spaniel, never baring its fangs or displaying any hint of aggression. This unexpected peacefulness made Omar pause, and he cast a speculative glance at the small reptile. A thought fluttered in his mind. Could he adopt this creature? Although void of reason, the thought seemed comforting. As if fate had conspired to make this meeting happen, Omar stumbled upon a small, white plastic container nearby. With a soft sigh, Omar gently bent his knees, lowering himself to the ground. With one hand steady on the container and the other cautiously reaching for the crocodile, he prepared to lift the creature. To his relief, the crocodile remained docile, allowing the boy to gently cradle it into its new home.

Omar diligently fed the crocodile with the fish he caught, oblivious to the weight of the circumstances surrounding his decision to bring it into his humble home. Forgotten were the whispers of caution that echoed through the community—a warning against welcoming such a dreaded creature. The history of tragedies and lives lost to the jaws of crocodiles seemed a distant memory to Omar, submerged beneath his newly found connection with this unconventional companion. As the crocodile became a part of Omar’s life, remarkable changes began to unravel. An unseen tapestry of blessings unfurled before him, woven by the hands of anonymous benefactors. Food materialized in his hands, offered freely by strangers amidst the community. Even financial support, an unimaginable luxury in his past, appeared, easing the burdens that once bore heavily upon his young shoulders. Omar, brimming with joy and gratitude, attributed these blessings to the presence of the crocodile. Little did Omar know, his happiness was not solely derived from his crocodile companion, but also from the ripple effect he had unknowingly set in motion. The act of embracing the despised creature had stirred dormant empathy and generosity from their community, reminding them of the power of compassion and solidarity. The blessings continued to flow, not solely for Omar, but in the awakening of shared humanity within the hearts of those around him.

Years passed, Omar already an 18-year-old, had managed to renovate his house into a sturdier and more resilient kubo. However, he never anticipated that someone would discover the existence of the crocodile residing within his humble abode. One evening, a man roughly four times older than Omar grew envious of the blessings bestowed upon him. Consumed by jealousy, the man found an opportunity to sneak into Omar’s house with the intent to steal. Omar was absent at that time, occupied with the task of procuring a large container to provide a better home for the growing crocodile. The man cautiously entered the house, quietly opening the door. To his astonishment, he was met with a sight that struck him with fear. The crocodile had grown exponentially, now twice the size it was when Omar had adopted it. There was no container to confine it; Omar had allowed the creature to freely roam on the wooden floor. Overwhelmed by shock, the man found himself unable to utter a single word. Shaken to the core, he hastily retreated, leaving the door open, and uttered a single word in the local language, “Buwaya” — a term that means crocodile, filled with terror and alarm.

That fateful night, Omar remained unaware of the harrowing scene he was about to witness. As he glanced outside his home, an unsettling sight greeted him—people had gathered, clutching long, thick, and flat knives, their torches casting an eerie glow. His face drained of color, his heart raced in his chest, and myriad speculations raced through his mind as he stood just a short distance away. He felt a jolt of panic, thoughts racing through his mind. “Had those people discovered the existence of the crocodile? Were they aware that he had been living alongside the creature? The crocodile must have sensed the impending danger, he thought, it must have found a way to escape.” The weight of uncertainty pressed upon him as he contemplated the potential consequences. Questions swirled in his mind, intertwining with fear and apprehension. Had he been exposed? Would he too become a target of their wrath and animosity? Omar’s heart pounded in his chest as he grappled with the unknown fate of both himself and his once-trusted companion.

Without a moment’s hesitation, Omar’s instincts kicked in, urging him to rush toward his house. Pushing past the crowd, he fought his way to the center where a circle of onlookers had formed. His eyes welled up with unshed tears, his hands trembling uncontrollably as he beheld the devastating scene before him. The crocodile, once his cherished companion, bore multiple cruel stabs covering its rear. The ghastly sight tore at Omar’s soul as he struggled to comprehend the cruelty that unfolded before his eyes. A cacophony of voices erupted around him, the crowd unleashing a torrent of hurtful words. Shouts pierced the air, blending with scornful remarks aimed directly at him. They chastised him for his perceived recklessness and immaturity, emphasizing the inherent danger of harboring such a creature. The weight of their condemnation hung heavy in the atmosphere as if every syllable carried the weight of their collective disdain. Yet, amidst the verbal assault, Omar remained resolute, his determination unshaken. Ignoring the vitriol, Omar steadily approached the lifeless body of the crocodile. With tear-stained cheeks and a voice wrought with anguish, he pressed himself against the slain creature, mourning the loss of both a companion and the hope it represented. His hands clutched onto the crocodile’s head, seeking solace and offering a final act of tenderness in the face of overwhelming despair. In this heart-wrenching moment, he allowed himself to release his anguish, grieving loudly for the bond that had been abruptly severed.

Once, I offered myself to the stars

Mirra-Edora Esmael

Once, I offered myself to the stars

I scooped up scraps of me
Ugly edges, opened cracks
Faults, flaws, and ruins
But they slip eagerly between the hands
How unfair it was! How unjust!
When I finally solicited bravery
The fingers have gone tired, they trembled,
Unable to carry all the thunders I rolled
Beneath the corners of my flesh and bones
Still, I gathered these and held them tight
I took it on a ride to the depths of the night.

dogs howling
lamppost flickering
air sweeping
and leaves
on empty streets
squeak, whirr;
a staccato.

I toss myself under the watchful skies
Abandoned and stripped my mind
But the moon has fallen asleep
How unfair it was! How unjust!
When I finally solicited bravery
It has grown tired of people’s tears,
It got bored of people’s whims,
So I asked, instead, the stars
Pleaded them to accept, to hide,
All the sins, chunks, and scars —
To string constellations with tonight.

trees slouching
walls whispering
air thickening
melting dew
and soil
on silent streets
thrum, whirr;
a staccato.

Distant, diamond eyes pierce me
Like mirrors, doubting, suspicious
Questioning the unshapely fragments
I dragged and hid in my shadows
So I took the tail of a wandering star,
Scraped down the worst parts,
And offered them up above
But they don’t weave constellations anymore
How unfair it was. How unjust!
When I finally solicited bravery
The stars have grown tired of waiting,
And I am left with my rubbles, begging.

One star took pity,
And so it called and asked me:

“What do you think makes me shine?
Is it air, space, or time?
Is it me who created this light?
Or is it the darkness where I lie?
What do you think makes me twinkle?
My light that hesitated to travel?
The black spaces that ate my sparkle?
Or your eyes, which failed to discover,
All these fragments creating my flare?”

eyes drooping,
earth snoring,
air blowing,
bursting colors
and skins
on lonely streets
hum, whirr,
slowing down,
singular sound;
a staccato.


A tale of preordained things

Zeny-Linda Saipudin Nandu

✓ Pass the Bar Exams
✓ Take the Lawyer’s Oath
✓ Sign the Roll of Attorneys

Now officially, Atty. Zeny-Linda Saipudin Nandu, SCL.

It took me more than two decades to finally check off all the items on my bucket list above. With all honesty, I entered Ateneo de Davao University College of Law in 2002, and 10 years later, I graduated in 2012. Of course, there were regrets, frustrations, setbacks, and shortcomings. If I could go back in time, I would have gotten better grades and maybe, graduated on time. But it is comforting to know that everything that happens in life is preordained by God,

“Verily, we have created all things with Qadar (Divine Preordainments of all things before their creation, as written in the Book of Decrees Al-Lauh Al-Mahfuz).” -Qur’an 54:49

Life in law school wasn’t just about getting bad grades. In fact, most of my lifelong advocacy work occurred while I was in law school. Just when I was on the verge of having a mental breakdown due to my unfamiliar daily routine at law school – reading tons of books day and night in my dormitory and daily recitations in my classroom. The timing was perfect as I found a good alternative to keep me sane.

It all started when I happened to join the Ateneo de Davao Legal Advocacy Works (AdDLAW) after a schoolmate invited me to join, so I could travel to places for free. Just when I thought it was all about traveling for free, I became involved in alternative lawyering and human rights work. It was about studying law beyond the four corners of the classroom. It was about learning the human side of the law. I chose the so-called “road less traveled,” which even some lawyers are unfamiliar with. However, as none other than former Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Jr., said:

“Alternative lawyering is to practice law fundamentally for individuals, communities, and sectors that have been historically, culturally and economically marginalized and disenfranchised. To me, it is troubling that the lawyers who advocate such worthy causes are called the alternative. An alternative is a second choice. You should be considered the mainstream, the first choice, the true and ideal lawyers. Better yet, the conscience of the legal profession.”

Together with my AdDLAW colleagues, we had this seminar, which specifically focused on advocacy for the rights of children, women, indigenous peoples and communities, farmers and fisherfolks, environmental rights, and other human rights. After spending a week immersed in Samal Island’s agricultural, fishing, and IP communities and experiencing their daily lives, I chose the Paglilingkod Bayan Pangkapatiran Foundation (PBPF) for my internship in the Alternative Law Groups (ALG), which advocates for environmental rights, because I found the other advocacies too heavy for my heart to carry.  While at PBPF, I had to attend paralegal training and court hearings in Mati, Lanuza, San Franz, and as far away as Siargao. Even in my then ‘baluktot’ Bisaya, I was struck by how such a simple lecture on paralegals to fisherfolks can empower a community, and make them aware and vigilant of their rights.

After my summer internship, some volunteer interns from Ateneo Legal Services recruited me to join them. I was overwhelmed by how my experience with AdDLAW could impact the lives of people, especially those who are less fortunate. As volunteer legal aid interns, we were assigned to draft pleadings for labor cases that were filed in courts or with the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC). This experience honed my skills in legal research, client interviews, and drafting pleadings. In my years at Ateneo Legal Aid, I can proudly say that we have won every case assigned to me. The most memorable of all these cases was the illegal dismissal case, and the submission of the position paper coincided with my midterm exam in labor law, where my professor was the labor arbiter who eventually decided the case. Although I failed her exam, I won the illegal dismissal case without her knowing that the position paper was drafted by me. Indeed, in life, you win some and you lose some.

I then had the opportunity to attend the first Moro Law Interns Conference as the only participant from my law school. One of the participants’ recommendations was to establish a Moro law student organization at each participating law school in Mindanao to encourage Moro students to advocate for Bangsamoro rights. Having in mind the Moro situation, and with the support of other Moro law students at Ateneo, we were able to form the Ateneo Law Student Advocates for Bangsamoro Rights (AL-SABAR). We conducted seminars, paralegal training, and relief operations in Moro communities and joined other law groups in rallies and press conferences to voice out our statement on issues affecting the Bangsamoro. I became its first elected president, and AL-SABAR was for a long time the only law school-based Moro organization in the country.

My AdDLAW and ALG experiences also paved the way for me to represent my law school as a replicate intern at the Summer Internship Program of the Ateneo Human Rights Center (AHRC) in Makati. Again, I traveled to many places for free, including a week-long immersion trip to Bakun, Benguet, a month-long internship proper with the Environment Legal Assistance Center (ELAC) in Puerto Princesa, and Coron, Palawan, and an internship evaluation at Ilocos Norte and Sur. This summer was the best summer for me, I enjoyed it even more because I never thought I would be able to travel to these places, and it provided me with an opportunity to empower people. The following year, I was able to facilitate the next batch of AHRC interns in their orientation seminar in Laguna and immersion in Occidental Mindoro. Also, I was among those who were tapped by the AHRC Executive Director who also held the same position at the time with the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE), to establish the local chapter of LENTE at the Ateneo de Davao College of Law, the first in Mindanao.

I also joined the Fraternal Order of Saint Thomas More – Tau Mu Fraternity and Sigma Tau Mu Sorority and have been an active member for years, serving as an editor-in-chief of both The Messenger (the official newsletter) and The Freshmen Survival Manual, a member of the Academics Committee, and being elected Lady of the Scroll. As Tau Mu, I was also elected Vice President, and became an Acting President of the Ateneo Law Student Council.

When I decided to look for a job, my former law professor, who was also a city councilor at that time, hired me to work in her office in Sangguniang Panlungsod ng Davao (SP), where she chaired the Committee on Women and Children. I was assigned to her free legal assistance desk. Here, I was once again faced with handling women’s, children’s, and labor cases, including rape, child abuse, and VAWC cases, which were sometimes too much for me. Handling pro bono labor cases for illegally dismissed workers has always been rewarding for me, especially since we have won every labor case assigned to me. In one case I worked on, I was waiting for a public jeepney when a taxi driver suddenly stopped and asked me to get into the taxi. He happily shared that he was already driving a taxi and was able to send his son to college with the money he won in a labor case. He refused to take my fare, saying it was the only way to thank me for handling the case for free.

Although I may not have graduated on time and was active in various advocacy groups, I never took my law studies for granted as I also tried my best to excel in my studies. I also had the experience of seeing my name included in the Law Bulletin’s list of topnotchers in one of my final exams. However, as the song goes, “I did my best, but I guess my best wasn’t good enough.”

Luckily, I was still able to graduate from Ateneo de Davao, and I continue to live by the motto of being “a man (or woman) for others.” Then I realized that the long road to getting my law degree was not a waste of time because, even after failing the bar exams in 2012 and 2014, I still had an easy path to finding a job after law school. Indeed, every single thing that has ever happened in our lives is preparing us for a moment that’s meant to come.

Fast-forward to my 2023 bar journey, and there’s only one phrase to aptly describe it, “a leap of faith.” I’m not a religious person, but after not making it twice in the bar exams, and taking a break of nearly 10 years, I have been praying to The Almighty to show me signs, so I could try again, and hopefully one last time.

Miraculously, there were indeed a lot of signs. When the 2023 bar syllabus was released in early 2022, I had a dream that I found an old bar bulletin that contained simplified ways to answer the bar exams. I still remember realizing it was just a dream when two of my bar buddies asked me for a copy of this and I couldn’t find it. But the day before the last Sunday exams, I accidentally came across the 2020 handbook published online by the Philippine Association of Law Schools (PALS) and Rex Bookstore, and it contained almost exactly what I had seen in my dream. And I have been using the same format throughout the three-day bar exams.

Even with the hashtag #HernandoBar2023, named after 2023 Bar Chairperson Justice Ramon Paul Hernando, I took that as a sign. I changed the hashtag to #HerNanduBar2023, inserted my last name, and even wrote it in my review notes.

I also added my nickname and changed Tau Mu’s 2023 bar hashtag #Ascend to #AsZend. That was how desperate I was to look for signs. I even thought that the purple (law’s academic color) tumbler my bar buddy gave me was also a sign, and when I needed to replace the frame of my eyeglasses, purple was the only color that fit my lenses.

When I learned that our bar chair’s lucky number was 8, I decided to make my lucky number “3”. It’s true—the universe is colluding:

My birth month (March) is the 3rd month;
My age is 43, although it doesn’t look like it;
I am my parents’ 3rd child;
I have a family of 3 (with my always supportive husband, and our unica hija);
The year is 2023, and this bar was my 3rd take;
For the first time in bar exam history, the exam period was shortened to 3 days, and the bar exam results were released in almost 3 months;
When I received my notice of admission prior to the exams, my local testing center was on the 3rd floor, and my room number is 301;
When I entered the exam room on the first day, I got goosebumps when the proctor said, “You are seat number 3”;
After the bar exams, I’ve dreamed about it four times. In three of those dreams (the first, second, and fourth), there were no results of the bar exams, which I shared with family and friends. I kept my 3rd dream to myself until the bar exam results came out. In this dream, I failed again. I stick to it because many people would say that dreams are the exact opposite of reality, and that’s exactly what happened; and
Finally, at the oath and signing ceremony, I received my roll number, with the last digit being 3.

Spiritually, it was important for me to wake up at 3 a.m. (aligned with my lucky number) for the Tahajjudprayer from the start of my bar review on April 1 until the day of the bar exam results. Tahajjud is a voluntary prayer mentioned in the Qur’an and by the Prophet (peace be upon him):

And they who pass the night prostrating themselves before their Lord and standing.” (Quran, 25:64)

“The Lord descends every night to the lowest heaven when one-third of the night remains and says: ‘Who will call upon Me, that I may answer Him? Who will ask of Me, that I may give him? Who will seek My forgiveness that I may forgive him?’” (Bukhari, Muslim)

As have been told by those before me, the road to becoming an attorney was never easy. It wasn’t just a matter of looking for signs, as in my case. This experience may have been a leap of faith for me, but I know there is still no substitute for hard work and perseverance.

When I woke up at 3 a.m. during the review, I immediately started my readings after prayer. I hardly take naps or rest during the day, but I make sure to go to bed early at night, so I can easily wake up at 3 a.m. and maintain normal sleeping hours. I isolated myself from people for six months and only left the house when necessary. Furthermore, I enrolled in an online review center to stay up to date since my grueling six-month review was more focused on learning for the first time most of the coverage of the bar exams, as those were either not yet enacted, amended, revised, or part of jurisprudence when I was studying law 10 years ago.

My biggest worry was that I would hardly recall or forget what I’d been studying or reading for months because I have a short memory span and I forget quickly or forget about it completely because I have been surgically operated on twice under general anesthesia. Being the perennial crammer that I am, reading the last-minute tips from the time I entered the local testing center before 5 a.m. until the last minute when the first bell rang at 7:30 a.m. was like going through my 6-month review in a nutshell. Almost everything became fresh again in my memory.

All of this is made possible by The One Above. As the Qur’an 11:88 says, “My success is only by Allah.” Even those who accompanied me on this journey are God’s instruments to finally make my dream a reality. As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a lawyer. I may not be able to name each person individually, but collectively, my parents, sisters, friends, relatives, in-laws, former teachers and professors, past and present employers, and colleagues I have worked with in a variety of fields, including advocacy groups, organizations I am affiliated with, bar lecturers and review centers, past and present house helpers, former doctors, physical therapists and faith healers, and last but not least, my husband and daughter. I am forever grateful to all of them.

Finally, I would like to thank the Almighty Allah for giving me these wonderful people, for my answered prayers, and for the abundant blessings He bestowed on me to share with others.

Looking back, it is the most triumphant moment of my life as of late and at the same time the most humbling experience by far. I do not know where my life takes me from this but one thing is for sure, my law school and bar journey before becoming an attorney taught me important lessons of selfless service, hard work, perseverance, patience, and strong faith. With these, I am forever grateful for everything that happened in my life. All praises belong to Allah. Alhamdulillah!

Mëpya pën Silán

Razul A. Ariz

He’s half-sleep while rummaging his phone under the pillow beside his head and snoozes all the ringing alarms he sets before he goes to bed. This is the usual scenario that happens every time he sets the alarm for Fajr’s prayer. They seem battling with his scheduled alarm – whenever the alarm rings, he automatically swipes the snooze button.

Before he sleeps, he conditions himself and plans to do lots of things for the succeeding days but ends up slacking til the sun rises. Thus, he will be waking up with guilt and disappointment from missing intentionally one of his religious obligations – his morning prayer.

That day was a sudden shift from the tide. Long before his alarm was supposed to ring, he woke up as if someone made him do it. As his routine whenever he’s awake, he utters the dua “Alhamdulillahilladhi ahyana ba’da ma-amatana wa ilayhin nushur” – a supplication that offers gratitude to the Almighty for making him awake from his sleep.

For minutes, he stays in a lying position while staring blankly at the ceiling – he thinks about how melancholic life is, as time passes by swiftly yet progress is as torpid as a sloth; he’s exhausted in navigating the essence of life. After he gathered enough courage, he rose from his beddings and the rustling sound of his malung echoed in the dimly lit room.

Thereafter, he fixed his beddings, folded his malung, and put it above the pile of pillows arranged beside the bed headboard. He then grabbed the hanging white thobe behind the door and shook it off to dust any elements in contact with it. There were times, while he was lying on his bed, he felt a bit eerie staring at the spooky figure cast by his hanged thobe as if it was like a mangunsinà sneaking him all the time and perhaps would devour him at any possible moment.

As he walked along the bumpy road toward the masjid, the towering concrete houses were still asleep. A gentle breeze orchestrated by the blinking lights of the fireflies along with the symphonious serenade of crickets greeted him on that dawn which made him clasp his both shoulders as the shudder ran through him. “Hmm, këpya në sënggyup në sámbël ë nya” (hmm, the scent of this breeze is delightful) he mumbled; deep inside he realized how lucky he was for this bare minimum life privilege.

After a short while, the muadhin – the prayer caller, from the distant masjid called the qamat, the second or last call for jamaah before the congregational prayer commences. The line on that qamat saying “hayya alas salah, hayya alal falah” (come to prayer, come to success) gave him a lightbulb moment for his been clamoring for life stability for years without knowing that success is always calling him every day.

As he’s approaching the rusty dilapidated gate eroded by rainy and sunny seasons, the solar street light beside it shuts and paves a melancholic light on his way.

He lifted and swung open the gate which created a clunking sound, echoing on the quiet masjid’s courtyard as its metal panels moved against the hinges. He noticed how long those sagging gate panels covered with worn-out cyclone wire guarding the masjid’s threshold for unnumbered years from the access of stray dogs. He stopped for a while and peeked at the ajar masjid door and the jamaah, perhaps consisting of two, and an Imam about to commence their first raka-ah of salatul Fajr.

In a desire to catch up at the commencement of the prayer, he hastily strode to the washing area: washed his hands simultaneously, gargled water repeatedly, and concluded it by washing his feet. Despite the freezing water, he still managed to finish his ablution in the manner of how it was supposed to be performed. He then hurriedly entered the masjid, uttered the supplication, and proceeded to the saf of the jamaah to pray.

The prayer goes on, and then the imam concludes the congregational prayer by pronouncing “Assalamu alaykum warahmatullah” facing right then left. While, he, as a Masbuq, completes his prayer and stands for his last rakaah. Amid his standing, a spine-chilling breeze sweeps inside the masjid. He suddenly recited out loud melodiously the fatiha and a surah, probably, certain ayahs from surahtul Jin.

As how it ends, the salah concluded with salam and right after that, he read some Dhikr. “Alhamdulillah” he mumbled, painting a curve on his lips as a manifestation of being grateful for his little milestone that day – his salah. He then stood and walked towards the exit and left the masjid.

The imam awaited him outside and tagged along leaving the masjid. Out of concern, he suddenly said “Dátù, umeyka masbuq ta në nya det në mësulën bu i këpëmbátya ta së Fatiha ëndu sëkëb angh” (When we’re masbuq, it is required for us to recite our prayer silently) … “nya tëbya ë di’ ipëdsulën në umeyka ëdën màmum ta” (Not unless, when we have a màmum) he added in a hush and humble tone.

This perplexed him and he didn’t grasp the purpose of why the imam said that. Yet he replied by saying “Uwëy bápa Imam, nëpëngëgyan námi bun i námba së madrasah”(𝘠𝘦𝘴 𝘜𝘯𝘤𝘭𝘦 𝘐𝘮𝘢𝘮, 𝘸𝘦’𝘥 𝘦𝘯𝘤𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘦𝘥 𝘪𝘵 𝘪𝘯 𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘭𝘦𝘴𝘴𝘰𝘯 𝘪𝘯 𝘮𝘢𝘥𝘳𝘢𝘴𝘢𝘩).

Then, the imam said, “Ah, këgina kë nëpëngëgyan nëngka bun bësën në di’ kë dën pëmbëlumënëy i metu së këgína ëntu kë’ di’ intu pëkëustu.” (I see, since you’ve encountered it in your lesson, you should never repeat how you performed it how a while ago, for it is not accurate).

“Ustu bun mën bási i’ntu bapa Imam, kë ngen pën bësën i ma’mum ku ëntu ë kimëbit së láki këgína. Tu mëngúda ëntu ë nëkëlámbung së mëputi” he explained.” (I think that was accurate bapa Imam, how about that màmum who tapped my shoulder awhile ago – the lad in white lambung).

The imam chuckled and said “mësëbëlëw kë mámbù ë wátà. Sëka bu i másbuq këgína ëntu, da’ dën nëkëtúndug pën së lëka.”(You’re a joker kid. You’re the only masbuq a while ago;no one comes after you) He patted his shoulder and said “Na metu dën ba, tumálus ëku dën.” (Okay, I will go then).

He was left cemented on that road holding his trembling knees as fear enveloped his whole system due to the surge of that horrible information. Yet, after his sanity returned, he uttered to himself while pondering “mëpya pën silán kë pëkëëpas pën pëdsambáyang!” (how fortunate they are for they still dare to pray).