One afternoon in the big firm where I used to work, I took a break from writing a pleading, and went to the pantry. As is common with all big firms, the pantry was the lawyers' haven. We had a fridge, cold water dispenser, microwave, toaster, and comfortabe dining tables and chairs. It's not much, but our pantry was where the lawyers could turn to their old selves again at the end or in the middle of a long lawyerly day. It's the place where we gossip about movie stars, and wonder whether we actually missed a career in basketball.
Ramonito V. Abarico or RVA (by tradition, lawyers call each other by their initials in law firms) was a pantry regular. He had a fellow young associate with him then, but his name escapes me now. RVA, a little overweight for his five foot four frame, had boundless energy. He was doing litigation in the firm, and was working days and nights because of a major case involving some of our bosses. He was the designated foot soldier, and he bore a big brunt of the work. But RVA knew when to relax, and that moment he was actually doing that. I noticed they were having bacon and pandesal for snacks. Nothing extra-ordinary there, except that between them they had about 400 grams of bacon. They cooked it on the microwave oven, and it smelled really good. It was soaked in its own oil (about four cups of it). It looked delicious, and the boys appeared to be enjoying it.
Flash forward to another day, same setting and time of day, but in this instance, the boys were introducing me to the wonders of Palm chili-flavored corned beef. The great thing about it? -- the chunks of beef (not minced) that it offered, and the chili flavor that makes you beg for more. I introduced it to my family, and since then, our breakfast was never the same gain.
Over these snacks, RVA and I talked about work and life strategies. He said he wanted to build a house for his young family. He had a daughter then while I still had two boys (I now have three boys and a girl). Partnership was not in our minds. It was just how to increase our take home pay. I told him I was making extra cash by referring clients to the Firm. We got fifteen percent (15%)for each referral. Not bad, if you're billing in the hundreds of thousands. He tried out the strategy for a while, and started to refer work to the firm. But he had other plans. Eventually, he moved to a firm, which reportedly paid bonuses in dollars. As for me, I decided to work for myself, and put up my own firm.
Two years ago, we visited him in his room in his new Firm. He said he was still doing litigation, and he had to travel back and forth to Mindanao. He looked as if was having a better time.
Last month, I blogged about December being the hardest month for a lawyer. Just thinking about it makes the hair at the back of my head stand. Why?
Yesterday, I got a text message that RVA died that morning from a stroke. He's barely in his 30s. I'm speculating how it might have been for RVA last month. Did he stress himself too much? Did he have too much of the holiday food? I guess, it does not really matter now.
Four months ago, I shifted to a low fat diet, lots of vegetables and fruits and only up to three ounces of lean meat a day. No bacons. No Palm chili flavored corned beef. It might be the best decision I made for now.
As for RVA, I've been thinking about him all day. He was a good lawyer -- a good man with good skills in the law. May he find peace in heaven.