Filipino Lawyer Commencement Speaker in Harvard Law School Graduation

  • 3 replies


    A FILIPINO lawyer taking up his LLM or master’s degree in law at Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, will deliver the school’s commencement address on June 7.

    Oscar Franklin Barcelona Tan, a graduate of UP Law Class 2005, will address about 700 graduates. He is an associate, on study leave, at the ACCRA law office.

    His father, lawyer Edmundo L. Tan of the Tan Acut & Lopez Law firm, had no comment on Franklin’s selection by a select committee, but said, “I will be there in Harvard on June 7 to congratulate personally my son and to share the moment with him.”

    His mother, Dr. Jesusa Barcelona Tan, is a dermatology consultant at the Hospital of the Infant Jesus in Sampaloc, head of the photo-dermatology unit, and former chair of the Department of Dermatology at the Jose R.Reyes Medical Center of the Department of Health.

    In his draft speech, Oscar urges his 700 fellow graduates to transcend narrow nationalism. “My friends and this includes our American classmates who will soon lead the world’s lone superpower let us transcend our individual nationalities and affirm that we are citizens of the world,” he says. (

Romans 10:9
"That if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved."

 8)   8)   8)

Here, read his speech .......


Like Wine in the River, Like Citizens of the World
Harvard Law School 2007 Student Commencement Address
Oscar Franklin Barcelona Tan (Philippines)

     Dean Kagan, Vice-Dean Alford, professors, classmates, families, and
friends. Let me first thank our tireless graduate program staff. They
were the first friendly faces who greeted me, told me which functions
offered free food, and what to do if you faint during your final
exams. Assistant Dean Jeanne Tai, Nancy Pinn, Heather Wallick, Curtis
Morrow, Jane Bestor, Chris Nepple, April Stockfleet: This year would
not have been possible without you.

     But this goes to everyone: Thank you all for truly making us feel part
of this community. We LLMs became your fellow students after your
Salsa Party, Chinese and Korean New Year, African Night, and our
International Party. To honor you, we took Europe by storm, winning in
the inaurgural Negotiation Challenge, in the European Law Moot Court,
and in the Willem Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot Court.
Of course, you truly become part of Harvard Law School when you're
featured in the Parody.

     Not so long ago, Cambridge seemed a strange, unfriendly place ­
especially when I first saw Gropius. I went to John Harvard's with the
British, who began chittering in an alien language. I later discovered
it was actually English ­ the real English. I complained I was not
used to cold, but a Saudi Arabian reminded me that you can fry eggs on
a sidewalk in Riyadh. An Italian gave me tips on women because Italian
men are the world's greatest lovers, with the disclaimer that their
style does not work on American women. A Malaysian was asked to
explain the religious significance of the color of her hijab, or
headscarf. She would answer: It had to match her blouse.

     Soon, we found that great substance that keeps any law school
together: alcohol. On New Year's Eve, a Belarusian handed me a glass
of vodka, but scolded me when I began to sip it. Sipping, he
emphasized, was not the Slavic way. I shared a Frenchman's champagne,
a Peruvian's pisco sour, a Costa Rican's pina colada, a Brazilian's
caipirinha, a Mexican's tequila, and a Japanese's sake. And apologies
to the Germans, but I learned how even weak American beer enlivens an
evening when you drink it with the Irish.

     We found greater common ground: The Swiss complained about American
chocolate, the New Zealanders complained about American cheese, the
Sri Lankans complained about American tea, the Indians complained about
the lack of vegetarian food, and everyone complained that American food
makes you fat. An Austrian made homemade apfelstrudel. A Nigerian made
homemade fried plantains. The Pakistanis made a non-spicy version of keema,
and I only needed eight glasses of water during the meal. All the Americans
had was Three Aces pizza.

     As for me, I come from the Philippines, a former American colony best
known for Imelda Marcos's shoe collection. I remember being a six-year
old watching my parents walk out of our house to join the crowds
gathering to depose the dictator Ferdinand Marcos and form human walls
against tanks. I remember being a twenty-year old in a different crowd
deposing a different but equally corrupt president.

     It was liberating to hear how a Chilean danced with crowds in the
streets when Pinochet was arrested. How the Chinese come to grips with
Tiananmen Square, while convinced that one cannot transplant
American-style government wholesale to Beijing. How life changed in
the former Soviet Union; how it was like growing up in a fledgling
Eastern European country. How a Pakistani discussed Musharraf's
assault on judicial independence with a South African worried about
Mugabe's own acts in Zimbabwe.

     It was even more liberating to hear from a Korean prosecutor how his
country sent two former presidents to jail. How the Swiss have
preserved their tradition of independence and referendum. How Ghana
threw off its colonial fetters and inspired a conscious African
solidarity. How a Bhutanese wants to help shape her constitution after
her king voluntarily gave up absolute power.

     I cannot deny that our generation's issues will be complex, but I can
guarantee that they will never be abstract, not after having a
classmate who was an Israeli army drill sergeant, not after having a
Chinese classmate with a Taiwanese girlfriend, nor after having a
classmate chased by gunmen out of Afghanistan. In fact, when George W.
Bush's speechwriter visited, my Iranian classmate introduced himself,
"Hi, I'm from an Axis of Evil country."

     Friends, my most uplifting thought this year has been that the more we
learn about each other, the more we realize that we are all alike, and
the more we inspire each other to realize our most heartfelt
yearnings. My single most memorable moment here came when I met South
African Justice Albie Sachs, left with only one arm after an
assassination attempt during apartheid. My classmate stood up and
said: "South Africa is the world's second most unequal country. I come
from Brazil, the world's most unequal country, and I admire how the
South African Constitutional Court has inspired the progress of human
rights throughout the world."

     And this is how Harvard has changed us. We recall struggling with
English to keep pace with the world's most brilliant professors,
especially with Elizabeth Warren's Socratic blitzkriegs, and we thank
Harvard for raising our thinking to a higher, broader level. But even
the most powerful ideas demand passion to set them aflame. The passion
we ignite today is fueled by a collage of vignettes that will remind us in this
crucible of life that our peers in faraway lands face the same frustrations,
the same nation building ordeals, the same sorrows, and ultimately, the
same shared joys and triumphs.

     How do a mere 700 change the world, even with overpriced Harvard
diplomas? Before a great battle in China's Spring and Autumn Period,
the legendary King Gou Jian of Yue was presented with fine wine. He
ordered his troops to stand beside a river, and poured the wine into
it. He ordered them to drink from the river and share his gift. A
bottle of wine cannot flavor a river, but the gesture so emboldened
his army that they won a great victory. We of the Class of 2007 shall
flavor this earth, whether we be vodka, wine, champagne, pisco sour,
pina colada, caipirinha, tequila, sake, jagermeister, raki, Irish
stout, Ugandan Warabi, or Philippine lambanog.

     Thus, my friends ­ and this includes our American classmates who will
soon lead the world's lone superpower ­ let us transcend our individual
nationalities and affirm that we are citizens of the world.

Maraming salamat po, at mabuhay kayong lahat.
Thank you and long live you all.




  • *
  • 58
  • "Ang mamatay nang dahil sa iyo....."

Here's how Atty. Tan exhibited his typical Pinoy grit !! !


Filipino recounts surviving in Harvard on leftover food

By Volt Contreras
Last updated 10:23pm (Mla time) 06/08/2007

MANILA, Philippines -- Before Oscar Franklin Tan drew raves for his commencement address at the elite Harvard Law School the other day, this young Filipino lawyer had his share of silent, awkward moments when basic things like meals became ''an issue.''

In a candid, light-hearted exchange with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Tan shared how campus life could be tough even for excelling foreign students like him in one of the world's premier institutions.

He managed to stretch his limited food budget, for example, by improvising his menu and even collecting ''leftovers'' at school functions.

He also took advantage of his professor's habit of bringing two baskets of apples to class each Friday. Tan saw an opportunity when he noticed that most of his classmates, especially the Americans, ''just ignored'' the treat.

''There was usually at least one basket left. I would bring an extra backpack every Friday and waited until everyone left and had free fruit half the year, thanks to Professor Lawrence Tribe,'' he said.

Tan fondly recalled all these ''embarrassing'' episodes in his e-mail to the Inquirer on Thursday, the day before he stood proud and tall as the commencement speaker at the 2007 HLS graduation rites, an honor bestowed upon him by his class.

The 27-year-old bachelor and 2005 law alumnus of the University of the Philippines completed his master's degree at the premier institution in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was chosen to speak at the ceremony in behalf of some 700 American and foreign graduates.

''Food was really an issue because I was on a tight budget, having entered Harvard Law practically a fresh graduate,'' said Tan, whose studies were shouldered in part by the HLS, the Ayala Scholarship Fund, his law firm (Angara, Abello, Concepcion, Regala and Cruz law office) where he is an associate, and with a little help from his father, fellow lawyer Edmund Tan.

''Some of the Asian and African students have become notorious for trying to save on food, and looking for free food. I became one of them after I learned that Harvard threw away uneaten food from all the functions and talks (which shocked the Africans in particular), and I just brought the food back to the dorm.''

Chow time in his fourth-floor unit at the Gropius dormitories, ''the ugliest but cheapest'' lodging on campus, often had him ''experimenting with many combinations to save food, such as making sandwiches and buying microwaveable chicken strips.'' He also stocked up on canned soup and tuna whenever there was a sale.

But while his cupboard was almost bare, Tan apparently had in abundance memorable campus experiences, especially with classmates of diverse cultural backgrounds.

Being Filipino with Chinese lineage gave him a ready affinity with East and Southeast Asians. Coming from a former Spanish and then US colony like the Philippines made it easy for him to relate to Americans, Latinos and Europeans, he noted.

''That leaves the Africans. I also had a ready affinity with them because I was from a developing country with postcolonial issues. I'd like to think that each of my classmates identified with me one way or another,'' he said.

A Thai classmate was kind enough to help carry Tan's refrigerator to his fourth-floor unit, since the dormitory had no elevator. A Saudi classmate, apparently familiar with the many Filipino workers in his oil-rich state, could understand most of Tan's sentences in Filipino.

But his international relations were not always that smooth.

''There was one embarrassing moment where a French classmate and I almost had a fight until we sat down and compared our cultures. Our Nigerian classmate had lost a close relative and was feeling very sad, so I e-mailed the class requesting the religious students to pray for him and console him.''

The French classmate then sent Tan an e-mail, expressing "shock that I would violate someone's privacy in such a public manner.''

''We discussed it, and he realized that grief is treated as a community issue in the Philippines (and in other developing countries), where public wakes are held and everyone tries to pass by to pay their respects. It was very new to him,'' Tan recalled.




The Filipino blood will never diminish.

Romans 10:9
"That if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved."