The Little Old Lady at the UP College of Law

Prof. Araceli Baviera: The process is the same, whatever branch it is: you look for the law, and apply it.

At the UP College of Law, the most respected professor is a little old lady with a very soft voice.

Araceli Baviera, however, is respected not because of her age, nor her demeanor. She earned it through her dedication to teaching and her mastery of the law.

Baviera, who turns 89 this year, is the oldest professor at the UP College of Law. There are many stories about her, many of them revolving around her simplicity, her dedication to teaching, and her mastery of her subject, which is civil law.

“She is a professor’s professor,” says Senator Franklin Drilon.

UP College of Law dean Marvic M.V.F Leonen describes Baviera as “probably the only one who can talk about the intent in the drafting of the New Civil Code in the first person.”

Former UP dean Pacifico Agabin, who was one of Baviera’s early students, remembers her as a “very dedicated teacher.”

“She’s very soft-spoken, but every word is a grain of wisdom,” says Prof. Tony Laviña.

Of the many anecdotes about Baviera, one stands out: During the congressional deliberations on the UP charter, Leonen says, congressmen very tactfully asked about the tenure of UP professors. Baviera, who started teaching in 1955, retired from the College of Law years ago and was rehired as a professorial lecturer.
“The congressmen didn’t know that. They thought she was still a regular (professor), and they didn’t want to pass a law that would prevent her from teaching,” Leonen recounts.

The irony of it all was that Baviera didn’t want to take up law at first.

“In fact I didn’t know what course to take; it was my father who wished one of us to take up law,” she says. Her adviser wanted her to take up medicine, “because my laboratory subjects had very high ratings compared to social science.”

Neither did she want to teach, in the beginning. She practiced law after passing the bar, but was disgusted by the “influence-peddling” that she saw.

“I said to myself, mahirap mag-aral ng law, tapos magsusuhol ka lang,” she says. “I went to teaching.”

She was 35 years old when she started teaching, in 1955, and she was amazed at the students.

“Yun unang turo ko nagugulat ako sa mga estudyante ko dahil magagaling, magaling pa sa mga practitioners na nakikita ko sa labas,” Baviera recalls.
“Perhaps that was what attracted me to teaching, dahil mga first students ko magagaling talaga. In fact you learn from them, sa mga question nila. Meron kang di nakikita, sa questioning nila, makikita mo.”

Until now she remembers one student asking her: “What is the loophole?”
To which she retorted: “We do not teach loopholes here.”
When another challenged her interpretation of the law, Baviera snapped back: “Even if you take away my experience, I’m still a cum laude graduate.”
Reliving that particular episode, Baviera adds: “Sometimes in teaching you have to bare your fangs. I cut him to size.”
It was not the question, she says, but the way it was asked. It was, she remembers, as if the student was implying she was a fraud, for not agreeing with his interpretation of the law.
“It’s not the questioning, in fact I encourage questioning,” Baviera says.
Leonen actually remembers debating with her, as her student, for three class days in a row. In the end, Leonen was convinced that he was wrong; but it is not very often, he says, that a teacher allows a debate to last that long.

Because there were very few textbooks then, Baviera made her own compilation of cases, with some commentaries, for discussion. It was 72 pages long, and she did it during the Christmas vacation.
She wanted to give it to the students for free, but her brother told her it might put the other professors in a bad light. So she gave it to the college clerk, which charged students P2 per stenciled copy.
“Nireklamo ako. Nagbebenta daw kami sa College of Law. College of Law daw should be called College of Business Administration,” Baviera says. She explained her side, and the issue was settled. Until now, Baviera says she is thankful to the student who wrote about it at the Collegian, UP Diliman’s student paper: Pacifico Agabin.

Now Baviera has two books in her name: one on sales, another on Civil law. This April she will start writing her third book, on Civil Procedure. She plans to put in both civil code provisions and illustrative cases to make it “three dimensional.”
“So that they can see it as a whole, how it applies, how it works,” Baviera says.
You don’t see the law as a whole until you practice it, she explains, because it is taught in portions in law school. “Compartmentalized,” Baviera describes it.

But she sees it as a whole.
Though she specializes in civil law, Baviera says she has taught most of the subjects in the curriculum, from the “easy” ones such as statutory construction and legal history, to evidence, taxation and even agrarian reform. She has no favorite subject, she says, because “the process is the same, whatever (course) it is: you look for the law and apply it.”
**an edited version of this came out in Newsbreak’s April 2009 edition.

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One Response

  1. Truly indeed she is a dedicated little old lady to teaching. She should be appaulded in her dedication and service.

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