The Law of the Sea

Arturo M. Tolentino: I wish people will remember me for The Law of the Sea

Practicing Law for a Living

In 1934 Arturo Tolentino, recently qualified lawyer, set about trying to earn his living by exercising his profession. His first office was in the ground floor of the family home on Espana. His desk was from his father’s office, his secretary was his male cousin, who had just finished a stenotype course. Two beginners who frequently faced times when it became necessary to dodge creditors collecting the installments due on the law books he had purchase with the youthful optimism that clients would roll in.

Arturo Tolentino Practicing Law

He was a topnotcher – true, but he soon found out it was not enough. He was too young, untried and inexperienced. But then came his first break. The Solitarians of Philippine Law College who had taken the bar with him failed. He approached my father for review in preparation for the next bar examination. After my father’s initial protest, he accepted and there followed two hours of daily review. One hour written and one hour oral. The bar result this time was very satisfactory that he went to Dean Ricardo Lacson recommending my father, nothing however came out of it. In 1936 a second job of the same nature materialized, and again with same result. Another recommendation was forthcoming this time Dean Lacson gave my father a repeater’s class in ‘Persons and Family Relation’. Because of his youth he was not trusted with beginners. His class was made up of fourth year students who were retaking the subject in order to be able to graduate. The result was that my father took a big jump; he handled the Civil Law review.

Daddy said: “Do you understand now why I owe the Philippines Law School all my loyalty out of gratitude for having given me that chance, which every young lawyer needs?” He once said to me, “It has a priority claim on my loyalty which I will not fail to give.”

As he spoke, so his voice became quiet, sober and I realized that he was a man who had never forgotten his humble heritage, who will always remember his beginnings and those who had faith in him.

In 1937 he took his Master’s degree in the University of Santo Tomas (U.S.T.) and the next year he took his doctorate in Civil Law.

The thesis for his Doctorate was subsequently published as a book on “Succession”, which for years was used as a text book when the old Civil Code was still in force. The thesis that he wrote as an undergraduate in the University of the Philippines (U.P.) on Torts and Damages, also became much earlier a text book.