Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Life of a Hesitant Lawyer

After graduation from High School, the guy was in limbo. Just like any ordinary guy next door, he was confused on what course to take in College.

He sought the advice of Sir Hann Jannaral, one of his favorite teachers in High School. Since Sir Hann was an English Major, Sir Hann told the young man to take up AB English as a matter of course.

It was Sir Hann that firstly saw potential in our guy. Sir Hann expected that our guy would have a great future in store for him, either as a teacher or a statesman. Since seeing the enthusiastic and fragile young man among the innocent students of Skate section, the third section of the first year in MSU-Sulu, Sir Hann already developed an affection towards the young man.

Sir Hann and Labliner Staffers

And so because of sheer determination, our future "hesitant lawyer" jumped to first section by the second year, and he had maintained it until fourth year, graduating 1st honorable mention of batch 1997. Sir Hann specially mentored the young man in his third year and fourth year, getting specially close with him, until the young man no longer talked in Bahasa Sug, but only in English!

But did he take the advice of his mentor to take up AB English? Maybe he would, but our "hesitant lawyer" already had a full DOST scholarhip at his disposal. AB English was anything but supported under the program.

Still undecided, the young man took the pre-university program of the DOST. In that program, the DOST scholars were given free lectures on Math and Physics, and Science and Technology for a few months so that the scholars could best prepare for difficult life in college.

And so, our guy, Meltino Sibulan, the "hesitant lawyer," decided that Computer Engineering should be his best choice among DOST supported courses.

But his reverie of being a Computer Engineer was cut short by the teacher who boomed at him: "Why not buy yourself a computer and practice at home?"

And so "Ulong", as he was fondly called by family and friends, went home, enrolled at MSU-Sulu, and took up BS Math, a supported program under DOST program in 1997. And after receiving his first allowance from the DOST, he bought -- guess what? -- a second-hand IBM 386 computer in 1998!

It should go without saying that the partly-used computer frequently crashed. Bringing it to Zamboanga City for repair many times, he was able to finally understand the secrets of computer repair. And, of course, some of those crashes were actually self-administered. Ulong was learning and applying the tricks of computer repair on his own computer at home!

Mr Sibulan as 2nd Honorable mention in MSU Lab High '97


Back to the present, I asked him: "When was the exact moment of your life that you see yourself as a lawyer?"

"I saw myself as a lawyer only during the time that I was able to recite like a lawyer during our law classes in MSU-Marawi. I was able to stand the full hour recitation, which only few law students in MSU can do."

Uh-oh! From BS Math at MSU-Sulu to Bachelor of Laws in MSU-Marawi? I asked him: "Did you plan for it, to become a lawyer?"

"No, I did not plan to be a lawyer. It just happened."


From 1997-2001, in MSU-Sulu, Mr Sibulan, a BS Math student, achieved a lot compared to perhaps any other MSU-Sulu students. Among the many awards and distinction he was bestowed on his graduation day were 1) the "Leadership Award," being the president of the Supreme Student Government; and 2) the "Journalism Award," being the editor-in-chief of the Hangadhulat Publication, the school paper of MSU-Sulu.

The nemesis of Mr Sibulan in College, Ms Janice Negrosa (the only senator who won from the opposition party of Mhel), admitted recently: "Meltino is the best president of the SSG, ever! He was extreme, active, and prolific. He had many meaningful projects than all SSG president's combined."

But when they were in college, Ms Janice Negrosa recalled how she put thorns after thorns on Mr Sibulan's paths. By the influence of the Dean on Student Affairs, which was also the adviser of the student government in MSU-Sulu, Janice accused Meltino of being corrupt, and thus unfitting to be the president. She filed impeachment charges against Meltino.

"I know I can't really win against Meltino," Janice said. "I was a fool to listen to some teachers' accusations against Mhel. I knew all along that Mhel is a good guy."

And to prove Mhel's innocence, Mhel brought P18,000 worth of receipts to the chancellor. He claimed that it was the amount of personal money that he had used while doing his duties and responsibilities as President of the SSG. He used his own money because the admin was not releasing funds to the student government.

His being a student activist did not play well with the school administration. Most did not like it.

So, despite winning a landslide victory, Mhel had assumed his last term as President of the SSG after taking a late Oath of Office last February 2001, barely two months before graduation. He was able to use only a meager sum of P60,000 from the students funds for his projects, and doing it overtime just to finish them before graduation. The other P120,000 that was intended for other meaningful projects was not used. The admin kept it for the next school year.

Meltino Sibulan and Batchmate in College Graduation 2001

These challenges and frustrations had really become the motivating factor for Mhel to become a lawyer, his frustration that he could not do anything to defend himself; and that everybody was against him that time while being fully aware that he was not doing anything wrong. He was only trying to put the MSU students' interest on top of everything, frequently being verbally abused by the admins.

With a confused mind, he unexpectedly bumped into Ms Jennylinda Nandu (now an executive secretary of the DILG-Armm regional secretary) at the MSU-Sulu gate. Remembering that she was about to take up law in Marawi City, she asked her about the requirements of the Bachelor of Laws, which he immediately complied with.

"I told my parents about my plans," recounted Mhel, "But they did not agree with me. They told me to look for a job. I have to support my siblings, they said."

With the burning passion and determination in his heart to become a lawyer, he refused to follow his parents' advice. He escaped to MSU-Marawi using only the funds which he successfully reimbursed from the MSU-Sulu SSG funds: P11,000, part of the P18,000 worth of receipts he showed to the chancellor.

But he still did not know what to do, what was expected of him as a law student. The books given to him, he just put in the corner, and stared at them in disbelief: "How can I possibly memorise all of these?"

So the first day of class was a shock. One by one, the students were called up to recite on what they had learned so far. And Jennylinda Nandu was her classmate. Luckily she had consumed the whole hour, thus Mhel and the other students were freed from worry. But it challenged Mhel, of course.

So, the competitive Mhel wanted to do more but he didn't know where to start.

"After class, I ran to the Masjid (mosque) in MSU-Marawi, and say the Sambahayang Hajat," he recalled. "Though I didn't know the exact Niyat to utter, I only wanted to ask Allah for something. For anything."

And he was given Taufiq. That was the time that he appreciated the wisdom of the first commandment of Allah in the Holy Qur'an: Iqra! He read, read and read, until he got addicted to reading.

Mr Dahams, his friend in Marawi, said: "Nobody could distract Mhel from reading, even my friends' loud cacophony of friendly jostling and laughters. But after he was done reading, he would join the fun and enjoy our company."

So when the time came that Mhel was called to recite, he was able to utilize the full hour, his ideas were still unstoppable. "I was surprised when all of my classmates congratulated me. I was happy."

In MSU-Marawi, there were six students (Bennyamin Musahari, Meltino Sibulan, Radzmel Sibulan, Marghani Sabaani, Abdulaziz Kairan, Salimar Sali, and Alhabir Dahamban) sharing the same quarter. And all of them, looked at Mhel as a guardian, brother, and friend. He solved most of their problems: homework, school, financial, name it. They shared the same food (mostly noodles, sardines, and soy sauce), the same house, the same source of amusement.

"Siya sayan (hi Atty Mhel) in nagpasulig kamu," said Mr Dahams.

And so, to further support his growing budgetary requirement while in the Law School at MSU-Marawi, he applied at CHED which was accepted by the second application. The computer acumen he learned while in personal tutorial with himself also brought dividends. He had become widely known at the MSU-Marawi as a computer expert, earning few thousands of pesos for each successful repair. Not only that, he was also hired as secretary to the Dean's office, earning him P5,000 monthly more.

In 2005, he finished law, passing the Bar a few months later. He is now practicing law at Sibulan Law Office, Martires Street, Jolo, Sulu, while also doing part time as teachers in various schools in and out of Sulu!

The graduate and the few, the proud Lab High in MSU-Marawi in 2005

His greatest dream now is to have a Law School in MSU-Sulu, and become a high official* (see note below) thereat so that he can try to influence a lot of Tausug to take up Law, and make the Tausug people law conscious.

He had this mantra in college: "Ignorance of the law excuses no one."

Well, for Attorney Meltino Sibulan, "Failure is not an excuse!" Of course, it shall happen, because Attorney Sibulan think of it. In shaa Allah, it will become a reality!

As a footnote: Sometime in 2005 while reviewing for Bar, he was tested by a friend in Manila if indeed Mhel was not "Bading". Indeed, his friend Madz was definitely convinced. Mhel's reason that time amid the open temptation, "I will not use any woman who is not yet my wife." :D

At 33 years old, Attorney Meltino Sibulan is still a bachelor.

Hear! Hear!

Atty Mhel and Friend Madz during Graduation in High School.
Note: All images were taken from the MSU-SULU LAB HIGH SCHOOL ALUMNI NETWORK FB group.

Minor correction: I have misquoted Atty Mhel when he said that he wanted to become high official in the soon-to-be-established MSU-Sulu Law College. First, he is a person that will always refuse to be employed by the Philippine Government. MSU-Sulu is a public school, thus a Government-run school. He clarified that he just want to be "instrumental" in the strengthening of the consciousness towards Law of the Tausug people, and if being one of the professors of the MSU-Sulu Law School, he can do a difference, then he will accept the challenge.


  1. he is genius.. The son of my teacher in elem. maam tinda...

  2. hambuuk ha mga extra niya ra isab yan mag print badju. mahipu in lawum bilik niya yan pa guwa ha pagpatahayan. he is industrious and very focus on his studies irregardless of the extra curricular activities he has. and for the record he was one among those who have convinced a first ever christian to run for SSG president in MSU-Marawi city and despite the hardships and threats won it. He motivates and never live you behind. :)

    1. Thank you for the additional information, +ashboy039 :D