May 1% Ka Ba? The Many Lives of Atty. Jessica Magbanua
The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) is an important part of the Philippine government, engaging in litigation and research for the interests of the government in relation to the law. The members of the OSG are known as state solicitors, and one of them is Atty. Jessica Magbanua: a lively lawyer who has as much dedication for handling her profession as she does for making the most of what life has to offer.
Defender of the Republic, lover of life
What do state solicitors do? “We are the defenders of the Republic,” Atty. Jessica says with pride. “We appear in court as needed, and we protect the rights of the government.”
A grand task, but of course there are other things that need to get done. “A typical day starts with paperwork. We do notations of the communications coming in from different courts, and we decide whether to move for reconsideration if it is averse to the government. Even if it’s not, if we think there’s something wrong with the decision of the lower courts or the Court of Appeals, we must move for reconsideration or make right what has been overlooked by other courts.”
Atty. Jessica’s enthusiasm and sense of purpose never wane. With 16 years and counting under her belt at the OSG, Atty. Jessica stands firm in her commitment to the law.
On top of her work at the OSG, Atty. Jessica also teaches at the Arellano University School of Law (AUSL), one of the oldest law schools in the country. As an alumna of AUSL, Atty. Jessica gives back to her alma mater by teaching law classes on Sundays, covering courses like Legal Ethics and Legal Forms.
One might imagine that a person with two demanding jobs might have neglected her personal life, but Atty. Jessica will prove you wrong. She is happily married, and she’s involved in an extensive array of hobbies and interests. She paints, cooks, sews, and is even currently learning Spanish.
It seems like a lot to have on one plate, but Atty. Jessica is determined to make the most of her life.
Person with many abilities
Such an accomplished individual with a full and thriving life would be impressive by any standards, but Atty. Jessica achieved all these because of a very particular motivation.
Born with spina bifida and club feet, Atty. Jessica never had it easy, but she refuses to let her disabilities interfere with what she wants to do. She leverages them, in fact, participating in things like paragames as a wheelchair table tennis player, and the Ability Games hosted by De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde. She is also a kidney transplant recipient going on 19 years this 2018, a fact that fuels her relentless drive to do more.
“I hate to waste time,” Atty. Jessica underscores, keenly aware that living for two decades after an organ transplant is a rare blessing. “My clock is ticking. I want to do something meaningful. Self-improvement [always]. And at the same time, it will not only help myself but other people as well. I feel that by showing myself [achieving so much] to other people, I am getting the message across regarding Persons with Disabilities. I’m lending my face to people, so they know what disability is. That it’s not a hindrance for you to succeed in life, and to be happy.”
Capability comes first, disability second
To other Persons with Disability who seek employment, Atty. Jessica speaks calmly but firmly: “Make sure you’re qualified, you have experience. Make sure you excel. You wouldn’t appreciate a boss who just took you in just to be able to say that they have a PWD employee. Take pride in your work. Kung meron kang dapat i-prove, hindi ka magco-compete with other people, e. Compete with your own self. Eto yung work ko ngayon, tomorrow I’ll do better.” (If you have something to prove, don’t compete with other people. Compete with your own self. This is what I did today, tomorrow I’ll do better.)
Being in a workplace isn’t all about just the work, though. “Kailangan din na magaling yung PR mo,” Atty. Jessica emphasizes. “Improve yung EQ din also. You can’t think of work as work lang. Hindi mo pwedeng sabihin na walang personalan, compared with other countries. Iba rin kasi yung mentality ng Filipinos. Here, they won’t tell you [if something is the matter]. Just be open. Make sure that you improve your personality. Hindi ka panay work-work lang din. You really have to mingle din with other people, exchange ideas, and be prepared if there will be times that you feel discriminated; hindi nawawala yun.”
(“You need good PR,” Atty. Jessica emphasizes. “Improve your EQ too. You can’t think of work as just work. You can’t say it’s nothing personal, compared with other countries. Filipinos have a different mentality. Here, they won’t tell you [if something is the matter]. Just be open. Make sure that you improve your personality. You can’t just stick to your job. You really have to mingle with other people, exchange ideas, and be prepared if there will be times that you feel discriminated; that doesn’t go away.”)
Atty. Jessica is a high-profile Person with Disability thanks to her career and her willingness to be seen pursuing so many interests, and she would have it no other way. “You really have to use yourself as an example for people to know what it’s like to have a disability. Isa akong face ng disability, and it gives me fulfillment to let people see what you can achieve if you really try.”
This is a part of the May 1% Ka Ba? series of special features on Persons with Disability thriving in a variety of workplaces, both in the private and the public sectors. If your organization dedicates one per cent of your workforce for Persons with Disability, or wants to know to make your workplace disability inclusive, email us at email@example.com.