By MYLAH REYES
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Two children of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) helped propel the University of the Philippines College of Law into the circle of the world’s top four law schools, after taking part in the most prestigious moot court competition in the U.S.
Christopher Louie Ocampo, whose father works as a pumpman for an oil tanker, and Neil B. Nucup, son of a housekeeper in Rome, were part of the team which made it to the semifinals of the 2012 Jessup International Law Moot Court Championship in Washington D.C.
U.P. was the only team from Asia and the Third World that made it to the semis, finishing as one of the top four schools after competing with 137 teams from 80 countries, culled from an original field of over 600 law schools.
U.P. lost to Moscow State University, which eventually clinched the championship after defeating Columbia University.
To represent the country, U.P. had to win the national competitions first, beating the Ateneo de Manila University, which had consistently won since 2006. It was the first time in six years that Team Philippines had a good showing, making the event extra sweet for the families of the two oralists.
The remittances of an estimated 10 million OFWs—Filipinos who work and migrate overseas and send money to support their families in the Philippines— help sustain the Philippine economy. Data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas indicate OFW remittance in 2011 breached the $20-billion dollar level, up from $18.76 billion in 2010. The bulk of the remittances are from sea-based OFWs like Ocampo’s father Danilo.
Participating in the competition is the icing on the cake for Ocampo and Nucup, who are set to graduate and take the bar exams this year. They share the experience of many Filipino families whose parents leave their children at an early age to search for higher paying jobs abroad.
Growing up in the streets of Paco in Manila, which he characterized as noisy and always fraught with tension, Ocampo said he had always wanted to be a lawyer. “I grew up in a depressed community and I have long realized that the key to getting out of it, and eventually being able to help the community, is by getting a high level of education.”
Ocampo’s father left to work in a ship when he was only two years old, leaving him and two other siblings in the care of their mother, a housewife who augmented the family income through small, home-based businesses.
Ocampo said he and his siblings saw his father only once every year, and the rest of the time talked to him only when he called from abroad whenever the ship was docked. Nowadays,their communication is more frequent and instant through Facebook.
Ironically, as the team finished the competition in the U.S. capital, the ship where Ocampo’s father works was in Texas, some two hours away by plane.
Ocampo graduated at the top of his class at the UP College of Mass Communication in 2006. He went on to study law, financing his education through scholarships and by taking on a variety of jobs, including being graduate assistant at the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at U.P. and instructor at academic review schools around Diliman in Quezon City.
Most recently, he worked as executive assistant to Human Rights Commissioner Loretta Ann Rosales, a job which he eventually chose to quit due to the demands of preparing for the Jessup Competitions.
“It has been a grueling seven months, researching and understanding the problem,” Ocampo said.
Nucup’s mother left to work in Italy when he was only seven years old. His father worked as a table supervisor for one of the PAGCOR casinos in Manila and came home to see them only once a week. He is the third of four siblings and the
only boy, practically raised by the two older sisters. He still commutes periodically to Pampanga, where relatives take pride in his achievement.
Nucup graduated with a degree in B.S. Biology at U.P. in 2005. His family supported his then unconventional decision to enter the U.P. College of Law, with some relatives even offering to help pay his way, which he says, he respectfully declined.
Like many children of OFW parents, Nucup grew up recording voice messages on cassette tapes and sending them to his mother. Nowadays, his mother prefers to communicate through mobile phone calls rather than using the computer application Skype or via Facebook, which he said she apparently disdains because it ties her to the computer.
Nucup speaks with pride about the mother who brought him, his three sisters and his father to Rome to visit her a few years ago.
Aside from preparing for the competition, the team also helped raise funds to augment the university funding for their trip. During the national finals, it became an open secret that the U.P. team was the only school that did not stay in the accredited hotel and competition venue due to lack of funds. Help poured in, however, after the team won.
“But that’s the UP way,” according to team coach and law professor Harry Roque. “Not all our students are financially privileged, there is extra work and struggle involved, which makes the victory more meaningful.”