The thing with overnight sensations is that they rarely happen overnight. Take lawyer Ramil Comendador, for instance. He held a job as a utility worker in the office of then-Commissioner Rene V. Sarmiento—who was one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution, by the way—while also toiling the nights away at the University of Manila. For years, he did that, pursuing his dream in relative obscurity, until he graduated with a Bachelor of Laws in 2016. Where our determination flickers like a candle flame in high wind, his blazed like a forest fire. And now he’s a member of the Philippine Bar, an exemplar for everyone, and—on social media—an emerging meme for anyone ever tempted to wallow in self-pity.
Interviewed just after he found out that he had passed the Bar, Comendador said: “Gusto ko lang pong sabihin sa kanila na kaya po nating putulin ang cycle ng kahirapan, magsumikap lang. Huwag isiping mahirap, sige lang at kumapit sa Panginoon [All I want to say to everyone is that we can break the cycle of poverty. No matter how difficult it might be; keep on and have faith in the Lord].”
Returning to the same theme in another interview, Comendador added: “Edukasyon lang po talaga ang susi sa pagputol ng cycle ng kahirapan [Education is the only key to breaking the cycle of poverty].” And now we all know that the man knows whereof he speaks.
I personally met Comendador earlier this week, and just as I was getting up from being bowled over by the surprise visit from the man I admired for his work ethic and dedication to education, I was then floored all over again by the same man’s humility. As can be expected—although apparently not by him, as he still seemed genuinely surprised at all the attention he was getting—Comendador has been approached by various quarters seeking to (not to put too fine a point on it) “promote” him. His concern, and this really cast my admiration for him in bronze, was how these offers would impact his current employer, the Commission on Elections
(Comelec). As he put it, “Ayokong malagay sa alanganin ang Comelec [I don’t want to put the Comelec in an awkward position].” In other words, in the face of significant personal gain, his first thought was as to how his action would impact the commission’s service to the public.
To say that this kind of selfless devotion is uncommon in the age of self-promotion we find ourselves floundering in would be an understatement. That he made the effort to consult with me, only confirmed the rightness of my invitation to him to join the Education and Information Department of the Comelec.
If he accepts, this gentleman—and gentle man—will be an invaluable #KnowElectionsBetter (the Education and Information Department’s main voter-education platform) speaker. Apart from delivering voter education to the general public, Comendador will be able to share his inspiring life experience to a generation of prevoters who would greatly benefit from being presented with such a positive role model.