Rancho, a fictitious character from the inspirational Indian film Three Idiots (2009) gave another character this advice: “Make your passion your profession.” It was something he said when a friend of his was about to give up on achieving his dream career.
Justice Maria Filomena D. Singh is an associate justice at the Court of Appeals, and a faculty member at the Ateneo de Manila University School of Law and the University of the Philippines College of Law.
“I am passionate about the judicial and legal systems in the country. When I dedicate myself to a cause, I see it through to completion. In my work in reform, I see it as a lifetime commitment. I feel I owe it to our people, but most of all, I think of the institution I love so dearly, the Supreme Court, which I hope will be restored to its rightful lofty place in our democracy. However, I am equally consumed by my love for teaching. I think I was really born to be a teacher.”
In 2009, she became a Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow studying Court Management and Judicial Education at the American University at Washington, D.C. She became the first Philippine Judicial Fellow to be accepted into the Humphrey Program. For one month, she became a fellow at the Federal Judicial Center and did her apprenticeship with the World Bank’s Institutional Reform Cluster. According to her, one of her most memorable experiences was attending US Supreme Court oral arguments.
Justice Singh embodied the spirit of resilience while in the U.S. When asked about her difficulties abroad, she answered that she didn’t have much trouble in terms of her day-to-day tasks. “Filipinos are really excelling in every field everywhere in the world. We have no difficulty adjusting to our environment and this adaptability has made us thrive even outside our homeland.” But she added that if there was any struggle, it was being separated from hearth and home. “I had to bear being apart from my children for the duration of the Fellowship. The solution: keep yourself busy.”
For Justice Singh, the word “significance” became a very relevant term during her grant. She reasons: “Nothing anyone ever does is ‘insignificant’. As long any one man or woman or child devotes his or her time to something, that something acquires ‘significance’ and a world that compartmentalizes people and events into the ‘significant’ and the ‘insignificant’ is a world that may already exist in glass and concrete enclaves but is still morally trapped in the caves of our forebears.”