“If you’ve been given a once in a lifetime opportunity to visit your dream destination, then a client begged you to represent him in a case on the day you were supposed to go to that dream place, would you proceed with your travel plans or would you accept the case?” This question was directly shot to him not before the court’s jury, but while he was having tea inside a cafe. And regardless of how relaxed the conversation was going, he felt like he was on the witness stand thinking of the most rational things to say while being interrogated. For a moment, he got tongue-tied and speechless. He couldn’t fire back easily at a question pressing him to choose between his two passions — lawyering and traveling.
Mark Julius Estur started traveling since he was 8 years old. His mother, an urban planner in Visayas, used to tag him along in most of her rounds in the region while on working assignments. At an early age, the then little Julius was exposed to dwelling with people and roving from one place to another — an orientation he got accustomed to and a lifestyle he learned to adore and imbibe while growing up. He was in high school when he began traveling on his own, but most of these travels were confined within Visayas as he was born and raised there. In 2007, Julius fulfilled his first backpacking trip abroad with friends. His journey to Vietnam and Cambodia opened the gates of his awareness about the world, culture, and people.
He finally obtained the most reputable four-letter abbreviated title before his name in 2010. The now Atty. Mark Julius Estur has two priorities in his hand: his profession and his first love — traveling. “Some people have asked me whether or not I would give up one or the other. Truth is, I won’t because traveling and lawyering are both my passion. It’s just that I discovered traveling first. I realized that as long as you put your heart in what you do, you can always make it work,” this is what Julius believes in. In his case, he is a full-time lawyer on weekdays and a full-blooded wanderer on weekends and holidays, and when he doesn’t have lawyering duties to attend to. There are also times when Julius gets to practice his profession while socializing with locals in remote communities. “When locals learn about my job, they pepper me with questions or ask for my legal advice in some serious matters. Giving these people who live in remote areas legal advice is an enlivening experience. They don’t get to talk to a lawyer every day.” With his kind of life, aside from writing pleadings, Julius enjoys writing travel narratives in his blog. He frequents two places: courtrooms and terminals. He always looks forward to attend two different meetings: client meeting and travel bloggers meet-up. “They can coexist,” Julius says as he bursts into laughter.
Inside the café where he was sharing his travel accounts, people were busy gossiping about juicy entertainment news from social media, trending topics on Twitter, and viral scandalous videos and photos on Facebook and Instagram. From the corner where he was seated, Julius was glued to tracing his memorable trips and how he travels now compared before. During his law school days, he always had to worry about his unfinished reading assignments and dreaded recitations while on a trip. Now that he’s a lawyer, when Julius is away from his desk and cases, he savors every outdoor opportunity he has sans thinking of anything else aside from making his journey memorable. He spent 10 days in Balabac, Palawan, traveled to China for four days, and splurged in Japan for almost two weeks just recently. “You couldn’t imagine how my recent trips went when there’s no tomorrow to think about,” he says.
Lawyers have perks too when traveling. Apart from knowing where, when, and how to assert their rights, they also save themselves time, energy, and brain cells from the hassle of debating with the airline people in case of untoward incidents in the airport like being bumped off from a flight. By merely introducing themselves — of course without forgetting that four-letter abbreviated powerful title — airline attendants will gladly welcome them with open arms and sealed mouth. Most of the time lawyers aren’t the ones introducing themselves, their friends or companions do. Their friends will brag and drag their names until they get what they want and until lawyers find themselves on the ground with almost half of their bodies buried. “I only introduce myself as a lawyer if the situation warrants. As much as possible, I don’t want to. But my friends who are with me are fond and proud doing it… again and again,” Julius recalls.
However, more than his funny and quite embarrassing experiences sometimes, for Julius, traveling broadens the spectrum of his profession. He is more exposed to the flagrant realities of the society compared to the lawyers who confine themselves in the four corners of their law firms. Since he travels frequently, he becomes credible witness of what’s happening around him. He doesn’t only know by statistics that Samar is one of the poorest provinces in the Philippines, he saw the struggles of the people there in order to put food on their tables. The unspeakable truth beyond the lives of people who make both ends meet just to survive was so evident before him. He doesn’t only read about the acts of illegal logging and mining, he experienced its effects in different regions and saw the gradual devastation of our environment. During his encounters with locals of poor communities, he doesn’t only hear their lamentable stories, he saw how their rights were violated by some. “I’ve read some of these abuses in the environment, human rights violations, and poverty issues in our jurisprudence, but witnessing it by myself is way different,” Julius utters while recollecting some of his travels in the country. “Seeing these unfortunate situations gives tough blows to my heart which makes me think again of the things I can do to my country and to our people as a lawyer. These are the benefits of traveling in my profession, it humanizes and brings to life the theories in the books, it lets me recognize the realities beyond my eyes, it makes me feel the sense of belongingness in the society, it helps me see the value of my profession, and it compels me to act and do good.”
In choosing a job or career, there is a glaring contrast between loving what you do and doing what you love. The latter sounds easier. It really is easier. When you’re forced to love what you do, you gather all your might to see the value of your job. You constantly remind yourself why you’re there and what keeps you stay so you won’t lose track. And whatever your reasons for staying are, there’s this little voice in you whispering that you’ll follow your passion someday and live life to full. But there are people who are already pursuing their passion while having a full-time job that sustains their living. There are call center agents who are online and offline teachers while off the phone because teaching is their passion. There are salespersons by day but writers by night. There are teachers on weekdays but travelers on weekends and holidays, and a lot more. However, it’s not always the case for some. “I think I am one of those fortunate people on earth for having a profession that I am really passionate about,” Julius says. “Plus, I get to pursue traveling too.”
Julius’ everyday life revolves between his two passions. When he’s not a man in suit and polo barong, he’s a man in shorts and slippers. When he’s not a man in court, he’s a man in the street. When he’s not having coffee with his clients, he’s drinking with strangers and commoners in a cheap restaurant bar. Do you know what his biggest struggle would be? It’s giving up his once in a lifetime opportunity to reach Alaska — his dream destination — for choosing to represent a client in a case confronted with life and death scenario.
“I am willing to sacrifice even my dream place in a situation where I must fulfill my duties as a lawyer,” Julius declares while smiling, and then he continues drinking his tea, after two bottles of beer an hour earlier.