A Personality Profile of Atty. Mikhail Lee L. Maxino
By Marianne Catherine F. Tapales, 2006
The brown and black wooden-inspired room,—wooden chairs, wooden table, walls made of wood alternated with tinted glass— a framed painting on one side plus the gentle hum of the air conditioner gives a relaxing ambience so opposite of what I’m feeling. Seated comfortably on the black chair/recliner behind the desk is not just any ordinary man. He was the same person who landed 12th during the 1986 Philippine Bar Examinations and who created the Legal Environmental Advocacy Programme (LEAP), an environmental legal aid clinic in Silliman University College of Law. Recently, he helped establish the Jovito Salonga Center for Law and Development and now sits as director.
He smiled and asked me to sit on the only non-wooden furniture in the room, a patched black sofa, and as my nerves start to calm, I asked my first question that would lead me to know a bit of the life of Atty. Mikhail Lee L. Maxino.
“My friends call me Mik, but my family, relatives and childhood friends call me Bing-Bing,” Mikhail said as his laughter, which made my tension go away, reverberated in his small but elegant new law office in the top floor of Plaza Maria Luisa. He said that he was called the latter because it was what came out of his mouth first.
Born and raised here in Dumaguete City, (Author’s note: He wouldn’t say the date of his birth no matter how much you plead. “It would give me a sense of wonder,” he says obviously amused.) Mikhail considers his childhood as a very happy one especially because of the fact that he grew up with 4 siblings—one sister and 3 brothers. “I had a lot of friends and I remember playing tayukok, marbles, shatong, kasing, and other games,” he said. He added that though he plays a lot, his parents, Mr. Marcelino and Mrs. Remedios Maxino, have always made it a point that he had good study habits.
“They were disciplinarians,” Mikhail said. “When I really did something wrong, they would pull my ear.” He added that his parents really taught him the good things and the good values. “My parents would spank but they would explain to me why they do it. There was a time when I hit my elder brother really hard and I remember my father getting so mad. My brother was a special child and it was unfair because he couldn’t hit me back.”
At such a young age, he already dreamed of becoming a lawyer. He even dreamed of practicing abroad. “I was very focused of what I was going to become,” he said. Little did he know, that years from that he would really be a successful lawyer, more so, one of the Bar’s Top 12.
Very early in life, Mikhail already showed signs of being brilliant. Mikhail attended grade school at age four. For his secondary education, Mikhail attended St. Louis School before he transferred to Foundation University High School (FUHS) wherein his father was then President. However, during his third year in high school, he decided to transfer to Silliman University High School. “I wanted to be in [FUHS] to show to everyone that I have confidence with the school and I wanted people to be there. But then, I had to transfer to [SUHS] because I really had high grades and I did not want the talk circulating at that time that it was because my father was president. I knew it was because of my merit so I decided to move.”
At age 14, he enrolled in Silliman University’s College of Arts and Sciences majoring in Political Science.
However, life, for Mikhail was not always an icing on the cake. “My teenage life was not very good,” he said. He paused a while before he continued, “You see, I was accelerated so when I was in high school, the time for teenage romance, I was still a baby.”
He said that high school life was not doing well for his love life because he always felt that he was shorter than most ladies at that time. He recalled that he wasn’t able to enjoy his Junior-Senior Prom. “I couldn’t even dance with the girls,” he said. He explained further that before he would ask a girl for a dance he would request his male friends to approach the girl first so the girl would stand. He would then observe her height relative to the height of his friend. When his friend would come back, he would check and see if she was taller. “I was really conscious of these things. I was small and lanky—a baby–and they were all teenagers,” he said. “I think, in high school, I was the class nerd. I was a baby and I do not know what they were doing, I was 12 or 13 years old then. I also couldn’t remember being the outdoor type. I was studying more than anything else,” he admitted.
According to him, it was only in college that he became a teenager. “It was hard because at that time I have to force myself to behave like a college guy,” he said.
Mikhail considers himself as a late bloomer. It was in college when he started visiting girls in their homes and courting them. But his time was still not solely for these things because he was also into campus politics. “I was the governor of the Arts and Sciences and later the Vice-President of the Student Government,” he said.
Mikhail excelled academically. He wasn’t into athletics or was he a party animal who goes out at night. He was a consistent honor student and recipient of leadership awards. In 1982, his hard work paid off when he graduated magna cum laude (his grades in the academic subjects, without ROTC grade, qualified him for summa).
After getting his bachelor’s degree, he then took up Bachelor of Laws at the University of the Philippines-Dilliman. In 1993, he took up masters of law in Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada.
Currently, Mikhail Maxino is a legal consultant of the Tancino Law Offices based in San Francisco. His duties would include the study and formulation of litigation and negotiation strategies, representing clients in immigration, personal injury, insurance, and conflict of law cases in the U.S. and in the Philippines. He also represents clients in civil, criminal, labor, corporate, family, law, immigration, intellectual property rights, among others as partner and litigation attorney of the Maxino and Partners Law Offices and Associate Professor of Silliman University College of Law. Last 2001, he was awarded Most Productive Faculty Award.
With all of these, it is undeniable that Atty. Mikhail Maxino has already come a long way. But, although he is very much busy with his work, it is an amazing feat that he still finds time for himself, for his family, for his friends, and for the Lord.
“I do have free times,” he boasts. He said that he loves watching movies aired on cable and on DVD. “I used to tell my friends and my family that I am a very simple person– just give a television set with cable connection or DVD and I’m happy,” he said. He adds that aside from the television, he also enjoys cheap toys and novel gadgets. “Hand me something like a flashlight that can be turned into a pen and I’ll surely spend hours playing with it. I love the sense of amazement…” he said.
He admits that he feels relaxed when his feet tickled; it puts him to sleep. His mannerism also includes massaging his face and touching his earlobes and feels the coolness of his nails. “When it’s cold, I really love to touch my ears,” he said.
Apart from these things, Mikhail is also into the texting craze and the Internet. “Most of my free time is spent playing with my kids,” he said. Mikhail is proud of his strong bond with his kids, Mykaela Luz, 10, and Mark Kyle, 4. Although he says that the games he played before are so much different than what children now plays, he still enjoys playing games, child games, with his children and together, they watch cartoons on TV. There were a lot of beautiful games before, like hitting tops and tayukok that are now replaced with computer games and for me, it is not a good replacement. “Deep inside, I am still a child,” he confessed. In fact, Mark Kyle, the youngest, couldn’t sleep without me beside him. They would play and before he would tuck his child to sleep, he would read a story.
“I have a wonderful family life and I couldn’t ask for more,” he contentedly said. Mikhail is married to his wife of 12 years, Yolanda Maxino. He met his wife back in 1987 when he was already a lawyer. “At that time, I was one of the eligible bachelors. I was already a lawyer, I drove my own car, lived alone on my parents’ house,” he said. He said that he was exposed to a lot of women as he was always invited to dormitory balls. An adviser of the Christian Youth Fellowship in the Silliman Church introduced his future wife to him. “I found her really attractive and very friendly. She is very amiable and always smiling,” he said, a smile plastered on his face. Eventually, they got together and married in 1994.
He is easily touted by his friends as very sociable. “I guess, that is my strength,” he said. He goes out with his friends and is very much approachable.
His close friend, Noel Yasi said, “We hang out most of the time and we feel that we are more than friends. We feel we’re brothers because of the strong friendship. We have been together in the States and back through all the good and bad times.”
Yasi added, “Mik is a very sincere person and hardworking.”
Although he was born Catholic, Mikhail attends services in the Silliman Church together with his family. He is not very particular about religious affiliations because his personal conviction is that, “being a Christian is a relationship and not a membership.”
He hardly refuses invitations to devotions or preaching even when he is informed only during the last minute and he has no more time to prepare because he wants to have more opportunities to serve God. “I do not refuse for the reason that I feel kulang pa nga ang binigay ko kay Lord. I like to have more time to make God happy,” he said. According to him, the Lord has been very faithful to him and he couldn’t thank Him enough because He has given him so much. “I am contented but that does not mean that there is no room for improvement. We owe it to our God to maximize whatever he has given us for His glory, “he added.
Talking about his faith, he said, “I don’t think I’m religious. I can describe myself best as a seeker. I try my best to seek the heart of God. I’m on a journey of faith.”
Whenever he feels sad he prays and takes steam inhalation from a steam inhaler. It does not only relieve him but it also does well for his sinusitis.
His admits that one of his weaknesses is being impatient. “Before, I can be very vocal to the point of practically verbally-abusive. But that was before. Now, I am able to control it. I take a deep breath, don’t speak and allow the moment to pass and then I’m okay,” he said.
As a motivation for his life, Mikhail never say die. He believes that the greatest glory is in never falling but in rising each time you fall and move on. He believes that in the final analysis, what matters really is not how you die but how you have helped other people and glorified our God.
“What I want out of life is for my family to be happy, that my kids would have fond memories of me. And, when I grow old, I want them to give me the same attention that I had given them when they were kids,” he said.
He sees himself 20 years from now as someone already retired and enjoying his grandchildren. But, cannot imagine himself without his work because it is something he loves to do, “maybe legal consultancies now and then and church activities and ministries.”
Yes, Atty. Mikhail Maxino is a contented man, with all that he has achieved and what he has now, it is not something unforeseen. He would surely one of those people whom Silliman would always remember. As I was ending my interview, I was amazed of how he was able to manage all of the things that he has done in life.
Brilliant, God-fearing, and down-to-earth, Atty. Mikhail Lee Maxino is, truly, one-of-a-kind.