Tribute to Justice Villagomez
As I write this, I cannot express the tremendous loss to the people of the Commonwealth with the passing of Justice Raymond Villagomez. I am sure I am one of many indigenous attorneys he mentored throughout the years and for that, I am extremely thankful and grateful. We were led to believe that because we didn't speak English properly that we were not good enough to reach for the stars, or believe in ourselves.
There was this feeling of inadequacy among our people. I never thought I had what it took to pursue my dream of becoming a lawyer. That was until I met Justice Villagomez. Justice Villagomez made me fell that anything and everything is possible. He mentored me throughout my undergraduate studies and through law school. But there was a price to mentorship with Justice Villagomez, and that was the constant encouragement to come home and give back to my people.
He would tell me that my people needed me and who would best understand the culture than an indigenous person. Justice Villagomez was in the midst of helping me write my law review article while I was in law school when he became ill. He provided me critical insight into Article 12 and sent me a copy of a speech he had written for the United Nations seeking freedom and justice for the indigenous people.
I dedicated my published article to him because it epitomized his believe of self-governance and independence for the taotao tano. When I told him I wanted to come home and fight for indigenous rights, he cautioned don't be surprised if your own people don't espouse the same ideals, but never stop fighting to protect our peoples rights.
Those words are so profound because they guide me in my work as a lawyer and although not everyone wants help, that far exceed the need to fight for those who do. What saddens me most was that I never had the opportunity to say thank you to Justice V. It was simply too difficult for me to visit him because I wanted to remember the vibrant and passionate person that he was. There are no words that can explain how saddened my family and I are about his passing and would like to extend our deepest sympathy to the Chong and Villagomez family. He was a champion for indigenous rights and he would be greatly missed. Justice V, may you finally rest in peace and si yuus maase para todo y un chogi para y taotao ta.