“…not all those who wander are lost”
Edmund Jason Baranda, affectionately and almost universally known as EJ, is a Rouse Executive based in Manila and Managing Partner of local law firm Baranda & Associates
When EJ decided to go backpacking round Europe by himself in the early 2000s his friends and family thought he was mad. It just wasn’t the sort of thing that young Filipinos did at the time. But he wasn’t at all deterred: inspired in part by the phenomenally successful reality-competition TV programme Amazing Race, in part just by his inner spirit of adventure, he set out full of enthusiasm and optimism, travelling through much of Europe – Germany, France, Belgium, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria and England. And he hasn’t stopped travelling since. At the same time, though, he’s very grounded; very disciplined; and - no matter where travel or career might take him - very loyal to family and friends.
EJ grew up in a relatively small city about 500km from Manila. His father, a lawyer, had grown up just after the Second World War, one of 14 children in a very poor family. His story is an inspiring one. He often talked to his children about the past and obviously instilled in them very firm values of dedication, hard work, discipline, respect and loyalty. EJ says that he and his four sisters were always aware of the sacrifices their parents had made for them. Their desire to do well in life was partly a way of expressing their gratitude.
EJ’s father always wanted him to be a lawyer, but EJ was good at science and decided to pursue a scientific career instead. When he finished grade school he went to the Philippine Science High School in Manila and from there to the University of the Philippines to study Molecular Biology. Although he enjoyed studying science, he began to think that perhaps a scientific career wasn’t for him after all when he did an internship at the Marine Science Institute in Manila. He really liked working with people and couldn’t see himself working more or less alone in a lab. Still, he stuck with it and, while teaching to support himself, began applying to US universities to do a PhD.
It was then that he discovered there was a field of law in which his scientific background might be an advantage. In order to study Law in the Philippines you must already have done a first degree. At the time, most people’s first degree was in the humanities: it was rare for a science graduate to do Law. When he enrolled, EJ wasn’t at all sure that he would survive first-year, but as soon as he studied IP he knew he was on the right path. This was a field he would pursue.
On graduating, he obtained a position in a prestigious law firm in Manila and did as much IP work as possible. After several years, he was able to take a year’s leave of absence to study for a Master of Laws degree at the University of Michigan Law School in the United States, concentrating on IP. The IP course he took at the University of the Philippines had been very general and he was keen to study in more depth. He loved the Master’s course and thought of staying in the US, but realised he was missing home so returned and worked for several more years with the same firm.
Then, feeling a bit under-utilised and ready for a change, he took a position in Singapore. That was really his first experience of international work and he enjoyed it. But he didn’t see his future in Singapore and after a year returned to the Philippines and joined the firm that is now Baranda & Associates.
Perhaps, to some extent at least, EJ has his first firm to thank for his love of travel because each year the firm awarded a sum of travel money to its top- performing lawyers – an incentive tailor-made for EJ. He made sure that each year he was among the top performing lawyers and each year he set out on a new adventure – to date, he says, he’s visited 39 countries. Last year, he and his sister took his parents on their first visit to Europe, spending an action-packed three weeks travelling through France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, Spain and Portugal – the latter so that his mother, a staunch Catholic, could visit the shrine of Our Lady of Fatima. Obviously, working with Rouse, a firm with 14 offices worldwide and a decidedly international focus, suits EJ down to the ground.
EJ’s other big passion, apart from work and travel, is volleyball. He describes himself as being “obsessed” with volleyball, playing two or three times a week with a group of friends who have formed a sort of mini-league. Even though they are friends, it’s extremely competitive. Several years ago, one of EJ’s volleyball friends introduced him to diving and he took to it with his usual enthusiasm. So now he also dives whenever he gets the chance. The Philippines, with its warm waters and great dive sites, is the perfect place for it.
EJ is living proof of the validity of the line from Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings quoted above: “…not all those who wander are lost”.