“Someone once said, ‘Desserts is Stressed spelled backwards.’ Coincidence? I think not!”
And with the impeachment trial behind her, Atty. Karen Jimeno resumes her conquests in the kitchen, making desserts as a passionate hobby and a form of relaxation.
The Harvard-educated, reluctant heartthrob of the impeachment trial chats with What It’s Like while whipping up a new recipe for good old chocolate cake—which is AMAZING, by the way.
State your name, age and profession.
My name is Karen Jimeno, I’m 31 years old and I’m a lawyer.
In your Twitter account it says that your life is back to normal. How is life after the impeachment trial?
Now I would say it’s normal because I don’t get calls at 4:30 or 5 a.m. (As the spokesperson for the defense, she would wake up early to grant radio or TV interviews)
And now you’re teaching law?
At the moment I accepted two teaching positions, which is something I really love. Teaching is really my advocacy. When I accepted the impeachment position, my aim was to educate people about the impeachment. They don’t really have to agree with me or my views but if they learn the right process or what the law provides, they can form an intelligent opinion about the impeachment trial. Now I’m teaching at CEU Law School in Makati and at the San Beda Graduate School in Mendiola.
So now you have more time to bake?
What are we making today?
Today we’re making chocolate cake. I found the recipe from the back of the cocoa powder’s box. I also have several cookbooks but I usually like to experiment so if I find a recipe anywhere, even if it’s at the back of a packaging, I usually try it.
So we’re mixing 1 ½ cups of flour?
Actually, the recipe requires more but I don’t plan to make a huge batch kasi I’m trying this recipe for the first time. So if it’s not good I don’t want a big one.
We never once saw you lose your cool during the impeachment. How were you able to keep your composure despite the pressures of the job?
Well, I grew up kasi as a middle child. I think that was important in developing lots of patience. It was so difficult to win against my siblings because they would always get preferential treatment. Just as an example, kapag nakaaway ko yung older sister ko, my mom would say, “You have to respect her because she’s older.” ‘Pag yung younger sister ko naman yung makaaway ko, sasabihin sakin, “You have to be more understanding because you’re older.” So parang ako, OK, never akong mananalo. I also grew up with a lot of guy cousins who were very rowdy and grabe mang-asar. So I think that really helped me develop a lot of patience and tolerance.
You mentioned something about making banana bread at one in the morning. Was that a particularly difficult day for you?
It was still during the impeachment trial and we had a late-night meeting. I got home at around 1:30 a.m. I went to the kitchen to grab a glass of water and then I saw a clump of bananas that were overripe. Those are perfect for baking so I just decided, I’m going to make banana bread (laughs). So I finished close to 4 a.m.
How did you learn how to bake?
My mom is also a lawyer, but she never had time to cook or bake. So it was really my childhood dream to bake with my mom, just like what you see in cartoons. So I asked her before, why she wouldn’t bake with us. She said, “There are moms who make the cake, there are moms who buy the cake. I’m the mom who buys the cake”. My goal was to become the mommy who makes the cake. I started baking when I was 10 years old, and ofcourse my first try was awful, and then I just kept trying.
Are you self-taught?
Aside from baking, how do you relax?
I like getting massages, at least once a week. I like reading books. I also like trying restaurants with my husband, that’s very relaxing for me (She married American investment banker Evan McBride early this year). Or spending time with my dog. I also like outdoor sports—running, scuba diving, basta being active for me is a way to relax.
Is it important in your job to be good-looking?
It’s not important, especially if you do mostly transactional work. Anyway, you’re not going to win a case just based on good looks. At the end of the day, the judges will have to decide based on the facts of the case and on the law.
On the flipside, have you ever felt that your looks hindered you from being taken seriously?
I don’t think so. As I said, because maybe by the nature of law as a profession, you really have to rely on your intellect and skills as a lawyer so my looks has never been a factor. It just made my job easier at times when I had to deal with government agencies, like, kung may pinapakausap ka.
What is your advice to single, thirtysomething career women who are still looking for love?
One thing I learned in this world is you can’t have everything. And Milton Freedman, an economist, once said, “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” Which means if you’re devoting your time doing something else, you’re also wasting an opportunity to do other things. So my advice to them would be, they also have to exert effort to spend time meeting people and socializing and not just being in the office or working all the time, which I admit is hard to do especially if you’re a busy lawyer.
Our new Chief Justice is a woman. Any thoughts?
She was my former professor of insurance in UP Law School. I’m excited for her because she just made history—she’s the first female Chief Justice. I hope she can reform the judiciary so we can improve its image and role in good governance.
Do you think her appointment has opened doors for women in the law profession such as yourself?
I think the doors have already been opened. Even if you look at the proportion of women in law schools and law firms, there are much, much more women. I remember during my dad’s time, there were only a handful of women. It was really male-dominated at that time. More than opening doors, I think it’s an affirmation that women already have attained a prominent role in Philippine society.
What do you think about the latest incidents of hazing in San Beda Law School?
That is something that I find very disappointing because it’s such a big waste of life. Smart kids are dying because of these senseless tragedies . We have good anti-hazing laws but they need to be enforced so these deaths can be prevented.
Speaking of violence, why do you like Mixed Martial Arts?
I’ve always liked fast-paced sports. I’ve been a huge NBA fan since I was a child. But unlike basketball, sa MMA, walang timeout.
I like meritocracy. I like rewarding people based on their skills and their effort. So in a sport like that where you’re on your own and it would really depend on your skills, your training, your physical fitness, whoever wins really deserves it.
What is your favorite ice cream flavor? (She was an ice cream-eating champion back in UP Law School)
Chocolate. The richer, the better. My favorite is Half Baked by Ben and Jerry’s. Or Belgian Chocolate by Häagen-Dazs
Ang hirap nun ah kasi marami akong favorite. But I definitely like salmon. And paksiw na lechon.
Here, it’s Sala Restaurant at Locsin Building in Makati City. Their food is consistently good. In the US, Olive Restaurant by Todd English at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. They have the best fillet mignon in my opinion.
Harvard. Was it a hard nut to crack or piece of cake?
Of course hard nut to crack. Apart from the academic challenge, I also had to adjust to living alone for the first time. I guess as Filipinos we really grow up with a big support system. Most of us in general grow up with maids.
In the US, I had to do everything alone, apart from the fact that I had to study with the maximum number of units. I didn’t have a car so I would use my bike to do groceries. I have a huge backpack that my friends would joke about: “Karen, we can fit you inside your backpack”. One time napuno ko yung backpack ko with groceries. Hindi pa rin kasya so I had to balance two more paper bags on the side. So nagbi-bike ako tapos meron pang part na uphill! Imagine doing that. You really have to be smart about using your free time because you not only had to go to school. Iisipin mo pa yung groceries, yung paglilinis.
Your newfound celebrity status. Is it icing on the cake or rotten eggs?
I guess it depends. Rotten eggs in the sense na you have less privacy sometimes. Ako pa naman I like going out without fixing myself, sometimes I go out na naka-pambahay lang. One time I was going to the mall across the street and someone called out “Si Attorney!”. Siyempre nakakahiya ‘pag minsan yung hitsura mo sabog tapos mare-recognize ka. But then, it’s also icing on the cake because when you support an advocacy, more people listen to you. Now I can have a platform for neglected issues like quality education. You can help more, you can push for more advocacies.
The year 2012 is a big one for you. You got married, then the impeachment, and you were admitted to the New York Bar. How soon can we expect a bun in the oven?
(Laughs) You’re like my mom! Hi-nire ka ba niya? Honestly, we were thinking early next year or end of this year. We still haven’t gone on our honeymoon. But then my husband’s best friend is getting married in Puerto Rico next year. So he asked us to hold off having a child so we can attend his wedding. Since they went to our wedding, he and his fiancée who are both good friends of ours, we promised them that we’ll fly in so I think we have to delay having a child until then.