The Filipino Reporter, the leading Fil-am newspaper in the United States recently profiled Judge Tom Rodriquez on Jan 5-11, 2001.
As a young boy, he used to shine shoes and sell newspapers and hot pan de sal at dawn to help his family make ends meet. In college, he won a full scholarship and sang his way through law school by earning a spot at the University of the Philippines Male Glee Club.
But New York Judge Tom Rodriguez has come a long way from his days of selling the Manila Bulletin, Liwayway and Kislap.
The soft-spoken jurist recently became the first Filipino-American in the Eastern Seaboard to become a supervising administrative law judge for the State of New York.
Rodriguez, who has a master’s degree in government and education from Columbia University, will supervise judges who are mostly graduates of Harvard, Ford ham -and Georgetown Universities — in the city’s Department of Office of Temporary Disability & Assistance/Department of Labor.
“If my parents were still alive, I am certain they will shed tears of joy for they know what I have gone through· as a child,” Rodriguez told the Filipino Reporter.
Rodriguez is the third child of the late Valeriano Rodriguez, an Ilocos Norte-native who worked as a teacher from Moncada, Tarmac, Ilocos Sur. and later as a barber in Solano, Nueva Vizcaya and Ursula Doles of Santa Maria,. Known in New York as, the singing judge,” Rodriguez graduated from the U.P. College of Law in 1963. After being associated with then Councilor Saturnino Bermudez of Quezon City, he went into private practice while serving as an associate editor of two legal publications: the Philippine Law Decisions and the Philippine Tax Journal.
After. passing the New York State Bar in 1975. he became an associate litigation attorney for the reputable Wall Street law firm Curtis-Mallet Prevost Colt & Mosle. Two of his colleagues, Peter K. Leisure and John Sprizzo, went on to become United States judges for the Southern District of New York.
As an active community figure, Rodriguez is in the forefront of disseminating the teachings of Dr. Jose Rizal, the Filipino national hero. One of his legacies as a New York chapter Commander of the Order of the
Knights of Rizal is his vision to reach out to the young which came into fruition when 16 youth leaders were inducted this year to the Youth for Rizal, also known as KAPARIZ.
His sterling qualities as a leader have been - recognized repeatedly. He was this year’s recipient of the Outstanding Community Leader Award by The Philippine-New York Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees), and last year’s recipient of the Service Medal Award by the Order of the Knights of Rizal’s Supreme Council.
In November 2000, he was elevated to the position of Special Assistant to the Supreme Commander (with the rank of deputy supreme commander) by Knights of Rizal’s Supreme Commander, Sir Rogelio Quiambao, KGCR.
He received an award for Outstanding Performance and Quality Services from the New York City’s Office of Employment Services in 1993, and a U.S. Congressional Certificate in recognition of his commitment to President George Bush and the Armed Forces during the Persian Gulf War in 1991.
In 1979, he was honored with the Outstanding Filipino Overseas Award by the Association of Philippine Lawyers USA for being the first Filipino to be associated with a Wall Street law office, which had been rated as one of the top 100 law firms in America.
Despite a hectic schedule, Rodriguez still finds time to serve the church, particularly in the field of music ministry. Besides being a choir soloist (he also sings in weddings), he is currently in the board of trustees of the Bayside United Methodist Church since 1994.
He has also penned a book in 1981,“Practical Guide: Procedures in. Opening a New Business in New York,” and published numerous articles in Fil-Am newspapers, including the Reporter.
Away from his professional and civic duties, Rodriguez maintains his love for gardening by growing different varieties of mums and 38 varieties of roses. as well as ampalayas during springtime and summer. Singing and gardening are therapeutic for a man who believes that “a good judge must be knowledgeable, not necessarily scholar, but must have integrity and judicial temperament."