YR 47 Issue 1 2011
A Thomasian topnotcher’s secret:
      Love for law, justice, fun
“Law is an imperfect profession in which success can rarely be achieved without some sacrifice of principle. Thus all practicing lawyersand most others in the professionwill necessarily be imperfect, especially in the eyes of young idealists. There is no perfect justice, just as there is no absolute in ethics. But there is perfect injustice, and we know it when we see it.” - Alan Dershowitz

FINDING one’s passion may be a lifetime struggle for many. Others may have fully realized their passion as early as in their childhood years, while some only find theirs out of sheer luck and serendipity.

Unlike many others, this concern did not come as a dilemma for 1998 Arts and Letters (Artlets) Legal Management cum laude graduate and 2002 bar topnotcher Arlene Maneja who has always been certain on what she want to do in life—become an a complished lawyer.

With a long roster of achievements and distinctions under her belt, Maneja now sits as Senior Associate in the SyCip, Salazar, Hernandez & Gatmaitan Law Offices, handling legal concerns in the corporate world—an actualization of a dream she had way back her junior days at the UST High School.

“I was supposed to take up Medicine, but when I got into debating in my third year at Pay High (UST HS), I decided to be a lawyer,” Maneja said.  She noted that taking up Legal Management in the Faculty was both surprising and overwhelming.

“Everyone is so free as opposed to my time in Pay High where you cannot go out on lunch time,” she said. “Artlets is very interesting because of the different courses. You will meet all sorts of people, all sorts of interests.”

Maneja recounted her time at the St. Raymund de Peñafort Building, especially her professors who left a permanent mark in her life namely, the late Ophelia Dimalanta in Literature; Juanito Sese in Philosophy, whom she notes as a terror professor; and Ferdinand Lopez in Humanities, who helped her veer away from shyness.

“I also remember doing quirky things in Artlets like being awarded as the Ms. Legal Management,” she said.

Artlets rearing

With the foundation that was established during her stay at the Faculty, Maneja said that the Artlets influence she gained over the years bore tremendous impact both in her personal and professional life.

“Most people who want to enter law school are always afraid. It seems like everyone there is bound to make your life difficult,” she said. “But with my stay in Artlets, I have seen it all—terror professors, lax professors, temperamental professors, even the good professors. Because of that, it seems like nothing can scare me.”

She noted that the qualities of an Artlets student being free-spirited in attitude, inquisitive, and argumentative helped her cope with the environment of the Faculty of Civil Law.

Love for law

Maneja, who was the Philippine Representative for the Hitachi Young Leaders’ Initiative (HYLI), recalled how she prepared for the 2002 bar examinations.

“Everyone in UST wanted to top the bar examination because it was said that the late erstwhile President Diosdado Macapagal prepared a hefty reward for somebody from UST who can do such a feat. Without much hesitation, I decided to give it a try,” she said.

“There is no harm in trying,” Maneja said. “It is not an impossible thing to top the bar. You just have to be committed and you must want it badly. The moment you step into law school, you must truly like the

Unlike most of the bar examinees who were gripped by fear and anxiety, Maneja said she was very excited to take the examination and even encouraged other examinees to face the challenge.

“It is just a longer test,” she added. “You have to enjoy it, and you have to assume that you will never take it again.” Maneja, who spent four years as an Associate in Siguion Reyna Montecillo & Ongsiako Law Offices, said that she just enjoyed the moment and took advantage of the Bar Operations like it was a “privilege.”

“They should find enjoyment in the law.I am fascinated by the law. Law students should find it interesting rather than something they have to study,” she said. “The first step in overcoming the bar is to have fun.”

A recipient of the 2002 St. Thomas Aquinas Award and one of the Ten Outstanding Students of the Philippines (TOSP) in the same year, Maneja is a free-spirited individual whose intelligence comes naturally ingrained in her personality.

“We took up legal ethics at the last day of our bar examination. It was not really a difficult subject,” she said. “We started at three in the afternoon and I knew I can finish the test with ease, but when I heard the Yellow Jackets banging the drums, I got
excited. I was bouncing with the beat at my chair while taking the test. I wanted to be outside because I wanted to be in the party.”

Despite being a natural achiever, the results of the bar examination surprised Maneja and her friends.
“A lot of people were happy and we could not believe it was happening. It took a long time to sink in. I could not believe I actually did it,” she said.

Maneja was the third Thomasian to top the bar examination with Justice Roberto Concepcion in 1924 and President Macapagal in 1936. This achievement made professionals recognize law graduates from the University.

“UST now gets invited by private law firms, something that was and is still dominated by lawyers from the University of the Philippines and the Ateneo de Manila University,” she said.

Amid the different influences she has encountered over the years, Maneja strives hard to maintain the integrity she learned from her stay at the University.

“Law is a high pressuring job. It is easy to become competitive. But In UST, we are not like that. We value relationships, we value friends,” she said.

At present, the 33-year-old Maneja keeps her Thomasian values intact in a world where the fine line that separates truth from lie is much more difficult to discern.

For someone who has achieved so much, Maneja believes that striving hard will always be the best key to attain success. “Be the best that you can,” she said, leaving a simple advice to all aspiring lawyers.

Year 47 |  Issue 3 |  2011
Arlene Maneja
Year 47 |  Issue 4 |  2012