“NO, it can be done! You just have to want it bad enough and be stubborn enough to try!”

That is the favorite remark of Arlene Maneja, who was named one of the Ten Outstanding Student of the Philippines, an award given by the Knights of Rizal. The award was a fitting finish to Maneja’s student life.

On her last year as a student of the Faculty of Civil Law, Maneja was elected president of the Central student Council. She also graduated magna cum laude.

Becoming an outstanding student held no secret formula. Maneja said she was a normal student with no pretensions.

She also struggled to beat deadlines, slipped away to the mall with her friends during their break when she was still an undergraduate, and went crazy over Friends and Sex in the City.

“When we had those long periods in between our classes, we usually went to the mall and watched a movie or just hanged around, then came back to attend our classes afterwards,” she said smiling and shaking her head as she recalled those days.

She also had her share of shock when she first entered law school.

“In law school, you have to adjust your level of thinking because it is even tougher than college. Your professors are going to grill you, run you to the ground. So panibagong adjustment talaga,” she said.

She was also dashed when her mother died.

“I lost my mother when I was in my second year in law school, so I really became touch and go for a while,” she said meekly

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“I really miss her a lot, but eventually, I just tried to remember the things she taught me and her confidence that I can make it through life.”

Her mother is a great source of strength for Maneja. She provided well for the family despite the lack of education and poverty, Maneja said.

“The fact that I am given such a fine opportunity, then I feel that I should be able to achieve more,” the law graduate said.

Maneja is fond of challenges. She fights off the cynicism that she sees in young and old alike.

“I am very much challenged by other people’s mindset na ‘No, it cannot be done or it’s too hard’ I love to show them na ‘Yes it can be done!’ You just have to want it very badly and be stubborn enough to get it and everything will follow,” Arlene says.

A champion debater, Arlene also reached a crossroads when she had to choose between writing and debating. She said she had wanted to try out for the Varsitarian and the Thomasian Debater’s Council (TDC), which was just a new organization at the time.

“When I was in college taking up Legal Management, I wanted to try out for the Varsitarian kasi I used to write feature articles. But then my heart is really in debating, so I chose TDC,” she said.

Arlene is very excited about coaching the UST High School debate team. Unlike college students who sometimes frustrate her when they leave the University at the prime of their debate career, the high school students still have six or seven years to be groomed to become champion debaters for the University, she said.

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Success has merely reinforced her simple desires as an average person, but she says she is somewhat apprehensive about it.

“I am very happy kasi, siyempre I dreamt about this for so long, now it’s finally here,” she said “At the same time, I feel a little scared. I’ve achieved so much that you begin to wonder whether you deserve all of this.

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