A Filipino Law Student Was Hit by a Car Inside an Ivy League School. Now, She's Her Graduating Class' Commencement Speaker

IMAGE Screenshot / Veronica Manalo

Maria Veronica Manalo was crossing the street inside the campus of the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School when she was hit by a speeding vehicle. Manalo suffered from severe physical pain and had to be rushed to the hospital, where she spent weeks in recovery. She underwent therapy and worked tirelessly to regain her strength and purpose. 

Eventually she emerged from rehabilitation almost as good as new, surpassing the expectations of the people around her.

Her commitment to beat the odds reflects Manalo’s tenacious spirit. Earlier this month, Manalo walked up to the podium inside the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to deliver the commencement address in front of nearly 400 members of this year’s graduating class and media icon Oprah Winfrey, who was the guest of honor.


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Veronica Manalo, who is the daughter of the late Dr. Rafael A. Manalo and Emma M. Manalo, is the first lawyer in her family. She graduated with a Master of Laws (LL.M.) Degree Program from the Penn Carey Law School, as well as a degree under the Wharton Business and Law Program at The Wharton School. 

Manalo graduated from the University of the Philippines College of Law. She is now a professor at the Rizal Memorial Colleges School of Law and a lecturer teaching business law at U.P.'s Virata School of Business. She had stints as editor of the Penn Carey Law Journal of International Law and as coach for the Penn Carey Law Moot team, which competed at the 30th Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot Court Competition. She was also chosen as Penn Carey Law's representative to the International Law Weekend in New York, which brought together leading international lawyers, diplomats, and experts to discuss topics that included International Arbitration and global legal issues.

Photo by Screenshot / Veronica Manalo.

Read Atty. Manalo’s full speech here: 

Good afternoon, Dean Ruger, our esteemed professors and faculty, our parents, family and loved ones, distinguished guests, Philadelphians, and of course my fellow graduates. It’s my honor to deliver the commencement address for this incredible student body. On behalf of the Class of 2023, I welcome our families and friends at the graduation ceremony of Penn Carey Law School. Every one of you has made an impact on the graduates who sit here today.

Today is a day of celebration and achievement, but it is also a day to reflect on the challenges and obstacles that we have faced along the way. Each one of us has had to overcome difficulties and setbacks to make it to this very moment, and we should be proud of all that we have accomplished.

But as we celebrate our own achievements, it is important to remember that we did not get here alone. Along the way, we had the support and guidance of friends, family, and mentors who encouraged us to keep going, even when it felt like giving up would be easier. And so I thank all the families who went here for our graduation, just as I would like to thank my late father who passed away believing I could do more than what I believed I could and to my mother, brother, and family who have likewise been my greatest source of support in achieving my dreams. 

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Our parents have encouraged us to pursue our dreams and supported us every step of the way, even when it meant making sacrifices themselves. So, let us give a round of applause to our families and parents who are here with us, and to those who couldn't make it. Let us honor them for all that they have done for us. Thank you, families, for being our foundation and for helping us achieve our dreams. We couldn't have done it without you.

In the City of Brotherly Love, where freedom's found,

We've treaded the streets of Philly, feet on the ground.

From Center City to South Street, we've roamed,

In this vibrant city, a place we can all call home.


From the cheesesteak debates to the Liberty Bell,

Philly's charm has stories we all love to tell.

In the land of Rocky, where champions rise,

We've embraced the grit, reaching for the skies.


The friendships we have formed during our time here are more important than any test score or diploma. These are the people who have been there for us through the highs and lows of life. They are the ones who have made us laugh, who have challenged us, and who have helped us to grow into the people we are today. As we go forward, let’s not forget the friends we have made. True friendship is a treasure.

As many of you know, I have been given a second chance at life, after surviving a serious accident that changed my life forever. The doctors told me that I was lucky to be alive, that my survival was nothing short of a miracle. I had to overcome immense physical, emotional, and mental challenges to get where I am today. 


My experience is not exclusive to me. We all had to overcome difficulties to pursue an even greater dream, but we didn’t let those challenges define us or stop us from pursuing our goals. As we graduate today, I urge you to remember that life is precious and that you should never take it for granted. Pursue your dreams with passion and determination. You are capable of achieving greatness, and the only thing standing in your way is fear.


Today, as we wear our cap and gown,

Let's celebrate the knowledge that we've found.

But this is just the beginning, the start of our quest,

To make an impact, to rise above the rest.


LLM graduates, let's raise the bar high,

In the footsteps of great legal minds we shall all comply.

With Philly in our hearts, our passion ablaze,

We'll reshape the world, leaving a lasting blaze.


Congratulations to the Class of LLM 2023, oh so bright,

We'll shine in courtrooms, advocating for what's right.

From Philly's corners to the courtroom glory

From Philly's streets to the legal stage,

Together we'll make history, turning the page.


So let's embrace the future, our legal wings spread,

Carrying the torch, with justice ahead.

Penn Carey Law, thank you for the memories,

For shaping us into lawyers, ready for our destinies.


In closing, I want to leave you with a quote from Helen Keller. She said, "Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it." Remember these words as you face the challenges that lie ahead, and never forget that you are capable of overcoming anything that life throws your way. 

I’m proud to stand beside you and to have shared this journey with all of you.

So here's to the future, as we raise the bar, LLM graduates, shining like a star. In the Eastside's glory, we will make our mark, Penn Carey Law, forever we will leave a spark.

Thank you, God bless, and congratulations again to the Class of 2023!


You can watch Atty. Manalo delivering the speech here (her part starts at the 34:00 mark):




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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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