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Paskuhan is coming

How is it like to experience the Paskuhan lights for the first time? Trixia Claire Delos Santos shares her story.

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UST kicks off the Paskuhan season with its annual Christmas concert and lighting ceremony, Friday, Dec. 1. Photo by Earl Balce/TomasinoWeb.

I was barely finished eating when it happened.

The twinkling lights surrounding me suddenly went out — enveloping the University of Santo Tomas in darkness. Screams of excitement filled the cold December air and sparks of energy flew as the huge LED screens blinked with the countdown. I watched the scene in front of me in awe, yet also nervous for I was about to witness this magnificence for the very first time.

Sitting on a pavement along Lovers’ Lane, with all the people hyped for tonight’s event, everything was still a blur to me.

As soon as my classes ended at noon, Thomasians were in flurry of actions — with each mouth uttering their excitement to the most-awaited Paskuhan lighting ceremony. As the community gathered at the Plaza Mayor for the annual mass, the rain suddenly poured. However, not a single drop of rain dampened the Thomasians: Their hype only grew louder when a rainbow appeared during the mass, painting color to the gloomy sky.

“There is no dragon that cannot be tamed, nor beast that God cannot slay,” Fr. Herminio Dagohoy, O.P. said, imploring Thomasians to remember the true king among all kings.

As the Eucharistic celebration drew to conclusion, the Agape finally began. Thomasians scurried away to queue on their assigned booths for their free food.

The University went “car-less” for that day, and everywhere, crowds of people huddled together, munching on their food, with the evident crunch of the scrumptious lechon. Laughter filled the air, and I cannot help thinking that this could be the Thomasian version of Noche Buena.

The screams beside me snapped me back to reality.

Two big screens beside the stage showed the countdown for the ceremony and it made everyone squeal in sheer anticipation. O Come All Ye Faithful blared at the speakers, and with every beat, my heart resonates.

My hands are shaking.

I held up my phone, looking for any signs of spark.

My knees are shivering.

All I can see it the moon smiling at us, like it was also waiting as the lights come to life.

My heart is trembling.

I looked at my friends, the first people I have the honor to spend this momentous event.

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My lungs halted.

“Sh*t, ang ganda ng mga ilaw!”

And everyone stood in delight, pointing at the large Christmas tree which was now glowing together with the University of Santo Tomas sign. Suddenly, we were all swallowed with vibrance as the University glowed with beauty and elegance.

Everyone howled with joy, snapping photos as the beauty unraveled before them, but I stood frozen, staring at the grandeur that was in front of me — the lights that symbolize the start of the yule season in the University which I only dreamt of seeing one day.

Something exploded above me and I was completely rendered speechless — the stark black sky was sprinkled with lights. Lasting for only mere seconds, the fireworks illuminated not only the sky, but also the gloom in everyone’s hearts.

“It was really beautiful. They brought back the traditional lights hanging from the branches of trees,” Rachelle Basa from the College of Accountancy said.

“Compared to last year, it [opening of lights] was full of efforts,” Eleazar Bilog, a Senior High School — Accountancy, Business, and Management student also told me.

“Medyo nakakabitin yung fireworks, but the overall rating is two thumbs up.”

At the start, I was really having second thoughts on watching the event. I had a lot of quizzes for the next day and I badly needed to study. But my friend approached me and insisted that we should at least see the lights and the fireworks; we would be the one who would most enjoy them since it would be our first time, he said.

Indeed, he was right. Every bit of the event was worth treasuring and worth sharing.

And as I opened the door of my room, the first thing I noticed was the window at the far-end, with the Christmas tree glowing brightly from a distance. The image of Drogon suddenly flashed in my mind and then it hit me.

“Winter is coming,” as the famous motto of House Stark said. Staring into open space, there was only one thing I can think of right now — Paskuhan has finally arrived.

by Trixia Claire Delos Santos

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The one who can rewrite the stars

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Ominous-looking clouds hung low over the sky—threatening more rain despite the already heavy downpour several hours before, yet despite the damp, muddy ground of the UST field and the humid May air one could still feel the celebratory atmosphere of this academic year’s Baccalaureate Mass last Thursday, May 24.

The field was abuzz with energy as the seniors, armed with their permanent markers and their type A uniforms, scrambled throughout the crowd in search of their most cherished people, eager to leave a piece of them in that person’s most treasured memorabilia.

“Maraming salamat,” “mami-miss kita,” “g*go ga-graduate na tayo,” echoed everywhere–each word bares four years (or more) worth of friendship formed by sleepless nights, afternoon breakdowns, and even the silent cheers they shared as they shade the last circle of that scantron exam. Through tears and cheers, emotions flooded the whole University for finally, they proved that everything is indeed worth it.

Having no expectations upon entering the iconic Arch of the Centuries years ago, fourth year journalism student Cristina Baclig shared how her journey changed her for the better.

Pumasok ako na hindi naman ito ang dream school wala akong ine-expect or anything akala ko magiging normal student lang  ako,” Baclig shared to TomasinoWeb. “Hindi ko ine-expect na sa four years ko maraming pala akong interesting na mangyayari sa akin, marami pala akong maiiambag. Marami rin akong na-meet.”

The long journey towards the coveted diploma is a no easy feat, and amidst the tribulations, the budding journalist emphasized the importance of looking out for yourself.

“Hindi importante na lagi nagsa-succeed ka sa lahat ng bagay, lalo kung napapabayaan  mo na yung sarili mo, […] hindi mo ma-feel yung fulfillment at hindi ka rin masa-satisfy sa lahat ng ginawa mo kasi feeling mo ang empty mo.” Baclig said.

There is always the underlying pressure that knocks the air out of people. However, graduating business management student Patricia Concepcion encouraged everyone to make the most out of everything despite one’s fear of failure.

“Kahit na nag-fail ka pwede ka pa rin bumangon tapos mag move-on ka lang,” she said with a smile.

In this sea of motion, the student staffers, maintenance personnel, and even the professors darted from place to place in preparation for the mass. With sweat forming at the brows and with time chasing them at their backs, excitement and adrenaline fuels them to do more.

JR Sanchez who vigilantly guards the gates of the University said that despite the exhaustion, he felt happy for the graduates.

Una ko palang ito.. pagod [pero] happy for the students… [nararamdaman mo] ‘yong saya nila habang naghihiwayan [at­] ‘yong damdamin mo napapahiyaw rin.”

Everyone was growing restless until finally, the sky was ablaze as firecrackers were launched–opening a space between the clouds for the sun to shine. Cheers erupted everywhere for finally, their most awaited ending has finally begun.

Thomasians started to pour out of the buildings that served as their second home, and each faculty and colleges waved their banners high up the air as they paraded their way through the verdant field of the UST Grandstand–a symbol that their journey has finally come in full circle as that is the very same earth that welcomed them as they first passed the Arch of the Centuries.

The resounding cries of the seniors erupted as they were ushered to their designated seats among the neatly lined chairs that the University’s personnel worked hard for a day before the event. People loiter around the field, some taking pictures while others are still writing on each other’s polo. The flurry of activity is a bliss for everywhere is decorated with smiles.

Standing among her graduating friends, Red Ricafort, a third year communication arts student expressed her joy as she sends them off to a brand new journey.

“It was overwhelming. Sobrang saya ko for them kasi they finally reached the end of their journey sa college.” Ricafort added, “mahirap rin kasi I’ve spent most of my time with them kaya it won’t be easy to part ways. Super mami-miss ko sila pero I’m really happy that they’ve reached this point na nakangiti and hopeful pa rin. I wish I’ll stand in the same place at the same time next year with that same hopeful and happy smile that they have.”

And in stark contrast of the current vibe, a blanket of solemnity fell as the Mass has officially begun which was presided by the University Rector Very Rev. Fr. Herminio Dagohoy, O.P.

“Your journey in UST ends this evening but the test of you being [a] Thomasian also begins. Be proud of your beginning and make your life a legacy,” said Dagohoy.

And although tomorrow holds no promises, like a gentle embrace, he reminded the seniors to take in their heart the Christian teachings they have learned. Dagohoy said that those teachings will serve as foundation that can make them unshakable as they face this brand new chapter in life.

It is time for us to let you go. Do not lose that space where God could easily touch you when you feel that your life is no longer enough for everything. God suffices,” the Rector added.

Leaving the four corners of the University that witnessed thousands of created moments, learned lessons, and cherished friendships would only now be a recollected memories as they graduate.

Pansamantala nating iiwan ang UST, pero ang mga ala-alang nagawa at mga aral na napulot natin dito ay dadalhin pa rin natin sa ating mga puso at isipan. Marami tayong mga kwento na babalik-balikan, mga kwentong ating iingatan sa ating puso,” said the former Central Student Council president Janela Love Nartates in her message.

Bittersweet as this might be the last, but  as they exit the University, the character of being Thomasian will be imbued forever.

“This is the end of our student life,however, my fellow Thomasians, this is just the beginning of a more challenging professional life ahead for us […] Now, let us show the world how competent, committed, and compassionate we are. Ipakita at ipagmalaki natin na tayo ay mga Tomasino,” Nartates said.

And suddenly, the field was alight with thousands of fires as the students began the candle-lighting ceremony, followed by the students donning their rosaries. The mass finally ended with the singing of the UST hymn, each word sung with more conviction as this may be their last opportunity to do so.

With tears threatening to fall at some of the students’ eyes, a collective gasp echoed all throughout the field as everything went dark. The crowd erupted into excited cheers as the speakers blasted Hayaan Mo Sila by Ex Battalion.

But the all familiar tune just hyped the Thomasians for the countdown has just begun.

The first beat dropped and the stark black sky was illuminated by a thousand sparks. Shouts of exhilaration filled the air as This Is The Greatest Show played. With eyes and phones trained up the sky, Thomasians swayed to the beat of the music, their eyes feast on the magnificence of the fireworks display.

As the last note of This Is Me aired, the crowd fell silent as their emotions overwhelm them. Standing side by side with their friends and arms wrapped around each other, they stare at the trail of lights the display left at the sky.

Yet, everybody’s heads turned towards upwards because nobody was prepared when Bboom Bboom by Korean girl group  MOMOLAND blasted from the speakers. The once sullen crowd turned wild with disbelief and adrenaline surged through their veins.

This is it.

As they stare at the Arch that once welcomed them, their heartbeats thundered loudly.

This is it.

Their hands found each other, seeking comfort as they are about to plunge into a brand new world.

This is it.

And they released their loudest cries as they ran towards the Arch.

It is truly a magical sight to behold–to see how the once confused and terrified freshman free to be the graduates that survived the worst of the storms.

Akala ko talaga hindi ako makakatapos talaga kasi ang dami kong pinagdaan sa college,” said fourth year nursing student Adrielle Anyayahan as she stood alongside her father and sister. “Pero pinakalesson [na] natutunan ko ay in everything you do may mga pagkakataaon na madadapa ka pero kaya mong tumayo until ma-reach mo na yung dream mo,”

And with glassy eyes, Adrielle’s father Pablito, expressed his elation and pride for seeing her daughter’s hard-earned achievement.

“Very proud kasi nandun yung accomplishment na napag-aral namin siya.”

And chiding jokingly, Adrielle’s sister, Alyana said, “Congrats! Pag-aralin mo na ako.

As the people leave and the energy dwindles down, one cannot help but notice the mounds of trash left at the field. Michael Joaquin, a sweeper, expressed his disappointment upon the state of things.

Wala naman pong pinagkaiba [sa mga nakaraang Bacc Mass]. Taon-taon naman po kalat ang [nagiging]  problema. [‘]Yan na nga ang mga basurahan sa gilid ang gagawin nalang nila ay itapon,”

Yet despite the mess, he is still hopeful that the succeeding events will leave little to no waste, imploring everyone to be more disciplined in their trash disposal.

No one is failure-proof; everyone is bound to fall at some point because this is what will take a person farther than what they have imagined. Mistakes are not there to define you but to refine you–because you are the one who can rewrite your own stars.

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Senior High band dominates MUSIKAT’s Soundcheck

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Photo from Terrenz Arroyo's Facebook account

And they proved they have potential.

Representing the senior high school department, five-man band Sinko Sinta bested four other finalists from different colleges in the annual battle of the bands of Musikang Sikat ng mga Tomasino (MUSIKAT) last May 19.

On its eleventh edition, MUSIKAT’s Soundcheck became an avenue for Thomasians to showcase their musical abilities and it proved that UST had its fair share of talent that can contribute to the growing popularity of local independent music scene.

The four other finalists who rocked the stage were Ternate, Urbslumina,  6 o’clock, and MIMOSA.

Hailing from diverse backgrounds, their performances ranged in style from alternative pop-rock comparable to the music of contemporary groups, to performances that sounded closer to mid-2000s OPM and harder styles of rock music.

The competition’s second placer was MIMOSA of the junior high school department and in third place was Urbslumina.

The winning band did not expect to win on their first try in a competition.

“…Winning the contest was not expected, it was our first time to enter a University wide contest, like literally the first time, and it was an amazing experience,” said Luigi Mendiola of Sinko Sinta in an online interview with TomasinoWeb.

However, one of the members of the band said that seeing the crowd enjoying their performance was the best thing happened.

“The most fulfilling thing that night was seeing the audience dance to the beat and scream at the top of their lungs,” said Terrenz Arroyo.

Meanwhile, third placer Urbslumina said that their victory is their first step to for more opportunities.

“I remember talking to our lead guitarist, calling this win ‘a first’, our vocalist later on called it a ‘stepping stone to more opportunities’,” said the band’s rhythm guitarist Thea Samantha Arevalo.

Serving as a platform for all aspiring Thomasian musicians, Soundcheck also featured homegrown talents such as Thomasian Idol Season 6 first runner-up Gianne Hinolan and Soundcheck 2014 champion, Oido, which serenaded the crowd with their original pieces. –M.Benedicto

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AB Chorale bags gold in national chorale competition

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The UST Chorus of Arts and Letters triumphed in the choir competition of the first edition of the Clarion Call Music contest on Saturday, May 19.

The group was one of the top ten semifinalists in the competition held at the Cuneta Astrodome during the New Evangelization Conference and Catholic Expo 2018.

“We went to the competition just for the sake of experiencing what it is like to compete in a national competition or a competition outside UST. Kaya sobrang surprised kami when we won the championship,” said AB Chorale president Camille Barsolaso in an interview with TomasinoWeb.

With the theme “New Evangelization,” AB Chorale performed an original piece by Fidel Calalang  Jr. of the UST Singers titled Psalm 100 (Shout for Joy).

“Psalm 100 was the contest piece of Himig Tomasino 2017 but Sir Fidel rearranged it afterwards… Kinaya namin aralin yung piece in one week is because majority of us know the piece already since the old members were part of Himig Tomasino 2017,” Barsolaso said.

The president of the team shared that they only had a week to prepare for the national competition after their stint at the Himig Tomasino 2018, wherein they also bagged the top prize.

With their experience at the national competition, Barsolaso said that the AB Chorale would be more prepared for the competitions in the future.

“I think kung magcocompete man sila outside UST again, they would have the same goal like this year: to just perform a humble and clean performance without expecting anything in return,” she said.

The UST team was followed by the Pansol choir at second place and Alab Vocale Ensemble at third place.

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