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Difficult beginnings towards a fulfilling end: Behind-the-scenes of the first online baccalaureate mass

“We cannot accommodate all of the problems […] I know it’s not enough, but this is all we can do for now [and] for you,” De Mesa said.

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UST Minecraft’s Arch of the Centuries and camera setup. Screengrab provided by Charles Nobleza

While they admit to feeling pressured throughout the event preparations, Thomasian student-leaders remain hopeful as they take charge of the baccalaureate festivities. 

In a series of interviews with TomasinoWeb, Central Student Council (CSC) President Krizia Bricio, UST Minecraft founder Charles Nobleza, and send-off concert supervising producer Ashley de Mesa recalled the satisfaction they felt during the last weeks of preparations for the baccalaureate mass and send-off concert.

“Noong una, medyo uncertain ako […] pero kanina sa orientation, medyo na-alleviate na ang negativity na na-fifeel ko kasi marami naman willing mag-participate,” De Mesa said.

Despite the initial backlash it received, UST Minecraft ignored the negativity and focused on improving the virtual campus.

“[W]e designed [it] to feel as if you were in the event in real life. We did not add any new additions for the server [and] just focused on the main aspects needed such as fireworks and the attire of the graduates,” Nobleza said.

Given the present COVID-19 restrictions, the baccalaureate festivities and traditions will be done on Minecraft with 500 students and administrators representing their respective batches and programs.

UST Minecraft started as a student-initiated project back in the second quarter of 2020. Its first university-wide event was #USTeXP: UST Minecraft Tour, a virtual campus tour for Freshie Week 2020.

Since then, they have participated in several university-wide events such as Paskuhan and one of UST’s Leadership Training Webinars.

Commitment to service 

To compensate for the absence of in-campus ceremonies for batch 2020 and 2021, Tiger Media Network suggested having a send-off concert for the graduates.

“We had the send-off planned as early as February or March kasi akala namin May na siya mangyayari,” De Mesa said.

Bricio favored this idea as it gave the graduates something to look out for.

Naka-set na sa atin na grand ang celebrations for students […] Unfortunately, ‘di na yan nasabayan ng virtual version kasi hahanapin din nila ‘yung interaction,” Bricio said.

The send-off concert will feature the tribute features of batch 2020 and batch 2021 as well as pre-recorded performances such as those presented during Paskuhan 2020.

Similar to last year’s Paskuhan festivities, the production of the entire event shall be “hybrid” wherein the hosts and a number of the technical staff would work on-site while the rest worked online.

“We did our best” 

Despite its early planning dates, the University only announced the final date for the baccalaureate mass in June.

Given the time constraints and difficulties of coordinating online, several aspects of the event were left unaccomplished, such as the virtual personalization of each batch when exiting the Arch of the Centuries and the sending of  tokens to those who cannot attend the event.

“We cannot accommodate all of the problems […] I know it’s not enough, but this is all we can do for now [and] for you,” De Mesa said.

Bricio also mentioned that the best solution they came up with for those who cannot participate in the festivities was making the livestream available on Facebook.

Despite these lapses, they assured that each batch and program were well-represented.

The staff and groups involved in the program hoped to improve in the virtual events that would follow and for the batches to still enjoy the traditions and festivities of the university.

[H]aving it virtual in Minecraft is a band aid solution. Despite it being online, I hope that they would enjoy the festivities stored for them since we devoted a lot of time and effort into creating this for them,” Nobleza said.

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‘Driven, hardworking leader’: Ex-SOCC VP dies at 23

Aldaba was a known student-leader since his senior high school years in the University. He was the Interim Executive Vice President of the Student Organizations Coordinating Council (SOCC) in the previous academic year.

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Photo courtesy of Francis Oliver Aldaba

Francis Justine Aldaba, a fourth-year student from the College of Education, passed away on Friday, Jan. 14, after succumbing to acute respiratory failure. He was 23.

He died at Premiere Medical Center in Nueva Ecija at exactly 9:50 in the morning, his brother Francis Oliver Aldaba told TomasinoWeb

Aldaba was a known student-leader since his senior high school years in the University where he took up Health Allied as his strand. His involvement started as the Executive Assistant to the Chief-of-Staff in the Central Student Council.

He was the Interim Executive Vice President of the Student Organizations Coordinating Council (SOCC) in the previous academic year. Prior to this, he was also the Executive Associate to the SOCC Executive Vice President.

Describing Aldaba, Rome Voltaire Gomez, former interim president and chief executive officer of SOCC, told TomasinoWeb he was “a visionary, driven, and hardworking leader.” 

“Justine was a great help to SOCC in assisting grievances of recognized Student Organizations,” he said.

Gomez, in a social media post, said: “Justine was family to the CSC/SOCC family and me. He was a strong person and a kind soul.”

“We ask for your prayers in this time for him and his family. We will certainly miss him, and in all things, we will fondly remember him. Our family may never be complete again for now, but we will always be one in spirit,” he added.

The funeral service is currently held at Funeraria Corone Memorial Chapel, T. Delos Santos, Science City of Muñoz. The internment details are yet to be announced.

Paolo Alejandrino
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National Artist F. Sionil José dies at 97

The poet was one of the most widely read Filipino authors in the English language, with works that have been translated into 28 different languages.

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Photo courtesy of People Asia

National Artist for Literature F. Sionil José passed away on Thursday night, Jan. 6, at the age of 97.

The poet died in his sleep at the Makati Medical Center where he was confined earlier for a scheduled angioplasty, according to his wife, Tessie Jovellanos José.

Hours before his death, José wrote a letter for his “brave heart.” A letter which now constitutes his final words. 

“Thank you brave heart. There are times when as an agnostic I doubt the presence of an almighty and loving God. But dear brave heart you are here to disprove this illusion, to do away with the conclusion that if you doubt Him, you kill Him. I cannot kill you dear heart; you have to do that yourself,” José wrote in a Facebook post

“For 97 years you have been constantly working patiently pumping much more efficiently and longer than most machines. Of course, I know that a book lasts long too, as the libraries have shown, books that have lived more than 300 years. Now, that I am here in waiting for an angioplasty, I hope that you will survive it and I with it, so that I will be able to continue what I have been doing with so much energy that only you have been able to give. Thank you dear brave heart and dear Lord for this most precious gift,” he added.

Before becoming a National Artist, José studied Litt. B. Journalism at the old Faculty of Philosophy and Letters of the University. 

He also became the editor-in-chief of The Varsitarian in 1948 and 1949.  

José earned five Carlos Palanca awards throughout his writing career.

The poet was one of the most widely read Filipino authors in the English language, with works that have been translated into 28 different languages.

He also received recognition from award-giving bodies, which include the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1980, Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Centennial Award in 1999, as well as the Pablo Neruda Centennial Award in Chile in 2004.

In his later years, José made headlines because of his support for President Rodrigo Duterte and the ABS-CBN shutdown.

He was also remembered to have criticized Maria Ressa for winning the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize saying that the Rappler chief did not deserve the award and there were no threats on press freedom because the “Philippine press is alive and well.” 

José was named National Artist for Literature in 2001 because of his great contribution to Philippine literature. 

The details of the National Artist’s wake is yet to be announced.

Justine Xyrah Rennzel Garcia
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UST slips in December 2021 CPA licensure exams

40 out of 102 Thomasians passed the December 2021 Certified Public Accountant Licensure Exam, posting a 39.22 percent passing rate. 

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The University recorded a 39.22 percent passing rate in the December 2021 Certified Public Accountant Licensure Exam (CPALE) where 40 out of 102 Thomasians passed. 

This was lower than the University’s 57.69 percent passing rate last October where 15 out of 26 Thomasians qualified.

In an announcement by the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) on Wednesday, Dec. 29, 318 out of 1, 454 or 21.87 percent of examinees from Metro Manila passed.

PRC also did not release any list of topnotchers and top-performing schools, which means that no examinees or schools qualified.

The CPALE in Metro Manila was rescheduled from October to December due to the extension of General Community Quarantine Alert Level 4 in the region. Meanwhile, the October 2021 CPALE was conducted for the examinees outside Metro Manila.

Justine Xyrah Rennzel Garcia
Reports Writer | + posts

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