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The worst holiday ever

The holidays often become an avenue of discrimination. Instead of celebrating love and reunion, it becomes a time for our families to insinuate statements that attack our viewpoints and our individuality.

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A while ago, there was a group of teenagers who came to my grandma’s gate to sing their Christmas tunes in exchange for coins. It was accompanied by a guitar and with voices that are impossibly good and unfair that only a whole neighbourhood would hear them. Their notes hit the perfect places and strung chords right on my heartstrings.

My cousins could not help but to spare a couple of coins to give for their outstanding performance. After their short-lived gig, they moved on to the next house to bring their harmonies to another household. With this, I realized that Christmas is indeed approaching.

The holidays are a time for celebration, love, reunion, and happiness. This season matters greatly to everyone especially to Filipinos. Some would even book plane tickets to spend the holidays with their loved ones. Some would stay on video call for several hours to celebrate it virtually in events where they cannot physically convene with their loved ones.

Filipinos are also known for setting up Christmas decorations months before the season. This has become a tradition that has never faded among Filipinos. Their value of the holidays contribute greatly to the spirit of Christmas would like to bring.

Not every Christmas is perfect. A relative would be sick, the milk put on the fruit salad might be expired, the gift for our nephew might be delivered as the year approaches its end, or someone else is still stuck in traffic. And last to mention, comments from our family. In retrospect, how harmless could those be?

For over the past couple of years, I have not been the subject of my family’s comments on my identity and viewpoints. I have been a mere spectator of these happenings in Christmas as I slowly indulge on the smoked salmon at the far end of the table. I once was the victim of the harmless, “may boyfriend ka na ba?” as I was approaching legality.

My family saw me grow up as a slender heterosexual woman as what I am now. In today’s society, that still constitutes and individual as a perfect being because it is what’s dictated to be desirable these days. My cousin who is a few years older – young, beautiful, and slender – has not been a subject of these comments. I feel lucky to be invincible of those comments yet; I feel that there is a responsibility I have to do. Not because I am who I say I am but because there’s something wrong with how we converse during the holidays.

A few Christmases ago, I overheard my aunt exclaim to my cousin, “Macaria, ang taba taba mo na,” and as if that wasn’t enough, she added, “Mag-diet ka nga!”. My cousin simply dismissed it by nodding at the remark.

This has been a recurring practice every holiday. It would often serve as an insult on a day to day basis. In the long run, it has been normalized. I noticed that she does not mind about it anymore but who am I to know what she actually feels about it? I’m a perfect person after all.

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Macaria is two years older than I am. We are the same except that she is curvy and I am not. She does not fit the embodiment of what a perfect person is because of her figure. I know my family means well but the comments get disparaging from time to time. It has been been baneful to the spirit of Christmas. But Macaria’s situation is not the only case that I have heard of this problem.

My friend’s sister brought home her significant other for the holidays to introduce to their family. One of my friend’s relatives would comment on the flamboyance of her cousin’s significant other and press on the person if he is of the homosexual persuasion. The person made it clear that he was not however, her relative still made such remarks to insist that they are right to further poke on his sexuality.

To pay respects and to avoid conflict, he just smiled and my friend’s sister just gave out a sigh. Their relative changed the topic and carried on with the ignorance of their actions.

These comments would be thrown out of the drain the next day. It would later be recycled for the next holiday (or perhaps, it could’ve been “improved” as something else more). It would seem like the nature and spirit of the holidays are still intact because most of us—people in our generation, would prefer to stay silent to not stir up the pot of contradictions our families would throw us.

To be different and to side with what is right—whether be it topics on rights and equality—is simply seen as wrong by our elders.

The holidays often become an avenue of discrimination. Instead of celebrating love and reunion, it becomes a time for our families to insinuate statements that attack our viewpoints and our individuality. Some are lucky to be accepted by their families without a sliver of judgement.

Many of us wish to receive acceptance as a gift instead of material things. It is difficult to celebrate the holidays with that very disposition. In cold weathers with a hot chocolate drink and where everybody is together, we crave for home and the feeling of it.

But the question we must ask is: where is home in December? And most importantly, does it have to be somewhere else when it is already in front of us?

The spirit of Christmas is strong within us Filipinos. We know fully well the value of family and belongingness and we know for a fact that Christmas does not have to be celebrated this way. So this Christmas, I want you to ask yourselves, what better gift can we give apart from a handful of blue bills and expensive clothes?

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Opinion

I challenge you to scrutinize

This speech was far from an actual state of the nation address, this was nothing more but a more glorified and glamorized version of those late-night talks for the past few months, and it comes off as something that was made as if there was no pandemic.

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On paper, the State of the Nation Address, or SONA is meant to update and inform the masses on the country’s current status, and how the administration plans to move forward, or one could even say, it is a report by the president. According to the country’s Official Gazette, the SONA is a “yearly tradition in which the chief executive reports on the status of the country, unveils the government’s agenda, and proposes to Congress certain legislative measures.” Supposedly, the address was to be for these purposes, but for President Rodrigo Duterte however, that might not be fully the case, especially after the delivery of his penultimate State of the Nation Address.

While Duterte did deliver his second to the last State of the Nation Address yesterday, the result was far from satisfactory, instead of using it to address combatting the COVID-19 pandemic, the so-called address seemed more of a rant, or a speech with no concrete direction, mostly just full of unnecessary ramblings and attacks, which could serve as a clear indicator that our dear President does not have his priorities in check. At a time wherein the country is dealing with a medical and economic crisis caused by the pandemic, Duterte seemed to pay no mind and this address is just one of many indicators that the president and his people don’t have their priorities in check.  

At a time wherein the masses could’ve gotten a leader who gave them some semblance of hope with a clear vision moving forward, all he did was point fingers, issue threats, strongarms his way through, and flex his administration’s (flawed) achievements, all for an hour and 40 minutes. All these yet he barely touched on more pressing issues. 

To add salt to the wound, we even saw the man show off his status as China’s prized mutt once more as he seemed to give up on the West Philippine Sea dispute, something everyone would’ve loved to hear now, and it’s crazy ironic that it was also here that he said that we will not be a pawn to anyone. Come to think of it, this SONA could’ve been one of the only decent acts the president has done, but unfortunately, being the president that he is, everything just ended up in disappointment, just like always. 

There was no need to open his speech with a rant against the oligarchs. There was no need to prioritize most of those 21 bills now. There was no need to issue a threat against telecommunication companies to improve their services, or more notably the resurrection of the Death Penalty, in a flawed justice system wherein the rich are safe and the poor are oppressed; is it really needed to push through with this? He says he values human lives, yet that was still the thing that comes to his mind.

Duterte asked the people to trust the administration in the fight against COVID-19 yet its been five months and there has been no clear-cut solution, and the one time that he could have redeemed himself by presenting a recovery map, he decided to set that aside for this politically charged nonsense. With Duterte’s incompetency for the past four years, and especially now, how would he expect the masses to trust him with just words? And no, the fact that no nation is unprepared cannot excuse him and his administration’s failure in adapting to what’s happening.  

In case the President is too ignorant, the problem right now isn’t about drugs, and it isn’t necessary to place armed forces on a pedestal for good governance, how will we progress with military and police forces being the ones receiving your co-sign? Newsflash, there is no need to put this sector in such high regard when there are other ones that deserve it, such as the health sector, which has been crucial especially in these trying times. 

This speech was far from an actual state of the nation address, this was nothing more but a more glorified and glamorized version of those late-night talks for the past few months, and it comes off as something that was made as if there was no pandemic. Mr. President, I challenge you to scrutinize; the economy is suffering, unemployment rates are high, people are struggling to get by every day, the country is in shambles. The last thing we want to see is you treating this yearly report as your therapy session.

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Opinion

Everyone has their own pace

Another chapter of my life has ended and here I am bravely entering the real world, as we know it.

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I’ve been in UST for seventeen years now and picking my dream program has got to be one of the greatest decisions I have made. Computer Science is one of my dream programs. However, during my stay at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Institute of Information and Computing Sciences (IICS) I did it in five years, instead of four. Am I happy? Not as much, as I feel like I did not do well in my program.

I was happy to see my batchmates during the live stream of the Baccalaureate Mass and their exit from the Arch of the Centuries in the previous year. At the same time, it made me realize that I should’ve been there as well, which left a hole in my heart and made me realize that I’m a failure. I considered myself as one because there is this unspoken pressure in finishing school immediately as the eldest child of the family. I also felt that I disappointed my parents. But I told myself that there’s nothing I can do but to keep moving forward. I wished I could turn back time to fix all the mistakes I’ve made.

During my senior year I decided to join a university-wide organization to help me step out of my comfort zone and expose myself to the my field in order to help me grow with the passion I have for Computer Science. After contemplating from the multitude of organizations the university has, I decided that I want to join TomasinoWeb. Upon joining TomasinoWeb, I was thrilled that I got to know more people from different colleges. By that time, I was unsure how I could help the organization. Luckily, one of my blockmates Ezekiel David, who was the former Chief Technology Officer, helped me out in the process. 

Before, I wasn’t really invested in the idea of an “org life” because my studies really got to me. A year have passed and the term was about to end. I was planning to apply for a part-time job since I am an irregular student and I have a few courses left which made me contemplate if I should renew my membership in TomasinoWeb and other organizations I was part of during that year. It then led me to a decision to stay in this organization because I wanted to experience the “org-life” and I because I feel that I can still grow my skills there. In the following year, I then became the Chief Technology Officer of TomasinoWeb

I got the opportunity to let myself grow and to lead people. Through TomasinoWeb, I had a second home which is the Tan Yan Kee Student Center Building and a second family with Core 12 and alumni as well. The organization gave me the growth I wanted and needed as well as friends along my journey in the university. What I really appreciate about TomasinoWeb is that it serves the people and it stands for the truth despite the risks.

Another chapter of my life has ended and here I am bravely entering the real world, as we know it.

Jon Errol Damias, TomasinoWeb outgoing Chief Technology Officer for PY 2019-2020

My final year made me realize that everything happens for a reason. It’s okay if you make mistakes, but you have to learn from it. It’s okay too if you grow differently, since everyone has their own pace. If some things do not come your way, just keep moving forward. My experiences in college has definitely been one crazy rollercoaster ride.

It would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to my beloved parents and my brother for their love, encouragement and, unbounded support and love.Without them, I am not who I am today.

I would like to thank my elementary, high school, and college instructors for educating me throughout my student life in UST. I will continue to uphold the Thomasian values you taught me.

To my college batchmates, Thank you for the 4-5 years of fun and excitement. I really look forward to the success that is waiting for us. I’m glad that I got to meet most of you guys in my time as a student.

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To my close friends from elementary until college, thank you for the patience and understanding especially during my tough times and the never ending support for every decision I make. 

To the TomasinoWeb Core 11 and Web Technologies team, thank you for accepting me to be part of the family and entrusting me to be part of Core 12.

To TomasinoWeb Core 12, thank you for a year of fun and spontaneous meetings. It made me feel that I have a second family. I am thrilled for the future of the next core leaders. Continue to uphold truth and justice inside and outside the university.

To Rabin, Joshua, and Ezekiel, thank you for the guidance and support you have given me during my term. 

To Trish and her friends, thank you for being part of my journey. I appreciate everything that you’ve done for me. I wish for the best for you guys.

Thank you UST for the wonderful seventeen years!

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Opinion

To lose is to gain

I do not aspire to be a walking accolade—I want to be part of the collective that changes the society for its betterment. TomasinoWeb is a part of that collective, and I hope they continue in doing so.

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Computer science students are expected to finish their undergraduate degree in four years—an expectation I failed to meet. However, it did not stop me from crossing the Arch of the Centuries in last year’s Baccalaureate Mass. 

Yes, you’ve heard it right. I crossed the monumental arch on a non-graduating year. 

Hindi ba ako takot ma-debar? Hindi ba ako natatakot na ma-extend lalo yung stay ko? Bakit hindi? Pakunswelo ko na lang ‘to sa sarili ko dahil madedelay din naman ako kahit hindi ako tumawid diyan. Siyempre, gusto ko din makasama yung mga kaibigan ko sa paglabas ko sa arch, kahit hindi pa ‘yun yung “official” bacc-mass para sakin.

I felt so sorry for myself. I considered myself a failure because I couldn’t give my best on an undergraduate program that I am not fully interested with. At some point, I thought that my father’s resources were wasted on someone who can’t excel academically. I barely survived every semester. I neglected every opportunity to shift into another program because I was scared of going back to square one.

Of course, I forced myself to adapt—I wouldn’t last five years in the University if I didn’t have the motivation to finish my degree just for the sake of “finishing”. The thought of barely passing each major subject is too much for me to handle. I can recall computing my grades instead of solving discrete math problems on a Finals exam, just to make sure that I can make it through the cut-off. 

I decided to join University-wide organizations during my sophomore year because I thought that exposure to different Thomasians might help me find myself in the process. When I joined TomasinoWeb, I wasn’t sure how I’ll fare within the organization. I wasn’t sure how I would fit within the organization’s standards, either. 

Halfway through my journey in the University, my sanity began to collapse. I committed irreversible mistakes. At the same time, my academic and extracurricular workload continued to increase. 

I started to question my position in the campus. Student-leadership began to inflict more harm than good. There are also people who took pleasure in lambasting my character and personality. I was called irrational due to the progressive beliefs I uphold. I was called a “novice” who wanted an iron grip in the highest room. Furthermore, holding a leadership position as an irregular student had my opinions debunked right away. 

In a room full of academically decorated student achievers and leaders, how do I even fare?

Rabin Bote, TomasinoWeb outgoing president for PY 2019-2020

Despite all of these, I persisted to serve and survive. I realized that my struggles as a student is maneuvered by an invisible wheel steered by systemic oppression. If I fail to challenge dominant narratives, then what purpose would I even serve? I do not aspire to be a walking accolade—I want to be part of the collective that changes the society for its betterment. TomasinoWeb is a part of that collective, and I hope they continue in doing so.

Giving up the Tan Yan Kee Student Center Building as my second home in the University sounds easy, but I simply can’t. Through TomasinoWeb, my orgmates and I were able to stand for the truth despite the risks. Hindi ako mapakali na manahimik sa sulok habang may kapwa-estudyante akong inaapi ng sistema. Kahit sa TomWeb man lang, maging boses kami mga para sa nakararami. Ika nga, kapag namulat ka na sa katotohanan, kasalanan na ang pumikit.

However, just like my journey in college, this article has to end.

I would like to express my utmost gratitude to all of my blockmates since first year. Finally, I can catch up with conversations filled with corporate slang and employment woes. Of course, I would also like to thank all of my close friends for staying despite my lapses as a friend. You know who you guys are.

To my college instructors and professors, thank you for your effort in educating me and my blockmates. Don’t worry, I’ll do my best to be less of a headache in the near future.

I would like to thank UST Computer Science Society for introducing me to the University and to the “org-life”. Although I did not pursue any executive board position in CSS, I remain indebted to the organization for its contribution to my overall growth.

I am grateful for my tenure as the corporate secretary of the Student Organizations Coordinating Council. I hope you can forgive me for being conflicted all the time.

To TomasinoWeb Core 10 and 11, thank you for bearing with me. I have learned a lot in my first two years of officership in the organization. Without the guidance of Julius Renomeron Jr. and Erica Ang, I could’ve been worse than that Rabin who accidentally deleted the organization’s alumni database. 

To TomasinoWeb Core 12, thank you for a year of spontaneous meetings and last-minute decisions. For those who chose to step up as core officers for the next academic year, I am optimistic that you can surpass what my term has achieved. I hope you guys can continue being beacons of truth and justice inside and outside the University.

To my father and my sister, thank you for supporting me in my five-year stay in the University. You are the cornerstone of my struggle. Your love and guidance helped me achieve what I have right now.

I have lost a lot in my stay at the University. I have nothing to lose but my undergraduate status.

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