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Are our twenties on hold?

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The pandemic has created a huge shift in all working environments. Schools, offices, and other institutions and agencies had to adapt to the new normal in order to continue operations, turning to an online setup despite the number of limitations it presents to its users. In lieu of personal, face-to-face meetings, modern technology redefined the essence of social interaction through its online video call platforms, where people can “gather” and hold classes, meetings, workshops, hangouts, and even parties. As human beings are naturally social creatures; such contraptions of modernity hold utmost significance at a time where being social in real life is discouraged—but at what cost?

As the pandemic drags on, Thomasians continue to feel the brunt of its prolonged stay in their lives. With the quarantine hitting its one-year mark and no definite conclusion yet on sight, virtual life is all they could invest in—an option that stretches these young adults too thin with regards to exploring their youth, starting their careers, and altogether building their future. In this light, Thomasians shared with TomasinoWeb their thoughts and experiences on facing the pandemic in their twenties. 

For Psychology junior Alexa Aurellano, the pandemic peaked her Asian eldest daughter problems. “It’s hard to juggle the online classes as a college student, as a daughter sa bahay, and bilang older sister sa kapatid. The responsibilities are twice as hard unlike before.” 

She dwells on the life she’s missing as the pandemic continues to overstay its welcome. “I believe that twenties should be the age where a person should enjoy his or her life, like live life to the fullest and start establishing yourself pero with the pandemic it’s impossible. As simple as meeting my friends, eh, limited. The things we took for granted pre-pandemic…parang there’re a lot of regrets.”

In the context of changing perspectives for the future, Chemical engineering junior Miyami Tamaki laments the plans that got cancelled as the pandemic forges on. “To be honest, parang dumadalas na ‘yung pag-question ko sa life everyday dahil lang sa sitwasyon ngayon. Feel ko wala na tayo mapatutunguhan at mamamatay na lang tayong lahat. Nakakalungkot kasi ang daming cancelled plans for the upcoming years such as OJTs, gala with friends, family bonding, atyung plan ko na puntahan si Civri [her partner], tapos nawala lang bigla.”

Aurellano shares the same sentiment as she relays how uncertain she is of her future. “I really want to enter med school pero if online class pa rin, nakakawalang-gana kasi mahirap matuto and most likely it’s self-study. We’ll be paying expensive tuition fees tapos ‘di naman sulit. Parang nakakahiya na sa parents mag-demand ng ganun.” 

She goes on to explain how different the employment landscape will be for her and her batchmates in other colleges as well, especially with the upcoming surge of fresh graduates with no actual on-the-job (OJT) experience. “I feel like finding a job once I graduate would be hard knowing na down ang economy and that many businesses are laying off their employees. I also feel like recruiters or human resource officers wouldn’t really hire new employees who graduated online as wala namang OJT experience.”

Some would say being in your twenties is being in your selfish years—a decade meant for investing in yourself and immersing yourself in new surroundings; exploring the world and the options it offers for your future, meeting new people, building and strengthening connections, and taking the first steps toward full-fledged “adulting”. For Thomasians in their twenties, it’s a time for making the most out of the years left in their college lives and all its ups and downs: all-nighters (whether for thesis or parties), spontaneous trips, and drinks out with friends after classes, internships, graduation jitters, and the likes. But with the pandemic robbing them of these essential college experiences, it becomes a race against time. 

Creative Writing major Lance Angelo upon reflecting on how to move forward from this ordeal, says: “Maraming nagbago sa paningin ko para sa kinabukasan ko at sa mga gusto kong gawin pagkatapos mag-aral. Bukod pa dun, sadyang criticism at pagbabago talaga sa mga authority ang kailangan natin para maayos ‘yung kinabukasan natin.

Tolerating hard limits has also become a new normal during the pandemic. With everything going on, Thomasians still have to make room for their academics in the midst of a crisis that surpasses mere health concerns and greatly affects social, political, and economic spheres––such is the concern for Angelo. 

Pagdating sa online class, mahirap siya as a limit, but we have no choice eh, sana lang maging mas maayos ang pag-handle ng schoolworks and requirements, though understandable since we’re new to this, but it’s been a year so at least sana may pagbabago.”

Tamaki has also voiced her concerns about the hard limits she eventually learned to tolerate in her changed curriculum. “Super ibang-iba siya sa face-to-face set up, and ang scary kasi if nag-board exam kami bakadi enough ‘yung gantong learning. Kaya kahit online classes, I make sure na everytime na may synchronous class, dapat lagi ako nakakapag-notes kahit ‘yung mga important details lang para ma-keep track ko if babalikan ko.” 

When it comes to restricted physical interactions and emotional independence, Aurellano expressed how she adjusted her needs to cope with the current situation by becoming more sensitive to how her peers are carrying just as much baggage as she is. “As someone na gusto ng socializing, I have to make do with online catch-ups kahit mahirap kasi I really miss hugging my friends, going to milk tea shops, movie marathons, and overnights. I also have to deal with everything myself, like if I have problems, instead of opening up sa iba mas okay na lang na i-keep ‘yun kasi less hassle and feeling ko nakaka-bother ako ng iba since they’re also dealing with their own problems.”

Family matters have also been a hard limit to grow accustomed to, as not everyone’s respective household environments are conducive for learning. For Tamaki, who is currently working while having online classes to help lessen her family’s financial problems, the prolonged lockdown has put a toll on their family dynamics. “’Pag matagal mo na kasi sila nakakasama na kayo-kayo lang, maraming lumalabas na toxicity. Pero ayun, habang tumatagal naman, we eventually tolerated each other and natuto kami mag-adjust sa isa’t isa.

Nakaka-miss ‘yung feeling bago pa mag-pandemic,” Angelo says as he looks back on the mundane things he used to do that posed no risk as opposed to now. “’Yung simpleng risk of going out ‘di natin alam baka mamaya naapektuhan na tayo, so talagang extra careful dapat.”

With everyone trying to get by amidst a global crisis that has inevitably robbed millions of people of their livelihoods, stability, and future, Angelo remains most vigilant of the people who contribute to this misfortune and calls for others to do the same. “Maraming kamalian ang na-expose dahil sa sitwasyon natin ngayon, sana lang ang tao ay wag na magbulag-bulagan kasi sila rin naman apektado.”

Our twenties is a decade supposedly meant for making mistakes and learning from them, collecting experiences and lessons as we go on to greener pastures. It is a period of our lives that ironically promises both freedom and responsibility as we bask in a time of self-exploration. Under the current circumstances, however, the challenge of living a “fulfilling life” is heightened by such a large, seemingly unmovable hindrance. As everyone grapples with this, young people in their twenties continue to wonder: will they run out of time? 

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AB org? How two Artlet graduates conquered the UST org life

Although a myriad of degree holders share the same story annually, the two went beyond the pursuit of academic learning.

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Batch 2021 Faculty of Arts and Letters graduates Loreta Arroyo (left) and Miguel Punzalan (right) from the program of Journalism and Communication

Before their awaited virtual graduation wrapped up another milestone for them on Friday, July 30, Loreta Arroyo and Miguel Punzalan were struck with nostalgia as they approached the end of their stay in the University to become newly declared Thomasian graduates.

Although a myriad of degree holders share the same story annually, the two went beyond the pursuit of academic learning.

Arroyo and Punzalan, two recent graduates from the Faculty of Arts and Letters (AB), upheld extracurricular duties as organization executives while enduring academic responsibilities as students. In the end, they did not only graduate with flying colors, but they also became holders of cherished memories beyond the four corners of the classroom.

Arroyo, UST Journalism Society’s former president, reminisced on her memorable experiences as a student leader, especially on her first leadership training seminar in July 2019.

“I got to meet a lot of [student leaders] [and] marami pala sa kanila [ang] kagaya ko na aligaga [at] loka-loka […] yung mga taong may ugali na talagang nag l-lead because of the passion to lead, not because of the titles,” Arroyo, who is also a Cum Laude graduate, told TomasinoWeb.

She also shared a touching reminiscence of her time with AB’s Board of Majors. She defined their relationship as something that is “united above everything.”

“These are the people na sobrang mahal ko talaga, na sobrang grabe yung wholesomeness nila,” she said.

Apart from the memories they’ve made over their four-year stay at the institution, they’ve established a great attachment to it and its people, prompting them to serve not for themselves but for the sake of their promised oath.

Punzalan, the former president of the Tomasian Media Circle of Talents (TOMCAT), admitted that serving an organization is not always convenient as students have to endure academic and organizational responsibilities simultaneously.

Despite these, the communication graduate said that an organization’s established rapport helps students ease the pressure and distress.

“With the help of the organization, you can at least somehow relieve the stress by doing the stuff you like,” Punzalan, who is also the Benavides Outstanding Award recipient of the academic year, said in an interview with TomasinoWeb. “I usually work for TOMCAT lang, and everything just goes in place,” he added.

Conquering the difficulties

Arroyo found it challenging to juggle all of her obligations at the same time in senior year, making it the most challenging phase in her university life.

Apart from managing her thesis and internship, she also had to look out for her constituency as a student leader.

Last August 2020, she met with her co-members in the UST Journalism Society to prepare for the freshmen week event, all while having to comply with a meeting with her internship supervisors later that day.

“Imagine how hard I have to multitask, halos mangiyak-ngiyak ako nung mga panahon na yun kasi sobrang hirap talaga,” Arroyo said.

Like what Arroyo experienced, Punzalan also acknowledged that he faced difficulties during his presidency in TOMCAT. The difference was that students had to transition from face-to-face to online learning, which limited the number of events the organization could host.

“The shift [from on-site] to digital is really something else [and] we came in unprepared,” he said.

Arroyo echoed this sentiment, who found that the lack of personal communication affected her relationship with her colleagues. According to her, sincerity through online messages is not always conveyed or translated well.

“[S]a online na not everyone is available all the time, it sounds so robotic,” Arroyo said.

To prevent that from happening, she had to make herself available all the time, not only for her org mates but also to other students who see her as an ‘ate.’

Concurrently, Punzalan’s way to connect with his members is by conducting frequent online kumustahans or kulitans, a monthly or weekly meeting for the organization to check each other’s well-being.

“I think that it’s really an effective way of bridging the gap of what the digital setup did during this term,” he said.

From rookies to leaders

Punzalan said a key element to achieving his goals is to “never start what you cannot finish.”

“It’s cliché as it seems, but it’s a process. You don’t just get something nang basta-basta lang,” he said.

Likewise, Arroyo asserted there will always be failures and disappointments, which is fine in the long run. For her, it is essential to detach oneself from the fear of being a rookie.

“You will be a rookie, and you have to learn how to be a master in whatever comes your way, tsaka ka pa lang gagaling, tsaka ka pa lang makaka-achieve ng perfection,” she added. 

Now that she already graduated, she wondered if she made enough memories as a Thomasian.

“I-enjoy niyo ang bawat araw or bawat month na nasa UST kayo, ‘wag kayong magmadali kasi sobrang bilis lang ng mga pangyayari, and if mamadaliin niyo, you won’t create as much memories as you would like,” she said.

As a last piece of advice from Punzalan to aspiring Thomasian student leaders, he said that they should serve for the sake of the University.

“Mahalin niyo rin yung UST,” he said. “It really starts [with] your love for the university and for its people.”

With their degrees, the two AB graduates are currently employed in their respective fields. Punzalan now works as a Performance Marketing Specialist at the Universal McCann, while Arroyo is employed as a Multimedia Specialist and writer for Edukasyon.ph.

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Thomasian K-pop fan treats Foodpanda rider on Korean artist’s birthday

“This proves that K-pop is more than that crazy idolatry, massive fanaticism, immature fan wars, and all other misconceptions,” the K-pop fan said. “[It] can also be a tool for kindness to prosper.”

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Journalism senior Jade Veronique Yap treated a Foodpanda rider during the birthday of a K-pop idol. Screengrab provided by Yap.

Most K-pop fans are thrilled to splurge on music albums and other fandom merch. But on the special day of one of the industry’s idols, a Thomasian fan decided to do something different.

Jade Veronique Yap, a journalism senior, was excited about celebrating Lee Taeyong’s birthday, a member of the South Korean boy group Neo Culture Technology (NCT). To commence her first mini-celebration for the event, she placed an order on Foodpanda, a local food delivery app.

The order was not for herself but for the rider and his family.

On July 1, the 20-year-old K-pop enthusiast posted a screenshot of her conversation with the rider on Twitter, referencing Lee’s kindness as the main inspiration for the act. Knowing that giving him a tangible gift would be nearly impossible, she chose to help other people as a present to her idol.

“As his fan, I wanted to live with his purpose of making people happy and doing good deeds,” Yap told TomasinoWeb.

Yap originally wanted the food delivery driver to take the food home for his family. But considering that it was already around 8 p.m, the driver preferred to just share the food with the rest of the riders who were with him.

K-pop for a cause

Yap has been looking up to K-pop idols who use their platforms to spread kindness, such as Jaemin of NCT and Siwon of Super Junior, who both worked for the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF).

As a K-pop fan, she desires to do the same.

“K-pop idols and fans are like mirrors. [We] reflect each other,” Yap said. 

It was not the first time she reached out to others with her enthusiasm for K-pop.

Even before she treated the Foodpanda rider, Yap already initiated her first fundraising event titled #SeeYouThereSeeYouSoonYJH for one of her favorite K-pop groups, HIGHLIGHT, last year. The drive was especially dedicated to its member, Yong Jun Hyung, as a gift for their 11th debut anniversary.

The donation drive garnered warm responses from the fandom, and its total funds were distributed to three charities: World Vision, UNICEF, and One Tree Plant Foundation.

Aside from this, Yap also organized her second donation drive amid the impact of Typhoon Ulysses. She used the collected funds to buy relief goods which she sent to a family in Marikina City.

“This proves that K-pop is more than that crazy idolatry, massive fanaticism, immature fan wars, and all other misconceptions,” she said. “[It] can also be a tool for kindness to prosper.”

Helping through K-pop

Yap said that the act of helping is common in the K-pop fan culture, may it be in a fandom setting or for larger adversities outside the community.

“We are more than willing to help our country at least cope up in these trying times,” she said.

According to Yap, the costly lifestyle of a K-pop fan is not a barrier for the community to help other people. She said that they are also willing to contribute to donation drives or anything that would benefit the majority.

“We are united not only in supporting our favorite artist but in helping our kababayan too,” she said.

After her encounter with the food delivery rider, Yap felt nothing but joy knowing that she got to extend good deeds to others.

“I know it’s just a small amount of food, but I’m just happy to share this little act of kindness [with] other people,” she said.

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Pride in identities: neopronouns venturing the English language

Neopronouns emerged as one of the many language reforms catering to identity expressions that do not adhere to gender representation, deviating from the common binary pronouns such as “he/him” and “she/her.”

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(Artwork by Bernard Louis Garcia/TomasinoWeb)

With the half of 2021 opening upon the entrance of June, internet natives have sparked conversations revolving around gender identity and new linguistic innovations in pronouns to honor this year’s Pride month.

No, it’s not just the standard narrative about non-binary pronouns like “they/them,” but something deeper.

Apart from these conventional gender-neutral pronouns, neopronouns emerged as one of the many language reforms catering to identity expressions that do not adhere to gender representation, deviating from the common binary pronouns such as “he/him” and “she/her.”

According to a New York Times article, neopronouns may vary from created words like “ze” and “zir” that function as a pronoun without indicating gender to pre-existing terms such as animals and mythical creatures like “bun/bunself,” “kitten/kittenself,” “vamp/vampself,” etc.

Even before the pandemic, John Paulo Hererra, a professor in the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Faculty of Arts and Letters’ English Department, said he frequently heard about neopronouns as a member of the LGBTQ and academic communities.

“I’ve read articles about it; I have friends who are currently using it, not just for aesthetic purposes but also for identity,” he told TomasinoWeb.

But it is not all about gender identity, said Herrera. These pronouns are also used by “neurodivergent” people, such as people with Asperger’s syndrome and autism, to get around their complicated relationship with gender identity and expression.

“[I]t’s also now about finding something, or object, or person, or whatever that you feel connected with, and then you identify yourself as such,” Herrera said.

Prof. Rachelle Lintao, the incumbent chair of the UST Department of English, noted that neopronouns are particularly noticeable in a virtual setting.

“I first came across the use of neopronouns on Twitter and during online meetings when people would include in their social media handles and Zoom names of those neopronouns,” Lintao told TomasinoWeb.

‘Creative, innovative, and liberating language’

“It mirrors language [usage] to serve their purpose of inclusivity, of providing space to the marginalized members of the society,” said Lintao, who is also the Philippines’ Country Representative for Clarity, an international plain language association.

With new spectrums in language, Lintao believes that neopronouns denote the creative ways humans use language in a progressive society.

Although neopronouns somehow altered the language spectrum, Lintao does not see it as a complication in the field. Many complex changes have already materialized for centuries, creating the English language people know today.

“There is no such thing as over-complication of the English language,” she said. “People will  definitely adapt to these changes given their ability to use language.”

Herrera, being a language enthusiast, emphasized that the use of neopronouns is more of an innovation than a complication, given the dynamic nature of language.

“[I]t’s innovating [the] use of English language, and I’m big on innovations,” he said.

More than the creativity neopronouns entail, UST Hiraya’s director for gender equity Rozene Adremesin sees the concept as a part of the LGBTQ community’s continuous movement for liberation.

“The use of neopronouns validates and honors their identity and expression,” Adremesin said, who is also an incoming English Language Studies (ELS) junior.

Meanwhile, Marianne Manalo, the incumbent president of the UST English Language Studies Society, believes that neopronouns promote everyone’s preference.

“I think it’s really revolutionary and parang nagiging way siya to accept everyone’s identity,” Manalo told TomasinoWeb.

Problems in innovation

The acceptance of neopronouns is not without flaws and could be regarded with apathy.

“[P]eople could use it to mock or disrespect and use it without any knowledge at all,” Adremesin explained.

This issue has already surfaced. According to Herrera, people on social media have been “joining the bandwagon” and using causes such as Black Lives Matter (BLM) to create neopronouns like “BLMself.”

“[T]hat’s going to offend people that belong to [a certain community] or [stand] with that advocacy,” Herrera stressed.

Having people utilize it solely for aesthetic reasons is also a problem to observe, according to Herrera and Adremesin.

“[Using neopronouns only for aesthetic] defeats its purpose of representing a person’s identity,” Adremesin stated.

Neopronouns in the academe

As a new notion in language, academic studies and publications have yet to acknowledge neopronouns in the field of English, particularly in a Philippine English setting.

However, unpublished studies about neopronouns are “already in the works,” he asserted, as the subject matter is slowly being introduced to students from diverse levels across various institutions, even to ELS undergraduates at UST.

But on a typical campus day, the gender-neutral pronoun culture is alive and growing in the University.

While working with UST Hiraya, the first feminist organization in the University, Manalo stated that they pay high regard to pronouns in emails, where they address people with “Mx” instead of “Ms./Mr.” when the gender of the recipient is unknown.

In a Thomasian classroom setting, Herrera would also see his students invested in the discourse of neopronouns when the topic emerges in their lectures.

“I think it’s becoming a trend also in the academic community who are very much knowledgeable about the topic,” he said.

The future of neopronouns

Neopronouns still have a long way to maintain sustainability, and it will not happen overnight, Herrera said. But with thorough research, he believes that people in the academe like him can educate people about the matter and eventually have it entirely accepted in society.

“Again, we go back to educating them,” he said.

As a call for inclusivity, neopronouns will be indeed be sustained in the future, according to Lintao.

“Given that language and society are inseparable, as people may clamor for equality and inclusivity, then such use of neopronouns may legitimize,” Lintao said.

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