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LGBT Org Strives for Recognition in UST

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FOR years, Thomasians have been struggling to create a legitimate organization that will cater to the needs of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community in the university.

Last 2013, HUE, a university-wide, unofficial organization, aims to spread awareness and acceptance for the Thomasian LGBT community.

“We want to make a difference in the way people perceive LGBTQIA people,” Bernice Caña, a member of HUE, said.

A Search for Acceptance

HUE is not the first LGBT organization to be established in the university. Around the 60s to 90s, there was also an unofficial organization named Tigresa Royal. Unfortunately, the group dissipated because of few members, thus no one maintained the organization.

HUE likes to represent the LGBT minority over the whole population of the Thomasian community. Considering how the subject of human sexuality is still an avoided topic due to cultural influences, the organization also likes to inform the Thomasians that there are other forms of sexuality out there.

“A lot of people aren’t aware that there are more than two genders, or that pansexuality, demisexuality and asexuality exists, just to name a few,” Caña said.

“We’ve been quiet for way too long,” she added.

HUE is hoping that through its establishment, LGBT discrimination in the campus will diminish. They want the Thomasians to be more aware that using words like “bakla” in derogatory terms is considered as unfair and hurtful to the LGBT group.

Thomasian View

A 3rd year student from the College of Fine Arts and Design (CFAD), who is part of the LGBT community, said that trying to be discreet for the benefit of those who are uninformed is useless and that it is time to stop the drama of offending the LGBT community.

“Having an official and abiding org for the LGBT community is a big move forward. Less hate, just more allies. Less confused, just more love,” she explained.

Before, when a person was considered as “sexually deviant”, he was shunned by the society. Now, at least, people are more tolerant of accepting those who are “different” from them.

Meanwhile, another 3rd year LGBT student from the College of Architecture believes that any effort to help the LGBT community to express their own ideals and aspirations is beneficial.

She is grateful that an organization like HUE exists to change the perspective of people in relation to the members of the LGBT. She thinks that giving the members of LGBT a chance to express themselves is essential to them as human beings.

“Personally, with the help of these organizations and groups, I was able to fully understand and accept myself. Years ago, I had no idea what I felt and I thought it was something wrong- a sin,” she said.

“We need to learn that they (LGBT) are no different from us, that we were born equal, and we shall also die as equals,” she added.

On the other hand, Riya Lee, a 3rd year Accountancy student, said that she is okay with the establishment of HUE.

“Okay lang naman sya for me. Wala din akong nakikitang mali,” Lee said.

She added that through this organization, LGBT students could find comfort and understanding. She also thinks that the establishment of HUE is also beneficial to the UST community.

“May friends kasi ako na gay and bi(sexual). Ayon, dahil sa kanila mas naging open-minded ako,” she explained.

A Voice for the LGBT

HUE was created as part of the former ACT (Alliance of Concerned Thomasians)-Now’s agenda. They reached out to similar organizations in the University of the Philippines (UP) Manila, where they had a counterpart political party. Hue refers to the colors of the rainbow, which is the symbol for the LGBT community.

The founders of HUE are Majann Lazo, student council president of the Faculty of Arts and Letters, and Noelle Capili, a member of Mediatrix, a university-wide organization for art enthusiasts.

Caña said, “Without them, HUE probably wouldn’t exist today. It’s all thanks to their efforts and ideas. They’re amazing and intelligent people and HUE is going to thrive because of them.”

Caña expressed that the formation of the group will add positivity to UST’s Catholic reputation. She stated that the existence of HUE will mean that UST is accepting the diversity of its student population and that it will be safe to speak of such issues within the campus.

“There is absolutely no reason for HUE’s existence to hurt the university’s reputation – again, it can only mean a much more positive representation for UST,” Caña added.

On the other hand, Lee is a bit more skeptical about it. She said that a lot of people will severely criticize the university for encouraging the formation of an LGBT organization, especially since UST is a Catholic University and the Catholic Church is quite strict when it comes to such matters.

However, she added that, “As Catholics, we must treat everyone with the respect they deserve.”

Photo By Brianna Cardenas

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The valedictorian molded by pressure

The path to the top of the CPA licensure examinations was surely exhausting, but Lahaira Reyes believes that all of that was part of her journey and without it, her goal would have never turned into an achievement.

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Photo by DMD Photography.

The path to the top of the CPA licensure examinations was surely exhausting, but Lahaira Reyes believes that all of that was part of her journey and without it, her goal would have never turned into an achievement.

For others, finding out that she topped the licensure exams was no surprise at all. As the valedictorian of the UST-AMV College of Accountancy Batch 2018, her family and friends were rooting for, if not expecting her, to arrive at the top. Reyes shared with TomasinoWeb the ups and downs of her journey.

Like every prospective CPA, she did everything in her power to prepare for the licensure exams.

“I think yung last sem po namin sa AMV, which is the Integrated Accounting Course (IAC), yung naging start ng preparation ko,“ she added, “kasi it is already a review of what we have studied since basic accounting, then naituloy nalang po sa review school.” As difficult as reviewing proved to be, adding to the pressure on her was the fact that she was about to take an exam that could change her life.

Time management was the hardest part for Reyes; considering the amount of topics that needed to be studied were far too many for the amount of time they had prior to the exam. Adding to that was the exhaustion from all the events following IAC: graduation, baccalaureate mass, birthdays, and other events. She couldn’t devote all her time to studying, and that was one of the many challenges that she had to face.Of course, she couldn’t just sit still and let this problem get in the way of achieving her goal, “What I did was to prioritize [sic] yung subjects na feel ko, maganda yung foundation ko ng basic knowledge then nagstart na ako sa mga bagong topics na di ko pa alam.”

Reyes was anxious over the fact that she would not be able to study all of the topics covered, especially ones that were only recently incorporated into the exam such as the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law, but she was reassured by her review school facilitators that it was normal for them not to finish everything. “[…] namili nalang ako ng reviewers na feel ko complete na siya ng basics and may konting twists din,” she stated.

Reviewing may have been hard, but staying motivated to pursue her goals proved harder. But Reyes couldn’t lose herself, not at a time like this. She needed a reason to continue, a motivation to keep herself together—her family. “To give back to them finally kapag may work na, then yung mga taong sumusuporta sa akin, kasi sobrang nakakataba po talaga ng puso knowing [that] many people are praying for you,” she explained, “kahit nakakapressure, nakakamotivate din po.”

Despite feeling unprepared and inadequate, Reyes knew she had to pull herself together, and found strength in those closest to her.

“Everytime na I open up to someone, lagi nilang sinasabi na sana wag ako madown kasi sila nga naniniwala sa akin na kaya ko so sana daw I also learn to believe in myself.”

Not only did she have her family to cheer her on, but her batchmates believed in what she could do and achieve. Why would she let herself be pulled down by her stress, if the people around her kept pulling her up? “Yung moral support talaga from the people yung nakakapagpush na magcontinue.”

And there it was, she was ready, even though in the back of her mind she had her fears and worries, she knew her family had her back. “After nung first exam, kinabahan talaga ako. Kasi ang daming erroneous questions so yung confidence naming examinees parang bumaba kasi hindi namin alam if hindi ba talaga namin makuha yung answers or mali lang talaga yung questions.” The anxiousness was there, and only intensified with each passing day getting closer to the examination results.

“First time ko super kabahan sa kung ano mang result kasi siguro this will really make a big difference in my life.” She couldn’t focus on other things, her mind kept thinking back to how well or how badly she did on the licensure exams. “I was studying for an international certification exam that I will take the next day while waiting for the results,” she explained, “But honestly, hindi din naman ako makafocus dun sa inaaral ko.” Her mind went from the best-case scenarios, to the worst ones, going from each one of them as she let the hours and days pass by, waiting for the results.

Reyes shared that she had waited from 7 PM to 12 AM waiting for the call from parents to hear about the results, hearing the clock tick from time to time. It seemed endless—the waiting and the overthinking. Then suddenly, the phone call that would change her life finally came. “I just can’t believe it, I screamed sa dorm out of happiness and excitement,” she exclaimed, “then after minutes, nagcall na yung mama ko then yung ibang members of my family, my friends to congratulate me.” At long last, all the anxiousness and fears in the back of her head vanished, as though her heart was released from being squeezed tightly.

The destination is usually the only thing seen by others, rather than the whole journey. Behind Reyes and her success, there were people who helped her achieve her goal and made her who she is today. “First, I want to thank my parents and my whole family for their endless support,” she listed, “then my professors sa AMV kasi kahit pinahirapan nila kami nung undergrad, it is all worth it naman.”

She also wanted to thank her facilitators in Review School of Accountancy (ReSA), “kasi they really helped me na mabawasan yung pressure, madagdagan yung confidence, and sa review talaga academically.” And finally, to her batchmates, for believing and cheering her on. She never saw them doubt her even once

“And of course, to put Lord for blessing me with all that I have today and for guiding me na makarating ako dito.” Thanks to them, all of them, Lahaira turned her dreams and goals, into an achievement—a reality.

But this doesn’t mean that Lahaira’s journey is coming to an end. Reaching her destination just serves as another starting line, the start of another journey. “I think the most important lesson I learned is to keep on going on, na failure will really be inevitable in our lives and we will have our own ups and downs,” she expressed, “Rejoice and pray when we receive something good. Cry, pray, then get up again when we fall down.” This is a lesson worth sharing, a lesson that she thinks everyone deserves to know, “Wag sana nating hayaan na ibaba pa tayo lalo ng failures and mistakes natin.”

After everything else, Reyes remains humble and keeps her faith in God, strong and undisturbed. Ups and downs are unavoidable—in fact, this is what makes up a journey. Being at the top doesn’t make her invincible, it just makes her a normal student, one who fights to reach her goal, who doesn’t let anything get in her way, but instead, motivates herself to continue and get up every time she falls down.

“Let us pray for the courage and strength to face each day, try again everyday hanggang sa marating na natin yung goals natin.”

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Akin Ako: How Teatro Tomasino offered new narratives for queer people through Singhap

For their 41st season, Teatro Tomasino showed Singhap: a three-play production that narrates the journey of finding one’s identity, of coming out in the open, and of being brave amidst terrible mishaps.

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Love is love, no matter what.

In times of destitution, we find ourselves gasping for air. It’s as if after a long period of isolation, after being silenced by an angry crowd with a thousand mean voices, do we find the need to sigh and finally say enough is enough.

Love is love, no matter what.

For their 41st season, Teatro Tomasino showed Singhap: a three-play production that narrates the journey of finding one’s identity, of coming out in the open, and of being brave amidst terrible mishaps.
This year they focused on self-realization and individuality as they plead for equality in a world that lacked acceptance, dedicating the production to the ones who are “quiet, remained quiet, silenced, and erased.”

Esprit de Corps (written by Auraeus Solito and directed by Ingrid Villamarin) tells the story of Sergeant Sarmiento, an aspirant to a position currently held by S3 Favila in his school’s CAT. It showed how abuse can happen anywhere and how it can become systematic and a norm. It is a sharp narrative encouraging victims to come out and cast their doubts, and fight back.

A.Y.L.I. (written by Cheska Marfori and directed by Iris Montesclaros), on the other hand, narrates the story of old friends who decided to meet-up one day to check on each other. As they began to dig up the past, revelations were unsealed by shouldn’t-have-beens. It is a subtle take on friendships and uncertainty–of sentences held back, of wars going on at the back of the throat, on banging heartbeats.

Lastly, Kublihan (written by Jerome Ignacio and directed by Eudes Garcia) is a story of childhood friends who met again after a long time. It is a narrative of coming-of-age and self-realization, teenage angst and the burden of unreachable expectations. It conveys something that only action could decipher because words are awkward and the message can never be articulated.

Singhap is not just a mere production or an introduction to a new season; it is an advocacy. It is offering new narratives for people who lived their lives in the shade, for those who are kept silent, in order to bring about a voice for the voiceless.

“[Ang produksyon na ito] ay para sa tahimik, pinatahimik, binura, nananahimik.. [at] gustong kumawala,” said Eudes Garcia, director. He then went further to acknowledge the strength in deciding to love despite the hate and the importance of knowing oneself.

Singhap is a bicker of hope–a rainbow after a storm; it is a light that gets you out of a cave, a fire that keeps your passion burning, and a shoulder to cry on. It is through these narratives that fear is cut loose in order to give way for wider acceptance. It is through these stories that people can finally feel included.

So that, eventually, people can say: Love is love, no matter what.

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The war against your own demons: the Thomasian MedTech boards topnotcher who prevailed against his own self

After almost losing himself in his perilous journey towards the MedTech boards, Lorenz Barro prevailed against all odds–and emerged to the top.

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Image from Lorenz Barro.

“Mami, number 1 po ako,” her tears came rushing down as we hugged each other tightly. At that moment, nothing else mattered as we sat there and I listened to her cry so much.

Lorenz Barro’s achievement in the recent Medical Technology Licensure Examinations surprised the whole University, after he led the roster with a 92.10 mark; making him this year’s topnotcher. While his triumph was widely celebrated by the whole Thomasian community, Lorenz sat down with TomasinoWeb to share the moments leading up to his victory.

“Even after days since the results, it still feels very unreal. As a very shy person, the sudden surge of attention is really shocking for me. It created this mixture of emotions: happiness, excitement, fear, etc. The fear mostly stems from the uncertainty of how much this major accomplishment will impact my life and what paths will open up,” shared Barro days after the results of the board exams were released.

The days of pacing back and forth in his room in anticipation and constantly being reminded by the motivational quote that says, ’Aim for Number One’, were over for Barro; after all, he is now the number one. But beneath this achievement, he shared that it was never an easy journey to get to where he is now.

“I had no intention of going to Med school and that gave me almost four months of study time. The first month went so well.  I made sure to dedicate myself to one subject each week. I listed and bought a lot of books and taped notes of lessons I kept forgetting on my wall. I had a plan that I followed diligently. I felt unstoppable, being able to finish whole subjects and even thick books in a short amount of time, including the reviewers given to us. However, burnout happened.”

Barro mentioned that he was enrolled in two review centers and finished neither of it. The pressure and the thought of not being able to live up to the expectations that were set for him started to get in his brain. Constant over-thinking that resulted to sleepless nights and this not only affected him intrapersonally, but interpersonally as well.

“That was the turning point where I went home to Batangas and started reflecting on what truly mattered most. I decided on self-review. I dedicated a long time finding myself again, taking it easy with walks to the park, video games, and deep conversations with various people. I felt so fortunate having supportive family and friends. We were able to find another psychiatrist nearby. All of these people saved me from self-destruction.”

This life-changing decision rebooted the preparation of Barro for the better and come September. He was regenerated and ready to face his greatest challenge yet. Weeks before the board exams, he had his game face on and a planner to help him keep track of his accomplishments.

“I made sure to also put time for rest. I felt unstoppable again, but this time not because of the pressure, but because I was surrounded by love and the constant reassurance that no matter what happens, I was loved.”

Leading the board exam was a passing thought for Barro. At times when he would dream that perhaps he can be the topnotcher, something inside him would tell him that there might be other people who really worked hard for the test. Despite of this thought, the perseverance that Barro exhibited is commendable— and that is the reason why Barro is truly the crème de la crème of the board.

“During that evening waiting for the results, I kept walking back and forth in anticipation. The days prior to the expected release of results I was actually very calm. I wasn’t fearful because I was confident that I did well enough to pass. However, as soon as the big day came and I saw someone post the link of the PRC website, my anxiety levels went straight up,” said Barro.

This anxiety almost made him not see the results of the board but the messages of salutations made him curious; lifting the serotonin out of his system, “I was alone in my room when I immediately opened the PRC website. At that moment I saw my name on the list of passers. However, my body was still shaking because I then saw that there was a separate link for the list of topnotchers. I was still hoping that MAYBE I could at least barely make it to the list. As soon as I clicked it and saw my name on the top of the list, I was hit by this wave of pure shock as I stared at my laptop screen,” he said.

But unlike other heart-melting triumph story, Barro gave TomasinoWeb the privilege to relive the exact moment when his mother found out the results.

“I quickly went outside to my mom. She hasn’t refreshed the PRC site on her own laptop yet. When I came up to her and she excitedly asked if I passed, I just nodded and silently gestured her to come to my room. I was too stunned to speak. I could see it in her eyes that she knew something was up.”

“It was the first time she saw me so speechless. As soon as I showed my laptop screen and said, “Mami, number 1 po ako,” her tears came rushing down as we hugged each other tightly. At that moment nothing else mattered as we sat there and I listened to her cry so much. I saw that more and more people started to congratulate me on FB. My mom started making calls: waking up my sister, calling my dad, my grandparents, close friends, etc. It was such a bizarre experience.”

Looking back, Barro has exemplified his belief that any task, no matter how miniscule, should be done well and passionately, “I am usually a lazy, laid-back person (my family can confirm this), but the moment something sparks my interest, I become this different person who goes all out to achieve something,” he said.

Barro’s story is a proof that achievements are made slowly; they don’t happen in a blink of an eye nor in a day’s work. Yes, there would be ups and downs along the way and yes, life may get us down, but as long as we persevere towards it we gradually make the impossible, its antipode.

“Love yourself and have confidence in your abilities. We tend to become our own worst enemy and this self-doubt hinders us from becoming the best version of ourselves. Never compare yourself with the achievements of others. You are you and you create your own story,” says Barro to his fellow thomasians.

“Pursue your passions. Always remind yourself why you do what you are doing each day. Examine what drives you, what keeps that flame inside you burning despite the challenges that try to blow it away,” he further added, “Don’t just merely illuminate, but rather, ignite.”

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