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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.

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“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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Unang taon bilang Tomasino sa ilalim ng pandemya, isang mapanglaw na katotohanan?

“Iba yung happiness, yung excitement, if it’s really in person that you’d be able to cheer and experience the spirit of the Thomasian community,” saad ni Pascual sa TomasinoWeb.

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Litrato ni Abbie Vinluan/TomasinoWeb

“Ma, nakapasok na ako sa Arch!”

Iyan ang mga salitang nasambit ng BS Psychology freshman na si Reigne Carla Pascual sa kanyang ina nang live niyang mapanood sa Facebook ang mga mistulang taong bloke na tumatawid sa Arch of the Centuries sa Minecraft.

Bagama’t isa nang ganap na Tomasino si Pascual, naiisip pa rin niya na mas makabuluhan sana ang kanyang karanasan kung sa personal ito naganap.

“Iba yung happiness, yung excitement, if it’s really in person that you’d be able to cheer and experience the spirit of the Thomasian community,” saad ni Pascual sa TomasinoWeb.

Si Pascual ay isa lamang sa 7,772 Tomasinong freshmen na kabilang sa ikalawang Minecraft Thomasian Welcome Walk noong ika-5 ng Agosto. Tulad niya, mayroon pa ring ibang mag-aaral na nakararamdam ng panghihinayang dulot ng posibilidad na sa online na lamang gaganapin ang mga susunod na pagdiriwang ng kanilang unang taon sa Unibersidad. 

Kawalan ng ‘excitement’

Tulad ni Pascual, naniniwala rin si Samantha Gayle Sindico, isang BS Pharmacy freshman, na mas masaya sana kung ginanap ito nang face-to-face.

“I believe it would be more fun and memorable if we could actually walk through the arch and celebrate the experience with our fellow Thomasians,” saad ni Sindico.

Ganoon rin ang pahayag ni Alliesa Tan na isang BS Accountancy freshman. Ayon sa kanya, iba ang magiging karanasan ng kanyang mga kapwa freshmen kung sa Unibersidad sila mismo pumapasok. 

Bago ang naturang kaganapan, inamin ni Pascual na hindi niya masyadong inabangan ang pagdating ng okasyon. 

Honestly, walang that much excitement,” pahayag ni Pascual, na dati ring mag-aaral ng UST Senior High School (SHS).

Para sa kanya, kahit na buhay ang interaksyon sa live video, hindi pa rin niya naiwasang malungkot dahil wala siyang pisikal na kasama para ipagdiwang ang bagong kabanata ng kanilang mga buhay.

Limitadong espasyo sa server

Ayon sa mga nakapanayam, limitado lamang sa isang kinatawan kada block section ang maaaring makadalo sa server ng UST Minecraft. Ang mga natitirang mag-aaral ay inanyayahan lamang na manood ng live broadcast sa Facebook.

Isa si Pascual sa mga hindi nakadalo sa server at nanood na lamang sa live video nito. Ngunit kung bibigyan ng pagkakataong makapasok sa server, sinabi ni Pascual na dadalo siya.

“It would still be exciting to go through it kahit virtual,” saad ni Pascual.

Sa sitwasyon ni Julia Angela Padilla, isang BS Speech-Language Pathology freshman, wala sa kanyang hilig ang Minecraft at wala rin siyang access dito.

“Hindi ako naglalaro ng Minecraft at wala rin akong app nito sa aking pc,” pahayag niya.

Noon at ngayon

Bago pa man ang pandemya, naranasan na ni Pascual ang UST Roarientation events o ALAB para sa mga Grade 11 SHS noong 2019. Bagama’t hindi sila kabilang sa mga tumawid sa kilalang Arch of the Centuries, dama pa rin niya ang saya ng karanasang iyon.

“Sobra po yung feeling, parang sobrang overwhelming na maririnig mo yung sabay-sabay kayong nag ‘g-Go USTe! Go USTe,’” aniya.

Hindi rin naranasan ni Tan na tumawid sa Arch of the Centuries noong siya ay nasa UST SHS pa lamang. Kaya naman umasa rin siyang magaganap ang Welcome Walk ng kanilang batch nang personal.

“Inaasahan ko noon na magkaroon ng pagkakataon na maganap ang event na ito [nang] face-to-face dahil hindi ko ito naranasan noon nung SHS,” wika ni Tan. 

Kaya naman para kay Pascual, tila “robbed by the pandemic and the government” ang kanilang karanasan bilang mga Tomasinong freshmen.

Gayunpaman, mahalaga para sa kanya ang maging matatag at maangkop sa sitwasyon.

“[W]e’re already here, we’re already in the middle of it and we have no choice but to learn to adapt,” aniya.

Pagsisikap ng Unibersidad

Sa kabila ng lungkot, hanga si Pascual sa ipinamalas na paghahanda ng Unibersidad at mga taong parte ng proyekto upang maging posible ang Minecraft Thomasian Welcome Walk.

Pinapahalagahan din niya ito sapagkat kahit papaano, naparamdam nito sa kanya ang mainit na pagtanggap ng Unibersidad.

“[K]ahit na hindi po siya same nung sa traditional, [we are] still able to have that memory that we’ve passed through the Arch of the Centuries kahit virtual lang,” saad ni Pascual.

Isa rin si Sindico sa mga namangha sa ginawa ng UST. Aniya, kahit na birtwal lamang ang mga susunod pa niyang karanasan bilang isang freshman, malugod niya pa ring inaabangan ang mga hinahandang sorpresa para sa mga bagong Tomasino. 

I can truly say that no one does it like UST,” pahayag niya.

Gayunpaman, umaasa pa rin si Pascual na balang araw ay mararanasan niya at ng kanyang mga kapwa freshman ang face-to-face classes sa Unibersidad.

“Iba yung pakiramdam, iba yung saya,” wika niya.

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Balik eskwela sa gitna ng pandemya: Paano naghahanda ang mga Tomasino?

Bagama’t isang taon na ang nakalilipas mula nang sumabak ang milyon-milyong mag-aaral sa virtual learning, hirap pa ring sumabay ang ilan dito, dahilan para gumawa sila ng kani-kanilang paraan ng paghahanda para sa panibagong panuruang taon.

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Litrato ni Vince Imperio/TomasinoWeb

Hindi para sa lahat ang online classes.

Ito ang pahayag ni Mia Ysaiah Pechon, isang College of Information and Computing Sciences freshman sa Unibersidad ng Santo Tomas, tungkol sa papalapit na bagong panuruang taon na gaganapin muli sa ilalim ng flexible learning setup.

“I, too, [have] experienced difficulties and stress throughout a year of online classes,” saad ni Pechon sa isang panayam sa TomasinoWeb.

Bagama’t isang taon na ang nakalilipas mula nang sumabak ang milyon-milyong mag-aaral sa virtual learning, hirap pa ring sumabay ang ilan dito, dahilan para gumawa sila ng kani-kanilang paraan ng paghahanda para sa panibagong panuruang taon.

Para maghanda, kinikilala na ni Pechon ang kanyang mga kaklase at inaalam na rin niya ang sakop ng aralin ng kanyang kurso upang hindi siya mangapa pagdating ng ika-12 ng Agosto.

Tulad ni Pechon, isa rin sa paghahandang ginagawa ni Kirov Vonne Conception, isang mag-aaral mula sa College of Engineering, ang pag-aayos ng kanyang mga gawain. 

Ayon sa kanya, mahalagang maging organisado pagdating ng panibagong taon sa ilalim ng online class.

Ngunit sa kabila ng mga paghahandang ito, idiniin niyang hindi na niya masyadong inaabangan ang mga tradisyon sa Unibersidad, tulad Paskuhan at Agape, dahil isinasagawa lamang ito online.

“Kung face-to-face sana, some of the things na I [look forward] to [are] the course itself [and the] new friends I will meet,” saad ni Conception sa TomasinoWeb.

ECQ vs. Edukasyon

Para sa ibang mga Tomasino, malaki ang epekto ng pansamantalang pagsuspinde ng face-to-face na klase sa Unibersidad, lalo na sa mga mag-aaral na kinakailangang magsagawa ng mga aralin sa laboratoryo.

Isa na rito si Kayla Nadine de Guzman, isang mag-aaral mula sa College of Nursing, na sabik inabangan ang kanyang pag-duty sa ospital na naudlot kasunod ng muling pagsasailalim ng Metro Manila sa Enhanced Community Quarantine noong ika-6 ng Agosto.

Dama niya ang pagkalungkot nang muling ipagpaliban ng Unibersidad ang pisikal na klase para sa mga mag-aaral sa larangan ng medisina dahil sa tumataas na kaso ng bagong Delta Variant ng COVID-19 sa bansa.

“We’re not really doing the skill that is required because again, it’s all virtual. So, it’s actually [hard] to perform the skill that’s needed for us [to do],” saad in de Guzman sa TomasinoWeb

Dahil rito, kailangan nilang gumamit ng clay para bumuo ng mga parte ng katawan na gagamitin para sa online class

Dagdag pa ni De Guzman, iba pa rin ang karanasan noong face-to-face classes kung saan nakahanda na ang mga dummies para sa kanila at kanilang isinasagawa ang mga  return demonstration sa harap mismo ng kanilang clinical instructors.

Kaya naman ngayong nalalapit na pasukan, ang paghahandang ginagawa ni De Guzman ay ang paglalaan ng ilang linggong bakasyon upang magpahinga.

“[It exhausts] your mental health and it drains you physically and mentally even if we’re just doing it virtually,” aniya.

Dagdag niya, nagpasya siyang unahin na muna ang kanyang sariling kalagayan at gamitin ang nalalabing araw upang makihalubilo sa kanyang pamilya.

Sa pagbuo naman ng koneksyon sa blockmates at block facilitators itinuon ng College of Architecture freshman na si Szjekinah Bathan ang kanyang paghahanda para sa nalalapit na pasukan.

If ever I can’t get through it alone, I can always ask for help [from] them,” saad ni Bathan sa TomasinoWeb.

Inaasahan din ni Bathan na magiging mahirap ang kanyang pag-adjust sa kolehiyo dahil sa online setup. Naniniwala siya na ang paggawa ng mga plates ang kanyang magiging pinakamalaking pagsubok.

Pagiging organisado at pursigido

Para naman kay Richel Delos Angeles, isang estudyante ng College of Rehabilitation Sciences (CRS), noong buwan ng Hunyo lamang siya nagbakasyon dahil sa pre-internship seminar ng kanilang kolehiyo na nagsimula nitong Hulyo.

Maikli man, maituturing ni Delos Angeles na produktibo pa rin naman siya sa kanyang paghahanda.

“I started downloading organizer apps and designed my planner for daily, weekly, and monthly tasks,” saad ni Delos Angeles sa TomasinoWeb.

Ibinahagi rin niya na gumawa siya ng desktop wallpaper kung saan naka ayos ang kanyang mga aralin.

Para kay Delos Angeles, makatutulong ang pagbabasa niya ng readings at reviewers araw-araw bago ang nalalapit na pasukan. Tuwing katapusan ng linggo, nag-aaral rin ang CRS senior para sa National Medical Admission Test (NMAT) na gaganapin sa Nobyembre.

Puno naman ang schedule ni James Briggs Ortega na isang psychology senior sa College of Science dahil sa On-the-job Training (OJT) na ginawa niya nitong bakasyon. Naging abala rin siya sa data gathering para sa kanyang magiging thesis

Ayon kay Ortega, na siya ring kasalukuyang pangulo ng UST Psychology Talent Pool, ang pagiging abala niya nitong nakaraang dalawang buwan ay maituturing niyang “work mode.” Binigyan siya nito ng momentum para maghanda sa paparating na pasukan.

Magiging abala man sa mga responsibilidad bilang mag-aaral at pangulo ng kanilang organisasyon si Ortega, hindi niya nakalilimutang ibigay ang kanyang buong makakaya. Ayon sa kanya, mabuting gawin ang mga bagay nang paisa-isa. 

Gayunpaman, ayon kay Ortega, minsan ang pagpupursige at pagpapatuloy lamang ang natatanging paraan upang kanyang malagpasan ang hirap ng online learning setup.

“[M]ay mga times na nahihirapan din tayo magbigay ng one-hundred percent [natin] pero kailangan mo talaga i-push yung sarili mo kasi wala naman talagang magpu-push sayo kundi [ikaw] lang,” saad ni Ortega sa TomasinoWeb.

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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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