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From reel to real: Meet the Thomasian alumna behind Pixar’s ‘Coco’

Advertising Arts alumna Gini Santos is the first Filipino and first female supervising animator of Pixar Animation Studios.

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Photo courtesy of Disney-Pixar.

With a little bit of imagination and a whole lot of dedication, animators bring new worlds to life through animated films—films that shape our childhood and even our identity. But for Advertising Arts alumna Gini Santos, animated films are not just child’s play: It is her lifeblood as an animator for Pixar Studios.

“No matter what the medium, I knew I still needed to have a good foundation in the craft of animation,” Santos said in an online exchange with TomasinoWeb.

Influenced by her interest in watching animated films and cartoons while growing up, Santos’s passion for the process of animation started when computers developed in the 90s. Her fondness for art made her pursue a degree in Advertising Arts, and she fondly remembered the classes where they were sent out on the campus to draw, making her feel like a real artist

“My design foundation allowed me to be successful in my career as an artist, and that includes animation. There is design in the appeal, posing and composition of animation and my art education has allowed me to have an artistic eye for it.”

After finishing her studies in the University, she furthered her education by taking a computer art course with a specialization on computer animation.

Santos has been been with Pixar for 21 years now, and she has been the woman behind some well-loved animated classics such as A Bug’s Life, Monster Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and Up.

It was only a month ago when she made headlines as Pixar’s first Filipino and first female supervising animator, taking the reins of the studio’s latest film Coco, which garnered excellent reviews for its breakthrough aesthetics and narrative.

“Being a supervising animator on Coco was a great experience for me. My role was to mentor and support about 85 talented animators so they could create the amazing animation that you’ll see in Coco.  I’m honored to be the first woman in this role at Pixar. We have so many strong women animators and I hope in seeing me in that role, they would be inspired to become a leader, because we need to hear more of their creative voices,” Santos said.

Based on the Mexican feast Dia de Muertos, the animation team exerted every effort to make sure that every color and detail faithfully embodied the said fête.

However, making the film culturally authentic was the biggest problem they encountered.

“We really wanted to be true to the spirit of the celebration of Dia de Muertos and the family dynamic around it,” Santos added. “It was important so that our audience could really connect with the story and the characters in it.”

Perhaps, she was echoing Walt Disney’s words through her work when Disney said that animation is a medium of storytelling which can bring pleasure and information to people of all ages everywhere in the world; it was a principle she kept in making films like Coco.

Looking back on her life as a Thomasian, Santos said that she still relies on the things she has learned during her stay in the University, even in her two decades as an animator for Pixar.

“There’s a lot of hard work that comes with achieving your goals. I realize that now looking back at my journey. Focus and be in the moment and have faith that the effort you put in now will support your long-term goals.”

by Danielle Arcegono

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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 - teatro tomasino scene
Photo by Karch Te

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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portrait of lorenz barro
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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Practice leads to permanence: small steps towards a Greener UST

Even by doing the smallest of things, it could give way to the greatest of changes. To further these advances, the UST CSC is leading the Thomasians in spreading the call against climate change last Sept. 17.

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greener ust central lab
Photo by Neo Garcia

Even by doing the smallest of things, one step at a time, could give way to the greatest of changes if we firmly believe in it. Although environmental problems have been plaguing the earth since time immemorial, a new surge of interest to the environment’s cause was brought upon by the popularization of metal straws. Advocates have been promoting for a strawless UST since 2016 and more students are heeding the call to cut some carbon footprint one Thomasian after another.

To further these advances, the UST Central Student Council is leading the Thomasian community in spreading the call against climate change. Last September 17, Thomasians took part on an active collaborative effort to advocate for a greener and a more environmental-friendly University during Greener UST Phase One: Environmental Assessment Resolving Threats to our Home (E.A.R.T.H)

By inviting speakers who are passionate in championing for environmental rights, Thomasians are given a wide range of topics that served as eye-openers to the crux of the earth’s plight for sustainability in the first phase of this event. Among them are Rodne Galicha, Country Manager for The Climate Reality Project, Paul Soriano, Communication Specialist for DENR’s Climate Change Service, Lia Alonzo, Program Coordinator for the Center for Environmental Concerns – PH and Engr. Ludwig Federigan, Executive Director for the Young Environmental Forum.

In an exclusive interview with TomasinoWeb, CSC Auditor and Project Head, Adrian Fernando, shared the rationale behind this project who not only sees it as his brainchild, but a personal advocacy as well.

“The problem is happening right now […] it’s not too late sana to fix it,” according to Fernando on the reason why he conceptualized such event.

As shown by the catastrophic effects of the recent typhoon Ompong, the populace is urged to act now to prevent and lessen the aftermaths of future disasters. For us Thomasians, we are fortunate to have Greener UST as a wakeup call, to stop living like climate change is not affecting our daily lives and it urges us to act on the immediate concern about the environment that could help in alleviating the effects that global warming seeks to enhance.

Promises of doing the 3Rs, not littering, lessening the use of plastic and styrofoam are some examples of the pledge by Thomasians in response to the question, ‘What could you do for me?’ written in a makeshift tree that symbolizes the Mother Earth. These may not guarantee an immediate effect on the state of the environment, but at least it is a good start.

The fight to sustain the environment remains a daunting task. The minutiae of recycling and cutting plastic might seem futile, but having the will and initiative to conserve the only home we know is a stepping stone towards more permanent and progressive means of preservation such as living waste free and lobbying for nature’s protection.

“Yung tinatarget namin [ay] maging parang bridge kami [para] makahelp sila sa environment”, Fernando said.

Practice leads to permanence—-a little alteration to the age old saying that acts as the backbone of this project should be remembered by all Thomasians. If it only takes 5 weeks to develop a habit, we can practice extreme diligence especially for a cause that will not only achieve a greater and a collective good but also a future for the generations to come.

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