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Sweetheart solos: Celebrating Valentine’s Day alone in the pandemic

But in the midst of all of these, how do single people celebrate Valentine’s Day?

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Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

What materializes in our heads during the month of February: drifting through the streets of Manila in a hurry, worried about the chocolates that might go out of stock, tipping the street vendor that sells pink balloons in Dapitan, buying bouquets, and lacing fingers with someone you like. Saint Valentine has successfully suspended February as the season of celebrating love. 

However, ever since the lockdown that happened in March of last year, people are forced to tweak their romantic rituals. Traveling to Manila would have to be done carefully for everyone’s safety, vendors will be fearful of the streets––weary of their own health and others, and the act of intertwining hands now, in the middle of a pandemic, sounds unsanitary––Lovers have no choice but to adjust.

But in the midst of all of these, how do single people celebrate Valentine’s Day? How does one make do with a month commercialized into kissing and dating, especially when someone has no one to do these with? On top of all this pressure, there is the pandemic that has forced everyone into isolation. What feeling does this give to these individuals? Is it indifference or longing? The answer is torn between the two. Several Thomasians who are celebrating Valentine’s Day as singles share their experiences and opinions with TomasinoWeb.

Saint Valentine has successfully suspended February as the season of celebrating love. 

When asked about how it feels to be celebrating the hearts’ day alone, Managerial Accounting junior Johna Palmares shrugs it off. 

“I never really saw Valentine’s as something special,” she says. “I don’t really get the essence of showing your love for a special someone on that specific day only, you know?” 

Palmares expounds on her indifference further, “We shouldn’t just wait for that specific date or day to come for us to show our devotion through surprises, dates, and others. Because then it all just becomes performative. And love is not performative.

Accountancy junior Andriene Despi echoes the same sentiment, “For as long as I [can] remember, Valentine’s Day has [always] been a normal day for me. I don’t really feel pressured to do anything, like it’s a one-day event. Why do I have to stress over the fact [that] I’m single?”

“I don’t really get the essence of showing your love for a special someone on that specific day only, you know?” 

Being single also has its advantages and Literature junior Jenric Jose agrees, “The most beneficial [opportunity] for me is having more time for my hobbies and learning new skills while stuck at home,” he says. “I can’t visit friends, I can’t go to all the places I enjoy [lke] fast-food restaurants, movie theaters, bookstores, and more, and the only way of interacting with other people is through online means.”

Despi, on a similar note, shares her smaller victories of celebrating the quarantine Valentine’s alone. “Money. ‘Di ka gagastos at ‘di ka pa lalabas.”  Mansouri says, with her highly demanding undergraduate program. She also slides in the self-indulgent benefits of celebrating alone. Because she has no one to spend money or time on, she dedicates the rest of Valentine’s Day on treating herself. “[I have] more money on K-pop [merch] and cat food, kasi I don’t have to spend money sa pag-surprise or pagbigay ng gift.” 

That is not to say, of course, that our single Thomasians are completely wrung out of yearning. When asked if he feels pressured by his social groups to commit to a relationship, Jose admits defeat, “There’s definitely some peer pressure element in there since most of my friends [have] someone to spend Valentine’s day with, whether it be physically or virtually.” 

Palmares puts the frustration plainly. Despite her strength in independence, she admits that sometimes she gets jealous, “I would find myself feeling so alone that I tend to wish for a love like other people have found. But then I’d realize that I’m not ready yet to share myself with a partner and that’s okay.”

There is something profound about how single people perceive Valentine’s Day––a celebration known universally for affection. That, like most celebrations, it is a social construct, a normal day tied up with pink bow strings and roses to push forth romance that people have gotten used to. There is self-awareness to how cheesy of an event it is and there is a realization that it can also be a little bit lonely. 

“I would find myself feeling so alone that I tend to wish for a love like other people have found. But then I’d realize that I’m not ready yet to share myself with a partner and that’s okay.”

A glimpse at how Jenric, Andriene, Johna, and Ashley perceive Valentine’s reminds us of our humanity––that we are vulnerable. We can accept and come to terms with solidarity, celebrating the fourteenth alone, but it does not mean we can dismiss yearning. 

We would all want to wake up with someone’s name flashing on our phone screens, we would all like to be seen, and we would all like to be heard. It would be nice to celebrate Valentine’s Day in someone’s arms, but it would be just as okay to spend it with friends, family, or even alone. There is strength in rendering oneself independent, but there is also strength in showing vulnerability. Justin Andrew Cruzana

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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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