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The sounds that sang hope

Indeed, music is a language that everybody understands; it connects the most confused minds to create the most articulate message. And while music is but a phantasm, a sea whose depth is only accessible to the bold, it continues to live and comfort as there are still wind that blows to brass, beats on a familiar percussion, and hands that tickle the most dauntless of strings–singing the songs that remind us of hope.

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Photo by Gillan Robles/TomasinoWeb.

The first gasps of September air greeted the crowd with gentle raindrops as they bid the last days of August farewell—marking evenfall as the sun lay repose on the western horizon. Church bells rang their solemn chants as they left the Thomasian community frozen, locked in an intimate, sobersided posture—closing the day with faith on their hands and hope in their hearts.

As dusk fell, people began to fill the decades-old Santisimo Rosario Parish—with its gallant art deco speaking of modesty and elegance as she showcase her age-old beauty poised by a touch of modernism—with longing and drive to hear this year’s Ugnayan sa Tugtugan, with UST Symphony Orchestra (USTSO) in collaboration with the prominent ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra (ABSCBNPO).

Whispers of excitement were cut in mid-air as the revered Philippine National Anthem was played, formally starting the program as it reignited the hearts of the audience. The crowd beat their clenched fists on their chests as they harmoniously sang the UST Hymn filling the chapel with echoes of the Thomasian Spirit.

orchestra conductor in play

Photo by Gillan Robles/TomasinoWeb.

Adding more fire to the flame of the hundreds of burning hearts of the audience was a powerful rendition of Johannes Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80, conducted by Maestro Gerard Salonga of ABSCBNPO, which exhibited a part of Brahms’ strong emotional feeling, his deeply expressive manner, and exposed his fondness for Classicism. After the majestic performance, the crowd gladly gave back its thunderous applause.

Suddenly, Denise See, alumna of UST Conservatory of Music, took the piano seat and serenaded the audience with Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18: I. Moderato, together with Maestro Gerard Salonga as the conductor. The pianist’s playful hands weaved the Russian Romantic back to life together with his precision, clarity, and his ability to articulate the abstract and discern enigmatic movements through his profound rhythmic structures. The crowd began to feel the unsolicited emotional baggage of Rachmaninoff’s Concerto that melted the hardest of hearts.

When asked regarding the significance of the event, UST Conservatory of Music student Cloi Sugano shared to TomasinoWeb, “[sa event na ito] ipinakita natin na in everything that a musician [does], yung pine-perform namin, talagang andoon yung puso, andoon yung determination para mabuo yung isang production na ganito kaganda.”

She even recollected how music helped her in her studies and how fellow musicians became a symbol of inspiration, a force that continues to drive her to push further. “Nakaka-uplift ng boost para mag-aral, [to] improve yung craft mo as an artist, parang to aim always for excellence,” she added.

orchestra cello player and violinist playing music

Photo by Robert Garcia/TomasinoWeb.

Meanwhile, Giuseppe Verdi’s Nabucco Overture, as conducted by Maestro Herminigildo Ranera of USTSO, opened the second part of the program. Italian opera and its dramatic expression filled the room, wiping the audience’s tears after a session of Rachmaninoff’s–replacing it with fancy, iconic flashes of Nebuchadnezzar II and the plight of the Jews.

Students from different universities also marveled with awe as Thomasians showcased their talents. After watching a live performance of Verdi’s Nabucco Overture, Music Production student of University of Makati Vhon Ehmil Solito shared how he felt.

Natuwa ako doon sa [Nabucco] Overture kasi ‘yon yung isa sa mga pina-practice ko ngayon, tapos ganito pala.. ang galing,” said Solito. He then shared how he was inspired by the piece and how we should value music amidst today’s crises. “Nakaka-inspire siya lalo na ngayon na marami nang kabataan yung nalululong [sa droga], tapos nakakatuwa na napanatili natin yung culture natin [as] Philippine musicians [na may pagpapahalaga sa musika].”

Bea Solina, a student of UST Conservatory of Music, also aired out her thoughts regarding the event. “Isang malaking achievement siya sa Conservatory of Music kasi minsan lang kami magkaroon ng event na maso-showcase yung talent[s] ng college namin,” said Solina. “Kasama pa yung ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra. Sa career nung mga kasali sa [UST Symphony] Ochestra, malaking bagay ‘yon [para] sa [future] nila.”

orchestra singers singing

Photo by Gillan Robles/TomasinoWeb.

Various opera pieces from Donizetti (“Una Furtiva Lagrima” from L’Elisir d’Amore), Mozart (“Ach ich fühls” from Die Zauberflöte), and Puccini (“O Soave Fanciulla” from La Boheme) then followed, all conducted by Maestro Herminigildo Ranera and performed by Tenor Francisco de Guzman Jr. and Soprano Nerissa de Juan.

Maestro Salonga once again took the baton to lead the orchestra for the last time with Manuel De Falla’s Final Dance (Jota) from El Sombrero De Tres Picos, bidding the people a frisky adiós.

Behind every successful event is a rigorous preparation. But according to UST Symphony Orchestra President Ram Sajota, all that happened that night was but a mere accident fulfilled by destiny’s nod.

Itong production na ito, it was accidental,” shared Sajota to TomasinoWeb. “We initially planned na tumugtog sa [Buenaventura Garcia Paredes O.P. Building] (BGPOP).. then ayaw pumayag ng BGPOP so nagpunta kami [sa] Albertus Magnus, ngayon [doon], inisip namin how to fit 140 members of orchestra.”

He then recalled how, with the Conservatory of Music Dean Antonio Africa and USTSO Maestro Herminigildo Ranera, they opted to seek out the help of Rev. Fr. Louie Coronel, the parish priest, and their request to perform at the Santisimo Rosario Parish was granted, making the event possible.

Ugnayan sa Tugtugan not only meant to showcase Thomasians’ excellence in music but also to create a partnership that will give birth to a night filled with wonder. “It’s not just to perform, it’s a culminating activity of the coaching sessions, Sajota recollected. “Bukod sa pag-showcase, educational din siya kasi tinrain ng [ABSCBNPO] members yung [UST Symphony] Orchestra kaya merong ‘Ugnayan’ sa Tugtugan,” Sajota added.

orchestra violinist smiling

Photo by Robert Garcia/TomasinoWeb.

Indeed, music is a language that everybody understands; it connects the most confused minds to create the most articulate message. And while music is but a phantasm, a sea whose depth is only accessible to the bold, it continues to live and comfort as there are still wind that blows to brass, beats on a familiar percussion, and hands that tickle the most dauntless of strings–singing the songs that remind us of hope.

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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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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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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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