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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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lahaira reyes valedictorian
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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Behind aesthetics are stories waiting to be unraveled

Being one of the oldest museums in the country, the UST museum has contributed to arouse the Filipino heritage and to represent the Thomasian identity. 

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In the quest of finding the path of your journey, it is important to look back to where and why you started. The history of what has been bleeds knowledge and contemplation. 

Upon entering the UST Museum, flashes of the past unveil the seed of a now verdurous institution. It is a reminder of how centuries were built on each other to establish a home for thousands of new dreams and ambitions. 

The University museum houses its natural history collection, some of its ethnography collection, paintings by Filipino artists, and religious objects. As one of the oldest museums in the Philippines, it has contributed to arouse the Filipino heritage and to represent the Thomasian identity. 

October is declared as the Museums and Galleries Month on the strength of the Presidential Proclamation no. 778 s. 1991. This provides an avenue to cultivate the national awakening of the Filipino culture and to also promote the rich and diverse artistic expressions of Filipino artists.

In an exclusive interview with TomasinoWeb, Professor Carlo Sayco, Assistant Director of the UST Museum shared that museums and galleries should be celebrated because they offer alternative learning and education to students and to citizens. He also added that museums and galleries spearhead the promotion of the Philippine culture.

“‘Yung importance nung proclamation na ‘yon for me is actually establishing facilities like this, to further educate people na hindi ka lang confined sa four corners of the classroom, but also, you have alternative ways to learn with you seeing objects with their interpretations,” Prof. Sayco said.

Visual learning becomes an effective approach to advance the knowledge acquisition of a person. It enables a person to work their imagination and understanding at the same time. 

Furthermore, Sayco emphasized that art is beyond visuals. It is beyond aesthetics. Each work offers a rich story. Different connections and interpretations between the artwork and its visitors are evidence of its overflowing treasures. “Maraming makukwento ang bawat object, ang bawat artifact. And of course, ‘yung kwento rin ng bawat makakaintindi sa kanila, mag- iiba and that’s what makes it diverse, that’s what makes it rich,” he added. Art appreciation is established by having a personal view of the art and its interpretation—this is how art flourish and diversify.

An exhibit in the museum featuring works of art painted on acrylic eggs. Alexa Taay/TomasinoWeb

In terms of maintaining the museums, Sayco stated that the biggest challenge is to safekeep the collections. “Kapag may collection ka, especially nakikita mo ‘yung paligid naten, puro sila stuffed animals. Kailangan kapag may ganyan tayo, periodic ‘yung cleaning natin, periodic ‘yung maintenance natin.” Temperature and lighting also plays a role in preservation. The museum is set on a specific atmosphere or temperature to avoid ailments on the paintings and objects.

“So sa maintenance, I think periodic maintenance sa lahat ng collections ang ginagawa namin. That’s why every Monday, half of the day, the museum is closed.” On Mondays, their conservation team cleans the museum and checks on its content to prepare for a week of exhibit.

When asked about who is responsible for this task, Sayco answered, “We have a pool of people sa Conservation Lab namin, that are trained by our resident Conservator Ms. Maita Reyes, chemist s’ya. And then, s’ya ‘yung nagturo ng conservation theories and practices na ginagawa ng University to clean our objects.” Maita Reyes teaches conservation theories in Cultural Heritage Studies at the UST Graduate School. She spearheads the conservation aspects of the University. 

The team cleans and restores the objects that are impaired. For paintings that has acquired molds over time, it is cleaned and then painted on the damaged parts. “So parang nilinis mo muna, tapos finishing touches mo, hahabulin mo ‘yung kulay so that it could at least restore its original appearance kahit hindi na sya ‘yun ‘yung mismong kulay, pero at least man lang mahabol mo para bumagay sya,” Sayco explained.

The University museum securely harbors its collections for the succeeding batches of Thomasians to appreciate. Students of the University of Santo Tomas are encouraged by Sayco to visit and trace back the culture and history of the University. As the UST museum shelter the roots of the Thomasian identity, it strengthens the Thomasian spirit and pride. 

“The best thing is that abot-kamay mo na ‘yung UST museum. Andito ka lang. And besides, if you’re a Thomasian, this is your museum,” Sayco said. 

Immersing in different museums lets the students grasp the foundation of their community. Prof. Sayco advised, “Visit the ones inside your own home. You integrate the experiences you get here, you get from another one, and you get from another one. Then that makes it the whole complete museum experience.”

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Cinestudyante 2019: Thomasian Filmmakers’ Triumph In the Local Film Industry

This first ever Filipino all-student film festival, Cinestudyante, features forty-three short films by high school and undergraduate students alike—three of which were created by Thomasians.

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Photo from Santolan Town Plaza Facebook page

Filipino cinema has been noteworthy insomuch as the popularity of film festivals boomed within the last few years. This is evident in the ever-increasing volume in queues in local theatres, the demand for better if not quality films in contest to mainstream entertainment, and the emergence of new film festivals. 

Last August was Cinemalaya season, an independent film festival celebrating its fifteenth year. September’s  Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino (PPP), founded just three years ago, promotes locally produced films. These festivals have inspired hundreds of film aspirants. Thus, birthing Cinestudyante. 

From the partnership of Santolan Town Plaza and the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP), the first permission was held from September 25 until October 1. This first ever Filipino all-student film festival, Cinestudyante, features forty-three short films by high school and undergraduate students alike—three of which were created by Thomasians.

 

Heist School, directed by Julius Renomeron Jr.

Photo from Cinemalaya Facebook page

Producer: Last Minute Films, Writers: Julius Renomeron Jr., Johmar Damiles, John Paolo Barrameda, Editors: Julius Renomeron Jr., Johmar Damiles, John Paolo Barrameda, Assistant Director: Alvin Jamora, Keanu Managuas, Production Manager: Klaire Ellise Dulay, Production Designer: Ezren Caneda, Casting Director: Pauline Carlos, Zhino Koe

Heist School, a film that debuted in the 2019 Cinemalaya Film Festival under the Short Feature category, was also featured in Cinestudyante.  A film about friendship and the role that a school holds in our development as a person, it’s told through the story of a ragtag group of students who tries to steal the answers to their math exam inside the faculty room.

“It was also a critique on the educational system in the country and how students’ moral uprightness are shaped early by their environment, especially in school,” director Julius Renomeron Jr. said.

In an online interview with TomasinoWeb, Renomeron, the director, shared how the idea for Heist School came about, “It was actually a joke when we pitched it and I wasn’t really that serious about the details of the film itself. […] We’ve had other film ideas for our film production class but Heist School stood out for us. Throughout the development of the script we molded the story from our experiences and struggles in college of passing the exams with my co-writers, Johmar Damiles and John Paolo Barrameda. […] It is also inspired by our friendship since back in college we were always having petty fights because we are dormmates, classmates, and orgmates.”

According to Renomeron, prior to the creation of Heist School, he and his friends, who are part of the production team, have been creating short films ever since. Consequently, they lacked funding in the post production process so they had to do everything by themselves. “Malaking pera rin kasi ang kailangan for the production so we had to sell stuff and rumaket ng mga video editing jobs. […] The filmmaking process was complicated but I guess being members of TomasinoWeb helped us in the production process because we were doing video production in the org before we started the project.”

On the subject of those struggling with the creative process, Renomeron shared that young creative should have the attitude of always wanting to learn new things. “Wala na kasing original na idea ngayon. What matters is how well you execute your ideas and how much of “you” can you put in your work.”

In retrospect, the whole process in creating Heist School was grueling, to say the least, but they were able to pull it off because everyone in the group was passionate about making the film and they took the time to exchange ideas and take into account every single idea that was pitched, no matter how foolish, because it could be valuable to the filmmaking process later on. Renomeron added, “The friendship bled through our script and that’s what made the characters feel more grounded.”

 

Garing, directed by Dan Pablo

Photo from Garing ng 1PM Films Facebook page

Producer: Emery Principe, Assistant Director: Charlaine Mutia, Emery Principe, Associate Producer: Ynna Dizon, Screenplay: Georgie Cerbolles, Production Manager: Katarina Mendoza, Production Designer: Cally Calleja, Director of Photography: Dan Pablo, Casting Director: Charlaine Mutia, Alex Garcia, Location Manager: Alex Garcia, Art Director: Barbara San Diego,

Another film featured in Cinestudyante, Garing, was the brainchild of a group of friends who shared the same vision for a short film, initially conceptualized by assistant director Charlaine Mutia. According to Screenwriter Georgie Cerbolles, “It is a story of a mother with a love for her child so strong that she loses her judgment to do what is right. It shows the struggles of being powerless while holding on to something as trivial as faith.”

Although the film was just a requirement for their film production class, they took the initial concept for the film and from there, they developed it to what it is now. “The first drafts of the screenplay were miles apart from the final script, but we ultimately wanted to keep the religious and motherly elements of the story,” Cerbolles shared.

Deciding which direction to go was one of the most troubling parts in the process, secondary to the tight budget and the lack of time. “It was our first time to do a short film with a budget and we knew that it wasn’t going to be perfect. Decision making was a hit or miss since we lacked the experience,” director, editor, and director of photography Dan Pablo added.

There was also an instance where they almost gave up and considered taking on a different story. “But in the end, we knew we had to go with Concha’s story, no matter how challenging it was,” assistant director Emery Principe said.

No easy step was found in the making of Garing: pre-production required the group to be confident in what they were about to do, and where they failed to do right by the story, they made up for it during post-production. “Every stage of production felt different. […] But it was fulfilling to finally witness the result of what your team has been working on in the last three months,” said Dan Pablo.

One of the film’s challenges was the fact that ideas could come anywhere and from anyone, so it was equally important for the group to collaborate, and in turn, move to create their vision for the film. The important takeaway for the group during the filmmaking process was that hard work alone isn’t enough to craft a good story—it takes collective effort.

“It takes time. It will always take so much time and energy to do something as impactful and wonderful as a film. If you’re given great material and happen to be around the right people to work with, it will all come together in the end,” said Cerbolles.

 

Beyond the Mats, directed by Dan Angelo Eligado

Photo from UST Tiger TV Facebook page

Executive Producer: Gwen Segarra, Supervising Producers: Pauline Linsangan, Jomari Hernandez, Writer: Oscar David Poblete, Editor: Ma. Lynette Pamintuan, Dan Angelo Eligado, Director of Photography: Dan Angelo Eligado, Production Assistants: Mivel Ambas, Charlene Jaranilla, Clarissa Sulit

Beyond the Mats is a documentary about the University of Santo Tomas Salinggawi Dance Troupe—their journey and remarkable legacy in the UAAP Cheerdance Competition. The film started off as just an idea, but the group found that Salinggawi had a promising story to tell, especially since the dance troupe has went through a great deal of experiences. “Noong una, it was Ma’am Faye’s vision to create a documentary for Salinggawi. Since ako ‘yung Sports Unit Head that time ako ‘yung tinap niya for this project,” said Jomari Hernandez, one of the supervising producers.

The team for the production of the film was the sports unit under Hernandez. He shared, “Nagtulungan kami in producing this film kahit na we’re bombarded with lots of deadlines and requirements. Nag-outsource rin kami ng mga tao from the operations and we tapped our Junior Producers para pag-graduate naming, alam nila ang galawan sa paggawa ng documentary.”

Before the production of the actual film, Beyond the Mats was actually a part of a larger series called Routine to Redemption, but because Salinggawi didn’t make it to the podium, it was discontinued. As a result, Beyond the Mats was created to show Salinggawi as they truly are, warts and all, as they enter UAAP Season 81.

Kaya in the end, we made sure to highlight Salinggawi’s value na they are more than cheerleaders, they have the passion to serve for UST,” Hernandez added.

According to the group, the most troubling part about the creation of the film was when Salinggawi lost because the vision for them and for the film was that they would win and they would get to do their podium finish. Although this led to the difficulty of redirecting the film to a different angle, they believed it told the story of Salinggawi as it should be, and that the process towards that goal justified it.

Because the documentary was about Salinggawi, the group had to immerse themselves in their lives—their training, their life outside the dance troupe. “Feel nga namin Salinggawi na kami eh,” Hernandez remarked.

Other than the Salinggawi Dance Troupe, the group was inspired by all the other student-athletes in the university—they believed that all of them had a story worth telling, that they are so much more than student-athletes. There were so many opportunities to tell a different story, but they chose to tell this one—one that hasn’t been told yet.

“Always be resilient and put your heart in your story,” Hernandez stated, “Kailangan mong mahalin para maging matagumpay sa isang bagay.”

 

These films are a telltale that the Filipino youth have the ability to amplify their own stories. The ways in which they communicate their brilliant ideas transform into something greater. Cinestudyante, even on its first year, has become another platform to champion the local film industry.

 

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Patungo sa Panibagong Yugto

Maligayang pagbati, bagong Tomasino! Dito nagsisimula ang isang bagong yugto at paglalakbay tungo sa magandang kinabukasan.

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Kuha ni Christine Annmarie Tapawan ng TomasinoWeb

Pagdiwang! Dumating na naman ang panahon ng pagsalubong sa humigit-kumulang na 15,000 na bagong Tomasino! Ang Thomasian Welcome Walk ay ginanap noong Martes, ika-6 ng Agosto. Ang taunang pagdaan sa ilalim ng makasaysayang Arch of the Centuries ay itinuturing na simula ng buhay Tomasino. Hinati muli ang programa sa dalawa, ang unang kalahati ay nagsimula ng alas-nuwebe ng umaga at ang pangalawa naman ay alas-dos ng hapon.

Samu’t saring ingay at saya ang bumalot sa Unibersidad. Malalaking ngiti at makikislap na mata ang makikitang nakapinta sa mukha ng mga bagong Tomasino. Handang-handa na sa panibagong kabanata ng kanilang buhay kolehiyo. Kasabay ang kalabog ng mga puso, sa bawat hampas ng tambol—ito ay dumadagundong. Ramdam na ramdam ang bagong enerhiya na dala ng mga mag-aaral mula sa iba’t ibang fakultad at kolehiyo. Ano nga ba ang pakiramdam na makapasok sa arko patungo sa maraming oportunidad at pangarap na naghihintay? Ibinahagi ng mga bagong mag-aaral ang kanilang mga saloobin at pakiramdam sa ilang panayam kasama ng TomasinoWeb.

Para kay Keziah Taguba na mula sa Legal Management, masaya pa rin ito kahit pangalawang beses na niyang dumalo. “It still feels surreal,” aniya. Kada taon, malaki ang preparasyon na ginagawa ng mga mag-aaral upang makapagbigay ng masayang karanasan na hindi kaagad malilimutan. “Nakakatuwa ‘yung warm welcome ng Thomasian community lagi sa mga freshman nila, family talaga yung turing nila sa ‘min.” 

Kuha ni Ralph Estrella ng TomasinoWeb

Ang bagong yugto na ito ay nagdadala ng mga bagong pagkakataon at oportunidad upang makilala ang sarili, makagawa ng mga masasayang ala-ala, at syempre, tuparin ang mga pangarap. Para kay Abby Salvador, galing din sa Legal Management, ngayong nasa kolehiyo na siya, inaasahan niya ang mga kaganapan sa Unibersidad katulad ng UAAP season, Paskuhan, at iba’t-iba pa. “Mas gusto ko pang ma-experience ‘yung Thomasian spirit ngayon na college na.” 

Pamilya. Isang salita na naglalarawan sa mga Tomasino. Ayon kay Red Ronas mula sa Advertising Arts, ito ang naramdaman niya ngayong Welcome Walk, “Masaya pa rin at na-feel ko na part pa rin ako ng family.” 

Bagama’t masaya ang byahe patungo sa mga pangarap, hindi maiiwasan ang mga problema na darating. Para kay Renzi Queral na isang Medical Biology freshman, “Masaya [yung welcome walk]. It’s a new experience pa din and at the same time ‘yun nga may [feeling ng] pressure din pero yung pressure na yun, I look at it as a motivation na lang. May kasama din akong iba in this journey.” 

Kuha ni Ralph Estrella ng TomasinoWeb

Given na ‘yung mas magiging challenging siya pero on the brighter side, mas magiging fulfilling siya kasi mas nararanasan na namin yung totoong buhay,” aniya. 

Kay Kiara Gimao, na galing din sa College of Science, isang karangalan ang maging isang Tomasino. “Syempre po masaya tsaka honored, pero tsaka syempre pressured din kasi dala namin yung pangalan ng UST sa kahit anong gawin namin,” aniya. Maraming bagay ang pwedeng mangyari at maranasan sa kolehiyo at para sa kanya, gusto niyang tumutok sa mga gusto niya, “[Sana] mas ma-expose kami sa mga bagay na gusto talaga namin. Magiging specific siya unlike sa SHS na broad pa ‘yung lessons at syempre looking forward sa events.”

Pagkatapos ng Welcome Walk, nagtungo ang mga mga mag-aaral sa Quadricentennial Pavillion upang makinig at ipagdiwang ang banal na misang pinangunahan ni Rev. Fr. Herminio Dagohoy, O.P. Dala din ng bagong pagkakataon ang bagong mga hamon. Maari man itong humadlang sa ating mga pangarap, dapat nating tandaan na huwag tayong hihinto. 

Kuha ni Troy Jacob Quinan ng TomasinoWeb

My dear Thomasians, after this orientation week, you will return to this place again in 2024. You have started your journey today to QPav. It begins today,” ani Rev. Fr. Dagohoy. “When your journey becomes tough and you want to stop, don’t!” dagdag niya. 

Pray that God may speak to you in your dreams, in your vision, and even in your deep sleep. Is it possible? Yes, because you are God’s beloved children.” Tinapos ni Rev. Fr. Dagohoy ang homiliya ng pagbabati sa mga bagong Tomasino. “Welcome to the University of Santo Tomas, where champions in life are born.” 

Maligayang pagbati, bagong Tomasino! Dito nagsisimula ang isang bagong yugto at paglalakbay tungo sa magandang kinabukasan. Ipakita mo ang marka ng pagiging isang tigre at sinasalubong ka ng Unibersidad nang may pagmamahal at pagtanggap. 

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