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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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Sila-Sila in its spectrum

Being under the constant waves of change, companionship paves through distances and personal struggles. The movie emphasizes that ‘ghosting’ also happens between friends and rekindling episodes are a challenge.

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Screengrab from Sila-Sila movie trailer

Giancarlo Abrahan’s entry for Cinema One Originals Film Festival Sila-Sila is a groundbreaking film that sprouts a queer narrative molded by queer people. Anchored to the intimate stories of real people, this ghosting film pierces through the lens of post-breakup experiences.

Its lead actors, Gio Gahol and Topper Fabregas had a harmonious rhythm as Gabriel and Jared inside one frame. With Gab being helplessly displaced and Jared as someone who craves settlement, they were in an endless loop of push-and-pull, making every scene burst in different colors of expectations.  

The film revolves around the story of Gab (Gahol), as he tries to reconcile with his friends (Phi Palmos and Dwein Baltazar) and his ex-boyfriend, Jared (Fabregas) after ‘ghosting’ them for almost a year. Fueled by guilt and regret, the old lovers find themselves igniting a fire that once burned the bridges that connected their lives.

Five minutes in and the sensual relationship between Gab and Topper will cuff the audience with its bare exposure of same-sex actualities. These characters played by both theater artists allow the scenes to flourish with remarkable nuance.

The scenarios in the film allow you to peek at realities that manifest through Gab’s life as a person who fails to find his roots being settled in one place. As his portrayal walks you through the story of uncertainties, the progress of the film lets you trace into a deep contemplation whether or not you may be the Gab or Jared in your own story.

Despite having fragments of scenarios that lowers the momentum of the film, it serves as a breath of fresh air as Gab undergoes the phase of vacillation. Gab’s journey of finding a home in people he once felt was is a cycle anyone can relate to. His doubts linger in trust issues and the feeling of not belonging. It soon uncovers that the quest of settling in places, people, and experiences will be unending unless one finds their sense of home.

Phi Palmos and Dwein Baltazar’s characters are spices to the story as they portray a decade-long friendship of overcoming tendencies. Being under the constant waves of change, companionship paves through distances and personal struggles. The movie emphasizes that ‘ghosting’ also happens between friends and rekindling episodes are a challenge.

Sila Sila won the Best Picture Award. Its undeniably well-plated palette satisfies the eye of the audience. A lot of scenes will tickle one’s humor especially if you are used to friendships that blatantly roast each other as a way of showing one’s love language.

Alongside its award-winning cinematography, Sila Sila also received the Audience Choice Award and Best Screenplay by scriptwriter Daniel Saniana. Also, Fabregas was recognized as Best Supporting Actor for his role.

“We’ll always love each other, however it manifests, it’s just always going to be there.”, this line by Jared carves through the hearts of those who had to let go of a person but never the love that they have for them. Gab’s relationship with Jared shows that there is never just one way of loving someone. Every day, with every version of themselves, love prevails. 

Distance can never make things small. It only deceives you from thinking that you’ve escaped your troubles. One way or another, you will find yourself crawling back because time never lets anyone off its claws—Sila-Sila teaches this. Furthermore, sometimes, having no closure is not the closure.

The character of Gab serves as an example that a person will remain trapped in the past unless they find closure from people and from themselves. People are bound to face the naked truth that we need to find our sense of home in this world that is full of broken fragments of imperfect individuals.

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Metamorphosis, a film that challenges the conventional

Tiglao tells this story through the never-before-seen character of a Filipino intersex teenager, and he tells it almost flawlessly, with the scenes that make you nostalgic, like you’ve been there before—a sort of déjà vu.

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Screengrab from Metamorphosis Trailer

As a coming-of-age film that probes more extensively into the adolescent psychosexual conflict, J.E. Tiglao’s Metamorphosis is dangerously daring. The film stirred a wave of controversy when the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) classified it as X-rated for exploring intersexuality, later on, it was reclassified into R-16, permitting its screening in local cinemas. 

It opens with a scene at a waterfall in a 1:1 aspect ratio and ends in the same setting, where we find the protagonist, Adam, exceptionally portrayed by Gold Azeron, no longer irresolute. Supporting actress Iana Bernardez, who plays Angel, complements Azaron almost naturally—Adam isn’t without Angel, vice versa. However, the gorgeous visuals of Metamorphosis overshadow the disarray that’s often ignored in the film.

Tiglao tells this story through the never-before-seen character of a Filipino intersex teenager, and he tells it almost flawlessly, with the scenes that make you nostalgic, like you’ve been there before—a sort of déjà vu. Apart from the brilliant footwork of Tey Clamor, the film’s cinematographer, the musical score by Divino Dayacap, from the University of Santo Tomas Conservatory of Music, gave the film its oomph: as if the music understood the complexity of emotions portrayed, and the aesthetics with it.

Tiglao almost easily got away with poor writing by compensating for the other elements in the film. Instead of sustaining its relaxed delicateness, it lost its momentum when Adam’s exploration into his intersexuality was hastily overturned by uncalled-for predatory themes, and sexual awakening was realized by means of harassment.

The film relied heavily on aesthetics while leaving the plot unsustained and undernourished. It undermined the audience’s capacity to understand beyond the script because there was very little depth to it—the metaphors were surface-level and revealed themselves too easily. Some scenes appeared to over-explain themselves because expository writing was brought to an excess. Nevertheless, the film communicated what it sought to: the magnitude of embracing your own uniqueness in pursuit of self-acceptance.

Perhaps one of the most moving scenes in the film was when Adam’s father, a conservative Catholic and a pastor with a strongly-held vision for Adam to reverse his intersexuality – an “Ok, boomer” moment – abandons his unyielding bigoted principles at long last, giving Adam the autonomy to decide on and for his own. Here, the conservative adult matures with the troubled adolescent—and it is this shared acceptance that is unique to Metamorphosis.

Although the film suffers from tacky dialogue and some questionable subplots, it does exactly what a coming-of-age film is supposed to: the audience becomes an echo chamber, where we feel for the protagonist while accompanying him into growth and resolution. 

Metamorphosis, along with its stillness and vulgarity, makes for an ample directorial debut. The “I” in LGBTQIA+ rarely gets talked about, but Tiglao changed that by giving us Metamorphosis: it contests machismo without overemphasizing the feminine, it astounds without unnerving, and most of all it is unrestrained. Metamorphosis, even with its sloppy writing, is sufficiently beautiful—it questions and challenges the conventional, and it does it without fear.

 

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Tayo Muna Habang Hindi Pa Tayo: An Endless Cycle

Falling in love in this generation is like using a trial and error method that gets you nowhere. In the emergence of dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble and websites like Omegle, finding a prospective partner has become fairly easy but also quick to lose.

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Screengrab from Tayo Muna Habang Hindi Pa Tayo official trailer

Labels. There is a silent debate going on about whether labels are important or a factor for complications. Though there is a need to define relationships to know where to draw the line between friends and lovers, it is often terrifying to know what the truth really is. The word ‘commitment’ may seem an intimidating word for some, but it is also loved by many. 

Tayo Muna Habang Hindi Pa Tayo is one of the entries for the Cinema One Originals 2019. Written and directed by Denise O’Hara, who won an award for Best Director in this year’s Gawad Urian for a movie called Mamang, a film about dementia and the struggles of remembering one’s life. 

The film festival ran from November 7 until November 17 in selected malls and microcinemas. Starring Jane Oineza and JC Santos as Alex and Carlo, the story portrays the characters’ struggle in the process of falling in love, falling out, being confused, and being sure at the same time. 

Falling in love in this generation is like using a trial and error method that gets you nowhere. In the emergence of dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble and websites like Omegle, finding a prospective partner has become fairly easy but also quick to lose. 

Alex, played by Jane Oineza, is a woman with big dreams and ambitions, eager to prove to the world that she is more than just a pretty face. Carlo, played by JC Santos, on the other hand, is your typical go-with-the-flow kind of guy who works in the field of graphic design and freelance work. The story progresses as the two create something that neither of them knows what is and what to call. 

By slowly cracking her shell and breaking down her walls, Carlo manages to see the parts of Alex that no one really sees. Underneath her cold gazes and intimidating aura, lies a sappy and marupok girl. One night, after planning and talking about the design for Alex’s upcoming project, a cockroach scare prompts a rush to the bedroom; ensuing a somewhat emotional conversation that turns the atmosphere into purple and red hazes. 

After that night, awkwardness sits between them in the office. Alex, trying to figure out what happened, asks Carlo directly; as to his reply, along with the words “Masaya pa rin naman ‘diba?” creates a questionable feeling both to the characters and the audience. 

Stemming from the title itself, the movie—from start to finish—draws a problematic and complicated cycle that reflects dating and almost-dating. The dialogues lacked a bit of emotional appeal and the concreteness of thought cannot be easily grasped. The movie has a back and forth sequence, showing the past and the present, how the moments came to be, what arguments were thrown out to get to the scene where they chase each other in the sidewalk with pain and hesitation in their eyes. 

Cinematography-wise, the color palette of the film shifts along with the emotion that is being presented on the screen, making up for the lack of substance in the exchange of dialogues. It is a mess, paralleling to Alex and Carlos’ relationship, the shaky camera angles and the abrupt shift from one scene to another provides support in pulling off the movie’s complicated narrative. It could have had more backstory and fewer gaps in the storyline but it somehow works as it leaves you hanging and still questioning what happened. It keeps you in the cycle even though you have stepped out of the cinema already. 

Filled with contradictions and trouble waiting to happen, O’Hara’s work garners attention from those who are in the same position. The film dwells on complex-minded characters, pretty much like our generation, and their decisions on whether they should leave or keep fighting for something that is vague. It is a ticking time bomb of tears and regret or maybe, just maybe, something magical and worthwhile. 

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