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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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Radiating Farther and Illuminating Further

With focus on health, awareness, and student representation, Robert Dominic Gonzales runs for presidency of the UST Central Student Council.

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Photo grabbed from Robert Gonzales’ Facebook account

With focus on health, awareness, and student representation, Robert Dominic Gonzales takes a step forward by running for the presidency of the University of Santo Tomas Central Student Council (UST-CSC) for the academic year 2019-2020. As issues within and outside the campus continue to surface, he aims to Radiate Farther and Illuminate Further as we realize our duties as Thomasians and Filipinos, coupled by his hope to Elevate student representation and participation.

A vocal and active student leader and an aspiring physician, he champions not only issues of health awareness, especially mental health, but also the upholding of students’ rights and welfare. A born-leader, he has managed to get executive positions since high school. Robert is also fond of teaching. When he was still a sophomore, he has since been the go-to of his fellow batchmates and lower years. “Currently, up to this year, kahit Med student na ko, kahit nasa Council (UST-CSC) na ako, nagtuturo pa rin ako, not just sa freshies ng [Faculty of Pharmacy], pati rin sa review centers outside,” Gonzales shared in an interview with TomasinoWeb.

But behind these leadership campaigns, advocacies and platforms, and fora, Robert Dominic Gonzales is like any other student struggling with academic pressure and expectations. Behind textbooks and highlighters is a love for fiction, manifested in a collection of Harry Potter books; a fondness for some risk, as told by the dripping of sweats from hours of playing volleyball, badminton, and swimming; and a contempt for his archenemy: veggies.

As the eldest of four siblings, Robert grew up determined. He has always been sure on what path he intends to tread: to graduate at the UST Faculty of Medicine and Surgery. He recalled how when he was still young, he have always wanted to become a doctor, and consistently reminded his mom, “Ma, malapit na akong maging doktor.” A curious child enchanted by the wonders of Science and the universality of Mathematics, as reflected by and upon Nature, he went on with his “destiny.”

“Mas nag-ignite or nagpa-spark sa akin sa Field of Medicine was when we conducted one medical mission nung college ako,” Gonzales recalled how applying knowledge in a very helpful and concrete way of service made him more formidable with his principles. “Sobrang saya sa pakiramdam everytime magte-thank you sa’yo yung pasyente… sobrang fulfilling na nakatulong ka sa pagpapahaba ng buhay niya.”

With this comes the interest of furthering his service, hence his running for the UST-CSC presidency. But why, then, should the Thomasians choose a Robert Dominic Gonzales to represent the studentry? Here’s how he answered, with firm conviction:

“Siguro kasi ako yung isang student leader na hindi lang tumitindig sa karapatan ng bawat estudyante, ng bawat Thomasians, kasi makikita mo rin ako na nagpa-participate sa mga laban sa lansangan—sa mga pagra-rally, pagpoprotesta [para] sa karapatan ng mga mamamayan natin—ng mga manggagawa, ng mga Lumad at mga indigenous people.”

He was there holding a placard and speaking out in the streets from a megaphone condemning the massacre of the nine farmers of Sagay. He was also there to welcome when the University opened its doors to our Lumad brothers and sisters who have decided to establish bakwit schools in the campus to assert their right to education and self-determination.

He also noted that the University should be a defender and a sanctuary of human rights. “Being a Royal, Pontifical, and a Catholic University, kailangan tumitindig din yung UST sa mga karapatang pantao, not just of the Thomasians, but also [of] the Filipinos,” he said.

Student elections, like national elections, is saturated by campaigns and speeches. But behind the political theatrics, it is more of practicing democracy and our rights and the finding of the right representative, as a student leader is the voice of the studentry. With this comes the responsibility to become critical. Gonzales shared some tips in assessing aspiring candidates:

“Meron akong tatlong tinitingnan, ito yung natutunan ko sa pag-attend sa mga forum [on] voters’ education: Una, ‘yong pagiging Makatao; pangalawa, Makabayan; pangatlo, Maka-Diyos. Tatlong katangian na hinahanap natin dapat sa mga kumakandidato, not just sa University but also in the national elections.” He, then, shared that we must also assess candidates’ track records in order to figure out their integrity and credibility. “Doon natin makikita yung mga hindi dapat iboto.”

To radiate farther and illuminate further is to ask, for whom do we step forward? Who will benefit from our toils and sacrifices? For whom do we dedicate our passion? “We are not just Thomasian student leaders; we are Filipino Thomasian student leaders,” Gonzales replied when asked whether students and student leaders should participate on national issues. “And as Filipinos, we also have a duty sa bansa natin, that is if kaya natin, if we have the capability [and] capacity na ipaglaban yung karapatan ng mga kapwa natin mamamayan, bakit hindi tayo tumindig para doon?”

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All grit and femme power: Krizia Milleny Bricio for secretarial post

To empower others means to empower oneself. On the face of adversary, Krizia Milleny Bricio blooms.

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Photo by Troy Jacob Quinan

To empower others means to empower oneself. On the face of adversary, Krizia Milleny Bricio blooms.

“At the end of the day, no matter the overwhelming support you’re getting, it’s always you against yourself,” she said in an interview with TomasinoWeb.

Bricio, when asked if she had always known she wanted to become a student leader, said, “it wasn’t in my knowledge that I wanted to become one until I began serving the community at a young age—my family made donations and I was helping them in the process of repacking.”

It was the period after Yolanda, with her being a survivor herself. “It was then when I saw the essence of leadership and recognized the incompetence of some leaders.”

She spoke about the importance of student leaders, them being the catalysts to inspire and motivate others to become their own leaders as well, and noted three skills an effective student leader must possess: resilience, compassion, and responsibility.

“You must be resilient and show everyone that you are able to bounce back for them to be inspired to do the same; compassionate, to be able to sympathize with the student body and find out where they are coming from; and most importantly, you must be responsible.”

In light of her plans as a Central Student Council (CSC) secretarial candidate, she shared that the cornerstone for all her platforms were the needs of the Thomasian community. Bricio personally reached out to the students for suggestions because for her, in order to cater to the needs of the student body, one must overstep and look through the perspective of the majority.

“The secretary is the bloodline of the council,” she commented, “without the secretary, there would be no projects, and without the projects, the community won’t feel the presence of the council.”

Bricio, running as an independent candidate for the secretarial post, also acknowledged the underlying stigma circulating in the workplace that regards women inferior to men, and said that it’s empowering to be the only woman running as an independent candidate.

“I can also see that it’s empowering for others, seeing that a woman was brave enough to run independently for council,” she added.

In the midst of campus and nationwide elections, we, the people, as the electorate, must also be resilient, compassionate, and responsible just as our leaders should be. As noted from the interview with Bricio, “Every student can be a student leader in other ways.”

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Breaking boundaries with experience

It is typically expected for student leaders to hustle up and be the chief of change.

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Photo by Gillian Robles

It is typically expected for student leaders to hustle up and be the chief of change. Unexpectedly, even at his first year in college and being a transferee student, Karch Andrei Rafael is breaking boundaries as an aspiring Central Student Council Secretary with his ultimate weapon—his experience.

Hailing from the Technological University of the Philippines, Rafael believes that he does possess the qualities to lead, let alone landing a position in the highest student body council in the University. Now, analyzing different problems and making his way through College of Science, he endures what most students also experience. He unveiled how critical it is to be a student who tries to make ends meet despite people thinking that student leaders have it easier.

“Time management, kahit sa biyahe palang,” as Karch pinpoints how his typical problems as a student affects his performance, “pati na rin budgeting at pag-focus sa lessons.”

What most people overlook at student leaders like Karch is the fact that they too have somber moments and get tired. He made mention of trying to organize his day finishing deadlines, hurriedly eating his lunch to be able to study for the next subject and thinking in advance by planning out on where to eat. He even admits the difficulty of understanding Calculus, “Ironic nga eh because Chemistry course ko, puro pa naman numbers.”

Even at these types of hardships, Karch still denotes, “Kinakaya naman. Kailangan nating mag-aral para maglingkod.”

As a student, Karch does agree as to how social media became his pavement of technical-based skills. In here, he was able to think wisely on how to use Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. “Alam kong gasgas na ‘to pero one must think before you click, “ as he mentions the menaces one might encounter online as most students use it as a platform.

Although his Thomasian journey is just getting started, he agrees that it truly is a blessing to be in UST. He enjoys what most Thomasians adored like experiencing his first Welcome Walk and even jokes, “Masaya pero wag muna tayo lalabas [ng Arch]”. He specifically mentions how R101, the recruitment activity of various organizations present in the University, helped him test his skills most especially since he is part of the UST UNESCO Club.

As per values, it may come differently for people depending on how they established their character. It is impossible to find a single person who does not possess several. For Karch, his case also reflected how he leads.

“Honesty, hard work at transparency.” As he enumerates his top values. Most importantly, this echoed his intentions as a person with morale, “Hindi sapat na matalino ka lang, dapat nandoon puso mo—magiging maganda product mo.”

For stating honesty, he recalls all his imperfections and lapses as a student. He trusts that he will still be able to improve himself. Notwithstanding, he collaterally acknowledges his attitude of being a risk taker, it may not be easy to run as a candidate, if one does believe that he has the capacity to offer service, then one should always choose to serve everyone despite these flaws.

When asked about his life as a student leader, he enthusiastically describes how managing people is his calling. “Nagbibigay ng orders, thinking of possible addresses to issues.”, as he roots this experience with how it helped him think critically inside and outside of the classroom.

He even recalled the time how he used his position in the student council to become the voice of his batch when the administration does not let the students view their grades where he wrote a letter to the department chair.

It’s not always a smooth road for leaders like him because backlash and disagreements also test his decision-making abilities.

Being a leader or not, he still has responsibilities as a student. When inquired how he comes up with ideas as a Thomasian student, he reckoned “assessing the situation, nag-iisip ng possible solutions, aalamin yung maaaring maapektuhan, implementation of solution at pag-evaluate if tama ba at paano ‘yon ginawa.” He even added how his proposals of fund raising activities, solidarity night and social awareness campaigns were designed this way.

By the end of the day, one may reflect on how he or she performed well. This encourages us to think where we went wrong or where we lack. For Karch, his responsibilities never ends in a span of 24 hours. It goes on regularly and initiatively, just as how one can compare it to breathing, it’s already expected from us to be imperfect but proving that we can be better versions of ourselves is what makes us different from each other.

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