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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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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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Heist School, pelikulang likha ng Communication Arts alumni, kalahok sa Cinemalaya Short Feature 2019

Isang grupo ng Communication Arts alumni ang tatahak ng kategoryang Short Feature ngayong Cinemalaya 2019. Mga nagsipagtapos noong isang taon, ang Last Minute Films ay kalahok sa nasabing film festival dala ang kanilang pelikulang Heist School. 

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Photo from Last Minute Films.
Litrato mula sa Last Minute Films

Isang grupo ng Communication Arts alumni ang tatahak ng kategoryang Short Feature ngayong Cinemalaya 2019. Mga nagsipagtapos noong isang taon, ang Last Minute Films ay kalahok sa nasabing film festival dala ang kanilang pelikulang Heist School

Desperadong maipasa ang kanilang klase sa matematika upang makapagtapos, ang apat na bida ng Heist School ay ‘di-inaakalang magtitipon at magtutulungan upang makamit ang imposible. Higit na naimpluwensiyahan ng pagkakaibigan nina Julius Renomeron, Jr., ang direktor, at Johmar Damiles na co-writer, ang ideya ng isang heist film na salin sa lokal na konteksto ay matagal nang nabuo. Ang mga pelikula ng Oceans Eleven at ang indie film na Patintero: Ang Alamat ni Meng Patalo ang nagsilbing inspirasyon ng grupo. Nilikha ng Last Minute Films ang Heist School bilang isang simpleng istorya ng magkakaibigan. Minabuti nilang siyasatin ang impluwensya ng eskwelahan at kapaligiran sa pagbuo ng mabuting asal ng isang tao.

Nagsimula bilang isang grupo sa film class, ang Last Minute Films ay sumulong mula sa pagpupulong sa loob ng silid-paaralan patungo sa pakikipanayam sa CNN Philippines. Sa likod ng Last Minute Films ay siyam na tao: si Klaire Dulay, ang production manager; si John Paolo Barrameda, ang sound recordist, sound designer, editor at manunulat; sina Pauline Carlos at Zhino Koe, ang mga casting directors; si Ezren Caneda, ang location manager at production designer; si Johmar Damiles, ang director of photography, editor at manunulat; sina Alvin Jamora at Keanu Managuas, ang mga assistant directors; at si Julius Renomeron, Jr., ang direktor at isa sa mga editor at manunulat.

Ngayong sila ay nakapagtapos na ng kolehiyo, dito nagkaroon ng problema ang grupo—nahirapan sila sa pagpupulong matapos nilang lisanin ang kanlungan ng mga Tigre. Kahit na mayroon itong dalang pagsubok, ang mga natitirang miyembro ay handang gumawa ng ibang pelikula. Sa ngayon, pinag-iisipan ng grupo na mag-angkat ng bagong tao sa Last Minute Films, ibinahagi ng direktor na si Renomeron sa isang online interview kasama ng TomasinoWeb.

Mula nang kanilang mapanalunan ang Sine Reel X, isang kompetisyon ng pelikula sa pagitan ng mga magtatapos na mag-aaral ng Communication Arts, ang Heist School ay unti-unting nakilala sa loob ng Unibersidad ng Santo Tomas hanggang sila’y makilala sa film festivals ng ibang unibersidad. Ang Heist School ay lumahok sa One La Salle Film Festival noong Hulyo ng nakaraang taon kung saan ibinahagi nila ang pelikula sa mas maraming tao.

Inilarawan ni Renomeron ang karanasan bilang “humbling and pressure-filled” na mapaligiran ng kapwa mga direktor, mga manunulat at filmmakers mula sa iba’t-ibang unibersidad. Dito, sila’y nagbahagi ng kaniya-kaniyang karanasan sa produksiyon ng kanilang mga pelikula. 

[B]eing a filmmaker din siguro ay yung pag-build mo rin ng support system from your fellow filmmakers kasi in the end naman, kayo-kayo din ang magkikita sa industry,” dagdag ni Renomeron. Nais niyang magkaroon ang Unibersidad ng Santo Tomas ng ganitong uri ng kulturang pelikula dahil ito’y mas maliit kumpara sa ibang unibersidad.

Pagkatapos ng One La Salle Film Festival, ang Heist School ay nakilahok sa Indie Un-film Festival, at sa Maginhawa Film Festival noong huling Disyembre. Para sa ibang Tomasinong filmmakers, ibinahagi niyang huwag sumuko sa sariling mga pangarap, maging maunawain sa mga pagpuna at “it takes time to learn how to master a craft you want to pursue but it also takes patience to survive”.

Sa pamamahagi ng kanilang pelikula sa mga film festivals, malaking bagay ang pagkakaroon ng matinding suporta, paliwanag ng director of photography na si Johmar Damiles. Mula sa mga dating propesor tulad nina Sir Nico Hernandez at Sir Seymour Sanchez, mga kasamahan sa organisasyon tulad ng TomasinoWeb at Thomasian Film Society at lalo’t higit nang mula sa mga kaibigan at pamilya, ang kanilang tulong ay malaking bahagi ng kanilang pagpapatuloy. 

Pagkatapos ng Cinemalaya, nais ng Last Minute Films na isumite ang Heist School sa iba’t-ibang international film festivals kung kakayanin ng kanilang pondo. Nang tanungin ng TomasinoWeb kung may kasunod na kabanata ang Heist School, sagot nila’y ibig din nilang lumikha ng iba pang pelikulang hindi pa nila nakikitang ginagawa.  

As young filmmakers, the Cinemalaya experience has been overwhelming for us,” bahagi ni Johmar Damiles. “It gives me anxiety and at the same time, excitement as [a] Thomasian filmmaker.” Salaysay niya, ang pagiging kalahok ng Cinemalaya ay isa nang malaking pribilehiyo para sa isang grupong hindi ganoon kasanay sa paglikha ng pelikula. 

Opisyal na poster ng pelikula

Ang Heist School ay ipapalabas kasama ng ibang kalahok na pelikula sa ika-labinlimang iterasyon ng Cinemalaya Film Festival mula sa Agosto 2-13. Maaaring mapanood ang mga pelikula at short features hindi lamang sa Cultural Center of the Philippines, kundi pati rin sa mga piling Ayala Malls sa Luzon, Ayala Malls Legazpi, Capitol Central Bacolod, Abreeza Davao, Vista Cinemas Pampanga, Vista Cinemas Naga, at Vista Cinemas Iloilo.

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A road he didn’t walk alone: the valedictorian who realized ‘we’ is better than ‘I’

Through others, he realized things about himself that he could never do so alone and because of this, he was able to grow and become much stronger, not just for himself, but for everyone else.

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Photo grabbed from John Rabena's Facebook account

In this time and age, it has always been ideal to be independent, to not rely on anyone but ourselves. The belief that people should be able to make it on their own had always left a gaping hole in one’s heart as the feeling of incompleteness settles in. Eventually, life becomes a search for meaning—a quest to look for something to piece everything together. 

People believed that being at the top meant being alone. Those who run ahead often leave others behind and continue down an empty path where success becomes their only fuel for motivation. It’s a lonely feeling but it doesn’t have to be that way. To celebrate with, to be with, and to love others is what this graduate from Philosophy mentioned in his speech.  

Having been given the award as valedictorian for Batch 2019, John Alfred Rabena shared with TomasinoWeb his thoughts, his experiences, and his realizations during his stay in the University.

He’s grateful for being the only one in the world, unique and gifted in his own way—but it doesn’t stop there. “Subalit, ang ‘ako’ ay hindi maaaring mapag-isa at makulong sa sarili, sapagkat kulang ang ‘ako’ kung wala ang ‘ikaw’,” he stated.

Rabena realized that he was not alone and this simple realization changed his views on life. Through others, he realized things about himself that he could never do so alone and because of this, he was able to grow and become much stronger, not just for himself, but for everyone else. “Kaya’t sa kabila ng sakit at pait na iniwan ng taong minahal natin o patuloy nating minamahal,” he explained, “masasabi nating mas nakikilala ang sarili sa pagbangon araw-araw at mas lalong tumatatag sa pagharap sa buhay.”

Rabena also took the chance to extend his gratitude to the people that gave him endless support right from the start, up until the very end of his Thomasian journey. To his family and his friends, who were always there for him through his ups and downs and the ones who never got tired of cheering him on and telling him that he will make it.

“To our teachers who went beyond the minimum in order to boost our willpower when we thought that the routine [seems] to be endless and obscure,” he continued, “To our librarians and staff who quietly and persistently work in order for us to receive the education that we deserve.” He also thanked the security guards who always put the safety of others as their priority instead of their own, a selfless and kind act that deserved to be recognized and appreciated.

Of course, hardships and problems are inevitable. Rabena admits to feeling like giving up and hopeless, just like everyone else but he gives out a reminder to just hold on and hold on tight, “kayang-kaya ko ito dahil may tayo.” He points out that as education increases academic knowledge, it should also help in nurturing talents so that the life lived will be inclined to one with purpose and meaning. To live a life with love and compassion is enough proof that what was learned inside the classroom could be manifested into actions. For knowledge and promises to be acts of kindness and service, it’s the highest form of success anyone could imagine. “These are the people who gave me the courage to say: KAYA KO ‘TO!”

“Because our education does not end in the cultivation of IQ or the feeding of inert ideas,” Rabena expounds, “We ought to live up to the mission of our University: to spread the light! LUMINA PANDIT.”

To stand up for what is right is what he believes in, even if it’s scary, even if no one else is doing it, do what is just. Life can be better understood if people would step out of the box that’s keeping them from realizing that knowledge is useless if it’s just words. The only time education has fulfilled its purpose is when what was learned turns into what should be done. “Only then can we say that our education has gone from the classroom to the real venture called “life”,” Rabena stated.

The world is a cruel place, but this doesn’t serve as an excuse for it to stay this way. While change is still possible, aim for it—aim for a world where everyone is safe and on equal grounds, where hate could no longer be defined. It’s not too late to fight for what is right, for what is the truth, all while being kind and compassionate. To feel scared is normal and understandable, but don’t let that fear take over—push through.

“Panalo ang Tomasino dahil siya’y may paninindigan sa katotohanan. Panalo ang Tomasino dahil siya’y nagmamahal,” Rabena continues, “Panalo ang pamilyang Tomasino, dahil ang bawat isa’y tumatatayo para sa “tayo.” Tomasino, tayo naman!”

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