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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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Magical Beginnings and Happily Ever Afters

Paskuhan 2018 made us believe in magic, even for just a second.

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Photo by Miguel Yap

It was the beginning, and also the end.

Gray skies and occasional light rain showers might have greeted the crowds as they entered UST last Friday afternoon, yet when the clock struck 2:00, the rhythmic boom of the UST Yellow Jackets shattered the dampened mood of the whole University.

As the clouds finally unveiled the radiance of the sun, the energy steadily rose with the influx of students and visitors lined up by the gates of the University, eager to join their friends in the upcoming festivities, and people gradually trickling over to the UST Grandstand. With food on the one hand, and pang-sapin on the other, they all searched for a perfect spot to settle into once the program starts. With the audience’s excited chatters, the delectable scent of the food being cooked all around the field wafted through the air, and the blurry of motion of the Paskuhan staff clad in black. Paskuhan had finally begun. The University’s long-awaited festivities during the Christmas season is certainly a unique and unforgettable Thomasian tradition and there is no denying that it has always been on every Thomasian’s bucket list to attend this occasion.

beginnings of paskuhan

Photo by Miguel Yap

Last Friday UST took us on a brief journey back to our childhoods, each corner of the University was adorned with Disney-inspired lights and decorations—the iconic floating lights, Sven-like reindeers accompanying the Tiger, the grand chandeliers hanging above the Rosarium—enchanted Thomasians and visitors alike. While the festivity can be seen in two lenses; one, a bittersweet experience, as the last Paskuhan of this year’s graduating batch and two, a warm initiation into the Thomasian community for the freshmen, both shared their thoughts and sentiments to TomasinoWeb on this year’s Paskuhan as being either their first of many, or their last. Awe and wondrous gasps reverberated and flurried across the University, filling the hearts of the Thomasians and non-Thomasians alike with joy with every turn of their heads, taking in the breath of the holiday air.

“What I think about Paskuhan is very exciting. The way I see it is very lively and makes us have fun,” says Daniel Armand, an Engineering freshman with face alight with enthusiasm.

And like every Disney-inspired movie, the theme will never be complete without its charming music. As the concert began in earnest, more and more people flocked to the field. As the heart-wrenching tunes of I Belong To The Zoo played, light rainfall showered the crowd—yet Thomasians remained unfazed as – one could say – the rain never bothered them anyway. The blissful feel of the semester ending has rewarded Thomasians with this said event, a breakaway from their day-to-day responsibilities, savoring the opportune moment to unwind and leave their worries behind them in this memorable one-night event.

“So far, sobrang enjoy naman Paskuhan since ang daming tao and since as first year, we get to feel the culture here in UST.” said Ellen Mae, a freshman from the College of Accountancy.

i belong to the zoo band playing

Agree Guerrero, also known as I Belong To The Zoo serenades the crowd. Christine Tapawan/TomasinoWeb

The culture-rich University also breeds talented Thomasians. Several Thomasian acts graced this year’s Paskuhan stage such as Fourplay, UST Jazz Band, John Saga, and Julia Mella. With each passing hour, the crowd grew bigger and bigger. Flocks of students in their best outfits wandered across the University and already getting a head start in participating in the coming revelries of the eve.

As night fell, the famed UST Paskuhan lights finally came to life and the awe-struck crowd, armed with their cameras and phones, roamed around the light displays to take photos, allowing the University to finally show off its festive, holiday colors to its full potential. Thomasians were finally able to show to their visitors the scenery that they had been posting online with such glee and enthusiasm, and the decorative palette of lights certainly did not disappoint any of the attendees.

“This year’s Paskuhan celebration was – by far – the best Paskuhan I’ve ever been to because of the theme. I am a huge Disney baby and the fact that even the fireworks display was just chock full of Disney songs is just amazing to me.” Gaby Domanais said, a Senior from the Faculty of Arts and Letters, remarking on how the use of Disney themes further brought a sense of wonder that fit the holiday season.

As the night began to settle, so did its lively celebrants. Couples took their photos together beneath the trees of Benavides Park. Looks of endearment on their faces, groups of friends sprawled out in different areas of the University, sat down and sharing huge boxes of pizzas, giggling despite their mouths being full. It was already booming with activity and the evening had only just begun..

“It’s more inviting yung atmosphere than the last Paskuhan. Plus, mas maganda yung feeling ngayon dahil mas maraming lights” said Mary Ancheta, a Pharmacy freshman.

With the campus grounds continuously being filled with festive-minded attendees as the night went on, it also became somewhat harder to traverse. In certain areas, one had to push through the sea of people going in different directions, as well as the lines for the food stalls along Osmeña Drive.

visitors lining up in max's

Visitors line up for food. Miguel Yap/TomasinoWeb

“[Although] It was a much better experience this year, the number of people on the campus was insane. I couldn’t remember being that tired in the years before just by walking through the street where the food stalls were,” Benjamin Gutierrez, a 4th-year College of Tourism and Hospitality Management student in sharing his sentiments about the number of people that attended this year’s Paskuhan. However, this is not to say that this had ruined his Paskuhan experience for the night still had surprises up its sleeve.

paskuhan crowd hyping

Crowd joins the hype. Ralph Estrella/TomasinoWeb

To keep the evening’s energy alive, the event’s highly anticipated bands such as Quest, Ransom Collective, and Spongecola finally took up the stage and a torrent of people came flooding towards the UST Field. However, despite the rising excitement, the  barricades set up over various zones across the field kept the audience in order.

The cold December air was filled with tunes of nostalgia as the bands serenaded the crowd with music they were all too familiar with. When the first beat of “Tuliro” blared through the speakers, the crowd raised their hands and their voices as they sang along.

spongecola playing in paskuhan

Spongecola’s front man, Yael Yuzon in the sea of light. Miguel Yap/TomasinoWeb

In the middle of their set, the audience waved their phones as flashlights and transformed the field into a glimmering sea of stars, swaying along to the melodic rhythms. The lively energy of the people was so overwhelming that it made the performers’ and the audience’ eyes light up with passion to enjoy the moment before them, and continue on in seizing the night.

Then everything went dark.

With their hearts pounding wildly, and their eyes staring intensely at the jet black sky, everyone held their breaths.

Collectives awe rippled through the crowd as the first light decorated the bleak night sky. In the dazzling display of the yearly pyromusical, timeless and classical Disney songs from Tangled and Beauty and the Beast played as the sky became a canvas for a palette of bright and mystical colors that are magnificently exploding.

It was truly magical. With their eyes wide like a child seeing fireworks for the first time–Paskuhan 2018 really brought its magic not just through its lights, but also through everyone’s hearts.

couple looking at the paskuhan fireworks

Audience stares in awe of the fireworks. Jacqueline Martinez/TomasinoWeb

“[Compared] to the past Paskuhans, this was my best experience.” added Benjamin Gutierrez in regards to his last Paskuhan experience.

It was no denying the collective energy between the festivity and the crowd amplified the festive feel of the event and cemented Paskuhan 2018 as something that will never be forgotten by the Thomasian community, be it a freshmen experiencing their first ever Paskuhan, or a Senior enjoying their last one as a Thomasian.

While it is the start of many wonderful experience for our dear freshmen as they continue on with their academic journey in the University, it serves as part of a memorable and satisfying conclusion for our seniors as well. Surely, the Paskuhan tradition will still be practiced decades from now, but there is nothing like a Thomasian’s first and last Paskuhan experience that would be a personal experience treasured in their hearts, brimming with joy and nostalgia that are immortalized in photographs and in memory as to how ecstatic they were in seizing the night.

It made us believe in magic, even for just a second.

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For the love of their craft: UST Galvanize dominates Asian Hip-hop Philippines Dance Competition

For UST Galvanize, all the late night training, energy, and efforts became memories not of pain, but of success when their dreams of heading to the top have become a reality.

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Photo courtesy to Gab Estrada

Going after one’s dreams is no easy task; it demands strong determination, passion, commitment, and, sometimes, a little bit of luck. Success in something that you are truly passionate about is what you all strive for because in the end, all the hardships that you went through will be all worth it. For UST Galvanize, UST SHS Dance Troupe, all the late night training, energy, and efforts became memories not of pain, but of success when their dreams of heading to the top have become a reality.

Last November 11, they bagged the trophy in the Asian Hip-hop Philippines Dance Competition held at Tanghalang Pasigueno in Pasig, Metro Manila. The team for the competition was composed of Keith Anderson, Matthan Henri Ang, Mico Bacani, Jonas Belgica, Julia Del Rosario, Lia Escudero, Gab Estrada, Kurt Garbo, Andi Lopez, Kaela Madrunio, Yuri Miranda, Niña Reyes, Dylan Ruiz, Regina Sacdalan, and Kio Talactac. Their captain, Gab Estrada, has shared with TomasinoWeb the highs and lows of their journey in the competition as both individuals and as a team.

Overwhelming was a word that Estrada used to describe their experience, “the whole AHP competition experience was one for the books and also was sort of a roller coaster ride for the team.”

“We had to go through lots of challenges especially sa acads and sa pag manage namin ng time for ourselves and our family. Our training sessions were everyday including Sundays ‘pag 2 weeks before the compet na. It starts from 6pm to 9pm since marami kaming grade 12 na compet team.” Estrada also mentioned that their training sessions focused mainly on conditioning their bodies to improve so that they can dance to different styles easily.

But despite the jitters they feel before they dare to step onto the spotlight, they always do one thing as a team: pray.

They have been through a lot–and the team captain cannot hide his elation behind his words,“it was very overwhelming to know na kami yung naging champions kasi first time namin sumali sa competition this year tapos binless kami ni Lord na champions kami agad, na makalilipad kami sa Hong Kong to represent the country and of course, UST!”

When asked what their inspiration for their performance was, Estrada simply said that their coach pitched the idea of doing a choreography out of viral trends in social media. “Our coach thought of making the dance crazes [na sinasayaw ng mga tao sa social media] into a performance na yung mga songs na yun, gagawan ng real choreo,” and this creative idea, landed them a place of competing in the finals.

Having motivation makes you work harder and keeps you focused. Estrada revealed that there is one thing that keeps Galvanized motivated–not trophies, bragging rights, nor prizes––but rather, each other.

“The only thing that only motivates Galvanize is the company of each member. Without them, hindi naman mabubuo ‘yung piyesa namin sa AHP.”

Teamwork is quintessential especially when you are competing and it is, without a doubt, what Galvanize is made of. Their members always strive for growth and perfection in dancing. For them, their next goal is “to do better in our succeeding competitions and to be better in our craft”, Estrada said.

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Written in Red: Revisiting the Horrors of The Maguindanao Massacre

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Artwork by Jessica Lopez

Minutes after being flagged down by unidentified men, the fate of fifty-eight people; eleven members of the Mangudadatu Clan, thirty-four journalists and media men, six civilians, and two unborn children, were sealed under three shallow mass graves; the reason: political rivalry.

Politics and Journalism are two equally powerful fields which often clash with each other; often violently.

The powers of each lies with their capability to influence–and they are locked in an unending loop on whose voice shall be heard more by the masses. As government watchdogs, journalists take on potentially life-threatening tasks to deliver significant information to the public and this is evident in the plethora of journalist killings in present and past administrations for going against the will of those in power.

Dirty politics would eventually lead fifty-eight people to their tragic demise on November 23, 2009. A convoy of six vehicles with thirty-eight journalists left Buluan to support the then Vice Mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu to file his Certificate of Candidacy against the Ampatuans, a powerful Muslim political clan in Maguindanao, despite receiving threats. Mangudadatu sought protection from these journalists in an attempt to prevent these attack but, the amount of media personnels did little to stop the cruel plans of his bloodthirsty rivals. About ten kilometers from their destination, the Municipality of Shariff Aguak, the convoy was seized and those in it were kidnapped and eventually slaughtered in an empty, desolate stretch of land in Ampatuan Town. The unfortunate event, known today as Maguindanao Massacre, was later dubbed as “one of the worst acts of political violence in modern Philippine history” and described by the Committee to Protect Journalists as the single deadliest event for journalists in history .

After the massacre, the province of Maguindanao was forever changed. All eyes were focused on the small town of Ampatuan in the southern isle of the country. The whole Filipino nation expressed their anger, and a surge of public outcry filled the streets. Yet, it took three days for the Ampatuan Clan to surrender Andal Ampatuan Jr. and Andal Ampatuan Sr., two of the primary suspects for the massacre.

Nine years after the massacre, those who perished still long for justice, no matter how loud they wail, three feet under those shallow mass graves. As we remember this deplorable event, the haunting image of those shallow pits with bullet-ridden bodies and the yellow backhoe in the middle of an empty lot is a constant reminder of the continuing prevalence of political violence in the country and how journalists, however unfortunately, must sometimes sacrifice everything in order to shed light on the darkest corners of our world.

 

S.N.M.

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