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#TWenty: The TomasinoWeb 2014 Year-Ender

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The route that the Thomasian community took during 2014 was a glorious one, albeit a path filled with tiny bumps which halted, but never faltered, the Thomasian spirit. For us Thomasians, there were people, events, trends, and even places which defined our 2014. There were influential people who made an impact, people who left, and people who we welcomed into our community. There were events which were devastating, but were made up for by the events which resonated with the relentless chanting of “Go USTe!” We saw trends come and go, and we explored new places in and out of the campus.

We recognize all these things here at TomasinoWeb. As such, we have put together a list of the 20 people, places, events, and trends which defined the Thomasian community’s 2014.

Without further ado, here is #TWenty.


20. Miriam Defensor-Santiago


One of the most frequently heard names in the realm of politics is Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago. From Santiago’s accusations against Senator Juan Ponce Enrile to her witty comebacks and biting commentaries in relation to various issues that have circulated in the country, the senator has managed to be one of the most influential figures this year.

Early in July, Santiago announced via press conference that she has Stage IV cancer in her left lung and had expressed her plans of taking a “magic tablet”, which would give her “all the effects of chemotherapy without the side effects.” Later in August, together with news reports about Santiago’s tumor shrinking, the senator mentioned her openness to running for presidency in the 2016 elections. In October, the senator announced that 90 percent of her cancer cells were dead, however, she was still weak.

Just this December, Santiago launched a new humor book entitled “Stupid is Forever”, which is a collection of her jokes and witticisms.

Words by Rozelle Javier
Photo from Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s official website


19. Fr. Louie Coronel and the Social Media Bureau


The Social Media Bureau is the newest University office, headed by Fr. Louie Coronel (pictured right). It manages the University’s official social media accounts which help promote University events and Thomasian ideals to the whole world.

In his talk during the Thomasian Martyr’s Week, Coronel encouraged Thomasians to become “modern martyrs through small acts.” Fr. Louie specially referred to Thomasians and said that greatness comes from who we are rather than how we look or where we are from. Through his talks, the Domnican priest continues to be a source of inspiration especially to the Thomasian community.

Words by Xuxa Rivero and Xave Gregorio
Photo by Joe Lugti


18. USTv: Unang Dekada


With its tenth year in giving honor to television programs that showed “evangelization, education and nation-building” influencing the Thomasian community, the Student Organizations Coordinating Council (SOCC) proudly tipped off this year’s USTv: Unang Dekada, Gabi ng Parangal.

Started in 2004, the USTv Students’ Choice Awards gave value not only to the content of the show but also the Thomasian values present in the show itself. This annual event focuses on influencing people to form an advocacy toward responsible media that sets it at a distance from other student-driven award-giving bodies.

Among the outstanding TV programs that received recognition in this year’s USTv Awards were: ABS-CBN’s Rated K’sSenakulo” episode for Students’ Choice for Catholic Feature, ABS-CBN’s TV Patrol for Students’ Choice of News Program, and GMA 7’s Bubble Gang for Students’ Choice of Comedy Program.

Some of the notable Thomasian alumni were also awarded, with Arnold Clavio and Sandra Aguinaldo as the Outstanding Thomasian Male and Female Media Personality.

Words by Rogelio Pascua
Photo by Monica Pantaleon


17. UST’s Board Exam rankings


The efficiency of a university’s efforts towards providing quality education can be proven based on the results of licensure examinations that students take after graduation. Also known as Board Exams, these tests are given to gauge the students’ knowledge on their profession.

The University of Santo Tomas has proven that it is still one of the top universities in the Philippines, having attained placements in the licensure examinations given this year. The University has successfully penetrated through the list of the Top Performing Schools in the Physician Board Exams as well as the exams for Science and Allied-Health Programs such as: Pharmacy, Medical Technology, Nursing, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Nutrition, and even the first board exam conducted for Psychometricians. The University has also received favorable results in the exams conducted for the fields of Engineering, Architecture, and Education.

Words by Gianpaolo Alzaga
Photo by Vitt Salvador


16. #USTFreshmenOrientation


The Thomasian Welcome Walk and freshmen orientations happen annually, but this year, both events had some notable differences which separates it from the previous years.

Aside from the departmental freshmen orientations which are held by respective faculties and colleges, a University-wide orientation formally introduced the University to the newest breed of Tigers. “We decided that it should be unique, it should be all freshmen together,” said Assistant to the Rector for Student Affairs, Prof. Evelyn A. Songco, Ph. D.

Rains and floods have marred the Thomasian Welcome Walk for years, with the Walk or the concert being postponed due to inclement weather. However, this year saw the freshmen pass through the Arch of the Centuries under a bright, clear sky, with no signs of looming rain.

Words by Xave Gregorio


15. UST Faculty Union and the Collective Bargaining Agreement


The previous year proved to be very tumultuous for the Faculty Union (USTFU) that had fought for a wage raise, teaching load, medical benefits and protection of professors who have not earned their masteral or doctorate degrees until they reach an understanding with the administration.

After donning black clothing, legal battles and strike threats, the Union’s fourth successful collective bargaining agreement (CBA) had come to a conclusion early this year. USTFU had ratified last March a new CBA that endorses the salary raise of 3-19% after trying to avoid further clashes in the previous month.

With the ‘compromise’ between the Union and UST, every Union member is now to receive a share of the P10 million fund saved by the Union but the petition for the P26 million medical and hospitalization benefits was not approved by the Supreme Court.

Words by Anna Mogato
Photo by Genevieve Aguilan


14. New Thomasian National Artists


The National Artist award is one of the highest honors the country can grant to remarkable individuals who have made significant contributions to the development of the Philippine arts.

Six Filipino artists entered the prestigious roster this year after a five-year hiatus following the 2009 controversy which surrounded the nominations of four individuals into the list.

Among the six artists are Thomasians Jose Maria Zaragosa and Cirilo F. Bautista who were conferred the titles National Artist for Architecture, and National Artist for Literature, respectively. Zaragosa is best known for his ecclesiastical designs such as the Sto. Domingo Church and the St. John Bosco Parish Church. Bautista, on the other hand is a critically acclaimed poet and fictionist, bagging the Makata ng Taon award for his piece Sunlight on Broken Bones.

Words by Rozelle Javier and Xave Gregorio
Photo by Johmar Damiles


13. Student’s Rights and Welfare (STRAW) Week


This year has been a leap for the rights of Thomasian students as the University of Santo Tomas Central Student Council (CSC) held its first ever Students’ Rights and Welfare (STRAW) Week last October to inform the students about their rights while studying in the Pontifical, Royal and Catholic University.

The STRAW Week was celebrated through a series seminars to inform the community about the Magna Carta of Students commonly known as the Student’s Code. More than that, the CSC also brought the idea creatively by launching the STRAW Song with the help of the Conservatory of Music. The song tackled tuition-fee increase, student-parenthood and other sensitive issues. The week concluded with a meaningful candle lighting ceremony at the Plaza Mayor.

The Students’ Code will be the primary basis of the rights of every Thomasian. The said code specifically discusses matters such as discrimination towards the members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community and the right of University publications to publish “freely”. More importantly, it empowers Thomasians to participate in the policy making and upholding freedom of information.

Formally filed in 2004, the decade-old student’s code was repeatedly revised until present due to changes in leadership. “Since this is the longest academic year for us, I think this is the chance na mapapasa na natin ito… we have ample time to do this,” CSC President Ina Vergara said as she hoped that ten would be the lucky number.

Words by Mac Norhen Bornales
Photo by Shelley Badayos


12. AB Hair Policy


Amidst the discussion on Students’ Rights and Welfare, a dispute involving the Faculty of Arts and Letters administration and its student body flared up regarding a proposed haircut and hair color policy. The regulation made liberal arts majors “frown,” as quoted in their released manifesto, implying that it was an indication of the suppression of their freedom of expression.

They were upset about the rule created by the administration stating that “every student must follow the grooming decorum of the University.” The opposing body defined liberalism through a statement and defended that everyone in the Artlet community has the right to “liberally” style their hair and groom themselves in whatever way they want.

They believe that external appearances do not make one “a lesser person” and do not affect the way he/she performs inside the University. They also argued that having a unique sense of style does not “violate any moral ground”, which is what all regulations are fashioned for.

Due to heavy criticism of the proposed measure, its implementation is suspended until a dialogue between the student body and the administration happens. Dialogues have been repeatedly scheduled, but they have also been repeatedly postponed.

Words by Bernadette Pamintuan and Xave Gregorio
Photo by Amirah Banda


11. Typhoons and flooding


The University’s campus is infamous for being easily flooded whenever a heavy downpour occurs. As such, students are often stereotyped as “waterproof” as Thomasians are well acquainted with heavy rains and rising waters.

When Tropical Storm Mario hit the country last September, it caused a series of unfortunate events involving the Thomasian community. Aside from class suspensions in all levels, the scheduled University of Santo Tomas Entrance Test (USTET) was cancelled, and the departure of Journalism seniors from their retreat in Caleruega was postponed. One of the casualties of TS Mario was UST Medicine student Siegfried Arcilla who was electrocuted by a live wire along España Blvd.

Typhoon Ruby also disrupted University activities, with the annual Paskuhan being rescheduled for the first time.

Words by Leah Camangon and Christelle Lois Ann Mapa
Photo by Charmin Cauilan


10. UST Files and Omegle


Social media played a big role in 2014, with it mainly being a vehicle for societal change. However, for Thomasians two things stood out this year when talking about social media: the Facebook page UST Files, and website Omegle.

UST Files is somewhat of an online diary wherein Thomasians can share their thoughts and experiences on the page for the public to read. Those who share their stories on the page are only identified through nicknames and the colleges where they belong. While these stories about love, heartbreaks, and random experiences could forge a connection between Thomasians, it could also be a source of conflict.

In an “open letter” to the students of the Faculty, Civil Law Dean Nilo Divina said that he is “well aware of the existence of a certain social media forum where some students, under the cloak of anonymity, unabashedly vent their frustrations and disappointments with the Faculty of Civil Law, its professors or fellow students, regardless of its merit or lack of it.” Divina was pertaining to UST Files offshoot Civil Law Files, which operates the same way as the former – publishing stories in anonymity.

Yet another brainchild of UST Files is the use of chat site Omegle to connect with fellow Thomasians. By default, going on Omegle would mean chatting to a random stranger through text and/or video. By adding “UST” and “UST400” as interests, the strangers are filtered out to only include Thomasians, and sometimes, Thomasians-at-heart.

Words by Tristan Carpio and Xave Gregorio
Illustration by Humphrey Litan


9. UST in Sports


It has been a year of victories and defeats for the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers. Tallying 274 points, the Tigers fell short against De La Salle University Green Archers with 289 points in the general championship race in the UAAP Season 76. But the wind seemed to change its direction, going back to España Boulevard as the black and gold squad led the overall championship race with 152 points at the end of first semester, bagging title victories in women’s beach volleyball, men’s taekwondo, and in men’s and women’s judo.

[Ang] UAAP hindi lang naman more on basketball. It’s about all sports,” Institute of Physical Education and Athletics (IPEA) athletics coordinator Rodrigo Sambuang said. Indeed true, the teams that haven’t received much recognition from the Thomasian community made noise for themselves with the triumphs they had this season. At the start of the second semester, the UST Lady Tracksters snatched the tiara, ending the 11-year reign of the Far Eastern University Lady Tamaraws, while their male counterparts brought home the bronze. The Tiger Fencers also capped off their season with a second place both in men’s and women’s division.

Unfortunately, the UST Men’s Basketball team lost two of their coaches within a year as the head tactician Pido Jarencio left the Tigers’ lair and chose to improve his game in PBA last January, while Estong Ballesteros resigned from the Asst. Coach post this month and decided to mentor Tanduay Light, a team in the PBA D-League. And with every goodbye, there will be someone who will surely say hello as Bong dela Cruz took over the position of the head coach of the Tigers.

But the sports-related issues surrounding the University seem to be unending. Earlier this school year, IPEA removed football from the Thomasian Goodwill Games, the annual tournament among different faculties and colleges. The decision caused uproar within the UST football community, prompting them to establish the UST Football Alliance (USTFA) to further solidify their stance on the issue. Despite the letters sent to their office, IPEA is firm with their decision, not even allowing a student dialogue to materialize.

Words by Rea Stevens
Photo by Lara Murallos


8. Removal of Filipino from the college curriculum


The almighty field of the academe is no exemption for disputes. 2014 was a year that saw major shifts in curriculum, imposed by both the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) on their respective scopes. But perhaps it was the removal of Filipino subjects in the tertiary level that had many crying foul.

With the title ‘General Education Curriculum: Holistic Understandings, Intellectual and Civic Competencies (GEC)’, the CHED Memorandum Order No. 20 Series of 2013 (CMO 20-2013) would remove all general education courses of higher education programs—including Filipino—from the tertiary level to pave way to a new curriculum more focused on Science and Technology. These subjects would then be relegated into senior high school core courses.

While the views towards the issue are of stark contrast, the majority of the opposition instigated protests, most notably from an alliance popularly known as Tanggol Wika or Alyansa ng mga Tagapagtanggol ng Wikang Filipino, which comprised of educators and college professors from various colleges and universities around the country.

Tanggol Wika argues that the memorandum would lead to employment woes, with professors either losing their jobs or being displaced in other disciplines. It would also compromise the further development, intellectualization and study of the Filipino language.

Words by Jaehwa Bernardo
Photo by Patrick Palencia


7. New food stores inside the campus


One of the biggest dilemmas we regularly face in college doesn’t happen inside the four corners of our classrooms. In fact, it happens after dismissal or during breaks, when the bell rings and our stomachs rumble with need: “Saan tayo kakain?” followed by the inevitable answer, “Kahit saan.

Fortunately, we usually don’t have to go too far or think too hard for the Multi-deck Carpark inside the University is jam-packed with dozens of restaurants. This year, new stores were added to the roster.

Headlining the list is the irresistible Krispy Kreme, which was met by a very warm welcome, as manifested by the seemingly unending queues during its opening week. Thomasians can now treat themselves to the mouthwatering doughnuts and coffee that the store serves.

On the opposite end of the row are two more recently-opened stores. The first is an Asian restaurant founded by an engineering and medicine alumnus. With the tagline, “Fantastic feasts served fast,” and a witty name Mr. Fast Foo, it offers a wide variety of Chinese cuisine like Lechon Macau, black bean fish fillet, dimsum, wanton noodles, and more. Beside it is Cyndi’s Grill, which offers Filipino dishes like adobo and bangus, homemade pasta, and breakfast meals in affordable rates, just like its predecessor Ate Eva’s Grill.

This year has also marked the opening of two new stores in the Quadricentennial Pavillion. Facing the Roque Ruaño building are Chicken Deli, a Bacolod-based franchise which offers a menu similar to Mang Inasal’s with rice-all-you-can barbeque meals, and the much awaited Family Mart, a Japanese convenience store known for retailing international brands and the infamous twirl-all-you-can ice creams.

Words by Diane Garduce
Photo by Ferlyn Landoy


6. Faculty of Arts and Letters Student Council’s (ABSC) “lost funds”


Officers of the Faculty of Arts and Letters Student Council (ABSC) are in hot water this year after the AB Board of Majors (BOM) released a statement saying that the council has lost funds amounting to approximately P50,000.

According to the statement, the missing funds should have funded the Athena Cup, the NGO Fair, and the general staff assembly.

In their own statement, the ABSC representatives pledged to “take full responsibility” on the stolen cash fund. Aside from these statements, both the ABSC and the BOM have remained mum on the issue as the Students’ Welfare and Development Board continue its investigation.

Words by Monica Hernandez and Xave Gregorio
Photo by Denise Sabio


5. Buenaventura Garcia Paredes, O.P. Building


The Buenaventura Garcia Paredes, O.P. (BGPOP) building, or commonly called as the alumni center, opened its doors to Thomasians during the first semester of 2014 particularly to the College of Tourism and Hospitality Management along with the Faculty of Arts and Letters. Standing 12 stories high, the building does not disappoint Thomasians, especially with new facilities, plus the vending machines!

The construction took a few years but it’s like waiting to receive something new wherein you can’t wait but get your hands all over it. The new building within the campus definitely made the students eager to set foot inside. The classrooms are quite impressive with their new chairs and glass blackboards, but the view of the campus is such a scene-stealer. It is definitely something big to kick off the school year.

Words by Mary de los Santos
Photo by Miguel Aquino


4. Preparations for the Papal Visit


Almost twenty years passed since Saint John Paul II graced the country with his presence during the World Youth Day in January 1995. Now, it’s only a few more days before Pope Francis visits the Philippines.

Different sectors, especially the religious sector, have been arranging the necessary preparations for the Pope’s arrival and his whole itinerary during his stay here – from January 15 to 19 next year, including a visit to the pontifical University.

These preparations aren’t limited to building the picturesque altars and papal seats. They are also encouraging everyone to be spiritually prepared for the Pope’s coming to the country.

The very long anticipation for the Pope’s visit is undeniable, and the experience on January next year would probably be extraordinary for those who’ll make the effort to see Pope Francis, and be blessed and enlightened by his word.

Words by Jackie Bouvier Arias
Photo by Patrick Palencia


3. Salinggawi Dance Troupe


This year was a big comeback for the Salinggawi Dance Troupe (SDT) as they ended the drought for a podium finish, settling on the third spot in the UAAP Season 77 Cheerdance Competition (CDC) last September.

2010 was the last time the SDT tasted the top spot as they placed third that year. 2013 saw them placing seventh, their lowest placing since the inception of the UAAP CDC. For four years, the España-based dance troupe struggled to climb back to the top, until they finally did this year.

Matagal na naming hinihintay na makabalik sa top 3, tapos ngayon parang sa lahat nang pinagdaanan namin, nakatulong ‘yung pagkalaglag namin last year para makuha namin siya ngayon nang mas maganda,” Former SDT Captain Danrev Dimaculangan said.

“We’ll go for the gold na po next year, sobra-sobrang paghahandaan po namin talaga siya. Siyempre ayaw naman namin na ma-disappoint ‘yung supporters namin kaya sobrang gagawin namin lahat ng best namin para makakuha ng gold sa UAAP,” SDT Captain MC Cruz assured.

Words by Mac Norhen Bornales


2. Paskuhan: Full Blast


Upon crossing the threshold of fantasy and reality, UST’s annual Paskuhan kept both realms interweaved each year.

Since its inauguration in 1991 until reaching the brew-point of being a University tradition, thousands of students flock to witness this much anticipated year ender as a celebratory custom. Going back to UST’s quadricentennial year, Paskuhan 2011’s ‘Pagsalubong para sa ika-5 siglo’ had the biggest crowd amounting to 100,000.

This year, the festivity reached onto greater heights, which included the Thomasian unity for the Pope’s visitation in January. After all, the Eucharistic Celebration is what highlights the whole Paskuhan event. The Agape was also done, wherein university employees and professors could claim free food as a sign of brotherhood. From ‘no-fireworks-display’ due to donations for Typhoon Yolanda victims in 2013, crestfallen Thomasians were back on cloud nine after watching a six-minute pyromusical display.

Paskuhan had a flock of 70,000 individuals, music, food, and camaraderie. Now isn’t that a blast?

Words by Samanthea Caballero


1. Academic Calendar shift


This year the university has made yet another milestone that will surely grant a significant change in the academic lifestyle of students and professors – the academic calendar shift.

UST Secretary General Rev. Fr. Winston Cabading, O.P. officially approved the University’s collegiate calendar for A.Y. 2014-2015, marking the beginning of regular classes on July 14 instead of the usual first Monday on the month of June.

A number of major changes in schedule in examinations, celebrations as well as school breaks happened as a result of the transition of classes starting on July instead of June such as the Welcome Walk, usually held around August to September of the academic year, was now held on July 11, before the start of classes.

Preliminary examinations were now scheduled on the first to second week of September while the final examinations were on the first to second week of November. The accustomed semestral break during the second to third week of October until the first week of November was removed from the new calendar, merging with the Christmas vacation after the finals. Lastly, the traditional Paskuhan festivities normally held a day or two after final examinations was now scheduled three weeks after the final examinations.

The adjustment in the calendar was done in preparation for the integration of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2015 allowing new and greater opportunities for international student exchange programs within the ASEAN community.

Words by Janine Soliman
Photo by Bria Cardenas

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The truth about online classes told by a struggling Thomasian

“I can’t do anything but comply with what the institution demands because I’m afraid to be left out.”

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Artwork by Patricia Jardin

When technology becomes a hallmark for the future, it can be difficult to imagine a life where it wasn’t used to encompass much of our everyday activities. Then again, we knew a childhood with sparse technological influences, but all the same, we grew up at a time technology was becoming revolutionized—which makes us, to some extent, caught in the middle. And this is why it puts us in such a difficult position, because until now we live in a desperate attempt to try and bridge the gap between face-to-face and digital learning.

It becomes especially difficult at a time when some of us live in apprehension and some are mourning. When survival should be first and foremost prioritized, the need for productivity counteracts it in the most perfect example: online-based instruction.

The costs of online learning

“I can barely access any online classes due to internet speed. And I wish I can keep up, but I simply can’t,” Cecilio “Josh” Malang, an Asian Studies freshman, shared in an interview with TomasinoWeb.

With the COVID-19 pandemic and resumption of online classes co-occurring, students are compelled to follow through alongside complications in connection, inaccessibility of digital-based media, inconducive learning environments, and mental health issues.

“Whenever there is a scheduled online class, I consult the president of our class and inform her that I won’t be able to attend, and she orients our professors about it. Luckily, my classmates summarize the discussions for me,” although this put him in a tough position in part because intermediary learning has its disadvantages, “they are more advanced since they have the chance to attend online classes without interruption.” 

In response to concerns such as this, the university has made it publicly known that they are working in collaboration with telecommunication companies so that students may “increase chances to participate in a virtual learning environment”.

But the question persists: is a virtual learning environment a conducive learning environment?

Malang adds that he attended an online class once through his phone, consuming an enormous amount of mobile data, but was ineffective because of frequent disconnection and inability to clearly comprehend the discussion, “It’s not like I am not trying to have a better connection. I have executed alternative ways I can resort to, but I am left with no choice but to wait for my classmates for the summarized discussion.”

‘Learning’ from home

“There is a hint of compassion based on the guidelines that were released, such as disallowing professors to give a failing grade, but I feel that to show genuine compassion, it must be at its fullest extent, and not just half of it,” Malang acknowledges that the university’s decision was not without its pros, but it was not without its cons either.

Among the advantages of online instruction, he notes, are that classes are resumed as per usual meaning the academic year won’t be extended, and that students can be productive and preoccupied, thus their concerns are shifted from worrying about their well-being to a variety of academic activities.

Likewise, Malang considered some of its drawbacks such as its ineffective effort towards sustainable learning since not all students consider their homes as convenient learning areas and that most especially, students become passive learners.

When being able to submit requirements online becomes central to supposed ‘online learning’, it gives the impression that the learning process is ignored. Requirements simply bypass and impede learning and online instruction becomes a half-baked substitute for quality education that all students deserve. The magnitude of learning, at this point, is of no importance.

Resilience… in this economy?

As Filipinos, we are habitually taught the virtue of resourcefulness, resilience, and diskarte or practical intelligence, and this is because the common social context for Filipinos is one of ubiquitous injustice and inequality. We are to make do with what we have instead of acknowledging the problem and compromising so that no one may have to suffer the consequences of not being privileged enough to get by with ease. 

This concern cuts through and beyond issues of connectivity. The world is at a standstill and we are constrained to be productive by virtue of online classes. A lot of students might not be in the right headspace to accomplish anything, but they aren’t given the luxury of choices.

“No student wishes to be left behind. No one wants a grade of INP either, because they will tend to overthink,” Malang remarks—the INP option becomes counterproductive because it leaves students with more apprehension at a time when personal well-being should be ahead of everything else.

Malang also shares that he has had trouble sleeping in part because of added responsibilities on top of those he already had, “One factor that contributed to my difficulty in sleeping is overthinking on ways on how to attend online classes.”

This goes to show that this is no time to compromise student welfare and turn a blind eye to their grievances. Psychological stressors are present even in the midst of our homes where we are quarantined, and they are not to be overlooked—mental health should be prioritized just as much as physical health. 

“I can’t do anything but comply with what the institution demands because I’m afraid to be left out,” Malang says. 

This is not the opportunity to challenge resilience in students, not when the health of the entire world is being jeopardized. Especially not when students are not granted with the same conveniences—no amount of sped up internet connection can make up for that. Quality education is supposed to be a right and not a privilege. When problems of connectivity and welfare arise, it really makes you wonder how it puts the onus on the student and not on the flawed education system itself.

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Online classes: Thomasians are left with no choice

While safe from the virus raging outside that is risking people’s lives, some Thomasians are silently dealing with digital-born problems within their homes.

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Artwork by Patricia Jardin

Inside the safety of their homes, shielded from the pandemic, students are focused in front of their monitors while bearing constant fear of failing to comply before the set deadlines. While safe from the virus raging outside that is risking people’s lives, some Thomasians are silently dealing with digital-born problems within their homes. 

After the release of an advisory from the University of Santo Tomas that announced the continuation of online classes lasting until the end of the second term, A.Y. 2019-2020, the Thomasian community sought compassion above all else amid the pandemic and enhanced community quarantine. After all, the University prides itself with the three Cs: commitment, competence and compassion. Scattered across the country, the Thomasian population is facing varying and immense disparity of privilege and resources. 

Absolute compliance

Surrounded in dim lights, an uncomfortable dreadful night is fast approaching as the clock continues to tick and getting closer to the deadline. It is when desperation and frustration find its way towards a slouched figure that’s struggling to reconnect with their online classes, awfully aware of time slipping between their fingers.

Jude Wyndel Poblete, a freshman from the College of Accountancy, is facing difficulties more than ever with online classes because of his current situation; living at Northern Samar, their unstable internet connection combined with multiple power interruptions are the source of his worry and frustration.  Poblete experienced firsthand the inability to comply when he failed to take his mock examination from their respective college due to unstable internet connection and power interruptions that he expressed on his Twitter account. 

When the university announced the resumption of online classes, Poblete anticipated what would happen, “I was really worried about not being able to comply with the online requirements given the fact that I’m at the province,” Poblete shared with TomasinoWeb. “We are more than eager to pass this term but due to some hindrances, we are left with no choice but to accept whatever happens.”

Overwhelming emotions

Once the clock hits the deadline, it’s game over. It’s a student’s worst nightmare—the submit button gone, any other chances disappear and the stunned silence that comes afterward is painful and unbearable. 

Poblete narrates that their college mock examination was supposed to boost the students’ confidence in taking their online classes. However, not being able to take the exam because of his current situation plummeted his motivation in studying, “It [mock examination] caused me to have mental distress and breakdown. I started crying and I had no urge to study for my upcoming exams anymore.” 

The reason for his breakdown is because of his fear of having an incomplete grade that will be a burden for upcoming semesters, “It’s hard to settle for a grade of INP, that’s why we are doing our best to comply with the requirements given by our professors but some factors are hindering us.” 

Not everyone is privileged

The University of Santo Tomas is one of the universities that is known in the country by providing its students with quality education. Moreover, it is a common fact that the Thomasian community, in every way,  is a perfect blend of unique diversity.

Poblete pointed out, “I hope that the university will consider the situation of those students who are UNPRIVILEGED,” because there are students that aren’t properly equipped for online classes. “Online classes are not suitable in our country since we have no strong and stable internet connection here,” he added. 

Further addressing the problem that he encountered, “It is really hard to study by ourselves because we could not digest what the book or PowerPoint presentation is saying without explanation from our professors.” Poblete emphasized that online classes do not give the quality education that Thomasians need.

Because of the hindrances that affect his online classes, Poblete asserted his dismay as he sympathizes with other students who are going through the same situation as him. “It also has been tough for us, knowing that all those sleepless nights and efforts we’ve exerted will be put into waste just because we are not privileged.”

No student left behind

Though Poblete is having a series of difficulties, he wanted to remind everyone to never feel sorry just because of their status by stating his sentiments towards the students who are struggling with online classes, “Let us be reminded that we can get through this. Never feel sorry for being unprivileged, let them feel sorry for themselves for being inconsiderate. No students will be left behind!” 

People did not predict that the one-week suspension of classes would eventually lead to more than a month of community quarantinethat March 9 was the last time they would see their block mates and friends. Not until the pandemic is over and declared as COVID-free nation. 

Thomasians are calling out for the university administration to reconsider their decision that is stated in its Institutional Continuity Plan. Poblete believes that ending the term is what the students need, “the issue here is not about grades anymore but the safety of the whole Thomasian community.”

Privilege is not given to everyone, the university must also consider the students who will suffer through repercussions because of the several limitations that the online classes have; lack of materials, unstable internet connection, an unhealthy situation that a student may be in and power interruptions. The students have  no choice but to cope with the situation that is full of disarray because of the pandemic; prioritizing their basic needs, their health, and also trying to meet their assigned deadlines.

Therefore, the voices of Thomasians are clear: We deserve compassion, we deserve a quality education. And most importantly, we deserve a healthy learning environment. 

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The Rise of Galvanize

“Unang-una, sumasayaw kami kasi masaya kami doon. So, kung ‘di na masaya, parang nawala na yung purpose mo sa sayaw.”

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Photo from Asian Hiphop Philippines Facebook page

Known for their numerous achievements starting off as champions in Step Up 2016, honing gold from UAAP Streetdance Junior Division and down to the most recent performance as a qualifier for the Asian Hip-hop 2020 in Hong Kong—this team still manages to bring home the bacon as it was recollected by Nina Reyes, Liya Escudero, Manuel Ilagan and captain, Jonas Belgica.

Behind every success is a group that started from humble beginnings, which was formed by Mr. Angelo Sicat back in 2016 when the newly added administration and system of Senior High School in UST was established.

Fronted by Coach John, the organization always brings out their best and never forgets their roots. Besides hip-hop, they also have a contemporary division in the team which is led by Coach Dany.

Keeping up with an outstanding record, the team manages to hold up with the demand for new members every year since Senior High School only has 2 academic years. Because of this, graduating Grade 12 members are to be replaced by new ones who still have two years in their hands.

Nevertheless, despite a short exposure they still aspire for one another most especially for new recruits, “Kini-keep pa rin po namin yung bond, parang ayaw namin ma-feel na leftout sila basta as one po kami nagw-work.

Additionally, they practice devotion and praying before every competition which shows how much they value their efforts and how thankful they are with the bond they have. With this connection, they can say that they are unique from other dance organizations because of the values they uphold which strengthens them, “Nilalagay namin sa center si God.

Just like other organizations, they feel that pressure is part of the process of performing most especially how they always manage to win over every competition that they can get their feet and hands on.

“‘Tas laging sinasabi ng coach namin na ang mahalaga is mag-enjoy kayo, na after ng performance wala kayong regrets. So, manalo-matalo, masaya pa rin naman po kami and hindi namin hinahayaan yung pressure na yun mabago yung mindset namin.”, as the members narrate how they deal with expectations from the public. Trust is what makes them serve the best moves in the stage.

When asked how they accommodate their academic responsibilities notwithstanding the countless hours they dedicate to training, they find a way to patch it up by helping each other out. The key to this is by communicating with teammates, “Parehas din ng struggle mo, like, if parehas kayo ng strand makakausap mo siya in a way na magtutulungan kayo for acads and tsaka time management.”

With loads of challenges and trials upon their shoulders, they admitted that there was a time wherein it did cross their minds that they wanted to quit. But then, each of them realized that staying is much more worth it than walking away from the passion that they have for dancing.

As Nina and Liya recalls enthusiastically, “Kasi pag passionate ka po sa ginagawa mo talaga, sometimes, yung physical mo ganyan yung mental mo. Parang ayoko na talaga pero parang you find yourself pa rin doing what you love parang nasa heart mo na talaga eh.”

Manuel even shared how he battled the fear of quitting, “Ipapa-realize talaga sayo ng coach mo kung ano yung purpose mo kung bakit ko ginawa yun kahit mahirap siya. Doon mo mare-realize na it’s for your dreams din, para din sa sarili mo, para sa parents mo, para maging proud sila sayo.

Kung hindi siya masaya, hindi siya sayaw. Kasi, unang-una, sumasayaw kami kasi masaya kami doon. So, kung ‘di na masaya, parang nawala na yung purpose mo sa sayaw,” as Jonas denotes what drives him more amidst the difficult problems he faces as the captain.

With the mention of training, it is understood that it takes a lot of work and practice to master the art of dancing but some still think that it doesn’t fall under the category of sports.

Kasi naging mainstream na yung basketball, yung volleyball ganon. As in yun na yung tinitignan na permanent sport, ganon yung mga tao kasi parang limited lang yung understanding nila to what dancing really is kasi tingin nila gagalaw-galaw lang yun pero hindi nila alam na may certain requirement and certain kind of preparation na kailangan mo gawin para ma-achieve mo yung ganong klaseng mga movements,” they said.

Jonas Belgica, Darlo Emmanuel Ilagan, Lia Resabella Escudero, and Niña Marie Reyes | Christine Annmarie Tapawan/TomasinoWeb

There has been a stereotype about dancers and competitions because people think that since dancing doesn’t require a person to lift weights and only perform on stage for around 4 minutes, it’s not fully regarded as a sport––which is not right because it also needs training and proper discipline. The same as the amount of hardwork and effort that is put into sports like basketball and other sports. 

They reiterated that educating people about what dancing is all about will greatly change this kind of mindset.

They hope that this would change but are still grateful for the support they receive most especially with the upcoming Season 82 UAAP Streetdance and the 2020 Asian Hip-hop competition this coming May.

Dancing, whatever the genre an individual chooses to exhibit, is both a sport and art that expresses words into graceful and prodigious movements up to any extent the body can procure.

Freedom.

Love.

Fulfillment.

Competence.

For them, these four words resonated the sensation of being a dancer of Galvanize.

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