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Jan Bendric Borbe, the multi-faceted storyteller

Beneath the white clothes is oftentimes a storyteller we overlook. Being an artist takes immense love and a sense of purpose in one’s curiosity. For Borbe, passing the exam and being a doctor is not the end—it is the beginning of a true challenge.

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Photo courtesy of Jan Bendric Borbe.

Clad in white clothes, a coffee in one hand and a book on the other, and text highlighters in various colors sprawled on their table—this is one of the stereotypes that we have of medical students. They huddle in coffee shops and internet café lounges reading thick books filled with marginalia but oftentimes, we encounter their faces in a different place: in a news report, with the words ‘breaking’ capitalized and in bold.

“I heard the news from a friend,” Jan Bendric Borbe said, in an exclusive interview with TomasinoWeb. “It was a mixture of nerves and excitement.”

Borbe passed the licensure exams for physicians last March 15, ranking number one with a score of 89.83%.  When asked about the first thing that came in his mind, he said, “I couldn’t believe it so I had to check with my own eyes. It took a while to let it sink in. I just couldn’t wrap my head around it.” Finding out about the results was a moment of disbelief for him. He described it as “very overwhelming”, as an influx of calls and messages from family and friends surged afterwards.

“At that very moment, I felt like I was floating,” he admitted, “It was just cloud nine.” Borbe voiced out his gratitude for everyone who had supported him along the way. Indeed, as the reality settled in, he knew it was a shared victory spawned by collaborative effort.

As a child, Borbe didn’t really dream of becoming a doctor. “It was more of a calling,” he confessed, “and I felt like I was being led towards this direction.” He saw taking up medicine as an opportunity and took on the challenge. “And before I even realized it,” he remarked, “I was already in love with the profession.”

Storytelling comes in many forms, for we are artists in various spectrum. There is beauty in a collective action, poetry in the solace we keep, and love in the mornings we partake in. For Borbe, he has always cherished music since childhood. “I’ve been playing the piano since I was young,” he said, “Music has always been a constant source of inspiration and comfort.”

Borbe spoke of moments when he got to perform, and that it was often during these times on stage when he felt most alive. “My piano teachers have taught me more than music,” he shared, “They taught me grit and the right attitude towards work, and I believe I’ve carried that sense of discipline in everything that I do.”

When asked if there is an aspect of his college life that he wished would thrive in the coming years of his career, he recalled being one of those wide-eyed freshmen not too long ago. He shared that being a doctor is being committed to a lifelong pursuit of knowledge—after all, medicine is a broad subject and is often evolving. He said, curiosity shall keep the flame ablaze in our hearts and our souls on constant sense of seeking. “I was always very curious growing up,” he shared, “and that’s one thing I’d like to keep with me in the years to come.”

Beneath the white clothes is oftentimes a storyteller we overlook. Being an artist takes immense love and a sense of purpose in one’s curiosity. For Borbe, passing the exam and being a doctor are not the end—it is the beginning of a true challenge. The beginning of a new way to tell a story. “There seems to be something new to learn each day,” he said, making it clear that he is, again, willing to take on the challenge.

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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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