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The one who can rewrite the stars

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Ominous-looking clouds hung low over the sky—threatening more rain despite the already heavy downpour several hours before, yet despite the damp, muddy ground of the UST field and the humid May air one could still feel the celebratory atmosphere of this academic year’s Baccalaureate Mass last Thursday, May 24.

The field was abuzz with energy as the seniors, armed with their permanent markers and their type A uniforms, scrambled throughout the crowd in search of their most cherished people, eager to leave a piece of them in that person’s most treasured memorabilia.

“Maraming salamat,” “mami-miss kita,” “g*go ga-graduate na tayo,” echoed everywhere–each word bares four years (or more) worth of friendship formed by sleepless nights, afternoon breakdowns, and even the silent cheers they shared as they shade the last circle of that scantron exam. Through tears and cheers, emotions flooded the whole University for finally, they proved that everything is indeed worth it.

Having no expectations upon entering the iconic Arch of the Centuries years ago, fourth year journalism student Cristina Baclig shared how her journey changed her for the better.

Pumasok ako na hindi naman ito ang dream school wala akong ine-expect or anything akala ko magiging normal student lang  ako,” Baclig shared to TomasinoWeb. “Hindi ko ine-expect na sa four years ko maraming pala akong interesting na mangyayari sa akin, marami pala akong maiiambag. Marami rin akong na-meet.”

The long journey towards the coveted diploma is a no easy feat, and amidst the tribulations, the budding journalist emphasized the importance of looking out for yourself.

“Hindi importante na lagi nagsa-succeed ka sa lahat ng bagay, lalo kung napapabayaan  mo na yung sarili mo, […] hindi mo ma-feel yung fulfillment at hindi ka rin masa-satisfy sa lahat ng ginawa mo kasi feeling mo ang empty mo.” Baclig said.

There is always the underlying pressure that knocks the air out of people. However, graduating business management student Patricia Concepcion encouraged everyone to make the most out of everything despite one’s fear of failure.

“Kahit na nag-fail ka pwede ka pa rin bumangon tapos mag move-on ka lang,” she said with a smile.

In this sea of motion, the student staffers, maintenance personnel, and even the professors darted from place to place in preparation for the mass. With sweat forming at the brows and with time chasing them at their backs, excitement and adrenaline fuels them to do more.

JR Sanchez who vigilantly guards the gates of the University said that despite the exhaustion, he felt happy for the graduates.

Una ko palang ito.. pagod [pero] happy for the students… [nararamdaman mo] ‘yong saya nila habang naghihiwayan [at­] ‘yong damdamin mo napapahiyaw rin.”

Everyone was growing restless until finally, the sky was ablaze as firecrackers were launched–opening a space between the clouds for the sun to shine. Cheers erupted everywhere for finally, their most awaited ending has finally begun.

Thomasians started to pour out of the buildings that served as their second home, and each faculty and colleges waved their banners high up the air as they paraded their way through the verdant field of the UST Grandstand–a symbol that their journey has finally come in full circle as that is the very same earth that welcomed them as they first passed the Arch of the Centuries.

The resounding cries of the seniors erupted as they were ushered to their designated seats among the neatly lined chairs that the University’s personnel worked hard for a day before the event. People loiter around the field, some taking pictures while others are still writing on each other’s polo. The flurry of activity is a bliss for everywhere is decorated with smiles.

Standing among her graduating friends, Red Ricafort, a third year communication arts student expressed her joy as she sends them off to a brand new journey.

“It was overwhelming. Sobrang saya ko for them kasi they finally reached the end of their journey sa college.” Ricafort added, “mahirap rin kasi I’ve spent most of my time with them kaya it won’t be easy to part ways. Super mami-miss ko sila pero I’m really happy that they’ve reached this point na nakangiti and hopeful pa rin. I wish I’ll stand in the same place at the same time next year with that same hopeful and happy smile that they have.”

And in stark contrast of the current vibe, a blanket of solemnity fell as the Mass has officially begun which was presided by the University Rector Very Rev. Fr. Herminio Dagohoy, O.P.

“Your journey in UST ends this evening but the test of you being [a] Thomasian also begins. Be proud of your beginning and make your life a legacy,” said Dagohoy.

And although tomorrow holds no promises, like a gentle embrace, he reminded the seniors to take in their heart the Christian teachings they have learned. Dagohoy said that those teachings will serve as foundation that can make them unshakable as they face this brand new chapter in life.

It is time for us to let you go. Do not lose that space where God could easily touch you when you feel that your life is no longer enough for everything. God suffices,” the Rector added.

Leaving the four corners of the University that witnessed thousands of created moments, learned lessons, and cherished friendships would only now be a recollected memories as they graduate.

Pansamantala nating iiwan ang UST, pero ang mga ala-alang nagawa at mga aral na napulot natin dito ay dadalhin pa rin natin sa ating mga puso at isipan. Marami tayong mga kwento na babalik-balikan, mga kwentong ating iingatan sa ating puso,” said the former Central Student Council president Janela Love Nartates in her message.

Bittersweet as this might be the last, but  as they exit the University, the character of being Thomasian will be imbued forever.

“This is the end of our student life,however, my fellow Thomasians, this is just the beginning of a more challenging professional life ahead for us […] Now, let us show the world how competent, committed, and compassionate we are. Ipakita at ipagmalaki natin na tayo ay mga Tomasino,” Nartates said.

And suddenly, the field was alight with thousands of fires as the students began the candle-lighting ceremony, followed by the students donning their rosaries. The mass finally ended with the singing of the UST hymn, each word sung with more conviction as this may be their last opportunity to do so.

With tears threatening to fall at some of the students’ eyes, a collective gasp echoed all throughout the field as everything went dark. The crowd erupted into excited cheers as the speakers blasted Hayaan Mo Sila by Ex Battalion.

But the all familiar tune just hyped the Thomasians for the countdown has just begun.

The first beat dropped and the stark black sky was illuminated by a thousand sparks. Shouts of exhilaration filled the air as This Is The Greatest Show played. With eyes and phones trained up the sky, Thomasians swayed to the beat of the music, their eyes feast on the magnificence of the fireworks display.

As the last note of This Is Me aired, the crowd fell silent as their emotions overwhelm them. Standing side by side with their friends and arms wrapped around each other, they stare at the trail of lights the display left at the sky.

Yet, everybody’s heads turned towards upwards because nobody was prepared when Bboom Bboom by Korean girl group  MOMOLAND blasted from the speakers. The once sullen crowd turned wild with disbelief and adrenaline surged through their veins.

This is it.

As they stare at the Arch that once welcomed them, their heartbeats thundered loudly.

This is it.

Their hands found each other, seeking comfort as they are about to plunge into a brand new world.

This is it.

And they released their loudest cries as they ran towards the Arch.

It is truly a magical sight to behold–to see how the once confused and terrified freshman free to be the graduates that survived the worst of the storms.

Akala ko talaga hindi ako makakatapos talaga kasi ang dami kong pinagdaan sa college,” said fourth year nursing student Adrielle Anyayahan as she stood alongside her father and sister. “Pero pinakalesson [na] natutunan ko ay in everything you do may mga pagkakataaon na madadapa ka pero kaya mong tumayo until ma-reach mo na yung dream mo,”

And with glassy eyes, Adrielle’s father Pablito, expressed his elation and pride for seeing her daughter’s hard-earned achievement.

“Very proud kasi nandun yung accomplishment na napag-aral namin siya.”

And chiding jokingly, Adrielle’s sister, Alyana said, “Congrats! Pag-aralin mo na ako.

As the people leave and the energy dwindles down, one cannot help but notice the mounds of trash left at the field. Michael Joaquin, a sweeper, expressed his disappointment upon the state of things.

Wala naman pong pinagkaiba [sa mga nakaraang Bacc Mass]. Taon-taon naman po kalat ang [nagiging]  problema. [‘]Yan na nga ang mga basurahan sa gilid ang gagawin nalang nila ay itapon,”

Yet despite the mess, he is still hopeful that the succeeding events will leave little to no waste, imploring everyone to be more disciplined in their trash disposal.

No one is failure-proof; everyone is bound to fall at some point because this is what will take a person farther than what they have imagined. Mistakes are not there to define you but to refine you–because you are the one who can rewrite your own stars.

 

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Akin Ako: How Teatro Tomasino offered new narratives for queer people through Singhap

For their 41st season, Teatro Tomasino showed Singhap: a three-play production that narrates the journey of finding one’s identity, of coming out in the open, and of being brave amidst terrible mishaps.

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Photo by Karch Te

Love is love, no matter what.

In times of destitution, we find ourselves gasping for air. It’s as if after a long period of isolation, after being silenced by an angry crowd with a thousand mean voices, do we find the need to sigh and finally say enough is enough.

Love is love, no matter what.

For their 41st season, Teatro Tomasino showed Singhap: a three-play production that narrates the journey of finding one’s identity, of coming out in the open, and of being brave amidst terrible mishaps.
This year they focused on self-realization and individuality as they plead for equality in a world that lacked acceptance, dedicating the production to the ones who are “quiet, remained quiet, silenced, and erased.”

Esprit de Corps (written by Auraeus Solito and directed by Ingrid Villamarin) tells the story of Sergeant Sarmiento, an aspirant to a position currently held by S3 Favila in his school’s CAT. It showed how abuse can happen anywhere and how it can become systematic and a norm. It is a sharp narrative encouraging victims to come out and cast their doubts, and fight back.

A.Y.L.I. (written by Cheska Marfori and directed by Iris Montesclaros), on the other hand, narrates the story of old friends who decided to meet-up one day to check on each other. As they began to dig up the past, revelations were unsealed by shouldn’t-have-beens. It is a subtle take on friendships and uncertainty–of sentences held back, of wars going on at the back of the throat, on banging heartbeats.

Lastly, Kublihan (written by Jerome Ignacio and directed by Eudes Garcia) is a story of childhood friends who met again after a long time. It is a narrative of coming-of-age and self-realization, teenage angst and the burden of unreachable expectations. It conveys something that only action could decipher because words are awkward and the message can never be articulated.

Singhap is not just a mere production or an introduction to a new season; it is an advocacy. It is offering new narratives for people who lived their lives in the shade, for those who are kept silent, in order to bring about a voice for the voiceless.

“[Ang produksyon na ito] ay para sa tahimik, pinatahimik, binura, nananahimik.. [at] gustong kumawala,” said Eudes Garcia, director. He then went further to acknowledge the strength in deciding to love despite the hate and the importance of knowing oneself.

Singhap is a bicker of hope–a rainbow after a storm; it is a light that gets you out of a cave, a fire that keeps your passion burning, and a shoulder to cry on. It is through these narratives that fear is cut loose in order to give way for wider acceptance. It is through these stories that people can finally feel included.

So that, eventually, people can say: Love is love, no matter what.

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The war against your own demons: the Thomasian MedTech boards topnotcher who prevailed against his own self

After almost losing himself in his perilous journey towards the MedTech boards, Lorenz Barro prevailed against all odds–and emerged to the top.

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Image from Lorenz Barro.

“Mami, number 1 po ako,” her tears came rushing down as we hugged each other tightly. At that moment, nothing else mattered as we sat there and I listened to her cry so much.

Lorenz Barro’s achievement in the recent Medical Technology Licensure Examinations surprised the whole University, after he led the roster with a 92.10 mark; making him this year’s topnotcher. While his triumph was widely celebrated by the whole Thomasian community, Lorenz sat down with TomasinoWeb to share the moments leading up to his victory.

“Even after days since the results, it still feels very unreal. As a very shy person, the sudden surge of attention is really shocking for me. It created this mixture of emotions: happiness, excitement, fear, etc. The fear mostly stems from the uncertainty of how much this major accomplishment will impact my life and what paths will open up,” shared Barro days after the results of the board exams were released.

The days of pacing back and forth in his room in anticipation and constantly being reminded by the motivational quote that says, ’Aim for Number One’, were over for Barro; after all, he is now the number one. But beneath this achievement, he shared that it was never an easy journey to get to where he is now.

“I had no intention of going to Med school and that gave me almost four months of study time. The first month went so well.  I made sure to dedicate myself to one subject each week. I listed and bought a lot of books and taped notes of lessons I kept forgetting on my wall. I had a plan that I followed diligently. I felt unstoppable, being able to finish whole subjects and even thick books in a short amount of time, including the reviewers given to us. However, burnout happened.”

Barro mentioned that he was enrolled in two review centers and finished neither of it. The pressure and the thought of not being able to live up to the expectations that were set for him started to get in his brain. Constant over-thinking that resulted to sleepless nights and this not only affected him intrapersonally, but interpersonally as well.

“That was the turning point where I went home to Batangas and started reflecting on what truly mattered most. I decided on self-review. I dedicated a long time finding myself again, taking it easy with walks to the park, video games, and deep conversations with various people. I felt so fortunate having supportive family and friends. We were able to find another psychiatrist nearby. All of these people saved me from self-destruction.”

This life-changing decision rebooted the preparation of Barro for the better and come September. He was regenerated and ready to face his greatest challenge yet. Weeks before the board exams, he had his game face on and a planner to help him keep track of his accomplishments.

“I made sure to also put time for rest. I felt unstoppable again, but this time not because of the pressure, but because I was surrounded by love and the constant reassurance that no matter what happens, I was loved.”

Leading the board exam was a passing thought for Barro. At times when he would dream that perhaps he can be the topnotcher, something inside him would tell him that there might be other people who really worked hard for the test. Despite of this thought, the perseverance that Barro exhibited is commendable— and that is the reason why Barro is truly the crème de la crème of the board.

“During that evening waiting for the results, I kept walking back and forth in anticipation. The days prior to the expected release of results I was actually very calm. I wasn’t fearful because I was confident that I did well enough to pass. However, as soon as the big day came and I saw someone post the link of the PRC website, my anxiety levels went straight up,” said Barro.

This anxiety almost made him not see the results of the board but the messages of salutations made him curious; lifting the serotonin out of his system, “I was alone in my room when I immediately opened the PRC website. At that moment I saw my name on the list of passers. However, my body was still shaking because I then saw that there was a separate link for the list of topnotchers. I was still hoping that MAYBE I could at least barely make it to the list. As soon as I clicked it and saw my name on the top of the list, I was hit by this wave of pure shock as I stared at my laptop screen,” he said.

But unlike other heart-melting triumph story, Barro gave TomasinoWeb the privilege to relive the exact moment when his mother found out the results.

“I quickly went outside to my mom. She hasn’t refreshed the PRC site on her own laptop yet. When I came up to her and she excitedly asked if I passed, I just nodded and silently gestured her to come to my room. I was too stunned to speak. I could see it in her eyes that she knew something was up.”

“It was the first time she saw me so speechless. As soon as I showed my laptop screen and said, “Mami, number 1 po ako,” her tears came rushing down as we hugged each other tightly. At that moment nothing else mattered as we sat there and I listened to her cry so much. I saw that more and more people started to congratulate me on FB. My mom started making calls: waking up my sister, calling my dad, my grandparents, close friends, etc. It was such a bizarre experience.”

Looking back, Barro has exemplified his belief that any task, no matter how miniscule, should be done well and passionately, “I am usually a lazy, laid-back person (my family can confirm this), but the moment something sparks my interest, I become this different person who goes all out to achieve something,” he said.

Barro’s story is a proof that achievements are made slowly; they don’t happen in a blink of an eye nor in a day’s work. Yes, there would be ups and downs along the way and yes, life may get us down, but as long as we persevere towards it we gradually make the impossible, its antipode.

“Love yourself and have confidence in your abilities. We tend to become our own worst enemy and this self-doubt hinders us from becoming the best version of ourselves. Never compare yourself with the achievements of others. You are you and you create your own story,” says Barro to his fellow thomasians.

“Pursue your passions. Always remind yourself why you do what you are doing each day. Examine what drives you, what keeps that flame inside you burning despite the challenges that try to blow it away,” he further added, “Don’t just merely illuminate, but rather, ignite.”

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Practice leads to permanence: small steps towards a Greener UST

Even by doing the smallest of things, it could give way to the greatest of changes. To further these advances, the UST CSC is leading the Thomasians in spreading the call against climate change last Sept. 17.

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Photo by Neo Garcia

Even by doing the smallest of things, one step at a time, could give way to the greatest of changes if we firmly believe in it. Although environmental problems have been plaguing the earth since time immemorial, a new surge of interest to the environment’s cause was brought upon by the popularization of metal straws. Advocates have been promoting for a strawless UST since 2016 and more students are heeding the call to cut some carbon footprint one Thomasian after another.

To further these advances, the UST Central Student Council is leading the Thomasian community in spreading the call against climate change. Last September 17, Thomasians took part on an active collaborative effort to advocate for a greener and a more environmental-friendly University during Greener UST Phase One: Environmental Assessment Resolving Threats to our Home (E.A.R.T.H)

By inviting speakers who are passionate in championing for environmental rights, Thomasians are given a wide range of topics that served as eye-openers to the crux of the earth’s plight for sustainability in the first phase of this event. Among them are Rodne Galicha, Country Manager for The Climate Reality Project, Paul Soriano, Communication Specialist for DENR’s Climate Change Service, Lia Alonzo, Program Coordinator for the Center for Environmental Concerns – PH and Engr. Ludwig Federigan, Executive Director for the Young Environmental Forum.

In an exclusive interview with TomasinoWeb, CSC Auditor and Project Head, Adrian Fernando, shared the rationale behind this project who not only sees it as his brainchild, but a personal advocacy as well.

“The problem is happening right now […] it’s not too late sana to fix it,” according to Fernando on the reason why he conceptualized such event.

As shown by the catastrophic effects of the recent typhoon Ompong, the populace is urged to act now to prevent and lessen the aftermaths of future disasters. For us Thomasians, we are fortunate to have Greener UST as a wakeup call, to stop living like climate change is not affecting our daily lives and it urges us to act on the immediate concern about the environment that could help in alleviating the effects that global warming seeks to enhance.

Promises of doing the 3Rs, not littering, lessening the use of plastic and styrofoam are some examples of the pledge by Thomasians in response to the question, ‘What could you do for me?’ written in a makeshift tree that symbolizes the Mother Earth. These may not guarantee an immediate effect on the state of the environment, but at least it is a good start.

The fight to sustain the environment remains a daunting task. The minutiae of recycling and cutting plastic might seem futile, but having the will and initiative to conserve the only home we know is a stepping stone towards more permanent and progressive means of preservation such as living waste free and lobbying for nature’s protection.

“Yung tinatarget namin [ay] maging parang bridge kami [para] makahelp sila sa environment”, Fernando said.

Practice leads to permanence—-a little alteration to the age old saying that acts as the backbone of this project should be remembered by all Thomasians. If it only takes 5 weeks to develop a habit, we can practice extreme diligence especially for a cause that will not only achieve a greater and a collective good but also a future for the generations to come.

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