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Where Champions are Born

More than 10,000 graduating Thomasians proved that champions are made, not born as they cross the Arch of the Centuries for the last time.

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Thomasian singing we are the champions
Photo by Jacqueline Martinez

Festive, as one would put it. Banners, balloons, and bubbles surrounded the field as the different colleges showcase their own unique flares as they march with pride and dignity to the beat of our very own UST Yellow Jackets parading this year’s Baccalaureate Mass last Friday, May 24.

“Salamat, UST!” the graduates chanted out loud. With every beat of a drum is a restless heart, a long-kept excitement of taking the final step towards the finish line. “Sa wakas, ga-graduate na ako!”

Screams of excitement and joy echoed the four corners of the University as the graduating students fill up the streets to take their last walk around the campus. The sky was honoring every kiss and whispers of goodbye. Hugs were warm and tender, firm and sweet. Mellow May winds touched every skin causing goosebumps, making eyes let go of tears of joy, complementing the already humid atmosphere of a day whose skies were prayed for to be patient.

Thomasians dance to the tune of their batch song," Shut Up and Dance" by Walk the Moon

Thomasians dance to the tune of their batch song,” Shut Up and Dance” by Walk the Moon | Photo by Tantan Deang

Cameras flashing and selfie sticks dancing from left to right. Everybody was smiling, not only the graduates but also the parents and students from the lower batch bidding goodbye to their beloved seniors. Beats from the Yellow Jackets kept making everybody hyped and pumped for the big event. “Go Uste! Go Uste!” the graduates chant as they do the iconic cheer.

Among the students who are about to graduate was fourth year accountancy student Ed Russel Tayag who shared how his journey molded him to be the person he is right now.

“It was a rollercoaster ride from the beginning,” Tayag shared to TomasinoWeb. “I didn’t expect it to be hard. At first I thought that college would be just fun, but there are full of trials din pala and I’m thankful din for AMV for forming me to [be] who I am today.”

There would be times where everything seems to knock us out, pull us down, but the aspiring accountant emphasized that courage and conviction, good friends, and a proper mindset are the things we need to have to face these challenges.

“Tatagan mo lang. It would all be worth it in the end. Pahalagahan mo [ang] mga kaibigan mo kasi hinding-hindi ka nila iiwan. Always pray and believe that you can always do it. Stay optimistic,” Tayag said.

There is also the constant need to conform. A delay may seem to make you an outcast, but graduating engineering student Mary Anne Evangelista reminded everyone that we should focus more on our achievements rather than comparing ourselves to others.

“I have learned na tatagan yung loob ko. Iyong kahit sumuko ka, you just have to rest, and go on,” Evangelista said. “Kahit kailan ka pa grumadweyt or what time it [takes], okay lang. As long as you try, that’s good.”

As students ready to take on the world, there would always be realizations that what you may have planned in the beginning only remained as mere plans. Hearts fired with courage will sometimes be muted when problems arise but we should always remember to trust ourselves. Bryan Lim from the College of Fine Arts and Design shared his experiences in UST.

“In my stay in UST, I’ve learned that not everything the way you planned [getting to the university] pans out.” he said. He started in the College of Rehabilitation Sciences and has now graduated with a degree from the College of Fine Arts of Design. “It’s [experiences]  really different and I have experienced so much in the five years that I was here.”

Sometimes, the world takes you to where you really belong. There would always be hardships, trials, and fear, but all of these are part of the journey. “To my freshman self, go with your gut because in the end of all of this, you’d still end up where your heart is.” Lim said.

A Thomasian writing her farewell message on a uniform

A Thomasian writing her farewell message on a uniform | Photo by Jacqueline Martinez

With pens in their hands, this year’s valiant legions wrote farewell messages on one another’s Type A uniforms as part of the age-old tradition. They were laughing as they screamed their heartfelt messages to one another, as drum beats overpower their farewells. Feet were stomping in joy, running towards old and new friends alike, unbothered by the splashes of mud from the ground that was dampened by an earlier drizzle.

The University Grandstand calmed down. The skies reflected lilac, distinguishing itself from fragrant violet, as the shy sun slowly laid repose on the western horizon, surrendering to ominous-looking clouds, the cool wind engulfing everyone, signaling a shift to solemnity as Thomasians prepare for the Holy Mass.

“This is your endgame,” University Rector Very Rev. Fr. Herminio V. Dagohoy, O.P. said in his homily. “Having spent thousands of hours in the University, reading voluminous pages of books, answered hundreds of examinations, survived the tensions of graded recitations and practical tests, you are here today rejoicing, for these experiences would finally end.”

Endings usually have sad implications, ‘bittersweet’ as the Rector would put it, but he reminded everyone that endings, as part of every journey, should excite us for it opens a door to a myriad of possibilities.

“Such words like ‘I love you 3000’… are memorable, because these words express not only the pain that goes along with living but also a fervent desire for a good beginning,” he added.

Leaving the University also means leaving all the cherished memories we made inside the campus. Reliving her experiences in the University throughout the years, Asian Studies major Denielle Nicole Viray nostalgically shared how she became emotional that she has had to let go of the University that she became emotionally attached with.

“Since high school kasi nandito na ako sa UST, so marami na akong na-witness na achievements ng school na ‘to and I’m really proud na ga-graduate ako ngayon as a Thomasian student and hindi basta-basta makakalimutan yung Thomasian spirit na meron itong Thomasian community.” Viray said.

Suddenly, the lights dimmed. The University Grandstand turned into a sea of candles, waving back and forth in majesty. A familiar rhythm embraced the crowd, conjuring a spirit that transcends the souls of each and everyone—the Thomasian spirit. The crowd sang the UST Hymn with firm conviction and appreciation.

Students don the Thomasian Cross on each other

Students don the Thomasian Cross on each other | Photo by Gillian Robles

Shallow tears trickled down as if they were already aching to break free from warm eyelids. The mixture of joy and sadness that enveloped the atmosphere turned into excitement as the iconic conversation from the blockbuster movie Avengers: Endgame played.

And, one by one, the sparks that illuminated the dark skies danced through the beat of the drums of Queen’s We Will Rock You. Gasps upon gasps, the Thomasians, with their heads staring up high at the magical display of colors, shouted “We Will Rock You” in unison. This is where champions are born.

Thomasians watch in awe as light rain down from the night sky

Thomasians watch in awe as light rain down from the night sky | Photo by Gillian Robles

The graduates raised their fists as they sing the last piece “We Are The Champions”. They spread their arms, like birds ready to leave their nests, the widest and looked at their fellow champions with pride and dignity. The sky turned golden yellow, celebrating the royalty of the Thomasian success, as the song reached its climax.

They exited the Arch of the Centuries as new beings, noble and great. Years ago, they entered the Arch with flaming passion, now their passions are roaring as ever to face the endgame.

With their friend's standee as proxy, Thomasians ran towards the Arch of the Centuries

With their friend’s standee as proxy, they ran towards the Arch of the Centuries | Photo by Jacqueline Martinez

Hands held each other, they ran to the finish line. They gave their loudest roars as they plunge into a whole new world, a door to a series of possibilities.

“Champions are made, not born,” they said. This thought lingered to every single one as the crowd subsided, emptying the historic walls and streets of the University.

Once again, it was still and quiet. The Main Building stood strong, its Blue Cross guarding the campus. The centuries-old Arch celebrated peacefully in front of España Boulevard its new set of graduates and said, “Yes, as life is a process, as they enter their new lives, they are once again born.” She giggled for a moment and sighed “and this is where champions are born.”

Roll up the curtains for the Tigers who have finally earned their stripes—their journey as Thomasians has finally come to an end.

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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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