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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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Patungo sa Panibagong Yugto

Maligayang pagbati, bagong Tomasino! Dito nagsisimula ang isang bagong yugto at paglalakbay tungo sa magandang kinabukasan.

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Kuha ni Christine Annmarie Tapawan ng TomasinoWeb

Pagdiwang! Dumating na naman ang panahon ng pagsalubong sa humigit-kumulang na 15,000 na bagong Tomasino! Ang Thomasian Welcome Walk ay ginanap noong Martes, ika-6 ng Agosto. Ang taunang pagdaan sa ilalim ng makasaysayang Arch of the Centuries ay itinuturing na simula ng buhay Tomasino. Hinati muli ang programa sa dalawa, ang unang kalahati ay nagsimula ng alas-nuwebe ng umaga at ang pangalawa naman ay alas-dos ng hapon.

Samu’t saring ingay at saya ang bumalot sa Unibersidad. Malalaking ngiti at makikislap na mata ang makikitang nakapinta sa mukha ng mga bagong Tomasino. Handang-handa na sa panibagong kabanata ng kanilang buhay kolehiyo. Kasabay ang kalabog ng mga puso, sa bawat hampas ng tambol—ito ay dumadagundong. Ramdam na ramdam ang bagong enerhiya na dala ng mga mag-aaral mula sa iba’t ibang fakultad at kolehiyo. Ano nga ba ang pakiramdam na makapasok sa arko patungo sa maraming oportunidad at pangarap na naghihintay? Ibinahagi ng mga bagong mag-aaral ang kanilang mga saloobin at pakiramdam sa ilang panayam kasama ng TomasinoWeb.

Para kay Keziah Taguba na mula sa Legal Management, masaya pa rin ito kahit pangalawang beses na niyang dumalo. “It still feels surreal,” aniya. Kada taon, malaki ang preparasyon na ginagawa ng mga mag-aaral upang makapagbigay ng masayang karanasan na hindi kaagad malilimutan. “Nakakatuwa ‘yung warm welcome ng Thomasian community lagi sa mga freshman nila, family talaga yung turing nila sa ‘min.” 

Kuha ni Ralph Estrella ng TomasinoWeb

Ang bagong yugto na ito ay nagdadala ng mga bagong pagkakataon at oportunidad upang makilala ang sarili, makagawa ng mga masasayang ala-ala, at syempre, tuparin ang mga pangarap. Para kay Abby Salvador, galing din sa Legal Management, ngayong nasa kolehiyo na siya, inaasahan niya ang mga kaganapan sa Unibersidad katulad ng UAAP season, Paskuhan, at iba’t-iba pa. “Mas gusto ko pang ma-experience ‘yung Thomasian spirit ngayon na college na.” 

Pamilya. Isang salita na naglalarawan sa mga Tomasino. Ayon kay Red Ronas mula sa Advertising Arts, ito ang naramdaman niya ngayong Welcome Walk, “Masaya pa rin at na-feel ko na part pa rin ako ng family.” 

Bagama’t masaya ang byahe patungo sa mga pangarap, hindi maiiwasan ang mga problema na darating. Para kay Renzi Queral na isang Medical Biology freshman, “Masaya [yung welcome walk]. It’s a new experience pa din and at the same time ‘yun nga may [feeling ng] pressure din pero yung pressure na yun, I look at it as a motivation na lang. May kasama din akong iba in this journey.” 

Kuha ni Ralph Estrella ng TomasinoWeb

Given na ‘yung mas magiging challenging siya pero on the brighter side, mas magiging fulfilling siya kasi mas nararanasan na namin yung totoong buhay,” aniya. 

Kay Kiara Gimao, na galing din sa College of Science, isang karangalan ang maging isang Tomasino. “Syempre po masaya tsaka honored, pero tsaka syempre pressured din kasi dala namin yung pangalan ng UST sa kahit anong gawin namin,” aniya. Maraming bagay ang pwedeng mangyari at maranasan sa kolehiyo at para sa kanya, gusto niyang tumutok sa mga gusto niya, “[Sana] mas ma-expose kami sa mga bagay na gusto talaga namin. Magiging specific siya unlike sa SHS na broad pa ‘yung lessons at syempre looking forward sa events.”

Pagkatapos ng Welcome Walk, nagtungo ang mga mga mag-aaral sa Quadricentennial Pavillion upang makinig at ipagdiwang ang banal na misang pinangunahan ni Rev. Fr. Herminio Dagohoy, O.P. Dala din ng bagong pagkakataon ang bagong mga hamon. Maari man itong humadlang sa ating mga pangarap, dapat nating tandaan na huwag tayong hihinto. 

Kuha ni Troy Jacob Quinan ng TomasinoWeb

My dear Thomasians, after this orientation week, you will return to this place again in 2024. You have started your journey today to QPav. It begins today,” ani Rev. Fr. Dagohoy. “When your journey becomes tough and you want to stop, don’t!” dagdag niya. 

Pray that God may speak to you in your dreams, in your vision, and even in your deep sleep. Is it possible? Yes, because you are God’s beloved children.” Tinapos ni Rev. Fr. Dagohoy ang homiliya ng pagbabati sa mga bagong Tomasino. “Welcome to the University of Santo Tomas, where champions in life are born.” 

Maligayang pagbati, bagong Tomasino! Dito nagsisimula ang isang bagong yugto at paglalakbay tungo sa magandang kinabukasan. Ipakita mo ang marka ng pagiging isang tigre at sinasalubong ka ng Unibersidad nang may pagmamahal at pagtanggap. 

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Heist School, pelikulang likha ng Communication Arts alumni, kalahok sa Cinemalaya Short Feature 2019

Isang grupo ng Communication Arts alumni ang tatahak ng kategoryang Short Feature ngayong Cinemalaya 2019. Mga nagsipagtapos noong isang taon, ang Last Minute Films ay kalahok sa nasabing film festival dala ang kanilang pelikulang Heist School. 

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Photo from Last Minute Films.
Litrato mula sa Last Minute Films

Isang grupo ng Communication Arts alumni ang tatahak ng kategoryang Short Feature ngayong Cinemalaya 2019. Mga nagsipagtapos noong isang taon, ang Last Minute Films ay kalahok sa nasabing film festival dala ang kanilang pelikulang Heist School

Desperadong maipasa ang kanilang klase sa matematika upang makapagtapos, ang apat na bida ng Heist School ay ‘di-inaakalang magtitipon at magtutulungan upang makamit ang imposible. Higit na naimpluwensiyahan ng pagkakaibigan nina Julius Renomeron, Jr., ang direktor, at Johmar Damiles na co-writer, ang ideya ng isang heist film na salin sa lokal na konteksto ay matagal nang nabuo. Ang mga pelikula ng Oceans Eleven at ang indie film na Patintero: Ang Alamat ni Meng Patalo ang nagsilbing inspirasyon ng grupo. Nilikha ng Last Minute Films ang Heist School bilang isang simpleng istorya ng magkakaibigan. Minabuti nilang siyasatin ang impluwensya ng eskwelahan at kapaligiran sa pagbuo ng mabuting asal ng isang tao.

Nagsimula bilang isang grupo sa film class, ang Last Minute Films ay sumulong mula sa pagpupulong sa loob ng silid-paaralan patungo sa pakikipanayam sa CNN Philippines. Sa likod ng Last Minute Films ay siyam na tao: si Klaire Dulay, ang production manager; si John Paolo Barrameda, ang sound recordist, sound designer, editor at manunulat; sina Pauline Carlos at Zhino Koe, ang mga casting directors; si Ezren Caneda, ang location manager at production designer; si Johmar Damiles, ang director of photography, editor at manunulat; sina Alvin Jamora at Keanu Managuas, ang mga assistant directors; at si Julius Renomeron, Jr., ang direktor at isa sa mga editor at manunulat.

Ngayong sila ay nakapagtapos na ng kolehiyo, dito nagkaroon ng problema ang grupo—nahirapan sila sa pagpupulong matapos nilang lisanin ang kanlungan ng mga Tigre. Kahit na mayroon itong dalang pagsubok, ang mga natitirang miyembro ay handang gumawa ng ibang pelikula. Sa ngayon, pinag-iisipan ng grupo na mag-angkat ng bagong tao sa Last Minute Films, ibinahagi ng direktor na si Renomeron sa isang online interview kasama ng TomasinoWeb.

Mula nang kanilang mapanalunan ang Sine Reel X, isang kompetisyon ng pelikula sa pagitan ng mga magtatapos na mag-aaral ng Communication Arts, ang Heist School ay unti-unting nakilala sa loob ng Unibersidad ng Santo Tomas hanggang sila’y makilala sa film festivals ng ibang unibersidad. Ang Heist School ay lumahok sa One La Salle Film Festival noong Hulyo ng nakaraang taon kung saan ibinahagi nila ang pelikula sa mas maraming tao.

Inilarawan ni Renomeron ang karanasan bilang “humbling and pressure-filled” na mapaligiran ng kapwa mga direktor, mga manunulat at filmmakers mula sa iba’t-ibang unibersidad. Dito, sila’y nagbahagi ng kaniya-kaniyang karanasan sa produksiyon ng kanilang mga pelikula. 

[B]eing a filmmaker din siguro ay yung pag-build mo rin ng support system from your fellow filmmakers kasi in the end naman, kayo-kayo din ang magkikita sa industry,” dagdag ni Renomeron. Nais niyang magkaroon ang Unibersidad ng Santo Tomas ng ganitong uri ng kulturang pelikula dahil ito’y mas maliit kumpara sa ibang unibersidad.

Pagkatapos ng One La Salle Film Festival, ang Heist School ay nakilahok sa Indie Un-film Festival, at sa Maginhawa Film Festival noong huling Disyembre. Para sa ibang Tomasinong filmmakers, ibinahagi niyang huwag sumuko sa sariling mga pangarap, maging maunawain sa mga pagpuna at “it takes time to learn how to master a craft you want to pursue but it also takes patience to survive”.

Sa pamamahagi ng kanilang pelikula sa mga film festivals, malaking bagay ang pagkakaroon ng matinding suporta, paliwanag ng director of photography na si Johmar Damiles. Mula sa mga dating propesor tulad nina Sir Nico Hernandez at Sir Seymour Sanchez, mga kasamahan sa organisasyon tulad ng TomasinoWeb at Thomasian Film Society at lalo’t higit nang mula sa mga kaibigan at pamilya, ang kanilang tulong ay malaking bahagi ng kanilang pagpapatuloy. 

Pagkatapos ng Cinemalaya, nais ng Last Minute Films na isumite ang Heist School sa iba’t-ibang international film festivals kung kakayanin ng kanilang pondo. Nang tanungin ng TomasinoWeb kung may kasunod na kabanata ang Heist School, sagot nila’y ibig din nilang lumikha ng iba pang pelikulang hindi pa nila nakikitang ginagawa.  

As young filmmakers, the Cinemalaya experience has been overwhelming for us,” bahagi ni Johmar Damiles. “It gives me anxiety and at the same time, excitement as [a] Thomasian filmmaker.” Salaysay niya, ang pagiging kalahok ng Cinemalaya ay isa nang malaking pribilehiyo para sa isang grupong hindi ganoon kasanay sa paglikha ng pelikula. 

Opisyal na poster ng pelikula

Ang Heist School ay ipapalabas kasama ng ibang kalahok na pelikula sa ika-labinlimang iterasyon ng Cinemalaya Film Festival mula sa Agosto 2-13. Maaaring mapanood ang mga pelikula at short features hindi lamang sa Cultural Center of the Philippines, kundi pati rin sa mga piling Ayala Malls sa Luzon, Ayala Malls Legazpi, Capitol Central Bacolod, Abreeza Davao, Vista Cinemas Pampanga, Vista Cinemas Naga, at Vista Cinemas Iloilo.

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A road he didn’t walk alone: the valedictorian who realized ‘we’ is better than ‘I’

Through others, he realized things about himself that he could never do so alone and because of this, he was able to grow and become much stronger, not just for himself, but for everyone else.

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Photo grabbed from John Rabena's Facebook account

In this time and age, it has always been ideal to be independent, to not rely on anyone but ourselves. The belief that people should be able to make it on their own had always left a gaping hole in one’s heart as the feeling of incompleteness settles in. Eventually, life becomes a search for meaning—a quest to look for something to piece everything together. 

People believed that being at the top meant being alone. Those who run ahead often leave others behind and continue down an empty path where success becomes their only fuel for motivation. It’s a lonely feeling but it doesn’t have to be that way. To celebrate with, to be with, and to love others is what this graduate from Philosophy mentioned in his speech.  

Having been given the award as valedictorian for Batch 2019, John Alfred Rabena shared with TomasinoWeb his thoughts, his experiences, and his realizations during his stay in the University.

He’s grateful for being the only one in the world, unique and gifted in his own way—but it doesn’t stop there. “Subalit, ang ‘ako’ ay hindi maaaring mapag-isa at makulong sa sarili, sapagkat kulang ang ‘ako’ kung wala ang ‘ikaw’,” he stated.

Rabena realized that he was not alone and this simple realization changed his views on life. Through others, he realized things about himself that he could never do so alone and because of this, he was able to grow and become much stronger, not just for himself, but for everyone else. “Kaya’t sa kabila ng sakit at pait na iniwan ng taong minahal natin o patuloy nating minamahal,” he explained, “masasabi nating mas nakikilala ang sarili sa pagbangon araw-araw at mas lalong tumatatag sa pagharap sa buhay.”

Rabena also took the chance to extend his gratitude to the people that gave him endless support right from the start, up until the very end of his Thomasian journey. To his family and his friends, who were always there for him through his ups and downs and the ones who never got tired of cheering him on and telling him that he will make it.

“To our teachers who went beyond the minimum in order to boost our willpower when we thought that the routine [seems] to be endless and obscure,” he continued, “To our librarians and staff who quietly and persistently work in order for us to receive the education that we deserve.” He also thanked the security guards who always put the safety of others as their priority instead of their own, a selfless and kind act that deserved to be recognized and appreciated.

Of course, hardships and problems are inevitable. Rabena admits to feeling like giving up and hopeless, just like everyone else but he gives out a reminder to just hold on and hold on tight, “kayang-kaya ko ito dahil may tayo.” He points out that as education increases academic knowledge, it should also help in nurturing talents so that the life lived will be inclined to one with purpose and meaning. To live a life with love and compassion is enough proof that what was learned inside the classroom could be manifested into actions. For knowledge and promises to be acts of kindness and service, it’s the highest form of success anyone could imagine. “These are the people who gave me the courage to say: KAYA KO ‘TO!”

“Because our education does not end in the cultivation of IQ or the feeding of inert ideas,” Rabena expounds, “We ought to live up to the mission of our University: to spread the light! LUMINA PANDIT.”

To stand up for what is right is what he believes in, even if it’s scary, even if no one else is doing it, do what is just. Life can be better understood if people would step out of the box that’s keeping them from realizing that knowledge is useless if it’s just words. The only time education has fulfilled its purpose is when what was learned turns into what should be done. “Only then can we say that our education has gone from the classroom to the real venture called “life”,” Rabena stated.

The world is a cruel place, but this doesn’t serve as an excuse for it to stay this way. While change is still possible, aim for it—aim for a world where everyone is safe and on equal grounds, where hate could no longer be defined. It’s not too late to fight for what is right, for what is the truth, all while being kind and compassionate. To feel scared is normal and understandable, but don’t let that fear take over—push through.

“Panalo ang Tomasino dahil siya’y may paninindigan sa katotohanan. Panalo ang Tomasino dahil siya’y nagmamahal,” Rabena continues, “Panalo ang pamilyang Tomasino, dahil ang bawat isa’y tumatatayo para sa “tayo.” Tomasino, tayo naman!”

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