The university of my deep affection
COMMONNESS - Bong R. Osorio () - January 24, 2011 - 12:00am

The University of Santo Tomas (UST), the royal, pontifical and Catholic university, celebrates its quadricentennial anniversary this year with a series of activities that will showcase the best it can offer and the many changes that are happening within its España compound and beyond.

The 12-month observance kicks off with the opening Mass today, Jan. 24, highlighted by the opening of the Jubilee Door of the UST Chapel, the Quadricentennial Fair and the “Fit, Fab and Well@400,” a physical wellness program.

The Q Film Festival awarding ceremony to be held at the Plaza Mayor is the main focus on Jan. 25. The event centers on the theme, “Ano ang kuwentong UST mo? (What’s your UST story?),” which aims to encourage students to share their campus life stories through film.  

On Jan. 26, the university’s various faculties and colleges will participate in the “Q Parade,” a street dancing competition that will move around the UST grounds and the university belt area. Other schools within the u-belt were also invited to participate in the event. The “QuattroMondial” monument, a creation by world-renowned sculptor Ramon Orlina, a UST alumnus will be unveiled at the Q Plaza on Jan. 27. Orlina used Piolo Pascual and Charlene Gonzales, both UST alumni, as his models for this obra maestra.

The highlight of the events in the first week of celebration is the “One@400,” a thanksgiving Mass on Friday, Jan. 28, 4:30 p.m., at the UST grandstand and open field. Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, a representative from the Vatican and prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, will be the main celebrant and will be assisted by Reverend Father Bruno Cadore, O.P., as homilist.

The Pope, in a sent video, is granting perpetual absolution during the Mass.Cocktails and the ceremonial slicing of the “Q Cake” at 6:30 p.m. will come after, which will then  be followed by the grand alumni homecoming dinner at 8 p.m. Entertainment for the dinner will be provided by Tomasian entertainers, capped by the singing of the Q Hymn by the world-acclaimed UST Singers.

Other parallel activities happening during the opening week include the 10th Biennial Conference of the International Council of Universities of St. Thomas Aquinas and the Alumni Priests Association (APA) homecoming at the UST Central Seminary gymnasium.  

The occasions listed above signal the beginning of a busy 2011 for the Tomasian community not just to commemorate it’s proud claim to being the oldest educational institution in Asia, but more important, its continuing commitment to the promotion of values and humanity and to the country’s history and development.

WHAT IS UST’S BRAND ESSENCE?

UST means heritage. Like no other learning institution, it has a continuing tradition of excellent education given its unmatched 400 years of enhanced experience. It gives the students and the faculty alike unique opportunities to become highly qualified professionals who extend their talent and skills to help in the country’s development now and in the future.

UST also brings an enduring heritage of superior graduates, personalities and achievers — from Philippine presidents to national artists to leaders in various fields of importance. Its spheres of excellence afford students a well-rounded education that sets standards in their respective areas — medicine, engineering, architecture, fine arts, nursing, literature, communications and philosophy to name a few.

UST’s strong academic program and real world learning give students the confidence to meet professional and personal challenges beyond the classroom, and motivates them to be the best that they can be — to lead, not simply to follow.

ON A PERSONAL NOTE

I came to UST in 1970 as a freshman in the Faculty of Arts and Letters. I was part of an academic experiment during that school year where the top 40 entrants — mostly valedictorians and salutatorians from private and public high schools — were put in one section called 1A9. It was dubbed as an honors class and its members, a lot of whom came from provincial schools, were dubbed the A-Niners — driven, competitive and communicative greenhorns whose hunger for knowledge was simply overwhelming.

This special breed of students was handled by dynamic, talented and engaging professors that included Perla Queyquep, Magdalena Villaba-Cue, Romy Abulad, Mary Joyce Laig, Milagros Tanlayco, Pacita Almario, Lourdes Bautista, Leticia Buhay, Cora Cantas, Mercedes Caguicla and Elena Roco among others.

I concentrated on honing my writing talent for the larger part of my UST life. In my sophomore year, I joined The Flame, the official publication of the Faculty of Arts and Letters, where I served as a member of the editorial board together with Joey Lina, who later made his mark in politics and government service, and Avelino Sebastian, Jr., who became a law professor and a partner in a law office that bears his name. The stint got me introduced to a revered professor and literary giant, Dr. Ophelia Alcantara-Dimalanta, The Flame’s adviser.

An unforgettable story in my stint with The Flame happened in September 1972, when the editorial board came up with an all-Tagalog issue. The masthead of the school paper was changed to Lagablab, and with such a name, you can guess how hot and fierce the issue was.  

Unluckily, it came out on Sept. 20, the eve of the declaration of martial law, and on Sept. 21, the board had thousands of copies in its hands that needed to get disposed lest the whole staff and the adviser will get caught, brought to Camp Crame and get charged with rebellion.

The board managed to distribute some copies of the 24-page blazing broadsheet, and the rests were burned. I managed to keep a souvenir facsimile, but it would require extra time and effort to extract it from my file of UST mementos.

My junior and senior years found me occupied with more writing commitments. This time I became a member of The Varsitarian, the university-wide magazine and newspaper under the fatherly care of Felix Bautista, another respected adviser and mentor to many working journalists in the country — past and present.

I became the assistant Pilipino editor and the assignment pushed me to write Tagalog poetry and features every week.  The chore came easy since I loved what I was doing, and was strongly motivated by the fact that with each published piece came a P5 talent fee, quite a hefty sum for a struggling student in the 1970s who needed extra cash to have a more economically empowered college life.

In the Varsitarian, I developed friendships that last to this day, learned the value of working hard and playing hard, and sharpened my grasp of the written word.

I originally planned to major in Journalism back then, but martial law pushed me to take up Communication Arts (CA) instead. Media during that time were controlled and muzzled and I thought that as an aspiring journalist I might find it difficult to work under such condition. Thus, CA appeared to be a broader field, since it offered general courses in advertising, public relations, theater, broadcasting and research. I also reckoned the major would provide broader employment opportunities. In CA, I met yet another bunch of admirable teachers — Piedad Guinto Rosales, Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo, Joe Miranda, Teresita Quintos, Lydia Castillo, Fedi Magpantay, Joy Lumawig, Narita Tanchoco, and Roger Buhay, who all prepared me for the demands of professional life.

I got absorbed by the advertising and PR industry after college, and in 1983 I was hired as a communication lecturer in UST’s Faculty of Arts and Letters after short teaching stints in the PCC (now PUP), UP, PWU and St. Paul’s College. In 1984, I became the coordinator and chairman of UST’s communication arts program, a position I held for 17 years, earning the trust, support and admiration of administration officials, colleagues and students in no time at all. I was given the leeway to run the CA program the way I wanted it with excellent results. A lot of my students have become colleagues in the industry.

I entered UST in 1970 as an A-Niner and practically never left. Despite the demands of my past and present day jobs, I continue to share my time with the university of my deep affection. For 27 straight years running, I taught, led and nurtured aspiring minds and tender hearts.  And I believe my years of teaching and mentoring in UST will go on and on and on for as long as I can imagine, embracing the compelling truth that it is a powerful educational institution with far reaching impact.

I am proud of having been an A-Niner. I am proud of having been a campus leader and writer. I am proud of UST then and I am proud of UST now. And without a doubt, I will continue to be proud of UST for the rest of my life.

* * *

E-mail bongosorio@yahoo.com or bong_osorio@abs-cbn.com for comments, questions and suggestions. Thank you for communicating.

A-NINER AVELINO SEBASTIAN BIENNIAL CONFERENCE OF THE INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL OF UNIVERSITIES OF ST. THOMAS AQUINAS AND THE ALUMNI PRIESTS ASSOCIATION CAMP CRAME CARDINAL ZENON GROCHOLEWSKI FACULTY OF ARTS AND LETTERS JAN MDASH UST
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