Underneath black and blue: Artlet grads express themselves in their last ‘fit check’ as Thomasians

by Kristine Joy Diane Sarmiento

AMONG THE sea of black robes, a subtle hint of colors with stories is enveloped within.

Behind the togas are anecdotes of life, love and inspiration from their wearer and the people who helped them reach that stage in their lives.

For the last time as college students, 899 graduates of the Faculty of Arts and Letters graced UST on Monday, June 5 to attend a ritual that is rich in traditions and symbols. While the Solemn Investiture requires uniformity, the conventions of an age-old ceremony did not stop the Artlets of batch 2023 from painting an array of individuality for their last “fit check” as Thomasians.

Communication graduate Melissa Nava marched the halls of the Quadricentennial Pavilion carrying her sister’s love through a white dress that was passed on to her. Her simple white dress was paired with exquisite jewelry—each holding precious merit to it.

“This dress is my sister’s. She’s abroad right now. So, it really helps me remember her. I also fused pieces of jewelry given to me by my friends and family. It really means a lot if somebody gives it to me and I’ll always remember them if I’m wearing the item,” Nava said.

Communication graduate Melissa Nava. Photo by Kristine Joy Diane Sarmiento/THE FLAME

Some Artlets used their graduation attire to highlight their cultural identities.

For sociology graduate Kalea Aquino, the most important thing is honoring the culture that raised her to be the woman that she is today. Wearing her beautifully woven Igorot-inspired outfit, she flaunted the striking colors of red, black, white, and yellow, bearing the pride and joy of being an Igorota.

“This is tradition for me and I don’t want this to be dead. Igorot people should wear Igorot attire. I am proud to be an Igorot,” Aquino said.

Sociology graduate Kalea Aquino. Photo by Kristine Joy Diane Sarmiento/THE FLAME

Student-athlete Realis Tabiando, a graduate of behavioral science, proudly wore her Mountain Province attire saturated with the same striking colors of the Cordilleran culture.

“I want them to know that this is who I am,” Tabiando said. 

Behavioral science graduate Realis Tabiando. Photo by Kristine Joy Diane Sarmiento/THE FLAME
Sittie Hafsa Domato of Asian studies gracefully represented the Filipinos from the south through her majestic malong-inspired attire. As a Muslim from Maranao, she was considered a minority in a school that deeply incorporates the Catholic faith in its curriculum and practices. Being able to wear cultural attire was a big deal for her, especially on her graduation day. 

“I paired it up with a classic Filipiniana for a Filipino-Muslim touch. I’m bringing my culture with me and with the way I dress, it could somehow be an embodiment of my culture. I’m bringing it with me until I graduate and leave the four corners of UST,” Domato said. 

Asian studies graduate Sittie Hafsa Domato. Photo by Kristine Joy Diane Sarmiento/THE FLAME
Economics graduate Joshua Philip Contado decided to go for an attire that  fuses his Chinese heritage with Filipino culture. Wearing a unique black barong with Chinese collars and details, Contado described himself as “regal.” 

“I just want to be different. At the same time, I had this specific Chinese barong in mind because I feel like I would look more regal in it. At the same time, just also to remind me that I am an economist for the Filipino people,” Contado said. 

Economics graduate Joshua Philip Contado. Photo by Kristine Joy Diane Sarmiento/THE FLAME
Being able to wear diverse graduation attires also become an outlet of free expression and self-empowerment for some Artlets. For political science graduates Gabriel dela Cruz and Alyssa Cristobal, standing out in a sea of flashy corporate attire was what they were aiming for. 

“I wore a barong because I’m expecting everyone to wear corporate attire. Barong looks really nice, it complements the toga well and I look good in white,” dela Cruz said. 

Political science graduate Gabriel dela Cruz. Photo by Kristine Joy Diane Sarmiento/THE FLAME
Cristobal’s elegant modern Filipiniana attire from Divisoria—the bargain capital of the country—fully encapsulated her simplicity. 

Political science graduate Alyssa Cristobal. Photo by Kristine Joy Diane Sarmiento/THE FLAME
Helena Troy Nonato, a communication graduate, also made sure to pick the right dress that resonated with the vibe and energy she was aiming for. She wore a black and white accented modernized Filipiniana that perfectly hugged both her body and personality. 

“I wanted to wear a Filipiniana since this is a formal event. Actually, this is my third dress already. My first and second dress, unfortunately, did not resonate. I told myself that this would be plan C—a very basic black and white Filipiniana dress,” Nonato said. 

Communication graduate Helena Troy Nonato. Photo by Kristine Joy Diane Sarmiento/THE FLAME
Behavioral science graduate Sandra Cenon said she made sure that her dress for graduation would be the best she would ever wear. While she rarely goes all out in terms of spending on clothing, she thought the occasion definitely deserved it.Her green-flushed dress embodied her poised aura and pride as a student who graduated magna cum laude. 

“Knowing me, I’m really thrifty. But this time, I made sure that it’s quality and it’s from my own money and it fits well as someone who’s super petite. I bought a dress from Love, Bonito in size XXS. It supports my Asian body build so I’m really confident,” Cenon said. 

Behavioral science graduate Sandra Cenon. Photo by Kristine Joy Diane Sarmiento/THE FLAME
As these Artlets walked through the olden halls of the University, their individual battles, stories, and experiences were reflected through the vivid colors of their graduation outfits. 

Through their last “fit check” as Thomasian college students, the Solemn Investiture celebrated not just their triumphs but also their charming individualities that made them who they are. F

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