THERE WERE rain showers and rants about the sudden closure of campus gates and it was still off-limits to outsiders but this year’s much-awaited Paskuhan concert held on Dec. 21 still managed to bring the usual holiday cheers while encouraging Thomasians to reflect on the value of peace.
This year’s festivities centered on appreciating the peace in the Philippines as the world grapples with geopolitical tensions, including the conflict in Gaza.
For Thomasians who just finished their final exams, the event provided them peace — perhaps the more appropriate term is respite — from course work deadlines, demanding requirements and other school pressures.
It was an academic ceasefire of sorts. The festivities, which began with a lighting ceremony on Dec. 1, marked the end of a term full of exams, presentations and paperwork needed to obtain a first-term grade.
What followed was an excruciating, often anxiety-filled period where tests are checked and submissions are graded by the judge and the jury who sometimes plays the role of executioner – more popularly known as the professor – who will determine if students won the battle for a passing mark.
But for one shower-filled yet magical night, Thomasians set aside their worries over their academic fate to bond with their friends, consume greasy food, sit on the muddy football field using newspaper pages and belt popular tunes, some of which accompanied them during their sleepless nights.
Paskuhan Na Na Na but it’s Raining in Manila
There were intermittent showers at noon but they did not stop Thomasians from trooping to UST to celebrate the term-ender.
Despite the inclement weather, the number of attendees swelled from 11,354 at 12:20 p.m. to 16,249 in an hour, almost reaching 40,000 by the end of the night.
However, the number of this year’s concert attendees was lower than in 2022. A total of 39,638 joined the festivities in UST last Thursday, lower than the 51,845 attendees during the previous year.
While some of the artists already rendered performances during previous UST events, the energy of the Thomasian crowds sent a clear message that what matters to them is the opportunity to be entertained by showmanship and of course, to sing their stress away.
Girl group BINI, which also performed during the freshmen welcome rites, headlined this year’s concert. Other performers who jammed on the Paskuhan concert stage were Cup of Joe; Lily, formerly known as Callalily; a returning Adie with a surprise cameo from Janine Berdin; Lola Amour, whose earworm hit “Raining in Manila” became the informal theme song of the shower-filled festivities, and various Thomasian artists.
College of Science student Austin Natividad said the light showers dampened expectations, but he still hoped for a good experience.
“I don’t expect a lot since [it is] super muddy, but I hope everyone performs well and enjoys the concert,” Natividad said.
Creative writing freshman Amber Reyes said the rain provided another layer of joy to the grand concert.
“[The rain] would give a new meaning to Lola Amour’s Raining in Manila [because] it’s really raining in Manila,” Reyes said.
English language studies student Kevin Reyes, whose band Benchfly was among the performers during the concert, said the event game him reasons to be confident about the future.
“Being able to showcase our music to the Thomasian community last night makes me feel optimistic, as I believe Benchfly’s Paskuhan performance was just the beginning for something great.” Reyes said.
The highlight of the Paskuhan celebration was a seven-minute pyrotechnics display accompanied by the Super Mario theme song, Imagine by John Lennon, and Heal the World by Michael Jackson. Super Mario, a popular video game that originated in Japan, was the theme of the Christmas lights while the Lennon and Jackson hits were in line with the event’s message of peace.
‘Be a bearer of good tidings’
The season of giving is alive in every Paskuhan, and it was highlighted during the mass celebrated by UST Rector Fr. Richard Ang, O.P. on Dec. 13.
In his homily, the rector reminded Thomasians to share “good tidings.”
“The Christmas message does not change from year to year […] I wish you the joy of Christmas which comes from the heart and soul of a person filled with grace and meaning,” Ang said.
The message of giving transcends religions as it gives a foundation to hearts and souls that are searching for meaning, according to Abdallah Rodriguez, a first-year history student and a Muslim.
“Christianity and Islam, if you just think about it, are similar. A different kind of practice, but […] the season of giving is also the same for us Muslims […] called zakat, and we give alms to the poor.” Rodriguez said
Ang also reminded the Thomasian community that the happiness sought during holidays can only be achieved by accepting Jesus and his teachings.
“The joy of Christmas is the acceptance of Jesus into our lives. To accept Jesus is to live, enjoy and this joy is free, spontaneous and heartfelt. You can’t buy it, you can’t force it, and you cannot even fake it,” the rector said.
The Paskuhan festivities welcomed not only enrolled students, staff and teachers. Thomasian alumni were also invited to the event, giving them an opportunity to reminisce about their campus days.
However, some alumni were barred from entry during the event despite bringing their alumni cards.
UST security officials closed the gates at 7 p.m. supposedly to ensure the safety of Paskuhan attendees. However, the UST Central Student Council disseminated the information through social media 45 minutes after the cutoff time, drawing severe criticism from both students and alumni.
Asst. Prof. Juliano Parena Jr., the University’s director for campus safety and security offices, said efforts were made to ensure that all attendees would undergo screening.
“If you’ll notice, we always have three layers of security. The first one is during the bag checking, which is for our security. The second is the ID tapping, ensuring that only Thomasians enter. […] And the security tagging is to ensure that they’ve passed through all three stages,” Parena told The Flame.
Julius Marino Cariño, a graduate of the College of Engineering batch 1998, expressed dismay for not being able to enter UST for this year’s Paskuhan grand concert.
“We have been graduates for 25 years, and during our general assembly [for alumni], it was not tackled (that pre-registration is required). We were also given a lifetime [alumni card]; what does that mean? Is this invalid?,” Cariño said.
Ashley Pico, a senior high school alumnus, experienced inconvenience before being allowed to enter the campus.
“We were told that we could enter through Lacson [gate], but we were suddenly told that we should go to P. Noval street instead, which had a very long line. I had to use my alumni card,” Pico said.
But not all visitors were hassled by the security measures.
“I had no issues; last Paskuhan, the line was longer, but this year is alright— faster,” College of Tourism and Hospitality and Management student Alexis Luna said.
For some Thomasians, the celebration did not end with the concert. A number of them held post-Paskuhan gatherings in bars and restaurants or joined street parties around the campus to celebrate the season while hoping for a brighter and a failure-free term. F – From reports by Lila Victoria Reyes, Venerando Pagaduan VII, Nolan Adrian Villamor, Jr. and Mc Neil Zyh Serrano