AB class of 2023 end their college journey with blues and bliss

Photo by Aaron La Torre/THE FLAME

THE FACULTY of Arts and Letters class of 2023 filled the UST Quadricentennial Pavilion with blues and bliss last June 5 as they marched on the stage to receive what signified the end of their college journey.

Dressed in their caps and academic gowns, the nearly a thousand graduates proudly received their diplomas, marking both an end and a new beginning.

A bittersweet air pervaded the pavilion and the University grounds as the sight of students hugging and posing for photos reminded everyone that they had been deprived of an opportunity to make the most of their college life.

Although they were only physically present at UST for about half of their college stint, this did not seem to diminish their endearment with the University and their classmates. After all, they were able to make memories that will remind them that they once survived turbulent times together, a thought that they can lean on when they face uncertainties and harsh realities in the real world.

Blue: A color and a feeling

The Faculty of Arts and Letters (AB) began limited in-person classes in September 2022 through the journalism and communication programs. Other programs opted to remain in the virtual mode that time.

Forced to memorize each other’s faces solely through the images that appeared on their computer screens, Artlet seniors had to hold on to the fragments of their freshmen year and whatever  time was left in their senior year.

Journalism graduate Jessie Rival shared how she experienced breakdowns, doubts, and even distractions that she never once had to endure during onsite class 

“[The distractions] were overwhelming, to the point that [I] wanted to just give in to rest. [I thought] I wasn’t going to make it and the course wasn’t for me. But in reality, [I just had to] keep on going, it was what we started, might as well finish the race,” she said.

While college life isn’t always ‘fun and games,’ Rival said there would always be memories to reflect on with nostalgia once it’s all over. 

For legal management senior Ghenrae Leanne dela Cruz, it is the hugging culture that she would remember as an important memory in her stay in the University.

“[I will miss] the Thomasian culture of hugging. The closeness and distinctive identity of being a Thomasian mirrors how they react even on first meetings. You will be greeted with open arms even from afar. I will definitely miss [those moments],” dela Cruz said. 

Several Artlets also displayed this sullen emotion as they reflected on where their college life started and ended — the St. Raymund de Peñafort building, which they shared with commerce students.

“I will always cherish our classroom in the AB building because that’s where it all started […] it’s where all the fun and youthful memories were made,” journalism graduate Raymond Co said.

Behavioral science graduate Christiana Bernabe said AB building’s Room 109 was filled with memories even if they were only there for less than a year.

“This was the home room of BES3 [Room 109], when we were in our first year. […] We got to share our knowledge with each other, shared laughs, got scolded by some professors, had random kwentuhans (sharing of stories), picture taking, dance battles, jamming sessions, and a lot more,” Bernabe said.

Journalism graduate Marron Mendoza and economics graduate Michaela Anne Baluyut  looked back on how the building marked a new chapter of their lives. They view it  as a reminder of a full-circle journey and a place where their dreams unfolded.

“My time in UST started there (St. Raymund de Peñafort building) with the Roarientation, and it also ended there as our holding area for [the] baccalaureate mass and solemn investiture. It’s poetic to see how we ended in the same place where we first started everything,” Mendoza said. 

“As I think of it now, there’s really nothing I would change. Although the journey was not perfect, I believe that everything that had happened in my college years were meant to happen for the purpose of preparing me for the next chapter I am to take,” Baluyut said

Dela Cruz and literature graduate Carmina Beatriz Dizon recalled how support systems became a huge part of their college lives.

“[The grandstand near the Santisimo Rosario Parish] held witness to varying emotions, from petting cats to playing Chain Reaction to reflecting on our lives. There, we can sit in comfortable silence or laugh until tears form and our tummies hurt. We had many heartbreaks and accomplished many milestones, and it did not matter if people stared at us (and judged us),” Dizon said.

“I will miss my support system. After a very long day of studying and having bad recitations, at least we have someone who will gladly console and tell us reassuring words so that we can bounce back again,” Dela Cruz said.

A total of 666 out of 899 Artlets of batch 2023 or 74% of the graduates ended their college journey  with Latin honors. 

A shade of bliss

Some AB graduates attributed  their greatest triumphs to  the organizations they were a part of.

Class of 2023 valedictorian  Franz Austin de Mesa of the creative writing program said being the acting president of the UST MaKatha Circle was a responsibility he would be willing to take again if this is what it takes to nudge hesitant writers into pursuing their dreams. 

“I would like to think that I am more confident in my abilities, a bit more caring and concerned, still introverted but can mingle with others, and a bit smarter. I am now more aware of my advocacies, particularly when it comes to the kind of education and literature this country needs,” he told The Flame

Their roles as student leaders and their willingness to lend a helping hand to others motivated Dizon and Baluyut, to juggle academic pressures with organization work.

“To be honest, I also don’t know how we survived balancing our academics and [organization works], [especially] as a part of the executive committee that is a university-wide org for three years […] That is one of the things I am most proud of for myself. It is not a joke to lead a lot of people and I know I wasn’t a perfect leader, but I gave what I can give without losing the entirety of me,” said Dizon.

“[Artlets Student Council] was able to unleash the fire I always felt within me and the passion I carry for service. […] It eventually made me understand that my life is meant to be lived in service for others,” Baluyut said.

Erika David, a former UST Journalism Society SWIS and Grievances co-head, said she did not let numbers define her ability to perform well as a student.  

“Something I learned in college is to get over this thing called impostor syndrome, where one realizes that they may not be as good, talented, or intelligent as they think so. [Because of] this, I was naive and I had to learn and unlearn a lot of habits. […] Today, I’d say I’m more confident of my craft because UST molded me to have the grit that it takes to swim with the sharks, and the compassion it takes to swim with the little fishes,” she said.

In his speech during the AB solemn investiture, Assistant Vice-Rector for Finance Rev. Fr. Rodel Cansancio, O.P. advised the graduates to be a “positive force in the world.” and to maintain their inner peace and happiness.

“Be true to yourself. Be faithful to your Thomasian identity and to spread positivity in the face of adversity,” Cansancio said. F – Kimberly Anne Ojeda and Ma. Irish Fery with reports from Cali Asajar

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