By FATIMA BADURIA, PATRICK MIGUEL, and DAWN SOLANO
TWO MONTHS ago, graduating students passed through the Arch of the Centuries to mark the end of their college life. This time, the drums roared once again and thousands of new Thomasians entered the iconic monument to mark the beginning of their college journey.
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Carrying their banner that proudly proclaims their program, these new students marched in a line as they entered the arch.
The drums echoed their beating heart, and at the same time, the screams of joy filled the busy streets of España Boulevard.
The University, which is specter-quiet most days, was brought back to life by freshmen students as it marked the return of the tradition that was halted because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When I entered the Arch of the Centuries, I did not miss the chance to shout ‘Thomasian na ako!’ …and I felt proud while walking, carrying our AB banner,” communication freshman Ivan Aguinaldo said.
“I felt like it was a privilege given to us knowing that the upper years, specifically the sophomores and juniors, did not experience this.”
In the last two academic years, freshmen students only experienced the onboarding activities virtually.
First year students last entered the arch on Aug. 6, 2019, seven months before in-person classes were suspended indefinitely. Three years have passed, and this time, the Thomasian community was ready to mark the beginning of the return of the rite of passage, which started in 2002.
Minecraft no more
The excitement that had only lived in chatters also came to the University’s hallways, reverberating through the walls of various college buildings as students filled them. There were merry greetings and laughter, but there was also an air of mystery.
In the previous years of the pandemic, the University’s Minecraft campus allowed the freshmen to virtually experience a campus tour, giving them their first look at UST. They could also “walk” through the Arch, if only on screen.
However, it could never truly replace the experience.
“I thought I was just going to casually pass through the Arch but since I got to know my blockmates, it made the experience much more fun and memorable,” first year economics student Kristanna Gaspar said.
Behavioral Science freshman Janna Soriano said she felt “welcomed” during the ROARientation, the program that introduced the campus to new students.
“I’m happy. I feel really lucky and welcome because they made us feel that there’s so much in store for us,” Soriano said.
Aside from the momentous passing of the Arch, the ROARientation was also anticipated by freshmen who filled the Quadricentennial Pavilion from all sides and chanting the iconic “Go USTe!”
Students proudly wore their college colors as they joined the event, with the Artlets waving the dark blue shade banner.
While other colleges had mascots, the gimmick of AB students was relatively more subdued, their props limited to program banner and light sticks. However, the Artlets’ energy more than made up for their lack of props and the legendary noise that filled the St. Raymund’s building reverberated throughout the event.
Live performances from the UST Yellow Jackets, UST Orchestra, UST Sinag Ballroom Dance Company, UST Sinagtala, Conservatory of Music Singers, UST Singers, and UST Salinggawi Dance Troupe highlighted the solidarity of Thomasians, both in times of victory and defeat.
“I’m also very happy because the programs were lively, and you would definitely feel the Thomasian vibes,” Asian studies freshman Bianca Tagarda said.
Sophomore and junior students who did not experience the on-site tradition these past two years will be entering the Arch on Aug. 23.
There was one new thing that marked a new beginning of an era in the University: the unveiling of the new tiger statue and the UST block letters at the Plaza Mayor.
Before the new tiger was revealed, Secretary-General Rev. Fr. Louie Coronel, O.P., EHL affirmed how the statue symbolizes the Thomasian identity.
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“Standing tall in our midst, they powerfully convey a message of the University’s distinct identity as a leading Catholic higher education institution, not only in the Philippines but also in the Asia Pacific regions.”
Rev. Fr. Dexter Austria, O.P., also likened the tiger to Thomasians: “Tigers and Thomasians are very adaptable; both are able to blend and excel with the given environment.”
He also emphasized tigers’ strength and power, citing their physical capabilities.
“Tigers have excellent vision, which allows them to see clearly in the dark,” Austria added.
For Aguinaldo, the unveiling was an honoring moment as it made him “part” of the University’s history.
“As a freshman, I’m honored to be part of this momentous event, the unveiling of the new tiger, because I’m certain that this will be written in the history of UST,” he said.
The eight-foot statue sported a detailed, more realistic style designed by College of Fine Arts and Design professor Anthony Zamora. The old tiger statue and UST block letters were relocated at the Quadricentennial Square.
“The statue depicts the University’s zeal and passion, and its continuous engagement with the mission (of) bringing the light through quality in Catholic education,” Coronel said. F