AFTER A two-year halt, thousands of Thomasians flocked to the University last Dec. 19 for the return of the onsite Paskuhan in an event that saw them going back to old ways while moving forward from the anxiety-filled episodes of the pandemic.
A total of 51,845 Thomasians gathered in UST to experience the much-awaited Paskuhan festivities which carried the theme “Pananabik, Pagbabalik, Panunumbalik (longing, return, restoration).”
While there were noticeable changes this year — people were wearing face masks, ‘one-entry, one-exit’ and ‘no ID, no QR code, no entry’ policies were imposed, outsiders were not allowed — some elements — long queues in entrances, the afternoon mass, stalls selling aromatic and greasy food, rowdy young people in yellow shirts snapping photos of themselves, after parties with lots of booze — persisted.
Christmas lights still surrounded the University but this time, it was not just about aesthetics.
The campus was filled with the colors of the Philippine flag to match this year’s theme, which was dedicated to Filipino pandemic heroes.
For Thomasians who had experienced Paskuhan before the pandemic, it was an opportunity to reconnect not just with old friends but also with unique and cherished traditions that many thought were lost forever.
For those who joined the month-long Paskuhan activities for the first time, it was an identity-shaping experience.
Old traditions, new experiences
Nostalgia and cheer were felt all over the campus as University-wide student organizations got to recruit members once again at the Plaza Mayor during Agape last Dec. 2. Agape, which marks the start of the Paskuhan festivities, is a gathering where Thomasians partake of free food together.
For the past two years, the annual recruitment week of organizations was held online due to COVID-19-induced restrictions.
Student organizations prepared performances and activities, from cultural entertainment, cosplays to games, to introduce themselves to new Thomasians.
“I feel glad to experience this for the first time with my friends, and to see the Thomasian community celebrate the kick-off of the Paskuhan season,” second-year Journalism student Mabel Anne Cardinez said, referring to her Agape experience.
The Paskuhan offered something new even to old students and alumni, some of whom turned the event into mini batch reunions.
“Agape is one of my most awaited activities in UST ever since I started studying in the University way back in 2018 and… each year surprises me because it is different from the past Agape,” Communication student Ella Arconado said.
“I remember jamming to the concert when suddenly the whole campus lit up in bright blue, red, and yellow colors.”
Fourth year History student Jiego Tagaban described his Paskuhan experience as “ecstatic and nostalgic.” He said Thomasians were more eager to be part of this year’s Paskuhan season compared to two years ago.
“I am a fourth-year student, and two years have been shaved off my life, especially in those experiences where I could’ve had more time with my friends, classmates, and my org family,” he said.
“We energized this edition of Agape by putting all of our anger, our angst, our excitement that has been stored for those two years into this one singular event.”
Journalism batch 2022 alumna Anna Barlam said she found time for Paskuan because her batch did not experience the festivities in a face-to-face setting for two years.
“It’s like a day to reminisce [about] the things I experienced in Paskuhan festivities before,” she said.
For graduating Commerce student Jose Miguel Ricafort, attending the Paskuhan had something to do with his final year as a Thomasian.
“I want to experience the Paskuhan. I want to enjoy it. I might have regrets if I do not,” Ricafort said.
Paskuhan was also an opportunity for Thomasians to create memories and unwind after a grueling academic term. But for some attendees, it was some sort of rite of passage.
“The entire (Paskuhan) program hyped us up and we were especially motivated by then since exams had just ended as well as the submission of activities, so I really enjoyed it,” Civil Engineering freshman Mhyzell Oblepias said.
“My friends (made Paskuhan memorable). The fireworks were also beautiful since it is the end of semester and the beginning of Christmas, so [they were] very symbolic and memorable for me.”
Some Thomasians learned the hard way that a Paskuhan experience won’t be complete without the usual struggles in getting food and beverage and securing a good vantage point for the concert.
“It was so difficult to line up for food since the path was crowded with people lining up [for] different stalls to the point that we chose not to eat just so we won’t miss the performances,” Oblepias said.
Creative Writing freshman Amiel Labasug lined up for tacos, hurt his foot and spent more than an hour looking for his friends due to a weak mobile phone signal but he still considers the Paskuhan concert as one of his “most fun” experiences.
“I will remember Paskuhan as the day…[that made] me an official UST student,” he said.
‘Have fun on stage’
Paskuhan also allowed the University’s homegrown bands to perform before their largest crowd yet. Among the performers who made their mark on the Paskuhan concert stage were Tunog Tomasino 2022 Battle of the Bands winners Lucy, Sean Archer, and Illumina.
“Our motto is to enjoy the stage. If you make mistakes, just forget them and just have fun on stage,” Lucy told The Flame in an interview.
“This is special since [we’re] going to perform in front of my fellow Thomasians, we’re excited),” Sean Archer said.
Eight other Filipino artists jammed with the Paskuhan attendees namely Adie, Lola Amour, Kenaniah, Soapdish, Dotty’s World, Earl Generao and Mayonnaise, the band behind the hits “Jopay” and “Tayo na lang dalawa” and the main performer of the event.
Special performances were also rendered by UAAP Season 85 Cheerdance Competition second runner-up UST Salinggawi Dance Troupe, UST Sinag Ballroom, UST Yellow Jackets and various Thomasian dance groups.
Students cheered and took videos as a six-minute fireworks display capped the Paskuhan festivities.
“While I felt my neck slightly hurt while watching the fireworks display, I felt happy to witness how the night sky shined beautifully,” Commerce student Ricci Maclang said.
— The Flame (@abtheflame) December 19, 2022
“While watching, I realized that I am really part of the Thomasian community, that I am at the university where I dreamt to spend my college years.” F — reports from Aubrey Shane Lim, Dawn Solano, Matthew Jucom, Prince Ronson Sabado, Zoe Airabelle Aguinaldo, Katherine Chan, and Shayne Lee Macaraeg