IN THE spirit of witnessing the Christmas joy together, the Thomasian community will again gather in person for the traditional Agape, the University’s early Christmas feast, on Wednesday, Dec. 13.
The Agape, a part of the month-long UST Paskuhan activities, has become a sought-after Christmas tradition among Thomasians as a day to bask in the festive spirit as one community.
As the much-anticipated feast nears, The Flame presents the essentials Thomasians should take note of to make the most out of this year’s Agape.
1 – Line up early for food
The Agape is best known as a tradition where students, alumni and the UST staff gather on campus to enjoy a communal feast with food provided by the University. It will commence after the Paskuhan mass, which will be held at 5 p.m. at the Plaza Mayor.
Classes on the same day will be suspended from 4 p.m. onwards to allow students and University staff to participate in the Eucharistic celebration, which will be led by UST Rector Fr. Richard Ang, O.P.
To gain the full experience, pharmacy sophomore Miguel Patrick Sy advised Thomasians to claim their food stub before the deadline and line up early on Dec. 13.
“I went to UST hungry thinking I could claim it on the same day (of Agape)…I almost went home early…[but] thankfully, the volunteers were kind enough to give me and my blockmates extra food packs,” Sy told The Flame.
“[Just] make sure also to arrive early on the day of the event since the queue gets long fast and stalls are quick to run out of food,” he added.
Students, academic staff and support personnel can redeem their food stubs by scanning their IDs or QR codes in the designated booths across the Albertus Magnus building until Tuesday, Dec. 12, from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Only the ID or QR code owner is authorized to claim his or her respective food stub. Each individual is entitled to only one food pack, regardless of his or her number of food stubs, which can be claimed at the designated food station/s.
2 – Take note of security protocols
The University will observe some protocols on campus access to ensure the safety and security of the Thomasian community.
To avoid problems upon entering the campus, Thomasians are advised to prepare their identification cards and refrain from bringing certain items to school.
Upon entry, students and University staff have to present their school ID, while the alumni must show their valid Thomasian alumni cards.
Unlike last year, the UST Office of Alumni Relations will no longer provide QR codes as alternative passes for the event.
Security personnel will also be inspecting the attendees’ belongings for possible confiscation of prohibited items, including deadly weapons, tear gas, batons, sharp objects, plastic bottles, glass bottles, lighters, cigarettes, alcoholic beverages and other materials that could be harmful.
A ‘carless’ day will also be implemented on Dec. 13 to ensure additional space within the campus due to the anticipated high number of attendees, according to the Office of the Secretary-General.
Attendees may instead go through gates 1, 2, 6 (España), 7 (P. Noval), 10 and 11 (Dapitan) for entry and exit.
3 – Bring ‘picnic essentials’
As Thomasians are expected to spend their day in the UST field, bringing their own umbrellas, rubbing alcohol and tissues can be useful to maximize the event, journalism graduate Aris Jhon Galang said.
Galang described the Agape as a “picnic-like style” form of bonding with friends at a park.
“What’s memorable during Agape is that the Thomasians [are] like a big happy family eating together, celebrating together after the mass. You get to experience [C]hristmas with your fellow [Thomasians] with the lights around the campus. It really feels cozy and warm,” he said.
Journalism alumnus Ran Abu, who likened the Agape to a fiesta, told Thomasians to bring their own utensils and share their meals with their friends.
4 – Socialize and reflect
Aside from the free food, the Agape is also an event where some Thomasians seek to spend their time with classmates and forge lasting friendships, like first-year political science student Christian Serquina.
“Besides Agape being a celebration of a much larger scale, I look forward to possibly being able to engage and interact with fellow Thomasians, getting to know their stories, and doing this with every other celebration, because it’s always nice to make new acquaintances,” he said.
Political science freshmen Eris Gabrielle Santos and Hannz Ramiro echoed the sentiment, viewing their first Agape celebration as a “breather” from their academic requirements.
“I expect my first Agape to be memorable, filled with overflowing joy that will serve as a breather before finals since I’ll get to celebrate this most awaited event with my friends,” Santos said.
“I hope that before our finals commence in our faculty, we can experience an ‘escape’ in the form of happiness and live our Thomasian journey to the fullest,” Ramiro added.
Matthew Jucom, a journalism graduate, said Thomasians can take the opportunity to connect with others and themselves during the event by reflecting on their challenges.
“Though there are different activities in Agape, and those are the things that you should look forward [to], but if [you] will go there, you should be in spirit and in reflection and introspection. Use it to reflect on what have you done all throughout for you to improve,” he said.
5 – Make lasting memories
The upcoming Agape marks its first celebration to be held onsite since the country’s state of emergency due to COVID-19 was lifted.
Thomasians who were limited by pandemic restrictions over the past two years noted that, unlike them, students participating in this year’s Agape have the chance to fully enjoy and engage in the event.
To do so, bringing cameras to “preserve memories” of the event is a must, according to political science sophomore Iñigo Buan.
“I expect this Agape to be more memorable and fun as I already had the opportunity to make great friends and bonds with my blockmates in contrast to last year’s Agape where we all came from a completely online setup, so I still struggled to make meaningful interactions with my blockmates,” he said.
English language studies alumna Rionelle Deluvio also noted the importance of capturing memories and told students not to take their experience as Thomasians for granted.
“You will only be a student once. Time will fly very fast and you won’t realize that you’re already alumni the next time you visit, and there is no assurance also if you can visit since there is work or adult stuff to do,” she said.
Galang shared the view and told students to cherish every moment with their friends inside the University.
“Enjoy the Agape. You’re lucky enough to get to experience it four times unless you go to grad school. Be with people that you wanna be with. Take as many pictures as you want. Create as many memories as you want,” Galang said.
The term “Agape,” rooted in Greek, signifies “brotherly love and charity.” Introduced during UST’s Quadricentennial Celebration in 2011, the University has embraced the tradition wholeheartedly, aligning it with its Catholic identity.
The University kicked off this year’s Paskuhan festivities with the lighting of Christmas decorations on campus and the Christmas gala concert last Dec. 1.
For the second year in a row, major Paskuhan events, including the grand Paskuhan concert on Dec. 21, will remain exclusive to Thomasians and alumni. The theme for this year’s Paskuhan is “Witnessing the Joy of Christmas,” inspired by the shepherds’ encounter with the newborn Jesus in the Bethlehem manger. F