On my Thomasian experience

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Jan 2 2011

By Francis T. Wakefield

Francis T. WakefieldI’ve always wanted to become a Thomasian since my high school days. That was why when I was able to pass the UST entrance exam in the early 90s, I was so full of joy. I was excited to start my school life in the oldest university in Asia.

However, my first few months as a student at the Faculty of Arts and Letters was not that easy because compared to my high school experience, college life is more difficult and stressful.

Students who wish not to flunk a subject should do his/her very best to study because most professors will not hesitate to give a student a failing mark if they fail to pass the exams or frequently absent or cut classes. But despite the hardships and trials of being a college student, nothing compares to living the Thomasian life.

On being an AB newsletter writer and enjoying World Youth Day and other activities

Prior to becoming the sports editor of the Varsitarian in school year 1997-98, I had the privilege of becoming a writer for the AB Newsletter. Despite the hectic class schedule, I was also able to find time to write and socialize with some of its staffers and with members of the AB Student Council.

My time at the Faculty of Arts and Letters and UST was also made more exciting and memorable with the holding of so many historical events such as the January 13,1995 World Youth Day festivities at the UST football field, led by the late Pope John Paul II, the late former Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin, UST Rector Fr. Rolando de la Rosa, O.P., and other high-ranking church and government officials. The event drew more than 100, 000 people, which include youth from foreign countries.

Being a former model company member of the Reserve Officer’s Training Course (ROTC), I was tasked to provide security for the Pope. That gave me a chance to see the former leader of the Roman Catholic Church whom I admire very much up close.

The second visit of the Pope in UST (the first was in 1981) was very special for me because it fell on the day of my 18th birthday. No amount of money or material gift can replace the kind of experience that I had that day. It was truly memorable for me. Aside from the World Youth Day Festivities, I was also able to take part in the festivities commemorating the 50th year celebration of the Liberation of Manila.

It was recalled that during World War II, the Japanese converted the campus into a concentration camp for civilians, foreigners and POWs. Some of the most brutal war crimes against American soldiers (Filipino soldiers were granted amnesty) and civilians living abroad occurred inside Santo Tomas. Another historical event that I was able to participate in was the centennial celebration of the Faculty of Arts and Letters. Also, I won’t ever forget watching our beloved UST Growling Tigers win four-consecutive University Athletics Association of the Philippines (UAAP) men’s basketball titles from 1993-1996.

What made the title run even more memorable was the fact that the Tigers, which was then coached by Aric del Rosario, was able to beat powerhouse De La Salle University Green Archers three straight times from 93-96. Seeing our players beat the Archers during the mid-90s was a sight to behold.

My Thomasian college life was also memorable after I managed to pass the journalism entrance exams in the summer of 1996. At first, I was not confident of passing the entrance exams considering that more than 100 students took the three-hour exam. What made me even more worried was the fact that only 35 students will be accepted for the journalism major, as told by former journalism coordinator and Manila Bulletin editor Ramon Francisco. But after weeks of waiting, my worries immediately died down after the results of the test was release by the AB deans office. I was able to passed the exams together with eight of my other classmates.

Becoming part of the Varsitarian

Perhaps, one of the most memorable part of my Thomasian life is becoming a member of the university’s official student publication, the Varsitarian. Just like taking up the journalism examination, becoming a member of one of the oldest student publications in the country is no easy feat considering that students who wish to vie for a spot in the V roster should undergo two sets of examination (entrance and specialization exams) and of course the interview to be done by the selection committee members. If one is fortunate enough to pass the exams and become part of the V family, surviving and proving your worth as a V writer or editor is not as easy one may think.

One should have the dedication and passion to write for the V. You should know how to balance your time between studies and the Varsitarian so that you won’t be a failure in the eyes of your fellow V members and advisers. Not performing your duties as a V staffer is also a disservice to the thousands of Thomasians who expect nothing less from the members of student paper.

Participating in out-of-town activities like the traditional summer getaway drive (with outgoing V members) and summer retreat (with the new set of V staffers for the incoming school year) was also a memorable one for me. During our summer getaway in Pangasinan, I was able to bond with other V members and share some of my experiences to them.

Competing with other members of the V as part of the Gothic team (the others being Bodoni and Itals) during our friendly sports matches or activities was also a big hit for me.
Despite us being one big family, we always make it a point to do our best to win in the friendly matches to earn bragging rights of being the
“best house” within the V.

Covering and editing for the V was also worthwhile. Despite the demands of being a writer or editor of the V’s sports section, I made it a point to give my all for the paper. It was really hard juggling my time between classes and covering sports events but with the dedication of my writers and the support of some former V staffers or editors like Jeremiah Opiniano who is a now a journalism professor at the Faculty of Arts and Letters, I was able to pull through.

Organizing the V’s different activities like the “Ustetika Literary Awards” and “Pautakan” was also not a walk in the park because it resulted in some bickering with other staff members but despite that, we were able to hold the event with no problem at all.

Sharing friendship with my classmates and schoolmates

My Thomasian experience will not be complete without the presence of my dear classmates in Journalism who help me during my four-year stay in the university.

The names will forever be etched in my heart: Elay Leyco, Katherine Adraneda, Marinel Cruz, Jhops Carpio, Rochelle Andal, Marilou Jumilla, Aileen Marquez, Dennis Gasgonia, Jeffrey Damicog, etc, were there through hardships---by lifting my spirit up when I’m down---and times of triumphs---by celebrating with me in my victories.

Kudos also to former professors, namely Robert Roque Jr., Ramon Francisco, Mario Hernando and Nestor Cuartero, for teaching us diligently and with passion and pride. I thanked them for all the wonderful memories. It’s just so sad that college life is only four years and cannot be extended.

But what the heck, I’m a Thomasian for the rest of my life and that’s what’s important to me. V

*Francis Wakefield was once a Sports writer in the Varsitarian from 1997-1998. After finishing his journalism course, he applied for the Manila Bulletin where he is now currently working as a reporter.