THE WHIRLWIND that was school year 2010-2011 was indeed imbued with unending grace.

The first half of the University’s Quadricentennial year, which saw a grand week-long celebration, has been filled with many ups—and downs—that prove to be part of the colorful 400-year history of the “oldest institution of higher learning in the Far East.”

Celebrations began as early as December 2009, with the annual Paskuhan that marked the 400-day countdown to UST’s 400th year, gathered a record crowd of 50, 000 people—Thomasians and non-Thomasians alike.


On Jan. 25, 2010, four UST landmarks—the Main Building, Central Seminary, Arch of the Centuries, and the University’s open spaces—were declared National Cultural Treasures by the National Museum, a first for any educational institution in the country.

In February, Rector Fr. Rolando de la Rosa, O.P. announced the beginning of the Quadricentennial “centerpiece project,” “Simbahayan: Tomasino para sa Simbahan, para sa Tahanan, para sa Bayan,” which aims to build 400 villages for the poor nationwide.

The University revealed its “vast and priceless collection of rare books, historical documents and artifacts accumulated across four centuries” in the year-long “Lumina Pandit: An Exhibit of Historical Treasures” at the Miguel de Benavides Library.

To prove the University’s stronghold in many sectors—business, included—UST ran the three-day Thomasian Global Trade Expo at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City from Oct. 15 to 17, 2010.

The Thomasian community united for two large human formations in thanksgiving to 400 years of guidance and grace and in an attempt to enter the Guinness Book of World Records—first on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on Dec. 8, 2010, when an estimated 25,000 Thomasians “joined hands” to form the “largest human rosary”; and on March 9, Ash Wednesday, when about 24,000 people gathered to form the black-and-white Dominican cross.

Passing, battles

But amid all the festivities, the UST community mourned the loss—and celebrated the lives—of Thomasian professors who touched many lives.

The Thomasian literary community lost two of their matriarchs in 2010, with the consecutive deaths of the “teacher” Milagros Tanlayco and the “poetess” Ophelia Dimalanta.

On November 4, six months after Tanlayco’s death, Dimalanta passed away. She made her last “homecoming” last November 8 at the Santisimo Rosario Parish Church, where writers, former students, friends, and admirers flocked to pay tribute to the “love poet.”

Congress issues resolution lauding UST Singers

The year also saw several controversies regarding the University and some Thomasians, which made the courts of law.

In a resolution dated March 21, the Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office dismissed the libel complaint filed by UST Faculty Union president Gil Gamilla against the nine former union officers collectively called the “Fidelity Group”.

The school was also caught in a win-lose situation over labor suits.

In a resolution last April 13, the National Labor Relations Commission favored three former instructors at the College of Fine Arts and Design (CFAD), who sued UST “for unfair labor practice and illegal dismissal” after they refused to sign waivers “renouncing their right to tenureship.” The University was told to reinstate the three and to give them around P1.2 million “in backwages and moral damages.”

But the University won against former instructors Buen Franklin Anthony Calubayan (CFAD) and Dianne Gene Aquino (College of Commerce and Business Administration) in two separate illegal dismissal suits.

UST filed a lawsuit against carpark operator Selegna Holdings, Inc. for “entering into fraudulent lease contracts and for failing to secure the approval of the University” last December 29. The news story on the case made the Varsitarian pages on the January 26 issue, which, in turn, led to a libel complaint filed by Selegna president and CEO Edgardo Angeles against editor in chief Cliff Harvey Venzon and news reporter Rommel Marvin Rio.

Maintaining that “UST is pro-life”, the University joined the anti-RH bill rally held at the Quirino Grandstand last March 25. It also released a statement against the controversial bill, saying “that the purchase of contraceptives shall be the burden of all tax-paying Filipinos, even those who, in conscience, are pro-life.”

Laurels, places

Thomasians continued to excel in a variety of fields.

President Aquino appointed Economics alumnus Paquito “Jojo” Ochoa Jr. and Education graduate Eduardo de Mesa as executive secretary and chief presidential legal counsel, respectively, while former Varsitarian Features editor and Journalism alumnus Ronald Llamas was appointed as presidential adviser on political affairs. Commerce alumnus Joel Villanueva, meanwhile, is the new director-general of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority. Thomasian Lt. Gen. Eduardo San Lorenzo Oban Jr., new Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, has vowed to redeem the military’s “stained” reputation.

'Di wala ang panitikang Waray

The UST Singers was hailed as the Choir of the World again after surpassing 91 participants from across the globe at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod in United Kingdom last July 10, making them the first choral group to receive the award twice.

Fine Arts graduate Joseph Mateo received the Outstanding Achievement in Animation award during the 62nd Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards last August 21 for his work as storyboard artist in Prep & Landing, a computer-animated television Christmas special produced by Walt Disney Pictures.

Topping the ranks

Medicine graduate Chitra Deepak Punjabi topped the Physician licensure exam, with four other Thomasians joining her in the Top 10. UST recorded a passing rate of 99 percent.

In the Occupational Therapy (OT) licensure exams, Kim Gerald Medallon also ranked first, with three other UST products making the list of topnotchers. While the national passing rate for OT declined to 37 percent, Thomasian occupational therapists could look forward to working abroad because the University has secured an accreditation from the World Federation of Occupational Therapists last June.

Fourteen Thomasians made it to the Top 10 of the July nursing board exam. They were led by Allyce Joana de Leon and Anna Vanessa Ang Gan, who both secured third place with 86 percent. The University was named third top-performing school with a 99.34-percent passing rate.

Last April, the University emerged as the only top-performing school in the “off-season” electronics engineering board exam, with 59 of 71 exam-takers (83.1 percent) passing the test. In electrical engineering, UST got an 82.35-percent passing rate.

In sports, UST won its 13th consecutive UAAP general championship, bringing to 38 its total number of overall titles. It also grabbed its 13th overall title in the juniors’ division.

‘Week of the Tigers’

But the grandest celebration would come at the first month of 2011, with the much-anticipated Quadricentennial week finally realized after two years of waiting.

Thomasian entertainers return home

The University’s real foundation day is April 28, but according to Public Affairs chief Giovanna Fontanilla, the administration held the week-long festivities in January for UST’s “most important stakeholders”—the students. January 28, meanwhile, is the feast of the University’s patron, St. Thomas Aquinas.

The beginning of the ‘Q’ week also saw the beginning of the Jubilee Year in line with UST’s festivities. The Roman Catholic Church’s Apostolic Penitentiary, the authority that governs indulgences, permitted Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales to bestow a Papal Blessing carrying a Plenary Indulgence after the opening Mass last January 24.

For the second time, UST served as the venue of the biennial conference of the International Council of the Universities of St. Thomas Aquinas, where officials member-universities—either named after St. Thomas Aquinas or adhering to Thomistic ideals—from 18 countries around the world met to review their respective visions and missions, policies and practices, and curricula and special advocacies.

President Aquino graced the occasion as the keynote speaker, where he praised the University for producing alumni “who have learned to balance their intellect on an unshakable foundation of morality.”

Thomasians partied hard the next night with a star-studded concert at the UST Grandstand on January 27, which featured popular acts like Thomasians Sarah Geronimo, John Lapuz, Jamie Rivera, and Jeffrey “Mr. Fu” Espiritu.

But before the fireworks and merriment of three separate gatherings around the campus on January 28, the Thomasian community and the local Church hierarchy gathered in thanksgiving, in a Mass officiated by Zenon Cardinal Grochlewski, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education and the Pope’s “extraordinary envoy” to the Quadricentennial celebrations.

Asserting UST’s place as the only Pontifical university in Asia, Pope Benedict XVI also took part in the celebration—which he said was “a significant even in the life of the Church—through a recorded video message.

“I am confident that keeping in mind the faith and the reason, which are always part of a truly integrated approach to education, the University will continue to contribute to the intellectual, spiritual, and cultural enrichment of the Philippines and beyond,” the Supreme Pontiff said.


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