Journeys Part 1: The Thomasian Chronicles

*The first part of a three-part series of stories.

One morning exactly a week ago, I made a spur of the moment decision: Instead of going directly to work, I opted to go the other way and back to school to UST. I hadn't intended to go but a huge part of me was dying inside because I wouldn't be there that evening to celebrate with my fellow Thomasians our alma matter's 400th year anniversary.

As a die-hard growling tiger, I thought it only proper to visit the grand old place even with the lack of pomp and pageantry (and quite frankly - people). Armed with my camera, I played like a tourist at my own school. Upon reaching the EspaƱa gate alone, I could already feel something was up in the air. The place was more festive than usual at 9am and having had my share of Paskuhans and college weeks during my time, I know how busy the place really gets. Last week's was ten times more amplified.

The other thing I noticed was that I wasn't the only "tourist" there. Everywhere I looked, there were groups of people - no doubt families and old gangs - from older batches and I could hear them talking about their time as students. Often the remarks were how things have changed since their time. Some older folks were even with who I assume are grandchildren who were appropriately dressed for class that day. It was amazing!

I guess the best part for me was being able to go inside my home in UST - the Faculty of Arts and Letters. I didn't think I'd get in what with the lack of proper identification and all, but I did! Just the flood of memories alone was overwhelming. I remember running along the halls for a variety of reasons - catching up to a professor or a classmate or an orgmate, rushing to the photocopier, meeting deadlines, all of it. It was so vivid in my memory it may as well have happened yesterday.

It was a good thing I caught Mam Faye at room 211 - my very first classroom in UST. That's where I met my friends at Saunos and where I had a couple of embarassing moments. Yes, I will never live down that time I was late and crashed into 1Journ1's class thinking it was our class. I kinda did it again when I barged into Mam Faye's class (2CA5) but it's all good.

Another overwhelming moment was when I came across CASA's bulletin board. I didn't think I would be emotional about it but I was. Even if I'm in regular contact with the current batch of officers, it still beats seeing again the part that you had to leave behind when you graduate. It's that legacy you leave for someone else so that they might have the chance to experience what you have.

Of course every Thomasian experience is different. Mine was riddled with constant stuggle and a lot of growing up. I went from over-the-top student to student council slave to mediocre debater to president of one of the biggest organizations in campus. Every now and then, I got to write and dance outside of any class requirements. Yes I was the guy you got sick of after one encounter too many. Evidence here.

Hey, I live less than 30 minutes away! What'd you expect me to do with my overly free time? Study?
This was from my junior year.
Yet for all that, I believe I was one of Communication Art's most promising students (If my mentors could just see me now, they'd wonder "What happened?") I owned my subjects like they were yesterday's news. My approach to academics has always been more relaxed. I never really bothered about grades. They're just numbers. I passed. I learned. End of story. Move on.
Grad photo with the UST quadricentennial emblem.
So many more stories I can tell about the college years but for now I leave with this: I was never really comfortable with uniforms primarily because I have never been a conformist and I grew up practically not wearing one. So I would find ways to deviate - like wearing a printed shirt underneath or wearing my trademark earrings. Oh, and when they stopped for the 3pm Angelus, I moved. I still think it a waste of time.
My school ID pic resurfaced.
Despite such lapses, I am and will always be proud to be called a Thomasian. Not because we have the best academic program ever (Hell no!) but because the place left an indelible mark on me. For one thing, it helped me gain the courage to defy convention, which is something you'll need if you're in the creatives industry.

After only spending about an hour that morning last week, I did feel fulfilled that I have honored my den, my alma matter, and was at peace with myself. I did great during my four years there. Only thing now is that I have to challenge myself to do even greater.

Thanks for the mentors and the memories, UST.

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