UNDOUBTEDLY, the annual Paskuhan is the University-event that most Thomasians look forward to every year. The amazing fireworks displays, sumptuous food, and up-beat music never fail to make everyone feel that the whole Thomasian community is one big family—united in all endeavors and occasions, and especially at the birth of Christ.
Interestingly, true to the spirit of Christmas as a time of giving, this year’s Paskuhan will highlight the Thomasian touch of compassionate sharing, the same manner that it did the first time, 13 years ago.
It was December 19, 1991 when the first Paskuhan came about. Dubbed “Paskong Tomasino, Paskong Filipino ‘91,” the event intended to reflect the Filipino tradition of “panunuluyan” through a procession from different colleges and faculties in the campus. It also featured a Holy Mass and an inter-collegiate lantern-making contest. The main highlight, however, was gift giving. A 14-foot Christmas tree was erected at the UST Grandstand where Thomasians placed their donations for the victims of Typhoon Uring.
This year, in the wake of three typhoons that left thousands of people dead and injured, and destroyed billions of pesos worth of infrastructure and crops, the UST administration will again revive the Paskuhan’s charitable origins. Students will have to forego watching a fireworks display on Dec. 16 as the administration decided to convert into donations the money allotted for the fireworks.
“As we try to cut our expenses and donate, perhaps the administrators and students can also make an effort to help our brothers who have suffered a lot. We should extend a hand to them,” UST Vice-Rector Fr. Juan Ponce, O.P. said.
The success of the continuous University relief drive organized by the Office for Community Development (OCD) is proof that Thomasians wholeheartedly responded to this appeal.
OCD director Jose Cruz said all colleges contributed to the drive. Some students volunteered to pack the donations collected from the different colleges. Others, such as students from the College of Nursing, even went to Nueva Ecija to personally deliver and dole out the donations.
All in a season’s work
Meanwhile, community service has become a trend at the Faculty of Engineering as approximately 80 students, faculty members, and administrators of the Civil Engineering department signed up as volunteers at the GMA-7 Kapuso Foundation in Quezon City.
Last Dec. 4 and 8, the Thomasian volunteers helped receive donations and repack goods from donors and supporters of the cause. While some were first- time volunteers, others have already helped in ABS-CBN’s “Sagip Kapamilya” project before they volunteered again to GMA-7.
Cruz said he requested P120,000 from the OCD Fund for the flood victims but donations from the different colleges already poured in as early as Dec. 4, a day after typhoon Yoyong left the country. Five days later, almost 800 bags have been filled with basic necessities such as rice, canned goods, instant noodles, salt, and candles. These, together with boxes of clothes and toys, were brought to Real, Quezon on Dec.11. The immediate relief operations will end this month but Cruz said that as early as now, they are already planning a rehabilitation project in Quezon during the summer.
Christmas is a time of sharing and Cruz said it is only fitting that Thomasians share what they have to their fellowmen in need. “Mahirap talaga mag-celebrate kung alam mong buong probinsya ‘yung nasira. Pero tama naman na nandun ‘yung effort, ‘yung sincerity to help,” he said. Cruz said of this year’s Paskuhan theme, Atin To, “tinuturing nating kasakop ‘yung mga naapektuhan. Kung ganun, we should take responsibility for what happened,” he added.
Aside from helping the typhoon victims, the season has Thomasian organizations keeping the spirit of sharing alive in other areas.
The Faculty of Medicine and Surgery’s Lingkod ER is involved in three projects this year. Their Pasko sa ER, first off, is an annual activity where members give away old toys, books, and clothes to the pediatric ward patients and all young patients of the UST Hospital’s clinical division.
In Makibata sa Pasko, kids from UST’s partner communities in Tarlac, Binondo, and Tondo will enjoy a fun-filled overnight stay at the University. It is an annual project of the Student Organizations Coordinating Council (SOCC). The Lingkod ER will join them, together with 16 other university organizations.
About 80 to 100 kids aged five to 12 years old from Sitios Malasa and Mabilog will be adopted and treated to fun-filled activities by members of the different organizations on Dec.13 and 14.
Lingkod ER will also rent out Christmas lanterns for customers’ Christmas messages at the lobby of the Main building come mid-December. Prices will depend on the size of the lantern. All proceeds will go to the funds of Lingkod ER for the benefit of the UST Hospital-Clinical Division’s lying in patients.
Meanwhile, the UST Pax Romana has different activities lined up this Christmas for the unfortunate and underprivileged. Its college units are organizing outreach programs outside the University that will include gift-giving, celebrating, and inspiring.
The Pamaskong Handog Para sa mga Taga Bahay Kariton of the Nursing Pax Romana will be a party for poor families who live in wooden pushcarts in Manila. Canned goods and clothes will be distributed to the families.
The Engineering Pax unit, meanwhile, decided to share Christmas with street children by organizing Paskong Pax for Street Children. Kids around UST will be adopted for a day by Pax members and will be treated to games, film showings, and stories.
A brainchild of Fr. Ponce, the lights adorning UST’s Benavides park as well as other areas of the campus have been displayed more magnificently than ever. Fr. Ponce says the lights were inspired by his hometown in Pampanga (a province famous for huge and spectacular parols). He then honed his decorating skills during his stay at a Dominican convent in Iloilo in the early ‘90s and conceptualized a more extravagant plan to make the University one of the most beautiful views in the city on Christmas nights. The Office of the Vice-Rector in collaboration with the College of Fine Arts and Design faculty members conceptualized this year’s decorations.
The idea started last year, consisting of approximately 30,000 Christmas lights hung on the trees and along the famous “lovers’ lane” at the Benavides Park. A nice touch are old Christmas lights enhanced and recycled into the lanterns now hanging on the trees.
The University also installed spotlights at significant areas of the Main building to emphasize its magnificent architectural design at night. All of these majestic features should make Thomasians swell with pride for the school community.
A simpler, but more meaningful celebration
The Paskuhan will and must go on. Central Student Council president Xialeemar Valdeavilla disclosed that in this year’s edition, the usual program will follow the Thanksgiving Mass. A street dancing competition will replace the usual float parade of the 18 colleges and faculties. What’s more, performances from the Salinggawi Dance Troupe, three local bands, and two guest artists will keep the night alive.
Despite the removal of the much-anticipated fireworks display, the true essence of the Yuletide season will be in the hearts of all Thomasians, knowing that they sacrificed little of what they own for others to have a little more.
With all the exciting and inspiring activities held and still lined up this December, Thomasians have transformed their mundane days into remarkable ones. Regardless of the tragedies that struck the country early this season, the Thomasian community will carry on with a joyful Christmas celebration without neglecting their needy countrymen. Ma. Charise Lauren C. Adonay, Ma. Cristina S. Lavapie, and Glaiza Marie A. Seguia
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