Thomasians gear up for the much-anticipated milestone in the existence of their beloved institution. Beginning this Friday, December 18, the University of Santo Tomas will be on its way to "400 years of Unending Grace."
The kick-off event, to be hosted by UST alumni Kim Atienza and Miriam Quiambao, will coincide with the traditional UST Paskuhan that will be held at the UST field. JC Cuadrado will also serve as segment host while Rachel Lobangco is expected to perform a fire dance.
Around 40,000 people are expected to light candles at the university's football field this Friday, December 18, to symbolize the star and the light of Christmas.
During the 400-day countdown, the Quadricentennial Prayer, the Quadricentennial Song, the Quadricentennial Flag, the Quadricentennial countdown clock and the Quadricentennial mascot will be unveiled to the public.
Last December 3, the annual Christmas Concert Gala was held at the UST Chapel to raise funds for the renovation of the UST Museum. Two weeks ago, UST conducted the grand finals of the Quadricentennial Songwriting Contest where "Ako ay Isang Tomasino" emerged as the winner, making it the official theme song to be used for the celebration.
THE KICKOFF. Dubbed Countdown Count.Me.In.: 4 Horas 4 Dias 400 Days 400 Taon, the kickoff event commences UST's countdown of 400 days to the celebration of its 400th anniversary in 2011.
"It will start at 8 o'clock p.m. of that day, which is four hours to 12 o'clock a.m. of December 19. This is, in turn, four days to December 22, the actual 400 days before the 400th anniversary on January 28, 2011," explains UST secretary-general Fr. Isidro Abaño, O.P. As the Quadricentennial and Highlights executive director, Fr. Abaño informed PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) that they wanted to do the kickoff on December 22 itself but they couldn't hold it by then because of the Christmas vacation.
The UST Quadricentennial event is expected to run from December 18, 2009 until January 2012. It is organized by Five2Seven Entertainment Production headed by real-life couple Candy Pangilinan and GB Sampedro. Direk GB is the overall director of the show while Candy is the creative director.
What exactly is going to happen this Friday?
"To start things, 400 students in costume are going to parade within UST grounds," explains Candy. "You will see some people going up the Main Building, rappelling... there will also be fireworks, a fire dance by Rachel Lobangco [a UST alumna], tiangge, kainan, fair, fiesta."
PEP asked Fr. Abaño if His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI will be coming to the Philippines to join the celebration of the Royal, Pontifical and Catholic University.
"Yung sa Pope, actually, we already wrote a letter. Nakarating na sa kanya yung letter kasi may pumunta ritong cardinal, who is very close to the Pope, so through [the former], we were able to send a letter. The Pope knows already [that we are going to celebrate], but he has not yet given his final answer," shares Fr. Abano.
In the past, UST has been visited once by Pope Paul VI in 1970 and twice by Pope John Paul II in 1981 and 1995.
MAJOR EVENTS. After the December 18 kickoff, major events that will span the two-year period of celebrations include the Simbayan 400 (Launching of the Quadricentennial outreach community); Unveiling of the restored 1911 Commemorative Painting and the declaration of the UST Main Building as a National Heritage Landmark at the UST Museum; UST's Longest Living Rosary (wherein Thomasians will pray the rosary around the entire UST campus); the Lumina Pandit: An Exhibition of Historical Collections; the annual Christmas Concert Gala; Operas by the UST Conservatory of Music Featuring Cavalleria Rusticana and Gianni Schicchi with guest alumni at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP); Quadricentennial Thomasian Personality: The Search for Mr. & Ms. Quadricentennial; and then the Grand Celebration on the January 27-28, 2011.
The Lumina Pandit exhibit, which will run from June 17, 2010 to January 30, 2011, will showcase precious and significant collection of books--including a rare original (1887) copy of Rizal's Noli Me Tangere and Doctrina Christiana, the first book ever published in the country, and other materials accumulated by the UST Library through the years that reflects the growth of the nation and the unfolding of UST's history.
There will also be the Grand Thomasian Family Day; the USTv Students' Choice Awards Quadricentennial Edition; the Quadricentennial Conference on Learning Technologies; the International Conference of the Universities of St. Thomas (ICUSTA); Presentation of the 400 Titles of UST-published books and publications (with the Coffeetable Book as the 400th title); the Quadricentennial Exhibit at the UST Museum Main Hall; Operetta on the Life of Msgr. Benavides; Q Fashion Show; Rosarium (a vigil and visit of the Our Lady of the Rosary and the Our Lady of La Naval, and the blessing of the Rosary Garden); UST Exhibit at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France; Unveiling of the UST Martyrs' Monuments; and the inauguration and blessing of the UST Gymnasium.
Another notable event is the unveiling of Ramon Orlina's glass-and-brass sculpture, Tetraglobal, modelled by UST alumni Piolo Pascual and Charlene Gonzales.
For the culminating activity in January 2012, there will be a grand production number dubbed as the 40,000 Voices Presentation.
Candy points out: "[The quadricentennial] is going to be a very momentous event. If you're not here, sayang, you'll miss it. kasi this is a part of history, e. Hindi naman lahat ng establishment at unibersidad ay umaabot ng apat na daang taon. At hindi naman pag dumating ang apat na daang taon ay buhay ka pa, di ba?
"So, kumbaga, isang celebration ito not only for the Thomasians but for life itself and for every Filipino because here in our country, there is a university na umabot ng apat na daang taon. Kaya iniimbitahan namin ang lahat na pumunta at makisaya, dahil hindi naman ito exclusive, ito ay open to the public."
Fr. Abaño also feels lucky to be part of this momentous occasion. "We're very fortunate na andito tayo sa time that this celebration ay gagawin. I'm inviting all the Thomasians, the alumni, the students, everyone, for a chance to participate in this historical event because this is not only the history of UST but the history of the Philippines."
COPING WITH THE CHANGING TIMES. Established in 1611 by Miguel de Benavides, O.P., UST is the oldest extant university charter in the Philippines and in Asia.It is the only institution in the country that offers Sacred Theology, Ecclesiastical Philosophy and Canon Law courses.
How does UST cope with the changing times in terms of offering quality education?
"Siyempre, continuous ang aming faculty development, we give premium to research that's why we now have the Thomas Aquinas Research Complex, aside from having other centers for research. Tapos, we also have publications, international linkages with universities. We have international students, too, though we are also limiting their numbers because of course, we want to prioritize and we don't want to displace our very own Filipino students na magagaling din naman," answers Fr. Abaño.
National heroes José Rizal, Marcelo H. del Pilar, Emilio Jacinto, Antonio Luna, Apolinario Mabini, Felipe Agoncillo, and Claro M. Recto are among those who studied in UST.
Thomasians who have become Philippine Presidents were Manuel L. Quezon, Sergio Osmeña, José P. Laurel and Diosdado Macapagal.
Chief Justices Cayetano Arellano, Victorino Mapa, Ramon Avanceña, Jose Abad Santos, Roberto Concepcion and Andres Narvasa are also alumni of this educational insitution.
National Artists Nick Joaquin, Leandro Locsin, F. Sionil José, Bienvenido Lumbera, Ang Kiukok, Victorio Edades, Rolando Tinio, Daisy Hontiveros-Avellana, Ernani Cuenco, Arturo Luz, Ildefonso Santos and Gerry de Leon are also products of UST.
Among other celebrities and entertainment personalities that either studied or finished high school and college education at UST are Aiza Seguerra, John "Sweet" Lapus, Angel Locsin, Albert Martinez, Ali Sotto, Arnold Clavio, Charlene Gonzales-Muhlach, Ciara Sotto, Dominic Ochoa, Eula Valdes, Gretchen Malalad, Jao Mapa, Lourd de Veyra, Piolo Pascual, and Sarah Geronimo.
Candy Pangilinan's blog "Candidly" has the details, CLICK HERE.