The Royal and Pontifical University of Santo Tomas celebrated its 400th Foundation Anniversary yesterday, on the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, its namesake and patron. I am only a recent Thomasian, having graduated from the Graduate School only two years ago. When I heard that the Quadricentennial Anniversary Celebration was going to be held onJanuary 28, 2011, I felt sure I had to be there to be part of that very rare historical occasion. It is not every year that you get to celebrate something that is 4 centuries old. The tickets were a little expensive at P1590 each, at Ticketnet. However, the sheer significance of the event is priceless.
I got off work a little earlier than usual and went back that afternoon, no traffic at all yet. I visited the Graduate School, and found out that it already had a new home at the St. Thomas Aquinas Research Center in the Dapitan side of the campus. I went around taking pictures of the ongoing excitement around the campus, in the Plaza Mayor, the Quadricentennial Square (with the new QuattroMondial Monument by Ramon Orlina) and the Football Field. Almost everyone was wearing something yellow. Everyone was buzzing with excitement. Although it had been raining in the afternoon for the past few days, the weather on this day was perfectly cool.
The programme said that the Thanksgiving Mass would be held at 4:30 pm. People were already filling up the Football Field. It was a free-for-all it seems, and you can sit anywhere. The Mass did not start until it was already 5:30 pm or so. I think the Papal Legate arrived late or something, and of course, we could not start without him. I do not think I had ever been in a Mass as enormous as this one. The processional alone with what looked like all the bishops in the country was a very impressive sight. At the end of that line was the Papal Legate himself,His Eminence Zenon Cardinal Grocholewski.
At the start, Archbishop Edward Joseph Adams,DD, Apostolic Nuncio in the Philippines read the letter of the Pope Benedict XVI endorsing Cardinal Grocholewski as his extraordinary envoy to this celebration. The first reading was from the book of Wisdom (Wisdom 7:7-10, 15-16). The second reading was from the First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians (1Cor 2:1-10). The Gospel is from John (John 7:11-19). The Prayer of the Faithful were offered in different Philippine and foreign languages. After Holy Communion, the Holy Father himself Pope Benedict XVI addressed the congregation via a video message (VIDEO). Then, the Very Rev.Fr. Rolando de la Rosa, OP, Rector of the UST delivered his thanksgiving address. The Rector's address ended with the solemn Lumina Pandit (Passing of the Light) ceremony and singing of the University Hymn (VIDEO). The Mass ended at about 7:30 pm.
Now the Dinner is another matter. When I bought the tickets at Ticketnet, I was shown a seatplan which showed that Table 148 will be on the stone surface of the Plaza just a few tables away from the Stage. However, in reality it was already almost at the very end of the grass area, with no view of the stage at all! The other people in my table were also complaining about that, but everyone just took it in good humor. Some people who were displaced from their table moved to ours, and they also had good humor about that. The buffet was mainly Spanish food. Conversation while eating was good despite we only met each other that time. This meal is practically the only thing we paid for with the ticket.
By the time of the concert, the seats in front of the Stage were already quite empty because I guess the Bishops have left. People were invited to take those seats, so I also took the chance to do so. Thomasian entertainers took the stage to perform. There was classical singing withRachel Gerodias and others to open the show. The solo violin player was electric, too bad I did not get his name. Much later, after 3 hours, the UST Singers were the final act of the show, who sang several amazing numbers, including "One Day More" (VIDEO) and theQuadricentennial Hymn (VIDEO).
In between, there were comedy bits. Jojo Alejar was a bit lame in his spiel. I do not recall anything about it, except that he called out the various colleges and had them cheer "Go Uste!" John "Sweet" Lapuz was already hoarse after his funny monologue. His funniest bit was about the other "oldest" establishments around the campus, ending with Madam Auring on Forbes ("Nagsara na ang kanyang salon, pero si Madam Auring bukas pa!") Beverly Salviejoalso had her share of naughty jokes ("Mga Fathers, pare-pareho tayong mga virgin!"). She ended her number with a medley of commercial jingles of old. Arnold Clavio's monologue was rather on the serious and personal side.
There were also guest performers. Carmen Soriano was busting out all over in her tight revealing gown when she came out singing "Eres Tu" (VIDEO). Her voice was already very low and gravelly. However, the voice practically gave out when she sang her next song, "Chiquitita" as she struggled to hit the high notes. Only her showmanship and flair carried her through. On the other hand, Jed Madela was effortlessly soaring with his high notes on his songs. He sang a medley of "Go the Distance/I Believe (by Fantasia)" and then "The Impossible Dream" (VIDEO).
The night ended with a very loud and colorful fireworks display (VIDEO) coming out from the top of the Main Building. It was certainly an event to cherish and to remember! I was dejected when I totally missed the UP Centennial celebrations in 2008. But I am very happy to have been an official graduate of UST just in time to be a part of this historic event.
Please feel free to share my blog article to your UST friends who would be interested to read about the events that day. By the way, I have posted an album of my other photographs taken that day HERE.