The University of Santo Tomas sent off the Class of 2021 through virtual ceremonies that included an online adaptation of its traditional Exit through the Arch of the Centuries through Minecraft. With the theme “Dream beyond our seeing,” the celebrations were livestreamed through the official Facebook page of UST on July 23, 2021.
Prior to the send-off proper, UST Rector Very Rev. Fr. Richard G. Ang, O.P., Ph.D., served as the main presider of the online Baccalaureate Mass, which was concelebrated by the Dominican Fathers.
“My dear Thomasian graduates, carpe diem. Seize the day. Be happy by recognizing how good things really are despite your previous failures or faults. For without those failures and faults, this day, this moment, would not have come,” said the Father Rector in his homily.
Fr. Ang also highlighted the importance of a healthy mindset, saying, “Do not be afraid to fail for success is not far behind. Be satisfied with your lot in order for you to be happy. Be happy in order for you to be grateful. Be grateful in order for you to be blessed more.”
“Whatever happens in the future and wherever destiny may take you, remember your alma mater: the University of Santo Tomas. Here in España, she stands with her gates open to her sons and daughters,” the Father Rector reminded the graduating batch.
Support and Sympathy
Following the Baccalaureate Mass was the send-off proper. The Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs Prof. Cheryl R. Peralta, DrPH, congratulated the graduates, saying that, “Your perseverance to thrive and not just to survive fueled your passion to achieve your dreams and become better versions of yourselves. As you move on to the next chapter in your lives, may you continue to strive for competence and excellence, demonstrate compassion for others, and commit yourselves to the service of God, Church, and the Society.”
The deans, directors, and principals of the different academic units also delivered messages to their respective students.
In a separate message, the Father Rector sympathized with the Class of 2021 who spent their entire graduating year studying remotely and not being able to physically join their friends in school events and student life highlights, such as the Baccalaureate Mass.
Traditionally, the Baccalaureate Mass is held with the entire graduating batch seated in front of the UST Grandstand, followed by the Ceremony of Light, and the Exit through the Arch of the Centuries.
“While the Covid-19 pandemic might have modified the way we usually do things such as conducting classes, or holding an important event like this virtually, this send-off ceremony is no less solemn and meaningful. You are here today because this is the culmination of your hard work,” the Father Rector emphasized.
“I would like to express my heartfelt congratulations to all the graduates, who, as Thomasians, will commit themselves to the highest standards of professionalism. Savor your triumphs with equanimity and follow the Light of Truth in everything you do. You are Thomasians, and you are one of the best,” said Father Ang.
Adapting Traditions Online
It would be remembered that a year ago, a team of 80 students led by College of Computing and Information Sciences student Charles Nobleza, reconstructed the 21.5-hectare UST-Manila campus in the popular sandbox game Minecraft. The accurate recreation, which won the AcadArena Project of the Year award and an Excellence Award in the Philippine Student Quill, was first made to tour freshmen’s avatars, in full uniform and with IDs, around the historic España school grounds.
Included in this virtual campus is a representation of the Arch of the Centuries – the original gateway of the University when it was still in Intramuros. Since 2002, it has been a staple of Thomasian tradition. Freshmen have symbolically entered the University by walking through the historic Arch of the Centuries at the start of each academic year to signify the beginning of their Thomasian life, and in turn, graduating students also exit the Arch at the end of the year to represent the completion of their journey in UST.
In an online interview with UST Minecraft Team Leader Charles Nobleza, he shared that the team added the Baccalaureate Mass setting in the virtual campus, such as “some collegiate banners for the graduates to have a glimpse and sense of their send-off while going outside of the Arch.”
A well-known tradition of the in-person send-off celebrations prior to the pandemic was the pyrotechnical display, and UST Minecraft made sure to provide it for the Class of 2021 through virtual means.
Since the current server can accommodate 500 students, representatives of each academic unit exited the iconic Arch.
The creativity of the UST Minecraft project and its ability to bring the Thomasian community together has garnered interest from not only local media, but also from Microsoft, the publisher of Minecraft.
According to Nobleza, a partnership with Microsoft involving Minecraft: Education Edition is in the works. The team was contacted through the Tiger Media Network under the UST Communications Bureau.
Asst. Prof Virginia A. Sembrano
Acting Director, Office of Public Affairs, University of Santo Tomas