After nearly three academic years of the Enriched Virtual Mode (EVM) of education, the University of Santo Tomas (UST) returned to holding in-person Baccalaureate Masses. The Class of 2022 had their Mass on June 3, 2022, while the Classes of 2020 and 2021 had their Mass on June 4, 2022, both at the UST Open Field and Grandstand.
Following health policies such as presentation of vaccination cards, health declaration via StaySafe.PH or ThoMedSS, wearing of masks, frequent hand sanitization, and thermal screening at the outdoor venue, the graduating students entered the campus for the last time before actual solemn investiture ceremonies.
For the Class of 2022, which had over 9000 graduating students, the Mass Presider and Homilist was the UST Rector Very Rev. Fr. Richard G. Ang, O.P., Ph.D. In his homily, he congratulated the students, saying that, “Each and every one of you is an achiever, a victor, a high flier, and a hotshot. All of you are equally determined. All of you have worked hard for this, and now that you have attained your goal, each of you deserves to stand tall and be recognized.”
For the Classes of 2020 and 2021, it was the UST Vice Chancellor and the Dominican Province of the Philippines Prior Provincial Very Rev. Fr. Filemon I. dela Cruz, Jr., O.P., who presided over the Mass. He emphasized in his homily that, “We have more reasons to be thankful about, more than your diploma, more than the thought of graduating: We have survived. We have passed through a lot of trials, and I hope we get many lessons from this.”
Part of the Post-Mass Program was the annual “Ceremony of Light” that represents UST’s mission of illuminating the world through the light of education and evangelization. The flame that originates from the torch of the Presider is passed on to the torches of the Deans and Regents of the academic units and is received by each of their respective students. They were each given a Thomasian Mission Cross, as a reminder to stay true to Thomasian ideals, even after they leave UST. A recitation of the Thomasian Pledge of Loyalty followed the blessing and imposition of the crosses.
After the Post-Mass Program, the graduating students symbolically left the University in the traditional recessional parade where they exit through the historic Arch of the Centuries, signifying the completion of their student life in UST. The Mass Presider and the Secretary-General, with the administrative and academic officials, led the procession walking out of the Arch, which was the original gateway of the University when it was still in Intramuros.
The Baccalaureate Masses were the prelude to in-person Completion Ceremonies of Education High School and UST Junior High School, and the Solemn Investiture Rites for Senior High School, Tertiary, Post-Baccalaureate, and Graduate School levels, which were held over the month of June.
In solidarity with the plight of many people, including Thomasians, who are still recovering from the pandemic’s ill effects, or who have passed to God’s embrace, the Baccalaureate Masses were held solemnly without the traditional pyrotechnics display.