The University of Santo Tomas concluded its month-long community celebration of Christmas with the annual Paskuhan concert and pyrotechnic display. With the theme “Witnessing the Joy of Christmas,” the festivities began on December 1, 2023, with the lighting ceremony and UST Christmas Concert Gala, and culminated on December 21, 2023.
Popular Filipino acts like BINI, Cup of Joe, Hey Jace, Lola Amour, Adie, and Lily joined joined the Tunog Tomasino 2023 winners, Thomasian bands Kler, Benchfly, and MIMOSA for the Paskuhan Concert. Performances began at 2:00 P.M. at the UST Grandstand and Open Field.
While the in-person concert was open to Thomasians only, the public was still able to watch online via the University of Santo Tomas (/ust1611official) and the UST Tiger TV (/USTigerTV) Facebook pages.
Agape and Gift-giving
On December 13, the UST Rector Very Rev. Fr. Richard G. Ang, O.P., presided over the Paskuhan Mass at the Plaza Mayor, 5:00 PM, which was concelebrated by the Dominican Fathers of the Priory of St. Thomas Aquinas. The Thomasian Christmas Feast, known as the Agape, which is the ancient Greek word for “the highest form of love and charity,” followed.
As Thomasians partook in the Agape, they were encouraged to bring gifts-in-kind like Noche Buena packs and school supplies or gifts-in-cash as organized by the UST Simbahayan Community Development Office, which were shared through the Paskuhan Community Gift-giving Activities.
All gifts were shared with beneficiaries through AKaP (Agape para sa mga Kamanlalakbay ngayong Pasko) for the partner communities (December 11-19, 2023); Sambahaginan for the University maintenance and security personnel (December 17, 2023); Kaparokya for identified families of servants of the Santisimo Rosario Parish-UST (December 20, 2023); and KAAGAPAY (KAsama sa maAGAP na aksyon at Payo) for the sectoral groups providing assistance on safety and security (i.e., barangay officials, Manila Police District (MPD), Sampaloc Fire Station (SFS), Manila Traffic and Parking Bureau (MTPB), and Manila Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (MDRRMO) (December 21, 2023).
Lighting and Concert
UST Vice Rector for Finance Rev. Fr. Roberto L. Luanzon, O.P., SThD, DL, assisted by UST Graduate School of Law Dean Assoc. Prof. Maria Liza Lopez-del Rosario, DCL and the George Cross awardee Ms. May Parsons, an alumna of the UST BS Nursing Class of 2000 known best for administering the first COVID-19 vaccine in the world, officially declared the Paskuhan Season open on December 1, which also signaled the lighting of the UST Manila Campus.
The annual lighting ceremony that marks the beginning of UST’s Paskuhan celebrations is symbolic of the divine light of Christ. In a circular by the UST Office of the Secretary-General, a message from Pope Francis in 2014 was quoted: “In turning on the light of the Christmas tree, we wish for the light of Christ to be in us. A Christmas without light is not Christmas. Let there be light in the soul, in the heart; let there be forgiveness to others; let there be no hostilities or darkness…. Let there be the beautiful light of Jesus. This is my wish for all of you, when you turn on the light of the Christmas tree.”
UST Facilities Management Office Director Rev. Fr. Dexter A. Austria, O.P., shared that, excluding the numerous Christmas LED lights covering the campus structures, there are more than 250 new decors of various shapes and sizes lit in Christmas colors of green, red, and yellow, and a 20-meter (65.6 ft) Christmas tree near the UST Grandstand.
“This year’s theme is inspired by a Japanese arcade video game symbolizing the feeling of happiness and joy we experienced as children. Christmas is just that—to witness the joy that God has given us—His Son, who once became a Child like us,” said Fr. Austria.
The campus Christmas lights will be turned on every day of the season at 6:00 P.M., until the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6, 2024, which commemorates the visit of the three Magi to the child Jesus.
Immediately following the lighting ceremony, the UST Christmas Concert Gala was held at the Drs. Jose and Stella Evangelista Lobby of the Bl. Buenaventura García Paredes O.P. Building at 6:30 P.M. It remains available for viewing at the official UST Facebook page (/UST1611official).
Directed by the Conservatory of Music Dean Assoc. Prof. Antonio P. Africa, Ph.D., the concert featured popular Christmas songs in English and Filipino performed by the UST Symphony Orchestra, the UST Jazz Band, Thomasian choral groups like the UST Singers, Coro Tomasino, and the Liturgikon Vocal Ensemble, sopranos Elisanta G. Cortes, Nenen E. Espina, Naomi Paz S. Nemenzo, Mary Patrice P. Pacis, Thea P. Prosia, and tenors Eugene A. De Los Santos, Ronan H. Ferrer, and Randy I. Gilongo, among many other talents. For a special performance of One Voice/Prince of Peace, members of service learning community partners, Aeta children from Sitio Buok and Parent’s Advocate for Visually Impaired Children (PAVIC), joined Thea Prosia and the UST Symphony Orchestra.
Included among the month-long festivities are the Belen Exhibit and Christmaseum at the UST Museum Gallery which was on display from November 20 to January 10, the Paskuhan Christmas Pop-up Village which ran from December 5 to 15, and the Simbang Gabi from December 15 to 24 (4:30 A.M. and 8:00 P.M.), among others.
A Thomasian tradition since 1991, the UST Paskuhan season ends on December 21, 2023, with the annual Paskuhan concert. The Christmas break begins the next day, while office work resumes on January 4, and regular classes will start on January 15, 2024.