Biggest. USTHS. Alumni. Homecoming. Ever.
One thousand attendees. Over one million pesos as batch donation to the scholarship fund. One fun-filled night. All in honor of one Alma Mater.
These and more can be said about the just-concluded UST High School Grand Alumni Homecoming (USTHS GAH) held on February 20, 2010, at Plaza Mayor of the University of Santo Tomas.
Not only was this the first USTHS GAH of the new decade or the first full-fledged USTHS GAH to be held at the Plaza Mayor—the panoramic, wide-open space in front of the iconic Main Building. It was also one of many celebratory events coinciding with the ongoing, yearlong countdown to UST’s grand Quadricentennial celebration.
Over a thousand UST High alumni were in attendance that moonlit night, the biggest USTHS GAH attendance yet. Those present spanned over 60 years’ worth of UST High alumni, from way back 1948 all the way to 2009. Plus, this Homecoming reaffirmed the USTHS’ and USTHSAAI’s reputation as having one of the biggest—if not the biggest—homecoming attendance in UST every year.
Attendees began flocking to Plaza Mayor as early as one hour before the 4 p.m. registration—many bearing pre-bought tickets, a few others buying on the spot after having learned of the event from the press releases published in national media. While most hailed from Metro Manila, a good number of those present trekked from out of town or flew in from abroad.
The nightlong affair actually began in the afternoon with the 5 p.m. Thanksgiving Mass near another UST icon across Plaza Mayor, the Benavides monument (made in honor of UST founder, Fray Miguel de Benavides, O.P.) Celebrating the Mass—which doubled as an anticipated Sunday Mass—was no less than the UST Rector, Rev. Fr. Rolando V. De La Rosa, O.P.; the USTHS Regent, Rev. Fr. Rodel E. Aligan, O.P., and Rev. Fr. Alex Bautista, O.P of Batch ’85 were the concelebrants.
One year in the making before its eventful unfolding, the USTHS GAH 2010 was a production of the UST High School Alumni Association Inc. and the 2010 Organizing Committee (OrgCom)—the latter featuring USTHS alumni across batches but primarily the 2010 jubilarians, namely Batches 1950 (the Diamond Jubilarians), 1955 (Emerald), 1960 (Gold), 1965 (Sapphire), 1970 (Ruby), 1975 (Coral), 1980 (Pearl) and 1985 (Silver).
Batch 1960’s Girme Gutierrez dutifully served as the Chairman of the GAH 2010 OrgCom—Girme’s generosity extending to hosting the committee’s monthly meetings (venue, meals and all). Girme also donated the 32” plasma TV that was the night’s grand raffle prize. A specially made alumni ring from Suarez & Sons was the 2nd prize. A high-end cell phone, courtesy of Noel Dinio of Batch ’60, was the 3rd raffle prize. Overnight accommodations for two at Astoria Plaza Hotel and
On an even bigger scale, the entire Batch ’60, whose President is US-based balikbayan Brad Victoriano, made the unprecedented donation of P1,100,000 to the USTHS-USTHSAAI joint scholarship program, thus upping the current fund to P4.5 million, or roughly just P500,000 short of its targeted P5.0M total consolidated endowment fund. Initially established in 2000 and institutionalized in 2008 to cover at least one scholar per year level in the high school, the scholarship fund is generally derived from the accumulated donations of the jubilarian batches of the yearly GAHs, as well as from each GAH’s general revenue.
Part of the GAH 2010 show was devoted to the ceremonial turnover of a check for P1.1 million by Chairman Girme to USTHS Alumni Association Inc. President Leebai Esquivias-Gamboa of Batch ’78. The 2010 homecoming itself earned a total of P500,000 which, as with all revenues from previous USTHS GAHs, will go to the USTHS-USTHSAAI joint scholarship program.
The jubilarian batches of 2010 were likewise responsible for most of the production numbers or presentations that evening, which ranged from the dancing to medleys of their era’s hits by Batches ’60, ’70 and ’80, to the montage of nostalgic photos by Batch ’75 and the “Bagets Forever” music video by members of Batch ’85.
Batch ’85 had two celebrity-reps that night as well: foxy actress Eula Valdez, who co-hosted the program with Rene Molano (himself a Pearl Jubilarian as a Batch ’80 graduate); and sultry chanteuse Jenine Desiderio, an alumna of the global musical Miss Saigon, who rendered two numbers, including her leading the singing of the UST High School Graduation Song.
Special awards, in the form of certificates of recognition, were handed out as well at the Homecoming. The Oldest Alumnus in attendance was awarded to two Batch ’48 alumni, Johnny Rodriguez and Jess Tanchanco Sr., while the Youngest Alumnus present was Keisha Mae Manalad of Batch ’09. In terms of numbers, Batch ’85, this year’s Silver Jubilarians, was recognized with the Biggest Jubilarian Batch Attendance, having close to 100 representatives, while the Biggest Non-Jubilarian Batch Attendance was awarded to Batch ’81, a.k.a. the Pearl Jubilarians of 2011, with a resounding 86 reps present.
Not to be forgotten is the Batch Roll Call, led by the USTHS Pep Squad on vocals and drums—an attendance-checking call-out of the batches represented, and a chance for every batch’s reps to noisily make their presence felt. To underscore their jubilarian status, the 2010 jubilarian batches got the privilege of a longer “shout time,” replete with further sonic accompaniment from a children’s lyre-and-drum band. Visually punctuating the batch roll call were the popping of confetti cannons and the releasing of white balloons, among other eye-catching batch gimmicks.
The program proper concluded with the symbolic candle rite, whereby USTHSAAI President Leebai and the rest of the attendees, with lit candles in hand, renewed their Thomasian pledge.
Teeming with fun, festivity, fireworks (emanating from the nearby football field), drinks and merriment, the USTHS GAH 2010 was consequently one for the books and, moreover, a memorable evening for everyone present. And as a postscript, as seen on the back of the souvenir program distributed that night, the next USTHS GAH is already in the pipeline, with “jUST can’t get enough of HIGH SCHOOL” as theme.
The band Men in Gold, whose members include USTHS Batch ’67 alumni, capped the entire evening with an hour of great live music of yesteryears to the present as many alumni, still high from the euphoria of the preceding program and getting together, kept the party going by shaking their booty on the lengthy dance floor right across the stage. Others continued catching up with each other, seeking juicy bits about each others’ personal and professional lives. In between the various highlights, innumerable hugs, kisses and handshakes were exchanged, and snapshots or videos of old friends, old teachers and the old school alike were taken ’til batteries ran out.
All told, smiles were all around that glorious, resoundingly successful homecoming. After all, even if for just one night a year, USTHS alumni get to ride the time machine that is the Grand Alumni Homecoming and bask in that distinct, youthful high school glow all over again.
—UST High School Alumni Association Inc.