By: Georgene Quilaton Tambiga
Photos By: Ma. Nita Bolo
San Carlos City, NEGROS OCCIDENTAL–“CST-R, we are home for love of you.”
So apt, so poignant is this line from the unforgettable “CST-R Alma Mater Hymn.” Thus, the living Thomasian legend himself chose the line as a jump off point for his homily during the Grand Alumni Homecoming Mass last October 31, 2019. Fray Rafael E. Cabarles, OAR (CST-R Batch 1961), who came home to serve CST-R again in his seventies, was the best person to tell the Thomasian alumni community, “Welcome home!”
As he called us as “the prodigal sons and daughters of Sto. Tomas,” my heartstring was immediately pulled. I have never thought myself to be a prodigal Thomasian, but I just realized that in many ways I am.
The 2019 CST-R Homecoming allowed me to view the event and the being of a Thomasian from outside the box of a Thomasian who is now a CST-R faculty member.
Recollect. Coming back to CST-R for many Thomasians, who are now based in different parts of the world, was replete with recollections. The homecoming was a venue for telling old secrets that could not be forgotten, for re-telling anecdotes that are now part of the Thomasian lore.
Last October 30, 2019, the gathering of Former Seminarians of the Order of Augustinian Recollects (ForSOAR) became proof of how the Thomasian experience honed men, who despite not becoming priests, are successful in their chosen vocations. Several ForSOARs have not been back home since their high school graduation. How their Alma Mater has both transformed yet remained beautifully preserved painted amazement on their faces. This amazement brought back their boyishness, that charm that once made them CST-R’s “crush ng bayan.” And, what a merry recollection session it was that went on even as they joined the Grand Alumni Homecoming parade that traversed the poblacion of San Carlos.
Reflect. After two months of renovations and careful interior designing, the Junior High School Girls’ Comfort Room was finally opened. It’s a project of CST-R Batch 1995 with the collaboration of the PTA S.Y. 2019-2020. When Fray Vicente Ramon, Jr., OAR (CST-R Batch 1987) finally opened the newly painted door, the comfort room, with its newly painted walls, repaired cubicles and all new athlete’s shower room, was beyond recognition.
In principle, it’s the same comfort room that I used in all of my four years as an undergraduate yet it’s become totally new, totally different. It’s an evidence of how the old can give way to the new yet essentially preserving the advantages of the old. The comfort room is still in the carefully preserved St. Monica (Junior High School) Building yet its vibe is not just modern but suited to the needs of the growing community of Thomasian athletes.
Talking of Thomasian athletes, that Golden Eagles are now soaring high in various sports is undeniable. Several Thomasians have become part of the national football team in the 90s, but now Thomasians are the leaders in different university varsity teams in the Visayas and even Manila in a wide variety of sports—football, lawn tennis, badminton, volleyball, among others.
Batch 1995, who hosted this year’s homecoming, particularly created their program to include sports. The Volleyball Invitational featured the girls teams of University of San Jose-Recoletos, Bacolod Tay Tung High School, Inc., and San Carlos City Selection (which also included at least two Thomasians). The short tournament featured high quality exchanges of jump serves, digs, offensive blocks and booming attacks from all participating teams. The Golden Eagles volleyball players were at the sidelines cheering their idols and picking up valuable game tips the whole time. It is this manner of bringing in the best practices from other schools and communities that will help CST-R, Alma Mater dear, to improve, to develop and even to exceed its targets.
Respond. CST-R, after making an incredible 79th year run, is now on the road to its Ruby Anniversary in 2020.
What’s next for San Carlos City’s iconic educational institution?
During the Grand Alumni Homecoming evening, in the midst of partying, glowing lights and blaring disco music, the world stood still to watch the launching video of CST-R’s #Roadto80. A contagious string of reaction and excitement filled every batch as Fray Dioniso Selma, OAR, Prior Provincial of St. Ezekiel Moreno Province, declared that CST-R’s application to open a college department has finally been approved.
The college department shall be the fulfilment of “Scientia” or knowledge, the other half of Sto. Tomas de Villanueva’s epithet. It will be, in Fray Selma’s words, the true test of the Thomasian community’s unity and grit as the climb to the opening of a college will be everything but easy. This journey, that in Fray Cabarles’ words has been a dream since the 1970s, will be CST-R’s response to the current needs of the Negrense society.
As I watched the parade of Thomasian faces filled with nostalgia and amazement, the riot of laughter in the gathering of friends and classmates, the presentation of sepia and faded photographs, and the CST-R campus all decked in festive colors and canopies, I knew I have come home. I am home for the love of CST-R. Here is the repository of my recollections and reflections. Here is the beginning of my response to the changing needs of this community that I serve.