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FLAME Vol. 56, Issue no. 1


RedEfining normal: The struggle to connect

@abtheflame | abtheflame.net






Peach Arianna P. Manos

Associate Editor

Isabell Andrea M. Pine

Managing Editor

Maria Cecilia O. Pagdanganan

Faces Editor

Theriz Lizel R. Silvano

Culture Editor

Maria Pamela S. Reyes

Letters Editor

Frances Marie G. Ignalaga

Photograpy Editor

Aizelle Ann L. Majam, Jhona Seehiah R. Vitor, Siegfred Aldous D. Lacerna, Hannah Beatrisse L. Oledan


Kristine Erika L. Agustin, Janis Joplin G. Moises


Mary Nicole P. Miranda, Patrick V. Miguel


Christine Janine T. Cortez, John Patrick A. Magno Ranara, Thea Andrea C. Magueriano


Mheryll Giffen L. Alforte, Dennise P. Tabor, Patrick V. Miguel


Marlou Joseph B. Bon-ao and Elijah John M. Encinas


Ella Marie M. Mercado, Tcheky Nicole D. Cabrera, Jeanne Pauline G. Tecson


Leo O. Laparan II., M.A.


Prof. Marilu Ranosa-Madrunio, Ph. D.


The Flame, the official student publication of the University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Arts and Letters, aims to promote a scholarly attitude among Artlets and Thomasians in the analysis of the implications of current relevant issues to their lives and society at large, to serve as a forum not only between Artlets and the administration but most importantly, among Artlets themselves, and to provide a vehicle for the publication of in-depth articles on the concerns and interests of the Faculty. Nothing appearing in the Flame may be reprinted either in whole or in part without written permission addressed to the Editor in Chief of the Flame, G/F St. Raymund’s Bldg., University of Santo Tomas, Manila or to editorialboard@abtheflame.net. Visit our official website: abtheflame.net Š 2020 by the Flame. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Front and back cover arts by


Spread photo by

@abtheflame | abtheflame.net RAINIEL ANGELYN BUENAVISTA FIGUEROA

Editor’s Note DURING THESE trying times, most of us are trying to figure out how to cope with the changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. While we are stuck at home not knowing what to do, health workers serve as our modern heroes as they fight the virus in the front lines and save millions of lives. Others risk theirs just to provide food for their own families. Those sacrifices, however, must not be glorified because they need more. They need security, financial help, and a government that has concrete plans on making sure that we can survive this pandemic with no more casualties. At this point, we are all thinking the same question: when is this going to end? The anxieties and the constant urge to know what would happen in the future and what is next for our country grows every day while we are stuck in the four corners of our home. With seven months into the the community quarantine, thousands of new COVID-19 cases reported every day, a new education curriculum that only favors people with privilege, and an incompetent government that has different priorities with no effective pandemic actions, another question comes to mind: will it ever get better? As Artlets, how can we help in our own little way? How can we cope with the current educational system that is also flawed in itself? How can we deal with our connectivity issues not only with the Internet, but also with reality? How can we voice out our opinions as we continue to resist the government that sees the current situation as a way to find more control in doing what it wants? Lastly, how can we redefine normal? These questions remain as The Flame continues to seek answers through this issue; may the stories connect us to the future that is uncertain.

Peach Manos Associate Editor '20 - '21

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what's inside?


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Information overload Photo by FRANCES MARIE G. IGNALAGA

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Thomasians on Hiatus: A closer look at students affected by the new learning system by SIEGFRED ALDOUS LACERNA and HANNAH BEATRISSE OLEDAN


HIS YEAR, the world was hit hard by The Flame conducted an online interview a virus that has deliberately changed with students who chose to skip the semester people's perception of normalcy and due to personal limitations. from then on, nations were subjected to change. While others adapted, some were Not Worth It? left behind. Jeam Paolo Rondillo, a supposed-to-beNew Setup third-year Tourism student, said he skipped the semester due to financial problems, alIn the Philippines, the number of COVID-19 though he also thought that it was “not worth cases surged from one to over 300,000 in a it” to pursue studying in an online setting. matter of months, and in the country's need to adapt to the new normal, its education sys“If I ever tried online class, I think I would tem was not spared. have a hard time coping with the system,” Rondillo added, explaining that from his perClasses transitioned into online learning spective, it would just be all about passing the with the internet as students' best friend. needed requirements rather than learning. Unfortunately, however, this kind of setup is deemed not for everyone. Having to rely on the stability of a Wi-Fi connection alone already takes a big part in Thus, the pandemic was proven to not only the system of distance learning that is being be just a health crisis, but also a struggle in adapted right now, yet still, not all have aceconomic and financial aspects. cess to that. Some 44,069 college students were projected to not enroll for academic year 20202021, according to the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC), with financial problems and lack of gadgets being among the reasons.


As for the nation’s preparedness with the setup, Rondillo said there are still loopholes to be considered such as stable internet connection and ensuring that the students have the right tools for this kind of educational system.

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Asked about his main concern as of the moAlthough he had filed for a leave of absence ment, he said that it is to save money to pre- this semester, he said he has yet to finish pare himself when face-to-face classes return. some of his requirements from freshmen and sophomore years that he has left behind. Learning Outside School Realization on the Broken System The Flame also talked to John Arman Navarro, a supposed-to-be third-year student in MuMeanwhile, Bianca Austero, a former Joursic Technology if he did not skip this semester nalism student, told The Flame that her father due to financial and mental health constraints. wanted her to attend school this semester, but she insisted to stop because their home is For Navarro, there are loopholes, and not conducive for learning. schools must provide their students with enough resources for them to “fully utilize” "I think that our educational framework online classes if they are not freezing the aca- should only require students to do their studemic year. dent requirements during school hours," Austero said when asked if she could see any He disagreed that those who skipped the loophole in the system that needs reform. semester won’t learn, explaining that life, in general, offers a lot. She also does not believe that those who skipped school would not learn anything be“Did you know that you have to pay prop- cause people are forced to stay and listen to erty tax even if you already own your plot of the news. land? College did [not] introduce me to that,” he said. "Nakita talaga kung gaano ka-broken ang system and nagising sa katotohanan na hindi There are times when he is very preoccu- taumbayan ang top priority ng government," pied with his responsibilities at home, but still she said. finds ways to catch up with what he misses in school. Austero took an online job as an intern to earn income. Navarro told The Flame that his main priorities as of the moment are finishing his first Although many had braved the new setup, and second-year requirements, helping in many chose to stop, and amid the short hiahousehold chores, and practicing his skills as tus of their college life, there will always be a musician. that hope of going back. F

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NE OF the best possible highlights of an Artlet’s college life is joining organizations, but how can these college groups mobilize themselves if they are in the midst of a global health crisis? Quick Background It has been over seven months since the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic struck the country and the COVID-19 has been progressively spreading ever since. The virus has been constantly affecting more than a hundred countries and territories worldwide, and the Philippines managed to land in the top 20 nations with the most number of cases as of Oct. 1—recording more than 300,000. As the number of positive cases continues to surpass thousands each day, the outbreak has affected sectors of the country. Recurring issues such as economic decline, shortage of healthcare workers and facilities, and education crisis have been magnified due to the pandemic. On March 12, President Rodrigo Duterte extended the suspension of classes in Metro Manila as recommended by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases. Universities and students concluded the remaining months of the semester through online classes.

In mid-August, the University of Santo Tomas, along with other universities, opened the first term of the current academic year on virtual learning mode. Since then, classes have been held on the UST Cloud Campus Blackboard site and other platforms such as Google Meet and Zoom. Rebranding Amid Pandemic Aine Gabrielle Abiera is a junior behavioral science student and the executive vice president of Scarlet AB, a multi-cultural and socio-civic organization that aims to create and foster better relationships among Filipino and Chinese Thomasians. “It's harder to become a recognized organization again since they are prioritizing the recognized organizations from last year, and we'll be informed on a much later date. We'll also have to think of more creative ways of making events and getting people to join the organization since there are limitations,” Abiera said when asked about the impacts of the pandemic on the organization. The organization officer shared that they want to reintroduce Scarlet to the Artlets community as an organization that welcomes not just Filipino-Chinese students, but also everyone through their themes and events.

“I guess the one positive impact I can think of is The suspension was imposed to observe social that it's easier to contact and have meetings with distancing as a measure to contain the spread of my fellow officers since we don't [have] to worry the virus. Duterte also declared a lockdown after about the location or being late like getting stuck in raising the alert level for COVID-19 to Code Red Sub- traffic,” she added. level 2. The organization's first plan of action is to conWhen periods of lockdowns were extended for duct a mini-general assembly through video confermonths after months, the Department of Education ence, according to Scarlet member Leslie Angelica and Commission on Higher Education urged univer- Yap. sities and schools to pursue flexible learning modes because face-to-face classes were dismissed. "The objective of this project is simply for every


@abtheflame | abtheflame.net

AB Orgs during Pandemic member to get to know each other, and hopefully make connections," Yap said, as she noted that this is the chance for their executive board to discuss what they can look forward to this semester. Redefining Theater The Flame also had an exclusive interview with the current artistic director of Artistang Artlets (AA), the official theater guild of AB for the past 36 years. Jan Ivan Gordola said the greatest struggle for him as a member of AA is to find the right motivation to keep on going. "As an officer, siyempre you have to ensure that everyone is properly motivated, as well," Gordola said, as he admitted that translating everything digitally is hard because they were accustomed to a tangible and physical theater. He also said that while they would try to maximize their online presence, they also have to preserve the live aspect of theater. "I believe na we'll never truly adapt," Gordola said, as he noted that they just look out for each other while reaching out to their alumni for online workshops. Gordola said that at first, they have zero idea on how to execute their plans because they have to transform theater into a digital format while keeping their artistic integrity intact.

not respond to queries on their status. Helping Hand The Flame also interviewed Gem Dela Cruz, the vice president - internal of the AB Student Council (ABSC), to ask him on how they would help AB organizations amid the pandemic. Dela Cruz said they have already submitted the papers for this year's AB Organization Fair and are in the process of approval by the administrator. "Mahirap lang din with the process of approval ng mga event for councils and organizations kasi lahat online na and mas naging bureaucratic," he added. The ABSC would like to be more active in social media to address the queries of students, but Dela Cruz mentioned that the current system of Office for Student Affairs with regards to posting is a struggle because the posts should undergo adviser or OSA approval. In connection with maximizing their presence online, Dela Cruz said that they released several podcasts and series of postings for online learning tutorials for freshmen amid the new system for postings. He added that the ABSC is open to helping inactive organizations in AB if they need anything. F

"We have to redefine the definition of theater na alam ng org namin," he added. Meanwhile, UST-AB Dance Synergy members said they have been inactive for quite some time now while the AB Debate and Rotaract Club of AB did @abtheflame | abtheflame.net


AB In The New Normal: Ups and Downs of Distance Learning Words by KRISTINE ERIKA AGUSTIN Photo by MARLOU JOSEPH B. BON-AO


HE CONTINUOUS spread of COVID-19 has compelled schools to open the academic year using distance learning, forcing students and professors to operate through online classes. Going with the flow, the University reopened classes with a combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning last Aug. 13.

Connectivity issues

Provided with various video-conferencing platforms such as Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, and Blackboard Collaborate, the Faculty of Arts and Letters (AB) is still adjusting with how online classes work.

“Issues related to internet connectivity (poor or unstable internet connection) are the common problems encountered by Artlets,” Assoc. Prof. Arlene Calara, AB e-Learning specialist, told The Flame.

AB e-learning specialists have cited connectivity issues as the common problem that Artlets face during online classes, especially to students who are staying in provinces and remote areas where internet connection is weak.

After two months of holding online classes Moreover, not all students have access to a through these video-conferencing platforms, stable internet connection. Some Artlets only Artlets already have an idea of how effective use their mobile data in class, which can result or inconvenient this new mode of learning is. in slow connectivity and can even be costly for others. Artlets Student Council (ABSC) Interim-President Paolo Jericho Manuel said that the ABSC Creative writing freshman Marie Lagrisola has been receiving a lot of concerns regarding said she only relies on mobile data since they online classes. do not have a Wi-Fi connection at home, adding that it was expensive for her. “Marami kaming natatanggap [na concerns], pero ’di siya naka-arrange as a set of data. We “This alone is very expensive and I would alreceive concerns via GC (group chats) with ways have to ask my relatives to buy me load. class presidents, messages to our social media I roughly spend a minimum of P200 per week handles, e-mails, and even messages to our for load so that I can have enough mobile data personal FB accounts,” Manuel said. for online classes,” she said. “Mga roughly one to two concerns a day The freshman added that there have been inaround September. Pero noong August, ang stances when she got disconnected in the middami talaga,” he added. dle of their online class because she ran out of load. These problems include the stability of Wi-Fi connections, technical difficulties with Black“I was able to join the Blackboard Collaboboard, and not being able to attend online rate session again, however, I lost 20 minutes classes due to lack of gadgets. worth of lessons,” she said.

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Blackboard problems Online classes are even more difficult with Blackboard because even with a strong internet connection, Blackboard Ultra responds slower compared with other video-conferencing applications, a literature student who requested anonymity told The Flame.

Yanga also said that late enrollees experience difficulty and delays in accessing their course sites since they are added manually by instructors or e-learning specialists. “Hindi ko masasabi talaga na malaki ang problema sa Blackboard in terms of the use, problema lang talaga is the connectivity,” she said.

They also experienced being belatedly in For Asst. Prof. Rhodora Tababa, Blackcluded in the roster on their course site, board is not a perfect software, but as a learnthough they said they enrolled on time. ing management system (LMS), the application has proven its efficiency over the years, “Compared with other video-conferencing especially that it has been used by many top applications, Blackboard Ultra is very slow. I universities worldwide. know this because our Wi-Fi is fast, and when we use Blackboard Ultra Collaborate, I have “It is not Blackboard that is problematto end the call due to connectivity issues that ic. Even if we change or switch to a different only exist on Blackboard,” they said. LMS, there will always be problems, issues, or concerns that would be encountered because Marianne Victoriano, a freshman literature of the internet connectivity issues that we student, also experienced the same problem have, which is a concern present throughout and would sometimes find the app crashing. the country,” Tababa said. Though she prefers Blackboard Collaborate Addressing concerns to be replaced as the main video-conferencing application, Victoriano also stressed that To aid in addressing student concerns, Blackboard Ultra has been helpful to her. the UST-Educational Technology Center (EdTech) appointed three e-learning specialists in “I find it efficient in a sense that I could eas- the Faculty, namely Yanga, Tababa, and Assoc. ily see my tasks and their due dates, I could Prof. Arlene Calara. see the announcements of my professors and even receive notifications when there are new E-learning specialists are allowing stuannouncements or additions to the course dents to reach them through the virtual office through email,” she said. by sending them an e-mail and also through Facebook Messenger and other social media Meanwhile, third-year English Studies major platforms. Rhen Dave Rafael said that he might not have experienced major issues while using BlackA technical support ticketing system has board, but he was disconnected several times been integrated into the UST Cloud Campus, and experienced difficulty in sharing his screen where students are allowed to fill out a form and audio in class. and send their concerns directly to the EdTech Center. “I hardly think that BB Ultra Collaborate is an efficient teaching-learning platform. We not “As far as I’m concerned, kakaunti lang ang only find it difficult to navigate the platform, estudyante na talagang mag-e-e-mail o manghibut the platform itself also consumes more hingi ng tech support, kasi ang alam ko, 'yung bandwidth,” Rafael said. iba dumidiretso na sila roon sa EdTech, 'yung EdTech ticketing system, tapos nare-resolve E-learning specialist Asst. Prof. Annaliza Yan- naman agad,” Yanga said. ga, however, said that this is a common prob lem since Blackboard’s allocation of bandThere are also various materials such as tuwidth is huge, especially when online classes torials provided to help guide the students on are using an open camera. the use of Blackboard through the Students’ @abtheflame | abtheflame.net

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e-Learning Resources in the UST Cloud Cam“[O]nline classes have been surprisingly conpus, Calara said. venient for me. I can wake up much later than that of face-to-face classes. As a person who She added that the Faculty is not required to values sleep a lot, I very much appreciate that. use Blackboard and has the option to utilize Plus, my grades during online classes seem to other video-conferencing platforms such as be higher compared [with] the grades I had Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom. during actual classes,” she said. Recorded synchronous classes are available It has been difficult for her, however, in finanfor students who cannot join the sessions, ac- cial terms since she needs to allocate funds for cording to Tababa. her mobile data. Their household’s electricity consumption has also increased. She said that the University is consistently looking for tools to help improve the e-learnDistance learning has been a change in lifeing needs of the students. style for Victoriano. She can no longer catchup with her friends after classes, which she Yanga said that the EdTech Center also does usually does before the pandemic. not stop in finding various ways to equip both students and the faculty through training and She also said that courses such as Physical further developing the UST Cloud Campus. Activities Through Health and Fitness can be taught during online classes, but with limits. Transition to Zoom “I find distance learning difficult since there Meanwhile, Zoom will soon replace Black- is barely a separation of when school starts board as the main video-conferencing applica- and ends when you're at home,” Victoriano tion for online classes to be integrated into the said. UST Cloud Campus, according to the Office of the Vice Rector for Academic Affairs. An anonymous source said that distance learning is “very time consuming,” especialAs the University’s subscription with Black- ly when the internet connection is disrupted board will end on Dec. 15, a Zoom meeting along with the requirements they have to subsubscription has been acquired and the licens- mit. It has also lessened their time spent with es were made available to the Thomasian com- the family. munity starting Oct. 1. “Nung prelims, because late na ako na-add Other video-conferencing applications such sa system sa isang course, I [would] sleep at 3 as Google Meet and Microsoft Teams will re- a.m. every day just to rush everything,” they main as options for the University in conduct- said, which has also caused them eye strain. ing online classes. Despite the challenges in distance learning, Adjusting to the ‘new normal’ Artlets are grateful for their instructors who listen to their concerns. Some Artlets find convenience in distance learning that the new normal has brought. “They hear the concerns of us students, and they oblige to our needs. When we ask them to Lagrisola said she is adjusting well with dis- record the session because one of our blocktance learning as it allowed her to have a flex- mates could not enter Blackboard because of ible schedule, which contributed to higher internet problems, they gladly do so,” Lagrisogrades. la said. F

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S THE country grapples with the pandemic crisis, it is normal for Artlets to find themselves in their own homes studying online with the current academic year having shifted to virtual mode. It is expected that the cost of online classes must adjust to the immediate condition, but it took a long time to happen.

“That was the last resort. [...] After months of being told to wait for the response, that is when we released a letter, which was publicized,” ABSC Interim President Paolo Jericho Manuel told The Flame in an online interview.

Rector Rev. Fr. Richard G. Ang, O.P., and Faculty Dean Prof. Marilu Madrunio told the ABSC that the issue they raised in the appeal will be On Aug. 9, the Artlets Student Council (ABSC), resolved by the Vice-Rector for Finance. The along with the Society Presidents, released a ABSC then waited for the University to release letter of appeal for the explanation of tuition an official announcement. and other fees, reconsideration for further reduction of fees, and refund scheme for the pre- Initializing... vious semester to the public. In April, the ABSC, together with the Central

BEHIND THE SYSTEM DELAY AMID WEAK RECEPTION: On the late release of Artlets’ unused fee refunds by JHONA R. VITOR and AIZELLE ANN MAJAM

Student Council (CSC) and the Central Board, is when we release a public letter,” Manuel said. called on the Vice-Rector for Finance for the release of a refund scheme for the last semester. In the letter, the ABSC showed a comparison from the breakdown of fees from the previous In June, they wrote a letter addressed to the semester to the current semester/academic Vice-Rector for Finance. year (AY) (see table 1). Details of the procedure for refunds would be “Students and parents have approached us posted by the end of June 2020, according to and their sentiments [...] have been disapprovthe Frequently Asked Questions page posted ing and unsatisfactory. Some parents have been by the University. vocal about the insufficient reduction as seen from the comments section of the Facebook “The President of the Central Student Council account of the University and in the comments consistently followed up our letter concerning section of The Varsitarian in its publication mathe refund, and each time, we were told that terial regarding the breakdown of fees,” the they will release it soon. After two months, that letter said. @abtheflame | abtheflame.net

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In the letter, the ABSC also urged the Univer- explained the urgency of the said issue because sity to explain the refund scheme for the previ- of the demands from Artlets. ous semester. He added that the ABSC discussed each item Error... loading... in the tuition breakdown and recommended which items could be decreased in the meetThe memorandum issued by the Office of Sec- ing. They were only told by the AB administraretary-General and Vice-Rector for Finance stat- tion that the issue must be discussed by the ed that there would be a meeting of student Central Student Council and the Vice-Rector for leaders and college deans to address concerns Finance. and needs, including the issue on the release of refund for the previous semester. Madrunio told The Flame via email that the Office of the Dean of AB did not have the deManuel said that they were not invited to tails about the refund, and she only read it in any meeting. The ABSC, however, arranged a The Varsitarian. meeting with AB administrators, where they Table 1

Audiovisual Athletic Fee Library Fee Energy fee fee

Physical infrastructure Development

AY. 2019-2020 (2nd Semester)






A.Y. 2020-2021 (1st Semester)






The Flame tried its best to reach out to the Office of the Vice-Rector for Finance by sending an email and contacting its telephone numbers, but did not get any response from anyone from the said office. Reconnecting… Done.

the necessary balancing act in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. [...] We carefully reviewed the refund computation for 2nd term, AY 20192020, and the corresponding adjustments for 1st term, AY 2020-2021,” the announcement said.

It added that the refund comprises a 60-perOn Aug. 25, the Office of the Vice-Rector for cent reduction from miscellaneous and other Finance finally announced the details and pro- fees or university-wide charges for the second cedure for the refunds, as well as fee adjust- term of AY 2019-2020. ments due to the pandemic. The fee adjustment for the first term of the “We take this opportunity to thank our stake- current academic year is reduced at least 50 holders, particularly our students and their par- percent from the suspension of various fees ents, for bearing with us as we try to achieve such as medical and dental fees, cultural fees, FLAME | 14 @abtheflame | abtheflame.net

drug-testing, energy, retreat and recollection, sports, and physical infrastructure development. The announcement also stated that the amount per student would vary, depending on the specific college and program of the students.

Instructions on the application for refund of unused fees*: 1. Login to myuste.ust.edu.ph/student/. 2. Under the Downloadables Tab, download and accomplish the Refund Application Form. 3. Email the accomplished form to Decena Gandalla (decena.gandalla@ ust.edu.ph), the Student Accounts Assistant in-charge for the Faculty of Arts and Letters. *Further guidelines and specific instructions are found in the MyUSTe Student Portal. See UST: SO4-00-ME03. Joining… Manuel said Artlets encounter problems such as the unreliability of the platforms for online learning, concerns with regard to their professors, enrollment, payment scheme, among others. “We would like to assure our constituents [...] that your voices will always be heard and recognized. [...] We have always stood by our word, and we will continuously do so,” he said. F

@abtheflame | abtheflame.net

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A view of the city Photo by MARLOU JOSEPH B. BON-AO

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Education apocalypse Art by JEANNE



n March 16, President Rodrigo Duterte announced a Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) to curb the spread of COVID-19, forcing students to halt their studies for the meantime. For months, the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Commission for Higher Education (CHED) had been scrambling to find a solution for students to continue their studies without leaving the safety of their homes. Institutions were advised to implement a blended learning approach. This utilizes both online learning systems and traditional classroom methods. The idea was met with mixed responses that at some point, it led to online protests. Nevertheless, it pushed through. Now, students from all walks of life are spending more time in front of their gadgets to study and accomplish their school work. In August, the DepEd said that classes should be seven to eight hours long. A month later, education officials decided to reduce the period to four hours a day for Grade 9 to Grade 12 students. Meanwhile, CHED pushes for flexible learning, where students are able to study in their own schedule and pacing. Gradually, the country is adapting to the new education system. Scholars even predict that everything might turn digital. Thus, emphasizing the concern should the country continue with the same approach after the pandemic, would it be viable in the future? The answer is no. School and home should be two different environments in a student’s life. In a physical classroom, students learn how to interact and form bonds with people their age. In stressful situations, the sense of camaraderie is born. Even having a mentor other than their parents contributes to the student's mental and emotional development. The education system in the Philippines is apparently a debacle. The country needs to face multiple challenges before it can adapt to the new trends in education — high cost of quality education, lack of facilities in public schools, absence of mental health education, and low salary for teachers, to name a few. If our education sector has been failing to provide quality education even before the pandemic, how are we even going to prepare and survive digital learning?

Raymond Basilio, secretary-general of the Alliance for Concerned Teachers, explained that in a usual classroom setting, there are 40 students who are oftentimes difficult to manage. Basilio questioned how teachers would deal with the issue in the online setting, considering unstable internet connections and the absence of face-to-face interactions of teachers with their students. It is important to understand that the lack of quality education will hinder the chances of adapting and surviving the education trends, specifically digital learning. The so-called academic freeze being pushed is not the long-term issue here, but the low chances of attaining better quality of learning for students is what the education sector should fix. When the pandemic ends, will we recognize the developments and satisfaction of students, teachers, and parents in learning digitally? If not, then we should reflect and call for changes in the education sector. With all the ever-growing issues houding the country, it is painful to observe how most Filipinos, especially the lower class, seek opportunities and struggle to exercise their rights. Perhaps, the pandemic is conveying the apocalyptic failures and insufficiency of the education we are provided today. F @abtheflame | abtheflame.net

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Food for Thought




WAS actually happy when the one-week suspension of classes last March was extended to a month. The world back then was too stressful, so noisy, irritating, and plain… tiring. I was tired of everything in general and I just wanted to lock myself in my room and sleep for a month. Fast forward to six months later, here I am alone in my room, head filled with thoughts and uncertainties of living and how the world has transitioned into a quiet and lonely place because of the COVID-19 pandemic. As if the fact of not being able to go out and have fun is not enough, now you also have to survive your online classes. I thought that was easy at first, but two months in, I could already feel myself giving up because of the workload. I know for a fact that we are all adapting and just trying to make it work, but I think I am still not mentally prepared for all of this. I know the virus is real, and it has already taken the lives of many, but it feels like I still could not grasp the fact that this is all happening RIGHT NOW. Coming from a family of frontliners, I know I should be the one who must have already realized how dangerous the virus is. My siblings are both nurses and my father and mother are both dentists, and whenever they go home after work there is always this feeling of uncertainty since they are exposed to the virus. For me, I could only pray for their safety and let God do the rest. I wonder if that is enough. We deserve a competent government, and it is not because we need to go out and socialize again like we used to. It is not about staying at home anymore because I do my part. For 6 months I have never gone out just for leisure. I celebrated my birthday at home without seeing my friends even though the government said Metro Manila is back to general community quarantine (which did not make any sense because frontliners are asking for a break and stricter quarantine protocols). I just do not get why they do not listen to the frontliners who are risking their lives by fighting the invisible enemy. As I sit here writing thoughts that keep me up at 2 AM, I suddenly thought about the future. Will it ever get better? With this government that does nothing but fail its people, is it still possible for us to defeat COVID-19? Until when will this continue? Will I ever stop worrying about the safety of my family? When will we collectively do something to stand up against this government that does not care at all? Because right now, all I feel is anger. It has been six months—200+ days of isolation. By now, officials should have already had ideas on how to make the country rise up again, and how to make the people safe again. For the next few months, I hope we will slowly transition back to our old lives, back when we could still hug our friends, back when we could still socialize with our family over dinner, back when we would only pray for everyone’s safe travels and not for our health and lives. Back when I would have been sleeping soundly at 2 AM, and not fearing if tomorrow is promised. F

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14 Days of Solitude

HE TIME when I heard the news that my mom tested positive in her rapid test was one of the scariest events in my life. We already knew that she had been exposed to the coronavirus in her office since she told us how her officemate was living with someone who was COVID-19 positive, yet we did not worry since she did not show any symptom. At that time, we had already planned to visit our province to check on my grandmother, so her rapid test results never really crossed our minds. We arrived at our house and everything was fine. It was exactly 4 p.m. when she received an email and almost immediately, the mood of the whole house turned bleak. My mom required us all to observe social distancing and to wear our masks. Shortly after, we were on our way back home in Mandaluyong, leaving my grandmother in a state of shock and panic. My mom quarantined herself in her room and based on her company’s health protocols, we were required to do the same. Her swab-test was scheduled in a week’s time, so until then, social distancing became our new normal. For almost two weeks, the four of us were stuck in our rooms, only allowed to go downstairs to eat, and even that was done separately. Even inside our house, we were wearing face masks and our usual two pills of vitamins a day became four. My younger brother and I had been showing symptoms such as sore throat and colds, but we could not have a rapid test since we had not yet completed our 14-day quarantine. The prolonged time stuck in my room not only fed my anxiety, but also increased by discontent toward the government that until today, is still lacking in its pandemic response. Long losing trust in the capabilities of the government since they failed to do their promised mass testing last April, questions began to plague me as my mind continued to imagine the worst outcome for my family. “What happens now? What if my mother also gets positive in her swab test? What will become of us after this?” Harry Roque’s speech during a press briefing in Malacañang in June came to mind, and it had me scoffing in disbelief: he congratulated the Philippines for “beating UP’s predictions,” when the COVID cases were still less than 40,000, which in hindsight, is not an achievement. If anything, it showed that the government could have done better. Now, it has been four months since that press briefing, and the number of COVID cases in the Philippines has long gone up to over 300,000, emphasizing the ongoing lack of progress in the government’s pandemic response. Although the possibility of my family being positive has long been thumped, the memory of my 14 days of solitude remains on my mind, hunting me. The government’s misplaced priorities over the last seven months or so will be the downfall of the country. If authorities do not begin to invest their time and budget in the nation’s medical community and healthcare during this seemingly endless pandemic, the Philippines will ultimately lose “the battle” against COVID-19. F

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Candidly Speaking



Out of Solutions

lot has happened in the past seven months. The phrases “stay at home,” “online classes,” and “new norms” were once alien to all, but today, these terms have become part of everyday life. After more than a hundred days of community quarantine, President Rodrigo Duterte has been imposing varying degrees of coronavirus restrictions in different areas for the past months. With a booming number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country, the president is still hopeful that the struggles in this pandemic will end when the vaccine finally arrives. In one of his addresses to the nation, Duterte suggested that spraying pesticides all over the country or in Manila would kill the invisible disease. In July, he even made a remark about using gasoline or petrol to disinfect face masks and said that it is “not a joke” to perform necessary measures to combat the virus. Aside from the threatening disease, there came alarming issues that surrounded every corner of the country. The Anti-Terrorism Act, the denial of ABS-CBN’s franchise, the release of American serviceman Scott Pemberton, and other “moves” by the administration appeared to be one step backward in addressing the main problem. To some, these actions are a distraction from handling the issues caused by the pandemic, so, perhaps, it is right to say that the administration responds inadequately and unsuccessfully to get back on its feet from these issues. Clearly, the government’s pandemic response is a tragedy. As the number of death cases escalates, millions of Filipinos suffer and die due to hunger. Department of Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello III reported in May that 2.6 million workers had already lost their jobs, and it was possible that it would mount to 10 million. Moreover, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that the government won’t be able to provide another social amelioration program or SAP, since there is no plan to extend the nationwide lockdown until next year. This means that the lower class, the unemployed, and the sick will continue to weep and call for money, food, and medicines. The social distancing measures, which are among the primary measures to prevent the rapid spread of the new disease, cannot even be followed, especially with the recent beautification of Manila Bay using dolomite sand that caused the environmental destruction in Cebu. Millions were allocated to beautify Manila Bay, yet the President will borrow P4.5 trillion this year and the next to recover from the pandemic. Looking back, there had been multiple successful responses in aiding the public and the sick, but almost every time the President gives his address, it seems that his only main solution in mind is to sit and wait for a vaccine against COVID-19. Perhaps, the issues brought by the pandemic are being successfully settled by other members of the government and organizations, and not the Philippine leader himself. So, is it fair to say that the President is out of solutions? From his erratic words and decisions, perhaps the answer is yes. F


The bigger picture of Pinoy resilience


ET ME paint a clear picture. A photo circulates on the internet and quickly becomes viral. It shows exhausted frontliners, clad in sweat-soaked personal protective equipment or PPE’s. They lay sprawled out on the hospital floor, trying to catch their breath after a grueling 36-hour shift. The photo is probably accompanied by a caption, detailing the hellish reality of working in a hospital during a pandemic. The post garners thousands of likes and heart reacts, with netizens praising their strength and perseverance. Right there is a classic, yet contemporary painting of “Pinoy resilience.” Its artist? Our very own health workers! They took the time to painstakingly paint a masterpiece based on their own sacrifices; each brushstroke painted with their blood, sweat, and tears. Oddly enough, this is not a new phenomenon. It is almost as if every time a disaster strikes, our need to document everything is unleashed. I’m reminded of another viral photo of a man swimming in flood water during a typhoon. He holds on to his umbrella for his dear life as he struggles to stay afloat. Just as the camera clicks, the man flashes a smile, telling his audience not to worry. After all, Filipino resilience can weather any storm. Filipino resilience truly is an admirable trait. It is beautiful how we can still smile in the face of adversity. What worries me, however, is that our strength and determination can also be misconstrued as an opportunity to romanticize our suffering. Worse, it can also be used as an excuse for our government and other institutions to continue their negligence and inefficiency. Take for instance the viral posts of our frontliners. Yes, we must applaud them for their hard work and dedication, but we have to go deeper than that. Why are they so exhausted? It’s because of the shortage of manpower based in the country. When the Department of Health opened its emergency hiring program, only 25 nurses applied. This could be attributed to the government’s failure to provide the necessary compensation for our own health workers. Let’s go to my other example of the man swimming in floodwaters. Because the Philippines is vulnerable to typhoons and floods, we should at least take the necessary preventive measures. That has not been the case, though. Our consumerdriven metropolises have prioritized rapid urbanization over anything else. This has led to the accumulation of garbage clogging up our cities’ drainages. Add the fact that large corporations would gladly cut down entire forests to build grayer and more lifeless condominiums, thereby causing not just higher floodwater levels, but also contributing to the worsening state of our environment, in general. This is only a small scab of a much deeper, infected wound. Yes, ordinary Filipinos are very resilient, but we are also growing angrier. Why must we suffer more than we have to? Why must we always flash a smile for the cameras and hide our inner pain? Why should we continue to put up with these obstacles when we can demand change? It is about time we go beyond the typical “Pinoy resilience” posts and start demanding that our government and other institutions start taking accountability for their actions. Don’t bother with staying still to smile for the camera. Let it all out and let your angry voice be heard. F

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The Thinking Corner





Queer actors first

INCE THE start of the lockdown, the rampant popularity of queer-focused shows has taken the internet by storm. In multiple social media platforms, hundreds of thousands of posts were littered with praises and excitement. Fans anticipated new episodes every week, garnering attention from all parts of the world. A prominent example of this is the hit Thai show “2gether” and Filipino-produced “Gameboys.” With its impeccable popularity, it’s no surprise that the local entertainment industry would start latching onto the idea. It seemed as if queer stories were finally breaking into the mainstream media, especially in a religious country like the Philippines. At last, there was another outlet for their voices to be heard. However, the sentiment did not last long. The boys’ love (BL) phenomenon was simply another capitalistic stint, a form of inequality for the queer community — and, at times, a manifestation of queer-baiting. For context, BL is a genre that heavily focuses on the romantic relationship between two male characters. Despite its queer tone, it appeals more to straight female viewers. Surprisingly, its queer viewers are just an added bonus to their revenue. Even with its innocent intentions, the genre has a recurring pattern when it comes to hiring its actors. Casting agencies favor straight actors instead of their queer counterparts. At first glance, the problem seems to be small, yet this harmless thought can cause quite the harm. For the queer community, announcements made regarding these can cause quite an uproar. The disappointment is voiced out in numerous platforms, yet most are left unheard. From an outsider’s point of view, the reason behind it is not obvious. Acting in its truest form is the art and the beauty of transforming into anybody. It is not wrong that straight actors are playing queer roles, but currently, gays, lesbians, transgenders, and the queer folk have every right to participate and tell their own story. Authenticity is key. Creators need to get it right. It is not only about who plays who, but how that character is written, introduced, and performed. The art of acting plays a heavy role when it comes to representing a community that is still marginalized and shunned by the majority of society. Despite years of research and character study, there are still a lot of things a straight person would miss. There is a certain behavior, a distinct culture, and an experience that makes a person understand they are queer. For years, gays have grown up on how to embody and adapt a straight persona as a form of survival. On the other hand, heterosexuals were born into a world where they are accepted with open arms. The entertainment industry is a powerful force, hence, a bigger responsibility should be imposed. The slightest mistake could harm queer characters, creating a domino effect on real-life queers. In all honesty, there is no problem with straight actors playing queer roles, but a conscious effort needs to be imparted in order to create an equal playing field for everyone. This means that writing queer characters for straight actors is not the best solution. The entertainment industry needs to understand that LGBTQIA+ people are still a minority. Sometimes, the only role models they have are the ones they see on screen. Thus, they should put queers actors first. F

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Fighting COVID-19 in the Education Front


HE SHIFT from face-to-face classroom sessions to distance online learning has been difficult for both teachers and students that several calls and online petitions regarding the “new normal” in education have been made. These include #AcademicFreezeNow and #LigtasNaBalikEskewla, both of which acknowledge the incompetence of the current government response. The effects of the pandemic can be felt in the education sector. Since the opening of classes in August, both students and teachers have been struggling with the new setup. Students who do not have access to a stable internet connection and gadgets such as laptops and tablets are placed at a disadvantage. Likewise, teachers also encounter difficulty adapting to online learning, having to think of new approaches to deliver their lessons. These scenarios have prompted various groups and organizations are calling for the government to take action. Both calls fall on the same crux that is the various challenges and difficulties that the shift to online learning brings and the government’s lack of response to these issues. Among these issues is the inaccessibility of stable internet connection and gadgets, which places those who cannot afford these things, whether students or teachers, at a disadvantage. The well-being and mental health of both students and teachers are also affected by this shift. Because students and teachers alike are affected, there is a need to advocate for a call that is inclusive — one that accommodates both stakeholders. Those advocating for #AcademicFreezeNow calls for a suspension of the academic year until a vaccine becomes available may ensure the students’ and teachers’ safety, but doing so does not take into consideration that teachers and other school staff who may become jobless as a consequence. It will also provide only a band-aid solution to the problem. Those asking for an academic freeze need to realize that this solution is one-sided, since it will only benefit the students. This call also provides a short-term remedy, since it does not pressure the current administration for a more competent response to the COVID 19 pandemic. Thus, it is necessary for a collective action that will advocate for #LigtasNaBalikEskwela, which aims to provide inclusive learning, assistance to teaching personnel, and advocate the safe reopening of classes. #LigtasBalikEskwela is a more inclusive call, since it acknowledges the struggles of both students and school administrators. #LigtasNaBalikEskwela ensures that both students and teaching personnel are given assistance in the transition to online learning, especially those who do not have ready access to the gadgets needed. Academic freeze is student-centric, period. Inclusivity, which is what #LigtasNaBalikEskwela is all about, is key to surviving the drastic changes in how education is delivered in these trying times. F


Two children playing at a park Photo by MARLOU JOSEPH B. BON-AO

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Asst. Dean Bernardo braves the new normal Words by MARY NICOLE MIRANDA Photo grabbed from the official Facebook account of Prof. Alejandro Bernardo


he COVID-19 outbreak postponed almost everything this year — but never the learning.

In compliance to physical distancing and mass gathering restrictions, schools and universities shifted to virtual learning to get the academic year started amid the pandemic. As he adjusts to an online environment, Asst. Dean Alejandro Bernardo shares his experiences in the new normal and how it has changed his perspective on being an educator. Working from, for home For Dr. Bernando, working from home means being both a father and an educator simultaneously.

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When the first case of COVID-19 was recorded in Manila last March, he already expected that life pre-pandemic would not last. He anticipated that it would greatly affect his work, his schedules, and most especially, his family. “My worries include meeting personal and family needs and how to handle work-related functions given the limitations at that time. The willingness and the ability to adjust to the situation are of paramount importance,� he says. In these times, his family and co-workers give him the strength to keep going. He also draws inspiration from his students striving academically despite rough times.

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Dr. Bernardo maintains his rest period after attending to his work responsibilities from the comforts of his home. Over-exhaustion from work might be more prevalent as the lines between work and leisure are blurred, but he still remains productive.

through online learning without compromising the quality of education. Despite the seemingly endless tasks he needs to accomplish, he still finds a way to enjoy the time with his students during online classes.

“Turning one’s bedroom into a classroom is unforgettable! Not to mention that at some point, I taught with my laptop on top of an adjustable ladder as there were no tables available at home," he adds as he reminisces about the lengths he had to go for the sake of conducting online classes.

Dr. Bernardo believes that because of the strain caused by the pandemic, it is essential to keep the mood positive during online classes.

Artlets online Embracing the new normal meant removing the fine line between social media and education, to the extent of staying online 24/7 to accomplish requirements and connect with peers. To make ends meet, AB ensures that the faculty and staff are gearing up toward the new normal through conducting full online classes flexibly to meet with the students' lifestyles at home. “The University provided training for all faculty members, which equipped them with the needed pedagogical skills and acumen. AB has also assigned more e-learning specialists who will assist our faculty members in using Blackboard and other teaching-and-learning platforms. A pedagogical lead for AB has also been appointed,” he shares optimistically. Dr. Bernardo also highlighted the University's immediate actions in addressing some technical problems to avoid interference when classes start. It may be hard for him to conduct classes online, but the support he receives from the University helps him carry on.

“My kids’ noise during class hours amuses the students and my kids saying goodbye every time I end my classes is, to me, something that lightens up everyone’s mood!” he shares. Online classes may be fulfilling, but there are still several obstacles such as students’ inaccessibility to learning materials. “Intermittent internet connectivity is indeed the biggest challenge. Another challenge would be staying in front of the laptop for several hours which causes me digital fatigue. Not seeing or hearing my students converse, discuss, respond sometimes leads to frustrations,” he says. In response, Dr. Bernardo believes that listening and understanding his students’ needs, especially during these trying times, can help resolve these problems. As an educator, he believes that he must break the barriers that obstruct the learners from their right to quality education. As the whole AB community adjusts and strives through the new normal in preparation for another year of learning, Dr. Bernardo has this piece of advice for Artlets: “[W]e just have to brave every inch and guise of our ‘next normal.’ It is the only way.” F

Classroom in a click As a professor, Dr. Bernardo is also doing his best to maximize the opportunities that can be achieved

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Cion’s Tapa Station: Persevering passion on a plate

Words by PATRICK V. MIGUEL Photo grabbed from the official Facebook account of Cion's Tapa Station


henever a student is about to run out of allowance, it only means one thing: weekend is fast approaching. Satiating hunger by lunch, students from every college head to the busy street of Dapitan to look for cheap meals. Along Conception street, they will find a two-story building with yellow details on the design. Overwhelmed by the number of customers they are getting every day, Anysia Lynace Coronado watches Thomasians enjoying the meal her restaurant serves.

Business Administration. Before finishing her degree in entrepreneurship, she and her groupmates started a food kiosk named Billy’s Tapa To Go in 2014. After the four-year run of Billy’s Tapa To Go, Lynace opened a dinein restaurant on Dapitan street named Cion’s Tapa Station. “We [chose] to rename the business [to] Cion’s to honor the legacy of our grandmother Consolacion… since it was her tapa recipe that has been passed on to generations,” Lynace shares in an online interview.

Even so, starting a business was not an easy task. “When I first moved to UST during my college Thankfully, she managed to make it through with the years, naisip ko [kung] what if magkaroon din kami help of her family. ng puwesto rito,” she says, sharing that one of her dreams was opening a restaurant. “My family helped me a lot in putting up the business. From construction and the building process... Finally, the restaurant she once dreamt about turned up to…(filling) managerial positions in the operation. into a reality. By and by, Lynace sees her first business The business wouldn't make it without the help of each grow from an idea into what would now be known as member of the family,” she says. Cion’s Tapa Station. Upon starting her business, Lynace faced even more Humble beginnings challenges. Originally, Cion’s was based on Lynace’s under“There were a lot of struggles during the start-up. graduate thesis at UST College of Commerce and Malaki [kasi ‘yung] demand ng business sa oras [ko,

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kaya] dapat maging hands-on. [...] Nakakapagod siya, at the same time mabu-burnout ka…. As [a] young entrepreneur, bago rin lahat sa ’kin lahat ng experiences [kaya] nabigla ako sa responsibilities and na-overwhelm sa response ng [mga] tao sa business,” she explains.

Lynace managed to persevere during these trying times. As the business-minded woman that she is, she found an opportunity in a difficult situation. Since her restaurant had to close down, she decided to manufacture ready-to-cook tapas to make ends meet.

In the beginning, her new business only ran in her In the end, Lynace managed to rise above while hometown in Laguna. As soon as her community learning new things along the way. started permitting travel goods, Lynace grabbed the opportunity to sell her products in nearby towns. “Through years of experience, I learned [how] to handle things… It’s not always good days [because] With the new business running smoothly, Cion’s there are also bad days… You just have to learn to Tapa Station was renamed as Cion’s Gourmet Meats. manage it well and trust [that] there’s nothing you can’t handle,” the entrepreneur says. “It made me realize that no matter what life throws at us, no matter how hard [it is], you can [still] do any“Kung binigay sa ’yo, binigay saýo kasi kaya mo,” thing through [Jesus] Christ. [You can still do anyshe adds. thing] through resiliency, perseverance, and faith,” Lynace reflects. Because of corona The sun shall shine Unfortunately, Cion’s Tapa Station had to close down due to the pandemic. With fingers-crossed, Lynace continues to hope that the pandemic will end and everything will go “Facing the reality, we can no longer sustain the back to normal. business…. We are forced to close the business permanently...kasi ito ‘yung...practical na gawin,” Lynace “Maybe matagal pa bago bumalik ang lahat sa admits. dati,” Lynace says. “[For now,] I see a lot of potential sa manufacturing ng frozen products, [at] sigClosing down Cion’s was not only hard for Lynace, uro magpo-focus muna kami dito. For future plans, but it was also difficult for her staff. Unfortunately, makapag-add [sana] kami ng ibang frozen products they were one of the thousands who lost their jobs to manufacture, and…mag-grow bigger and maging during this pandemic. She tried to help her staff by re- sustainable ang business.” ferring them to government assistance programs, but unfortunately, they were not given any financial aid. There will come a time that the restaurant will open its doors again and satisfy its customers’ hunger. Just Sad and defeated, Lynace says, “It was my first a few steps across Dapitan lies an answer to everybusiness kaya mahirap sa ’kin na bitawan na lang siya one’s thinning wallets and gurgling stomachs: Cion’s bigla...” Tapa Shop. She adds: “This was by far the greatest struggle I exSomeday, the restaurant that once fed hundreds of perienced as a businesswoman. I lost everything….” Thomasians every day will serve the students again. F

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Preparation before a Boodle Fight Photo by RAINIEL ANGELYN BUENAVISTA FIGUEROA

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Cafe Perene:

Appetites Linger In Every Palate Words by THERIZ LIZEL R. SILVANO Photos by FRANCES MARIE G. IGNALAGA


AFÉ Perene” might sound like a café admirer’s everyday, garden-variety venue, but the entrées it serves are purely of restaurant-quality. Flashed with a contemporary and welcoming interior, the café delivers a luxuriating impression to its customers. As typical as it may seem, Café Perene has a modest goal and a healthful menu for food enthusiasts. Beyond its pleasant walls, ornamental furnishings and appealing plant decorations, it also has a friendly and accommodating staff who meet customers with enthusiasm, making dining in an uplifting experience.

Its hearty yet restaurant-quality menu will surely impress diners of each meal’s side salads, which include garden-fresh greens, carrots, potatoes, and a special mixed-berries dressing.

The Perene flower is the very inspiration of the café’s name, which means long-lasting. Just like Forget Me Not Café, its sister-restaurant in a resi-

dential setting in Lilac, Marikina, a piece of euphoric memory ‒ whether for its environment, the food, the service, or all ‒ would come to mind when café addicts visit the diner. Forget Me Not Burger (1) is a stunner like all the other meals. It has a secret condiment that customers will surely remember.

The patty might look thick, but once chewed, the taste of herbs from the burger will please one’s palate. It is a light, non-greasy meat that comes with soft and buttered buns, with a generous serving of cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes.

What’s surprising is the flattened onion rings at the bottom of the patty that makes the dish more appetizing. Along with its secret condiment, Garlic Ranch adds a unique, tangy flavor. Indeed, it’s a burger to remember!

Roast Beef (2) is a lightly salted yet piquant dish, thanks to its mushroom gravy. Its sliced tender @abtheflame | abtheflame.net

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beef served with rice and salad is one of Café Perene’s dishes without monosodium glutamate (vetsin in common terms) and preservatives. Altogether, a spoonful of peppered beef, thinly sliced lettuce, and rice will leave each customer wanting more.

Forget Me Not Burger (1)

Roast Beef (2)

An exquisite array of cakes is not just desserts, but a balance to one’s palate, as well. With consistent creaminess and a taste of lemon, Lime Cake (3) is fused with a sharp, tart-like flavor. This makes it both sweet and sour, which makes it well-balanced and satisfying for one’s taste-buds.

Unlike a traditional, bold-flavored cake, Lime Cake is light and spongy. It has only two layers, but is served with lime cream cheese frosting and custard-like filling, topped with a slice of lemon. Most cakes are sweetened and chocolatey, but Lime Cake delivers a light and unusual flavor — highly recommended for those who want something new in a dessert.

Lime Cake (3)

Then, there is the heavy yet luxurious Nutella Cheesecake (4), the opposite of Lime Cake. With a distinctively rich, soft layer of hazelnut cheesecake, this offering never fails to charm customers through the bittersweet taste of its dark chocolate garnish.

In the end, one will leave Café Perene brimful and appeased for its enjoyable and luscious meals. One question remains, though: what makes the food establishment remarkable among other cafés?

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Owner Hana Rebaldo shared that her mother was the head of the kitchen, from developing the menu

to cooking new recipes, which explains why their food tastes like it had just come out of the oven. With a fulsome serving, nutritious ingredients, and a fine, exquisite garnish for each meal, Café Perene’s dishes are evidently restaurant-quality.

“We work with the tagline, ‘Where sweet memories are shared’ [...] gusto namin memorable 'yung experience mo kapag kumain ka ‘dun. 'Yung food hindi mo makakalimutan,” Rebaldo said.

Just like a flower that blooms, Café Perene chooses to continue serving the public its not-so-ordinary menu despite the pandemic hitting hard the food industry. To cater its loyal customers, Café Perene’s frozen pasta sauces are now available. One’s rather ordinary kitchen could turn into what seems like Martha Stewart’s with meals infused with the café’s signature pasta sauces. In turn, the café is proud to share its beloved customers’ creative dishes on social media.

Café Perene may not be a perfect cafe, but its homestyle cooking and brand of hospitality are an inviting presence in the food business. What makes it unique not only comes from its tempting meals and homely ambiance, but also from being a venue of intimate moments where celebrations are shared. Café Perene is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. for dine-in, takeout, and delivery at the following branches: Level 1 Ayala Malls Feliz in Pasig City; Puregold at Ayala Marikina; and at Celebrity Sports Plaza, QC. F

(5) True Friends

Nutella Cheesecake (4) (3) Karuzel

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Mobile apps to ease online productivity Words and photos by THEA ANDREA C. MAGUERIANO

Spark Post is useful in creating social media posts for announcements, PowerPoints, and even brand content. It also offers animated videos that can be achieved with just a few taps and design filters that are professional looking. Spark Post is available on Android, IOS, and IPad devices. Ink&Paper Handwrite PDF Notes Trial A lot of printing shops are still closed amid the ongoing community quarantine as numerous readings flood the Blackboard app, thus, spending on paper for readings and notes may be considered a privilege in these times. Ink&Paper Handwrite PDF Notes Trial, however, is here to help. Released by Francisco Paolo Torre in June 2017, the app mainly functions as a tool for taking down handwritten notes on one’s device.


NLINE classes have been grinding since August, but until now, students are still having mixed emotions on the prescribed platform in delivering education. The synchronous and asynchronous modes of learning entailed students to surf through possible ways to make education easier — technologically. Poor internet connectivity and limited devices are just some of the problems faced by students in this new mode of learning. Days with scheduled online classes may often be dull and lifeless, but anything that can add colors and excitement to a student’s day are helpful, like innovative mobile applications that also enhance their creativity. To help, listed below are some uncomplicated smartphone applications that can assist students with their various academic tasks. Adobe Spark Post: Graphic design and story templates

Paperless notes have been revolutionizing note-taking in recent years. With this app, one can not only take down notes on devices, but also write and highlight on top of PDF files. It also helps organize notes in folders for easier access on subjects similar to handheld paper notebooks. Considering that each student has a different handwriting style and preferred writing material, Ink&Paper offers a design that simply lets its users choose a writing tool and are free to write their way through. Ink&Paper is available on Android devices. Google Lens Typing words through search engines to identify which plant is which, and cluelessly finding similar products without knowing what it’s called could lead to disastrous searches. To help avoid misinformation, students may use Google Lens.

Crafting an idea into something creative such as PowerPoint presentations or posters may be a daunting task for some who worry about their creative capabilities, but Adobe Spark Post just might be the tool that can make things easier.

Offered by Google LLC last August 2019, Google Lens allows users to search about what is in front of them.

Created by Adobe in June 2018, Spark Post helps students create graphic designs faster and easier even without professional experience.

After a simple capture and few loading seconds, the app will generate articles or names similar to the item on the photos. This helps students identify images faster and find similar products tailored to one’s taste.

The app boasts its easy-to-use platform where layouts come to life in seconds. Palettes, layout size, and stock photos were readied by the app as templates were made ready to be remixed. Each time the app is opened, a new set of design waiteds.

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Google Lens is available on Google devices. The new normal in education may be inevitable, but developers continuously create mobile apps that are vital for every school requirement. F

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Adobe Spark Post

Google Lens

Ink&Paper Handwrite PDF Notes Trial

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Falling crazy in loaf Words and photos by CHRISTINE JANINE T. CORTEZ

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HEN most people thought the year 2020 is no way similar to a movie scene, it seems that the COVID-19 pandemic said otherwise. Apart from reclaiming lives and being a high-grade pain in the bum, it’s genuinely comforting to know that for some individuals, the pandemic can also change lives for the better. With plenty of time in her hands, Anika Barrios, Barrios, a 20-year-old graduating student majoring in AB Communication Arts, strutted her way in quarantine through baking. With her supportive parents and grandmother on her side, Barios opened her first online business selling a family favorite, none other than a banana bread. It was inspired by her favorite fruit alongside her willingness to earn and be of help in the family by selling not one, but 24 unique flavors of banana bread. Not wanting to copy her mothers' banana bread recipe, Barios decided to make her own while making sure that it would be a “must-have” to people. From there, Let's Go Bananas was born. For only two-hundred pesos and a plethora of wellthought flavors to choose from, one can already indulge in one of Barios' freshly baked and well-loved banana bread. And just in case that's not yet enough, they also have vegan options and a whole lot more flavors coming up. Like many other growing online businesses today, they also experienced a fair share of challenges along the way. One of which includes dealing with the obnoxious reality of bogus buyers who claim to buy at first, and then go full-on ghost mode later on. Apart from that, Barios shared that another heart-wrenching feeling of owning an online business in the middle of a pandemic is the highly unpredictable flactuating stream of customers. Although some may disagree, Barios thinks that managing an online business is surprisingly taxing compared to having a physical store. With numerous people investing in online business nowadays, it's only right to say that competitors are eminently everywhere and that customers will naturally come and go. "Not having many followers is also a downfall because it means you did not reach many people," Barios said. Be as it may, Barios claims that she will still choose to continue selling her banana bread online until December or even after that.

With the right amount of crunch and sweetness in every bite, Banana Crumble is the revamped version of the classic banana bread most people are familiar with. It has a crunchy layer on top and a piquant taste of ripe bananas, which is exactly the kind of bananas highly recommended in making the perfect banana bread. Because of its naturally sweet taste, this banana bread will go undeniably well with any hot cup of coffee or tea. By now, everyone may have already known the trending craze of Ube with cheese pandesal that took every household in quarantine by storm. But for a change, Barios created her take on the Ube cheese madness. Instead of pandesal, she created Ube with cream cheese banana bread. From the outside, it has a rich purple color and a consistently moist texture. Meanwhile, on the inside, it has a fair layer of cream cheese and a glorious ube flavor that didn't seem to take away the banana flavor. If one doesn't believe in falling in love, then one might believe in falling in a loaf. Kidding aside, All in one banana bread is living proof that conventional flavors will blend harmoniously together just fine. From the name alone, it has four addictingly pleasant and strikingly toothsome ingredients —chocolate chips, butterscotch, birthday cake, and white chocolate. The overloaded flavors do not disappoint. The combination was clever, the sound of it is delightfully sweet, but the overall taste was something new and highly mouthwatering. Upon witnessing the series of unfortunate events that went rolling down to every people's life, thinking outside the box might be one of the most laborious things to overcome. As days go by and the going gets tougher and tougher, the grit to create pushes the staff to persevere. The cost it demands seems terrifying at first. Most of the time, it requires cutting ties, changing course, or simply discovering new habits that were deemed impossible at first not until a pandemic happened and proved everyone otherwise. People react differently to similar situations. A win can mean a loss to some. But either way, this pandemic showed that everyone is allowed to take a step back and put everything aside for a chance to redirect priorities, and place above anything else the things and persons that matter the most. F @abtheflame | abtheflame.net

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Otsu Curry: A Taste of Hard Work in Struggling Times Words and photos by JOHN PATRICK MAGNO RANARA


uring these trying times, many business owners have abandoned ships and let their goals sink under the ferocious storm that is the coronavirus pandemic. Otsu Curry, meanwhile, has joined the few others that still go all-out to spread their sails and thrive. Named after the phrase “otsukaresama deshita!” which means “you are tired,” Otsu Curry is located in Taytay, Rizal, and serves homemade Japanese-style meals as an appreciation for a hard day’s work. Eliana Andrea Mallari, an incoming sophomore of AB Behavioral Science, works side-by-side with her brother as they prepare the dishes in sincere efforts to have customers fully grasp the essence of the food. “What makes us stand out over other local Japanese-styled food is that we try to replicate the feeling of the food instead of simply how it tastes,” she said. The two were motivated to start the

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business during the pandemic after reminiscing about their unforgettable trips to Japan. “We really loved the country and we find ourselves looking back to our favorite memories and the best food we had,” said Mallari. Curry is a well-loved dish among the vast array of Japanese specialties. Served with a taste of various vegetables and poured over rice, it has since become the country’s national dish, enjoyed in warm dinner tables with people close to one another’s heart. Otsu Curry’s Katsukare, in its purest sense, is a dish of creamy spiciness. A mouthwatering satisfaction may wash over one’s eyes as the curry sauce is poured over the rice, blanketing it with its dark yellow piquancy. A single bite is packed with a strong punch as the sauce spreads its tangy touch on the tongue. The subtle presence of carrots and potatoes goes just fine with the tender-crisp-

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iness of the pork while the sunnyside-up egg serves as the “cherry on top.” As one prepares for the next bite, the sauce still lingers its spicy trace at the back of the throat. Although it is not for everyone, those who enjoy a little bit of zing in their meals would surely appreciate this dish. In contrast to the sharp spirit of the Katsukare is the rather mild taste of the Katsudon. Composed of chicken cutlets on rice topped with scrambled eggs, onions, and Otsu Curry’s special fukujinzuke pickles, the dish unwraps a humble and simple taste in one’s mouth. Although the tender chicken is perhaps undermined by the sharper-tasting onions and the sweet, sour flavor of the fukujinzuke pickles, the dish is nevertheless a satisfying fill to the famished stomach. Craving a side dish to fully complete one’s meal? Worry not, as Otsu Curry’s Croquettes offer a taste that melts in one’s tongue. As one bites into the deep-fried

mashed potatoes with gentle bits of carrots and beef, the feeling of sinking one’s teeth into a crisp, creamy cloud of delectableness takes over the mind. There is nothing more enjoyable than letting its chewy goodness frolic in one’s mouth and filling it with rich flavor. Despite being a new contender in the culinary world, the staff lived up to their restaurant’s name of working hard to meet the day’s satisfying rewards. Their hard work may go unnoticed, but what matters most to Mallari is the comfort their food brings to customers and the experience she gains from their new business. “It is a learning experience that I’m grateful to have, especially [in] this season [when] a lot of people feel unproductive and lax,” she said. The quarantine measures brought about by the pandemic had set struggles to her and her brother in delivering their food, but they still rose to the occasion by using certain apps to help in their deliveries. With conducting online classes as having become the so-called new normal, Mallari remains determined in continuing the business despite having to juggle it with her school assignments and projects. “My brother and I have been working out how the business will [thrive] once I start classes. We definitely plan to keep it running, but inevitably, a part of my workload will be passed on to him,” she said. Otsu Curry is a striving ship of Japanese food culture. It serves as a reminder that passengers should always show appreciation and compassion for the services provided by their hardworking captains. F

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Clothed In Art and Advocacy Words by THEA ANDREA C. MAGUERIANO Art grabbed from Art Closet Manila designs


he concept that "art is unprofitable" had long been a belief that scarred artists for years — they were held back from their passion in exchange for a more fitting pursuit. Yet, Mark Villeza, a junior journalism student at the University of Santo Tomas, chose to change the mindset on “fruitless art.” Businesses that cater to creative minds like Art Closet Manila is a helpful step toward changing the negative notion on artists and their purportedly "insufficient career." In Art Closet Manila, Villeza conceptualized producing outerwear with a unique touch by buying creations from artists. Villeza, along with classmates Gwyneth Luga and Dulcinea Zulueta, aims to empower their business with a cause. The venture started off with the artworks of Gwyneth Luga, the team’s main artist. Promotions and tactics were handled by Dulcinea Zulueta, who is now their business advisor. Villeza sold preloved clothes and schemed through a number of shirt designs through his other business, Lockers & Closet. He found a number of similar works at various bazaars but they were pricey. Creators make ideas come to life through sketches, as artists make art while dealing with clients and making and altering designs. They search for hours to find the perfect color palettes, adjusting their own preferences, and spending their time juggling commissions just to fit their art to one's liking.

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In the end, the products are always visually pleasing. This explains why an artist's efforts and exhaustion must be awarded their deserved profit. “I’ve also learned from a certain Facebook post that there’s this artist who was offered by an influencer a ‘shoutout’ if the artist could make a portrait of the influ-

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encer,” Villeza said on the inspiration of Art Closet Manila to support the hashtag ‘#NoToFreeArt campaign.’ “[T]hat’s how Art Closet Manila was named with the tagline ‘An artwork you can wear,’” the young entrepreneur shared. Through their transactions with the creators, their talents gain commissions and recognition along with the right price. The brand stretched its horizon by supporting advocacies such as defending press freedom and supporting medical front liners. As journalism students, the trio found importance in supporting these views since they also experience the engulfing threat to Philippine journalism. Their advocacies are reflected in their shirt illustrations as they show themes that are carefully thought of, relevant, and could fit any gender. One shirt has the “Defend Press Freedom” design displayed through clouded words that denoted the idea of journalists’

perennial problems and indistinguishable facts if such freedom is oppressed. Then, there is the “Medical Front Liner” design that shows a person wearing personal protective equipment with a color palette similar to those in hero comic books. This explains why they are today’s modern heroes. These days, Art Closet Manila is in its rebrand phase through social media, as it has also started promoting its brand personally. Villeza, Luga, and Zulueta also wish to connect with influencers in order to publicize their brand and gain new customers. They hope to sell further so they can buy more traditional and digital artworks and express the underlying problems of society through their products. Art Closet Manila showcases its apparel on Facebook (artclosetmnl) and on Instagram (@theartclosetmnl). F

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The inside of a bus during an evening commute Photo by ANDREI JOSEPH DURAN

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or as long as she could remember, she had nation in no longer than six months. He successfully lived in constant fear. fanned the flames of her discontent. The strong leader’s sense of control resonated with her to the core. She had always been familiar with the everyday At last, someone was willing to listen and amplify her tormentors persistently harassing their barangay. In voice. between the narrow alleys were petty thieves and addicts huddled together bearing bloodshot eyes. Upon Somehow, she found salvation by pinning her hopes closer inspection, small packets of white-powdered in this messianic leader. From then on, she pledged drugs were peeking from their pockets as they clum- loyalty to the newly elected president. sily swayed from ecstasy. “Change is coming.” She repeated his infamous Oftentimes, she found them outside of her sari-sari words—even chanted them, engraved it in her mind store demanding cigarettes without paying. Much to as her life mantra. her disdain, they were like vultures lined up waiting for their prey. Even her children were not exempt And change, it came. from the threat that they visibly posed. She felt a pit in her stomach at the sight of their ghastly eyes folUpon seating into power, the next few months saw lowing them. Her family had been forced to live in the fruit of the president’s promise to purge illegal misery—like sheep living in hiding out of fear. drug users. As long as these menaces of society were in the streets, the security and future of her children were at stake—and she cannot let that happen. Who knows what these pests would do to her precious children? It was only a matter of time before they acted on their rabid impulses. She knew it from the stories she heard from neighboring barrios with similar tormentors. She wanted something to shift fast. She wanted change, desperately so. As if her prayers were answered by the heavens, an advertisement of an unfamiliar presidential candidate emerged on her television. The powerful persona was equipped with profanity-laced tirades along with promises to end the drug problem plaguing the

Every night, she heard of gunshots ricocheted everywhere but she merely shrugged it off. By morning, the tormentors seemed to gradually ebb from the streets, much to her delight. They were finally put into their places. Indeed, change had come in many forms, and this was only among the inevitable consequences of it. She took it to social media to express her elation, only to be greeted with a slew of remarks from the president’s critics. Like a reflex, she came to the aid of her beloved leader. It almost became like a routine for her to check the Internet with the sole purpose of defending him. She ate criticisms for breakfast and ended the day with a sense of accomplishment as @abtheflame | abtheflame.net

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though it was her job that came along with monetary payment. Little did she know, the tormentors were starting to resurface in their alleyways. The promised six months have passed but her small barangay had once again found themselves in the same predicament a few months back.

A chill crawled across her skin. Looking up from her smartphone, her gaze fell on a discolored mark on the pavement. Upon closer look, it was a patch of reddish-brown that had wicked itself into the cobbled surface. The air was immediately saturated with a metallic smell of blood. She inhaled a shallow breath, her hands shook as she struggled for another.

This was merely a lapse of her president’s plans. Her faith did not falter. She believed strongly that evSuddenly, she was aware of the blood pooling by erything would fall into place again. After all, change her feet. was coming. She looked up at her son once again. He was standAccompanying her son, she followed him outside to ing right above the bloodied pavement. keep an eye on him from the lurking tormentors as he played with his friends. She looked down and a sob tore from her throat at the sight of what seemed like blood tainting her own To pass the time, she scrolled through her feed hands. and came across a series of posts of the bereaved crying out of justice for the victims of the purging. Fraught with fear, she could only stare at her son. She was about to type another remark when she saw He might be next. something at the corner of her eye—a boy not older than seven years old was among the photos. He was This was not the change that she hoped for. F the same age as her son.

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B u n t o n g H i n i n g a


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Walang nagbago. Araw-araw, pareho ang daloy. Hindi liliko Ang aming mga yapak, at hindi ko puwedeng ibahin Ang takbo ng aking mga araw; kahit na ang pahamak ay nariyan lang, Kahit na hindi sapat ang pagbabalot ko ng kung anu-ano sa sarili Kong mukha na parang suman—hindi sapat. Hindi sapat ang pagkukulong sa tahanang puno Ng bubusuging mga bata. Ano nga ba ang bubusog sa kanila Kung hahayaan kong magkulong sa loob ng tahanan; kung hahayaan Kong magpatuloy ang mundo sa labas at ako’y mapag-iiwanan— Hindi puwede. Hindi ko hahayaan. Hindi sapat. Hindi naman kasi lahat Ay may kakayahang baguhin at ituloy ang buhay sa loob ng bahay. Hindi lahat ay kayang magsi-ayos sa bagong takbo ng buhay. “Mga Pinoy talaga,” basa ko sa Facebook. Buntong-hininga. Kung baka sakali, Matutunan mong ilugar ang iyong mga paa bago mo pa subukang Tumapak sa mga hindi naman dapat tapakan — kami; hindi ikaw. Habang nagta-tayp ka sa laptop mo, sa loob ng iyong bahay, Sa ilalim ng sinisilungan mong bubong, sa mga dingding na kumakalinga Sa’yo—hindi mo maiisip na hindi lahat ay kayang mabuhay Ng isang marangyang buhay na napupuno ng pribilehiyo. Kung sabagay, Wala naman sa bokabularyo ng mga kagaya ko ang salitang “Work From Home.” Ano ba ’yon? Paano ulit ’yon ibigkas? Uulitin ko— Work. Hindi nga lahat ay mayroong work. At maraming mayroong Work na hindi puwedeng gawin sa Home! Buntong-hininga. “Sumunod nalang kayo,” sabi nila sa Facebook. “Matigas ang ulo niyo.” Kung kaya ko lang lumiko at bumalik sa kalyeng dinaanan, papunta At pabalik sa bahay, ginawa ko na sana. Kung pwede lang. Buntong-hininga. Ubo ng katabi. Busina ng dyip. Araw-araw. Kailangan e, sabi ko sa sarili, at tuluyan nang pumasok sa dyip. Bahala na, huwag lang magutom ang asawa’t mga anak. Ang mahalaga May maihain sa lamesa. Babaguhin natin ‘to. Para bukas Puwede nang ihain sa lamesa ang buhay na ligtas. Kailan man, Hindi na magbubuntong-hininga. Hindi liliko. Kikilos tayo. Ang tunay na wakas; ang iniiwasang dapithapon. Buntong-hininga. F

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Profile for The Flame

The Flame Vol. 56 Issue No. 1  

In its first issue for P.Y. 2020-2021, The Flame, the official student publication of the University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Arts and Lett...

The Flame Vol. 56 Issue No. 1  

In its first issue for P.Y. 2020-2021, The Flame, the official student publication of the University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Arts and Lett...