“Buti na lang dito kayo bumalik, Naglayag kayo pabalik dito, sa inyong minamahal na Alma Mater…”
These were the words uttered by Father John Perez, SVD, as part of his Homily, con-celebrated with Father Jess Briones, SVD, in the Holy Mass that will forever be remembered as perhaps the most solemn, and most attended in the history of alumni homecomings in the College of the Holy Spirit of Tarlac (CHST).
On that fateful Saturday afternoon, January 12, 2019, almost 1,200 alumni from various batches trooped to the CHST grounds in San Sebastian Village, Tarlac City, and answered the call for a much-awaited “return” (“pagbabalik”) to their beloved alma mater, symbolized by this year’s theme “LAYAG” (sails). This year’s celebration was made possible through the school’s Alumni Association, sponsored by the Silver Jubilarians, the High School class of 1994, and Golden Jubilarians, the High School Class of 1969.
As one set foot on the school’s lobby towards the quadrangle where the registration was set up to welcome all guests for the homecoming, almost all alumni felt they were transported back to the confines of this once-familiar territory, with the predominantly white and blue color hues gently welcoming their return. It was a feast to the eyes (and tummy) a dessert buffet presented by 1994’s alumni bakers and homemakers, sponsors’ booths showcasing diverse products, and a giveaway eco-bag containing a pair of rubber “tsinelas,” paying homage to everyone’s coming home to CHST. Members of the class of 1994 eagerly manned the registration booths and giveaway booths, with all smiles and enthusiasm despite the scorching afternoon sun. It is also the first time that the organizers used the special “wrist tags” to identify all guests, like what they use in concerts or fun runs, where participants can avail of dinner, freebies and much more using such tags. Guests were quick to notice such innovation, not to mention that there was also a Souvenir Program showcasing the school, awardees and the honoree batches all in one whole printed material. Really, how cool is that?!
Cocktail tables were set-up, inviting everyone to partake of the hors d’oeuvre served in the grazing table nearby, and of course, who would not be attracted to have a picture or a selfie with the 3-feet lighted letter standees spelled out “CHST” in the middle of the school grounds? Guests surely had their hands full with all the fun activities they can do before entering the school gymnasium, the best part of which is the Glam Booth, with the Clone Booth (by DJ Coki, one of the country’s premiere providers of photo-video booths), where the techie-selfie addicts, young and old, and mostly the curious, had a blast posing for the video camera for their instant 10-seconds of fame! It was truly the first of firsts, and to witness oneself having such a good time instantly recorded and seen is but one of the magical things this homecoming has gamely offered.
But it just kept getting better and better: entering the school’s gymnasium was also a mesmerizing experience: crisp white curtains lined the rainway leading to the gym, white flowy swags filled the gymnasium’s ceiling, and paper lanterns of white and blue accentuated the almost beachy vibe and atmosphere, mostly thanks to Tarlac’s pride Rowee Santiago of Petal Events and Design and his team. The stage was equally mind-blowing, with the use of state-of-the-art lights and sound system, crowned by a 30-foot LED screen, filling the stage like it was a television studio out of ABS-CBN 2 or GMA 7. It was one of the WOW-factors during the event, provided by none other than one of the best, if not the best, coordinators from Manila, LIVE EVENTS, which gave the homecoming its “professional” feel. Such great coordination also led to the event faithfully complying with the program schedules, where each activity promptly starting and ending as they were supposed to: the Holy Mass started and ended on time, with a tribute to the departed alumni at the end of the mass; the program-proper also started as scheduled, with the Lupang Hinirang and Alma Mater song videos kicking off the ceremonies with a literal BANG! Both videos were a product of intense collaboration between the Silver Jubilarians and Pinwheel Studios (headed by RV Vega and Jay Yango) with the Lupang Hinirang video paying tribute to the high school teachers who have played a major part in the lives of the Silver Jubilarians, and the Alma Mater Song (which to date has already hit 40k views, and still counting) was a tribute to the honoree batches, with the song lovingly rendered by Batch 1994’s very own Agatha Obar-Morallos. Watching these videos catapults one to involuntary tears, as it evokes feelings of resounding youth, friendship and sisterhood on an emotional plane. We need more tissues, please!
Speaking in behalf of the CHST Alumni Association was Ms. Socorro Ilagan (CHST Class of 1971), who gave a heart-warming speech about her journey as CHSTAA President, heaving a sigh of accomplishment and relief as her term ends this year. She relished at how the theme has appropriately highlighted the coming home of many, including those who came from other countries just to be part of the momentous occasion, and how each has journeyed but would always come back to their alma mater. On the part of the administrators of CHST, the school Directress, Sister Florencia Tubana SspS, gave an inspirational speech, even if, in her words, it was hard to inspire the alumni who have worked very hard to hold the alumni homecoming with such flare. Sister Tubana posed a challenge to all as the school is trying to increase the enrolees in the basic education, saying that in 2020, the college department will be closed for it to concentrate the elementary and high school levels. She expressed gratefulness for the many charitable works and philanthropic activities being undertaken by graduates of the school, and for always remembering the teachings of the school embodied in its motto “Truth in Love.”
Thereafter, the following distinguished alumni were awarded the following achievement distinctions:
- CHSTAA Service Award – Ms. CHARITO BAGAWISAN BALA, Class 1989
- Achievement Award for Business Entrepreneurship – Ms. ANNA LIZA MERCADO ESPINOSA-FAMINIALAGAO, Class 1989
- Achievement Award for Health and Service – DR. MARY CLAIRE VEGA-SOLIMAN, Class 1984
- Achievement Award for Education – MS. ARMEE NACPIL-ROSEL, Class 1978
- Achievement Award for Business – Ms. ROSARIO RAZON EVANGELISTA, Class 1969
- Achievement Award for Public Service – Mayor MARIA CRISTINA PUNO CUELLO-ANGELES, CLASS 1976
The following alumni were also recognized: Former DSWD Cabinet Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman (Class 1969) and member of the World Bank Advisory Council on Gender and Development Mrs. Nina Perpetua Aguas (Class 1969). Aside from these, the Class of 1985 all pitched in to invite their fellow alumni to this year’s D’Mamaw Convention in Hollywood, California, scheduled on July 19-20, 2019.
Dinner was promptly served, and boy, was it sumptuous, the kind only the catering services of Mrs. Daisy Tanjuakio can delightfully deliver. Two-thumbs up for such a hearty meal, it was truly food that was best served and shared in good company.
Now for the program highlights: after a lively roll call of all batches/classes present (1944-2014), the program literally jumped off with a spectacular dance number from the Silver Jubilarians, the Class of 1994, wearing a black and blue ensemble, to the danceable tunes of Original Filipino Music (OPM) hits from the 90s to the present. The talent of choreographer-DJ Lheo Paraan is genius and it was clearly demonstrated in the dance moves and formations worthy of a spot in a noontime variety show. Since the theme of the program followed an OPM roster, the dances and presentations from the succeeding honoree batches were all proudly Filipino music: the Golden Jubilarians-Class of 1969 grooved to the tunes of 60s OPM music, the Malong (muslim) dance from the Class of 1964, OPM and ballroom dances from the 70s and early 80s from the Honoree Classes of 1974, 1979 and 1984, 80s and 90s OPM from the Classes of 1989 and 1999, and as a final tribute to 90s OPM from the Eraserheads, Parokya ni Edgar, Francis M. and Put3ska, among others, the final dance of the Class of 1994 showcased colored sequined jackets in a 10-minute dance routine not made for the faintest of hearts! It was non-stop dancing and twirling with a thousand and once formations, all made possible by DJ Lheo, accompanied by show-stopping digital background graphics. For the turnover dance to next year’s Silver Jubilarians, the Class of 1995 danced Disco Fever hits of the 70s and 80s, which will be the theme for next year’s homecoming.
Aside from the raffle prizes from the sponsors given away in between dance presentations, the surprises just kept pouring in: not only one, but two (2) famous OPM artists graced the event: Mr. Joey Generoso (of the Side A Band) and of course, Mr. Jett Pangan (of The Dawn) performed on stage and swooned guests with their rendition of their best OPM hits, most notably the song “FOREVERMORE” and “IISANG BANGKA” that had everybody at their feet (and toes) from too much revelry. Before the end of the program, a SDE (same-day edit) video was presented showing the highlights of the homecoming, again from Pinwheel studios (12K views and counting!). These were considered to be the “cherries-on-top,” which sealed the 2019 CHST Homecoming as one of the best, if not the best, grand alumni homecoming the school has ever had the experienced in its 79 years of existence.
The event could not have been made possible without the leadership of Dra. Charo Cachero Bustos who led the Silver Jubilarians-Class of 1994 to this state of oneness; Dra. Shereen Dulay and Minette Zapanta for leading the wonderful liturgical service, the Class of 1994 dancers (Charo, Kim Constantino-Sia, Eliza May Dizon, Armee Perez-Arceo, Jessica Ignacio-Tadaya, Joy Oli, Irish Ann Abellar, Michelle Cube Villamayor, Jelen Dayrit, Arlene Torres, Sheila Pagcu, Marian Alberto-de Lara, Selina Cura-Sanythavysouk, Minette Melendrez-Daylusan, Ricci Chua-Orosa, Kathlyn Yusi, Rosalyn Buhain, Grace Garcia) led by the Program Committee Head, Dra. Irish Cotaco, Dra. Shierly Tiglao for heading the ever-ready Registration Committee, Atty. Genevieve Velicaria-Guevarra, for pushing the Design Committee to its limits, Genielyn Zapata-Lorenzo for your positivity and marketing (and life) strategies, Arlene Torres for your logo design and artworks, Odette Soriano-Ludlow for the financial reports, Jelen Dayrit for the jackets, Michelle Escandor-Abergas for the coining the Layag Theme, Millora Acain, Elena Gregorio, Che Cajucom, Che Buhain, Karen Tigas-Ilagan and Maybelline Pangalangan for your enterprising (and baking/cooking) skills, Grace Garcia for your Air Force contingent (helped immensely with the ushering and keeping everything safe and in order), Sister Marietta Dumadag, Manong Lydia, Manong Ernie, all school teachers, administrators, maintenance and staff, this could not have been possible without your help. For all Class of 1994 who helped contribute (in cash, kind or in hard labor, or all of the above) in whatever way they can, big or small, thank you for your support and generosity. For those who came all the way from the US, Canada, Australia, Singapore, Dubai and from all other parts of the world, thank you for coming back and celebrating with your batchmates in this once in a lifetime festivity.
So what proof did to we need to answer the question: Was the CHST Alumni Homecoming 2019, GRAND as GRAND can be? Resoundingly, YES! Most comments from attendees, verbal and written posts from social media, unanimously said that the event was a “success,” “no dull moment,” “smooth and organized,” “job well done,” “super fantastic from performances to food to guests,” “ang galing, ang ganda, ang saya.” (aptly translate: Great, Beautiful, Fun!) It was far from perfect, but it surpassed everyone’s expectations. For the vision the Class of 1994 had for their alumni homecoming had all finally came true, in a cascadingly beautiful turn of events (and mishaps), because the CHSian heart believed that it can, and it did. “Katotohanan sa pag-ibig,” napakasarap pakinggan, at balik-balikan.
If that ain’t grand, I don’t know what is.
Mabuhay ang CHST sa kanyang paglalayag. Hanggang sa muli!