When you ask Thomasians to name their most memorable experience while studying at the University of Santo Tomas (UST), expect them to say Paskuhan.
Paskuhan is the annual UST Christmas celebration, a much-awaited event for students, faculty, personnel and even outsiders.
Entertainment and festivities are part of this affair, but beyond the concerts, wide array of food choices and jaw-dropping fireworks, it’s the enticing and over-the-top decorations of the campus that make Paskuhan so special.
Paskuhan’s gigantic Christmas tree and overall lighting and decorations around the campus are conceptualized by architect Froilan “Ian” Fontecha. A faculty member of UST’s College of Architecture, he’s been in charge of Paskuhan’s decor since 2006.
Preparations for the December event begin in July, when themes and programs are pitched and planned. Fontecha’s task is to design the physical setup of the campus and present it to the University Administration for final approval.
Fontecha’s own designs are inspired by the decor of campuses abroad, as well as what decor is accessible at the time. Typically, local Christmas trimmings like parol are incorporated in his designs, but last year, UST students and members of the student council broke away from tradition and conceptualized the “King of Kings,” a theme inspired by the popular TV show “Game of Thrones.”
At first, many were put off by the idea, especially those unfamiliar with the show. Others thought a series about war and violence was inappropriate for Christmas. Still, there were those who thought the theme presented the values of camaraderie and family.
“The students wanted something relatable to them, that’s why it was easy for them to connect with the theme because it was ‘in’ at the time,” says Fontecha.
‘Light of Light’
This year, Paskuhan’s theme is “Light of Light,” and Fontecha’s interpretation incorporates features of two Disney movies—“Tangled” and “Frozen”—in his design. Other portions of the campus bear touches from “La Luna,” a short animation from Pixar.
“The design is also influenced by the availability of materials. We were lucky to have decorations to simulate scenes from the movie,” he says.
Fontecha also made sure that this year’s decorations can be appreciated during the day, unlike in previous years when students had to wait till dark to view the dazzling lights and colors.