I got the chance to revisit my college alma mater when I was in Manila last December. It’s been almost a decade since I graduated and being there brought me a lot of fond memories.
As the jeepney traversed the University Avenue, a vivid memory of me and my mom passing by the same route came into my mind. I was just a wide-eyed lass of sixteen then and it was my first time in the big city. Mommy was worried about me so she accompanied me from our province to Manila to enroll.
I alighted at Quezon Hall and took in a closer sight of the Oblation, which is an iconic symbol of the university. The statue depicts a man facing upward with arms outstretched, symbolizing selfless offering of oneself to his country. I was there only over a week before Christmas thus the Oblation had this star lantern decoration behind it.
As I stared at it, I remember being that provincial lass who left her province and went to the big city to pursue a degree and make her dreams come true. And at that moment, I thought I’m now halfway through it and I have my education to partly be thankful for.
I then headed to the Arts and Sciences (A.S.) or Palma Hall and on the way there, I remember my thrice-a-week jog at the Academic Oval. It was always a joy to jog or walk around the university because of these shady acacia trees.
The Sunken Garden which was one of my favorite spots in the whole 400+ hectares of the university, was my next stop. We used to have group discussions here and this is also where I spent most of my free time writing my papers or studying for an exam or quiz.
But my most poignant memories of this place would be the ones I wove with my best friend. Many times, these trees became the silent witness to our sharing of our joys, dreams, and fears.
The Main Library was visible from the Sunken Garden and looking at it made me remember the countless hours I spent poring over its books just so I can finish my papers and research. But there were times I slept there too. Ha ha!
Now hungry, I went to the Shopping Center and specifically looked for Rodic’s, which is famous for its silog meals. I was never a tapsilog person so I ordered my favorite hotdog silog (hotdog, fried rice and sunny side-up egg) meal.
It was as delicious as ever but it’s now more expensive as what used to be a student-friendly meal worth Php50 is now priced at Php75.
As I relished my meal, I remembered my Rodic’s moments with either my friends, dormmates or blockmates. There were just too many.
Afterwards, I revisited my favorite dessert shop and thankfully, it was still there. Fruits in Ice Cream (FIC) has this really delicious range of ice creams and my favorite had always been the nangkasuy (jackfruit-cashew) flavor. Yummy. As all commodities, its price has also increased from Php15 a scoop to Php23.
Now done for the day, I hailed a taxi so I could head home. And as I glanced back at the Oblation on our way out of the university, I had these parting thoughts:
UP Naming Mahal (Our Beloved UP), so much had changed since I graduated in 2004 but you still kindle in me that same feelings of awe and pride I since felt when at the young age of perhaps 10, I made you my university of choice for college.
I will always have fond memories of you and walking around your grounds today brought back those memories. I couldn’t help but smile as I remembered my friends and professors and realized the life lessons that only you could have taught me – Independence. Freedom. Responsibility. Love of country.
What I am now is partly (and perhaps mostly) because of you. And I cannot thank you enough for that.