University of the Philippines Diliman Revisited

Last Updated on April 29, 2021 by Tina

Last November (2020), after 8 months of being stuck in La Union, I was finally able to travel to Manila to pack up my stuff in my apartment. My apartment contract was about to end, and I decided not to renew my contract anymore. While I was there, I tried to meet my closest friends because I haven’t seen them for almost a year already. My friend Hanna was not able to join us when I had lunch with our other friends Liza and Tessa. But Hanna and I were able to meet before I went back to La Union. We agreed to meet at our alma mater, the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman.

I first met Hanna during the freshman orientation at UP in 1999 (that makes us friends for more than 2 decades already). We were both BS Physics students and we belong to the same block, G-14. After almost a month we met again, on the first day of classes. We hit it off instantly. We’ve been together most of the time during our first semester.

Though Physics was our first course, we didn’t end up becoming Physicists. Hanna’s dad wanted her to be a doctor back then and so she was planning to shift to Biology. I wanted to become a chemist so my plan was to shift to Chemistry. Things didn’t go as planned though. Turns out, those were not what we really wanted.

Hanna eventually shifted to Public Administration, and she is now a lawyer. I, on the other hand, shifted to Geology behind my mom’s back. One of the subjects in our Physics curriculum is Introduction to Geology. I wanted to shift to Geology the moment I took that subject because I thought it’s an adventurous profession, with all the fieldwork and stuff. But my mom didn’t want me to because she thinks it’s dangerous, and it’s a profession for boys. I had to continue with my Physics course because that time I realized I didn’t want to become a chemist after all. At the end of my third year in the university, I decided to shift to Geology without telling my mom. She only found out about it after I got accepted into the program.

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Fast forward to 22 years later, we decided to meet in UP one afternoon. We agreed to visit our favorite spots on the campus and reminisce about the good old days. I’ve had a lot of fun that day. I always do when I’m with her. When we’re together it feels like we are still in college. Let’s take a trip down memory lane as I share with you our favorite spots on the campus. And if ever you happen to be in Metro Manila one day, why not visit UP Diliman too? There aren’t many places to visit in Manila anyway, and I’m sure you’re going to love UP. 

A Little About the University of the Philippines Diliman

Before I start with the reminiscing part, let me first give a brief introduction about UP, especially for those who are not from the Philippines. The University of the Philippines, UP for short, is the country’s national university. The tuition fee is subsidized. I remember paying less than Php 5000 (~USD 100) for a semester there. It has many campuses in different parts of the country, and UP Diliman is the flagship campus of the UP System. For most Filipinos, the University of the Philippines is the most prestigious educational institution in the country. It is very hard to get into the university because of the competition. You need to pass the entrance exam and your high school grades are also a factor.

When you study at UP, you not only get educated academically. You become street smart too. No one tells you what to do or how to behave. You will have to make decisions for yourself. And what I like most about studying there is that there is no uniform and no dress code. You can go to class in flip-flops and in your pajamas.

One very common misconception about students and graduates of UP is that they are activists and that they are always joining rallies. This is not true at all. There are some students but not everyone. 

UP Diliman is located in Quezon City. Though it is in Metro Manila, once you get inside the campus, it feels like you are not in a big city. The campus has lots of trees and green spaces. It also has a lot of art installations. Many people from Metro Manila, even those who are not students or employees of UP go to UP to jog or have a picnic. Now let’s move to the reminiscing part.

I arrived earlier than Hanna, and while waiting for her I went to the post office to send some postcards and a Christmas card. I’m not sure if the recipients received them because I never got any confirmation from them that they received something from me. Anyways, the post office played a very important role in my life in my first year in college because back then, there were no cellular phones yet. The only way I was able to communicate with my high school friends was by sending them snail mail. Yup, I send letters to them regularly. I was glad that after 22 years, the post office is still there.

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Kalayaan Residence Hall

Kalayaan Residence Hall

From the UP Post Office, I walked to Kalayaan Residence Hall (Kalay to UP students) which is just a few steps away. In the waiting shed across the dorm is where Hanna picked me up.

Kalayaan Residence Hall is a dormitory in UP exclusive for freshman students. It’s not easy being able to get a slot in the dormitory. Luckily in my second semester in UP, I was able to move there. The dormitory is way better than the boarding houses inside and outside the campus and is cheaper. The room is wide enough for two people, with big lockers and a study table for each occupant. The toilet and shower rooms are shared for each wing. Three meals are also provided during your stay in the dormitory.

Though I only stayed in the dorm for a few months, I had a great time there because I had an awesome roommate and the residents in my wing were very nice to me.

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UP Lagoon

Beta Way

After picking me up, we proceeded to UP Film Center and that’s where Hanna parked her car. From there we walked to UP Lagoon. The UP Lagoon is the only body of water found on the campus. Near the lagoon is a spot that is very memorable for me and Hanna.

In that spot is where we disturbed lovers secretly hiding in that place. After buying takeout from McDonald’s in Philcoa, we decided to eat the takeout there. When we got there there was this couple having a date but their presence didn’t stop us from doing our plan. We decided to sit near them. The girl was annoyed by our presence so they left.

AS Steps

AS Steps

The Palma Hall steps, known to UP students as AS steps (or Arts and Sciences steps) is a popular hangout spot among UP students. We would often sit at the steps and check out and rate the cuteness of the boys who passed by us (yep, girls do that too).

There are so many things that happen here like rallies and miting de avance.

CASAA Food Center

Where Casaa used to be
This is how the former site of Casaa looks like now

CASAA (College of Arts and Sciences Alumni Association) Food Center popularly know as Casaa is a beloved landmark during our college days. This a favorite hangout spot among students, faculty, and UP employees because it is located at the heart of the campus and because of the many food choices offered by the different food stalls. I remember the steps to Casaa is where my college crush used to hang out with his “cool” friends and I get super “kilig” (elation caused by an exciting or romantic experience) every time I see him there. Sadly in 2015, the food center was destroyed by a huge fire.

Sampaguita Residence Hall

Sampaguita Residence Hall

Sampaguita Residence Hall is an all-girls dormitory. It is where I lived during the last two years of my college life. Just like Kalay, I also have fond memories in this dormitory. Hanna visited me here often and we would update each other about what’s going on in our lives.

Llamas Science Hall

Llamas Hall

The Llamas Science Hall used to be National Institute of Physics. This is where we attended our Physics subjects. Among the three of us, Liza was the only one who continued Physics. We would often visit her here.

College of Science

UP College of Science
This is a new building. During our time, this place was a vacant lot.

The College of Science is our college. It is where we process our enrolment. This is also where the College of Science library is located.

Institute of Mathematics

The Institute of Mathematics is where we have our Math classes. This is where we had our very first class in the university. I remember during the first semester of our freshman year, our Math class was at 7:00 in the morning 4x a week. It was so hard waking up very early to attend the class and damn, Math in UP was super hard. This building was a witness to the hardships of UP students taking up Math subjects.

National Institute of Geological Sciences

NIGS Steps

My beloved institute. The building where I fell in love with Geology. This institute fully accepted me when I was having a hard time with Physics and I just didn’t want to continue with the course anymore. I spent my last two years in the university here and Hanna would often visit me here too.

NIGS Christmas tree
Christmas tree made of hard hat

We even had an unforgettable experience at the parking lot of this institute. Hanna came to pick me up and when we were about to leave to go to the mall, she accidentally hit a parked vehicle. We tried to escape to avoid accountability but the driver was there. We ended up going to Camp Caringal. Fortunately, Hanna’s cousin’s friend came to rescue us and settled everything. He even treated us to lunch at Kenny Roger’s Restaurant in Katipunan.

Quezon Hall

University of the Philippines Oblation
The UP Oblation. This photo was taken in 2019.

Quezon Hall is where the office of the president of UP is located. At the back of the building is a nice park where we used to hang out after our class when we were taking summer classes. Our classes are in the morning and in the afternoon we would just hang out there talking about crazy stuff. Other days we were at the mall doing some window shopping.

University of the Philippines Symbol

In front of the Quezon Hall is where you can find the Oblation. It serves as the iconic symbol of UP. It is a concrete statue made by Philippine National Artist Guillermo Tolentino. The statue depicts a nude man facing upward with arms outstretched. It symbolizes the selfless offering of oneself to his union and is a symbol of academic freedom in the campus. 

There’s a myth that anyone who gets his or her picture taken with the oblation statue as an undergrad will not graduate or will not graduate on time.

UP Academic Oval

The Acad Oval is the university’s academic highway. It covers a distance of 2.2 kilometers. During our college days, the oval is closed to vehicles on Sundays so people could jog. Acacia trees form a lush canopy around the oval.

Even after we graduated, when we visit UP, we would stroll around the Acad Oval and would talk about anything under the sun. This is a nice place to jog or ride a bike.

UP Sunken Garden

The University of the Philippines Sunken Garden is a famous landmark on the campus. It is in the heart of the Acad Oval. It is a 5-hectare natural depression surrounded by acacia trees and is believed to be sinking every year.

This is where you will see people playing soccer/football. This is also the place where the UP Fair is held every year. UP Fair is a six-day-long event that celebrates the local music scene while raising awareness. Every night for 6 nights, different local bands would play at the Sunken Garden. 

UP Sunken Garden
This photo was taken almost 5 years ago when I brought my Egyptian friend to UP. I couldn’t find the original picture, but I think the quote goes well with the picture.

Aside from the above, we also decided to check out two art installations on the campus that is near the place where Hanna parked. On our way there we passed by Carillon Tower. Carillon Tower is a 130 feet tall structure that houses at its highest level the bells of the UP Memorial Campanille.

The Carillon Tower
The Carillon Tower

The art installation “Ang Pagbabalik Lupa” shows the separation of gods and people through setting a scenario of a woman hesitating while descending the stairway. It’s funny because Hanna screamed when she saw this. I think she got scared, she thought she saw a ghost.

Ang Pagbabalik Lupa
Ang Pagbabalik Lupa

The UPLift, created by Fernando Cacnio, depicts a naked woman in mid-air with her hair touching a pool of water. Cacnio said the sculpture is about rising and aspiring for honor and excellence, and enlightenment.


So that ends our trip down memory lane. I hope you enjoyed reading it. And if you are in Metro Manila, do visit UP when the MECQ is over. It’s a nice place to breathe clean, fresh air and it’s not a crowded place.

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