Thursday, January 10, 2008

University of the Philippines: Celebrating 100 Years of Academic Excellence

I've always been loyal to my alma mater, the University of the Philippines, primarily because it was here where I had so many good memories in my scholastic and career life. And now that UP has finally reached its centennial year, I can't help but get caught up in the jubilation of fellow members of the vast UP community.

For this blog entry, I'll be writing random thoughts pertaining to the UP Centennial, as well as my days in the premier university in the Philippine archipelago. (Sorry, Ateneo and La Salle folks: my school takes the limelight here.)


Many non-UP people have always asked me why we have a man who revels in his unabashed nakedness for a school symbol. He is, of course, the Oblation, or Manong Oble, as we fondly call him. Originally made by Prof. Guillermo Tolentino of the UP College of Fine Arts, Manong Oble has become the school's symbol of academic freedom and the pursuit of truth and liberalism.

I was surprised to find out that the "original" bronze Oblation in Quezon Hall of UP Diliman is not exactly the original one. It was merely crafted in a mold taken from the original which, according to, is now being kept in the upper floor of the UP Main Library -- the original site of the College of Fine Arts where Prof. Tolentino used to teach. Several replicas of the Oblation were then sculpted by National Artist, Napoleon Abueva, and are now standing proudly in most of the UP campuses scattered all over the country.

During my days as an instructor in UP Tacloban, I remember having a running joke with a fellow female colleague about waiting for the leaf on Manong Oble to fall before we ever get married (in my case, again). Of course, that would never happen...but secretly I think we wished it would.


I graduated with a degree in Broadcast Communication from the College of Mass Communication in UP Diliman in 19....never mind. But if you insist on finding out exactly how far back it was since I was in college, I'll simply give you my student number: 87-05354. The first two digits indicate the year when I entered UP. Yeah, yeah: I know I'm ancient...

Confront a fellow UP alumnus/alumna about his/her student number, and most likely they will still be able to recite it correctly to you.


UP students and graduates have always been branded as "activists," simply because of their affinity with the school. For the record, this perception is not always true. While liberalism and academic freedom is being practised in UP, it does not turn everyone there into screaming rebels ready to wage rallies against the Establishment. We have our own share of passive and even apathetic individuals who turned into the kind of people they are for several reasons: first, they are too scared of repercussions, like in the case of many of our UP Tacloban students who are privy to the many irregularities being perpetrated by some of their very own teachers, but who keep quiet to avoid bearing the brunt of their teachers' grudges. Second, they are simply uninformed, or refuse to be informed because they're quite satisfied with their respective comfort zones already. Third, they just don't care. (Die, you a**holes, DIE!)

My UP experience taught me to open my senses to the goings-on in the world, so that I can properly analyze them and create a sound assessment. If I was contented in my high school days with simply having a roof on my head, food to eat, and a bed to sleep on (no thanks to our sheltered lives in Manila Science High School), UP turned my brain into a sponge of new ideas and schools of thought. It taught me to start asking philosophical questions and to create stronger mindsets.

If this is what is called "activism," then I'm grateful to UP for giving me that.

But I think former UP President Francisco Nemenzo has a better term for it: critical thinking. And this is the kind of thinking I espoused to my students when I became a UP teacher myself.

Critical thinking: one of the wonderful residues of assimilating the UP culture. That is, if you were really serious about your being a UP student then.


You are not a true UP Diliman student if you have never eaten in Rodic's.

Along with CASAA which is located between Palma Hall and the Palma Hall Annex, Rodic's used to be our favorite lunchtime hub. It is a hole-in-the-wall eatery found in the UP Shopping Center. But don't be fooled by its rickety ambiance: Rodic's is actually one of UP Diliman's most popular icons. In fact, it goes down UP history as one of the longest-standing eateries within the UP Diliman campus. I was quite shocked when one time, I was relating to my parents about eating with schoolmates in Rodic's earlier that day and my dad interrupted me with a loud "Whaaatt?!" As it turned out, my dad revealed that during his days of studying in the UP College of Law in the 1950s, they'd also visit Rodic's. That was my turn to say, "Whaaatt?!"

And yes, Rodic's still stands in its same location up to the present day. And I'm assuming that they'd be celebrating their golden jubilee anytime now.

Just what made Rodic's so popular with UP people from way back up to the present? It's their very cheap yet delicious and filling silog dishes. Most commendable is their tapa flakes and their spicy dilis. Just writing about them makes my mouth water...


UP's grading system is set from 5 to 1, 1 being the highest grade one could achieve. A 3 is considered as barely passing, or in colloquial terms, pasang-awa. A 4 is a conditional failure, but one could still appeal to his/her teacher to have this grade changed.

But a 5 is a 5. That's the end of the road for any appeals a UP student may want to make.

I never got a final grade of 5 in my student days, and when I became a UP teacher myself, I somehow expected the same from my students. While most of them managed to make the cut, there were those who just kept slacking away. And when grading time came, I'd give them their just dessert: a bloody-red 5.

Other faculty members would approach me, saying that I may just be a tad too stringent for giving 5s. According to them, having a 5 on the student's Transcript of Records may provide a problem for the student concerned, especially when he/she starts looking for work. My argument is that these kids should have thought about that before they decided on cutting my class and not passing the course requirements.

Oh, and I've had several of these slackers visiting me in the faculty room, begging on their knees to let me change their grades of 5. So far, all of them (male and female alike) would leave the faculty room in tears, fruitless in their appeals.

Two of these slackers were big fratmen who sobbed like little boys when I showed them my Class Record to let them understand exactly why they got a 5. Then as a piece de resistance, I closed my record and say, "Now, give me a good reason why I should change your grade."

If being just in my grading system makes me a terror teacher, then so be it.


And if you think I was a colorful UP teacher, there are other UP teachers even more colorful than me.

Prof. Winnie Monsod, according to my orgmates from UP Sidlangan, would come to class smoking her cigarettes.

I have a colleague from the Division of Humanities who is a self-proclaimed witch of the white order. She sees dead people, auras, and otherworldly beings because of her open third eye.

I used to have Pinoy Big Brother himself, Laurenti Dyogi, as a teacher in my Scriptwriting class. Maria Ressa also was a former Scriptwriting teacher of mine.

I had former teachers and colleagues who came to class in Hawaiian shorts and shirts.

I remember my Communication 1 teacher, Prof. Filonila Tupas, who scared us out of our wits with her terror tactics. Many years later, she was massacred in her own home.

My Spanish 1-2 teacher, Prof. Paz Miciano, often berated me for my relatively slow understanding of her Spanish lessons. But at the end of our classes (and after my taking two makeup exams), she whispered in my ear and said, "Señorita Rodriguez, I expect you to become a cum laude when you graduate, comprende?"

A former teacher who taught STS in my time (He's dead now, bless his soul...) became (in)famous for coining the phrase, "Kwarto o kwatro?" He eventually landed in jail for lascivious acts.


Speaking of STS, this is a subject that up to now, I have yet to comprehend. STS is Science, Technology, and Society, and it is a GE subject, meaning that all UP students have to take it before graduating.

STS has a little bit of Social Science, a little bit of Natural Science, a little bit of Biology, a little bit of Physics, a little bit of Chemistry...technically, a little bit of everything UP students have already taken in their earlier years. Honestly, I think this subject is quite pointless.

The STS final exam is primarily a reflection of how pointless this subject is. Case in point, one question in the exam which goes like this: "How many fairies would it take to dance on a pinhead?" Duh to the nth power...

I have to admit, I did learn something from my STS classes: how to sneak out of the lectures when the professor isn't looking (Thank God for the overpopulated classes and the strategically-placed back doors of the College of Science auditorium.), and memorizing the answer key to the STS exams. (Answer key is handed down from batch to batch, by the way. Just goes to show that they barely changed the exam contents in my time.)


Hey you UP peeps, don't tell me you don't recall the lyrics to the UP Anthem, UP Naming Mahal! It goes a little something like this:

UP naming mahal, pamantasang hirang
Ang tinig natin, sana'y inyong dinggin
Malayong lupain, atin mang marating
Di rin magbabago ang damdamin
Di rin magbabago ang damdamin.

Luntian at pula, sagisag magpakailanman
Pagdiwang natin, bulwagan ng dangal
Humayo't itanghal, giting at tapang
Mabuhay ang pag-asa ng bayan
Mabuhay ang pag-asa ng bayan.

Thanks to our very own Nicanor Abelardo who penned the lyrics of UP Naming Mahal. I hope we UP alumni are still living up to what we sang during our respective graduations.


When I was in my graduating year in high school, we had the liberty of choosing from any university we wanted to take their entrance exams. While my batchmates took the exams for all the best universities in Manila (UP, Ateneo, DLSU, and UST), I only took exams for three out of four of these schools.

Before the exams, I visited the three schools I chose (UP, Ateneo, and UST) to have a feel of how I'd fit in if ever I did pass their entrance exams. Actually, I just took the UST exam for the heck of it, not because I wanted to study there. When I went to Ateneo, I didn't like the atmosphere. It just seemed too...elitist. But when I went to UP, I felt at home with the crowd.

I passed the entrance exams for all three schools, but I chose the school that I felt would teach me something more about the world than what is stated in books: the University of the Philippines.

I never regretted my choice.


Once again, to all of us in the UP community, a happy centennial to all of us!

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