Sinasamba Kita

Napasobra yata ang dasal ko sa panginoon na baguhin niya ang mundo. Tinupad niya, ngunit ng may kapalit. Pinagdasal ko na batukan niya ang gobyerno, ang mapang-abusong burukrasya at pagbubuwis na hitik sa patibong na manlulumpo ng mga Pilipinong inosenteng nangangarap umasenso. Pinagdasal ko na pabagalin niya ang pagkonsumo ng mga tao, na magbilang naman sila ng biyaya kahit paminsan, at hindi panay ang asam ng higit pang karangyaan na mayroon na sila. Pinagdasal ko na ligtasin niya ang kapaligiran nating naghihingalo, ang mga gubat at halamanan, mga iba-ibang hayop, pati na rin ang mga katutubo at tribo sa Pilipinas. Tinupad niya ang lahat ng ito, sa pamamagitan ng penomenang Covid-19.

Biro lang. Hindi diyos ang may kagagawan nito. Pero agree ba kayo sa mga dikotomiyang inilarawan ko sa itaas? Ang mundo na meron kumpara walang covid-19 ay naghihidwa sa mga aspetong yon: gobyerno, tao, kapaligiran. Dumami na ang tutubi sa mga talahib. Ang mga tao – bagamat madami ang kinakabahan at natatakot – ay hindi na lumalanghap ng usok mula sa tambutso at karamihan ay namamayat na gawa ng pagka-tanggal ng physical stress dulot ng trabaho. At ang mga kumukubra na mga opisyales ay tila nabitin sapagkat nadelay kahit papaano ang pagbayad ng buwis nitong ika-15 ng Abril, dagdag pa dito ang libo-libong kumpanya at indibidwal na magfa-file ng net loss para sa taong 2020.

Bahagya akong nagigimbal (oxymoron) sa 2 bagay. Una, ang aksyon na isinasagawa ng mga may-kapangyarihan bilang tugon sa Covid-19. Pangalawa, ang umiiral na lambat ng lohika (web of logic) na naoobserbahan ko sa madlang Facebook, na madalas kong nasisiyasat sa mga headlines na pinaiilaliman ng mga iba’t ibang pangungutya.

Ang una, hindi na kailangan ng paliwanag masyado, ngunit may isa lang akong munting punto ukol sa gobyerno. Labis silang nagkukulang sa siyensya. At hindi ito siyensya ng mga taong matataas ang kredensyal o di kaya sinusundan ang pangalan ng madaming letra. Bagkus, siyensya na may halong skeptisismo. All science is founded on skepticism. Lipas na ang panahon nang nagsagawa tayo ng mga draconian measures, buhat ng tinatawag na Precautionary Principle. Ngunit ngayon, madami ng bagong datos ang lumalabas ukol sa Covid-19, ngunit tila bang lalo lang napalakas ang mga “makalumang” pananaw ukol sa veerus. Naniniwala akong magbubunsod ito ng mga iba’t ibang kasakitan na di sinasadya o adverse effects.

Pilipino pa man din ang isa sa mga pinakamatatakutin na lahi. Papaano kaya uusad sa kinabukasan ang mga tao? Ang mga bata?

Parehas ang problemang aking napupuna, ukol naman sa mga tao sa social media. Masyado nang nakulayan ang mga tinaguriang lunas sa Covid-19. Kapag itong framework of ideas tungkol sa virus ang pinapanigan mo ukol sa virus, ikaw ay DDS. Kapag itong kabilang panig naman ng paniniwala, aba, eh di ikaw ay isang napakatalino at kagalang-galang na non-DDS. Masama ito. Masama at malubhang conflation ng mga bagay na dapat agnostic o obhektibo ang pananaw natin.

Base sa mga bagong ebidensya at mga matatalim na argumento ukol sa Covid-19, naniniwala akong tapos na ang mga kinatatakutan natin. Ngunit ang mga adverse effects na nananatili pa rin dulot ng mga draconian measures at nakasasamang pag-aakala (harmful assumptions), ay nagbabadya pa din, lalo na sa mga taong hindi marunong bumasa ng siyensya, o umaasa lang sa kung anuman ang umiikot sa Facebook. Nawa’y ang isipan nila ay gabayan ng banal na espirito. Ika nga ng isang napakatapang na si Dolores Cahill mula sa Ireland, ‘di na dapat muling maulit itong lockdown sa kahit anupamang kadahilanan, at walang masama kung magreretract at magpapaunmanhin ang mga opisyales unang nagsiwalat ng takot at kaba, na limpak-limpak na katao ang magkakamatayan sa virus.

Freedom and liberty is the core of the human condition, viruses afoot or not, and, mind you, there are trillions of viruses existing in our bodies, and many more join this virome from various reservoirs we visit. We are students of nature, not masters. What a conflagration this Covid-19 has been. History will judge this generation. The millenial generation. Sinulat ko ito sa tagalog para kahit papano mayro’n namang mag-chornicle ng panahong ito sa isang lokal na lenggwahe.

Ang diyos ay nagoobserba sa atin. Sinisiyasat niya kung sino ang tapat at totoo sa kaniya, at sino ang hindi na naniniwala at nagsasariling nagsasakamay ng magiging lunas dito sa Covid-19 phenomenon. Kung ikaw ay taong sinakluban ng takot, kaba, o di kaya maaaring lagi ng mataas ang heart rate mo ngayon at mababaw ang paghinga, dulot ng anxiety mula sa virus, maaaring ang virus na pala ang bago mong sinasamba at hindi ang bathala.

Ang takot ko ay nasa kung ano pa kaya ang unos ang nanaisin ng mga Pilipino para sa kapwa nilang Pilipino, para lamang sugpuin itong virus. Virus na matagal ng nagkalat, matagal ng umikot, subalit inaabuso pa rin ng kasupe-suspetsang mga kapangyarihan upang pairalin ang takot sa puso ng mga tao.

I can be reached on twitter @wearashirt

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1477893920302179

COVID19 PCR Tests are Scientifically Meaningless

Next In Line

My ninety-eight-year-old grandmother stood at the edge of the door and bellowed, “Sammy! Yung mga bata, huwag mo iwan!” She was calling out to my father who was starting the car outside, while my cousin and I — the ones she referred to — were still inside the sala. We were all aghast. Why was lola shuffling back and forth without a cane and yelling? I called the caregiver and made sure lola was calmed down. All the while I was bizarrely being scolded like I was 20 years younger than 28. Lola was hurrying us up, pointing and asking why we were in shorts. “Dali na kayo, dali na kayo!” she said.

Later we arrived at the cemetery where the rest of the angkan was waiting. I told them of lola’s outburst that eventually just humored everyone. Though, as I sat by myself, I pondered at how she referred to us: “Yung mga bata.”

Am I still a child? I’ve already been in and out of jobs. I’ve opened stores for business, closed some. I’ve been up and down EDSA more times than I’d like to be sentimental about. I realize how little money I seem to have the more I earn them. It’s a tough world, and on some sober afternoons, my girlfriend and I would sit idly behind UP Diliman’s Quezon Hall while we dreamed about the future, before we both would go home to the subdivision houses we grew up and still stay in. This must have been why being called “mga bata” by my lola echoed strongly.

We tend to forget that we came into the family as children. Growing up, there was always a firmness, or maybe even an urgency, that was doted upon us by our parents to get to know and develop affection for our grandparents despite our juvenility. And so we celebrated our grandparents’ anniversaries climatically. We went on trips to Camp John Hay, Boracay, and at one time rented the provincial auditorium. Other times, we were content with throwing a multi-lechon and kaldereta luncheon at our spacious ancestral home. It shaped our childhood. By the time every single grandchild was too old for family parties, our Lola and Lolo, in their old age, became the new grandchildren: receiving care, adoration, and joy for every birthday and Christmas that did not turn out to be their penultimate. The “firmness and urgency” came just in time for a handful of great-grandchildren as it was around this time that Lolo died.

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Mamang and Papang, with us in Boracay, late 2000s.

Lola followed suit a few months later. The family gathered for the last funeral. Though it was unreal for everybody, we had to pick ourselves up. Lola’s children dressed with grace as they welcomed everyone who paid their last respects. The rest of us, the grandchildren, milled about, pretending to look and appear like playful children still, although our work emails and chats rang non-stop. Meanwhile, the fewer, real children ran around the spacious, windy field and basked in the sunset. It had been a while since kids ran around this place, this home. It had been a while since we were children.

At the burial, lola’s children wept, like little ones. As we come to grips with the death that we had always feared would come, we are confronted with our new roles. And although feelings of self-doubt may arise, we must shed our old lives as children. We are compelled to step forward. We can only remember, with bittersweet gratitude, those who once called us mga bata, as they leave this earth to make space for those next in line. • -editing by Jei Ente.

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A dance ball. Probably late 50s.

Life in retail

I peel my eyes open to a mild headache, only after 2 hours of sleep. I put on my day-clothes, kiss my parents goodbye and drive off with instant oatmeal. If I’m lucky, it’s 5:45 A.M.

Immersing myself fully into the dense, oily, cesspool that is entrepeneurship has been the highlight of my year. I left my monthly 14,000 PHP job in Ortigas, San Juan, and moved to another monthly 14,001 PHP job in Ortigas, Pasig, where my very first Kape Komunidad coffee kiosk is situated. I clean it, I mop it, I refill stocks, I carry heavy cases of milk; I burn myself, I spill stuff, and bump my head. The six-square meter space is like my first born child.

Standing behind the counter is actually quite the charm. Customers approach the kiosk with a somewhat serious look, and state their order in the least number of words possible. Such a stately affair can only be reciprocated with a big smile and a hint of excitement.  I’m a bartender, I know, but it’s worth noting that coffee people like myself wouldn’t have entered into food retail if it wasn’t for coffee. We would have stayed with our jobs in IT…academia…music. This is why coffee and its bartenders bring such a fresh perspective into the urban food culture.

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The beast behind the counter. Appia II Compact by Nuova Simonelli.

 

Grind. Tamp. Load. Extract. What happens next depends on the order. Mostly, it’s a silky endowment of frothed milk, perhaps with a homemade sauce, or hot water so the natural characteristics of cafe espresso are showcased.

Aside from the smooth barista moves, the job also requires a subtle giddiness. “Hello sir/miss, what would you like?” and if I asked how they were, they would always open up. But the thing with Philippine retail is that there is always this presumed social uneveness between the retailer and the consumer. At times, it has been quite embarassing, myself being some sort coffee servant for up and coming medical students. But I brush it off. When you’re a human in Manila, making money every waking day is paramount –that’s the unabashed truth.

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The hands of co-barista Veronica, dutifully keeping track of orders.

I actually have a background in Science. I was doing a massive statistical analysis of coral types and cover in my marine-bio thesis. Afterwards, working for a consulting firm, I put my super-skills to good use by working in government-related projects, which excited me. Call it millenial mentality, but I felt that I couldn’t grow and evolve within these fields, or they frustrated me, so I left them. I’m not saying I’m choosy, picky, or maarte, but the things I loved were doing research papers, writing songs, and exploring endless literature on coffee.

But life is not all-good in my little coffee retail. The things that make me anxious are not few, and the stresses are just icings to the cake that is Manila traffic. I’m always asking questions to myself, double-backing on decisions, and feeling personal insecurities rise up like vomit. In small moments, the grass remains evergreen on the other side.

Nevertheless, I consistently remind myself the principles I’ve put forth in starting this endeavor. Creating comfort where there has been none, and catering to these soft and weak spots of peoples. Modern establishments are great, and they belong in main commercial centers. Coffee, on the other hand, oftentimes just needs to be in a simple place where the regular Juan or Juana can ponder on life — or study for an exam.

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Coffee in the canteen. Yep, the canteen.

Pushing and shoving, mud and sore feet: Pope Francis’ Luneta Mass


Pilgrimages are journeys, either short and long. One can expect them to be arduous, or they can be unexpectedly miserable. On the day of Pope Francis’ Luneta mass, it was the worst on the streets.

At about 4 A.M., I checked my Facebook — a status update from a volunteer who was issued an ID-and-all had already turned back, due to a mess of cars and crowds along Maria Orosa street. Oh wow.. that happens to be the main entrance. What now? But my head was hurting to consider it seriously, and in a few moments I was bound for Manila City.

On the A.M. frequency, Ted Failon’s voice had an alerted tone, still in rapid dialogue with a frantic field reporter who was observing the events along Maria Orosa street. Ayan na! Ayan na! Hindi na mapigilan ang tao! Tumba na ang barikada! 

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Maria Orosa street, cleared for the Popemobile. (Then why was it made the official entrance, to begin with?)

An hour since the radio reportage, we finally made it to Orosa street corner U.N. Avenue, where there was an apparent confusion (like the scene in Ice Age where the animals were pointlessly walking away from the breaking ice). There was a thick, disordered line of people, made unclear by stranded cars. Cars inched against the pedestrians, who were split-seconds away from being squished against the parked bus. It was only 6 A.M., on a Sunday.

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The start of the line. To the right, the people trying to find the start of the line. It eventually thickened into a two-lane line.

Tracing downstreet U.N. Avenue, until about Del Pilar, we found the “start” of the line. At that point, it was getting cramped on either side of the street: the “line” going to Maria Orosa official venue entrance with scanners, and the “line” trying to find the back of the former. In the chaos of things, there were multiple quick-myths being echoed. ‘Di na kayo papapasukin. Sarado na sa Roxas. Yung mga may-ID lang ang pwede. But we were in line and, just like everyone else, we mentally vacillated with blankness whether this would be a fruitful effort or not. Surely, the graying lola who was trying to cut me in line wasn’t mentally vacillating. She was leaping and elbowing me!

That early morn, the sky was overcast. “Biyaya yan ni Pope sa ‘tin, na hindi gawing mainit ‘tong araw na to,” a lady said, while our bodies clung like in an MRT rush hour. If my mental and physical toughness was tested in high school special CAT, then my own patience was tested in that stupid line. Truly, I could not fathom each of everyone’s motivations as to why getting themsleves stuck in this thick chaos is worth their time! We would be the philosophical laughing stock of born-again Christians and INC, I thought to myself.

After two and a half hours, we would learn that we just wasted sleep, time and energy. Maria Orosa had been blocked instead, and the scanners were moved to the Taft Avenue entrance. We turned a corner around U.N. Avenue going to Taft Ave., whilst still trying to follow a “line”. We eventually deposited ourselves into a free-flowing, lineless sea of people in back of Rizal Park. The scanners were indeed there, but they weren’t working, and people just passed right through it. We didn’t have to line up. We could’ve just gone straight there. It was a bummer, like Lapu-Lapu’s huge bum, and it had started to rain.

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The thick line condensed into an elbowsome single file, as cascaded from the “scanner entrance”, which turned out to be useless. Who was the idiot that told everyone to make one line?

Sitting on our mats, the rain turned the ground into mud, and we were forced to stand up. On the video screen, Pope Francis had boarded his Popemobile, headed for Luneta. People started to get into a cheering frenzy and continued to cram the space, continuously increasing human density within the area. It was becoming extremely unsafe. I pitied ourselves, the Filipino-Catholic people. All to see the Pope. We decided to get out of that cramped place and go back near the Lapu-Lapu statue, where there was more air to breathe (except near the portalets). Squeezing one’s way through barricades of bodies is hard enough, it was harder with the cold through one’s raincoat and wet socks,  by slipping every so often from the mud, with sore hands and shoulders from carrying bags, and without enough sleep. It was a miserable situation; undeniably a far cry from the organized, large-scale worship of other sects.

Suddenly, there was a roar. Pope Francis! He’s here! We positioned ourselves at the screen behind Lapu-Lapu’s bum. The mass was about to begin.

The huge orchestra played through our local set of speakers, and the camera panned towards the altar. It was the same processional song used in the first mass at the Manila CathedralAll that time, the rain started to get stronger. Onscreen, Pope Francis lightly swung the censer, just like how our local priests did it— but this time it was him doing it on the altar

“In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.” As if my body knew, I began to calm down and focus. It was a Sunday, a day of obligation, and I was hearing mass with Pope Francis. Suddenly transfixed at that thought, I felt more and more alive. Even though Pope Francis’ homily was weakly audible, I listened and clung onto each word. In spite of all my internal negativity, I felt moved by an unseen force.

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Live, behind Lapu-Lapu’s statue.

In a quick realization, I realized that the mass could not have been any more meaningful without that day’s difficulties. I was a pilgrim. Everyone there — the lola, the little kids, the people who commuted all the way from outside Metro Manila. We stood there in the rain, with sore feet and grumbling stomachs. We heard mass, and we fulfilled the purpose of braving through that whole day. Whether it was unsafe, miserable, and ridiculous was beside the point. It was about making any form of a difficult journey, and quenching it spiritually in the end.

Pope Francis could have went somewhere else. He could have visited Obama or the Queen of England. He could have just went back to Italy, but no. He booked a flight to this little, uninteresting country with so many problems. He chose us. Then, for this final, most difficult day, we also chose him; we journeyed to him. Mabuhay ang Santo Padre! Mabuhay si Kristo!

Coffee in UP

The WordPress voice of my little coffee pop-up!

Kape Komunidad

Kape Komunidad got its first coffee gig at the UP Diliman Biology building, on the week of Bio Majors’ Day.  Mia and I came in the building at about 8:45 A.M. on a Friday morning, with myself having very little sleep from preparations the night before. We unloaded our long S&R table, a picnic basket and several dry-boxes (AKA huge Lock ’n Lock’s). One of the lids of those boxes had on it “Drive thru Kape”, from the time that I was still using taped bond paper as my signage. A hippy student wearing glasses came over and read it out loud and giggled. She said she’d come back when were ready to brew. With all these people passing by and giving us curious looks, I felt pressured. And excited.

Table cloth. Condiments. Spoons, mixers. Paper cups, sleeves, lids. Syrup. Mia’s muffins (which were already selling like breakfast sliders, before I could…

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The 5 ways you don’t notice killing wildlife is ruining the Philippines

Feeling Environmentalist

When you were a kid, did you ever own a pellet gun, an airgun, or even a tirador?

If you did, then you probably tried using it on some helpless bird in your backyard. And if you were as good as I am, you probably missed every shot.

Thankfully, my incompetence in accuracy is paying off because I wouldn’t have only shot birds down,  I would’ve sabotaged the country in more ways than one.

Here’s why.

Thanks to Facebook, I’ve seen more photos of birds being killed during the past few months than I have in the last twenty years put together.

UP Black Bittern You might’ve seen this picture of a dead Black Bittern inside the UP Diliman campus going around Facebook since the start of November.

When I first saw the post above, my initial reactions were of disgust and of frustration. Going by Facebook’s comments section, a lot of people felt the same…

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Penman No. 76: A Lesson in Description

A cool lesson in written description!

Pinoy Penman 3.0

Penman for Monday, December 9, 2013

 

NOW AND then I walk my students in Creative Writing through a lesson in description, which—as I’ve often noted in this corner—is at best always more than a rendition of the physical setting and the people and things in it. In the hands of a skilled or a gifted writer, a plain object can acquire a strange and memorable luminosity. Sometimes all it takes is the uncommon but logical and precise choice of a word, such as when William Faulkner describes a campfire as being “shrewd,” struggling and managing to keep alive despite the wind. At other times good description requires the writer to step back and to set things in a larger context, balancing fine detail with the broader sweep of memory and understanding.

I don’t even need to draw on the likes of Faulkner or Greg Brillantes or Kerima Polotan to…

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The Number 1 University in the Philippines

Sometimes, I like to think of my school simply as a plot of land that has buildings where professors can teach and students can learn. The State is simply mandated to take out some cash to finance some buildings with whiteboards, light bulbs, LCD projectors, laboratory glassware, and computers. But if financing was food that provides sustenance, and each college building is a body part, then the University of the Philippines is a skinny child.

Let’s have lunch in UP Diliman (UP). Wipe some sweat from your forehead, stuff your thick lanyard brand in your bag, and greet the hot, dusty road. It’ll be too hot inside the cafeteria, so let’s just eat outside. Yeah, we’ll sit on the pebble-cemented floor. Around us, students — some alone and contemplative, some flashy and in groups — flow in all directions as they manage the rocky, unleveled pavement. Street kids are around, and they can be persistent about your food. Some of them are the great grandkids of this lola who has sold banana-cue, kariyoka, turon and lumpia for at least 20 years now. True to her tenureship, she is a living library of stories about generations of students within this very area. And even if she never seems to change her tray and cover, I still buy from her. A lot do. So what do you think of UP? Isn’t it great here?

UP is far from fantastical portrayals of college life. The campus lacks streetlights, security and police officers. AC units are old and inefficient, etchings on wooden tables date back 10-20 years, and product sampling agents, music video ambush interviewers, random preachers, and bad-intentioned people can freely roam the campus like water is to cell osmosis. But if you ask a student or a teacher along the hallway, they will most probably say that everything is fine! At the very least, the most important resources like journal subscriptions, staff and teacher benefits, university-based funding are kept at a working standard. Issues like heavy teaching loads and large class sizes, lack of student lounges, bowling instructors who don’t issue receipts, robberies every other month, killings every other year…it just doesn’t bother everyone as much! But who am I to say, right?

Says my friend in Econ, “People think that Econ students have more rich students than the other colleges, but that’s not really true. They only think that way because everyone in Econ dresses nicely, which I think is the effect of having a nice building and tissue and soap in the bathroom. Did you know Econ students pay 5% more per unit, just to have that? Sometimes I go to Palma Hall and MAN, there has got to be, like, at least a minimum dress code. It’s like they just rolled right out from the bed.” And I agree. But not everyone does.

Oftentimes, quorum and consultation matters in UP, and it’s been key to moving the university forward. For example, the passage of the Standardized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program or STFAP was hauled by the board of regents for several terms due to persistent rallying by the students to keep the tuition fee pegged. But it had been so long since the 1960s, and UP needed so much money to keep itself alive. Alas, the last straw pushed the painful resolution to raise the unit tuition from 300 PHP to a graded range up to 1500 PHP per unit. Though the poorest UPCAT passer will put together some money to get to UP on the first few weeks of classes, he or she won’t last long when financial aid and stipends take too long to get to the bank.

Occasionally, one will pick up some nifty fact about UP. For example, my brother met some middle-aged Singaporean nationals who had something nice to say about UP, where they finished their undergrad. They recalled how they could take one look at the university and ruefully admit how such an institution could never exist in “backwards Singapore.” In another instance, an Australian visitor mentioned that the UP Diliman campus wasn’t a campus. “This is a city!” he said. It is possible that the original planners of the university had something bigger in mind when they founded the university. To become the best in all of Asia, perhaps?

In spite of the plight of the UP community, the snubbed annual budget, the fault of whoever is the president of any year (oh it’s just an old and repetitive vinyl record), UP is still subsidized enough to still be…the number 1 university in the country; this is driven largely by the enormous amount of research and publications it churns out. What explains this? The way I see it, there seems to be this national perception that UP is the best place to go to for training in popular occupations: medicine, law, engineering, pure and applied scientific research, and business. Even less populated arts courses such as language studies, social sciences (not including Psychology, obviously), music and design are regarded by industry professionals as the country’s standard. So, at the grassroots level, the smartest and most bookish students from every school of every town and province practically dream of going to the university. So what you get is a nerd herd that makes the public university comparable to Ateneo de Manila University, which is like the country’s Harvard.

I think there is much to be said about the amount of compensatory effort put forth by students who have less, in order to capitalize on their only valuable intelligence, and by students who have more, in order to make sense of why they chose to burn bridges by not going to…other universities. It’s just the burning desire in every person here.

It’s cripplingly satisfying to acknowledge that the scholars of UP are indeed indebted to the nation. But then again…says who? Such an idea is merely a perceived romanticization. UP is just a reality: cement, trees, backpacks and classes. All imaginations, whether romantic or socially scientific, are just musings of your professors and their horrendous stacks of readings waiting to be risographed at the xerox. Besides, buildings don’t eat. But you do. Now, nourish yourself.
@Moonleaf

Lantern Parade

Couple + SG

Bahay ng Alumni

UP Carillon

Eng'g/Music sign

"Roots" UP Fair