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.

Lantern Parade

Couple + SG

Bahay ng Alumni

UP Carillon

Eng'g/Music sign

"Roots" UP Fair


Identity disorder epidemic strikes Manila


Agila News


The Department of Health announced today that thousands of Filipinos have been afflicted with Holiday Identity Disorder (HID) this week.  The epidemic was discovered by DOLE employees during their routine research, known internally as Facebooking.  Over the past week alone, researchers have found thousands of posts with Thanksgiving references from otherwise normal Filipinos.  Here are a few signs to watch out for to know whether a loved one is suffering from HID.

  1.  Has status updates, instagrams or tweets on Thanksgiving (e.g. Turkey recipes, pumpkin pie recipes, Black Friday sales)
  2. Does not understand the historical context of Thanksgiving
  3. Does not know what a pilgrim is
  4. Once lived in the U.S. for over 2 years or has visited once for 2 weeks
  5. Has an affected American accent
  6. Has a 1st world sense of entitlement

The DOH has also compiled a list of other disorders that strongly co-occurs with HID.

  1. OCD –…

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The Things You Never Bought

     These days, the culmination of a person’s money seems to be consummated with the purchase of tablets, smart phones, and small multi-functional gadgets that have 10-point capacitative screens. Gone are the days when our parents toiled in their narrow choices of careers and only dreamed to save their first few thousand pesos for new furnishings, utensils, or even an extra fan in the house. But even they are not spared from the blinding face-value of these…products, with the scapegoat excuse that such gadgets improve lifestyle. Sure, the items integrate the functions of a notebook, a camera, and a gameboy, but for all that these are worth, they’re not enough to overcome the tradeoff of anxiety in having to maintain high-value items.

     Everyone has some lack in life, and it’s not so wrong to fill this void with something that involves a purchase. In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, special personal items climb up to the very top, under self – realization. However, our senses are more than what seems to be intuitive to indulge in! If you really want to make the most of life, you can consider some other items that can serve as real improvements to the quality of life.


1. Good speakers or good headphones

     Depth, crisp, and spread. These three components constitute the hair-raising musical playback. Even with the simplest of mp3 devices (such as entry-level Nokia phones), you can still get a decent output and the most enjoyable jeepney rides. Lateral separate speakers are better than headphones because they utilize your room’s ambience and send the bass notes to your body, whereas earphones just ring through the cartilage of your ear.

     There are no TV screens in our house’s living room, except for a small Bose system at the corner. I sit on the sofa with my laptop while the radio plays some Beatles tune or the broadcast from either 98.7 or 105.1 fm. Can you imagine how different your kids will grow up with music in the sala, instead of a noisy TV throughout their early years?

2. Home interior design

     Looking to buy a new car? Why don’t you drop that million-peso bank loan on a revamp in your living space instead? A renovation can be good for improving air circulation in the house and creating new interactive spaces. Even a modest home can be washed with a cafe-like ambiance. When you and your family members begin to be more relaxed at home, you’ll notice that conversations become warmer, and everyone enjoys each other’s company better.

3. Healthy food

     We should take from our parents’ humble beginnings. Do you ever notice that, on a road trip, they prefer to eat in lutong-bahay canteens rather than in branded restaurants? The Filipino diet is bursting with the best of go, grow, and glow nutrition (citation needed), yet we define our fine taste with generally unhealthy food: saucy, spicy, creamy, and cheap. Why don’t you make it a standard to always buy greens for making vinegar-based salads, weight-loss cereal and non-fat milk, calcium tablets for aging people, tea, and wine instead of liquor? Imagine how many pounds you can put off with real brewed coffee instead of 3-in-1 mixes. Because healthy food can oftentimes be bitter, acquiring its taste raises you to the level of connoisseurs, and one instantly acquires a new passion — not an addiction. Healthy food is a path to enjoying life more fully because of inherent antioxidants that fight cancer-causing cell mutations, as well as a generally better flow of your internal milieu that account for better everyday health.

     We forget that life is so multifaceted that we focus our lives onto things that don’t actually matter as much. If you plan your decisions according to the themes of your mind, body, and spirit, you’ll get a higher return of happiness per money spent. You can then focus more on the people around you, and you’ll get to pray more, eat better, drive slower, and work better. Life is better.

Credits to Jane Nera for editingImage

Are you a bad person?

     In this world, there are just some people who are nice, and some people aren’t. As early as the microcosmic classroom, there was always this one person who can just be the ire of your life; your stigma, and he or she can get away with being such a douche or a bully plainly because…that’s who he or she is! Any guidance counseling or a letter to his parents will change him. Not even a punch in the face.

     What kind of person do you think you are? Are you good? Or are you bad? It’s a crucial point of reflection, really. There are nice people — people who always greet, people who always ask for permission. Then there are bad people — noisy, boisterous, tactless, namimili ng mga kaibigan, straightforward and hurtful. Where do you think you fall?
     Now, we’re not here to coax out and try all those who are guilty of ever having been a bully. No matter how much it has hurt you, no matter how much you have carried it in your life, and no matter how painfully forgiving you may be. They can just go to hell. If ever you’ve been ridiculed and unjustly shamed in your life but chose not to wield a closed fist, then you know the value of peace. What we’d like to know — as a point of enlightenment — is that we all just have baggage, y’know?
     Baggage. Something you carry. Baggage. It’s that small, dense weight in your heart. It’s the unsleepable half of your bed. It’s your cross. Some people live through the worst times and grow up with unique insecurities, while some people don’t get to realize sadness and dissatisfaction, at all!
     These unheard injustices are mostly just fruits of being too noisy. Too noisy that you can’t understand and empathize with other people anymore. Too noisy that your own eyes are looking at your very self: praising, applauding, because of your great wisdom and understanding of the world, because you always seem to be right while everyone else is unintelligent — unlike you. The same may also be true for the person who speaks in his head, cursed and spiteful in his thoughts. If so, then we’re all just bullies, aren’t we?

A Calm Entry Into the Filipino Future

     I came to school today not realizing that it was a holiday. It was like a zombie apocalypse. The parking lot was deserted, and the guard on-duty was short of interrogating me on why I came to school on such an (un)holy day. I came in that day to work on my thesis, which involved having to access the data through my adviser’s local network at the office. I was so eager to write a paper that would change the face of the world! Well, not really. But I was excited about it, and I just couldn’t wait to finally finish processing all these raw data on coral reefs. Something felt a little odd, though, being so hard at work yet no one was around (save for my adviser who came in that day, too). It was a holiday, I know, and as I thought and thought about the thought of not having anything else “better” to do on a holiday, a sinking feeling suddenly enveloped me. An empty, meta-existential feeling that echoed through the whispery halls of my deserted building. What the heck am I doing here? What is the point of all this? 
     The sight of an open field (the ‘Sunken Garden’ as we would call it) so vibrant with footballs and discs relieved me, as well pockets of people gathered in small mats. I didn’t bother turning up the AC and instead pulled down both windows of my old van. I drove slowly, elbow out and just feeling the gust through the front seat. I savored the sweet feeling of my campus, and I told myself I felt how much I would dread being away from all this.
     We are right in being eager and sleepless because a fortune lies in our future. It’s richer and more real than what the Yamashita treasure could ever offer. We’re at the forefront of great social reform: environmental responsibility, a constant desire for growth, and a greater sense of the poverty around us. At the dawn of the rise in Filipino quality of life, we’re not becoming lazy, wasteful parents and scatter-brain, get-wild-and-drunk kids, but instead we’re still ever eager for more development, more business, more money, and more knowledge.When we were young, everything our teachers ever told us about was that the Philippines is such a poor country ridden by abuse of natural resources and extreme corruption, but that we’re the “hope of the future” and that ” time comes” when we take up leadership, it should be for the better of this country. Somehow, those uncited ideas have boiled so strongly in our blood. It’s been an inception that knocks everyday in the back of our heads. But when we do get to those greener pastures of the Philippines’ promised economy, do we want to become just like every other developed nation today? 
      I realized why no one was at work that day when I passed by our church. The streets were lined cars stretching to a hundred meters into the neighborhood, and the pews were packed. Lenten ceremonies were going on inside. I suddenly wished I could’ve gone with my family who went home to the province, but I couldn’t because I was scheduled to play the piano for Good Friday and the Easter Vigil that week. As I slowly passed by, I admired the sight of worship. If I could just capture all these images of Filipino life into one idea, I’d say it’s very beautiful. Fifty years from now, I’d like to see even more modern technology, a flawless, seamless government, and lives as healthy as they could be. But I’d still like to do everything else from going home to the province, enjoying the company of my family, to being very happy to be Filipino.Image

A Less Doctrinal Josh Groban

     From a super sensitive operatic baritone portrayed by this gwaping male artist, Josh Groban suddenly decided to venture into something more…down to earth. Yet! You’ve still got your string sections and other orchestral components such as a timpani hit exploding underneath rocking climaxes. With Josh’s multi-textured, semi-nasal, classically-seasoned sinusoidally fluctuating voice, All That Echoes champions the au naturale of music, dressed at its best by great songwriters, arrangers, and sound engineers he had onboard. Groban does claim his collaborators are “the greatest group of musicians” that ever walked him into a studio.

     But to separate All That Echoes from the rest of mainstream music, it still somewhat lies a little away from pop but doesn’t exactly fit the bill of his other hit revivals such as Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, The Prayer, You Raise Me Up, and that very first single he had on Myx top 20 To Where You Are (2002). I doubt if the songs here will have as much acclaim as those songs, but that’s what I really like about this new album! His earlier songs were feasted upon by church choirs, wedding singers,and spick and span tenors. This time, the album will be more…solitary. Heavier on truth and baring oneself. I guess that’s what makes it rock! Image