The Romance of UP

(This is a draft of my article written for the UP Newsletter‘s February 2012 issue. UP here means the University of the Philippines, the country’s national university.)

may naglalakad sa bangketa. may nagyoyosi sa brickwall. may naghahagilap ng id. nagsisigawan ang mga dispatsador. naghihiyawan ang mga tibak. nagiiyakan ang mga busina. may nagbabantay na guwardiya. may naka-shades na matanda. may jeepney na pumara. nagtitilamsikan ang mantika. nagliliparan ang mga palara. naglalakbay-kamay ang mga pera. may dumaang lrt. may nalaglag na kendi. may nagsindi ng panibagong yosi. tuloy tuloy ang ikot ng magulong mundo. sabay sa walang puknat na pagtakbo ng oras. gising na gising ang kalsada. buhay na buhay ang diwa. andun ako. andun ka. isang maikling yakap. ako’y nabigla. magulong mundo’y parang tumila. doon nagsimula. ang love story sa faura.

 – “Love Story sa Faura” by Dannyboi Rallonza,

UP is a strange place. Viewed from afar, it becomes the national university, the country’s premier institution of higher learning—a place where the leaders and achievers of the land are nurtured and trained; a center of research where the best scientific minds work to expand our knowledge base; and a haven of freedom for the country’s premier artists, writers and musicians. All very formal, distant and grand.

But UP viewed up close becomes the backdrop of a hundred-thousand stories of real people. It becomes the noisy classrooms, the echoing hallways, the sun-warmed benches, the tree-lined streets, the grassy fields, and the venerable buildings that have witnessed the awakening of a hundred-thousand passions, the unfolding of a hundred-thousand lives, and the joining of a hundred-thousand hearts. And after over a hundred years of nurturing youthful passions and budding romances, UP has become a place where the dream of “happily ever after” can—and often does—find a home.

This, many UP faculty, students, staff and alumni can attest to. Dr. Jose Wendell P. Capili, Assistant Vice President for Public Affairs and Director of the UP System Office of Alumni Relations, can list several prominent UP people from among different generations who have found their life-mates on campus. In fact, UP has become something of a family tradition as well for many of its alumni. The fact that the UP Alumni Association (UPAA) established the annual UPAA Multi-Generation UP Alumni Family Award in 2008, giving special recognition to families who have produced three or more successive generations of UP alumni, is a testament to this.

The highlight of my UP student days was meeting Butch, my college sweetheart, the love of my life, my future husband, while eating beside Rodic’s Diner at the UP Shopping Center with my dorm-mates. Memories flow as I recall the days we strolled the UP campus before our dorm’s curfew. Locking our hands together, we often sat by the grassy knoll of the Sunken Garden and watched the sunset as we wove dreams of being together forever and having babies one day. Amidst the Beegees “How Deep is Your Love,” time stood still for love-struck us.

–                      By Noemi Lardizabal-Dado,

The standards of a typical UP love story are unmistakable: becoming block mates during the freshman year; meeting each other through a campus org; getting to know each other over dozens of sticks of isaw andkwek-kwek; helping each other through hell weeks; marching side by side during rallies and demonstrations—all the hallmarks of UP life are there. (In fact, as an example of a quintessential UP love story, one can look no further than a wedding video of a couple who met as students of the UP College of Engineering. The video has been uploaded to iskWiki [!:Community_Portal], and features banana-cue in a way all UP people can relate to.)

But UP love stories spring from deeper reasons as well. “In the old days, many found their husbands and wives in organizations or political associations. They met because of the community—the orgs, the groups, or the disciplines they came from,” says Capili. “In many of our campuses, students come from far away places. Since they live far away from their families, they look for surrogate families and alternative families. It’s easy for them to have best friends or barkadas, and many of these become their lifetime partner or boyfriends or girlfriends. So [these companions] are morale boosters, family members and romantic interests at the same time.”

In this age of text-messaging and the Internet, there are of course some differences when it comes to how courtships play out. “I’d say it’s a lot easier [today], because there are a lot of alternatives now,” says Capili. In the olden days, suitors had to feel their way around with the help of friends who acted as go-betweens, and through phone calls, love letters, and finally, actual face-to-face encounters with their love-interests. While the idea of it sounds romantic, it also meant a lot of stress, anxiety and potential humiliation, particularly for whoever was doing the wooing. “Now, you can start with social networking sites,” says Capili. “You can remain anonymous and get to know that person first [through] chatting or texting. There are ways of introducing yourself to a person without getting embarrassed, and if in the initial text messages or initial social networking encounters you find that you have no common interests, then you can stop at that point and just move on to the next person.”

There’s also something to be said about college romances, as opposed to that other rose-colored idealization of the past, the high school romance. For one thing, college romances could be considered more stable and more likely to last. In college, “there’s a greater deal of maturity, exposure to socio-political realities and you tend to find common-interest friends, many of whom become your partners, close friends and surrogate families,” says Capili. During the chaos of Martial Law, for example, many people found themselves growing closer because of shared political ideas and common ordeals.

Their dates would consist of playing and talking at Freedom Park or going bowling in the Student Union Building. They would also hang out with their friends in their “tambayan” or go swimming at the hot spring resorts. One date I could not forget was when they went for a hike in Makiling. The sweethearts carved their names on a tree. Papa wrote, “RICO,” then the shape of a heart, then “DEL,” meaning Rico loves Del. Every time we went to Los Baños, he would tell us that story, and we would attempt to find that tree.

–                      “First Kiss”, Romina Puno, from 50 Kwentong Peyups, UP Press: 2009

Of course, all these love stories have one more thing in common: the environment. “Actually, UP campuses in general tend to be very romantic, because they are some of the few places in their respective localities where there are trees and open spaces,” says Capili. This is especially true of the larger and older campuses with long-standing traditions, such as Diliman, Los Baños, Mindanao, and Miag-ao, Iloilo. UP Baguio, too, is known for its close-knit constituents and lush campus. Capili adds that UP Manila, although now rather hemmed in by buildings and a train-track, can also be considered romantic, particularly back in the day before World War II.

An article on “Romantic Places to Elope” on the website LoveToKnow Weddings ( lists the characteristics a place must have to be considered romantic: it must offer the couple some privacy; it must give the couple opportunities to spend time together and focus on each other; it must be unique; and it must have romantic touches. With its trees and greenery, its campus hangouts, restaurants and cultural events, its unique architecture and its romantic scenery (see: sunsets and evenings on campus), UP’s campuses certainly fit the description. No surprise then, that UP campuses tend to attract non-UP lovers as well to its sheltering grounds, especially couples seeking a more affordable date alternative to beach resorts and island getaways. As a matter of fact, has listed stargazing in UP Diliman as a good idea for a Valentine’s Day date for the cash-strapped couple (

The romantic atmosphere of the UP campuses may prove detrimental to academic success at times. “There was a joke in the 1980s that the soil in UPLB has a high protein content,” Capili says. Seriously, though, “I’ve heard of a lot of stories of people who married early due to pregnancy while they were in UPLB. With the chilly air of Mt. Makiling, it’s very conducive…” To extracurricular activities, apparently.

I thought that our diverse opinions on things, being a product of an open-minded institution like UP, was also what made us click. I don’t know if it was a UP kind of love, but whatever it was, I became a willing victim in surrendering to its beauty.

–          “UP Love”, Maffy Carandang, from 50 Kwentong Peyups, UP Press: 2009

It’s not only UP’s physical environment that makes it conducive to romance, it’s the culture as well. In UP, one is not confined to the traditional concepts of love and sexuality, for one thing. For instance, “Diliman, regardless of political, social or sexual orientation, tends to be a little more tolerant, and you have a greater chance of getting respected” than in the outside world, says Capili. Things such as love and courtship may run a bit more on the conservative side in the regions, but “UP will always have people who will always deviate from the norm, and they will stick to it and fight for their convictions, despite people not sharing their values.”

The beauty of UP lies in its willingness to tolerate, if not embrace, diversity. “You will find God on campus, and you will find atheists on campus. No need to camouflage or trim down your identity, because people will respect you for who you are,” says Capili. He adds that the perceived culture of permissiveness among UP campuses “can be attributed to the fact that we tend to challenge existing norms, to think outside the box. People in UP tend to be more creative, and to problematize a lot. It’s part of the upbringing of UP students and faculty—the UP community in general. People don’t go for emotions. [In fact], people think too much in this campus,” he adds with a laugh.

Part of this process of questioning, analyzing, exploring and experimenting extends to sexuality, religion and the very concept of romance. Because of this, there is room in UP for the traditional and the alternative, the conservative and the liberal, the common practice and the experimental, and everything in between. UP is home to people who are happily married and happily single, people who are devoted to their partners and to their research on abstract theory, and people who are committed to their interpersonal relationships as well as to their creative and advocacy work.

“I think in general, UP is a fertile place for romantic interludes,” says Capili. “There is academic freedom [here] that enables people to respect each other’s feelings while at the same time, be less inhibited. [In short], UP is a wonderful playground of love.”



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