Just weeks before jargons of ‘community quarantine’, ‘social distancing‘ and ‘flattening the curve’ became prevalent worldwide, the University of the Philippines was vibrant and in full force from academics to org activities to campus-wide festivities. This time last year, the entire UP community had unknowingly been navigating the last few days of life before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Today, one year since the first lockdown was imposed in the country, the personal interactions fundamental to human existence have largely been crammed into virtual spaces. Centuries of cultures and traditions that define the UP community on and off campus have drastically shifted due to the ongoing health crisis.
For universities like UP, community lockdowns required closing entire campuses, locking down student dormitories and completely shifting the classroom setup to remote and virtual platforms. And as they have more free time than usual during isolation, the UP community reflects on their most cherished moments in and outside the campus before the pandemic.
UP Integrated School alumnus Jason Reyes spent his last few weeks of pre-pandemic life in UP Diliman preparing for his high school batch’s homecoming event. Although he is currently an undergraduate student at UP Los Baños, he found more comfort in spaces and structures within UP Diliman.
Reyes remembers Carabao Park as it bursted with tourists and lanterns during the Christmas season in 2019. To him, this park is one of the many areas in the UPLB campus that offer respite for its exhausted students.
To cope with the sudden separation due to campus restrictions, the UPLB community opened a Facebook group called “UPLB Open Tambayan” where members can relish in their shared college experiences through posts and weekly hangouts. “I gained a lot of friends … noong sumali ako d’on. [Malaking] tulong din sa pagkatao ko,” Reyes says.
As a fourth year BS Food Technology student, Jade Lu would have been accomplishing a bulk of her major subjects within the halls of the College of Home Economics (CHE), UP Diliman.
“[CHE] was one of the last places na napuntahan ko before the announcement of no classes … Somehow, I missed [laboratory classes] kasi bonding time [‘yun] with batchmates,” Lu recounts. Due to limitations posed by remote learning, science students like Lu now perform “hypotheticals” instead of hands-on, skill-based experiments. For exercises that are impossible to conduct from home, they are replaced with videos as a last resort.
Thesis legwork used to take up most of graduate student and lecturer Roehl Niño Bautista’s time on the UPD campus before the pandemic. Bautista, after a long while, was only able to visit Gonzalez Hall, the University’s Main Library, moments before lockdown even as renovations were being made at the time. Soon after, the library’s services adapted to lockdown guidelines.
“Buti naman yung Main Library, naglabas siya ng online resources for students, so hindi ko na kailangan lumabas ng bahay,” Bautista expressed.
When students can finally go back to their “Main Lib” after the pandemic, it will likely not look or feel like the same library they left behind last year as renovations continue today.
“Sobrang tunay ng ‘‘Di rin magbabago ang damdamin.’”
UP Diliman alumna Kristine Concepcion recalls the UAAP 82 season as one of the highlights of her pre-pandemic life.
“I miss the thrill and excitement in supporting the school, especially the basketball team. I also miss UPIS since doon ako nag-high school,” she added. Concepcion hosted the fanmeeting and thanksgiving event for UPIS basketball players onFebruary 15, 2020 where she felt deeply moved by the outpouring support from the fans.
Last March 7, 2020, the UP Fighting Maroons played what was unexpectedly one of their last games in the UAAP Season 82. Concepcion watched the volleyball game in MOA Arena in the morning and went straight to Ynares Stadium in the afternoon to watch the basketball game. Concepcion, along with UP fans, shares a photo with the parents of UP Men’s Basketball Team players.
Alexandra Javier, an undergraduate student from UP Diliman, uses her passion for photography to reminisce on her campus life..
“I think that the biggest thing that was taken away from me was my ability to shoot street photography. This did affect me a lot, since it genuinely is what I love to do most,” Javier stated.
UP Fair Cosmos 2020 was one of the last events Javier was able to capture.
Moments before taking the shot of lead singer Acel Bisa of Moonstar88, Javier indicated how other photographers tried to get closer to the artist, so she went on stage and took a picture from behind. As COVID-19 has robbed music lovers like Javier of concerts and gigs,, Javier resorted to drawing and painting while staying indoors to grapple the prevalent widespread of COVID-19.
Studying in his dorm room in Ipil Residence Hall, then-BA Linguistics student Sander Roy Ayala stayed up late at night as he tried to complete the data collection for his undergraduate thesis. After the lockdown was imposed, however, graduating students like Ayala faced difficulties accomplishing their theses through a totally virtual setup.
“We were hanging on the decision ng BOR nun … kasi kung hindi matutuloy nun, yung iba sa’min mag-de-defer na sa thesis kasi hindi nila kaya gawin at that time,” Ayala said.
A week before the lockdown was announced, Bautista rode a UP-Katipunan jeep again while on his way to the campus. For UP students like Bautista, these little charms and moments used to play a big part in de-stressing from hectic student life.
“So kapag na-stress ka na sa buhay, hindi mo na alam kung tama ba hinahanap mong topic, uupo lang ako sa Sunken Garden … ang comfort food ko ay pancit canton at chicken balls, kakain ka lang ng ganun tapos balik ka na ulit ng klase o sa library.,” he recalled.
Being in a remote learning setup, he confesses that these simple, but meaningful experiences just cannot be replicated virtually.
While enjoying some time with his blockmates, Migs Pilapil recalled how he spent one of his last days in UP Manila CAS Quadrangle before the lockdown. “My former blockmates and I were preparing for our block performance during the department week,” he said.
Despite feeling robbed of his freshman experiences after transferring to UP Diliman during the pandemic, he is most looking forward to walking around the academic oval with his friends once face-to-face classes resume on campus.
In all their excitement for #Sablay2020, Ayala and his friends bought their own Sablays during the week before being in lockdown. During the pandemic, Ayala found out he was among the successful seniors who would finally, finally graduate on July 26, 2020.
“Parang three days before, tsaka lang namin na-confirm … to think na pumasok ako sa UP na pinagpapantasyahan ko yung graduation kong yun … napaka- anticlimactic na grumaduate ako in my own room,” he added.
As he took a picture of Chippy, the resident cat of CMC, near the CMC Main Lobby, Bautista recalled how he missed going to one of his favorite places in Maskom. “Kapag meron akong kailangan pag-isipang life-changing decisions, meron akong favorite spot sa Maskom hill, d’un ako uupo … ‘yun ‘yung comfort spot ko,” he said.
Apart from being isolated from his friends and students, Bautista admits the pandemic made it difficult for him to go to his comfort spot in Maskom whenever he wants to escape from his problems and worries.
“‘Di ko siya ma-access nung pandemic, ang daming life-changing events na nangyari, so nakaka-cause siya ng anxiety. Bilang malapit sa UP, para siyang literal na second home,” he added.