Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Funny how the UP Centennial makes me think not of the beehive that was Palma Hall, nor the cold white floor of the Faculty Center where my friend Ria and I used to sit, waiting for an audience with one of our professors. All my happy sappy memories are of Kalayaan dorm, that haven for freshmen plucked from every region of the country you can think of. I remember bitching about the food, and gagging at stories about the fish eating Dona Paz victims, and us eating the fish. I remember filling my dorm room walls with magazine cutouts of my males of the month (yet I don't remember who they are now). I remember Ely Buendia, pre-Eraserheads, sitting alone in the cafeteria, and teaming up with the St. Scho girls for the all-freshmen volleyball team. I remember swapping Loveswepts and Candelight romances with Shy and Rahnee, boarding Recto-bound jeepneys to get to second-hand book stalls, which would promptly fold up at the hint of a raid.I remember waking up one morning to a loud radio broadcast of a coup d' etat, which, until that day, I only read about in history books. I was on the first floor--Room 105--and the whole dorm was abuzz with coup news. Our first concern was, "May pasok kaya?" We then gathered that there were government troops storming Philcoa, a jeepride away from Kalayaan. Someone was warning us: "If you have subversive materials, tear them up or hide them!" I thought about my Loveswepts, dismissing them as non-subversive. I remember our Residence Assistant advising us to stay inside the dorm, but somehow, Rahnee and I were able to slip out to the Shopping Center at the back of Kalayaan. We were hoarding supplies--peanut cakes, sanitary napkins, Coke-in-cans. There was no telling how long we were going to be holed up in the dorm. When we got back, my daddy was there, waiting to bring me home. A group of dormers gathered around us as we got ready to leave. But the dorm admin did not allow anyone to leave unless parents themseves came to fetch them. My dad was the first one there, and I was the first to leave.I hated leaving my friends behind. Daddy explained that it would be irresponsible for him to take them without the knowledge of their parents. I waved goodbye, guilty and bothered. I was rather amused by his mode of transportation: a white cargo vehicle with the single word PRESS in big bold red letters, PRESS as in PRINTING PRESS, not Inquirer or anything. But I figured those flashing red letters did the trick. We were not bothered by anyone from any armored personnel carrier as we sped our way home.
I spent four years in UP, but that one semester in Kalayaan--my first 6 months alone in a big school--is the most vivid. After that sem, I was able to brave the endless lines of registration, my first great heartbreak, my 2.75 in Math.

Happy Centennial, UP kong mahal!

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