Sunday, March 06, 2005
So much has been said about this university that I felt a bit wary upon knowing that I got in as a freshman back in 1995. I was proud, sure, but thoughts of fraternity rumbles, violence, and free-thinking but much too liberated individuals dampened my enthusiasm somewhat. I did not know what to expect coming as I was from an all-girls school run by nuns.
You know how it is when you're new, you don't imitate those around you to be accepted, but as much as possible pattern yourself to them. So, in the weeks before school started, I was in a flurry as to what I should wear, how I should speak and act. I mean, I don't want to draw attention to myself since I'm new but I don't want to be invisible, either. It was nerve-wracking, let me tell you.
But, I shouldn't have bothered. On my first day in campus, I saw this very beautiful lady, whom I later found out to my chagrin, was a man before an expensive surgical procedure, heard about the annual Oblation Run (where guys run around in their birthday suit), had a talk with an activist, spoke with a politician's daughter, and was introduced to an actress classmate.
Everyone's an individual in UP. Being different was actually the mode and not the rarity. Notice I said different, not weird because in UP, there's no such thing. One has to be careful in stereotyping and definitely no conforming. Everyone has an opinion on everything.
To say I was shocked was putting it mildly. I never had guys for classmates before, let alone flagrantly gay ones. My previous teachers were all female, quiet and respectful to the religious administration and totally different with the radical, equally free-thinking professors in UP. In my former school, we the students, were always expected to behave in a decorous manner, befitting as they say, well-brought up young ladies. Totally miles apart from the free, uninhibited and outspoken UP students.
So, there I was trying to get used to the fact that I'm not in a school uniform anymore and that my seemingly gazillion schoolmates seemed to have come from every corner of the world (there were a lot of foreigner students, too) who all have different social, cultural, and religious backgrounds. I felt like I was suddenly transported to the ancient city of Babel. There were Ilonggos, Bicolanos, Antiqueños, Cebuanos, and the ever-present Coños talking left and right.
No more flag ceremonies, prayers for each and every class, no need to stand up when reciting, and being closely guided in the course curriculum by the teacher.
I delighted in the freedom and the independence the university life gave. I relished in the fiery debates, the fierce contests, the controversies and the various forays in the nooks and crannies of UP.
Even the occasional violence, news of beatings and sometimes death by a neophyte due to hazing, the rumbles that we witnessed, and, even the occasional invites to attend a potentially dangerous rally, all became quite normal. There's no denying my pride to be part of that great university whose impressive roster of alumni include names such as Marcos, Defensor-Santiago, Nur Misuari, Lino Brocka, Ishmael Bernal, and a whole lot of other political and industry leaders.
Looking back, even those first few months in the university that I became lonely for missing my high school classmates and the comfort of a well-loved school, I knew that I enjoyed every minute of my stay in UP. There's nothing remotely like it. To have enjoyed all that and to have gained great friends and classmates is a badge of recognition that is uniquely peyups.