It is the last day of my first month as a freshman in the University of the Philippines Diliman, and I cannot help but honor such a day with an essay about the infamous Academic Oval.
It was the 7th of July, 2015, when I enrolled to UP Diliman. I experienced what every freshie from UP experienced – the utterly exhausting, sloth-like line. Nonetheless, I managed to survive. My mom had errands to do, and due to the traffic in EDSA, she wasn’t going to return in an hour. So I did what many of our predecessors did when they had nothing to do in a foreign land – I explored.
I walked around the infamous Academic Oval.
As I walked silently, I reminisced the first time we went to UP. It was third year High School, and we were visiting our relatives, and my parents decided, “Why don’t we show them the state university?” And so we drove our car around that Acad Oval.
I had 0 knowledge about UP, or its culture, then. All I knew was that it was hard to get in that college compared to others. Back then, I had no idea what “college life” consisted of. All I had were the western films about college, and that was it.
So you can imagine my enthusiasm and surprise, as a jogger and a tree-lover, when I saw the Acad Oval. I fell in love with a 2.2km slab of asphalt. Of all the things you can love about UP, am I right? But it was the Acad Oval that won my heart when I had to choose between the three top campuses I passed in. So, yes, friends. I’m not kidding. When I passed in Ateneo, La Salle and UP, I chose UP.
“Well, of course she’d choose UP. It’s cheaper! It’s the state university! And all her friends are there pfft-”
No, friends. I chose UP, because I knew I’d get to walk around the Acad Oval.
So why do I love it so much? Do I have a fetish for roads now? Haha, very funny, but no.
“Through the years, the oval has stood as a silent witness to the various marches of students, faculty and staff, in exercise of their cherished freedom of oppression.” [x]
It has felt its students put their feet down against tyranny and abuse, and the calm footsteps of both old and young couples in love. It has been a witness to hundreds of amateur joggers turn into avid marathon runners. It has comforted the feet of depressed students as they dragged their body around trying to forget their careless mistakes, and encouraged the soles of scholars trying to think of a new idea.
It is where people can literally run away from their heartbreaks, and exhale the negativity brought by stress. It is where students and teachers alike reflect on their academic life, and mentally organize their priorities. It is where people get to appreciate the life they were given, by repeating the mantra of “I am here. I am studying. In UP Diliman. And these acacia trees growing at the sidewalks are a proof of that. I am blessed.”
It is where people are reminded that mankind was made for one basic responsibility: to take care of other species, and of their environment. It is where people learn to be humble, and to forget selfish cravings, because you know what?
The Academic Oval has witnessed millions of isko and iska come and go. It will witness a million more. We are but a speck in its timeline. Our one mistake as human beings is believing that anything that we have is truly ours. Everything that we have will soon be scattered to our children or grandchildren (if we will be lucky enough to have any), or our relatives, close friends, or sold off to junkyard sales or bookstores or antique shops. To know that life goes on with or without you is terrifying – it makes you slowly let go of the materialistic things you have fought so hard to hold on tight to.
It is where people forget their troubles, because when you are reminded of how small you are, and how much smaller your problems are, you will learn to crush your worries into small crumbs, and scatter the remains into the wind.
It is where people think bigger than themselves and their own wants and desires. It’s when people see the beggars and actually stop to think how they are faring. It’s where people go when they need to let off a little steam. It’s where people go to have picnics. It’s where people laugh, and cry, and fall in love, and release their pain and anger and hurt and bliss and it’s also where people learn to know each other and grow into each other’s skins.
That is why I love the Academic Oval. That is why I love UP – in all its vastness and variety, all its big events and small memories.
Such is what goes on in the mind of a fellow wanderer of an ancient elliptical campus road.