Perhaps one of the most open campuses in Metro Manila, the University of the Philippines or U.P. campus in Diliman, Quezon City, is a 493-hectare of sprawling land, rich in culture and history. On Sundays, the 100 year old State University becomes a haven for Sunday strollers, fitness buffs and nature-lovers.
The Academic Oval
UP’s academic oval is formed by two avenues joining together and around which some of the campus’ important buildings stand. The 2.2 kilometer oval bustles with joggers, bikers, strollers and those who simply want to sit down and laze in the campus ground and gardens. The oval begins with Manuel Roxas Avenue on the right and Sergio Osmeña Avenue on the left.
On Sundays, the oval teems with children riding their bicycles, teens hanging out with friends or practicing tricks on skateboards and families spending time out together. Others, in isolation or couples, simply sit in benches lining the oval, relaxing under the interlacing canopies acacia shades that are over 50 years old.
Elsewhere in the campus various trees can be found –molave, narra or Burmese rosewood, fire trees, mahogany and exotic species like the earpod and sorrowless trees.
The Oblation Plaza
At the campus entrance, the Oblation –a sculpture of a young naked man by National artist Guillermo Tolentino greets everyone. Created in the likeness of the late actor Fernando Poe Sr., the U.P Oblation signifies the act of offering oneself in the service of the nation.
Right behind the Oblation Plaza is the Quezon Hall, which houses the university administration. Designed by Juan Nakpil, the hall is buttressed by huge pillars reminiscent of neoclassical architecture.
U.P. Donors Garden
At the rear of Quezon Hall is the amphitheater. The amphitheater leads to the U.P. Donors Garden, where National Artist Napoleon Abueva’s sculpture, Three Women Sewing the First Philippine Flag.
Parish of the Holy Sacrifice
Abueva’s more famous pieces are the double crucifix of Jesus Christ, both depicted crucified and resurrected, the hangs from the dome-ceiling of the Parish of the Holy Sacrifice.
The domed Catholic church is not located along the academic oval, but still near it. It is designed by National Artist for Architecture Leandro Locsin.
It also has paintings of the 15 stations of the cross by National Artist for Painting Vicente Manasala. National Artist for Visual Arts, Arturo Luz, designed the church’s floor mosaic entitled, the Rivers of Life.
The church is the only structure in the Philippines that has works of four National Artists. Thus, the Parish of the Holy Sacrifice has been declared National Cultural Treasure in 2005.
Along Manuel Roxas Avenue stands the Palma Hall, more commonly known as “AS” because it used to be the College of Arts and Sciences. It is home to freshmen and sophomores as most of the general education classes are conducted in this building.
In the early days, Palma Hall remains a point of convergence for student leaders, political dissidents and union organizers, especially during troubled times. From the height of student activism in the 1970’s against the late president Ferdinand Marcos to the rallies and demonstration challenging the country’s current administration, Palma Hall has been a crucial for dreams, where goals are formed and ideals strengthen.
Walking around the oval, one would also notice the buildings’ different architectural designs, with the earlier structures being of classical style. Their elevated and colonnaded facades and spacious lobbies evoke a sense of old campus life following the restoration after World War II. The new buildings’ neater and finer lines, on the other hand, show modern influences.
Another well-known University landmark is the Sunken Garden. It was named as such because it is said to sink by a few millimeters yearly.
Along Sergio Osmeña Avenue is the Carillon Tower, which tolls on weekdays for half an hour beginning at 8am and again at 5pm. But during December, it plays carols celebrating the Christmas season, the highlight of which is the yearly Lantern Parade.
Completing a round of the academic oval, one returns to the Oblation Plaza. Looking at the young man, his arms spread wide and head held up, looking skyward, one might just be reminded of the Oblation’s selfless offering.
Sunday at U.P. Diliman campus is a good way to take the time out of the urban landscape, enjoy nature and life’s simple joys.