The University of the Philippines-Diliman College of Arts and Letters hosts a gathering called Writers’ Night every December for professors, students, booksellers, sellers of other things, the general public, and writers. Last year (2010) it was held on December 10, the week before Lantern Parade, and it was well-attended.
I took my eldest daughter Alex and her friend JM along with me that day. They are students at De La Salle University. It was JM’s first trip to UP. He suffered profound culture shock, first of all with the size of the campus. Next, with my matter-of-fact statement that anyone could say anything to anyone at anytime, even in class, to a professor. He said, “You mean you can give your actual opinion to your teacher and she won’t get mad?” I told him, that is the gift of UP to its students – the license, the encouragement, to think free – something almost impossible at a school with a religious or other agenda. He was suitably impressed.
We had lunch, then off I went to a creative writing class with Dr Jing Hidalgo. While I was in class, the two went exploring.
We had dinner after – I took them to that old standby at UP Shopping Center, Rodic’s, where we ate off metal plates. Then to Writers’ Night, held at the rooftop of the Asian Center’s Hall of Wisdom, which we kept calling (by mistake) the “Hall of Justice”.
Typical Rodic’s meals of rice-and: spamsilog, bacon-si-log, long-si-log – with side of itlog na maalat at kamatis.
The pictures I took that day are soft and fuzzy, kind of how I feel about UP itself – the present experiences of my PhD days mixed with the nostalgic memories of my undergrad years, like photographs superimposed upon each other, merging, blurring, almost becoming one.
The Sunken Garden, with its soccer goals.
The elderly gentleman with his back to the camera is National Artist for Literature Dr. Bienvenido Lumbera.
After the event, I took the kids to my college – the UP College of Mass Communication. The giant iPod on a cart was our college’s entry in the annual Christmas Lantern Parade. It was a wonderful moment for me – seeing my daughter and her friend, both college students themselves, in front of the steps I sat on when I was an undergrad myself. I didn’t think, back then, that I’d be seeing this in a couple of decades.
I will most likely be attending this year’s UP Writers Night – it’s the usual reunion date for past fellows and panelists of the UP National Writers Workshop, and it’s also the launching of Likhaan 5, the UP-CAL journal. My essay “The Turn for Home: Memories of Santa Ana Park” has been included in it, and I look forward to receiving my copy.