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lucid thoughts

U.P. Life March 31, 2006 Friday

Goodbye University of the Philippines (and U.P. Life)

My stay in the Philippines was supposed to be a 3-week "hello" to my Dad whom I sorely missed, afterwhich, I planned on going to Germany to live in a hippie commune through Naomi's Amsterdam connection. However, while in Manila, I was invited to teach web design at the College of Fine Arts in UP (University of the Philippines, my alma matter). Teaching has always been a lingering curiousity for me and I wasn't sure if it was a calling. It was my chance to take a stab at teaching and find out if it was really for me. I said yes. While being committed to a semester in UP, I also took up French. I enrolled for it, thus becoming a teacher and a student at the same time. Going with the flow, I found myself applying to a few student organizations, Euro Filipino, Grip UP and the UP Mountaineers. I also met Mimsy whom I've started seeing. To cut it short, the 3-week stay extended to 2 years.

UP Mountaineers
Perhaps the biggest influence in my UP stay has been my application and membership to the UP Mountaineers. Aside from learning more technical skills, I learned about self-sufficiency, environmental issues and camaraderie. I continue to be inspired by members who continue to push the boundaries. Thanks to them, I feel highly confident pursuing a nomadic way of life.

Ringside Seat
UP has long been a ground zero for student/faculty activism against political and economic issues that plague the country. As a returning student, I was sucked into the debate with ringside seat on what's happening. I've listened to charismatic leaders such as Prof. Randy David talk about the urgency and need for vigilance in upholding our rights. There is also the indefatigueable Prof. Nehru, who with his Contragapi, rallies everyone's spirit during the teach-ins and walk-outs specially during the P1017 unrest. Learning more about the compelling issues has radicalized my way of thinking.

UP Must-Haves
There are certain things, not necessarily expensive, that immeasurably enhance the quality of life in UP. Not having such is liken to going to the beach and not getting wet.

Hammock - the Philippines is a hot, humid and tropical place. The most inviting thing to do after a hearty lunch is an afternoon nap under a shady tree. Hammock time!!!

Bike - this is indispensable. Everything in UP and its outskirts is bikeable - from building to building, from UP to Sarah's for that pint of beer, or simply shooting the breeze. There is poetry in feeling the wind in your face as you glide and cut through the wind along the tree-lined avenues of the campus. Just find a suitable place to lock it overnight so you can leave it behind. The administration should really encourage this by providing bike parking and closing the academic oval permanently to motorized vehicles.

Dorm - ok, this one's not that easy, but imagine being able to shower after your PE class before your French class...or taking a nap on a real bed after lunch. Priceless!

Within that time, a lot of things happened that sharpened my insight on human behavior, mine included. I met wolves in sheep's clothing, offering markers (seemingly benign favors that are actually moral IOUs). I was naive accepting, thinking it was an altruistic act of goodwill. I got the shock of my life when payback was suddenly not asked, but demanded. Let's just say I didn't see it coming. Worse, benefactors may actually think they already own you once you accept a favor. Saying 'no' is to be 'persona non-grata'. In the Pinoy utang-na-loob landscape (debt of gratitude), I've come to regard favors as land mines. Moral? There's no such thing as a free meal.

Ending Thoughts
UP is so much better the second time around. When I was a regular student back in the day, I was in a rush to get my degree and move on. Now that I have time on my hands, I was able to enroll in the courses I've always wanted but was too hurried (then) to be bothered with. Now, I'm here for the pure pleasure of learning...not to make the grade. It's day and night by comparison.

As good as UP has treated me, the time has come to move on. In the way a path was paved for me to leave Toronto and go to Manila, another path to the north has opened up for me to pursue. It's time to load my backpack, follow the path, and be ready for the challenges that lie ahead.

All my life, notwithstanding the security of an 8 to 5 job, a house on the burbs, white picket fences and mowing the lawn on weekends, I have long craved for a life of nomadic experience the freedom exercised by maverick and intrepid adventurers I've crossed paths along the way. In a way, I already have and continue to do so, sometimes at a price. Moral? Careful what you ask may actually get it.

--- TheLoneRider

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