Take a nostalgic UPLB Tour in the forested, cicada-ridden campus. It had only been freshman year for me, yet going back to Elbi brings on the #feels.
A song, in fact, has been written about this phenomenon. It’s called “Take Me Back to Elbi” by Zsaris Mendioro.
Ever since I transferred to Diliman, I’ve always longed to go back for a UPLB Tour for the nostalgia. That is, of staying at a dorm in St. Therese’s Church, writing the Freshie Column at UPLB [P]erspective, battling homesickeness, and finding myself surrounded by some of the brightest minds in the country.
Finally, I was able to return and even go places I haven’t stepped foot on in the campus. Here’s a post dedicated to the second home of a once-transitioning 16-year-old. Let’s go back to Elbi:
UPLB Tour #1 Lower Campus
Imagine yourself as a fresh graduate of high school moving to Laguna alone. Most of your classmates also come from their respective cities and provinces, and they have to stay within campus like it’s one big boarding house. Every morning, you wake up without mom’s breakfast as you head straight to class. And every night, you are free to have unlimited dinners and study periods with friends. Here’s what you campus looks like:
UPLB Main Gate. This mosaic-clad pillars is the most common entry point as you begin your UPLB tour. Elbi’s version of Diliman’s Ikot and Toki are simply called Kaliwa and Kanan, a straightforward way of going clockwise or counter-clockwise around the campus.
Carabao Park. Unless you have a class, it’s best to walk around the campus. C-Park, with carabaos facing all directions, will be the first one to greet you upon the entrance dedicated to the College of Agriculture.
Kwek Tower. Just a few meters is the highly vandalized UPLB Heritage Tower. It’s more commonly called Kwek Tower because of the fire’s shape and color like a Filipino street food kwek-kwek (quail egg wrapped in orange-dyed flour). If you’re looking for text mates (or forgot your umbrella when it rains), simply go beneath the Tower for refuge and resource.
*Oblation Park. Walking farther ahead, you’ll find more buildings dedicated to other colleges such as Human Ecology, Development Communication, Computer Science, and Arts and Sciences. In front of CAS building is where the symbol of University of the Philippines is erected — the Oblation (or simply, Oble) a man with outstretched arms looking up to heaven. It symbolizes man as an offering either to his country; or as the university’s tagline goes, to “Serve the People”.
O-Park is one of the most happening places to see the annual Oblation Run (where naked masked men run and give out flowers to rally an advocacy), various protests from the student government, street jazz performances, and other communal gatherings along its staircases. A famous myth in the UP campuses is that if you take a picture with Oble as an undergrad, you will delay your graduation.
Author’s note: I had a stolen shot with Oble at freshman. But three years later, I graduated on time. Overall, it’s not uncommon or bad to get delayed, really.
Main Library. On the left side of the CAS building is a path leading to the books. It will be hard to miss as another landmark stands there — Pegaraw.
*Pegaraw. It’s a winged tamaraw (Pegasus + tamaraw), which, if my memory serves me right, symbolizes raising the plight of Filipino farmers. Tamaraws are endemic in the Philippines, particularly in Mindoro.
Still enjoying your UPLB tour? Drink more water and we’ll head to the remaining parts of the Lower Campus:
*Mariang Banga. Crossing the bridge to the creek, you’ll find one of the many sculptures of Maria Makiling, whom many of the roads and places are named after. Maria Makiling is believed to be a fairy or forest nymph guarding Mt. Makiling, taking care of its flora and fauna (think Moana‘s Te Fiti!).
The sculpture within the gazebo features her carrying a clay pot (banga). A myth goes that at times she changes the manner in which she holds the pot.
Author’s note: When I first saw Mariang Banga, I remembered her carrying the pot on top of her head, as commonly depicted in Filipino paintings. Upon hearing this myth, I walked by to see her. Only to find out she was actually holding it with her left hand! *creeps*
DL Umali Hall. At the right side of Mariang Banga is the main auditorium that resembles the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Nicanor Abelardo Hall. This is where school plays, concerts, events, and ceremonies are held. As a freshie, I’ve always spent my allowances to watch theater plays.
Thai Pavillon and Nihon Koen Steps. The two attractive landmarks on the auditorium’s right side are a Thai and Japanese shrine. Nihon Koen is erected only 2014, so I never saw it before! Being an agricultural campus, UPLB welcomes a lot of ASEAN and international delegates for conventions, research projects, and seminars.
*Freedom Park. F-Park is similar to Diliman’s Sunken Garden, where you’ll find athletic and leisurely activities alike such as picnics, football trainings, Frisbee throwing, and jogging. There’s also a small Grandstand to take refuge in under the sweltering heat.
Author’s note: A vivid memory is me spending my 17th birthday picnicking on its grounds with balloons and food. In the summer, cotton trees shed and the ground is filled with snow-like leaves. I wish I played Ultimate Frisbee as early as freshman year!
Baker Hall. It is one of the oldest and most historic stops in this UPLB tour. During the Japanese occupation, Baker Hall served as a prison and I think has even endured fire. People believed that an entry point at the backstage leads to a dungeon below going to Freedom Park. Today, it’s the place for indoor PE classes, such as volleyball, badminton, and more. Nope, no bread here.
Carillon Tower. The tallest structure on campus but remains to be useless as it no longer chimes like the Carillon of Diliman. A story was told that the reason the Tower is closed is that a student previously committed suicide here. Angelica Panganiban’s character in the Filipino horror movie White Lady apparently did so.
*Fertility Tree. It’s that sprawling Acacia right beside Carillon Tower. It’s called “fertility” because of the naughty stories of lovers caught in the act here. Not sure if it’s true but they’ve tried installing CCTV cameras here to discourage… nocturnal activities.
UPLB Tour #2 Upper Campus
We’re not yet done with the UPLB Tour! It took me an intentional return after 8 years just to see the other half of the campus! They say that Diliman is the biggest of all University of the Philippines campuses. But when you include this Forestry area of Elbi, you’ll soon find the latter wins.
Museum of Natural History. If you’re a tree-hugger or simply an avid museum enthusiast, visit this museum at the iconic landscape of College of Forestry. You’ll feel more appreciation towards Mt. Makiling’s and the Philippines’ preserved biological and zoological specimens. I’m not quite sure though if they’re now moving the museum to Manila’s Luneta Park.
Admission fee is PHP 20 and it’s open from 8AM – 5PM on weekdays, and 8AM-12NN on Saturdays.
Makiling Botanic Gardens. Another good way to learn more about local plant and animal biodiversity is visiting this educational and recreational facility. Chill and have a picnic over towering trees, the sound of crickets, and the smell of the earth.
Admission fee is PHP 20 and it’s open every 8AM – 4PM.
UPLB Tour #3 Mt. Makiling
Now, let’s start trekking Mt. Makiling. This mountain is more famous for the major climb called MakTrav, or the Makiling Traverse which begins in Sto. Tomas, Batangas, and ends in UPLB. It’s one of the most hardcore hikes near Metro Manila and is known for limatik (blood leeches) during the rainy season as well as the narrow ascent to Melkas Ridge.
Registration fee to the Mt. Makiling trail from UPLB is PHP 10. There is a newly imposed cut-off time for trekkers due to the need to regulate visitors. Mt. Makiling climbers should register before 9AM, Mudsprings hikers until 1PM, and Flatrocks hikers until 2PM. It also closes by 5PM. You are required to leave an ID, so don’t forget to bring one!
Flatrocks. The nearest attraction in the Makiling trail is Flatrocks which diverges from the cemented trail into a the forest side. It’s a short 5-minute hike to an area of river and, yes, flat rocks good for picnics and being one with nature. Please be careful though during the rainy season, as flash floods may happen here.
Mudspring. Since Mt. Makiling is a dormant volcano, it still emits geothermal heat (also a reason why hot springs are famous attractions in Laguna). Mudspring is a sulfuric lake where hot gasses escape the ground.
Mt. Makiling Peak 2. A lot farther than the first two stops is the summit of Mt. Makiling, although the mountain has a third peak. Unfortunately, while MakTrav begins in Sto. Tomas, Batangas, traversing from UPLB is not recommended due to the difficulty of the trail. That’s why leaving an ID is a must at the registration point — to ensure climbers backtrack.
Someday, when I finally summit to Mt. Makiling, I’ll write a separate blog post!
UPLB Tour #4 Things to do at UPLB
Once you finish touring the sprawing campus of Elbi, it’s time to reward yourself with some good food and famous ways to chill and unwind. As a student, studying and staying away from home for 5 days a week was such a comfort because of these activities:
Drink fresh carabao’s milk. A UPLB tour will not be complete without tasting the famous carabao’s milk. Initially, these are being sold at AnSci (Animal Science) building at either Philippine Carabao Center or Dairy Training Research Institute (simply, DTRI). Try their famous choco milk, yogurt, mozzarella cheese, pastillas, ice cream, and kesong puti. Just know that since it’s fresh, it’s best to them consume immediately. A new store called Milka Krema opened right beside Baker Hall.
Eat Papu’s Siomai. For a merienda (afternoon snacks) under the sweltering sun, nothing beats a snack like siomai. Papu’s is commonplace to eat ’em, complete with gulaman.
Enjoy Thursday nights. Because most UPLB students do not come from Laguna, Friday is usually the time for coming home. Thursdays have become the near-weekend gimmick time. That’s the best time to go partying at the sporadic opening of village clubs, most famously, Isis.
Try proven at C. Raymundo. This street food is a deep-fried chicken’s proventriculus wrapped in cornstarch. Beats me what the hell is a proventriculus, just eat it. It’s cheap.
Celebrate your birthday with Mer-nel’s. Or maybe, just any ordinary day. Mer-Nel’s is a homegrown cake house that is famous for their chocolate cake.
Walk all the way to IRRI. For some really cheap ulam and perfectly cooked rice, you can walk all the way to International Rice Research Institute or IRRI. It’s a long walk, but you’re sure to compensate with the food and the view upon arrival. You can also reminisce at the time when the Philippines used to export rather than import rice.
Have you been to Elbi? Share your story or a must-try below! Let’s bring on the #feels.