Postcard from Diliman
by Karla Bernardo
The familiar shades of green and gray welcomed me as the jeep took a right to the Acad Oval that I have always called my own. The sun said hello in between the leaves’ shadows that hit my legs, and it was as comforting as always. Despite the frantic rush that this campus thrives in every day, there is always a quiet reassurance that greets me once I catch a glimpse of its lush trees and its people. This was how it felt like when I was a soon-to-be freshman. And this is the way it has been since, myself looking on with much calm as the greenness of the university embraces me.
It is ironic that it should be this way, given that the last four years have been nothing but maddening. My spirits have been defeated, crushed, and trampled in every imaginable way—from having a paper thrown at my face to losing friends in a sea of hostility. It was nothing like the experience I’d had in my head all those years in my life before my name appeared on the list that everyone hoped to be on. As a kid, I grew up seeing UP only through the eyes of others—those who had walked the same halls, held the same fears, sought the same dream. It seemed perfect and ideal. But it was not yet real. Only much later would I realize that the allure came not from its faultlessness but from its sharp edges.
I ride this jeep and I look at these trees and buildings, and things are different. UP is no rapture, no dreamland. It has no place for easiness, no time for apathy. Once you step into its halls, the solid ground you are standing on is pulled out from under you and you lose a part of yourself you’ve always thought secure. But UP stirs you to realization—it agitates you so you can straighten out, it unnerves you so you can reconcile. It has certainly made me question my own beliefs, my own thoughts, my own ideals. But it led me to answers I wouldn’t have found anywhere else.
Within its space, stories have been told, friends made, interests shared and questions raised. I began as a stranger overwhelmed by its daunting brusqueness, but am now more like a friend endeared by its complexities. Amidst the hubbub of every day, I have learned to see the colors hiding beneath the blacks and whites, to hear the silences between the noise—the small but powerful silences, the almost unnoticeable and quiet pauses that we often ignore but so evidently piece together the bigger moments that make up the days of our lives. This silence can mean so many things: a yes, a no, a refusal, an acceptance. It can spell the difference between giving up and pushing yourself. It can be a powerful weapon or an unforgivable mistake. It can keep you together or pull you apart.
I ride this jeep and I look at these trees and buildings, and they are looking back at me. It has been four years. Four years is not always a long time, but in this case, four years is enough for me to discard the rose-colored glasses and put on better, clearer ones. I have been changed, just as the buildings no longer stand for just bricks and concrete but words and thoughts and dreams and ideals. UP is not the same, just as I no longer am. And I am thankful. Sometimes, I wonder if I can take a slice out of UP and put it in my pocket, carrying all clamor and calm with me wherever I go, if only to comfort myself as the end of college drew closer. Then I look at myself, the shadows of leaves on my legs and the sun hitting my hands and my face, and I realize that even when I go, I will never really leave; even in my goodbye, I will always say hello.
Karla Bernardo, 20, is a new creative writing graduate of the University of the Philippines and an incoming first year student at the UP College of Law.
Though the title says Postcard from Diliman and I am a true blue UP Mindanao student, this essay echoes exactly how I feel about this university who has been my mentor, friend, demon, and home for the past three years.