This month, the Menagerie underwent a mission. We circled the four biggest universities and got the inside information about each school. For this mission, the agents took part in the activities of each university, as if they were the university’s students. To discover what activities and “local norms” were present in a specific university, the assigned agents interviewed the “locals.”
The agents, Jonnah and Betina, were asked to complete this mission and were tasked to make it back to their home ground (DLSU) in five hours. To travel from La Salle, UST, UP-Diliman and AdMU back to Taft in only five hours seemed a bit impossible, however, the agents accepted their assignment.
The Menagerie brings you the almost impossible report on how Jonnah and Betina embarked on their journey to the big four campuses, discovering their cultures, lifestyles and secrets.
Eye of the Tiger, the thrill of the flight
The mission began at 8:30 a.m. Jonnah and Betina embarked with only pens, notebooks, pocket money and a lone camera as they readied themselves for the adventure that was to come. They were lucky enough to get the last two seats to España in an FX parked in front of Tapa King along Taft. A silence took place as they encountered their first obstacle – how to pay the driver.
Jonnah, a girl from Las Piñas and had only basic knowledge of public transportations, and Betina who was used to getting fetched to and from locations was clueless regarding the payment. Even with their lifelines through text – they came up short. They did not know where their stop was or how to pay the driver. Things were looking bleak for the adventurers.
Fate decided to smile upon them as two passengers got off and one came in. Jonnah and Betina observed the new passenger and witnessed the aid to their dilemma. Jonnah summed up the courage to pass out the P20 per person fare to the driver. It took them thirty minutes to land in UST grounds, 9:00 in the morning – they had only four hours and thirty minutes left to spare.
They observed that the UST lifestyle seemed to be slow paced. The students leisurely walked from place to place, wearing different sets of uniforms in accordance with their courses.
They quickly interviewed two Thomasians. They were Krista Ferrero and Celina Lakay, two Special Education majors. Ferrero and Lakay revealed that one had to through the UST arch, as a symbol of pride that they were part of one of the oldest schools in the Philippines. It is a local tradition that one should walk through the arc as a freshman and exit through it as a senior. Jonnah and Betina took part in some of the famed hotspots, as recommended by the girls, such as walking down Lovers’ Lane and satisfying their hunger cravings by indulging in a regular Thomasian eatery, some of which include ‘Love Light’, ‘Mang Tootz’ and ‘Raprap’.
The two decided to keep moving towards their next destination. To fulfill their mission of submerging themselves in Thomasian culture, they passed by the UST Chapel, Santisimo Rosario Parish Church, and Betina made the sign of the cross, which was a necessity since people had the common mistake of doing so in front to the main building. As for the final act as Thomasians, Jonnah and Betina went through the arch in order to feel a genuine sense of Thomasian pride.
Marooned with Maroons
The road to the UP-Diliman was not an easy ride. Hopping on another FX to Philcoa, the agents were more at ease. They were unfamiliar with the location and so the FX driver informed them that they were already at their destination before they knew it. The clock read 11:00 a.m. and time was still ticking with only two hours and thirty minutes left to their mission. Jonnah and Betina were at a standstill as they waited for a jeepney that would bring them to UP.
Eventually they were dropped off at the College of Arts and Letters. They noticed that entering the campus was an easy task, in complete contrast to the highly guarded entrances of DLSU.
The Diliman campus stretched out far and wide with an endless canopy of trees. It was very different from the busy streets of Taft. They hopped on a toki and to search for a local that would give them the inside information on UP-Diliman. They met up with Paula Francisco, a second year BS Architecture student.
She shared that to be an “Isko” for a day, one would have to eat siomai from Ate Vicky’s, ride the Toki and Ikot, see the Oblation Statue, drink the best shakes at Lutong Bahay, have papers photocopied at a ridiculously cheap price, meet Zorro and eat the famed isaw.
While Jonnah and Betina ate the delicious “special siomai” at Ate Vicky’s, Paula described the culture in UP. She explained that to be a UP student, one must learn to think on their feet and be independent.
Shyness and timidity will get anyone lost in the vast campus. She shares that in UP, “There are so many people you will meet, all from different walks of life. You can meet someone who owns cars, or someone whose family earns less than P100, 000 a year. Studying in UP is a humbling experience.”
To witness Architecture students at work, Paula brought them to the Architecture building so they could observe the students prepare for an upcoming event.
The place was filled with students practicing their numbers and busily making props. They seemed very dedicated to their work as they consulted only one another. Their unity and independence reflected in their work.
With the help of another local, Carlos Iñigo, a freshman Landscape Architecture student, the agents headed to the Oblation Statue to take pictures with it. Iñigo shared that there is a local superstition that if one were to take a picture with the oblation, that person would be in risk of academic delay at the said university.
Agent Betina took the risk and had photos taken with it anyway.
The agents then went to UP’s famous Lutong Bahay for fruit shakes costing only P35 each. However, with the mission still at hand, they moved on with only one stop left to go – Ateneo.
Like an Eagle, soaring above the clouds
A sixteen peso jeepney ride later, Jonnah and Betina found themselves on Ateneo grounds. With the help of a few friends inside campus, they found themselves walking to JSEC. They were losing valuable time as they got to the campus at 12:15PM, with only a little more than an hour left to complete the mission.
It was then that they met up with their first local, Laurice Pauline Sta. Maria, a second year AB Interdisciplinary Studies student. She shared with the two that JSEC was ‘JGSOM Student Enterprise Center’, which was an eatery entirely run by students. The eatery and the students seemed very “together” as they were huddled around the tables.
Laurice shares that to be considered an Atenean for a day, one would have to eat at Manang’s, play Frisbee, Monopoly Deal, Pusoy Dos or some other game, or walk from CTC to Bellarmine Hall in ten minutes (which in La Salle terms would translate to something like from South Gate to the tenth floor of Andrew Hall in ten minutes). The activities that she gave out were time consuming, but reflected a kind of kinship among Ateneans.
Jonnah and Betina were then joined by another local: Deborah Victa, a fourth year AB Communications student. She expressed that it was quite difficult to suppress four years worth of experience in Ateneo into a single interview.
That alone says a lot about the culture at Ateneo, the activities and traditions different colleges and organizations have. Victa adds that one should eat at Sin Eatery where one could buy home cooked meals for an affordable price, get attacked by creepy crawlers like higads at Zen Garden and watch concerts of the Company of Ateneo Dancers.
The experiences and cultural activities that Victa shared gave off a sense of “home”. She said that the culture at Ateneo was not “snobbish”. Ateneans were closely bonded with one another – if an Atenean were to converse with another Atenean outside campus, they would recognize their similar Atenean culture sooner or later. All the while, other schools may label them as elitists in a sense because of their familiarity with one another.
A final saying from Victa was that one had to “know your benches”. If one was familiar with the popular teen flick, Mean Girls, the quote “where you sit in the cafeteria is crucial, ‘cause you got everybody there…” comes to mind. There are specific benches for particular groups and so it is very important for an Atenean to not venture into ‘reserved’ benches. Jonnah and Betina went on to the benches of the Ateneo Musicians’ Pool, with the help of Laurice, where they met another local, Christopher Legaspi, a second year Communications Technology Management student. He shared that to be an Atenean, one would be pushed to the best of their abilities, perhaps pertaining to a certain shirt with a statement about loving a certain school more than the other any Lasallian would see on campus any day of the week?
One thing that the three locals agreed on for Jonnah and Betina to do to truly feel a genuine Atenean culture was to meet Ate Alma, who was reportedly the “best and sweetest Xerox lady ever!” The two met her and were greeted with smiles and “Hello, mga pangga”. Jonnah and Betina could not help but smile at her and wish her a good day; the happy energy from Ate Alma catching on with them. At 1:10PM, Jonnah and Betina raced towards the tricycle stop to make it back to home ground.
Home sweet home
A tricycle ride later, Jonnah and Betina dashed towards the Katipunan station of the LRT2. Betina had never ridden the LRT before and so the experience was shocking and unfamiliarfor her.
However, as time passed, Betina realized that commuting via train was not as bad as people had told her it would be. She did learn, however, that when commuting on any form of public transportation, one must allot time for unseen scenarios, and be always cautious, tough and alert at all times. She was grateful for the experience, and running and walking everywhere with Jonnah had made it much easier for her to know what to do. Landing in Recto, they made their way to the Doroteo Jose station to Vito Cruz. By then they realized that they would not be able to make the allotted deadline, as they got on the train at 1:30PM.
Landing back home to DLSU at exactly 1:50PM – five hours and twenty minutes later, their mission felt like a dream.
Comfort zones were breached, new cultures were discovered and diversities were crossed – the exact point of the off the beaten track experience. Jonnah and Betina know that no matter how far they venture from now on, they will always find their way back home.
Status report: Mission accomplished.