Friday, March 27, 2009

Last Day of School

Ateneo de Manila University Campus, Loyola Heights Q.C., March 28, 2009, 0945 AM.

I always have the misfortune of having one of the last exam dates on campus. By design or by some cruel joke, my class is always the last to take the exams, and this year is no exception. This is the last day of the school year and the last day of the exam week and I have the last time slot in the finals. By now the campus is almost empty of students and teachers. The hallways which used to be teeming with the noise of close to 12,000 students and faculty are now gone. In their place is the clanging of hammers and cleaning equipment as the maintenance personnel start the grueling ritual of regenerating the school’s facility.

There are now very few vehicles parked in what used to be crowded parking lots. The only distant noise comes from a group of youngsters playing baseball in Loyola’s fields. The JG SOM mall’s food kiosks are being boarded up in anticipation of new concessionaires. The benches are empty except for a young couple oblivious to the change of seasons.

This is the time to remember the old campus—the one I fell in love with when I was a college Freshman 23 summers ago. How times have changed.

In 1986, we only had the old College of Arts and Science and close to 3000 students or about 750 students per batch. Now there are 750 freshmen in the School of Management alone, and the Loyola Campus is now home to close to 12000 students. Back then, if you walk through the Loyola Campus on a Saturday afternoon, there would hardly be a soul there –except for those taking ROTC. That is one bonus of being here on the last day of the school year; it sends you back to simpler times.

But there are still hints of Ateneo’s old charm. The big tree lining the main roads and the Bellarmine Field still unfurls its loose shades. In the last 23 years I’ve seen these trees felled several times by typhoons, but they are still standing today—a testament to their strong roots. Outside on Katipunan Avenue, their brothers have been mercilessly cut and balled by Bayani Fernando’s minions. The C5 road system now cuts across what used to be the sleepy Katipunan Avenue. At least Shakey’s and Tia Maria are still there.

The Blue Eagles Gym and its huge logo have been dwarfed by the many high-rise buildings. At another corner of the campus now lies the Blue Eagle Gym’s grandson—the Moro Lorenzo Center, whose hardwood used to carry the markings of the Golden State Warriors of the NBA.

The baseball and football fields now sport well manicured lawns---in contrast to the summer brown we were used to. These green fields are littered with the blood, guts and tears of so many defeated athletes. The place is also littered with broken hearts and broken promises of so many love that was found and love that was lost. I used to joke to my class that their generation has sex appeal, while my generation had “sex sa field”. Impossible to do now, since there are several condominium units facing the fields.

Forty three minutes go then, then it’s officially summer for me.

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