What UP traditions, festivals and celebrations do you enjoy/value most and why? Are they unique to UP or to specific campuses of UP? Are there new traditions, festivals, and celebrations in your campus which are now becoming popular among residents in your area?
I have always wondered how it was for the first batch of students in UP Mindanao 22 years ago. In their graduation yearbook, Siugda: Pioneering Batch (2000), the editors described the overwhelming task the 86 pioneering undergraduate students took on when they first set foot on the campus: “Left on our own, we knew we would be unique from the rest of the students, even from the UP students of the [other campuses]. There were no existing organizations. No traditional events. No distinct culture. These essential elements of a university were brought into reality by our innocent hands, as it was our task to turn the University’s dream into reality.”
As the first cohort of UP Mindanao students, their narrative begins with their awkward experiences during Freshmen Orientation. Their uneasiness soon turned into budding friendships as the students held their first bonfire in those first few weeks. This gathering was the precursor for what was later on called “Torch Night,” an annual event that symbolically marked the passing of the torch from the upperclassmen to the freshmen. Torch Night eventually featured a contest among the students of the different degree programs for the torch with the best design.
Friendly competition also highlighted the first Freshmen Night, with some students vying to be crowned Mr. and Ms. Freshmen Night. This event in later years became the Search for the Ultimate Isko/Iska, with students from the various programs fiercely contending for the title.
Other university events that continued from that first year to the present include the annual sports festival dubbed “Dula,” and the Christmas celebrations called “Kasadya.” The latter includes the “Parolan,” UP Mindanao’s version of the Lantern Parade, which draws entries from other government and non-government organizations competing for prizes and bragging rights.
With these events developing into intense contests, I wonder if these practices of socialization in the university could be conceived in other ways.
But then there are the annual concerts put up by the university’s resident companies—the Dance Ensemble and the Koro Kantahanay—as well as yearly events put up by the different course organizations like the senior Creative Writing majors’ culminating performance called “Sinews of Syllables” and the Dugong Anthro’s “Deviance Day” that elicits puzzled looks from the neighboring communities for the bizarrely-dressed student participants. And there is the Alpha Phi Omega-UP Mindanao chapter’s version of the Oblation Run which has gained some mileage from local media’s coverage of the event.
So, from the 86 pioneering students in 1996 to the peak in student population at 1,234 in 2015, a distinct UP Mindanao culture has evolved. But over the K-12 transition years, with no incoming freshmen for two straight school years, student leaders have had to redefine the celebration of Freshmen Night and Torch Night with no freshmen around. By the first semester of 2019, with only the sophomores and incoming freshmen around, I wonder what traditional rites of passage will be kept and what new rituals will be devised by the coming batches of UP Mindanao students.