Just a nice article I got in my email. Thought I'd pose it here.
First published 6 June 2008
The Manila Standard Today
maya baltazar herrera
The value of the UP Experience
There are no children here
This week, I went to a meeting at the UP School of Economics and I
came away with renewed belief in the value of the UP experience.
If you speak to anyone from UP – student, professor, alumnus - you
will get no Latin slogans or apologies about how the school teaches
values in spite
of its outward materialism. This is not a student population that
thinks about basketball games or memorizes school songs. This is not
a school that
chooses one statement to drill into the minds of its students.
This is not, of course, to say that UP does not care about values.
It is that UP, in its own inimitable , believes that values
cannot be force-fed.
The statue of the naked man that guards the entrance to the campus
in Diliman best represents UP's approach to all education and the
respect for students that is the center of its educational
philosophy. All who come to this university, regardless of origin,
bring themselves naked, carrying nothing but their thirst; like the
proverbial empty teacup, making an offering of self, waiting to be
For many students from private schools, the first lesson that is
learned here is that this is a school for adult education. There are
no children here, and that is why no parents are allowed either at
freshman orientation or during enlistment.
The spirit of the oblation lies not in a mother or a father offering
up hischild to the world, it is that of the newly adult, freely
offering of his self.
I remember quite vividly that moment that drove home how different
the UP education continues to be. It was my daughter's first
semester in university and she had invited a group of her high
school friends to our house. One of them asked a classmate whether
she had gotten her parents permission form approved for that
weekend's outreach activity. From the UP population around the table
came the mock horrified responses of: "Permission? " and "Outreach?"
I thought about it and realized that all of these students were, in
fact, legally adults. I thought it interesting that only the UP
students appeared to appreciate this fact.
Even more interesting was the "outreach" comment. I think back to my
own university years and the last three years that my daughter has
been in UP and am certain there is no lack of civic activity. There
are medical missions, house building projects, tree planting,
community work and barrio work and so on. I realize now that the
reaction was not to the activity as much as it was to the use of the
One of the most important differences of the UP campus from all the
other campuses my children considered going to is that this campus
has no walls. Many parents fear this. They are afraid their precious
children will not be protected from the ills of society in a campus
that is so open to the rest of the world.
But UP is open to the world in more ways than just not having the
Being in UP means much more than being a student. This campus is
enmeshed in a community. This community is made up not only of the
transient population of students who go home each night. It includes
the many, many students who lay their heads on dorm pillows each
night, enduring time away from families in the firm belief that this
campus will bring them closer to their dreams. This community
includes the families of faculty and employees who live on campus.
It also includes the many people who work not for the University,
but nevertheless work on campus. This community includes the lady
who remembers the brand of cigarette you smoke and automatically
hands it to you in the morning. It includes the gentleman who
remembers you like pepper on your egg sandwich or the one who knows
you will dip your fish balls into two of his sauces, who patiently
waits for you to eat your three sticks before being paid. It
includes the woman who saw all her children through college by
selling peanuts every day on campus.
To a UP student, the daily heartbeat of the school is never far away
from the realities of the country. The word outreach suggests that
civic activity is something outside of the normal, something you do
once in a while. It must be immensely difficult to think of
community as a thing apart when your campus experience brings you
face to face with all of the world's realities every day.
All of this probably explains that unmistakable sense of self that
you will find from students who come from this campus.
Here is a campus where all have the same opportunities to learn. But
also, here is a campus that will give all the same opportunities to
fail. There are no guidance counsellors who will chase after you
because you have been skipping classes. The attitude this university
takes is that you must take the initiative – for learning, for
seeking help, for realizing you need help.
That is not to say that no help exists. But it is help that is not
forced upon you.
This is a university rich in both introspection and conversation. On
this campus, the student is constantly exposed to people – faculty,
administrators, community members, other students – who care deeply
and passionately about the world. The conversations are almost never
purely cerebral. A single graph can provoke comments about
government policy and its effects on people.
As a result, UP is home to a student population that looks at the
world and cares. It is easy to see pictures of protesting students
and dismiss it as radicalism. But there are few campuses in this
country where students go beyond a passing curiosity about what is
happening in the world beyond their own lives. There are even fewer
universities where students not only care but also actually believe
they have a responsibility to make a difference – not in some hazy
future – today.
And that, I believe, is what truly forges character. Character is
not molded by speeches or long classes in ethics or theology.
Character grows from within. It begins by being handed the keys to
your own self and being told you are in charge; you now have power
over yourself and your own actions – and with that power, you take
Each student in this university goes through his own unique voyage
of discovery. On his voyage, as he decides what he cares about, what
he will fight for and what he will sacrifice, he crafts his own
personal values. That is what education is truly about.