Go, went… but not gone

An essay that I submitted but wasn’t published. 😉

If only I could go back, I would want to be a Tamaraw again.

The first time I sat on the cold cement of the freedom park, that third box of tree on the center, I told myself, this is going to be my spot.

We create our own bittersweet memories, and we can say that each of us has their own ‘freedom park’ story. The place may not be as free as what we thought it is, but I guess, it’s called freedom park, because at some point of a Tamaraw life, this is where we ‘freed’ all our happiest and saddest emotion that college life has brought us.

Maybe, at some point, the leaves that grow and fall were the silent witnesses of who we became after years of stay in the University.

Memories, we create it, but not on our own. People around us have been contributing to that collage of memories in our mind. FEU has been the perfect location for those memories to be built, because it is through this place that we finally completed the cast that will have their perfect role in our story.

Who would have thought that, 85 years ago, there is this brilliant person, who would think of building a university? If only I could travel back in time, I would have whispered to his ears, “Hey! Thanks for building FEU!”

Without the ‘cheesiness’ and the ‘nagpapalakas’ thing, I guess, this is where most of the people found their perfect belongingness. No rich or poor, no English slangs and fancy outfits. Wear what you want, speak the language that you are comfortable to, be who you want to be—these characteristics, I believe, can only be done in a ‘home’.

A home for those who were stranded because of the flood in Morayta; a home for the scared to face the reaction of their parents for a failing grade; a home for the victorious laughs of a production-well-done; or a home where you share all your rants and rages in the world, may it be about the manong guard who asked you to open your bag, and with all effort, you opened it even though you’ve got a bunch of props that you are delicately handling, only to find out that he will just touch your bag with their magic stick… without looking.

A home that hones talents through different organizations, a home that teaches Fortitude, Excellence and Uprightness, an 85-year-old home that has been a witness of people who come and go, who takes away and gives back, who lived and died.

A never-ending cycle of growth; it blooms then withers, and blooms again.

First year days are the innocent, competitive, testing period, and the foundation-building years. Through these days, students are too mindful of the policies that every move is in accordance with the Student Handbook.

Competitive in terms of presentations, that even day offs are spent in the freedom park to practice different dance steps for the presentation in P.E, or sabayang pagbigkas fills all corners of FEU (the side of the chapel, scattered around freedom park, pavilion and pavilion extension, under the tree in front of NRH, at the back of the stage, everywhere!) with loud voices, stomping of feet, and hands lift up here and there, for a Filipino Prelim Exam presentation.

It becomes the testing period for every highschooler-turned-kolehiyala who just came for the first time in Manila—alone, to go to different malls that offers different student discount meals. Sometimes, a limited budget would lead to ‘hepa lane’ or ‘kubo’, and other carinderias that [sometimes] serve home cooked meals from yesterday.

More importantly, it builds the foundation of our stay in the University. It builds the friendship that we are going to have in the next semesters to come. It builds a starting point of a relationship with the professors, the guards, the reliance-turned-jammas, the canteen people, the elevator operator, everyone. It is the time that we start to become a part of the community… and all the organizations we can think of and can be a part of, in the University.

Second year days is the realization period. This is the moment when finally, the highschool in us is left in our past as our memory, and the college quality is finally growing little by little. There is now a sudden addition to the responsibilities as a student; they call it “major subjects”.

There is also a realization that a circle of friends cannot be maintained in college life, because not all has the same level of capability to pass the subject. Corridors then become the witnesses of a one-minute-reunion with your friends, when you transfer from one room to another.

There is no circle of friends, but there are circles of friends. You get to be exposed to different people, with different attitude. You tend to realize that college life is a big and a dynamic world to live in and you cannot squeeze yourself into only one world.

As another year adds up and here comes third year. Gone are the days of minor subjects because here comes the major subjects, and the ‘major-like’ (students call this, ‘feeling major’), where bigger responsibilities and bigger eye bags await. This is where the real training starts, and the moment where you’d ask why the professors would give tons of requirements and act as if they are the only subject you are enrolled to.

This is also when the students get to experience a taste of the wisdom fruit, like Adam and Eve; they became aware that they are not wearing any clothes. Same with the students, they became aware that they can actually know and choose what to do and what not to do. Professors refer this as the period of horns and tails—but far from being a real tamaraw.

In this crucial phase of a student life, nothing can beat the exceptional feeling of success once finish line is achieved; because finally, they are going to face the last stage.

There goes the graduating stage—well, my mentor in FEU would always say, you are not officially graduating until you had a touch of that diploma. There’s so much to happen in the last months of this phase. Not because you are a ‘graduating student’, you are going to graduate.

The sound of ‘not going to graduate’ is what freaks every graduating student, so just like a cycle of bloom and wither, they goes back to who they were before: students are too mindful of the policies that every move is in accordance with the Student Handbook—their first year-like days are back. Day offs are again spent in the corridors, libraries, freedom park, not for PE presentations or sabayang pagbigkas but for their thesis and other tons of requirements.

True enough, because this stage can also be attributed as the elimination round. If you don’t fit, you’re out of the game. Either, see you on October, or see you next season [year]!

But then, seriousness and dedication can be found in every corner of the corridors. Zombified can be the best term for these students whose life becomes a routine of going to school and sleeping in the house (sometimes, in other’s house), and where break is their only social life.

Then, the perfect time will tell when the University will let you go. To finally conquer the world, horns up. A Tamaraw will always be a Tamaraw. The years of memories, the years of stay in the freedom park, the years of taste of Tayuman and drinking fountains, the years of come and go, of bloom and wither. It stays, it never ends.

The experiences of friendship, of relationship, of quarrels and restoration, it’s not the CCTVs, but the corridors, the trees, the chapel (where most of the proposals are done), the toilet, the library, were the witnesses. It stays, it never ends.

Once graduated, one phase that most of the students tend to forget is to go back. Among the 10 lepers, only one came back to say thank you to Jesus. It is my chance to go back, I left as a writer, and I’m coming back as alumnae, to write, again.

This is FEU, and this is my story—my memory.

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