Words and Art by: Gabriel Estrera and Alyssa Seane Plata
For the first time in more than 2 years, Ikot jeepneys are making the rounds again, sidewalks are being cleared of moss, and the UP Diliman campus is brimming with life. Overwhelmed freshmen and seniors alike are scrambling from building to building as they rush to their classes on a scorching hot afternoon. Yet at the heart of the hustle and bustle of onsite activities, one thing has become unequivocally clear—the UP Diliman community has embraced this new normal with open arms.
In line with Memorandum No. 2022-171 of the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs (OVPAA), all undergraduate courses are required to return to regular protocols and shift back to the onsite set-up. In fact, the OVPAA declared that “at least 50%” of classes must be implemented in a face-to-face “learning-centered context” for this semester, signaling the slow yet certain end to the pandemic.
With new policies set in place, classrooms ready to be filled up, and professors prepared to welcome an eclectic student body, a single question comes to mind—How exactly is the UP Diliman community faring after two years of being deprived of the school campus?
Beginnings and Endings
As seniors brace for the end of their college days and freshmen welcome a new chapter in their lives, their lived experiences could not be any more different. However, in a post-pandemic UP, they have more in common than expected.
Iris Dipalac, a freshman from the College of Science, discovered a reinvigorated sense of independence in her journey back to the campus. As a permanent resident of Calamba, Laguna, Dipalac had to adjust to living away from her family all while braving the rigors of college life.
“Coming back to F2F, I had to move far from home and start living near the campus. I've begun living more independently as I learn to be more accountable for the time and money I spend every day,” she said in an interview with our team.
“Lectures themselves are easier to absorb because I see them in person.… It's tiring, but unlike online classes, it isn't draining. Because I see other people around me engaged in their studies, I also feel motivated to do my best.”
With a conducive learning environment and a community of peers by her side, Dipalac is outspoken in her appreciation for the shift back to the physical classroom.
Likewise, Jacob Estrera from the College of Tourism shared the same sentiments. Being in his senior year in the university, he believed the physical burdens of onsite classes to be a small price to pay for what he calls “the [complete] college experience.”
In the pre-pandemic set-up, Jacob experienced a semester of connecting with peers from various walks-of-life, frequent food trips along Area 2, and milestones such as UAAP games and UP Fair—moments he coined as “...the stuff coming-of-age movies are made of.” Feeling lonely and shackled by the constraints of virtual learning, he longed to return to the campus to experience those same moments once more. “Why choose to sit in front of a screen all day, when the lively UPD community is right outside my doorstep?” he asked, candidly.
With various members of the student body drawing life from the physicality of face-to-face classes, there is no question that it is here, within the confines of the four walls of the classroom, that students receive the college experience they so rightly deserve.
Happiness in a Full Classroom
In adjusting to the threats of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no doubt that educators bore the real costs of the educational crisis that plagued our country. Years of virtual examinations, zoom class sessions, and social distancing have only led to a diminished sense of motivation for both students and teachers alike. Yet with things slowly going back to the way they once were, teachers seem to be experiencing a newfound sense of joy and fulfillment.
Professor Emilio Ozaeta from the UP College of Architecture empathizes with this reality, unabashedly sharing his fondness for the day-to-day interactions he has with his students.
“Actually I miss it, because I like to interact with people,” he happily exclaimed in an interview with our team.
”With online kasi, you have this distance. You’re seeing each other, pero the fact that you’re looking at a monitor— at little squares—there is this subconscious distancing. Pero pag kaharap mo [sila], you really feel the person’s aura … I missed this, so I’m just so glad we came back to this.”
Enlivened by the camaraderie he fosters with his students, Prof. Ozaeta sees the return to face-to-face classes as an opportunity to develop a sense of community in the classroom.
Similarly, Prof. Zyra Brebante from the College of Human Kinetics echoes these sentiments: “For classes like mine, which is Fitness dance, mas masaya talaga na face-to-face. Kasi you can see the energy within the students and talagang personalized ang experience for them.”
Despite such a positive outlook, she was quick to pinpoint significant drawbacks such as the “unfamiliarity of newly established guidelines” and “a noticeable lack of classrooms” that made adjusting to the new normal much more difficult for her and her colleagues.
“Gayunpaman, kahit na mahirap, I am still happy that face-to-face classes have started again kasi the joy of teaching is different talaga and my commitment to my craft is at its strongest.”
There is no doubt that while face-to-face classes have reignited a long debilitated passion for most educators, some colleges have had trouble accommodating the sudden influx of students and faculty. However, the prevailing attitude among UP professors is one of appreciation and relief. The return to face-to-face classes has made campus experiences all the more meaningful, and this is something we must fight for and preserve.
The Light at the End of the Tunnel
After years of social isolation, mask-wearing, and remote learning, the excitement in the air is palpable and the anticipation felt by all is unlike any other. A myriad of feelings is abuzz around the entire student body, being both curious and anxious to embark on the semester to come.
Makakahanap na ba akong jowa sa wakas? Mababait kaya Profs namin? Mukhang terror ‘tong isang prof ko ah! Tara, tikman natin sisig sa A2! Thesis szn na… Hep aral muna bago landi!
And yet, amidst the chaos and confusion, the students were alive with feelings of relief as they welcomed the complete college experience they envisioned. Professors and staff were able to rekindle a once enfeebling appreciation for their craft, being finally able to do what they loved in a setting appropriate to their work, and with students who were eager to learn.
Amidst the disadvantages that came with the sudden shift to the new normal, moving forward in spite of fears of the virus has single handedly breathed life back into the UP community. With once impossible dreams of setting foot back on campus now diminishing into an afterthought, study halls continue to resonate with students’ laughter, classrooms are stirring with nuggets of wisdom, and the physical charms of UPD have returned with full force. University life despite its difficulties has never looked more appealing, and although things may never return to what they once were pre-pandemic, this new normal is an experience that will forever be cherished by those with the fortitude to preserve it.