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When it was time to choose which university to go to, I didn’t really have much of a choice. My family’s finances drastically narrowed down my options to only two: a state university in the province or a state university in Metro Manila. I opted to pack my bags, leave my hometown, and build a life in the capital. It was a choice I’ve always been thankful for. Much of what I know now, I learned in UP, both inside and outside the classroom.

But one thing I truly enjoyed about the University of the Philippines was the environment. The UP Diliman campus is a completely different world. Every time the jeepney would make it past the welcome sign, I felt like we were driving into another dimension, away from the deafening noise and busy jolt of the city.

In this post, we’re looking at UP Diliman not as an academic institution but as a destination. My friend and UP batchmate Astrid and I return to the campus every year. Even over a decade after graduation, we still find every visit enjoyable. If you’ve never been to UP before, here are some things that you can do!

UP Lantern Parade and UP Fair

If your timing is right, you can witness two of the biggest festivals within the campus. Both the UP Lantern Parade and the UP Fair have long been embedded in the university culture but also attract swarms of visitors.

The UP Lantern Parade happens in December, a week or two before Christmas. The university’s various colleges design and build a giant lantern and parade them along the Academic Oval. During the presentation, which happens behind Quezon Hall, students also perform a quick number to showcase their lanterns.

On the other hand, the UP Fair is an annual 5-day musical fest featuring local bands and performers. It is staged at the Sunken Garden in February, but according to a Rappler report, in the 1970s, it took place in September as a sign of protest against Martial Law. Aside from the music, there are also food stalls and a few rides and attractions that you can enjoy!

Street Food Trip

Street food is an integral part of UP life. Reviews are powered by fishballs and siomai. Org meetings are fueled by kwek-kwek. Friendships are bound by isaw. I have a number of friends who normally refuse to eat street food but have no problem if it’s in UP, primarily because of the regular sanitation checks, something that is absent in most places outside.


Mang Larry’s Isaw is probably the most popular street food place in the campus. It has changed location through the years, but patrons followed it everywhere. It’s a simple food cart, recognizable by the long queue that snakes from it and the numerous cars parked around it. Isaw manok and isaw baboy are the most popular, but atay (liver), balunan (gizzard), and a few others are also available.

If street food isn’t your thing, you can find proper sit-down restaurants within the campus, too.

Maginhawa Food Crawl

Maginhawa Street, the main artery of UP Village and Teacher’s Village, has gone a massive transformation since our student days. Back then, it was relatively quiet, with only a handful of eateries and bars like Tomato Kick, Grill Queen, and Ababu. Today, Maginhawa has evolved into a bona fide foodie paradise, flanked with countless food stalls and restaurants.

Some of the must-try restaurants are CAUTION HOT! Spicy Noodle House, PINO Resto Bar, and FRIULI TRATTORIA. If you want a wider selection of dishes, step into STREAT: Maginhawa Food Park.

Photo Walk

I mean, come on. For starters, the road (University Ave) leading to the entrance, where the Oblation statue welcomes you with arms wide open, is a sight to behold during graduation season because of the blooming sunflowers flanking it. The Oblation statue itself is a celebrity, always ready for photo ops.

The University Academic Oval offers a delightful visual buffet, boasting the old buildings’ architecture and a refreshing acacia canopy. Did you know that Melchor Hall (College of Engineering) is Palma Hall’s (AS) mirror image? Same goes for Benitez Hall (College of Education) and Malcolm Hall (College of Law). Furthermore, the university houses over 30 historical structures, monuments and works of arts.

Contributed by: Asta

Acad Oval Jog

Since the university is “photogenic”, it is but natural that it’s also an encouraging place to get fit and get back into shape. The whole campus ground is jogger-friendly and biker-friendly. The half side of the Academic Oval’s road, for example, is closed to vehicles and is now solely for pedestrians and bikers’ use. The smell of grass and the sight of Acacia trees are so refreshing. I used to spot some celebrities jogging peacefully here.

Contributed by: Asta

Vargas Museum

For art enthusiasts, Vargas Museum is worth a visit. The museum showcases the collections of Mr. Jorge B. Vargas, which he entrusted to the university. These collections include stamps, coins, memorabilia, arts, and books. The notable works of arts that you will see are those of Juan Luna, Fernando Amorsolo, Felix Hidalgo, and Victorio Edades. Vargas Museum also has a bookshop and a café (Museum Café).

Operational Hours: 9 AM – 5 PM (Tuesday – Saturday)
Admission Fee: P30 (general public); P20 (UP students, alumni, faculty, and employees)

Contributed by: Asta

Cine Adarna Film Screenings

Yep. You read it right. The University of the Philippines has its own cinema house, the UP Cine Adarna, located beside the UP Theater and the U.P. Carillon Tower. Aside from the cheaper admission ticket, you can also get a chance to catch screenings of hard-to-find and non-mainstream features, even student short films. UP Cine Adarna is also a choice venue for commencement exercises, recitals, and film festivals usually hosted by film organizations like the UP Cineastes Studio and UP Cinema.

Contributed by: Asta

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