By Maria Aniway Espiritu
The University of the Philippines Los Baños campus has always been a second home to its students and faculty. There is somewhat a sense of comfort and belonging to the place when you have lived in it, or have at least visited it once. The beauty of the campus makes the constant pressure in the academic environment more endurable.
Los Baños is also known as a Nature and Science Community. Each person is welcomed by the sign “UP Los Baños” upon the entrance through the campus gate, as the campus is open to everyone. Past the sign, the walkway is lined with tall royal palm trees and grass. Branches of the trees occasionally fall onto the ground. Further down the walkway is a statue of a carabao on top of a gray, rectangular pillar. This area is known as Carabao Park, more commonly known as “C Park.” Trees are planted at the center of wide cement plant boxes where passersby can sit and wait under the shade. Students can also be seen sitting in a circle on the grass, where they conduct meetings.
Standing tall and proud at the heart of the lower campus is the Oblation statue. It is located at the center of several buildings that house the Physical Sciences, Social Sciences, Humanities, and the Office of the University Registrar. Benches are located along the Oblation Park’s stretch of grass.
Near the Physical Sciences building, as you are about to cross Palma bridge, you’ll see what we call the Kapok or cotton tree. Around April, cotton from the tree starts raining down the campus and white round spots scatter on the grass, most especially at the upper grounds of Freedom Park.
At one end of the upper grounds, one can spot the DL Umali Auditorium, with its elegant gray marble exterior and tinted glass windows rising from floor to ceiling. It is one of the larger halls in the campus where cultural displays, such as film showings, theatrical performances, and educational symposiums in the community, take place. Beside it is the entrance to the Sining Makiling Gallery, which usually hosts exhibits and features the work of local artists.
At the lower grounds of this park is the Rizal Centenary Carillon Tower. Beside it rises the Fertility Tree. These two figures are the landmark to this part of Freedom Park, as their beauty stands out from each end of the area. Students from inside and outside the university usually jog around the park. In the afternoon, both the upper and lower grounds would be filled with families and children strolling. Varisities from inside and outside the university would use the grounds to train for football, frisbee, or track and field.
Between the upper and lower grounds of the park is Baker Hall, one of the oldest infrastructures in the campus. It is said to have been a morgue during the Japanese occupation in World War II. Its age is evident in the old architecture of its pillars and windows. Furthermore, legend has it that there is supposedly an underground tunnel that connects Baker Hall to the Carillon Tower. Nearby is a swimming pool that is around 12 feet deep, where instructors usually conduct swimming classes. Next to Baker Hall is the Student Union building where students gather for their extracurricular activities. The amphitheater is a location for student organizations to conduct general assemblies, or meetings.
During this season, leaves in yellow and orange would also start falling gracefully from the trees that surround the buildings and parking spaces on campus. It would seem to be the campus’ own version of autumn. The wind would carry them around and start piling them up at the foot of each building. Most buildings on campus are built and painted with either white or gray exteriors that add to the feel of the academic environment. Any touch of color makes the scenery more relaxing and balances out the feeling of stress with relief.
Behind the Physical Sciences building, there is also what students call the “Edible Garden,” where flowers in a variety of colors thrive. The area is filled with plants that bloom, and vines that spread around the tops of the decor. Sculptures, pottery, and succulents can be seen around the area.
Further up the campus is the College of Forestry, more commonly referred to as the upper campus. It houses the larger area of UPLB. This is mainly because of the needed area for training foresters, who obviously need the lush green trees and brown trunks that dominate the surrounding buildings. It’s certainly the only part in the campus where there are more trees than there are buildings, and first-timers who attend classes here can easily get lost, although getting lost is also part of the journey to discovering more of UPLB and really knowing it as home.
There are more parts of the campus that I didn’t enumerate here: spots where carabaos would roam and block the road, or areas where educational discussions outside classrooms would take place. But let’s leave those to be another reason to visit and discover more what it’s like to be at UPLB. Studying here for three years, I’ve seen the best and the worst of times, but the campus has never failed to be one of the best. It does not only stand out as aesthetically pleasing, but also as a whole other culture that makes up what students call “home,” and which has cultivated all of us here as people of honor and excellence.