A Look Back on Good Ol’ UPLB Days

I graduated and left my university almost two years ago now. I lived in Los Baños, Laguna for a good six years, so surely it will always be a place with lots of memories to look back to. Los Baños, or Elbi as we call it, has been and always will be my second true home.

This Saturday, I will be going back to spend a day and a night there. And the thought of it makes me reminisce about the good ol’ days when I was a student of UP Los Baños.

My year as a graduating student was perhaps the best time of my college life. It was busy, with most days filled with anxiousness on finishing my practicum manuscript on time while fulfilling other major course requirements. I am happy I pulled through all those rather smoothly.

And this was how I did it. I recount here my daily routine as a graduating student in Elbi.

1. I would wake up at 4:30 AM and go out for a jog. My apartment was a short distance to the university campus. UP Los Baños was not only a good place for the brain but also for the body. I would always find fellow joggers at UPLB Freedom Park, a rectangular field about 1.4km in length. There were only a handful at 5 AM, and then shot up around 6. I would finish my rounds at 6 or 6:30, depending on how much drive I had on that day. I usually finished five to seven rounds of alternate jogging and walking. After jogging, I would spot a vacant concrete bench, usually the one nearest the big tree in front of the Student Union (SU) building, and sit for a while so I could breathe in the fresh morning breeze and just watch the surroundings. On that spot, I contemplated on my manuscript, on crushes or on the innocence of the morning. Only a few vehicles ran in the morning. It was only a few hours ’til they overpower the sound of crickets and birds (and cats, every once in a while) once again.

2. After my early morning jog, I would either take a nap or have breakfast at the two big fast food joints. It depended on my mood which one I chose. Mcdonald’s and Jollibee in UPLB had different vibes in them.

I would go to Mcdonald’s with my backpack that contained my yellow pad, laptop and pens. I contemplated, if not writing anything, on my manuscript. Mcdonald’s was students’ haven in UPLB because it was open 24/7 and closer to the campus. I liked to immerse in this environment early in the morning, so I could somehow absorb the scholarly vibe. My usual Mcdonald’s breakfast was a meal of two-piece pancakes and coffee.

I would go to Jollibee when I wanted to just space out. I would get my usual order of breakfast steak and coffee and take a table on the second floor, where I could get a view of Mt. Makiling against the houses and buildings below, and just contemplate. It was a relaxing sight. I didn’t usually bring my manuscript when I came here. There were fewer students, and families and elders were a more frequent sight in the morning. Jollibe, for me, just meant chill.

3. After my breakfast, I would take a bath and prepare for my classes. I didn’t have a full schedule of classes during my last year in college, so I usually had a lot of vacant time to work on my manuscript. When I didn’t have any class, one of my favorite hangouts during the day (there’s a different favorite for the nightly work) was the university library. Thank heavens to whoever championed the improvement of facilities at the library. In my first few years of college, the university had bad air-conditioning and only a few working computers that didn’t have access to the Internet. It used to be one of the worst places to be in when you had research to do but had no other choice but to go there. It was an old building.

Upon my return in the university after a few years of AWOL, I was so delighted to find the library with cool air-conditioning and free Wi-Fi for students! I could stay there for a whole afternoon. It was very conducive to studying and writing my papers. I would grab as many books as I could, lay them on my table beside my laptop and read on. I was productive when I was in the library.

4. If I wasn’t in the library, I would be in IRRI. IRRI (International Rice Research Institute) was another favorite hangout during the day. It’s just a quick jeepney ride from CEAT (College of Engineering and Agro-Industrial Technology). Sometimes, I would even walk the whole way. The road from CEAT to IRRI is lined with trees and your surrounding is painted by nature. It was another refreshing activity for the mind and body (I looove IRRI). Another thing I love about IRRI is the good food. Sooo good! And when I say good, I mean healthy. IRRI specializes in agricultural research, focusing on rice and food security. Its cafeteria serves various dishes of meat and vegetables in different cuisines. Not only that, meals are also reasonably priced–very affordable for a poor student like me!

After finishing my meal (or meals if I was super hungry) and bussing my table, I would transfer to the café next door, where coffee and pastries were also affordable, with an added bonus of pleasant surroundings. A pond with a cute resident turtle at the back. A small garden on the side. And a larger field at the front. The café was where I either wrote my manuscript or just doodled on my journal.

5. Another favorite daytime hangout was Bon Appetea at UPLB Grove. Their “Love Potion No. 9” milk tea was my favorite. Surely it was a mysterious potion that made me fell in love with it. I forgot if number 9 meant anything–all I knew was that it had some oreo and milk in it. Because the place had free and fast Wi-Fi, it was another place I could hang around and bury myself in my manuscript for a long period of time.

6. In the afternoon, I loved taking a walk and going on a street food trip! My favorite street snacks were kwek-kwek (battered quail eggs) right outside the campus and proben (fried proventriculus) along Ruby St. in Raymundo. Super Cup’s milk tea was a super thirst-quencher. An afternoon walk was also a good time to refresh my soul by spending it with a friend. I usually called up my “Rumey” – an old roomie when I used to share an apartment with friends.

7. At night, my top and all-time favorite hangout was Coffee Blends, a modest café farther out UPLB Grove. They opened at around 6 PM, and I often came on time. Then, I would spend the rest of the night there, working on my manuscript or just daydreaming, while sipping on my favorite brewed coffee.

What I loved about Coffee Blends was that it’s a simple place, nothing fancy. Small tables, painted wooden chairs that looked more appropriate for kindergarten, no Wi-Fi. Even so, I still loved spending time here.

Maybe because food and coffee were cheap? I usually ordered brewed coffee for Php50 (Php75 if with a refill) and burrito for Php60 if memory serves me right. They also had pasta dishes and toast at about the same price.

Or maybe because of the ambience? Coffee Blends had ambient lighting, complemented by the tuneful songs they play. It was also rarely noisy here. I guess that helped inspire my creativity and emotions.

Or maybe because the service was good? The beautiful owners managed the café themselves. Although quite shy, they were always attentive and graceful.

Or maybe it was all of the above that made me love Coffee Blends so much. Like I often say, the best coffee places have no need to offer free Wi-Fi!

***

There are many other places and activities that I remember and miss in Elbi. For now, these are what immediately came to mind and made me want to write. Tomorrow, I’ll be on my way to Elbi. While I’m aware that there have been a lot of changes while I was gone, I still hope to find these old places again and relive my college days.

See you in a bit, my dear Elbi! ❤️

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