UK-based UP alumni reminisce student days, form group

By ROSE ECLARINAL, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau, London

Posted at Feb 11 2009 03:01 PM | Updated as of Feb 12 2009 11:40 PM

The first ever get-together of the University of the Philippines (UP) alumni in the United Kingdom (UK) at the Philippine Embassy in London last Saturday, spearheaded by the one of the most distinguished alumnus of UP, ambassador Edgardo Espiritu, opened a plethora of anecdotes on UP life.

Some 120 alumni from UP Diliman, Los Baños, Manila, and Visayas attended the gathering, each one with vivid memory of ikot (the jeepney service at UP campus), oblation run, STFAP, lantern parade, Philippine Collegian (Kule) among many others.

 "I think my best memory in UP would be writing for the Philippine Collegian. Most of the nights, I would stay in Kule office and spend the whole evening discussing so many things. In the morning, we would all go to Rodics and eat there – tapsilog.  At that time, one of our editors was Richard Gappi and he really was a brilliant guy, but he was such a loser in Math 1 that freshmen like us would take turns mocking him since he could not pass the subject,” said Nelson Turgo, a postdoctoral student in Sociology at Cardiff University in Wales.

 “During our time, ikot ride was free and it was only 50 cents from UP (Diliman) to Quiapo,” said the ambassador’s wife Lydia Espiritu, who studied in UP during the 50’s and an alumnae of UP College of Social Work and Community Development.

 “Being in UP and in both activist orgs (the Philippine Collegian and the University Student Council) during my formative years shaped who I am and what I do today. I think being in UP was not just an academic experience, but a humanizing one. I learned 'how to be person' there, so to speak. UP gave me the space and the inspiration to dream of a better future for our country. I'm guessing I speak for many UP alumni when I say that after leaving UP, I continue to try to search for how this dream can take shape, said Lourdes Gordolan who is now affiliated as a Research Associate at COMPAS in Oxford.

 A short self-introduction was required of the attendees to include information about their work affiliation in the UK and the degree they earned from UP but UP student number was optional.

 Many, if not all preferred not to reveal their student numbers as it was tantamount to revealing their age. The first two numbers of the UP student number starts with the year students entered UP.

 The attendees roared into laughter when Deo Reyes, Philippine Embassy’s Commercial Counselor explained that during his UP days, student numbers were not yet part of UP system. The issuance of student numbers for students enrolling at UP came much later.

 A core group was installed to work on the University of the Philippines Alumni Association’s (UPAA) UK chapter accreditation.

 “There is no UPAA in Europe and I think London is a best place to start one. Basically, it’s being able to organize ourselves to be able to help our former university. I’m sure there are a lot of alumni in Europe who are willing to help our alma mater. It’s tapping the potential of these people to help back home,” said Desiree Latimer, a UP alumnae who is one of the organizers of the get-together.

 “Ito kasing proyektong pag-organise ng meeting ng UP alumni ay kasama na sa proyektong magkaroon ng linkages ang Filipino dito sa United Kingdom. Umpisa pa lang itong UP. We also encourage graduates of other universities to from a group, not only for social networking but also for professional networking and hopefully to participate in other Filipino activities in the future,” explained Theresa Dizon-De Vega,  UP alumnae and now Minister and Consul General of the Philippine Embassy in London.

 At its nascent stage, De Vega is confident the formation of a UPAA chapter in the UK will be beneficial for various Filipino communities here.

 “Yun po ang inaasahan naming dito sa embahada na itong paunang pagtitipon magbubunga ng mga scholarship program, tulong sa ating unibersidad, para rin makatulong sa ating community sa UK,” said De Vega.

 Before the attendees broke off for a ‘salu- salo’ Pinoy-style, the UP hymn, ‘UP Naming Mahal’ was sang.

UP alumni who are officials of the embassy will act as UPAA-UK chapter adviser: First Secretary and Consul Neil Frank Ferrer; Second Secretary and Consul Maria Theresa Lazaro; Deputy Chief of Mission Rey Catapang and Ambassador Edgardo Espiritu who was one time UPAA president