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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Sunday, August 26, 2012

entry arrow3:25 PM | Silliman is in the Heart

There is a strange predilection among all alumni of Silliman University to think of something specific every time they are confronted with the question bearing the concept of “home.” Regardless of their primary roots—whether they are from Manila or Morocco, Davao or Dubai, Laguna or Los Angeles—whenever you ask them, “Kanus-a man ka mo-pauli? (When are you coming home?),” they invariably know “home” means Dumaguete. I have always found this fascinating.

Then again, it is a strange thing, being a Sillimanian. It is even stranger to consider the loyalty the university seems to demand of us, without protest at our end: we give in to the demand wholeheartedly, like a lover returning to a familiar embrace. Thing is, one learns to love Dumaguete (and Silliman) like the place is second skin.

I asked around what this exactly means, and the following students and alumni tried to help define it. My question was, “What is that one, specific, and tangible thing you love about being a Sillimanian?”

The writer F. Jordan Carnice wrote‎: “Everyone seems to know everyone, regardless of age, course, or batch.” BPO honcho Ian Sobong Malayang stresses out what that means by saying it is about “the sense of kinship and instant connection that you feel when you meet perfect strangers somewhere on the other side of the world and you find out that they’re Sillimanians, too.”

Francis Salvador gives it a name: “I know it’s a bit of cliche, but it’s the Silliman Spirit. It surpasses both time and place. Wherever you go, whatever you do, you feel like you’ve known each other for so long. It brings warmth and an unknown feeling of belongingness. I’ve experienced it countless of times.”

Student Tommy Villegas continues: “Silliman has this culture where people from different backgrounds can just hangout—or tambay—together. It doesn’t matter whether they’re rich, highly academic, a local or foreign student…. Everyone can be friends, add to that the fact that even ang mga sosyal sa Silliman kay mo-try og mga tosinohan or other cheaper places to eat, just to have a good time with friends. Somehow I find it all amazing.”

My cousin from Australia, Louella Moncal-Pineda, weighs in: “I love the amphitheatre, the dorms where I once stayed whilst there, the cafeteria, the T-rooms—now gone, I suppose, the Silliman Church. Also the friends, the classmates, the colleagues I once knew. My diploma, and of course my husband whom I met in Silliman. All these gave me the right to be called a Sillimanian and I take pride in that. Outside of these tangible stuff, it is the spirit that no matter who you have become and no matter where you are, make us stand equal with fellow Sillimanians.”

Emmanuel Fiel Dela Cruz thinks hard about it: “Maybe I’m not that rich or famous. Maybe I’m not the handsomest guy in the crowd—but I’m a Sillimanian. The coolest term I know.”

That Silliman Spirit, for Mae Anne Yee, can translate to something useful in the real world: “One specific and tangible thing I love about being a Sillimanian is my diploma. I remember how wonderful the feeling was, when I was still applying for jobs, and I held out my diploma—and when they see ‘Silliman University’ on it, they give you that grin of admiration and say, ‘So you are a Sillimanian, huh?’ Wonderful!’ I always got hired.”

For Guam-based marine biologist Laurie Raymundo, that whole thing is the sense of being part of a community. From Hong Kong, writer Heda Bayron writes: “It’s the lasting personal connections. I spent only four years in Silliman. I don’t see my high school batch mates often, but when we do, it’s like we just pick up where we left. It’s amazing. You just belong.” Marvin Luther Tan agrees: “I love the fellowship with Sillimanians as you meet them anywhere. Bisan first time pa mo nagka-meet, you can share lots of common things.”

Perhaps that sense of community is shaped for the most part by the environment in campus, and Zara Dy muses: “I guess it has something to do with the rich history that permeates through the Silliman air that we breathe on campus. It could be illustrious, notorious, undocumented, forgotten (to all but one)—the magic lies in the fact that anyone who has spent time in the campus can claim such history because, not only does Silliman willingly indulge the searcher with great stories, the environment allows you to weave beautiful ones of your own. Silliman becomes, not just a school, it’s a lifestyle.”

Lifestyle. Being a Sillimanian is a kind of culture—and often that translates to the magnificence of the arts and culture scene on campus. The whole thing, for Paula Bastareche, is a careful balance of culture, academic excellence—and decadence par excellence.

For student and bike enthusiast Emmanuel Rotea Tecson, that means “the countless activities—talks, plays, and other performances, often open and free to the public!” For photographer Darrell Bryan Rosales from Bohol, that means “a chance to perform at the prestigious Claire Isabel Luce Auditorium.” For actor Earnest Hope Tinambacan, it is “the freedom to wear slippers and shorts—and the colorful cultural life.” For Giselle Iris Alano, it is “the freedom that allows us to be whoever we want to be: artists, free-thinkers, bohemians, drunks. Silliman is a breeding ground for cool people because here, we let people be.”

For ABS-CBN regional news anchor Primy Joy Cane, what she loved were the season passes to all the cultural shows. “Man, I wish I could turn back time and attend every show at the Luce. Looking at students from other universities makes me realize how culture-starved most of them are. The infusion of theater, dance and song into a Sillimanian’s university life is what makes us whole. Makasabay sa hinubog nga inom, pero kabalo gihapon mo-appreciate sa music nila Jay Cayuca, Michael Dadap... I miss that so much.”

Divah David-Sabordo sums it up: “Being a Sillimanian makes me feel not any less nor any better than anyone else. The whole experience reminds me to always walk with my feet on the ground but my head in the clouds. Looking back when my parents chose Silliman for me, they could not have any better choice. And I couldn’t be more thankful.” And Jascer Merced agrees: “When I walk around the campus or drive around on my motorcycle everything seems to slow down. There’s something about Silliman that makes you pause for a while and just hear the trees sway.”

I want to end with what songwriter Anna Katrina Espino has to say about what she loves about being a Sillimanian. “The acacia trees. No joke. Walking around the campus at four or five p.m., this gives you that feeling of serenity. Like you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.”


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