Dressing UP

The University of the Philippines is often said to be a microcosm of the country. The universityʼs academic community comprises people from every corner of the Philippines and from different strata of society, holding different beliefs and opinions.

The characteristic diversity of UP notably extends even to fashion. A day in UP Diliman— the biggest of UPʼs campuses and the seat of its administration—will reveal that the clothes UP students wear reflect the variety for which this institution has gained renown.

Arguably the most famous look people rock in UP is the laid-back scholar. A statement shirt, decent jeans (or even shorts) and a sturdy pair of flip-flops, and youʼre ready to go to school. This look is especially popular among dormitory dwellers, whose classrooms are often just a stoneʼs throw away from their beds. Such a get-up is perfectly fine in UP, where, it has been quipped, itʼs OK to go to class in your underwear as long as you ace your tests.

UP Oblation

Image Source : wikimedia.org

There is a look that is even more unique to the University of the Philippines. Call it the tibak look—tibak being UP slang for “activist,” which many UP students are. The liberal culture of the university is a time-honored one, and enjoyed its peak during the Marcos regime, when students joined and even led the opposition to the regime. Todayʼs tibak sports a rugged ensemble—a tie-dyed shirt, baggy jeans, frazzled hair, Marlboro Lights. Many of them spend the bulk of their time in the streets, participating in rallies and demonstrations. The tibak get-up, therefore, is incomplete without a placard of protest, a forehead damp with sweat and a voice hoarse from an entire day spent screaming.

UP students and faculty will readily admit that the tibak culture has, in recent years, faded, and with it its identifying look. With the steady stream of well-to-do youth entering the university, a new trend is slowly gaining momentum: the iskolar-fashionista. Marked by odd Italian names such as Vuitton and Gucci, this look is especially popular at the eastern end of the Academic Oval. UP students rocking this style probably also maintain a subscription to Vogue, Vanity Fair and a host of other high-end magazines.

All these styles mixing and mingling within the university contribute to distinct character. But Coco Chanel once quipped that although fashion fades, style remains the same, and the most enduring style of the university can be seen as one enters UP Diliman through the University Avenue.

In front of the imposing administration building stands a man wearing nothing at all, with arms outstretched and self offered to country. The Oblation, a symbol of the spirit of self-sacrifice expected of all UP students, is the enduring trend that the university has, for over a century now, worn with pride and love for the nation.