The UP Cinematic Universe
by Janine Liwanag
Note: Names of some interviewees have been changed for anonymity.
Representation in film and TV has become a highly significant issue as the content we consume all serve as representations of different people, places, objects, and more. When it comes to universities, Ivy League schools have often been mentioned or used as settings in Western media, with hits like Legally Blonde (2001) in Harvard, A Cinderella Story (2004) in Princeton, and Gilmore Girls (2000–2007) in Yale. There’s even an article by Christion Zappley entitled “Yale in Popular Media” which explores how Yale is portrayed and stereotyped in film and TV. While the university is shown to be highly prestigious, it reaches the point of exclusivity, often catering to the rich. Beyond it being a liberal arts school that serves as an intellectual space for students, it is stereotyped as “unattainable.”
In our country, the University of the Philippines (UP), as the Philippines’ national university, has been the setting of numerous Filipino films over the past century. From Marvin and Jolina to LizQuen, we’ve seen different takes on the university and its students. As we celebrate UP’s 114th founding anniversary last June 18, let’s take a look at the portrayal of UP and its community in six Filipino films. Aside from watching these films myself, I also reached out to viewers inside and outside of UP to discuss their impact.
1. Labs Kita… Okey Ka Lang? (1998)
This iconic rom-com is a hit among ’90s and ’00s kids with the classic best friends-to-lovers trope, and one of its screenwriters is Ricky Lee, who was an AB English major at UP Diliman and recently named as a National Artist for Literature. Labs Kita… Okey ka Lang? follows two new UP Baguio students who grew up together and live next to each other, and is able to give a sneak peek into the diversity of the UP student body. Leads Ned and Bujoy show that UP students don’t only care about academics; Ned chairs the steering committee in charge of the arts competition at the UPB student arts festival, and Bujoy joins the said competition. The film also explores their insecurities which stand in the way of their love and success.
But despite their similarities, there are also ways they differ from each other. Aside from the rich girl-poor boy trope, they also have different study habits as Ned chooses to focus on his music and often relies on Bujoy’s notes. The theme of economic disparities is interesting: Ned’s mother is against his music because she believes he cannot make a living out of it and he will end up exactly like his father who failed to make a career out of music. Meanwhile, Bujoy’s mother is supportive of her sculpting because they’re upper-class and Bujoy doesn’t have to worry about making ends meet. Both UP students, both artists, and yet there are different factors affecting their journeys as student-artists.
However, when asked about whether the film influenced their perceptions of UP, interviewees Troy, a UPM student, and Joey, a non-UP student, both said that it didn’t. According to Troy, “…the setting of the film was not really in your face compared to other movies that mention the place from time to time. I knew it was in UP but it wasn’t an important element to me while watching the film.” Similarly, Joey said, “I think that all sorts of places have their respective Neds and Bujoys.” This is important to consider because although the campus of UP Baguio is beautiful, if the school were different, not much would change. This shows how setting the film in UP was more of a choice of aesthetics rather than characteristics and values of the school and its students.
Labs Kita… Okey Ka Lang? is available to stream on iWant TFC.
2. Dekada ’70 (2002)
Dekada ’70 was based on the 1983 novel by Lualhati Bautista and directed by Chito S. Roño, an alumnus of the UP College of Mass Communication. This film revolves around the Bartolome family during Martial Law, and there’s a scene of a protest at Palma Hall, UP Diliman where eldest son Jules is in the crowd with his best friend. With a sign that says “UP Student Council, Diliman Campus” behind her, Kris Aquino proclaims: “If the university is to discharge its mission to society which is the pursuit of truth and not profit, then the students must be liberated from the oppression of administrative authority.” This is what starts Jules’ lifelong journey as an activist.
UP has a long history of activism. Although the University was only shown in one scene, this scene is impactful as it shows the role of students as citizens of the nation which was made even more important during the Marcos regime, and on the front steps of the historic Palma Hall, no less. However, it is distasteful that Kris Aquino was the chosen mass-leader. I understand the significance of her cameo as her father was the most well-known critic of the Marcos regime, and as a teenager, Kris attended rallies against Marcos after the assassination of her father. However, we must not forget the Mendiola massacre of 1987 where, under the rule of Kris’ mother and former President Corazon Aquino, the state violently dispersed unarmed protesters. And after the release of this film, let us remember the Hacienda Luisita massacre of 2004 and the acts of violence against strikers that occurred on Cojuangco-owned land. Despite it being a “small” role, we must ask: Who is Kris Aquino to lead a protest, even one that is fictional, and represent Filipino activists, when there is so much blood on her family’s hands?
According to viewer Joey, a student outside of UP, Dekada ’70 portrayed UP students as activists and opened their eyes to the kind of struggle college students their age faced during Martial Law. As for mandarinorange, another viewer from a different school, UP in Dekada ’70 was “portrayed as an influential political space versus the Marcos regime,” which she believed “accurately reflects the grassroots movements of the time and how vital they were in toppling the dynasty as many national democratic organizations today still trace their roots back to UP students.” The film only confirmed what she already knew about UP from friends and relatives, and she expounded: “I think it also strongly influences its viewers depending on their beliefs in life — it could either sway you toward the school, or push you violently away.”
Indeed, the scene of a protest at UP Diliman prior to the declaration of Martial Law is short but significant, giving viewers a glimpse into the role of UP and its students during the Marcos regime.
3. Dagitab (2014)
Dagitab is about married couple Jim, a researcher, and Issey, a writer, who teach at UP Diliman and are dissatisfied with their marriage and lives. What sets this Cinemalaya 2014 entry apart from the rest of the films on this list is that it focuses on professors rather than students. A mix of drama and fantasy, this film discusses the problems of middle-aged adults in the academe. It starts out strong with a lightning rally at the graduation ceremony of the College of Arts and Letters, with students chanting: “Iskolar ng bayan, ngayon ay lumalaban. Edukasyon, edukasyon, karapatan ng mamamayan. Artista ng bayan, ngayon ay lumalaban. We are not for sale, education not for sale.” Issey, who is presenting the graduates when she is interrupted, continues her spiel amidst the chants, raising her voice and looking frustrated. This scene surprised viewer and UPM student Moon the most, as she learned that protests such as this were “actually a common occurrence in the university.”
Personally, the scene that struck me the most was an honest conversation the couple had in the car on the way home after a birthday party. Opening up about his fears, Jim says:
“Isipin mo, ang buhay natin sa UP lang umiikot. I’m not complaining, pero minsan lang napapaisip ako … Paano kaya kung naging mas normal tayo? Hindi naman sa extraordinary tayo, hindi ko sinasabi ‘yun, pero I was thinking: We might live extraordinarily if we were more normal.”
Drunk and confused, Issey responds:
“I don’t understand bakit nagpapaka-insecure ka ngayon. Do you think that other people are better than you? When you’re better than they are? Masyado mo kasing dinidibdib ang pagiging matalino mo eh. You’re just so smart eh. That’s why you never left the academe, di ba?”
Throughout the film, Jim is characterized by his research on Bulan that has taken up much of his life. While drinking with friends, one of them describes him as “lubog na lubog sa UP, pa-research-research.” After he completes his research, Issey asks him, “How does it feel to be at the end of your decade-long research?” Jim responds: “Parang may namatay sa loob ko.”
Dagitab shows how the academe can drain the life out of a person as Jim and Issey make mistakes and feel lost in the world. This may not be a problem unique to UP, but the problem may be worsened by bureaucratic processes that make up an institution under the state. As put by Shinichi, who took their master’s degree in UP, the film showed “the same strict UP ran by politics.” However, Shinichi believes that the “views, opinions, and behavior [of the characters] are their own and do not represent UP.” Similarly, the film also did not influence how Chiro Dempsey, who did not study in UP and is now working, views UP as an institution or as a community. In contrast, Moon answered that the film did influence her views of UP in some ways. She said, “The UP students, as well as professors, were shown to be passionate as they continue the fight for justice and truth inside and outside the university.”
Dagitab is a creative take on the UP community which used the setting to its advantage with jogs along the academic oval and a commentary on what it’s like to be in the academe. It tackles the pitfalls of making one’s intelligence a personality trait and being too afraid to go outside of one’s comfort zone. However, there are mixed feelings among viewers when it comes to how it represented UP and how it impacted them.
The film is available to stream on YouTube. Director and writer Giancarlo Abrahan graduated from the UP Film Institute in Diliman where he is now a lecturer.
4. 4 Days (2016)
4 Days shows the development of Derek and Mark from roommates to lovers in UP Diliman. Compared to the other films in this list, this film doesn’t explore much of UP beyond its beautiful campus. As viewer Tepi put it, “UP is only used as an aesthetic and mainly the setting for the film.” With silent overhead shots of the academic oval, Carillon Tower, and other school buildings, the film showcases how the campus bears witness to the relationship that grows between the two leads. However, it never goes in-depth on the characteristics of UP as a school and the main characters are hardly fleshed out. The closest we get is a mention of Derek’s ex Sandra who is a member of a political party, but even then, it is never said if she’s also from UP. For Tepi, who is a working student outside of UP, since the film didn’t discuss aspects of UP such as the system or its current issues, “no views nor perceptions were changed after watching.”
Setting the film in UP seems to be a strategic choice as its aesthetic shots of the campus worked to the filmmakers’ advantage. Jay Daco, who also didn’t come from UP, admitted that he watched the film because of its filming location. He said, “I always have high hopes that the film will turn out pretty good whenever it is set in UP.” Both Jay and Tepi described UP as having a peaceful ambiance, which for Jay, encompassed the leads’ relationship, and for Tepi, juxtaposed it.
The lack of exploration of UP as a school aside from just its campus is possibly because the film’s director and writer, Adolfo Alix Jr., did not study nor teach at UP. If the film were filmed in another school with a beautiful campus, I believe that nothing would change. When asked about the characters, Tepi said, “…their character design is kind of generic and [I] can’t relatively say that UP peeps are like that.” The fact that they were UP students had little to do with Derek’s and Mark’s characters. In fact, when Mark brings up Derek’s ex Sandra, Derek says one of the reasons why they broke up was because Sandra was “kind of political.” Studying in a university long known for its students who actively engage in politics largely because of their duty as Iskolar ng Bayan, Derek turns out to be turned off by girls who are “political.” This makes for an interesting, but lackluster, portrayal of UP.
5. I’m Drunk, I Love You (2017)
Director JP Habac, who obtained his film degree from UPD, co-wrote I’m Drunk, I Love You with Giancarlo Abraham. Another film about best friends except they don’t end up as lovers, IDILY is a coming-of-age story about life and unrequited love. Dio and Carson, who are both graduating from UP Diliman in a few days, embark on a road trip to La Union and risk not making it to their graduation ceremony on time. The main themes of the film include drinking and music, showcasing Filipino inuman and gig culture and offering a soundtrack sure to give viewers the feels. As a fan of Ang Bandang Shirley, I particularly like the inclusion of “Tama Na Ang Drama’’ and think it’s a fun coincidence that the band members are also from UP Diliman.
An interesting aspect of the two main characters is that they’re three years delayed, making the most out of the seven-year maximum residency rule of UP. “Seven years” is repeatedly said throughout the film, representing the time they’ve been in UP and the time Carson’s been in love with Dio. In the Philippines where there’s negative stigma around being delayed, Dio and Carson represent delayed students and prove that college isn’t a race. Additionally, while other films in this list show characters living near campus (i.e. Ned and Bujoy growing up in Baguio then going to UPB, Issey and Jim living in Diliman), Carson is a probinsyana from Naga, where the people of her hometown gleefully await her graduation. Along with that, no matter how many times she’s asked by different people (herself included), she has no idea what to do after graduating with her social work degree. This is in contrast to Dio who comes from a long line of UP graduates and plans to continue the family legacy of pursuing law now that he’s done studying film; Dio, who’s rich, doesn’t plan on marching at their graduation ceremony, and dreams of being a successful artist. In that sense, IDILY is similar to Labs Kita… Okey Ka Lang? with the two best friends who’ve lived different lives ending up in UP together.
For DC, an incoming UPD freshman who’s been studying in UP since kinder, she saw Dio’s and Carson’s characters as two common types of people one would meet in UP. She said, “Overall, I think the strength that lies in I’m Drunk, I Love You is how they captured the personalities of UP students.” However, for tree, a non-UP student, she remarked, “I don’t necessarily think there was any intentional messaging on the part of the film re: UP students. I think instead of their characters being intended to represent UP students in any meaningful way, UP was used to say things about the characters.” Regarding the fact that the main characters were delayed, she commented, “The prevailing narrative is still, if you get delayed, it’s because you’re lazy or irresponsible or stupid … But I think the film uses the fact they’re UP kids to offset that or kind of explain the delay, as in, ah UP kasi, mahirap kasi.”
Gabrielle, a UPD student who watched IDILY before entering college, believed that there was not much emphasis on UP as a setting or a factor in the characters’ development. Although the different scenic shots gave the “UP students vibe,” she went on to say, “everything else like the struggle with graduating and beyond are normal young adult/college student experiences that you could also see in other schools.” She agreed that an important part of the film is how it portrays UP as a prestigious institution in “how Carson is honored by her family and hometown as someone who will be graduating from college, tapos UP pa.”
Lastly, GZ, a high school student outside of UP, admitted that going into the film, he already had a stereotype of UP students in mind — “the thrifty but partygoer culture.” He expounded, “As much as portrayals go, I think the characters presented in IDILY weren’t really all-encompassing of the emotional turmoils of being a student in UP, but it did give me more of a ‘culture’ towards it, like the inclinations to indie gigs and bars. I’m Drunk, I Love You reinforced my ‘stereotypes’ of a UP student…”
Indeed, there are numerous ways IDILY portrayed UP and its students even with the few scenes set in campus. From Maginhawa to La Union, its characters were made to represent perhaps not only UP students, but even lost college students from all over the country. A popular film among millennials and Gen Zs, IDILY explores what it means to be delayed both in college and in relationships. The film is available to stream on Netflix.
6. Alone/Together (2019)
Written and directed by Antoinette Jadaone, who studied Film at UP Diliman, Alone/Together centers exes Christine and Raf who meet again after eight years and have to deal with their what-ifs and stirred-up feelings. I remember how so many people talked about this film after teasers were released because of the romantic shots by the Sunken Garden and the fantasy of an Iskolar x Thomasian love story. However, it turned out that the whole flair of the Diliman romance only took up the first fifteen minutes of the film, with the rest of the running time consisting of bad decisions and Liza Soberano crying prettily.
If Carson from IDILY had no idea what to do after graduation, Iska Christine in Alone/Together knew exactly what her goals were and what she had to do to achieve them. After graduating magna cum laude from UP, she was confident that she would reach her dreams without difficulty. Supporting Filipino artists, serving the people — those were it for her. When things don’t go according to plan and she makes a huge mistake by getting involved in a case of employee theft, she starts believing she’s a failure. Throughout the film, other characters and even Christine herself often bring up the fact that she’s from UP, which raises everyone’s expectations of her. After her boss gets caught stealing from the company and flees, she’s scolded by her superior: “You knew your boss was stealing funds tas wala kang sinabi? Wala kang ginawa? Taga-UP ka pa naman! Magna ka pa! Nakakahiya ka.” Eight years later when she opens up to her ex-boyfriend Raf about what happened, she says, “Mabuti naman akong tao, ‘di ba? Magna cum laude, iskolar ng bayan, honor before excellence, matapang, walang takot. Tangina! Anong nangyari sa’kin?” In this way, viewers DC and qtm, the latter of which is a non-UP student, agreed that the film reaffirmed what they knew about how UP upholds honor and excellence as an institution.
Although this film didn’t have “any strong political circumstances driving it as much as Dekada ‘70” as put by mandarinorange, it still sends a political message in its own way. Of course, there’s the lightning rally that accompanied Christine’s graduation ceremony which was one of the “common icons in UP culture” shown in the film according to Gabrielle, along with the stalls near Vinzon’s and Palma Hall. However, what stuck with DC is the famous scene in the beginning where Christine talks about the Spoliarium by Juan Luna. Christine gives a lecture to students in front of the painting, saying, “Our history is tragic, but no matter how tragic the past is, we must not forget. We must never forget. To forget is to deny the present of any significant meaning.” DC explains, “She ends this speech on how we ‘must not forget’ — a phrase commonly heard from and by UP students. With the university being known for its student activism, the phrase ‘never forget’ alludes to Martial Law; how UP students had highly participated against the Marcos regime.”
Aside from Christine’s intelligence, another significant aspect of her character that seems to be largely influenced by her UP education is her passion to serve her country. When she tells her professor Sir Alwyn (played by Nonie Buencamino) that she plans to work abroad, he questions her, saying, “Pera ng Pilipinas ang nagpaaral sa’yo, pagkatapos magtatrabaho ka sa ibang bansa. Dayuhan ang makikinabang sa’yo, sa edukasyon mo.” She responds, “Gusto ko lang mag-gather ng archival experience at institutional systems na wala po rito. Para pagbalik ko, makakatulong ako maapply at maimplement dito. Lahat tayo makikinabang, sir.” When she tells him she’ll apply for a position at a nonprofit organization that focuses on art scholarships for high school students, he says there’s no money there, and she replies that it does not matter because it’s her passion. At the end of the film, a Filipino artist who returns to the Philippines after living in America mentions one of the things she learned from Christine: “Though art is often seen as just a form of self-expression, it should always serve the people whom I belong to.”
Towards the end of the film, Christine visits UPD and sits in on a class taught by Sir Alwyn. He tells his students, “Malaya na raw ang Pilipinas. Pero nakikita naman natin na malaki ang impluwensiya ng mga makapangyarihang bansa tulad ng US sa ating ekonomiya, pulitika, kultura. Ang mga ito ang nagpapanatili ng ating pagiging atrasado bilang lipunan.” This scene is a snapshot of the kind of radical thinking that students learn in UP, although not necessarily always through their professors. Seeing the kind of lectures Sir Alwyn teaches gives us an idea of what principles he’s been able to imbue in Christine during her time as his mentee. There is no doubt that he is one of the reasons she was inspired to give back to her country, especially when taking into consideration their previously mentioned conversation.
Alone/Together also features a lot of key experiences in UP such as the blue book, street food, and Lantern Parade. Bee, a UPM student who watched the film before entering UP, added: “I can see that the filmmakers understood the visual language of an Iskolar ng Bayan. Obviously, Liza’s celebrity-level beauty still shines, but the way she simply dresses, the lack of pomp in the way she carries herself really adds to the UP student image.” Additionally, like IDILY, the film features a song by a band from UPD — the Eraserheads, who also had another one of their songs featured in Labs Kita…Okey Ka Lang? Raf gives Christine a copy of their album Sticker Happy, and she’s shown listening to “Spoliarium ‘’ after mentioning it in her lecture on the painting Spoliarium. Regarding this music choice, GZ remarked, “it also showed me how much UP alumni know and appreciate their roots…”
Another interesting music choice in the film is “Awit ng Kabataan” by Rivermaya playing in the background during the UPD Lantern Parade. The chorus goes: “Ang awit ng kabataan, ang awit ng panahon. Hanggang sa kinabukasan, awitin natin ngayon.” It gives a strong message of the youth uniting to use their voices together for a cause. It’s very fitting as it accompanies a crowd of students enjoying one of the most popular events in UP history where colleges compete with their respective floats made with their own advocacies and themes.
Christine, with her excellence, sincerity, and passion, is a highly complicated character with an arc that has become a point of discussion for viewers. For example, viewer tree confessed that she hated Liza’s character. Although it wasn’t necessarily the film that had influenced her perception of UP, it had been the way people she knew received Liza’s character that had negatively influenced her perception of the school. Regarding Christine, tree said, “I think she was entitled, she didn’t take accountability for her actions, and then just went and wallowed in self-pity, with this idea that she was meant for better things and didn’t deserve to be in a situation she had created for herself and had done nothing to pull herself out of, and all based on a, ‘I’m smart, I’m from UP, I deserve better’ kind of mindset. I think that a lot of people … didn’t question that and really loved the movie — which actually helped me decide I didn’t want to go to UP.” As a disclaimer, she added, “This isn’t to say students in UP think this way or are actually entitled or like Liza’s character — just that it would be very easy to become it if the narratives surrounding your school enable it.”
Overall, there’s a lot to take away from Alone/Together regarding its portrayal of UP and the members of its community — from students to alumni to professors. Christine is only one of the many kinds of UP students one could possibly encounter, as she represents college students not just limited to UP who excel, dream big, and end up disappointed with life after college. As Bee put it, “While it’s not necessarily specific to UP, there’s something about the ‘Iskolar ng Bayan’ adage that compels its students to aim high and dream the impossible.” If you’re interested in watching the film for the first time or rewatching to catch the details you missed before, Alone/Together is available on Netflix.
Although not included in the list, many other films have been filmed in different UP campuses, such as Moral (1982), Mangarap Ka (1995), and Ulan (2019) in Diliman; Kung Mangarap Ka’t Magising (1977) and Sakaling Maging Tayo (2019) in Baguio; and Campus Girls (1995) in Los Baños.
When watching these films, we must acknowledge that setting them in UP was an active choice that the filmmakers made. Whether it’s for aesthetics or historical significance, there’s a reason behind this — it wasn’t random. Often, the directors and/or writers of these films were UP graduates or professors which gave them a certain level of understanding of UP culture, whether it’s the most beautiful spots on campus or the demands of the students. As put by GZ who watched I’m Drunk, I Love You and Alone/Together:
“JP Habac and Antoinette Jadaone, directors of IDILY and A/T respectively, are both students of UP Film, and I do think that these stories are somewhat autobiographical and are a genuine attempt to recreate their own nostalgia. Bilang bahagi ng UP community, or mga alumnay kung partikular tayo, ang mga kwentong ito ay nagmumukhang rendisyon ng kanilang mga alaala ng kanilang panunuluyan sa UP. And as a viewer, their visions are notable and prominent enough for me to associate them with the stereotype I condition myself.”
Another thing to consider when comparing these films is that most of them are coming-of-age stories, which is to be expected since the characters are often twenty-something students still figuring out what they want to do with their lives. Another common genre is romance, with UP campuses being used as the backdrop for the development of relationships between characters. Tepi, who watched 4 Days, even joked that UP was the “third main character,” which actually makes sense as the choice of setting adds a lot to the film with regards to storytelling.
With a list of films showing the beauty of different UP campuses, we must also ask: Do these films showcase the hardships of UP and other negative aspects? Do they play a part in making young viewers want to study in UP? For Gabrielle, who had watched IDILY and A/T prior to entering UPD, the films didn’t influence how she saw UP as it didn’t show anything new to her beyond what she already knew about the school from stories from her family and friends, just like viewer mandarinorange who, in contrast, didn’t go to UP. In fact, Gabrielle was already set on experiencing the things she’d heard for herself to see what she really thought of the university. Regarding the portrayal of UP in film, Gabrielle added: “There’s also the glorification of UP as a top school in the country which I think is testament to the fact that the neoliberal system of education of our country has limited the access to quality education. UP shouldn’t be just a dream for students or a pretty backdrop for different media, the University and its system is proof that the country needs more UPs, better even. Maybe that’s what we should be showing more to people as well.”
When analyzing the films further, there is also a noticeable lack of films set in UP Manila, at least since the 1970s. This may be due to the fact that the majority of courses in UPM are related to the health sciences rather than media and communication, so most graduates work in the health sciences and rarely filmmaking. When comparing UPM to other campuses like Diliman and Los Baños, it is much smaller and relatively less attractive if it were to be used as a film setting. While other campuses have trees and fields, Manila can be characterized by its busy streets and city noise. However, it still has its shining moments with it being in near proximity to historical locations and tourist spots such as Luneta Park, Manila Bay, and the National Museum. Perhaps in a parallel universe, Christine in Alone/Together could be studying BA Philippine Arts in UPM rather than BA Art Studies in UPD. This way, she’d be closer not only to the National Museum where she volunteers, but also to her boyfriend Raf who studies in UST, which is also in Manila. Of course, this would mean we’d lose our iconic scenes set in Sunken Garden, but there’d also be the opportunity for conversations about their dreams in front of the Manila Bay sunset. Not bad, right?
With the lack of films set in UPM, we must consider how this could lessen the visibility of the constituent university. Recently, UPM students have been sharing on social media that people they talk to aren’t even aware that there’s a UP in Manila, often mistaking it for Diliman. This happens despite the fact that UPM is the National Health Sciences Center and was even the first UP campus ever. Additionally, many of the courses in UPM are also less known to the general public. If you say you’re studying Public Health, Behavioral Science, Area Studies, or other courses, most often you’d get asked, “Ano ‘yun?” Perhaps if there were more content about students of these courses in UPM, more people would be able to understand and appreciate what our students are majoring in.
However, despite the focus on health sciences in UP Manila, we must still acknowledge the existence of creatives who graduated from this school. We have Filipina short story-writer Paz Marquez-Benitez who graduated from UPM when it was still the only UP campus at the time, physician-writers Dr. Ronnie Baticulon and Dr. Gideon Lasco, actress and influencer Hershey Neri, and more. Hopefully, there could be more support for creatives in the near future so we can see all kinds of stories in Philippine media.
When asked whether they believed that the portrayal of UP in film is important, most interviewees answered yes. A common sentiment was that films can correct misconceptions of the institution, especially now that red-tagging of members of the UP community is highly rampant. As mentioned by mandarinorange and Troy, the state has branded UP as an “NPA breeding ground” and its students as “communists.” According to mandarinorange, “UP portrayal in film is important as it molds public perception of the school which is a cornerstone in our educational system.”
For high school students DC and GZ, the portrayal of UP in film welcomes viewers who are curious about Philippine university life, with college student qtm expressing that “the portrayal of UP by the film can easily influence their life-changing decisions, such as in choosing their college.” According to DC, “The portrayal in these movies is an opportunity to reflect and celebrate the culture itself, and frankly, I’m one of the people who get excited in watching films like these because it’s what I’ve been most accustomed to … I’m sure most Iskos can relate when they watch these films, because whether we notice it or not, we search for bits and pieces of ourselves and our experiences as well.” While DC is already heading to UP in a few months, GZ who’s starting his college applications shared that his observations of UP so far have made him lean towards the university as his “primary choice for college.” He said: “These portrayals have helped me see the presence of camaraderie on the university, and it has conditioned me to think that being in this campus means being part of a certain culture. Essentially, that’s what a portrayal should be: a representative for the potentials within the collective.”
A few interviewees also brought up other films that explored particular issues more in-depth than the films on the list. Troy said, “If I had to choose a film that really gave me my first impression on UP as a whole, it’s got to be Moral (1982) by the late National Artist, Marilou Diaz-Abaya. It gave me an impression that UP really is a microcosm of the Philippines as the different paths of the four women showed the many experiences of the Filipino people. It also made me think of the radical side of UP, as the students were very progressive, one even joining rallies.” Meanwhile, Gabrielle mentioned that Bar Boys (2017) was more influential in its portrayal of law school and its culture compared to how I’m Drunk, I Love You and Alone/Together portrayed UP.
Indeed, representation in media is important as it has the power to influence audiences’ perceptions of certain people and institutions. It is also important to analyze how media portray different places, cultures, experiences, and others so that we can actively comprehend content and understand how it affects us as consumers.
This month, as we celebrate UP’s 114th founding anniversary, let’s recognize the different ways UP has been immortalized in the media and how it affects viewers’ perceptions of the institution and its community. The next time you come across a film set in UP, hopefully you can also take some time to think about its portrayal and how you feel about it. In these times where simply studying in UP is now considered “dangerous,” let’s analyze the reputation of our country’s national university among the public and how this can impact the members of the UP community.