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Missing Ú: One Year in Quarantine

Words by: Marianne Lois M. Boncolmo, Crismhil S. Anselmo, and Therese Anne B. Cruz

Graphics by: Marianne Lois M. Boncolmo

On March 15, 2020, the entirety of Metro Manila was placed under community quarantine to mitigate the cases of the then growing pandemic. A year later and everyone is still advised to stay at home for safety precautions.

Commute hours, quick breakfasts, and the Metro Manila breeze occupied the mornings then. Mapúans today welcome school days by turning on their devices and joining a Zoom meeting within the (hopefully) quiet walls of their own room. One year in quarantine, The New Builder reminisces about the rich Cardinal campus life as the red and gold misses Ú.

The Morning Rush

With campuses both in Manila and Makati, the University caters to a diverse community of learners from the Metro to nearby provinces. Hence, it is no surprise that most Cardinals are well-accustomed to the daily struggle of the commute life. They are experts in swimming through crowds in LRT stations, standing in hour-long bus rides, and squeezing through tight jeepney seats.

A quick stop by McDonald’s to buy iced coffee is a common routine for some. Like marathon runners, latecomers usually sprint along hallways to try to catch up to their first class. Or second.

Compared to all of that, Mapúans today simply have to make their own coffee and sit in front of their desks to attend classes.

If they wake up on time, that is.

The Campus Spirit

The restrictions in response to the pandemic have forced campus life to become completely online – altering the dynamics not only of classroom discussions and activities but also of events. The tense atmosphere during recitations, the anxiety in the air before a long quiz starts, and the crowded heat in the gym on certain occasions are some of the subtly annoying things that Mapúans now miss. The school spirit and lively concerts enjoyed during every Paskong Mapúan and Foundation Week festivities, among others, became virtual concerts and celebrations.

Indeed, the unique Mapúan atmosphere, be it in terms of academics or school events, is something that online interactions can never really mimic.

The Taste of Simpler Times

With a fast-paced curriculum, one could function properly for a long time on an empty stomach. The long lines at Paotsin or Vmes during lunchtime is a sight that Mapúans look back to – a reminder of when things were normal and life was simpler.

Nostalgia is that sip of iced coffee in the morning, or that savory sisig tofu during lunch, or that sweet ensaymada at Julie’s for a boost of energy during breaks.

The longing for these flavors may seem insatiable but can be remedied with hot coffee for breakfast, ordering food for delivery, and home-cooked meals with the family. Still, eating in a crowded place filled with just-as-stressed fellows hits differently.

Hallways and Memory Lanes

Students exiting their respective rooms and blocking those running late, and students sleeping on corridors used to fill the now-empty corridors of the University with life. Vacant periods were then spent with classmates in the Tambayan area. Some used their time wisely and utilized the library to hit the books or take a nap. The air-conditioned canteen was always greeted with a pungent smell that clung to their clothes as they entered. Despite that, it is still a place where the Cardinals wish they were in right now – in the company of their good friends.

Now, virtual interactions with fellow Mapúans do not provide the same bliss as they did within the campus walls.

Cardinal Camaraderie

Truth be told, feeling the Cardinal pride proves to be difficult behind computer screens. As the saying goes, “birds of the same feather, flock together,” but bonding virtually is a whole different type of flocking together. Group studies with block mates in the discussion room have been replaced with group chats via Messenger. Quality time with friends at coffee shops became occasional video calls. Getting through 11 weeks of academic pressure without fellow Mapúans to share the stress with just feels a tad bit lonelier.

One year in quarantine truly sparks emotions of longing. Evenings then were painted with tired students making their way home. Mapúans now spend their nights already at their respective homes, trying to survive a global health crisis while missing the Mapúan campus life.

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