Act One: Kalimudan

NOTE: I wrote this in my English Writing class. We were asked to write about a novel observation, and my partner and I wrote about our University Student Center, our version of a cafeteria-slash-hangout. Although the setting might be slightly different in terms and geography and other aspects, I think some can still relate the similar experiences in their own schools and universities.

You don’t get to know a student by how s/he is inside the classroom, nor how s/he deals with school work but on how s/he is during breaks. It is during these unguarded moments that s/he reveals his real interests and character. Without the restraints of strict professors or the pressure of scores and grades, not mention the boredom that comes with anything related to academics, students shed their masks.

There are several “hunts” that students often go to during this mundane hours. For obvious reasons, these places are most packed during noon breaks. Picture this: lines of students starving for their lunch or for some who woke up late, brunch; tables full of combo meals, shakes, soda bottles, chips, biscuits and the likes; chattering cliques; rushing busy bodies. The best place to have this livid scene is of course the official university student center of UP Mindanao, the famous Kalimudan. This place is the main stage of the play.

To fully comprehend the intricate jumble of Kalimudan, you should first learn to categorize and know who to zero in. This is the first level of fully realizing the beauty of this cosmopolitan. There are three classifications: regulars, passers and guests. On the second level, it gets more challenging. You need to closely observe the ways of a group. Members of these groups need not be together but are collectively known as one because of their fundamental traits. These groups are: brains, fresh meats, frat-sor, socialites and coursists. (Disclaimer: These are not stereotypes. The authors are great believers of individuality and would like to emphasize that these are mere facets of the whole person or group.)

The regulars are those who are always seen in the area. They are part of the constant scenery in Kalimudan. Rain or shine, come lightning or storm, they will be there. They have fully established their territories, made up of almost the same set of people who frequent the same economy of space. Their existence is the result of force of habit and/or just mere convenience of schedules or location. Regardless of the cause, regulars are the key to understanding the real status quo. As an observer, focus on these people, they are the key players in this play.

Next on the list: the passers. As their title implies, they are simply passing by. They have very little contribution to the activities and relationships in the vicinity. They are seen once in awhile, wandering amongst the teeming crowd. They are simply there to do their business and walk away. Although, sometimes, these passers spark iridescent lights, they are like props on the stage. So don’t focus on them but at the same time don’t disregard them.

Then comes the guests, these are special cases. They are not like the regulars whose primary attribute is consistency but they are also not negligible entities. These are the people who are there not on a regular basis but are still part of the whole circulation. They are not the main protagonists but as supporting characters in this act, their presence is still felt. They also have distinct characteristics that can be further analyzed on the second level. Being an observer, try to qualify in this category. They are there “participating” but at the same time they have minimal impact on the ripple of movement.

Once you have categorized on the first level, it will be easier to focus on the actors of the play. As stated earlier, the distribution of these groups are varied, they can be randomly distributed or aggregated. A keen observer will be able to distinguish them by investing time and patience in watching the whole story unfold.

First on the list: Brains. These are the students who spend most of their break studying and doing (or cramming) assignments, projects and whatnot. They are surrounded by their laptops, notebooks, books and stacks of papers. Academics is clearly of high importance to these people. They almost have this neon “DO NOT DISTURB” sign above their heads. In the midst of pounding dogs, talking people and utensils clashing, they successfully make a bubble of unadultered mental exercise.

Freshmen a.k.a. fresh meats are easy to distinguish. Not that they have fresh, innocent faces but there is simply an air of unfamiliarity with them. They have that distinct way of crowing in one table or huts; they do not wander far from the flock and most of the time very energetic. This may be explained by drive to adapt to the newness of the environment, each searching for their roles. They sometimes greet people with novel reverence, which is very unlike the upperclassmen who are very casual.

Fraternities and sororities, in short frat-sor, are also present in the scene. Unlike other groups, they are 90% of the time grouped together. Even if they arrive separately, a handshake or a gesture will connect them. Bond is what makes them unique. They are usually very close to one another, laughing out loud at inside jokes or having serious discussions. They are one of the biggest groups you will notice. On certain days, you will identify them with no trouble in seal or frat-sor shirts.

What place ever runs out of socialites? When there are people, there will always be the socialites. Mind you, these socialites aren’t the cliché queen bees in the movies, they are simply social figures that are prominent. People plainly recognize them; someone’s always got a connection to them. Emphasis on always. They are the awesome personalities who give life to school events or the breathtaking university crushes or just the newly awarded Mr./Ms. Congeniality. They walk around and people greet and make small talks with them every two to three minutes. Undeniably, they get the most attention in the venue.

And there are also the coursists. Not that they discriminate people according to course, they are just groups of people who flock together because of their study program. This is inevitable; having the same class with the same people has this effect. They speak in the same jargons that sound gibberish to some. They share the experience they had during drafting, laboratory, speech and stuff. They also have a common understanding with the problems each face in their struggle to finish on time (imagine thesis papers and the “very special” terror teachers in their departments). 

In the grand scheme of things, these observations may change. Societies are dynamic, it transforms according the wave of events. Conformations occur based on how the pieces fall together or apart. Categories may shift and groups will come and go. As an observer, you will bring to yourself the responsibility to discover new characters, to expand the frame view. This play will sometimes be reinvented. Everyone waits for the story’s sequel.


Being a student is hard, but being an iskolar ng bayan, raises the bar. In UP culture, there is a notion of “sink or swim”. This case is black and white, it’s either you swim or you drown. Competitions are everywhere, struggles against your fellow iskolars and that internal tussle to prove your worth. To stay afloat, you must exert effort. To win the race, you must swim like there is no tomorrow.

Pressure is like breakfast for some students. Every day they thrive in the pool of expectations and hopes. Some are driven by their sole goal of academic excellence. Some are brought up by the call to improve their life, financially and socially. Some are just over achievers, who do their best in all that they do. For every person, it is a different cause but at the end of the day they are all fighting same battles.

Good grades are by products of studying well in the university but that is not the end. On the bright side, pressure can push you to survive in your given field. It can lead you to adapt in order to successfully finish the race. In several instances, pressure can make you excel and win your laurels. But this is just one side of the coin.

There are also unfavorable outcomes. For some, it can make them become too focused in studies that they forget about other important aspects in life. They become one-dimensional people. Another effect would be lower self esteem for those students who have failed to get good grades. At times when the pressure is too high, it can lead to serious matters like depression and suicide.

Like in Charles Darwin’s theory, pressure shapes the way species survive. Pressure can make or break a person. The results mainly rely on the person’s point of view, what he sees in his frame of mind as he swims towards the shore.