After ten years, I found myself back in the UP Law Center in Diliman, Quezon City last week.
The last time I was there, I was reviewing for the bar exam. I know it was a gruesome period of my life when all I did was only study, study and study, but unconsciously, it must have been a traumatic experience for me. Why? I think my brain totally blocked it out of my memory, the details, I mean.
I realized this while I was commuting from Malate to UP Diliman on my way to attend the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education at the UP Law Center.
After I alighted from the Quezon Avenue MRT Station, and rode the Pantranco jeepney towards UP Campus, my mind suddenly panicked. I couldn’t remember the route of the jeepney to the shopping center, where I intended to eat breakfast. I strained my head to look out and figure out where to go down. Strangely, the buildings inside all looked the same to me. I forgot its names and I feared my brain would also forgot how the Law Center looked like. Thank goodness, my memory did not fail me and I happily got off the at the jeepney stop nearest to it.
Getting down the jeepney, I told myself from there, I’ll let my feet lead me to where they used to walk every single day for six months ten years back. I took confident steps to the Law Center and went down the adjacent street from the jeepney stop to the direction of the Church of the Holy Sacrifice. It was still about 7:15 in the morning, and I made a short visit in the church and prayed for a few minutes.
After a few minutes, I went out of the gates surrounding the church and walked around, hoping a familiar scene would flicker a signal to my memory and take me to the shopping center where I was hungrily looking forward to Rodic’s tapsilog for breakfast. To my utter dismay, my mind was blank and I couldn’t recognize any of the buildings nearby. All I could recall was that it was so near the church, but none of the buildings around the church looked familiar to me. The hands of my watch were ticking and if I don’t ask for directions fast enough, I would have to endure an empty stomach and go back to the Law Center for the lectures. I didn’t ask anybody earlier because it’s ridiculous that I would forget my way around but pressed for time, I didn’t have the luxury to warm up my brain on the surroundings in the hope of reliving my tracks ten years ago. So I surrendered, gave my brain a rest, and asked a passerby which way to the shopping mall. He pointed to the building across the street where I was. Oh. So I crossed the street and went in front of the old structure. I took a peek at the dark hallway, and still hesitated to go in, because even at that point, I still couldn’t make out where I was. Anyway, I slowly walked along the long corridor, and about twenty steps inside, ten years vanished and I’m back to what I usually did in 2002 – breakfast at Rodic’s before attending class.
It’s amazing. Rodic’s looked and smelled the same. I couldn’t wait to taste my tapsilog and the minute my first bite touched my tongue, I felt home. I didn’t know I missed eating that delectable simple dish of fried rice mixed with tapa and sunny side up egg.
I would have lingered a little more, and ate more slowly, but it was about quarter to eight already and I had to walk back and register. Reluctantly, I hurriedly munched what was left on my stainless steel plate, and hurriedly walked back to the UP Law Center.
The short walk back was done in leisure. I looked at the beautiful trees along the way, relieved that they were still proudly standing as they did a decade ago. The trees scattered across the campus was what I liked best when I was there. It didn’t seem like I was in the metropolis while I was reviewing because UP Diliman Campus gave me the provincial feel.
Less than ten minutes later, I opened the tinted glass doors of the UP Law Center. When I left that building in the past, I hoped to never go back there – because if I did, that would mean I didn’t pass the first time and had to retake the review.
Anyway, stepping inside, I saw everything was the way it was last time I was there. That distinct scent still filled the air.
I made a short stop to the comfort room in the first floor to brush my teeth. Somebody was also there – wearing the I.D. I also wore in the past. We left the room at the same time. Out of instinct, I proceeded to the elevator. She pressed ‘4’ while I… briskly tapped ‘2’. What a quick ride it was. I strode out the elevator and continued to the registration table right outside the conference room.
Filling up the form, it casually occurred to me that I was wrong. Things were not the same at all.
Before, my business there was only at the top floor of the Law Center where the attorney-hopefuls studied their brains out.
Ten years later, I was at the Conference Room in the second floor where lectures were administered for the lawyers.
It was nice seeing you again, UP Law Center.