If the University Avenue is the gateway to UP Diliman, the elliptical road known as the Academic Oval that consists of Laurel and Roxas Avenues serves as the campus’ center. Within and around the oval are the most prominent structures and landmarks of the Diliman campus and where much of the campus activity is held.
Also surrounding the Academic Oval are the towering acacia trees which provide shade to anyone going around the campus. This natural shade also serve to make the Oval a conducive space for various activities, notably jogging and other physical activities especially on weekends when vehicular traffic is limited or closed off.
Coming from University Avenue, the first structure you will see within the Oval is the Oblation and the Oblation Plaza before, which we talked about back in Part 2. So we now go to the imposing structure behind.
Quezon Hall is where one can find the offices of the President of the University of the Philippines (at the north wing) and the Chancellor (constituent university head) of UP Diliman (at the south wing). In essence, Quezon Hall is UP and UP Diliman’s power core of sorts, where decisions related to the university and the campus emanate from respectively.
Built in 1950, Quezon Hall, then known as the Administration Building, was one of the first buildings to be built after the administration and most of UP’s academic units moved to Diliman (which we discussed back in Part 1) a year prior. It would go through some changes over the years, including a name change in the 1960s after President Manuel Quezon, under whose term the vision of UP Diliman came alive, as part of the unrealized Nationa Capitol plan.
It was designed by architect Juan Nakpil, who designed years ago the art deco-inspired Capitol Theater in Escolta, Manila. In the case of Quezon Hall, Nakpil drew inspiration from the neoclassical style of architecture infused with some elements prevalent during the 1930s up to the postwar period.
It’s interesting to note that unlike the pillars seen in many classical and neoclassical buildings, the pillars do not serve to enclose a space but rather as a gateway to green open space, which we will be talking about next.
The Amphitheater, Lagoon, and other Structures
Behind Quezon Hall is a large open-air grass-covered amphitheater, the traditional venue for the commencement activities of UP Diliman.
A few steps away is another Napoleon Abueva work which depicts the three women (AKA Marcela Agoncillo, her daughter Lorenza, and Jose Rizal’s niece Josefina or Delfina Herbosa) sewing the Philippine flag. While the sculpture is known officially as “Three Women Sewing the Philippine Flag”, it is also popularly known as “Tres Marias.”
Nearby is a fairly recent monument, the UP Covenant Monument, erected in 2016. Designed by artist Nestor Vinluan, the monument symbolizes the covenant of the nation’s leadership and the citizenry for renewal, unity, peace, and prosperity.
A bit further inward is the Lagoon, the most notable body of water in the campus, surrounded by large trees which make it an ideal place for relaxation…among other things that are best not elaborated here. Nearby is an open-air theatre built through the efforts of the Beta Epsilon Fraternity, which is also behind the next prominent structure in the Oval.
Beta Way and the UP Promenade
The Beta Epsilon Way or the Beta Way is a concrete walkway which cuts through the green space of the Academic Oval, which serves to connect the two prominent campus buildings of Palma Hall and Melchor Hall, saving students and faculty time having to go through the roads which were far from either building. As the name suggests, this was another project of the Beta Epsilon Fraternity which was built in 1953.
Until recently, the area around the Beta Way is mostly grass and trees. That changed in 2018 with the inauguration of the UP Promenade, a sort of a plaza with a fountain, benches, and shade where people can relax or meet up. Interestingly, the UP Promenade was realized through the efforts of another fraternity: UP’s own Upsilon Sigma Phi on the occasion of its centennial that year.
Also known as the University Library or Main Library, Gonzalez Hall is another building designed by Juan Nakpil, built around the same time as Quezon Hall (with Gonzalez Hall completed in 1951) and bears a neoclassical architectural design. Unlike the Quezon Hall though, Gonzalez Hall is more “traditional” in design.
The building was named after Bienvenido Gonzalez in 1963, who served as UP President from 1939 to 1951 and under whose term UP relocated to Diliman. Aside from being the main university library, it also serves as the home of the School of Library and Information Sciences of UP Diliman. In the past, it also served as the home of the College of Architecture and Fine Arts.
At this time of writing, Gonzalez Hall is undergoing a renovation to make it a more conducive space for research and learning, with more open spaces and learning commons and facilities that will be attuned to the present and future needs of the students.
Of course, we cannot remiss in our walk through the Academic Oval of UP Diliman without talking about the famed Sunken Garden, that open green space below the ground level of the university that has become the area for sports activities, ROTC marches, and the annual UP Fair during February. Surprisingly, it actually has an official name: Gen. Antonio Luna Parade Grounds, though it’s very, very rarely used.
One of the most persistent stories about the Sunken Garden is that it continues to sink a few millimeters below ground regularly, which brings a level of mystique and curiosity that adds to UP Diliman’s unique character as a campus. However, evidence supporting this is still inconclusive so it’s hard to say whether such claims are true or not.
To be continued