UPM Graduates on the Side – What Stayed and What Changed?



September 9, 2022  — For UP Manila’s 113th Commencement Exercises, things were special because it’s the first time everyone is doing it traditionally since COVID-19 struck. From the good mood to the solemn in-betweens, one word describes the celebration – relaxed. Wondering what’s the same and what’s different?


Three Things That Stayed:

  1. Venue. UP Manila’s graduation has been held at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in the past. It’s still the choice for the 2022 in-person setting.

  2. UP Sablay. Ever since the Sablay became UP’s academic costume and replaced the traditional toga and cap, it’s here to stay.

  3. Morning affair. UP Manila’s commencement ceremonies are always held early in the morning. It still was this time.


Three Things That Changed:

  1. Hybrid presentation. Nowadays, it’s expected to have a livestream presentation for people who cannot attend the ceremony in person. This year’s graduation has full coverage available on the UP Manila Channel. Certain segments showed a virtual red carpet with animated photos of graduates, seemingly walking down the aisle.

  2. Same-Day Edit Video at the end. To think it was possible to have something that’s commonly seen in weddings at your own graduation day, now that was cool!

  3. Picture-happy and video-happy graduates. While holding one’s mobile phone is a normal fad these days, it was too easygoing at this year’s graduation. Graduates snapped away with a phone at hand at almost every moment they could wherever they could, it was fun to watch. Other older graduates remembered their professional DSLR cameras and took pictures as much, getting into the mood as well.


In contrast to the stiff and very strict norms that most UPM alumni may remember, this year’s graduation could well be the most relaxed ever. In the past, no one could leave the hall or seats – that was unthinkable, let alone go to mingle from one hallway end to another end because a student knew a friend from a different degree program. They still lent their medals and exchanged wallet-sized photos like previous graduates did; but too many students, some with face masks matching either the Sablay cloth or their outfit, discreetly left the Plenary Hall to take pictures! Interestingly, from as far as going outdoors with parents and friends to rushing up and down all the way to the stairs under beautiful chandelier spots, they finally ended on mostly every nook and cranny at the halls that it was crowded. Even the hallway right next to the restroom was not spared! As long as there was good lighting, the graduates posed for a smile. An official photographer asked the staff if the graduates would return, to which the answer was ‘yes’ because they have yet to take their oaths. Considering graduates emerged victorious after going through so much stress from COVID-19 restrictions, this mood was just as expected. 

And when the moment of being declared graduates came, that well-practiced Sablay move from right shoulder to left shoulder normally done with a serious snappiness changed! When graduates did the Sablay move however they wanted it, the freestyle giddiness came as a pleasant surprise.

Haziel May C. Natorilla | Published in Manila Healthscape Issue No. 42 (August 2022)