UP Sunken Garden

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Sunken Garden at Night. Photo by Jules Bañgate

University of the Philippines Sunken Garden

Next to the UP Oblation, the Sunken Garden would be the most famous landmark of the University of the Philippines. It is in the heart of the 2.2 km. Academic Oval surrounded by acacia trees. It has been the most favorable place for the UP and non-UP communities for its wide and shady area to present a place for a number of activities. The setting of the sun provides a perfect backdrop for the people who want to spend time in the Garden.

UP Diliman Sunken Garden - Photo by Chris Villarin (ChrisVillarin.com)


The General Antonio Luna Parade Grounds, commonly known as the Sunken Garden, is a 5-hectare natural depression found on the eastern side of the campus and at the end of the Academic Oval. It is enclosed by the Gonzales Hall (University Library) to its west; Malcolm Hall (College of Law) to its north; Vinzons Hall and the Virata School of Business (formerly known as College of Business Administration) to its east and Benitez Hall (College of Education) to its south.

The Grounds was taken care of UP Reserved Officers’ Training Corps (UP ROTC) way back when the campus was installed in DIliman in 1949. And now, it is the most favourable place for the UP and non-UP communities for its vast land covered with grass surrounded by acacia trees providing shade to present a place for a number of activities such as training, parade and concerts.


The Sunken Garden acquired its name due to its basin-shaped low-level formation that has the deepest point of 65 meters above sea level (contrary to university’s height of over hundreds of meters above sea level). As suspected by some residents in UP (professors and home owners), the sunken structure of this grounds could be because of the campus waterway system. The creek from Philcoa goes into the campus, passes through the lagoon and it is split into two around the Gonzales Hall which each of them runs along sides of the Sunken Garden.

Others believe that the place keeps sinking every year and a lot of speculations arise from time to time. First, this may be because of underground trenches that mingle with the campus’ sewer system. These trenches branch from the rear side of National Institute of Geological Sciences, Sampaguita Residence Hall, the UP Integrated School, down to the National Institute of Physics, until near the former Narra Residence Hall (where the new UPIS High School Building is located). These trenches connect to the so-called Marikina Fault Line, an active geologic structure that runs across the east of Metro Manila. In an interview of UP Newsletter to Prof. Alfredo Mahar Francisco A. Lagmay from the UP Diliman National Institute of the Geological Sciences there is no existing fault line beneath the length of the Academic Oval which also means that there is no fault line down below the Sunken Garden. He also stated that the Marikina Fault Line is approximately three kilometers away from the campus. Another speculation is that the depression was due to the emptying of former streams in the Sunken Garden that were prominent in the garden itself and leaves the campus for the Commonwealth Avenue. But, up to now, there are no studies that can give the reason that it (and the Gonzales Hall) are sinking relative to the campus.


Sunken Garden is the largest vacant land in the campus and because of its expanse, it provides ample space for different activities and events in the university (for UP and non-UP communities).

A. Cadena de Amor

Cadena de Amor is a lost student tradition of UP sponsored by the UP Woman’s Club. It was introduced in 1934 by Ursula U. Clemente. The annual ritual gathered both junior and senior year coeds who linked themselves in massive human chains by passing cadena de amor garlands. The ritual symbolized the turning over of responsibilities from seniors to juniors. The ritual was well loved and was called “the festival of girls and flowers”.

The student reception changed radically in the 1960s when UP students began to question the relevance of such traditions especially against turbulent and violent times. Many viewed the ritual as degrading, since it had passed from being an annual leave-taking ceremony to a beauty contest. Because it was seen as “burgis” or bourgeois, the ritual was last held in 1968―a year that led to the turbulent events of the First Quarter Storm.

B. Reserved Officers' Training Corps (ROTC)

The UP Reserved Officers’ Training Corps Cadets undergo their Citizens Military Training or CMT. Every weekend, a large gathering of males stand and march in the field for hours. It is also the venue for the annual presentation of corps sponsors at the end of first semester.

C. Latagaw Cup

Through the year, the Sunken becomes a venue for a lot of sport activities and festivals. One of which is the Latagaw Cup, a soccer event competed by various student organizations inside the University of the Philippines. Philippine indigenous games are also held here as part of the celebration of the UP Diliman Month during February.

D. UP Annual Fair

After UP’s Lantern Parade, the next event that every UP student looks forward to is the UP Fair. UP Fair is an annual event usually done every February. It is home to the aspiring, upcoming, and famous bands. The UP Fair is known for its wild crowd having a great time. The barricaded Sunken Garden accommodates various booths and rides for the UP Fair Crowd.


A. The Grandstand

The Grandstand, as it stands now, was conceived as an activity center to renew the traditions of the location, as some of them have been lost. Vicente “Nonoy” Quimbo, CBA Alumni (‘70) and founder of Bel Mondo Italia Corporation (which manufactures the Novellino Wines brand) donated the funds which were used to build the structure, which was based on the torii, the gateway of a Shinto temple. A torii can be found also on the logo of the Pan Xenia Fraternity, of which Quimbo is a member of. The architect was Froilan Hong of the Office of the Campus Architect and it was built by Mariestad Industries. It was opened formally November 12, 2004.

Quimbo likened the renewal of the Grandstand to a line in the movie Field of Dreams, from which he quotes, “If you build it, they will come.” He believes that like the movie, the Grandstand will be able to attract people of all shapes and sizes to form new traditions and observe old traditions, such as the Lantern Parade, the presentation of UP ROTC Corps of Sponsors and the UP Fair.

B. The Beltran Seats

The Beltran benches are a staple for UP life – people sit on them to think, study, senti, date, or to just rest from the daily grind. So was Luis “Louie” Beltran, after whom the benches were named.

Luis Beltran (1936-1994) was a renowned broadcast journalist, who was well-known for his outspokenness, which frequently came back to strike him hard. During the Martial Law, on the staff of the Evening News, he was captured and detained in Camp Crame. After three months of imprisonment, he hosted “Straight from the Shoulder”, a show analyzing current events, as well as “Brigada Siete”. He was also well-known in radio.

Probably the most known of his exploits was his attack on Corazon Aquino, during the time when the latter was beset by coup left and right. He said that during the 1987 coup, Cory was hiding under her bed. This prompted the then-President to sue him for libel, even going the extra mile to show that, indeed, it was impossible for her to hide under the bed because she didn’t fit. Beltran countered that the statement was not to be taken at face value. The court ruled in Cory’s favour, sentencing Beltran and his editor to 2 years of imprisonment in addition to moral damage. He died from a heart attack, roughly a month before his sentence ended.

C. The Beach house

The Beach house is an eatery hidden behind the great acacia trees, near the Main Library. The Beach House is open for business from 9 am to 3 pm. It does not boast of extravagant furnishing, air-conditioned, nor immaculate dining areas and restrooms, but it is proud of its food. Many students flock to the Beach House, if they can, for the best outdoor (although technically not) dining experience it has to offer. It is especially famous for its pork chop, barbeques and other grilled dishes.


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UPDGO Celebrates the International Women’s Day. (2012). Retrieved September 16, 2013, from UP Diliman Gender Office: http://dgo.upd.edu.ph/?page_id=58
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