The unfading cinematic charm of U.P. Diliman 2
Alone/Together is a love story partly shot in the University. Photograph by Neil Daza

The unfading cinematic charm of U.P. Diliman

As it appears anew in Antonette Jadaone’s Alone/Together, the University of the Philippines Diliman re-establishes itself as the premiere campus setting in local movies. We ask what’s behind the appeal  
Monchito Nocon | Feb 13 2019

For fans of the Liza Soberano and Enrique Gil loveteam, the sheer idea of having a new LizQuen film is already cause for celebration. Reason perhaps why in less than three hours after the first teaser trailer for Alone/Together dropped across social media, the video registered a whopping one million views. But for a smaller group of people, specifically students, graduates and faculty of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, the treat was seeing glimpses of their beloved campus, this time beautifully photographed for a new Antonette Jadaone movie by lensman Neil Daza.

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The setting helps establish the characters. Since its UP, the protagonists are easily viewed as smart and idealistic, like Liza Soberano's character in Alone/Together. Photo by Neil Daza.

Alone/Together is Jadaone’s “ode to my college years,” and the lady is famously a UP grad, of course. Hence, the writer/director was able to easily help familiarize her cast with the campus’s secret spots, its characters (we heard the unofficial street mascot Zorro makes an appearance in the film), and dining haunts. The Sunken Garden, from the trailer, seems to play an important backdrop, and there are also scenes that involve the annual lantern parade and the Cine Adarna where the Sablay enters into view.

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This particular spot by the Sunken Garden is a popular hangout for UP students and those who visit the campus. If only it could talk, this "loveseat" can tell many love stories. Photo by Neil Daza.

Through the years, there have been many movies set against UP Diliman’s stately halls, its lush gardens and classrooms. From as far back as 1955, when Jose de Villa shot the loveteam of Carmen Rosales and Rogelio dela Rosa for the Sampaguita Pictures flick, Iyong-iyo, filmmakers have taken to the State University’ environs to, first, establish character. A protagonist who comes from UP is readily someone smart, principled, feisty—or idealistic, which is what the Christine character, the role Soberano plays, is in Alone/Together. Second, the campus is really just one of the most beautiful spots in the city. The cinematographer Daza, who also shot a protest scene for Dekada ’70 here in the early aughts, says it’s the lush greenery that makes UP a cinema favorite, “the vast landscape, and the sun sets on the right angle— elements a filmmaker would look for to create depth and film space.” Daza will soon begin work on another movie set in UP: Maboteng Usapan.

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Love teams from the 1950s pose for a still by the Oblation and the Quezon Hall.

Of course, the iconic buildings help too: the University Main Library, the famous AS steps aka Palma Hall, and the majestic Quezon Hall (on whose bridge Christopher de Leon walks happily in the ending of Mike de Leon’s Kung Mangarap Ka’t Magising)—they are all great, dramatic backdrops to shoot against. Gerard A. Lico, heritage conservationist, former UP Campus Architect, book author, Pinoy film buff, and curator of the 2013 exhibition “The Celluloid Campus: The University of the Philippines in the Cinematic Imagination,” could not help but wax philosophical when asked why the UP Diliman campus lends itself well as a shooting location. “UP is a landscape where ideas take flight,” he says via chat. “It is a space of our youth whether real or imagined. It’s a free space where one’s full potential can be realized.”

Here are the just some of the films that have employed UP Diliman as setting.

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Iyung-Iyo (1955) 

Sampaguita Pictures. Directed by Jose de Villa and starring Carmen Rosales, Rogelio dela Rosa, and Bella Flores. Watch out for the canteen scene in this studio-era romance.


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Charito, I Love You (1956)

LVN Pictures. Directed by F.H. Constantino and starring Charito Solis, Leroy Salvador, and Nita Javier. Numerous scenes were shot in various parts of the then new and fairly undeveloped UP Diliman campus.


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Love Letters (1970)

Tagalog Ilang-Ilang. Directed by Abraham Cruz and starring Vilma Santos and Edgar Mortiz. Here, the Oblation makes a cameo.


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Tubog Sa Ginto (1971) 

Lea Productions. Directed by Lino Brocka and starring Eddie Garcia, Lolita Rodriguez, Hilda Koronel and Jay Ilagan. Keep an eye on the Oblation and the Quezon Hall in this sensational film based on a Mars Ravelo komiks material about the secrets of a family patriarch. The scene begins at 6:05.


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Sakada (1976).

Sagisag Films. Directed by Behn Cervantes and starring Robert Arevalo, Hilda Koronel, and Pancho Magalona. In this film about abused plantation workers, there’s a night scene at the Parish of the Holy Sacrifice.


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Dear Heart (1981)

Sining Silangan. Directed by Danny Zialcita and starring Eddie Garcia, Liza Lorena, Sharon Cuneta, and Gabby Concepcion. Various scenes are shot within the campus including a classroom, library, and the AS steps in this the Megastar’s movie debut.


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Moral (1982)

Seven Stars. Directed by Marilou Diaz-Abaya and starring Lorna Tolentino, Gina Alajar, and Sandy Andolong. If there is one movie where UP as a setting and as an idea was used to further enhance the movie in the best possible way, it was this barkada film. The UP setting also serves to establish the kind of liberal minded women celebrated in this classic. Aside from classroom scenes and the poignant scene on the AS steps among the four main characters in this acclaimed feminist work, there’s the culminating graduation scene with the carillon bell in the background. The restored Moral is now on iWant.


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Bukas Luluhod Ang Mga Tala. (1984)

Viva Films. Directed by Emmanuel Borlaza and starring Sharon Cuneta, Eddie Rodriguez, and Raymond Lauchengco. Part of Sharon’s “tala movie trilogy,” there’s a scene here shot in the Sunken Garden and a food court.


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Pik Pak Boom (1988)

Viva Films. Directed by Leroy Salvador and starring Herbert Bautista, Dingdong Avanzado, Bing Loyzaga, Regine Velasquez, and Lea Salonga. The cheesy and campy musical graduation number cannot be missed!


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Bilangin Ang Bituin Sa Langit (1989)

Regal Films. Directed by Elwood Perez and starring Gloria Romero, Nora Aunor, Tirso Cruz III. The Quezon Hall and a sunflower field stand out in this epic, award-winning melodrama.


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Nagsimula Sa Puso (1990)

Vision Films. Directed by Mel Chionglo and starring Hilda Koronel (as a UP professor), Richard Gomez (as the student who kidnaps Hilda), and Jay Ilagan. The Palma Hall is again used in this tale of love, passion and obsession.


Black and white photographs from the '50s courtesy of Gerard Lico.