FAST FACTS: The A to Z of the University of the Philippines
(UPDATED) In line with the celebration of its founding anniversary, here are fast facts about the University of the Philippines, from A to Z

ANNIVERSARY. The University of the Philippines (UP) celebrates its founding anniversary on June 18. File photo by Nathan Gatpandan

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The country’s national university – the University of the Philippines (UP) – grows a year older on June 18 as it celebrates its founding day.

On this day in 1908, Act No. 1870 was signed, which established UP as a university for “advanced instruction” and “professional and technical training” for Filipinos. Its first two campuses were then opened a year after – the UP Manila and Los Baños campuses.

Presently, UP consists of 8 constituent universities and one autonomous college in 17 campuses nationwide.

In 2008, former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed Republic Act 9500, or the new UP Charter, which “provides UP some flexibility to enable it to come up with a competitive compensation package.” 

UP has already produced 7 Philippine presidents, 13 chief justices, 36 national scientists, 40 national artists, and a number of alumni of various professions in and out of the country.

In line with the celebration of its founding anniversary, here are fast facts about the University of the Philippines, from A to Z.


*Abelardo, Nicanor composed the music for the school hymn, “UP Beloved,” first sung in 1917. He supplied the melody for the poem (which served as the hymn’s lyrics) by Teogenes Velez. The hymn was later translated to Filipino, entitled “UP Naming Mahal.”


Bartlett, Murray, an American, was the first UP president, who served in office from 1911 to 1915. Bartlett Hall was constructed in Diliman, and is now housing the College of Fine Arts.


CASAA (or College of Arts and Sciences Alumni Association) used to be a favorite food court across the street from the east Wing of Palma Hall in Diliman. To the dismay of its many patrons, however, it was engulfed by fire on June 13.


Distance learning was instituted in UP through the UP Open University (UPOU), which was established in February 1995.


Eagle – particularly an American bald eagle – is found on the UP seal, as the university was founded by the Americal colonial government. Speculations had it that it was a parrot, not an eagle, on the seal.


Fighting Maroons is UP’s official men’s varsity team at the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP). It has recently revamped its logo, to be used starting UAAP Season 78.


Guillermo Tolentino created the Oblation with Professor Anastacio Caedo and Virgilio Raymundo as his models.


Hell week is what the students refer to that week when all deadlines, exams, and reports are cramped.


Isko/Iska is a shorter handle for “Iskolar ng Bayan,” a term use to refer to UP students.


Jeepneys are commonly found inside the Diliman campus, with two routes – Ikot and Toki – exclusively operating inside. 


Kwek-kwek Tower is the term commonly used to call the Heritage Tower, located near the entrance of the Los Baños campus. It was called such because of the color of the fire on top of the structure, which resembles that of the students’ well-liked street food.


Lantern Parade is an annually-celebrated Christmas parade of floats organized in UP Diliman.


Mi Ultimo Adios, the poem written by Jose Rizal on the eve of his execution, carries a verse that became the inspiration of the Oblation sculpture.


Narra Residence Hall was one of the oldest buildings and dormitories of UP Diliman, until the administration shut it out from student residency in 2007 and a fire struck the building in 2008.


Oblation Run, or the Ritual Dance of the Brave, is a yearly tradition of the Alpha Phi Omega fraternity chapters in UP, where male runners go around the campus completely naked.


Photo with Oble (a term to refer to the Oblation) is one of the most popular UP legends. A student is believed to graduate delayed – or even not graduate – when he or she has a picture taken with Oble. No one knows who started this myth, most Iskos and Iskas subscribe to this funny “superstition”.


Quezon Hall, located in the front-most of the University Avenue, is the home of the Oblation in UP Diliman. It also houses many administrative offices of the University.


Ranking: In the 2015 QS University Rankings for Asia, UP slipped to 70th place. It still, however, remains first in the Philippines.


Sablay is the common term used on the sash worn by UP graduates. It has 3 colors: the official University colors maroon and forest green, and yellow gold which is said to represent the high standards of values and excellence.  


TBA (To Be Announced), which can be found in class schedules, is often misinterpreted (usually by freshmen) as an acronym of a building in the campus.


UPCAT (University of the Philippines College Admission Test) is the entrance examination before a student officially qualifies and gets admitted to UP. Dubbed one of the hardest entrance exams, many review centers and student organizations conduct workshops for aspiring Iskolars months before the actual UPCAT.


UP Visayas has 3 campuses: in Iloilo City, Miag-ao (also in Iloilo), and Tacloban (in Leyte). The campus in Cebu used to be one of the UP Visayas campuses, but was declared an autonomous college in September 2010.


Ward, Joe was a former Ginebra skills coach, and is the new UP Fighting Maroons head trainer.


Yearbook: In 2008, the UP Alumni Association released a 3-volume Centennial Yearbook in the UPAA Grand Alumni-Faculty Homecoming and Reunion.


Zorro, whose real name is Dennis Magtajas, has been iconic in UP Diliman for years, regarded by the UP community both as a mystery and entertainment as he frequents the campus with a black mask and a cape on, maintaining peace in the campus by scaring away make-believe villains.

– research by Elizabeth Ruth Deyro/

Sources: University of the Philippines website, UP Diliman website, UP Alumni websitePhilippine TriviaOffice of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Development of UP Diliman, “Nicanor Abelardo, the Man and the Artist: A Biography” by Ernesto V. Epistola, various news websites

* Editor’s Note: The trivia entry for the letter A was replaced with one that is sourced more accurately. We initially mentioned that UP’s original name was “American University of the Philippines” but this information is based on secondary sources and is not stated in Act No. 1870 which established the university.