I had a movie moment — but I was too heartbroken to notice. Back in college, I had this almost-secret relationship. We didn’t post each other’s faces on social media. Sure we had the same “now playing on Spotify” tweets but for the most part, only the waiters of our favorite place knew.
We would always meet at this bench outside her building. I’d ask her about her day, right before I end mine with a night class back in UPM. There was isaw (manok for her, baboy for me), there was Rodic’s (mine), and the wonderful Diliman sunset (ours). A month of this and I was absolutely, deliriously happy.
And then she told me, at that very bench, that she had to leave. I remember her saying things like “I don’t do LDRs” and “I don’t think I could date someone bi pala”. That was the first time I cried in public — in the Philcoa jeep, the FX heading to Buendia. I never sat on that bench again, nor did I ever talk about her to anyone. It’s been four years. I graduated, she had to go abroad for graduate studies. We didn’t keep in touch. I never really did find peace, until I sat on that bench alone — with my isaw (baboy), my Rodic’s, and the golden hour I started claiming as my own.
From Victory Liner seats in That Thing Called Tadhana to the Estero slow dance in All You Need Is Pag-Ibig, director Antoinette Jadaone has a knack for taking these mundane places to cinematic heights. The newest one, a bench in UP Diliman’s sunken garden, is the most relatable one yet — turns out my unwitting movie moment was just one of many from that particular spot.
In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, we asked people to share their own stories that took place on the bench. I’ve always wondered how there could be so many stories about that one bench, yet it was always free when it was our time to sit on it. I guess we all have our moments.
Names have been changed for this article.
“This was when Bumble was still pretty new. I don’t know if there’s a correlation to phone model and decency, but the app really just had quality people. I matched with this guy from UP and we started talking: he was from UP, I was from Ateneo, it was all very Katipunan. When we decided to finally meet up, he said he’d sit and wait on this bench. Naturally, I got lost and ended up walking the entirety of the academic oval. And when I finally saw him, all I could think of was “Those Bumble photos don’t do you justice.” We had a good run. Will always be one of my best relationships.” — Jeff, 25, Information Design
“2015. It was nine days after my birthday. We started going out about three months prior, but we were schoolmates since high school. We were walking around the oval that night and decided to rest and talk some more on one of the benches there. After a while, I decided it was time to make our relationship official. We were happy about it, and we celebrated it with a hug. Months later, I found out that he wasn’t really courting me at that time. Apparently, he didn’t really know how. I asked him why he didn’t say anything that night, and he said he liked me anyway and that time he had already fallen in love with me.” — Andie, 22, Materials Engineering
“Sundays were spent with dad. We lived quite near and we’d always take our bikes to Diliman. I hated waking up so early on Sundays, but as soon as the coffee kicked in, I always had a great time. Diliman is always so lovely that time of the week. The oval was closed to traffic so it was just families riding their bikes, friends jogging, people from all walks of life enjoying themselves. My dad and I would always take a break in one of the benches, with our McDo breakfasts that we ordered to go. I haven’t been back there for a while, not since dad passed away, but I would always remember those mornings.” — Marc, 23, Food Technology
“I’d like to think that I’m good at breaking up with someone. I honestly have never felt in love, so I thought that telling this guy that I wanted to end things between us would be easy. But it wasn’t. I still remember how he tried to reason with me, that I was just tired from my exams, but I wasn’t having it. I told him I didn’t care, which was true, but it took me a while to actually say it. My Uber arrived and I left him there alone. His friends have since branded me as the bitch who broke his heart, but I know that it was the right thing to do for both his sake and mine.” — Jea, 22, Creative Writing
“If that bench was a person, it would be my closest friend. I sat there when I passed the UPCAT, rested there between pre-rog for my subjects. It became a spot for my different barkadas, my different dates. It was there I held hands with someone of the same gender for the first time. I remember sitting there highlighting my notes, when I broke up with someone through text, and when I felt completely alone. There was something so calming to it, seeing the expanse of Sunken Garden while taking a break from life. I don’t get to have those anymore — it’s probably punishment for taking a corporate job when all my college life I fought against it.” — Sam, 22, Mass Communication