For this morning’s exercise, I ran laps around UP Diliman‘s Academic Oval. There’s really nothing better to calm your mind while working out like a empty avenue with trees curving overhead, sheltering you from the beating of the midmorning sun. The complete (well, nearly complete) absence of motorized vehicles going around the Oval also furthered my feelings of tranquility.
When I decided to dash the final 200 meters to my car (yes, I drive to UP just to jog), I was overwhelmed by a feeling of accomplishment. And then, I was accosted by two street kids. “Ate, pahingi naman ng barya (Please spare me some change, Big Sister),” one of them said in a low voice. I was still a little out of breath from the sprint, but I managed to say that I didn’t have any on me. This was true: I was only carrying car keys, and my running shorts had no pockets. I did a quad stretch, and then a hamstring stretch, but neither kid went away. One kid said to the other, “Bago pa ang kotse nya (Her car is still new).” I hadn’t opened any of the doors of my 1994 Lancer and was only leaning against it. I said to them, slightly irritated, “Paano kung ‘di ko kotse to? (What if this isn’t my car?)” And then I walked away.
I was planning to make a circuit around one building, then double back and see if the kids had left the car’s vicinity. That route took me past two enforcers of the University’s carless oval policy. Earlier during my run I had begun to wonder how long the University was planning to keep the Oval barricaded to cars. While the Oval has been closed to cars on Sundays for the past two or three years, the 24/7 closure had started during this year’s UP Fair, was extended through the university’s Fitness Week, and it had been maintained even after the coup scare and rallying from last week until early this week. I decided to approach the enforcers.
“Excuse me po. Gaano katagal po itong Carless Oval? (When will the Carless Oval policy end?)” I asked them. One of them replied, “‘Di po namin alam e. (We don’t know, miss.)” I thanked them and returned to my car, the kids no longer in sight.
Earlier this week I had to check UPCAT results on campus, and I couldn’t park anywhere near the place they were displayed because the Oval was barricaded. A main parking lot had been closed off to cars because of the barricades, and alternative parking spaces on the streets and on vacant lots were all occupied. I was forced to park across the Oval in one of the side streets and hoof it. Also, because the University’s main thoroughfare is the Oval, all the traffic that used to pass through it has been diverted to the much smaller side streets. During rush hour it’s hell to pass through the campus, which had only before been troubled by parking jams during the yearly UPCAT weekend in August.
I’m not sure if the indefinite Carless Oval is a good thing or a bad thing. For sure, though, it’s going to encourage a lot more walking.