Jun 13, 2018

It is that time of the year again when the golden flowers that line the University of the Philippines Diliman’s University Avenue are starting to bloom. For decades, sunflowers which symbolize the sun, have been used as a parting gift for graduates of the university. The sunflowers lead the way for graduates towards the iconic Oblation statue and behind it the Amphitheater where the commencement exercise is held.

To make these sunflowers resist the effects of heavy rain, UP Diliman in 2014 engineered the plant combining tall and dwarf varieties

Since the ‘70s, the sunflowers were grown to bloom around April when the graduation ceremonies happen. But because of the academic calendar shift in 2014, which rescheduled the school opening to August thus pushing graduation season to a later month, the growing of the sunflowers was almost skipped.

Sunflowers, as its name suggests depend on sunlight to grow and bloom, and the new schedule of graduation season in June, first observed four years ago is known as the beginning of the rainy season.

Fortunately, the people behind the UP Campus Maintenance Office found a way to still retain the tradition despite the odds. What they did was no easy feat.

U.P. Chancellor Michael Tan, in his column in 2015 for the Inquirer wrote:

“I asked around at UP Los Baños. Couldn’t we use a native sunflower found on roadsides, especially up in Baguio? No, they said, it’s wild, unruly. A Dutch friend offered to write her embassy so we could get the flowers from the Netherlands, maybe even maroon varieties. (Maroon and green are UP’s colors.) I said that would ruffle our ultranationalists’ feathers…

So we decided to take a chance and stay with our sunflowers… with a twist. We added dwarf varieties. A test planting was done as early as June 2014 and it worked—a mix of the tall for the spectacle and the short for the strength and resilience.”

All the work paid off for this gamble that the UP administration took, all to maintain a tradition as long been observed as wearing the graduation sablay.

This year’s graduation rites will take place next weekend. But everyone, even those who didn’t/do not go to UP, can already glimpse these sunflowers. Feel free to take photos and pose among the blooms–just be sure you don’t pluck them.



Photos Courtesy of the Dexter Lacuna on Instagram

Read more:

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UP graduate runs a cafe with beautiful French-inspired pastries in Bangkok

You don’t have to go abroad to enjoy flowering trees

TAGS: Commencement exercise graduation Michael L. Tan oblation rainy season sablay sunflowers UP Diliman