For 34 years, it was a highly anticipated UP event, promoted and covered by national newspapers and magazines. It was the Cadena de Amor festival, a grand parade that met the sunset with its three festival queens and university seniors in their white gowns who carried and passed on a vine of cadena de amor—the floral signature of Diliman—to juniors in pink.
According to historical notes at the UP Diliman (UPD) Archives, it was a rite of passage in which women seniors handed over the “responsibility of upholding the virtues, ideals, and traditions of the University” to their younger counterparts.
Ideals and ideas
It began in 1934, when UP President Jorge Bocobo had just taken over the university leadership. Dean of Women Ursula Clemente initiated the event “upon instructions” from him.
An unattributed 1955 article in the archives titled “Cadena De Amor: Pink and White” reports that Bocobo “broached to Mrs. Clemente the idea of a ritual befitting the classic architectural background of the old UP buildings in Padre Faura.” Clemente and Prof. Melquiades Gamboa then came up with Cadena de Amor, and the UP Woman’s Club (UPWC) took charge of the festival.
According to The University Experience, the festival was inspired by the annual Daisy Chain of Vassar College, New York, USA, in which a group of sophomore women chosen by a committee of seniors “carry a 150-foot chain of daisies and laurel” during commencement day. They wore white dresses and served “as a flower-lined corridor to guide the graduates to the ceremony.” Vassar history says daisies traditionally decorated the college’s old chapel for Class Day, the day before graduation where seniors meet as Vassar students for the last time.
In the 1958 Cadena de Amor souvenir program, Clemente’s message states that “The three principal characters of the Festival as well as the Chain of the Cadena de Amor are symbolic of what the University of the Philippines stands for in respect to the Filipino woman.” The chain of pink flowers stands for the “continuous flow of ideas and ideals of [UP] through the students, all designed for the service of country, mankind, and God.”
“The first festival was held with the stately columns of the old Padre Faura halls for background. On the old campus the Seniors in white left the university compound at Isaac Peral, breaking into two lines. One line went down Taft Avenue, and the other passed through Nebraska Street. The lines would finally meet at the University Quadrangle… [and] the Juniors would then join them from Padre Faura,” wrote the noted fictionist and essayist SV Epistola, then a graduating student, in the Philippine Collegian in 1953.
Tradition and evolution
Though incomplete, the Cadena de Amor files at the UPD Archives still manage to tell the story of this once-celebrated UP event and its development through the years.
In 1936, the Philippine Collegian reported that “for the first time in the history of the University of the Philippines,” the Cadena de Amor would be held as part of commencement week. Since then, the festival was held as an event that closed the academic year.
When UP transferred from its Manila campus to Diliman in 1949, the first Cadena de Amor in the new campus was held at the Sunken Garden, according to the UPD Catalogue. Later on, it was held around the Quezon Hall complex—the Amphitheater and the quadrangle or Oblation Plaza.
Based on available copies of the souvenir programs, earlier ceremonies had six parts in the main program: “The Tendrils,” the concert of the UP ROTC Band; “The Verdant Leaves,” the processional; “The Petals,” where “UP Beloved” was sung, the meaning of the festival was narrated, Annie Ramos’ poem “Cadena de Amor” was recited, “The Song of Maria Clara” was sung, a message to the elder sisters was delivered, and the elder sisters then responded; “The Loops and Links,” the passing of the cadena de amor chain; “The Vine,” the closing remarks by the UP Woman’s Club president and singing of the club hymn; and “The Clusters,” the recessional. The festival also had a “Rigodon de Honor” and a ball.
Over the years, festival elements changed. “Auld Lang Syne” was specified as the song during the passing of the chain. “The Tendrils” was no longer used. “UP Beloved” and “The Song of Maria Clara” disappeared. Festival muses had bigger roles in the ceremony. “Rigodon de Honor” became “Grand March,” then was no longer in the program. Ramos’ poem was replaced with “Cadena de Amor Festival” by Trinidad Tarrosa (later, Tarrosa-Subido). The “Ball” became the “Graduation Ball,” later the “Pink and White Ball” was no longer mentioned in the souvenir program.
The Cadena de Amor featured three festival queens: Filipinas, Alma Mater, and Maria Clara (later, Lakambini). They were academic achievers, members of various student organizations, recipients of scholarships, and participants in social and civic activities.
Clemente described them in 1958 as follows: Filipinas symbolizes the “noble role that the Filipino woman plays in national and international affairs;” Alma Mater, “learning and wisdom, for the continuous quest for truth, beauty, and goodness;” and Maria Clara, “the continued preservation of the pristine moral values of Filipino womanhood.”
Filipinas and Alma Mater were seniors or members of the graduating class while Maria Clara or Lakambini came from a lower batch. A list of festival queens in the archived files show that the last Maria Clara title was given in 1960 and the title changed to Lakambini the following year.
The end of the chain
Little did anyone know that March 9, 1968 would be the last afternoon of the Cadena de Amor.
Even with Adelaida Mapua-Lim’s scathing piece in the Philippine Collegian four days later, no one thought the festival would end. In “Where is the Amor?” she writes, “One just has to hand it to the Euthenics teachers, doesn’t one? To hold graduation over our heads like the beheader’s axe. So it was that the four hundred strode into the bullring a bewildered, submissive herd hanging on for dear life to a lifeless snake that was supposed to represent a chain of love.”
On the 27th of February 1969, a tiny box at the bottom of the Philippine Collegian’s front page signaled the beginning of the festival’s demise. “The traditional Cadena de Amor has been cancelled due to lack of funds.”
UP in the late 1960s was strongly defined by student activism. Frivolity and pageantry were criticized. It was all about social relevance and support for the masses. It was in this environment that the UPWC, organizer of the Cadena de Amor, decided to conduct a survey in 1969 to know what UP coeds thought about it. Preliminary findings in 1970 showed 53 percent of respondents thought the club was useful and 44.65 percent voted for continuing the Cadena de Amor.
It was no longer fit to be revived, however. Students had gradually lost interest in social events like the Cadena de Amor because their attention was now on the upheavals in Philippine society. The UPWC itself had changed its name to Samahan ng Kababaihan sa Unibersidad ng Pilipinas (SKUP), and along with it, the direction of the group and what it stood for.
In 1971, announcing the discontinuation of its other activities that had become tradition, SKUP President Marilyn Reyes said in a Philippine Collegian piece that “The SKUP can no longer waste time looking for outstanding products of our colonial education now that the nation is in such a deplorable state.”
Not a few Diliman oldtimers, however, still look back on this floral chain with wistful affection, back to their own lost youth.
Email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.