Despite pursuing different professional paths, immersing in different cultures, a class of medical doctors re-establishes their connections and gets reunified by an intricately woven green and maroon sash
By Irene Baluyut Larkin, MD
How do we reunite such a diverse medical school class that 25 years before cannot even be unified? How can we re-establish connections when we have been living our own dreams and heartaches relatively unknown to most of us? How do we encourage one another to “come home” when that home has a different significance for each of us?
Enter the Sablay. This was officially adopted in 2000 as the University of the Philippines (UP)’ academic costume replacing the more western mortarboard and toga. It is used in recognition programs, commencement exercises, investitures of chancellors and presidents, and other activities requiring the official academic costume. It symbolizes nationalism, and represents indigenous cultures across the Philippines with its geometric patterns of triangles and chevrons.
I am one of 160 students who entered the UP College of Medicine (UPCM) in 1987 and finished in 1992. I took up Pediatrics in Stony Brook, New York, and then went back to Manila to practice for eight years. I moved to California in 2009 and have been practicing in Sonoma County. I have kept in touch with some of my classmates and this connection has increased as we prepare for our 25th homecoming reunion in December. When I received the Sablay from my classmate Raymund Millan, I felt nostalgic about the Philippines.
The Sablay is an intricately woven green and maroon sash adorned with geometric patterns and bright yellow indigenous alphabet equivalent to the Roman letters “U” and “P” woven in a surprisingly heavy tapestry. On researching the Sablay, I learned that it is made with a foot-treadle floor loom by weavers at either the Easter Weaving Room located in Baguio City, or by Arevalo Handwoven Products in Iloilo City. It takes patience and dexterity in making a Sablay. Touching the cloth shows how much work was painstakingly taken to produce this work of art.
The Sablay, thus, became a symbol that literally reconnected these idealistic doctors. It was sent by post from Manila to different regions of the Philippines, and then to the US and Australia. The instruction was simple- take a photo cradling the Sablay and show your classmates where you work, live, or play. Getting the Sablay rekindled the connections as we passed it to the next classmate. There were some who took their photos in front of the hospitals and offices were they work. There were those who took photos in iconic areas of their home cities. There were those who took photos as they vacationed around the Philippines and abroad. Having the Sablay even became an impetus for classmates to meet up and take photos!
The design of the Sablay was meant to signify UP’s pursuit of knowledge, cultural enrichment, and scientific advancement. Seeing photos of these doctors with the Sablay showed that after 25 years, we did just that – living in different cities, immersed in different cultures, and pursued different professional paths. The members of UPCM Class 1992 have somehow re-established connections, have been unified, and are more excited to come home to celebrate the Homecoming- all because of the traveling Sablay.
“The Sablay is an intricately woven green and maroon sash adorned with geometric patterns and bright yellow indigenous alphabet equivalent to the Roman letters ‘U’ and ‘P’ woven in a surprisingly heavy tapestry”