What is the Silliman Spirit?

Ian Rosales Casocot
3 min readAug 26, 2023

A good friend of mine who’s been based in Dumaguete for years but has never studied at Silliman University playfully wondered out aloud during a meeting: “What is the Silliman Spirit?”

Frankly, I don’t know. No one does. It beggars definition, but — it’s a feeling? A kind of zealous but quiet loyalty? It’s definitely a strong bond that exists between Sillimanians even if they are separated by generations. It’s “school spirit,” yes — but that terms also barely covers what it means. And it has nothing to do with camaraderie over sports teams either, like many other schools do.

It’s a whole collective nostalgia for school life defined by similar milestones and landscapes, which can go pretty wild sometimes. It’s singing the “Silliman Song” in a crowd and feeling immediately emotional because of the resonance of everyone singing out with gusto. It’s loving the cafeteria cheese bread, and fried chicken, and pork chop, and fruit mix — and beelining to partake of these the moment you get back to Dumaguete after a long absence. It’s Silliman Beach memories, and fresh milk from the Silliman Farm, and teasing girls at Edith Carson Hall. It’s getting the so-called “Hibalag fling.” It’s the ghosts of Katipunan Hall, and the shade of the acacia trees. It’s the swelter of shows at the Luce — where, years after graduation, you realize you were spoiled for culture and took it for granted while you were a student. It’s going to other places in the world and then you bump into a resident who finds out you’re both Sillimanians — and they drop everything to be the perfect host, even if you barely know each other. It’s looking out for and taking care of each other because of a shared matricular identity. It’s feeling like a native Dumagueteño, even if you’re not from Dumaguete and you haven’t been to Dumaguete in years — but you always long to “come home.” It’s the feeling of having a home. It’s the trek hundreds take from all over the country and the world, every August every year, just to celebrate Founders Day, which is actually not a day — it’s a whole month of activities and parties and reunions, all coming to a heightened frenzy in the last two weeks of the month. [And nobody really holds classes, although officially classes are still on.]

Founders Day is weird because it is a weeks-long fiesta that probably has no other equivalent in the world: it is a compendium of events that run the gamut of a beauty pageant, various scholarly talk and symposia, a booth festival that hosts pop-up restos, concerts, etc., a horror chamber [yes], a cheering competition, a sunrise service, a sports invitational, an all-city parade, a host of cultural shows, a barrage of high school reunions [with their own schedule of events], an awards ceremony celebrating accomplished alumni, and a community dance. And lots and lots of food.

And the whole thing radiates to the entire community! All hotels in Dumaguete are full in August. All restaurants feel the impact of the influx.

As a collective of events, Founders Day can be exhausting, and no one really manages to take them all. I think Founders Day can be a strange thing to behold to an outsider, but it’s so ingrained in the Sillimanian identity, it’s impossible to divorce August from our sense of self. I mean, take a look at one Founders Day tradition [see photo]: this is the “Pamahaw Sillimaniana,” where students and alumni regularly trek to Silliman Hall to partake of free breakfast for an entire week, just to mingle, and just to soak in that indefinable Silliman Spirit. Who else does that? Free breakfasts for everyone for an entire week?

I doubt I have managed to make a definition of the Silliman Spirit here. But it’s a lot like catching sunlight: you can’t, but you feel its warmth on your face, and you know it’s there.

See you at 6:30 AM for breakfast tomorrow!



Ian Rosales Casocot

Interpreter of hamsters. Author of Beautiful Accidents: Stories and Heartbreak & Magic: Stories of Fantasy and Horror