“Amphigongs” no more? Relocated DLSU turtles share thoughts on cat neighbors, pond renovation

Due to an ongoing construction project near the Amphitheater, the beloved campus turtles must seek solace in an emergency shelter in St. Joseph Hall.

As Lasallians roam the campus, they will undoubtedly pass by the University’s Amphitheater. This open space, as many students would agree, is one to pause, sit, and have a moment with nature in—away from the academic hurdles that the typical college student would face day by day. The amphitheater provides the perfect spot to take in the facade of the Yuchengco building, the precisely architectured Henry Sy Sr. Hall, and the view of sunsets from these buildings. 

Now, a marvelous makeover is bound to transform the Amphitheater and the neighboring Marian Quadrangle into a botanical garden. The entire area has been barricaded since early February, and one of the Amphitheater’s former key features, the mini pond fronting the Yuchengco building, was a major casualty of the ongoing construction. 

Unbeknown to some, this forced the temporary relocation of one of the University’s resident families—the pond’s imperturbable turtles. Fondly called by students as “Amphiturtles” or “Amphigongs,” they were transferred to a pond fronting St. Joseph Hall, where The LuhSallian caught up with them to talk about the sudden transfer.

The turtles miss their feline neighbors and human audience in their new home.

From Amphigong to SJ lurker

Despite the unceremonious farewell to their home for many years, Gong Pagong, one of the turtles, expresses excitement at their temporary transfer to a larger, more leafy pond in front of the St. Joseph Hall. “The pond’s bigger than I expected!” she exclaims. “There’s more breathing room here than there was at [the amphitheater].” 

Michelangelo Amorsolo, despite initially agreeing with Pagong’s sentiment, raises several security issues with the new pond. He comments, “Oo, fresh start nga, pero may mga nabalitaan akong may mga ginagawa raw ‘yung mga taga-COS (College of Science) sa mga hayop, eh. I’m just afraid of becoming the next victim on their dissecting pans.”

(Yes, it is a fresh start, but I heard that students from the College of Science do things with animals.)

The turtles also share their disappointment with the decreased number of visitors due to their fairly distant location from the heart of the campus. “We felt our social media exposure lessened over the days, yet we remain hopeful that when we move into our new home, we will be featured more,” Pagong conveys. She also recalls witnessing scuffles between Amphitheater-based cat neighbors Kiatkiat and Chocnut, which serve as a “daily dose of entertainment” for the turtle family. 

“I wouldn’t have minded acting as referee to their slapping matches, honestly,” Pagong jokes, peeking out from behind the foliage covering the St. Joseph pond. “A shell with spikes would have come in handy, though. I remember seeing one on a yellow cousin of mine somewhere.” 

‘A cat afterthought’

In the few months that the turtles will reside at the St. Joseph pond, they hope to adjust to a life away from the hustle and bustle of the usually-packed Amphitheater. For Turtley Kewldude, one of the best features of their new home is the shade they receive from the water lilies covering their temporary pond. He remarks, “Shell yeah! It doesn’t feel as hot, you know. We even get our own fountain here! That’s [a] privilege even the cats don’t have.”

Laughing at her cousin’s remark, Pagong then shares the turtles’ collective dejection at the lack of love they receive compared to the more famous campus cats. Despite admitting the hurt of being what she calls “a cat afterthought,” Pagong still shows appreciation for her feline friends. 

Pagong reckons, “A lot of them (campus cats) are good friends still, and I just feel happy that they are provided with the care and nurture they deserve.” She shares that her long-time neighbors Casper and Peri would regularly visit her small nook to update her with the latest stories. “How I wish Peri would have been able to visit us both here and at our new home in the future,” Pagong reflects, referring to the cat’s recent passing in early January.

WTB/LFS: Turtle pond

As the turtles await the completion of the campus’ botanical gardens, they were asked what they seek in their new home. “Ideally, I want for the new pond to be wider than our previous home,” Amorsolo requests. During periods of extreme heat and humidity, he would also like “a pond filled with plants to provide us shade and protection from the harsh rays of sunlight.”

Miguel, on the other hand, hopes for their student fans to still drop by wherever they are headed next. “I hope students will still be able to walk by. Because for ‘cloutchasers’ like them, stopping by for a minute at the pond and taking [pictures] at cute angles of us is essential for the ‘gram (Instagram),” he adds.

With the botanical gardens expected to open by May of this year, the turtles look forward to a new beginning and a refreshed environment at their new under-construction home. The only thing they could use help with by then, arguably, is a new moniker—garden turtles, maybe?

This article was published in The LaSallian‘s Spoof 2024 issue. To read more, visit bit.ly/TLSSpoof2024.