UST Through the Years

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Jan 2 2011

By Maria Luisa Zumel-Lopez

Maria Luisa Zumel-LopezEvery birthday is a milestone in anyone’s life. This is as true of institutions as it is of people. And if the birthday is the 400th, as in the case of the University of Santo Tomas, the joyful anticipation of this monumental event is expressed not in just one jubilant festival, but in a five-year-long series of celebratory activities, each one generating a mounting excitement that will culminate in a grand gala on January 28, 2011.

A 400th anniversary is a good occasion to pause, look back, and take stock of the past. The UST was founded and administered by Spanish Dominicans and has remained all these years under the auspices of the monarchs of Spain, and the Pope, hence, its title of “Royal and Pontifical University”.

In its 400 years of existence the UST has weathered many storms and survived many upheavals. To name just a few: the Spanish-American War in the Philippines that ended with the country passing from Spanish to American rule; the convulsions of World War II and the Japanese invasion which reduced to rubble virtually all the buildings in Intramuros including UST.; the relocation and rebuilding of the UST. campus along España Boulevard, where it remains to this day; the seizure and occupation of the UST campus by the Japanese to use as an internment camp of American prisoners-of-war (although this turned out to be a blessing because when the American planes came to carpet-bomb Manila during the Battle of Liberation, the pilots, knowing that their countrymen were in that campus, steered clear of it, leaving UST virtually unscathed. Elsewhere, all was destruction, devastation); the closure of all schools and other institutions when Martial Law was imposed on the country.

But this University can also look back with great satisfaction and pride to 400 years of outstanding

service to the nation. Apart from molding the minds and hearts of countless Filipinos to prepare them for successful careers, happy home lives and exemplary citizenship, the UST has also produced moral and ethical professionals imbued with the highest values and principles of our Christian faith. In the roster of UST alumni, we find the names of some of our most illustrious countrymen, starting national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal, four presidents of the Republic, many distinguished leaders in government, business, industry, the professions, etc.

Through the years the UST has evolved in many ways---some obvious, others subtle. To visiting balikbayan alumni who have been away for at least ten years, the most evident change is the proliferation of new buildings, a sign of the burgeoning student population. (A frequent comment: “We’re running out of room. Where will they build next, upwards? Or maybe a satellite campus in some outlying town?”)

Some change, of course, is inevitable, even welcome. One of the most popular, among the alumni, is the Plaza Mayor, reminiscent of its counterpart in Madrid. Other charming spots for the comfort and convenience of students and visitors are the pergolas in strategic places. Also welcome is the more rationalized parking system. However, one wishes that any additional new buildings would be more in consonance with the character of the Main Building, which, after all, is still the main building, the focal point. Much of the beauty and old-world charm of the old campus lay in the harmony of all the structures in it. Take the Medicine Building. It is nowhere near medieval, but neither is it so modern as to be out of sync. Nothing disparate, nothing jarring, just pleasingly compatible. Another building that complements the Main Building beautifully is the Library right behind it.

To this writer, an old Varsitarian hand (reporter, 1946-47; assistant coeds editor, 1950-51; coeds editor, 1951-52; assistant associate editor, 1954-55), some of the most notable changes at the UST are at the V. Our old office was on the ground floor of the Main Building. From the main lobby, you turned right, took one step, and you were there. It was a large undivided room that ended where the building did, right at the corner. The room was full of medium-sized tables, each with its own typewriter and chair. There was no airconditioning, just electric fans, big and small, that blew away our papers if we did not weigh them down. Computers were unheard-of then, and what we had were typewriters in various stages of serviceability (in fairness, all worked). At the far end of the room a few tables were assigned to Voz Estudiantil, official student publication in Spanish, now long defunct.

Today the V is housed in one of the newest buildings, with central airconditioning, and divided into cubicles, each with a computer and with access to all manner of sophisticated communication tools in aid of campus journalism. And the present V is a sight to behold and, quite literally, to hold, with every page printed on thick, heavy, glossy paper! Still, this old V hand has many glowing memories of a big room full of young staffers furiously pounding away at aging typewriters, trying to beat deadlines to produce a good creditable newspaper even under conditions less than optimal; the warm camaraderie, the witty repartee, the mutual respect, the deep lifelong friendships formed.

From the ranks of students like these – Thomasians all – have come crackerjack journalists, creative writers, world-class doctors, lawyers, artists, government officials, educators, architects, engineers,

businessmen, nurses, chemists, pharmacists, psychologists, etc. Leaders. Movers. Shakers. Opinion-


So, on with the festivities, dear Alma Mater. You have a lot to celebrate. And may you continue to mold and inspire many more excellent Christian professionals who will serve God, our country, our people, and the rest of humanity, and bring more glory and honor to your beloved name. V

*Luisa Zumel-Lopez graduated Magna Cum Laude in Philosophy in 1952. She wrote for the Varsitarian for four years and was a part of the Editorial Board. Also, she has spent 36 years as a professor in the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery and College of Nursing.