How do I know I love UST?

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Jan 2 2011

By Fr. Rolando de la Rosa, O.P.

Fr. Rolando de la Rosa, O.P.The University of Santo Tomas will soon celebrate its 400th anniversary of foundation. I want to believe that it lasted this long, not only because of the thousands of students, faculty, and employees who inhabit it today, but because of the love and concern that smolders within the heart of Thomasians everywhere. I myself am an avid lover of UST. How do I know that it is so? Let me count the ways.

First, I know I love UST because everytime I behold the majestic Main Building, I feel very proud of being a Thomasian. Nowhere in the country can you see such majestic work of genius. Declared as a National Cultural Treasure by the government, the main building has become sort of a sacrament – it makes present what it signifies: the classic character of the University. Classic, in the sense of timeless and forever timely.

The main building has become the face of UST, and I cannot stop admiring the foresight of this building, the eminent engineer Fr. Roque Ruano, O.P. He designed its façade in such a way that anyone who looks at it cannot see but the cross, the clock and the three statues that dominate it.

The cross symbolizes our redemption, the clock symbolizes history. The two taken together means salvation history. Three statues at the façade are collectively known in Latin as tria haec (“these three”) a phrase derived from |Corinthians 13:13 where St. Paul declares: “These three things last forever: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” The tria haec seem to tell us that the history of UST is a history that is impelled by faith, propelled by hope, and compelled by love. What other university can claim such a sublime past?

Secondly, I love UST because whenever I pass through the Arch of the Centuries I feel a strong assurance that the University of Santo Tomas is a blessed educational institution. The fact that it had survived several centuries of colonial battles for supremacy, two World Wars, countless calamities and disasters, economic and political upheavals in the country, is a clear proof that UST is an institution imbued with unending grace. The Arch of the Centuries is not just the “ruins” of the original main building of UST in Intramuros. It reminds us of the stubborn will of UST to survive, to be relevant, to impress its mark on every student that enters its portal. Thomasians everywhere who have the Arch of the Centuries in their heart will never lose hope even in their darkest hours. Why should they? They possess a symbol of God’s abiding love.

I know I love UST because I feel immensely relaxed every time I stroll on its venerable grounds, with its magnificent gardens, the Plaza Mayor, the Quadricentennial Square, the parade grounds that have witnessed extraordinary events like three Papal visits, the Paskuhan, Baccalaureate Mass, Freshmen Walk, and many other unforgettable occasions. I feel and exhilarating sense of relief for a while all of Sampaloc area is cramped by houses shanties, high rise buildings, condominiums, and commercial establishments, and strangled by narrow streets teeming with cars and jeepneys, UST is an oasis teeming with trees, a haven for plant lovers, where one can breathe freely, jog, run, or simply stand and allow oneself to dissolve in the swirling, throbbing, never-ending motion around him.

I also know that I love UST because when I pass by the walkways and see the bulletin boards and the LED monitors displaying grandiosely outstanding Thomasians: Board topnotchers, UAAP champions, winners in national and international competitions, eminent public servants, professionals, and civic leaders. I vicariously share their triumphs and bask in their glory. I cannot stop to relish the thought that the University has produced not only excellent leaders, entrepreneurs, academicians, and pioneering professionals, but also heroes and saints. Which university in the Philippines has alumni who can boast of such exalted pedigree?

I know I love UST because I feel elated rather than angry everytime a traffic jam forms in all streets surrounding UST during the scheduled entrance test. This means that many young Filipinos consider UST as their priority school during enrolment. And I don’t wonder why. While UST has maintained its non-elitist status, it continues to defy standards of excellence in almost all the professions. No, it does not follow standards. It sets standards.

I know I love UST because I can feel happy when I see alumni coming home and asking: How can I give back? How will I help? Although, I am filled with sadness when, after telling them how they can give back, they draw away and no longer come back. I feel sad that with so many architects and engineers that UST has produced, not one would volunteer his services free of charge to help in the infrastructure development of the University. I wonder why not one alumnus or alumna who has become successful in their profession would volunteer to finance a building in his or her honor. In the campus, all the building are constructed at the expense of the University. The only structure that is not financed by UST is the Tan Yan Kee building, courtesy of Lucio Tan who did not even graduate from the university.

So far, in the hundreds of alumni reunions held, when talk about helping the University begins, what ensues is almost a deafening silence. The only alumni group that really showed enthusiasm in constructing a building in the campus as their legacy is the UST I know I love UST because I can feel happy when I see alumni coming home and asking: How can I give back? How will I help? Although, I am filled with sadness when, after telling them how they can give back, they draw away and no longer come back. I feel sad that with so many architects and engineers that UST has produced, not one would volunteer his services free of charge to help in the infrastructure development of the university. I wonder why not one alumnus or alumna who has become successful in their profession would volunteer to finance a building in his or her honor. In the campus, all the building are constructed at the expense of the University. The only structure that is not financed by UST is the Tan Yan Kee building, courtesy of Lucio Tan who did not even graduate from the university.

So far, in the hundreds of alumni reunions held, when talk about helping the University begins, what ensues is almost a deafening silence. The only alumni group that really showed enthusiasm in constructing a building in the campus as their legacy is the UST Medical Alumni Association of America. It is ironic that those who are geographically distant from the University are the ones who feel the burning desire to help her continue her mission and vision.

Finally, I know I love UST because wherever I find myself, I consciously tell myself that I am a Thomasian. UST is my alma mater, my spiritual home. Home is the place that you can never really leave behind. Therefore I bring UST wherever I go. It has become a part of the fabric of my life.

As I count the remaining days before its Quadricentennial, I see myself, not as a flickering candle, but as a torch, inflaming my fellow Thomasians to pursue greatness: greatness in purpose and achievement – for the self, the country and God. V

*Father De la Rosa graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor of of arts in philosophy from the Dominican House of Studies in 1977. He served as rector and president of the University of Santo Tomas for eight years, from 1990-1998 and re-elected in 2008. He was the Witness Editor of the Varsitarian from 1978-1979.