07/30/17

The Gem Of Pedro Gil: St. Paul University Manila

As far as women’s education is concerned, St. Paul University Manila is considered one of the pioneers. Despite the many changes over the years, including it being converted into a co-ed school in 2005, it is still known as a respected institution for young Catholic women.

The History of St. Paul Manila

First established in 1911 as a novitiate where women would be trained to become nuns under the Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres, what would become St. Paul University Manila officially was born in 1912 as the St. Paul Institution, when a kindergarten department was opened. The following year, the school opened an elementary department and in 1924, the school offered secondary education as well. Eventually the novitiate moved out to its new home in Quezon City, where another St. Paul school would rise shortly, but that’s another story. Meanwhile, St. Paul Institution opened its college department in 1936; 4 years later the school would be renamed as St. Paul College Manila.

The period of St. Paul Manila’s formative years coincided with the growth of what was the old educational hub in prewar south Manila. Along what was once Herran Street, St. Paul counted as its neighbors the University of the Philippines (which still has its Manila campus to this day), Ateneo de Manila, and Assumption College.

However, World War II happened. The St. Paul Manila campus was occupied by Japanese troops in 1942 during the Japanese occupation. Three years later, the Battle of Manila happened, and the school would bear witness to one of the most horrifying atrocities committed during the Battle of Manila.

History and Tragedy in the Chapel

The story goes that the Japanese soldiers rounded up more than 120 prisoners and imprisoned them inside the school chapel, the Chapel of the Crucified Christ originally built in 1927 and designed by Juan Luna’s architect son, Andres Luna de San Pedro. Once the prisoners were locked inside, the Japanese proceeded to bomb and burn the chapel. The chapel was burned down and none of the chapel prisoners managed to survive. The only one that survived by the end of the war was the chapel facade, one of the few structures that were left standing in Herran.

The Sisters of St. Paul proceeded to rebuild St. Paul Manila after the war and quickly resumed operations. The chapel was eventually rebuilt in 1948 and, owing to its history and architectural significance, has become the school’s most cherished and most significant landmark.

The “Broadway of Herran”

As was mentioned earlier, St. Paul Manila decided to continue its operations in its original location, defying a postwar trend among former Manila-based institutions that decided to relocate outside the city proper. In fact, it managed to thrive on after the war, retaining its spot as a premier academic institution for women.

Nothing symbolized this optimism and vigor felt in the campus better than its other beloved landmark that was built in 1957, the Fleur de Lis Theater. Behind this contemporary architectural structure are 2 men from Angono, Rizal: Jose Reynoso who was the architect of the building and future National Artist Carlos “Botong” Francisco, who made a painting found in the theater’s lobby titled “The Evolution of Philippine Culture.”

Botong Francisco’s “Evolution of Philippine Culture” (image courtesy of Mary Ann Venturina-Bulanadi via Facebook)

The Fleur de Lis Theater would become known to be the place to be for musical theater presentations, where future artists and entertainers like Cecille Guidote, Charo Santos, Celeste Legaspi, June Keithley, and the Revilla sisters would get to hone their craft. The theater would eventually earn the monicker “the Broadway of Herran.”

Inside the Fleur de Lis Theater (photo courtesy of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines)

Recent Developments

St. Paul Manila would later be elevated as a university in its own right in 2004 as part of the St. Paul University System, the first university system recognized by the Commission on Higher Education.

Despite the growing commercialization of the area in recent decades (not to mention a street name change to what is now Pedro Gil), St. Paul University Manila has remains not only as a landmark but as a remnant of Manila of old.

 

Acknowledgements as well to St. Paul University Manila

02/19/17

A Museum For Filipino Seafarers

The Philippines has been considered as the “manning capital of the world” for the maritime industry. That should not come as a surprise as Filipinos comprise the majority of the world’s 1.5 million strong maritime personnel at more than 25%, largest for any nationality. The hard work, the loneliness being at sea for months, and the other sacrifices our Filipino seafarers have made for their families and to the country cannot be stressed hard enough.

Sadly, their contributions seem to be overlooked as the general public do not seem to have an idea as to what the Filipino seafarers go through in their job at sea. Come to think of it, the maritime industry has not been given that much appreciation either. Which is why it is nice to hear that there are place the public can visit to appreciate the contributions of the Filipino seafarers in the maritime industry, which is the where the Urban Roamer is headed for in this entry. Continue reading

12/17/16

The Question of the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex

Ever since the news first broke out in November, the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex has been put under a spotlight as it faces an uncertain future as two opposing forces have clashed as to what its future should be.

But before we go further, it is best to learn more about the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex, which, mind you, is not just any sports complex. It also happens to be the Philippines’ premier sports complex. Well, for a time at least. Continue reading

07/25/16

Of Bygone Days and An Uncertain Future: The Saga Of Harrison Plaza

Before there was the mall, there was a park. Harrison Park as it was called and it was a pretty wide open green space. It served as breathing space in the midst of the growing congestion in southern part of the city. It also served as a natural extension to the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex located right across it as kids played football and softball in the greens. There is also Manila Zoo nearby, which made the park a children’s zone for play and fun. You can imagine how big the old Harrison Park was.

Unfortunately, the bigwigs at Manila City Hall (the land where the park is located is city government property, by the way) decided that the park had to give way to a commercial complex, the Harrison Plaza we know today which opened in 1976, a short while after the opening of Ali Mall.

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07/11/16

The Story Of Philippine Women’s University

Along the busy Taft Avenue in the City of Manila stands an impressive 3-storey structure housing one of the country’s prominent universities. While its prestige is not along the levels of that of the so-called “Big Four” of the Philippine universities, its contributions not only to education but to Philippine society as a whole is something that cannot be denied.

It also has quite a history as well, from its glory days in the past to the crisis it experienced in recent years which threatened the existence of the university itself. As it approaches its centennial in a few years’ time after surviving that close call, it is time for the Urban Roamer to take a look at this venerable institution: the Philippine Women’s University.

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