Manila1945: The UST Standoff

When the Japanese occupied Manila in January 1942, they took control of the then-newly established campus of University of Santo Tomas in the city’s Sampaloc district. With such a large tract of property and the large structures there that were already standing by that time, notably the UST Main Building and the old Education Building, (now occupied by the UST Hospital) the Japanese decided to convert the campus into an the Santo Tomas Internment Camp.

the open area at the UST Main Building was filled with makeshift shelters made by the internees (from Wikipedia)

The Japanese rounded up about 4,000 foreign individuals, mostly American and British nationals who were deemed as “hostile aliens” by the Japanese and isolated them in the different buildings in the campus, most notably the Main Building. With that, the Santo Tomas Internment Camp was the largest internment camp the Japanese set up during the war; the internees organized themselves as an effort to make do of the situation. At first, the internment wards gave the prisoners some relative freedom so visitors could come and give them needed goods, not to mention some intelligence information, along the way.  But as the tide of war was turning against Japan, the prisoners were given harsher treatment which was coupled by a shortening food supply which has resulted into malnourishment, if not death, among the internees. Such were the state of things as February 1945 entered. Continue reading


Manila’s Pontifical and Royal campus (Part 8: inside the Main Building)

These days, the University of Santo Tomas’s Main Building stands tall and proud in front of the wide Plaza Mayor which sits in between the building and the Benavides Monument. A former street and parking place, it was converted into an open space that is being used from time to time during campus events. With the Main Building as the background, any event there undoubtedly gives one a true Thomasian vibe to it.


But apart from serving as backdrop as the administrative seat of the University, the Main Building also serves as the academic home of the university’s Faculty of Civil Law, College of Science, and the Faculty of Pharmacy. Continue reading


Rizal, Santo Tomas, and Sampaloc

As you may have noticed these past few entries, we have devoted space in this blog on the University of Santo Tomas campus. But on the occasion of the 150th birth anniversary of the Philippines’ National Hero, Jose Rizal, allow me to take a little diversion of this trip to talk about this school’s “relationship” with our hero.

a photo of Rizal in his late teens, possibly around the time he was a UST student

To anyone with some knowledge of Rizal’s biography, it is a well-known fact that Rizal entered University of Santo Tomas in 1877 and managed to get a degree in Philosophy and Letters two years later. He then proceeding to medicine, ophthalmology to be precise, for the next 2 years before going to Spain to finish medicine and get his degree. Continue reading


Manila’s Pontifical and Royal campus (Part 6)


Being the country’s oldest university, it should not be a surprise that the University of Santo Tomas holds a significant number of titles in its library. In fact, UST’s book collection dates back to as far as before the founding of the university, when these books were first owned by Dominicans, (who among them was the university’s founder himself Miguel de Benavides) who donated their book collections for the establishment of what is now UST. As was mentioned previously, UST was first founded as a school for theology, philosophy, and law; most of these old books dealt with those particular subjects.



Over the years and centuries, UST library collection got accumulated as its older items became more valuable. I don’t know if there have been any books that have been lost or damaged throughout that time, but it’s good to know much of its old collection has remained intact and well-preserved, unaffected by war and its move from the old campus at the Walled City to the new one at the Main Building at the wider Sampaloc campus. Continue reading


Manila’s Pontifical and Royal Campus (Part 5, a center for faith and thought)


By the 1930’s as the University of Santo Tomas began to settle itself comfortably at its new home in Sampaloc, plans and works were under way for the expansion of what was then just a one-building complex in the middle of what was then a vast tract of land that was its campus. One of the buildings being planned was one that would serve as the University church and residence as well: of the Dominican priests who are assigned there and the seminarians learning to become Dominican priests themselves. Continue reading