UP Diliman
Quezon City

Around the UP Diliman Oval – the south side (fifth of the UP Diliman series)

As was mentioned previously, the Academic Oval of the University of the Philippines Diliman serves as the core of this vast campus. After learning a bit more about the different structures and areas within the oval, it’s time to explore the structures surrounding the oval, beginning at the south side or the buildings along Roxas Avenue.

The Museum Area

While there are actually a number of museums and art galleries within the UP Diliman campus, the most prominent and probably the only museum there which people are familiar with is the Vargas Museum. Opened in 1987, the Vargas Museum was named after Jorge B. Vargas, the country’s first Executive Secretary and one-time mayor of Greater Manila (the precursor of today’s Metro Manila minus Valenzuela/Polo, and also a more centralized political entity). It first served to house Vargas’ collection of books and other memorabilia that he donated to UP in 1978, but it became the campus’ primary arts and events space.

Surrounding the area are a number of sculptures, among them one depicting Rajah Sulayman, the last ruler of Manila and others that I couldn’t identify.

Right at the back is actually another museum, albeit lesser-known and often overlooked, partly due to the fact that it’s hidden behind Vargas Museum. This is the Gregorio Lim Art Museum which seems to be an extension of sorts of Vargas.

The CAL Complex

The area that serves as the home base of the College of Arts and Letters consists originally of two main buildings. One of them is the CAL (New) Building, which is built in the 2000s and is where many of the classes falling under the CAL program are held, It is somewhat hidden by the trees and partly by its neighbor which we’ll get to shortly. Also, there is an Napoleon Abueva sculpture found there called Magdangal.

But perhaps the more prominent building in the area was the old Bulwagang Rizal/Faculty Center that was completed in 1969. As the name implied, the building served as offices for the faculty members of the then College of Arts and Sciences before it was split into what are now the colleges of Arts and Letters, Science, and Social Science and Philosophy. Also found there was the Pulungang Claro M. Recto where lively discussions among the UP Diliman community were held and a small theater, Teatro Hermogenes Ilagan.

The old Bulwagang Rizal/Faculty Center (image courtesy of Balita.net)
The old Pulungang Claro M. Recto (image courtesy of the UP Third World Studies Center)

Fronting Bulwagang Rizal/Faculty Center is another Abueva work, “Siyam na Diwata ng Sining” which is a unique and local take on the Nine Muses of Greek mythology who are goddesses/patronesses of the arts and sciences.

Sadly, the Bulwagang Rizal/Faculty Center was struck by a huge fire on April 1, 2016, which left the building almost hollowed out and many papers that the faculty members kept there now gone. A decision was made to have the structure demolished and have a new Faculty Center built in its place. Targeted completion date is by November of this year, though this might change given the current circumstances.

Palma Hall Complex

Perhaps the most prominent building in this part of UP Diliman is the Palma Hall. Named after Rafael Palma, who served as the 4th president of the University from 1925-1933 and also spearheaded the Diliman transfer, it is also one of the first buildings to be constructed after the university’s move of its main programs to Diliman, having been completed in 1951.

Spearheading its construction was the then campus architect Cesar Concio Sr., who would later on design the Redemptorist Church in Baclaran and the Insular Life Building in Makati (also soon would be father-in-law of actress Charo Santos too). Its design looks similar to Quezon Hall with its blend of neoclassical and postwar elements. Its imposing facade, rectangular columns.

While there are many buildings in the campus where classes are being held, Palma Hall is perhaps the epicenter of academic life in the campus, partly due to the fact that many general education classes are being held there.. Thus the lobby and open areas are occupied by the students, even the wide staircase that is often utilized as a place where students hang out or hold protests.

Palma Hall also boasts of works by National Artists such as the bust of Jose Rizal at the main entrance by Guillermo Tolentino and the artwork at the lobby by Vicente Manansala. Also located there is the Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater, which is a popular venue for stage plays.

Benton and Lagmay Halls, and the late CASAA Food Center

Built around the 1960s, Benton Hall was named after American Guy Potter Benton who served as the 3rd president of the University. It used to be the home of the College of Business Administration, then of the Office of the University Registrar. Currently, it serves as the office of the Center for International Studies and the Gender Office.

Right beside Benton Hall is the building formerly known as the Palma Hall Annex. Now it is known as the Lagmay Hall, named after Alfredo Lagmay, a professor and one of the most respected authorities in psychology in the country. He was also recognized as a National Scientist for Experimental Psychology. Naturally, this building is the home building of the Psychology department of the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy.

One would not forget in this area the iconic CASAA Food Center, the most notable dining place in the campus that is now long gone (though not forgotten) I’ve talked about it previously, shortly after it was razed by fire in 2015. The tenants of CASAA eventually moved to other spaces like in Vinzons Hall which is currently…we’ll get to it shortly.

Benitez Hall

One of the first two buildings to be built in the campus, constructed between right after the approval of the Diliman move in 1939 and the outbreak of World War II in the country in 1942, Benitez Hall was designed by architect Juan Arellano himself. As such, the design has a more predominant neoclassical look compared to the Quezon and Palma Hall buildings which blended neoclassical and contemporary designs.

The building is the home of the College of Education. It is named after the first dean of the college, Francisco Benitez who himself comes from a family of educators with brother Conrado having served as dean of the College of Liberal Arts in UP and Conrado’s wife having founded Philippine Women’s University. It is said that the Japanese forces used it as quarters during the war and was a site of killings during that time. Hence, there were stories that it is haunted.

Near the building is a monument depicting a slab of concrete with a dove perched on top. This is the Peace Rock, which was installed in 2016 in memory of a student named Rolando Abad who died in an act of fraternity violence in the campus, a problem UP as a whole has faced for so long.

Vinzons Hall

Vinzons Hall is considered the center of student life in UP Diliman. It is where many student organizations and UP’s student body, the University Student Council are based. Completed in 1958, it is interesting to note its location at the end of the Academic Oval, almost parallel and on the opposite side of UP’s administration center which is on the end. In a way, some see it as symbolic, illustrating the cooperative and combative relationship between the university administration and the studentry.

Vinzons Hall was named after Wenceslao Vinzons, who served as president of the University Student Council and editor of the Philippine Collegian and would eventually become governor to assemblyman representing Camarines Norte to guerrilla leader during World War II for which he was executed by the Japanese.

And if Quezon Hall has the Oblation in front, Vinzons Hall has the Cry of Balintawak or El Grito de Balintawak monument. Considered to be the first monument dedicated to the Katipunan and the First Cry., it was originally built in 1911 and was located in the area that is now the Balintawak Cloverleaf near EDSA. When EDSA was being widened and construction for what would become the North Luzon Expressway began in the late 1960s, the monument was moved to its present site in 1968.

At this time of writing, Vinzons Hall is actually undergoing massive renovation and expansion with the addition of new facilities, including a new building behind it which will be called the Students Union Building.

Cesar Virata School of Business Building

As mentioned earlier, the College of Business Administration used to be at the Benton Hall but as the student population grew, the need arose for a bigger building. Thus, this building was built in the late 1970s and was further expanded with the addition of a 3rd floor in the 1980s. In 2013, the college was renamed the Cesar Virata School of Business, after alumnus Cesar Virata who served as finance minister and eventually prime minister (though in reality, he was more of a glorified executive secretary than head of government) under the Marcos administration. Given the anti-Marcos sentiment among many in the campus, it sparked controversy but the name still stuck.

Like its neighbor Vinzons Hall, the Virata School of Business Building has a sculpture fronting it. What looks some futuristic gattling gun made of concrete and metal is actually another Napoleon Abueva artwork called “Spirit of Business” and it symbolizes the cyclical nature of business.

To be continued

Acknowledgements as well to University of the Philippines, Vargas Museum, Virata School of Business, Philippine News Agency, Wikipedia, Iskomunidad, Ivan Henares, Lakansining, and Spot.ph


  • Bing

    Just to correct an item in the article. Benton Hall and Palma Hall Annex (“PHAn”) are 2 distinct buildings. It was Palma Hall Annex which was named Lagmay Hall. Benton Hall remains as it is. Facing these 2 structures, Lagmay Hall is the on on the left, with the central entrance and lobby.

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