City of Manila

Manila’s Pontifical and Royal Campus (Part 1)

My previous entry has tackled the story of the quadricentennarian institution that is the University of Santo Tomas, (UST) and the situation that arose by its tricentennial celebration that made it consider to relocate elsewhere so it could meet those needs.

The plan was put in place even before the tricentennial, when the Dominicans decided the buy a 21.5 (22 according to some sources) hectare land in Sampaloc, an area known as Sulucan Hills. (interestingly, Sulucan came from either the Tagalog word “sulok” or corner because its location or from “nakikisulok” or living with another’s house which was the situation at the turn of the century as people scrounging for a place in bustling Manila) The land was originally owned by the nuns of Santa Clara which was part of a bigger property that they disposed through an auction. The winning bidders were 2 businessmen, Antonio de la Riva and Alfredo Chicote, who were looking into developing the once marshy farmland into a residential subdivision. But these businessmen had some help from the Dominicans who lended them the needed money to win the bid. In return, de la Riva and Chicote donated a sizable chunk of their new property to the Dominicans.*

*Now some sources say it was a certain Francisca Bustamante Bayot who donated the land to the Dominicans. However, her signature does not appear on the register of deeds and cannot be accepted as documentary evidence that it was her who made the donation. Historical testimonies point to de la Riva and Chicote as the donors. source

Ever since it opened in 1927, the Sampaloc campus of UST has gone through numerous transformations. And even at this time of writing, the campus is still going through an evolution. Despite these changes, UST has managed to preserve some vestiges of its rich history; among them, the arched entrance known as the Arch of the Centuries.

The arch employs some classical Greek and Baroque influences in its architecture. But while at first it could be seen as a replica of sorts to Paris’ famous Arc De Triomphe, this arch is actually the remains of the old Intramuros campus of UST that was destroyed during World War II in the Battle of Manila in 1945. To be specific, it was part of the main entrance of the old campus where students would walk through for the past 300 years or so. National Hero Jose Rizal and first Philippine Commonwealth President Manuel Quezon who were honored by having their names inscribed in commemorative plaques on both pillars of the arch.

After the war, the Dominicans decided to take the ruins of the old entrance to its Sampaloc campus where it was rebuilt piece by piece, with some additions such as the sculptures at the topmost portion of the arch which represent the life of St. Thomas Aquinas, the university’s patron.

The arch itself is flanked by two fountains: the Fountain of Wisdom at its right and the Fountain of Knowledge at the left. These 3 landmarks together form part of what is called the Plaza Intramuros, named in honor of the location of UST’s first campus.

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Right behind Plaza Intramuros is Plaza Benavides, a 3-laned park (named Burgos, Rizal, and Del Pilar Lanes) that lead to the UST Main Building. But more than a pathway to the historic building, the plaza is the site of the university’s famous monument: the monument of its founder Archbishop Miguel de Benavides. Built in 1889, the Benavides monument was another Intramuros landmark that was damaged and moved to Sampaloc after the war where it was repaired.

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Surrounding the monument are 4 lions guarding the monument; each holding a shield that bear important symbols related to the university: the Dominican cross, the Philippine seal, he old Spanish seal, and the Vatican coat of arms. The “complex” in turn is surrounded by elephants that serve as pots for ferns and flowers.

to be continued…

Acknowledgements also to University of Santo Tomas, Inquirer, and Wikipedia.

© The Urban Roamer

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