The Pontifical and Royal University of Santo Tomas, the Catholic University of the Philippines. This the full name of the University of Santo Tomas (UST). UST is among the oldest universities in the Philippines. It is also the oldest Catholic university in Asia. Established in April 1611, it was founded and managed by the Dominican priests. And today, it is one of the top universities and most respected educational institution in the country.
Well, I’m a proud to say that I one of its alumni who graduated from its College of Commerce in early 2000.
UST is currently located in a squarish 21.5 hectare lot in locality of Sampaloc in Manila. It is bounded by España Boulevard, named after the Philippines’ former colonizer, Spain. In exchange, Madrid named its own as Avenida de Filipinas where the replica of the Rizal monument stands. But originally, the university was located within the walls of the Intramuros. It was only in the 1927 when the Dominican priests decided to move to a bigger location outside the wall. The Intramuros campus remained operational until it was destroyed by the World War II.
UST is an open university. This means, that any one can enter the university open grounds. The campus houses a community church and a hospital and this is one reason anyone are allowed to come in. IDs are only required if going inside the college buildings.
A triumphal arch structure, called The Arch of the Centuries, stand proud at the main entrance of the University facing España. This arch is two-faced. The side which faces the university is the original main doorway of UST in its Intramuros campus. This was moved piece by piece to its new location in 1954. While the other side that faces España Blvd, is a reconstruction of the original doorway.
Freshmen to the university during their campus introduction are usually told of a legend about the arch. That is when you walk through the arch from one side to the other, you’ll be transported to another time in the past.
To explore the university, it’s best to start from the España Blvd gate where the Arch of the Centuries stand next to. A long tree-line path walk is found behind the arch and it leads visitors to the center of the campus. This tree-line area is a favorite spot of students who want a quite place in the campus and surrounded by nature. To the left side of this area is university’s Grand Stand and Parade grounds. It’s also the main football field. To its right is the Quadricentennial Pavilion which is a 5,792-seater multi-purpose gymnasium built as part of the university’s 400-year celebration. It also replaced the old gymnasium.
Beside the Quadricentennial Pavilion is a multi-deck parking building which also housed the College of Accountancy on its top floors. Behind the pavilion is the buildings for the colleges of engineering and education.
Going back to the tree-line path, the other end of the park stands the bronze statue of Fr. Miguel de Benavides. Benavides was the third Archbishop of Manila who founded the university in 1611. The statue stands in front Plaza Mayor and UST’s Main Building.
Another story told to freshmen during their first few days in UST about Fr. Benavides’ statue was on the way statue is pointing. They said that UST prides itself on academics that course changing are discouraged and entrance exams are difficult. And if a student had a hard time studying in UST, Fr. Benavides is pointing to where the student should transfer to. He’s pointing to the University Belt, where dozens of other universities in Manila are located.
The UST Main Building houses the College of Science, Faculty of Civil Law, Faculty of Pharmacy, and the university’s administrative offices. It also houses the UST Museum which is considered the oldest existing museum in the Philippines. It contained specimens of natural history, art works from Philippine national artists, religious images and others. The museum boasts of having the largest religious image carved from ivory which is a Crucified Christ.
Back during the World War II when Manila fell under the Japanese occupation, UST was converted to an interment camp. It was the largest internment camp in the Philippines where prisoners of war and enemies of the Japanese forces where holed in. Around 3000 prisoners from different countries, mostly Americans, British, and Filipinos were imprisoned within the halls of the UST Main Building. Upon the liberation of Manila, most of the POWs where near death due to their terrible condition and lack of food.
Behind the UST Main Building is the Quadricentennial Square and the Main Library. While to left of the Main Building is the UST Hospital and on its right side stands the Santissimo Rosario Parish, or simply the UST Chapel. In the same building of the UST Chapel, the main seminary and the residence of the Dominican priests are also located.
One thing that I loved with UST is that this is the only university within the city of Manila that has wide open and green spaces.
The university also showcases beautiful architecture that makes you feel like going back in time. And it is among the top universities in the country and Asia.