After finishing high school, I entered an old historic university whose campus was located in Manila. There I spent the next seven formative years of my youth – three years in College of Science (Biology-Accelerated) and four years in College of Medicine and Surgery.
It was more than twenty years ago since I left the university’s portals, and I have not visited it again, until now…..
As we entered the main gate in Espana Street, the familiar Arch of the Centuries greeted me. I was back in University of Santo Tomas.
University of Santo Tomas is the oldest existing university in Asia. It was founded in 1611. In 2011, it celebrated its 400th year anniversary. Many of the beautification updates that I found were perhaps results from that celebration.
As I passed through the roads and pathways that were brightly lit with beautiful lights for the holiday, I mused on the hundred of times I walked through these passageways in the past in my quest for illumination.
The monument of Bishop Miguel de Benavides stands in front of the main building. His pioneering desire to establish an educational institution paved the way to the founding of this university. This statue was originally unveiled in 1891, when the school was still in its original location in Intramuros.
I remember many times in my school days that I passed and communed with this statue with doubt and discouragement of where my future lies, and he always directed me “up.”
The Main Building, which functions as the university’s administrative center and houses the Faculty of Pharmacy and the College of Science, is arguably the most imposing structure in the campus. It was built in the 1920’s and first classes were held in this building in 1927.
Because of the big cross on the center tower of the building and with statues perched on its rooftop, it is often mistaken as the university church by people visiting the campus.
During the height of World War II, when the Japanese Imperial Army occupied Manila, UST was converted to an internment camp for a couple of years. The university was finally liberated in 1945.
Who knows how many soldiers died in this hallowed building during the war? No wonder there were many stories that goes around about unusual occurrences as well as experiences by students that they felt they were being watched. Or maybe they were being watched to discourage them from cheating during exams.
Part of my precious memories were at the University Hospital, where my eyes were opened to the wonderful world of Medicine, but was also enlightened to the harrowing truth of sickness and suffering.
On that clear December night, with all the festive lights and glitters, it was a solemn moment for me to return to the place where I received the light.
(*old photos of UST taken from internet)