Guest Author - Rachel Meneses-Ponce
It is a landmark amidst the congested, densely populated Sampaloc district in the City of Manila which cannot be missed. The generation that grew up with Harry Potter playfully refer to it as “Hogwarts”. Its main building majestically standing up in a strategic location within the 21 hectares (more or less) campus reminds them of their favourite series of novel and movie. Other points of interest that add up to the so-called “Hogwarts” ambience are the statues on top of the Main Building, the cross on the tower and the Arch of the Centuries.
This is the University of Santo Tomas (UST). The afore-mentioned architectural gems are there not to impress but to symbolize what the University of Santo Tomas stands for, then and now. It stands for a balanced Catholic education – excellence in academic, spiritual and moral development. These structures also remind one and all that UST has been in the Filipinos’ consciousness for over 400 years now.
UST is a private learning institution, founded and managed by the Order of Preachers (OP) which is commonly referred to as Dominicans after its founder St. Dominic de Guzman. University of Santo Tomas took its name from its patron saint, Saint Thomas de Aquinas. Its students/alumni are referred to as Thomasians.
UST or USTe, as its students fondly call it, has many distinctions. For one, it is the oldest university in Asia having existed since its establishment in 1611. The birth of UST as a learning institution began in 1605 with the money and personal books given by the then third archbishop of Manila, Bishop Miguel de Benavides, O.P. for the purpose of educating and preparing young men for the priesthood. The first campus was in Intramuros; it was transferred to its present campus at Sampaloc District in the City of Manila sometime in 1927.
Another distinction was the title bestowed to it by King Charles III of Spain in 1785 as the “Royal University” in recognition of the role of its students and faculty during the brief British invasion from 1762 to 1764.
Other titles conferred to UST are “Pontifical University” by Pope Leo XIII in 1902 and “Catholic University of the Philippines” by Pope Pius XII in 1947. Thus, the masthead of UST shows the following: Pontifical and Royal at the upper left corner and The Catholic University of the Philippines at the lower right corner. (Italics mine – Ed.)
Being a Pontifical University, UST was visited thrice by two Popes – Pope Paul VI in 1970 and Pope John Paul II in 1981 and 1995.
UST boasts of alumni recognized as prime movers in Philippine society and has figured in the country’s history, specifically in its struggle for independence, political freedom and the right for education. There are heroes, presidents, legal luminaries, members of the Philippine Congress, medical practitioners, well-respected journalists/writers, artists, literary figures, clergymen, architects, engineers, sportsmen, performing artists, business people, educators, and many more in its roster of alumni. UST has also “produced” religious martyrs and saints.
It is an honour to walk on the same grounds these distinguished alumni treaded before and share the same educational and spiritual formation and values which UST espouses.
Indeed, to be a Thomasian is something to treasure and be proud of.