One of the oldest learning institutions in Manila, and in the Philippines, is the University of Santo Tomas, or UST. Philippine national hero Dr. Jose Rizal studied Medicine in this centennial university. Other heroes and some Philippine presidents also graduated here. A short trip to this historic university captures the grandeur of the past in the present setting. It traces history back in 1611.
UST, or fondly called “uste” by generations of benefactors, was built in 1611 on approval of no less than King Philip II of Spain. Named after St. Thomas Aquinas the Dominican priest, UST was first situated inside the Intramuros Wall (Manila at the time was a walled city) as a convent and seminary. It mostly offered courses in theology, philosophy, grammar, logic, the arts, and other related courses.
In 1871 it began offering Medicine and Pharmacy. Later in 1927 UST was transferred in a 220,000 square meter lot in the Sulucan Hills in Sampaloc, Manila where it now sits right at the corner of Espana (or Quezon Boulevard Extension) and Lacson Avenue (former Forbes avenue). Well, the hills are gone today and UST campus in Manila is on a flat ground clustered with old and new buildings, a hospital, and abundant trees and parks. Other courses were eventually offered. Plans are made for an upcoming UST Laguna, General Santos City, and even Sri Lanka.
The main building was built also in 1927. This historical building in Manila allegedly boasts of being one of the first earthquake-proof buildings in the Philippines and Asia. This historical building in Manila is said to sway with earthquake motion. It is styled in classic Baroque architecture, of perfect symmetry, with an interesting look-out tower in the middle.
In World War II, the conquering Japanese Army converted UST campus into a prison camp. Lots of Filipino and American soldiers were imprisoned and reportedly tormented here. It was one of many buildings damaged when Americans attacked to liberate Manila from the Japanese. After restoring this historical building in Manila, other buildings were added, like the popular UST hospital.
Today, besides having its grand history preserved in the walls of its historical building, UST Manila boasts of some 35,000 students, state-of-the-art learning and medical facilities, a modern gym, managed parks and greeneries, and other modern amenities. Its remarkable historical, scientific, and medical museums are often field trip destinations of other schools. The air of past and present grandeur can still be had in a short visit there.