Time, Space and UP Manila

| Written by Celeste Ann Castillo Llaneta

In some places, relics of the past are often relegated to certain sites and visited from time to time. But for UP Manila, history and heritage are literally carved into the walls of its campus, which stands unique among UP’s 17 existing campuses in the way it blends past and present, academic excellence and public service, in one dynamic, seamless whole.

As Dr. Arlene A. Samaniego, UP Manila Vice-Chancellor for Administration, puts it, “The architectural and landscape designs of most heritage buildings of UP Manila indeed reflect distinct periods in the history of the University and of the City of Manila. As the original birthplace and cradle of UP, the Padre Faura campus is home to heritage buildings and artifacts that date back to the early 1900s and were witnesses to its early struggles and formative years.”


The Nurses Home. (Photo by Jun Madrid, UP MPRO)
The Nurses Home. (Photo by Jun Madrid, UP MPRO)


Quoting the coffee-table book U.P. Manila: 100 Years of Heritage, Culture and Arts (2009): “The physical evolution of the original campus of the State University is a story that has two major layers—that of the new civic architecture introduced by Americans but eventually designed and built wholly by Filipinos, and that of education as a tool for economic and political growth. Both layers meld together to create what was and still is a key district of central Manila.”

A living history

Many of the buildings in UP Manila are the products of the first generation of modern Filipino architects who were trained in the US. The first buildings were designed by William Parsons in 1908. He completed the planning of the campus and melded it with the original Burnham master plan for Manila in 1905. Parsons also designed the buildings of the College of Medicine, the University Hall (now the Supreme Court), and the Philippine General Hospital (PGH).

Students, faculty, staff, and patients walk daily through heritage buildings such as Rizal Hall; the College of Medicine; the PGH with its two heritage structures, the Cancer Institute and Nurses Home; the College of Public Health; the National Institutes of Health; and the Museum of a History of Ideas (formerly the old Infirmary and later occupied by the College of Dentistry, which moved to its own building in 2002).


Dr. Rizal's "Triumph of Science Over Death standing in front of the UP College of Medicine's Calderon Hall.
Dr. Rizal’s “Triumph of Science Over Death standing in front of the UP College of Medicine’s Calderon Hall. (Photo by Jun Madrid, UP MPRO)


The heritage buildings are not the only treasures within the campus. There are works of art scattered about, such as the concrete replica of Dr. Jose Rizal’s Triumph of Science Over Death, known colloquially as Triumph or Lady Med; the sculpture titled “Celebration of Life” by National Artist Napoleon Abueva; the murals of National Artist Carlos “Botong” Francisco in the PGH lobby, depicting the history of Philippine medicine; the mural titled History of Medicine by Jose Blanco at the PGH Lobby, created to commemorate the PGH’s 100th anniversary; and the mural at the NIH lobby by Salvador Juban of Angono, Rizal, portraying UP Manila scientists/researchers who have contributed to the advancement of Philippine medicine.

But by far the heart and soul of UP Manila, occupying 10 of the campus’ 14 hectares, is the PGH itself. As the country’s biggest modern tertiary hospital, the PGH serves more than half a million patients a year and trains thousands of health students and workers. The hospital is also a distinct landmark in the City of Manila, standing out with its classical and neo-classical design, history, and significance.


Three of National Artist Botong Francisco's murals in the front lobby of the PGH. (Photo by Jun Madrid, UP MPRO)
Three of National Artist Botong Francisco’s murals in the front lobby of the PGH. (Photo by Jun Madrid, UP MPRO)


Most of UP Manila’s heritage buildings were designed to resemble the PGH—huge pillars, high open ceilings, airy windows, graceful lines and curves, long corridors and open spaces that provide a contrast to the suffocating aura of illness and a welcome breathing space for the patients and their caregivers.

Taking up space

The UP Manila campus today is undeniably different from the other UP campuses. The city has grown all around it, and it is admittedly smaller, more cramped, and has fewer amenities and facilities than the other, bigger UP campuses. It is even often eclipsed by the PGH and the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals and the Department of Justice that are occupying some of its old buildings.


National Artist Napoleon Abueva's "Celebration of Life". (Photo by Jun Madrid, UP MPRO)
National Artist Napoleon Abueva’s “Celebration of Life”. (Photo by Jun Madrid, UP MPRO)


Space management is a challenge for the smallest UP campus, which is why there are few available places on campus left for social and cultural activities. In fact, a long-standing joke is that the nearby Robinsons Place Manila mall serves as the de facto canteen and student center for UP Manila constituents. Within the campus, though, some venues stand out, such as the Tipunan sa UP Manila; the PGH grounds and Oblation Plaza, the PGH Atrium, the UP Manila Social Hall; the student tambayans at the back of the college buildings; the tambayans of the student organizations; the newly renovated UP Manila Theater at the Rizal Hall; and the UP Manila Museum of a History of Ideas. The ongoing infrastructure and facilities development project will provide more areas for people to get together, including the new 18-story NIH building and the CPH building. The latter two facilities will have more and bigger spaces for faculty lounges and conference rooms, auditoriums, and other areas where members can formally and informally interact and indulge in social, artistic, and cultural activities.


The UP College of Arts and Sciences' Rizal Hall. (Photo by Jun Madrid, UP MPRO)
The UP College of Arts and Sciences’ Rizal Hall. (Photo by Jun Madrid, UP MPRO)


But the true beauty of UP Manila lies not in what it looks like, but in what it does. As UP’s health sciences center, UP Manila is the only constituent university that offers degree programs in medicine, dentistry, public health, nursing, pharmacy, allied health sciences, health professions education, and the only one of its kind in the world the ladderized curriculum in the health sciences from the School of Health Sciences in three campuses in Palo, Baler, and Koronadal. All research and community service done by its constituents are focused on health-related activities and advocacies. The impact of UP Manila on the health, policy, scientific and academic development of the country is immeasurable.

When asked a light-hearted question—if the campus of UP Manila were a single person, what kind of person would it be—Samaniego says: “If isko and iska represent the students to whom much is given and much is also expected, and Oble refers to all of us in the University who are thirsty to learn and give back, then UP Manila is the scientist-scholar, the health professional, and leader serving and contributing to the health and well-being of the communities, the nation, and the world.”


Email the author at upforum@up.edu.ph.