By Maxine Louise A. Lagman
Images by John Sebastian Valderrama
Back in college, I used to get asked by relatives and former classmates why I chose the University of Santo Tomas. Most of them were answered by a simple “Well, my parents and sister studied there.”
It was a continuity of what my ancestors started—our diplomas signify the heirloom to be passed unto the future generations of our family. My answer to the question, however, changed overtime, up until I graduated. It was no longer just due to a pressure forced upon me by my forefathers and my parents, but it has rather become a decision of my own.
UST, true to its title, is royal, pontifical, and exceptionally “beautiful with a heart.” But, what really makes UST so beautiful?
Back in my first year in college, UST welcomed us freshies by the euphoric Freshman Walk, where students would enter the Arch of the Centuries—a first look at its timeless architecture.
Half of the current structure of the Arch of the Centuries came from the ruins of the original arch in Intramuros, where it was installed in 1680 and where it stayed until 1941. Though half of it is now only a replica of the original, the arch still instills its history in the university and to its students, as it has done so for 407 years now, true to its designation by the National Musuem as a National Cultural Treasure.
On the other hand, UST has the Main Building, with all the history, art, and culture it represents, a timeless beauty at the heart of the university. Because of its ancient structure, most people would think of it as a church but it is home to the university museum and caters to the Faculty of Civil Law, Faculty of Pharmacy, and the College of Science. This building takes anyone into its rich history, as the wooden stairs, polished floors, and mural-filled walls are significant treasures. It is venerable, esteemed, and meritorious.
The other buildings at the university cater to different faculties, colleges, and administrations, and each of them has its fair share of stories preserved well by students and faculty members.
Each structure is certainly a standout, unique, unparalleled, and even more so, possesses an undying beauty.
Simple Campus Life
Despite all its grandeur, UST offers a homely place.
At first glance, I fell in love with UST’s regal beauty, but staying at the university long enough made me realize it’s all about the simple things.
It’s about the mornings—the bustle of commuters and public vehicles travelling through España, all of which became familiar enough to sound like music to the ears. The warmth of the rays of the sun, as I passed the rows of trees at Lover’s Lane, was welcoming and reassuring.
It’s about the afternoons, the in-between class breaks with friends, spending time in the food stores on Dapitan, P. Noval, and Lacson, which proved a salvation for many when we were tight on money.
It’s about the evenings, with the stars shining brightly after a long, hard day, and about the conversations we had on our way home. Sometimes, there were even stopovers by the benches under the trees at Quadri Park.
UST is simple, yet its very simplicity makes it remarkable — and memorable.
The Thomasian Community
UST, just like any other university, caters to all kinds of people.
There are varsity teams, dance troupes, debate teams, choir groups, nerds, beauty queens, political groups, theater organizations. And there are those who wander around the campus—trying to fit in or still trying to figure out who they really are.
And UST never fails to help each one of us along the way because, despite all our differences, the Thomasian community is one and unified.
We cheer from the top of our lungs and we make sure the deafening roar of “Go USTe!” from the sea of yellow silences the arena during UAAP games and cheer-dance competitions. Even so, we move on and accept defeat when a battle is lost.
When it gets flooded around the campus, we worry together. But Thomasians know very well that being stranded is a blessing in disguise, because we get free food and more time with friends.
My list of what makes UST beautiful could go on and on. But there is one simple truth: UST is beautiful because it is home.
Home for those who are indecisive. Home for those who failed. Home for those who got their hearts broken. Home for those trying to prove something. Home for the accountants, engineers, artists, teachers, doctors, writers of the future.
Most important, it is home to those who are brave enough to bleed black and gold, and proudly roar, “I am a Thomasian.”