Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Manila: A visit to De La Salle University

Since I started talking about university chapels, here is another one. I was quite excited when I received an invitation from DLSU Liga Historia to speak about heritage at De La Salle's alternative class day called LEAP (Lasallian Enrichment Alternative Program) since I had been wanting to check out the De La Salle University campus for the longest time. I had heard so many good things about its pre-war university chapel from a lot of friends. So as soon as the talk ended, I went straight to the Chapel of The Most Blessed Sacrament on the second floor of its neoclassical main building, St. La Salle Hall.

It was in November 19, 1939 that the chapel was completed and dedicated to St. Joseph. The chapel figured prominently during the Second World War having served as a refuge for brothers, priests and families. On February 12, 1945, drunken Japanese troops massacred 16 brothers and 25 civilians in the chapel. In 1947, the chapel was rededicated to the Blessed Sacrament with a ceremony of reparation for the desecrations perpetrated in the chapel.

St. La Salle Hall itself was completed in 1924. It was designed by renowned architect Tomas Mapua. I had wanted to take a photo of the facade of the building. But to my horror, a single-story structure had been constructed right smack in front of the building. Constructing the Marilen Gaerlan Conservatory in front of its main building is one of the biggest mistakes DLSU had made. Check out the old postcard in the inset featuring St. La Salle Hall when there was still a lot of open space in front of it.

As Wikipedia notes, since its completion in 1998, the conservatory has completely blocked the ground level of St. La Salle Hall. Despite its abundance of funding sources, DLSU seems to be ill-advised with regard to campus planning and the proper construction, scale and location of its new buildings. It was even more depressing when I went to the second floor of the main building since instead of a courtyard, one would see the roof of the conservatory. How sad!

Another thing I noticed was the importance (or lack of it) DLSU gave to the Philippine flag. Aside from the flagpole being really short (many public elementary schools have taller flagpoles), it was relegated to the corner of an amphitheater. For a university as prestigious as De La Salle, surely it has the funds to erect a taller and more appropriate flagpole befitting our national flag and place it in a prominent location in campus, maybe in front of the main building or at the center of its main quadrangle. The Philippine flag is our most important national symbol and schools should stress to their students the importance of respecting our flag as part of strengthening Philippine nationalism. So I suggested to Liga Historia to make it an advocacy to convince the administration that the Philippine flag deserves a more prominent location in the DLSU campus.

We all wonder why the Philippines is still lagging behind its neighbors. The answer is simple: most Filipinos don't have a sense of nationalism. Only when we find ourselves, strengthen pride in our nation and what it stands for, will we begin to really move forward.

Looking back
Thanks to Alex Paglinawan for sending me this link to a video of Manila before WWII...

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