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...


  1. Anonymous15.2.07

    [...] What a fantastic blog this is: Ivan About Town

    I envy him (hehe) because I love to travel, I love to visit places with historic significance (heritage sites), take photos, enjoy nature, etc... He's doing all the things that I'd love to do if I have the resources and the luxury of time. [...]

  2. Anonymous15.2.07

    Hi Ivan! Thanks for droppin by my blog. You have a very nice and informative blog here. The photos are also very good.

    Haven't been inside the De La Salle campus.

    I agree with what you said about us Filipinos lacking in nationalism and pride. I hope that this would change someday soon. We can also make a difference starting from ourselves and being an example to others especially children. :)

  3. Anonymous15.2.07

    Btw, I added you to my blogroll. :)

  4. I agree with your comments regarding those buildings in front of DLSU. I wish the brothers would restore the courtyard designed by Don Tomas Mapua, and the flagpole that used to be in the middle of the courtyard. Then perhaps the facade would not look like a squatter decided to take residence there.

  5. Anonymous16.2.07

    Amazing video!!! How clean Manila was!!!

    How nice Dewey Boulevard was with all those trees... and where was that beach resort? Malate or Paranaque? Looked like Cannes!!!

    Didn't any American expat have the good sense to film Intramuros and its churches and chapels???

  6. I'm sure there are Toto. We just have to search for them in some forgetten archive.

    Imagine, a beach resort in Metro Manila! Hehe! Those were the days.

  7. re: Filipinos lacking nationalism. Well, maybe we need to go to war for that, hehe. Seriously, sometimes foreign antagonism can make a nation rally together. Whether nationalism or jinggoism, the effect is the same. Remember the Flor Contemplacion case?

  8. hey ivan. i'm issa, one of the history majors in dlsu. i'm also one of the members of liga historia. thank you so much for giving the talk. if my memory serves me correctly, the history department held a documentary sowing/forum on the world war ii atrocities committed in manila last monday. and i agree with you. the conservatory really blocks out the beauty of the facade of the ls building.

    added you to my blogroll. more power. :)

  9. @Jaypee, thanks for dropping by too. Yes, the best way to increase nationalism in the country is starting with one's self even if others call you baduy.

    @Linda, you described it really well. Like a squatter, it's out of place.

    @the amateur misanthrope, come to think of it, it's true. But we already had WWII to unite us together. Manila was the world's second most devastated city. I guess we wasted the chance.

    @Issa, it was my pleasure.Hope you can let the DLSU admin know about my comments. It's really sad kasi eh.

  10. I'd like to borrow your video on old Manila for one of my posts which is about pre-war days. You really have a winner in that one. Your blog site is very intresting and literally brings you (and us) places.

  11. Hi, Ivan!

    My name is grace chong and I could have sworn I left a comment yesterday on this post. But it's nowhere to be found! Anyway, I enjoy your blog a lot and I was wondering if you could lend me the old Manila video for my own blog - "leavesof grace.blogspot.com". I will porperly acknowledge you of course. My email addy: gdchong@gmail.com Thanks!

  12. Hi Grace, I've been unable to moderate comments the past few days since I'm on the road. Anyway, sent you mail.

  13. Anonymous26.4.07

    Hi Ivan,
    Do you know where the sender actually got that beautiful video?I wonder if I can see more of those?Can you put some more?
    Alex E.

  14. Hi, Ivan. I'm glad that you've had the chance to visit the DLSU campus. I'm a DLSU alumna, and I've seen earlier photos of the LS Building facades from yearbooks and commemorative publications. *Sigh* LS really must've stood out with the simple, yet lovely courtyard up front.

    I'm not so sure if you also noticed, but you can still see minute traces of the LS building's pre-war days. Along the hallways, especially at the ground floor, you can find arches with metalwork. The tall and wide doorways of decades before, though, have been boarded and replaced by smaller, whiter ones. :c

    La Salle seems to have a fascination for putting up new structures (or renovating them). During my four-year stay, they've changed walkways, retiled floors and, heck, even put up on a new building (replacing the gym). An alumnus professor of mine once commented that there's construction going on at the university every year. Even three years after I've graduated, my college friends (who now teach at La Salle) tell me that the university is still busy renovating a walkway or putting up a condominium-high building.

    I'm somewhat disappointed that the school really hasn't thought of actually preserving its heritage the way FEU or other universities have done. Rather than "upgrading" facilities with spanking new finishes, I just wish they'd let things be.

  15. Anonymous5.6.07

    Hi Ivan! You just read my mind about this conservatory and flagpole! I'm... uhm, let's say a La Salle fanatic (Ok, nevermind about that part). Anyways, I've always loved La Salle since... God knows! It's has always been my dream school (I wish I can pass their CET). I always liked its neo-classical architecture, but I La Salle has its case of not being architecture-wise (How sad). Why would they waste such a beautiful garden by St. La Salle Hall's facade for a coservatory with not as much beauty as what I'm expecting. I bet the ground floor facing Taft Avenue looks good! If there is a good reason for putting that conservatory (they better have a goood excuse), could they, like you suggested, put a garden in the roof? I guess it does not hurt to fix it. At least it will help beautify Taft Avenue. But removing the conservatory is much better.

    About the flagpole, they have the money of putting a better flagpole smacked down at the center of the quadrangle. It would look definitely better and have a sense of nationalism.

    Some things I have to laud La Salle architecture-wise is that they still continue the neo-classical design like the Yuchengco, Razon, and Gonzalez (the highest education building in RP) buildings, although the Gonzalez building's mix of neo-classical and modern didn't turn as nice as I've imagined (Oh well). I think they should stick to 2 styles, neo-classical or modernist (unless they come up with a design that fits too).

    I think La Salle should need more spaces for its population. I think they're now into building taller buildings since, I think, it's hard to buy lots around the campus now. (I've heard that La Salle tried to but the lot beside the campus for Php 9 million[?!?! Not sure] but the owner turned it down. Instead, it was sold to a developer who are building The Taft Tower.

  16. Anonymous14.1.08

    At first I really didn't notice anything wrong with the Conservatory since it looks quite nice from the inside. It serves as a formal venue for intimate events for the university's guests, though on regular days, it's a study hall for students. But then just like you, I saw old photos of St. La Salle Hall's and I wished that we still had that same courtyard. But then again, thinking about what's on the other side--opposite St. La Salle Hall and the Conservatory is Taft Ave., with all the jeeps, buses and other vehicles. I think it was their way of obscuring it from view once inside.

  17. Hi Benj, the jeeps, buses and other vehicles, we can find a solution for that in the future, when the country gets serious about urban planning. But the only way you can get that courtyard back is by demolishing the conservatory.

  18. Luigi3.7.09


    Video is awesome!
    Manila looked like a well-governed, well-disciplined country. Streets were clean and people behaved like people. How I wish I lived in that time!


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