THE LIFE and times of the University’s Rectors are remembered and honored in an interactive multimedia exhibit titled Rectors Through the Years. On display from Jan. 16 to Feb. 10 at the UST Museum of Arts and Sciences, the exhibit is part of the University’s 395th anniversary celebration, and the documentation of the University’s history in preparation for its quadricentennial events on 2011.
The first of its kind, Rectors Through the Years aims to pave the way for a more comprehensive exhibit of UST’s 93 Rectors who have led the University from its foundation through the birth of the Filipino nation, violent wars, two peaceful revolutions, and the challenges of the present.
Fr. Domingo Gonzalez, O.P., the first Rector of the University was appointed a year after the foundation of the then Colegio de Santo Tomas, which was dedicated to the education of young men wanting to enter the Dominican order.
In Nov. 20, 1645, under the leadership of Fr. Francisco de Paula, O.P., Pope Innocent X granted it the title of University. UST was later recognized as a “university for life” by the Real Audencia of Spain.
Over the next years, UST has gained the royal patronage of King Charles II of Spain. It opened the Faculties of Canon Law, Civil Law, and Medicine, all on the term of Fr. Manuel de Mercadillo, O.P. However, the title “Royal University” was only bestowed by King Charles III on May 20, 1785 during the eight-year term of Fr. Domingo Collantes, O.P.
With Fr. Jose Noval, O.P leading the tercentenary celebrations in 1911, the University purchased a 21-hectare lot in its current location in Sampaloc, Manila in the summer of 1910, and moved there 17 years later.
But the bustling campus life was interrupted as World War II reached the Philippines and the Japanese Imperial Army occupied and later razed down UST’s Intramuros buildings. In Sampaloc, however, the Main and St. Albertus Magnus buildings continued to receive patients as a general hospital of the American army. With the liberation of Manila in 1945, the administration of the University was returned once again to the Dominicans.
Another monumental event in the University’s history was the visit of Pope Paul VI on November 26, 1970.
In his speech at the Asian Bishop’s Conference, he described UST as “one of the most renowned for the richness of its history, one of the most important in number of students and one of the most well–known for the care it devotes to education of quality.” Seven years later, another hallmark for UST came in the form of the first Filipino Rector, Fr. Leonardo Legaspi, O.P., who signified the “Filipinization” of the University’s administration.
UST again got a Papal visit when Pope John Paul II came in February 1981 and April 1995 to address the youth.
One of the main features of the exhibit is the portraits of the Filipino rectors painted by leading visual artists such as Fernando Amorsolo, Alfredo Esquillo, and Antonia Garcia-Llamas.
However, due to deterioration and the steep amount required to preserve them for public display, portraits of earlier Rectors are shown as photographs.
Memorabilia and artifacts collected in the Rectors’ terms are also on exhibit, such as the ceremonial maces and medallions.
Through the commendable efforts of the UST Museum, most of these artifacts and paintings have been preserved as part of the rich Thomasian heritage in Philippine history. Florian C. Garcia