Rector Fr. Rolando V. Dela Rosa, O.P., views  ancient   documents feautred in the exhibit.Scottish historian Thomas Carlyle once described a “true University” as a collection of books.

Holding true to this statement, the Miguel de Benavides Library (UST Central Library) makes a showcase of its rich collections through Lumina Pandit: an Exhibition of Historical Treasures, a multimillion international exhibit that is one of the highlights of UST’s Quadricentennial.

“Book lovers, antiquarians, academicians, historians, students, and all Filipinos who want to develop their sense of history can come to UST and be part of this spectacular exhibition.” Rector Fr. Rolando de la Rosa, O.P., said in a speech during the formal opening last June 17.

From the Latin words “lumina” (light) and “pandere” (to spread), Lumina Pandit seeks to illustrate through the University’s vast and priceless collection of rare books, historical documents and artifacts accumulated across four centuries, how UST has spread the light of civilization in the Orient.

De la Rosa has high hopes that Lumina Pandit may help dispel “the darkness of indifference” that buries up our interest about our past.

“What we intend in the exhibit is to let people realize how the university has played a role in building the nation.” said Fr. Angel Aparicio, O.P., UST prefect of libraries.

A brainchild of Aparicio, Lumina Pandit seeks to “make people aware of what we are celebrating.”

“Most people do not even know what ‘Proud to be Thomasian at 400 means,” Aparicio added.

Foundations of the Past

UST’s history is inextricably linked with typography and print technology. The founder of UST was Archbishop Miguel de Benavides Añoza, O.P., the third bishop of Manila who, as a Dominican missionary, had worked in the Chinese mission of Manila. He published one of the first books printed in the Philippines, Doctrina Christiana en lengua China. Before he died in 1605, Benavides donated his books and his fortune to the establishment of the school that came to foundation in 1611—UST. Now UST’s library is named after Benavides.

President Sergio Osmeña once claimed that he doubted whether there was, in the history of Spain in the Orient, “a figure more relevant that Miguel de Benavides.”

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The second part of the exhibit, “Realm of Print,” presents a replica of the first movable block printing press invented by Dominican Fr. Francisco Blancas de San Jose O.P. and the Chinese convert, Juan de Vera. Some of the books are “Librong Pag-aaralan nang Manga Tagalog nang Uicang Castila,” the first typographically printed book written in Filipino and printed by Tomas Pinpin, the first person to use the block printing machine, the first Filipino author, and the “Prince of Filipino Printers”.

This section also features an incunabula—or a book printed before 1500—La Guerra Judaica (Jewish War), as well as 15th to 16th century books and maps. This part is considered the most interactive, with visitors given the chance to do block-printing themselves and keep their printed works as souvenirs.

Spread of Ideas

The spread of ideas and innovation through print of different fields of study is presented in the the third part of the exhibit, “Spheres of Change”. Featured are the works of Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, Aristotle, Strabon, Thomas Aquinas and Cardinal Ceferino Gonzalez. Other books include “Catalogus Gloriae Mundi,” a catalogue that consists of 12 books which contains a diorama of the author Barthelemy de Chasseneuz’s mind, and “De Revolutionibus Orbium Celestium (On the Evolution of the Celestial Spheres),” the classic work by Copernicus which established the heliocentric theory of the universe.

Also featured is the “Biblia Sacra” (Plantin Polyglot Bible), which presents the sacred scriptures in four languages. Biblia Sacra was equivalent to the cost of a mansion during its time of publication.

The fourth part of the exhibit traces how progress in navigational technology gave rise to globalization.

The exhibit features various ancient atlases such as the “Atlas Sinicus Sive Magni Sinnarum, Relacion del Ultimo Viage al Estrecho de Magallanes de la Fragata de Santa Maria de la Cabeza en los Años de (Relationship of the Last Trip to the Strait of Magellan S.M. Frigate Santa Maria de la Cabeza in Years),” retelling the course of Ferdinand Magellan’s travels, while “Diccionario Tirurary” and many other small dictionaries in various local Filipino dialects—Ybanag, Bisaya, Bicolano, Tagbanua, Capampangan, Ilocano, Ibatan, Bagobo and much more were also featured.

Dialogue among different cultures sought

Filipino stories are retold in books like “De Molucis Insulis, Relazione del Primo Viaggio”, “Ataque de Limahon” (Limahon Attack) and “Historia Mundi”, which set a permanent mark on Filipino culture that people from other parts of the globe have taken notice.

Thoughts of a Nation

In the fifth part of the exhibit, “Nascent Nation”, it depicts the fused Filipino nationalism in the 19th century. Important issues like catechism, nationalism, freedom, equality, commerce and trade, economics, human rights, and how they affected as a nation—were discussed. The copies of the first printed “Noli Me Tangere” and “El Filibusterismo” of Jose Rizal are featured here.

“Disputa o Controversia Entre Las Casasy el Doctor Ginse Sepulveda Casas” which translates to “The Debate Between Fr. Las Casas and Sepulveda” is a historical fiction about the dispute on conducting colonization of the Americas. This was used by the Black Legend of Spain, an ideology of the enemies of Spain during the 15th century. Like the books of Rizal, it is historical fiction that aims to awaken people to the truth of the unspoken word. This part of the exhibit remains incomplete since there are plans of adding the facsimiles of Noli and El Fili with Rizal’s signature on it.

Capping the exhibit is “Curve of Nationalism”, which depicts the history of how the Philippines and UST has progressed together in the 20th century when the country got its independence from Spain. Among the many books featured in this part are the “War Records of Those Incarcerated in the Facilities of the University of Santo Tomas”, journals of those who were imprisoned in UST when it became an internment camp during the Japanese Occupation.

'Opening salvo'

Diplomas and student records of our national heroes, four Presidents, six Supreme Court Justices and many other outstanding UST alumni can be found here as well.

Treasure in books

The exhibit depicts not only the growth of the Philippine civilization, but the benchmarks of history as well. “For instance, Copernicus and the Copernican Revolution, the Bible, the Doctrina Christiana—all of these books have somehow contributed so much to humanity that by knowing them, we get to know what has made us,” Aparicio said.

Thomasians should take pride in their typographical history.

“These treasures have been well-taken care of for them to have lasted for so many years,” said Aparicio. “Despite small funds, we still do some restoration and preservation. We keep them in a good environment. We do not allow people to mishandle them.”

The process of preservation starts with unbinding to washing the pages to remove all the acid and applying Japanese papers to fill holes and strengthens the pages. “Our historical collection is unsurpassable; you can’t find it in many countries,” Aparicio said.

Lumina Pandit stands in recognition of the University’s continuous efforts of preserving UST’s tangible heritage for the past 400 years.

“If the United States has gone through great lengths to preserve the Doctrina Christiana which doesn’t even rightfully belong to them, why can’t we Filipinos protect our own books just the same?” De la Rosa told the Varsitarian. “That’s what the university has been doing – and the Lumina Pandit stands as a testament to that.”

Lumina Pandit is open Tuesday to Saturday, 8 a.m. to 12 nn and at 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the ground floor of the Miguel de Benavides Library. The admission for UST students is free. For non-UST students, 50 pesos per head; for a group of 10 non-UST students, 25 pesos each; and for Dominican Network Schools, 25 pesos. It will run until January 2011. Azer N. Parrocha


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