INSTEAD of conferring honorary degrees on its alumni who were part of the Malolos Congress, as suggested by the Commission on Higher Education in a 1998 memorandum, the University inaugurated last Jan. 25 a historical marker in the newly renovated Plaza de Sto. Tomas in Intramuros to honor the 54 Thomasian framers of the Malolos Constitiution.

President Macapagal-Arroyo and Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin led the rites, which included the unveiling of the fiberglass replica of the original statue of UST founder Archbishop Miguel de Benavides, O. P., that once stood on the plaza (the original is now the Benavidez statue in UST).

The plaza, located between the old site of the University (now BF Homes Condominium) and the Colegio de Sta. Rosa and near the old Sto. Domingo Church (now the Bank of the Philippine Islands bldg.) and Colegio de San Juan de Letran was where Thomasians and other students of Dominican schools converged during breaks and leisure time.

UST renovated the plaza to memorialize its original presence in Intramuros and to set up an obelisk where the framers of the Malolos Constitution are inscribed. Fr. Antonio Aureada, vice-rector for academic affairs, led the project. The University in cooperation with the Intramuros Administration and the National Historical Institute (NHI), spearheaded the project through donations from UST alumni.

Architect Manuel Cueto of the College of Architecture designed the renovation.

Based on historical documents, 89 out of 193 members of the Malolos Congress, signed the 1898 Constitution. And of the 89, 54 or more than half are Thomasians––34 lawyers, 10 physicians, six pharmacists, two educators, and two Bachelor of Arts degree holders.

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“The cradle of Filipino nationalism was UST,” Fr. Aureada said.

Some famous alumni who were part of the Congress were Felipe Calderon, the father of the 1898 Constitution; Antonio Luna, founder of the newspaper La Independencia; Ambrosio Rianzares Bautista, the political adviser of Emilio Aguinaldo who wrote and read the proclamation of Philippine Independence and raised the flag in Kawit on June 12, 1898; Leon Ma. Guerrero, the father of Philippine Pharmacy; Teodoro Sandico, secretary of the interior in the Mabini Cabinet; and Ignacio Villamor, the first Filipino president of the University of the Philippines.

When the UST renovation committee first visited the site in 2000, Fr. Aureada said they were aghast to see that the place had become a haven ofendors and vagrants.

The renovation of the plaza began in March 2001. Aside from the installation of a fiberglass replica of the statue of Archbishop Benavides, which was sculpted by Dr. Crispin Viocencio, other improvements included the positioning of an obelisk containing the NHI marker and the names of all the framers of the Malolos Constitution fronting Magallanes street, and the placing of an octagon-shaped structure containing old pictures of the plaza and of the old UST .

Only the removable fences were retained from the original design of the plaza, which were based on a 1936 Unitas article containing details and pictures of the old plaza.

The plaza, according to Fr. Aureada will be made available to the public as a park and a venue for cultural shows.

Fr. Aureada added that the renovation of the Plaza de Sto. Tomas was like a fitting homecoming for UST, which used to be one of the glorious landmarks in the old walled city of Intramuros. Marie Carisa U. Ordinario

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