The 20-foot quadricentennial Swatch “beatman” stands at the Plaza Mayor following its unveiling last December 18. Photo by I.A. MartinezTHE NATIONAL Museum has declared the 82-year-old UST Main Building, the Central Seminary, the Arch of the Centuries, and UST’s open spaces as “National Cultural Treasures” ahead of the University’s Quadricentennial in 2011.

This is the first time for an educational institution to join the roster of National Cultural Treasures, with the majority of such structures being churches, and the rest being terrestrial landmarks, intangible cultural property, and movable objects.

The January 25 declaration followed the unveiling of the nearly century-old painting “The Foundation of the University of Santo Tomas by Archbishop Benavides,” restored through the Museum of Arts and Sciences’ Heritage Conservation Fund.

Section 3 of the Cultural Properties Preservation and Protection Act states that a “National Cultural Treasure is a unique object found locally, possessing outstanding historical, cultural, artistic, and/or scientific value, which is significant and important to this country and nation.”

The countdown to UST’s 400th year officially began last December 18, with the unveiling of four “quadricentennial symbols” before a record crowd that bore witness to the University’s “most memorable” Christmas celebration.

An estimated 50,000 people who attended the annual Paskuhan saw the launching of the quadricentennial flag, countdown clock, song, and prayer at the “Countdown, Count Me In!” program themed “4 horas, 4 dias, 400 days, 400 taon,” which represented the three cultures— Spanish, American, and Filipino— that defined UST’s history.

After a parade of costumes from the Spanish colonial era to the 21st century, the four-hour program started with the recitation of the quadricentennial prayer by Fr. Pompeyo de Mesa, O.P. over a candle lighting ceremony at the UST field. This was followed by the lighting of the 80-foot Christmas tree and University grounds, and the revelation of the quadricentennial flag.

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The “Q flag,” designed by Fine Arts Regent Fr. Edgardo Alaurin, O.P., and former Varsitarian assistant art director Jonathan Gamalinda, bears the sun and the Dominican cross from the UST logo along with an embroidered “2011” at the center, the statue of UST founder Miguel de Benavides, the Main Building, and doves. The upper horizontal half of the flag is colored yellow to symbolize St. Thomas Aquinas, while the other half is colored blue symbolizing the University’s Marian devotion.

The image of Benavides’ statue is found at the left side “to signify [UST’s] passion for education,” while doves soar from his finger tip as a symbol of the Thomasian free spirit.

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“We included the doves in the sky to give the impression of the vastness of the sky, God’s grace, and the spirit of a flying bird,” Alaurin said.

Alaurin and Gamalinda were assisted by Fine Arts professor Romeo Remalante, also a former Varsitarian artist, in designing the flag.

The flag’s design was a modified version of a painting created by Dante Lerma, one of the participants at the quadricentennial logo making contest three years ago.

The flag was raised simultaneously with a dance number from the Salinggawi Dance Troupe, drum rolls from the Yellow Jackets, and an exhibition from the Main Building.

A star-studded program followed with Thomasian beauty queen and UST alumna Miriam Quiambao as host, while actor JC Cuadrado gave away raffle prizes such as net books and gift certificates worth P5,000 each.

Thomasian entertainers graced the show–  singer Jamie Rivera (College of Commerce), comedienne Beverly Salvejo (Science), former Pinoy Dream Academy “scholar” RJ Jimenez (Engineering), internationally acclaimed singers Isay Alvarez (Arts and Letters) and Robert Seña (Fine Arts), actor Polo Ravales (Education), and dancer Archie Alemania (Artlets). Bands Sandwich and 6CycleMind, both managed by a Thomasian, also performed.

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The 20-foot tall countdown “beat man” clock designed by Gamalinda signaled the start of the countdown by 12 midnight. It was manufactured by Swatch, the Swiss watch company.

“What the people see is not yet the final design of the beat man. But the colors are correct. We are just waiting for the finalization of details including the permanent location of the beat man,” Gamalinda said.

He said his design was inspired by the UST seal, which includes the lion and sea lion symbolizing the Royal Seal of the King of Spain, and the Seal of the City of Manila, respectively, the Papal tiara, and a flower for the Virgin Mary.

“When people think of UST, it has to be the combination of these four seals without one of these, UST is not UST,” Gamalinda added.

The quadricentennial song “Ako’y Isang Tomasino” composed by Gerardo de Leon and arranged by award-winning composer Jimmy Antiporda (both from Engineering) was sang by Thomasian singers Apple Chui and Aicelle Santos with Rhap Salazar and the UST Singers. This was followed by a 10-minute fireworks display at 12 midnight which culminated the program.

The “Q song” proclaims the University as “a strong institution standing the test of time,” Rector Fr. Rolando de la Rosa O.P., said in his opening speech.

“We are the University of Santo Tomas. We are older than the Filipino nation, older than Harvard, older than any university in Asia and the New World, but younger in vision, in our faith, in our hope, in our love because we are blessed with unending grace,” he said..

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