Quattromondial models. Sculptor Ramon Orlina is surrounded by his models: Beauty queen Charlene Gonzales (with children Andres and Atasha), actor Piolo Pascual, and his daughter, Monina. Photo by Josa Camille A. Bassig

Thrilled onlookers surround  the masterpiece as they await the unveiling of the celebrated monument at the Quadricentennial Park. Photo by Paul Allyson R. QuiambaoTHE CRANE slowly lifted the flowing gold satin that covered the monument. Save for the trompe l’oeil tarpaulin that used to cover it and which showed more or less the design of the monument, the spectators—thousands of them—had no idea what the actual monument looked like. So they gaped and gawked at the direction of the crane, in suspended animation. When the veil was lifted, triumphant music blared and fireworks broke out, celebrating the inauguration of the QuattroMondial, the awe-inspiring monument in dazzling bronze and glass erected to mark the 400th anniversary of the University of Santo Tomas.

Photo by Paul Allyson R. QuiambaoThe 10 meter-high monument by internationally renowned glass sculptor Ramon Orlina was unveiled last January 27, amid fanfare and fireworks as UST welcomed its fifth century of existence.

The QuattroMondial might have required the longest wait of any Quadricentennial event, but the wait was all worth it. The masterpiece now stands in the Quadricentennial Square, a testament to Thomasian vision and excellence.

On hand to witness the unveiling was Dominican Master General Fr. Bruno Cadore, O.P. and UST donors and friends. And since it was also Orlina’s 60th birthday, his friends came as well, many of them Thomasians, such as National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose, and visual artists Juvenal Sanso, Joe Datuin, and Betsy Westendorp.

Previously called “Tetraglobal,” the QuattroMondial features four human figures holding a Latin-inscribed ribbon, which loops around a globe that stands steadily aloft the four. The figures of the four major groups in the Thomasian community—the male student, the female student, the academician, and the scholar-monk—are representations of the University’s values of excellence, tradition, erudition, and spirituality, respectively.

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The models

But perhaps what make the sculpture more special are the people carefully handpicked by the artist to pose as his models.

Orlina chose acclaimed television and film actor and matinee idol Piolo Pascual as the male student, his daughter, Monina, as the female student, 1994 Miss Universe semi-finalist Charlene Gonzales-Muhlach as the academician, and UST Rector Fr. Rolando de la Rosa, O.P. as the scholar-monk.

Pascual was a student at the Faculty of Arts and Letters during the 1990s, while Gonzales earned her degree in Psychology from the University in 1997. De la Rosa, meanwhile, is a two-time Rector Magnificus now on his third term, and a former chair of the Commission on Higher Education.

According to Orlina, a UST Architecture alumnus, he made sure that those who modelled for the statue would be worthy of immortalization. He said that his models, aside from having a good physique, also espouse success and decent living.

For choosing his daughter, who is currently taking up Civil Engineering at the University of the Philippines, the artist said he thought of using his own daughter, “who is a continuity of me”.

“That could be one of the answers, but it’s also because she’s pretty and very intelligent,” the sculptor said proudly. “I have a very, very good daughter.”

Design and symbols

In a separate interview, Orlina explained that the four figures represent the colorful history of the University and the inspiration it has given not only to the academe, but also to the country and the Church.

At the center is a globe that tilts at 23.5 degrees, like the Earth, and faces the North Star. The artist’s rendition is modern, resembling an atom and combining thick lines of bronze and panels of green glass cullets. The atom-like globe solidifies the University’s take on globalization and concretizes UST’s role as a pillar of Catholic education.

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“The University is a concerned institution that advocates tackling problems with a global perspective, promoting interconnectedness among peoples and culture,” Orlina said.

Wanting nothing but the best for his alma mater, Orlina opted to outsource high-quality bronze and to work on the entire sculpture in Thailand, saying that Thais have “more advanced [methods] in casting this material.”

The glasswork, meanwhile, was done here in the Philippines, so the artist had to go back and forth throughout the process. Parts of the sculpture were then shipped here for assembly. Orlina, a licensed architect who has worked with engineers, said that his masterpiece will be able to withstand even a nine-point-magnitude earthquake.

Respected art critic Cid Reyes exalted the masterpiece for being able to capture the spirit of the 400-year-old University while serving its function as a public sculpture dominating the space in which it is placed.

“It’s monumental in terms of its concept,” Reyes said. “It captures the idea of the University—an institution of learning that has survived 400 years and various [disasters that came to] the country and [is still looking] towards the future.”

Gratitude

The sculptor said that he was happy of the support that the UST officials gave him throughout the endeavor. According to him, the officials intervened only in the Latin inscriptions on the ribbon, which signify scholarly work, accomplishment, and wisdom.

The younger Orlina said that she was “very honored and glad” that her father chose her.

“I feel very, very blessed,” she said, adding that she was thinking of taking her postgraduate studies in UST, or maybe music lessons under Raul Sunico, her father’s “very good friend.”

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Gonzales said that posing for the QuattroMondial was a “pleasurable experience” and that being immortalized in the larger-than-life structure was an honor of a lifetime.

“I think no words can describe what I’m feeling today,” said the beauty queen, who brought her twins, Andres and Atasha, to the unveiling.

Pascual, who claimed that UST was his stepping stone to show business, said that the opportunity to be one of the faces of the monument was “something that I will forever treasure in my life.”

The sculptor-architect said that the QuattroMondial is “just the beginning” and that everyone should think the same way while striving for excellence.

“Always look to the future, shoot your arrows to the stars, and you will reach whatever you want,” Orlina said. Ana May R. Dela Cruz, John Ernest F. Jose, and Alyosha J. Robillos

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