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Established in April 28, 1611 by the Dominicans priests, University of Santo Tomas (UST) is considered as the oldest Catholic university in the Philippines. It is also among the oldest in Asia and is the only Pontifical University in the region that is recognized by the Vatican. UST is also an open university where the public may freely enter the campus and a community church is located within the vicinity.
Originally, UST was erected within the walls of the Intramuros in the city of Manila before the campus transferred in a larger location in the district of Sampaloc in 1927 with the inauguration of its Main Building.
The university’s official name was granted a title of “Royal” by King Charles III of Spain in 1785, “Pontifical” by Pope Leo XIII in 1902, and the appellative “The Catholic University of the Philippines” by Pope Pius XII in 1947. These titles make its complete name as the Pontifical and Royal University of Santo Tomas, The Catholic University of the Philippines.
UST is currently located along España Boulevard and is at the far end of the University Belt of Manila where dozens of universities and colleges are located.
At the España Blvd gate, one will be welcomed by the Arch of the Centuries. This archway is an imposing structure that featured the university’s seal on top of it with 3 statues on top. It is also was the actual entryway of the campus when it was still in Intramuros. The old archway was carved out and transferred to its current location in 1927. The old façade faces the university while a reconstructed façade of the old archway faces the España gate. A legend was also attributed with the archway where it was told that if a person passes through the archway, the person will be time-warped into the past.
On both sides of the Arch of the Centuries, two fountains may be found, the Fountain of Wisdom and the Fountain of Knowledge. Each fountain is shaped as a lotus flower and features a lady in the center and raises a book and the other a globe.
Behind the Arch of the Centuries is a tree lined catwalk that leads to the Main Building which is the oldest structure within the campus. While on the left side of the catwalk is a wide open parade ground with a Grandstand that is meant for open ground activities of the university.
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A few meters in front of the Main Building is a mini park where the bronze statue of Archbishop Miguel de Benavides, the founder of the UST, stands. It stands on a podium with four lion statues hold the four seals of the university. While behind it, in between the Main Building, is the Plaza Mayor.
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The Main Building would be considered as the most recognized structure in the campus and it houses the Administration offices of the campus and the College of Science. The building itself also features an intricate architecture. At the top front of the Main Building is a clock structure with statues of 3 ladies called the Tria Haec which represents Faith, Hope, and Charity. Its main tower at the center also rises with a cross on top that is lit in blue at night and signifies the Catholic mission of the University. Another distinct feature of the Main Building is the different statues of theologians, historians, tragedians, philosophers and playwrights that stood on the roof top of the building. Among these were statues of Aristophanes, St. Augustine, Sophocles, Shakespeare, Plato, Aristotle, and others.
The UST Museum of Arts and Sciences is also located within the Main Bldg and houses a collection of artifacts and cultural items. Also during WWII, the Main Building served as a concentration camp by the Japanese Imperial Forces where prisoners of war were imprisoned. About 10,000 American, British and other nationals were locked and suffered under the Japanese captors.
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With the upcoming 400 year anniversary of the university’s establishment, the UST Quadricentennial Square was opened. It features a fountain in the middle of an open square. It is bounded by the Main Building and the UST Miguel de Benavides Library.
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Other prominent structures within the campus are the Santissimo Rosario Parish, the UST Botanical Gardens, UST Hospital and the UST Publishing House. The first book that was published in the Philippines, the Doctrina Christiana, was printed by the Publishing House. The university also houses the UST Elementary School, UST Education High School and the UST High School.
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