University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD) as a UNESCO World Heritage Site? Why not!

The National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) is a public research university in Central America. Founded in 1910, its main campus was the birthplace of the student movement of 1968, which turned into a nationwide rebellion against autocratic rule and began Mexico’s three-decade journey toward democracy. The main campus is also made vibrant by several murals painted by some of the most recognized Mexican artists such as Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros. UNAM also boasts that to date all Mexican Nobel laureates are either its alumni or its faculty members.

In 2007, the university received the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site (inscribed as “Central University City Campus of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México”), particularly the university’s ensemble of buildings, sports facilities and other open spaces.

According to the Mexico page of UNESCO WHS website, these “monuments” were built from 1949 to 1952 by more than 60 architects, engineers and artists. As a result, “the campus constitutes a unique example of 20th-century modernism integrating urbanism, architecture, engineering, landscape design and fine arts with references to local traditions, especially to Mexico’s pre-Hispanic past. The ensemble embodies social and cultural values of universal significance and is one of the most significant icons of modernity in Latin America”

Aerial view of the UP Diliman from the University Avenue (Photo: Gil Jacinto through the UP Diliman Information Office)

14,200 kms from Mexico City is Quezon City where the University of the Philippines (UP) is located.

Like UNAM, UP is a public research and the sole national university of the Philippines. UP is two years older than UNAM. Since its establishment in 1908, UP has produced prominent figures in Philippine politics, culture, arts and sciences. Majority of the Philippine National Artists and National Scientists are from UP.

UP students in the 1970s gathered together in what is now popularly known as the Diliman Commune. This gathering was aimed to protest autocratic and dictatorial rule of the Marcos government. Since then, UP has become a center of political consensuses and dissensuses and social protestations against corrupt national governance.

The original campus of UP was in Padre Faura in Manila. During the Second World War, most of Manila was destroyed. Because of this, UP had to move to Diliman in Quezon City in February 1949 through a festive motorcade. For two decades, the jungle-like landscape of Diliman was transformed into an academic setting designed by the country’s most prominent architects, engineers and artists.

How to Get to UP4
Napoleon Abueva’s Tribute to Higher Education at the University Avenue (Photo: Courtesy of UP Diliman Information Office)

To date, there is no other academic institution in the country that houses more than 30 historical monuments, sculptures and artworks inscribed as national treasures and protected national cultural properties. For instance, two sculptures by National Artist for Visual Arts Napoleon Abueva collectively titled Tribute to Higher Education welcomes everyone as they enter the campus via the University Avenue. There are over 50 public arts by renowned alumni and faculty artists, many of which created by Philippine national artists, spread all over the 493 hectares academic institution.

Entering University Avenue, one will absolutely notice the spectacular vista. The imposing grandeur of the neoclassical-inspired Quezon Hall (Administrative Building) designed by National Artist for Architecture Juan Nakpil is a sight to behold. As one draws closer to the administrative building, the Oblation, a huge sculpture of a naked man looking at the sky and arms-stretched commences a trail of cultural and artistic history. Sculpted by National Artist for Visual Arts Guillermo Tolentino, the Oblation is UP’s symbol of academic freedom, honor and excellence.

The Oblation and the Quezon Hall (Photo: Regina Banaag)

Other monuments with cultural and social significance in the campus are (1) Gonzalez Hall (also by Juan Nakpil, located at the centermost area of the academic oval and it has the exact design as the Quezon Hall), (2) the Palma Hall (designed by Cesar Concio and whose floors were designed by Arturo Luz, a National Artist for Visual Arts), (3) the Melchor Hall (also by Concio, a building in the north that mirrors Palma Hall), (4) Benitez Hall (designed by Juan Arellano), Malcolm Hall (also by Arellano, this building has the same design as Benitez Hall – both mirror each other), (5) UP Film Institute,  (6) Villamor Hall (University Theater), (7) the Carillon Tower, to name a few.

Most of these monuments/buildings witnessed the birth of student activism and are home to several masterpieces such as the floor at Palma Hall depicting the arts and sciences designed by National Artist Arturo Luz, the oil paintings of National Artist Jose Joya at the Virata School of Business and the College of Home Economics, National Artist Vicente Manansala’s Arts and Sciences at the Palma Hall.

Also, these buildings were incubators of ideas and creative works of renowned scientists and artists.

The College of Arts and Letters (CAL) has produced four National Artists for Literature: Virgilio S. Almario, NVM Gonzalez (+), Bienvenido Lumbera and Resil Mojares (conferred just this year),  whose literary careers were honed at the former Faculty Center and Palma Hall. Almario and Lumbera are professor emeriti of the CAL. Gonzalez used to be a faculty member of the college. Mojares finished his doctoral studies at the CAL.

CAL has also produced two National Artists for Theatre: Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero (+) and Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio (conferred just this year), whose works were (and still are) staged by faculty members and students at the Guerrero Theatre (named after Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero) and other performance spaces inside the campus. Guerrero used to teach with the theatre department. Lapeña-Bonifacio, a University Professor Emerita, was the founding mother of the now Department of Speech Communication and Theatre Arts and a former Director of the Institute of Creative Writing.

Kidlat Tahimik, a BA Speech and Drama graduate of UP was also conferred the title of National Artist for Cinema this year.

The College of Fine Arts prides to give birth to most of the National Artists in Visual Arts including former faculty members Abueva, Fernando Amorsolo, Joya and Tolentino. Alumni of the college who are National Artists include Larry Alcala (+), Benedicto Cabrera, Abdulmari Imao (+), and Manansala (+).

The College of Music has also produced majority of the National Artists in Music including Antonio Bueneventura (+), former Dean of hte College Jose Maceda (+), Lucio San Pedro (+), Francisco Feliciano (+), Jovita Fuentes (+), Felipe De Leon (+), Andrea Veneracion (+) and professor emeritus Ramon Santos. Just this year, alumnus and popular music artist Ryan Cayabyab was conferred the title of National Artist for Music.

In addition, alumni and former faculty members at the College of Music Francisca Reyes (+), and Leonor Goquingco are the National Artists for Dance.

The UP Film Institute has also given birth to some of the most celebrated National Artist for Film: Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal.

The University of the Philippines Diliman is also home to 10 National Scientists as of the 2014 conferment.

The bridge-way of the Quezon Hall overlooking the UP Amphitheater (Photo: courtesy of UP Diliman Information Office)

Another remarkable thing about UP Diliman is that it is the only academic institution in the country that possesses an amazing ecosystem. The campus is home to a diverse endemic and migratory species of birds (from white-collared kingfisher to java sparrow to brown shrike among others) flying in and out of campus. It is also home to many endemic plant species.

UP Diliman is also considered as one of the remaining green communities in Metro Manila. As a matter of fact, the campus is home to botanical gardens (such as the Arboretum), a man-made lagoon (UP Lagoon, also popular for the migratory birds), other open spaces home to bird species (such as the Sculpture Garden and the Masscomm Hill) and other functional spaces such as the General Antonio Luna Parade Grounds and the University Amphitheater.

The Academic Oval is a tunnel of luscious trees turning fiery red in June and July.

Palma Hall
Visitors from Japan pose at the steps of Palma Hall (Photo: Regina Gochuico)

UP Diliman has a potential to be nominated as a World Heritage Site. Following the nomination procedure, I am convinced that selected monuments and cultural landscapes of the campus possess what the UNESCO calls “outstanding universal value.”

The following may be used as criteria for the nomination:

CRITERIA I: Represent masterpieces of human creative genius. The monuments and open spaces constitute a unique example in the 20th century where professionals (engineers and architects), artists, and cultural experts worked together, in the framework of a master plan, to create an urban architectural ensemble and an academic cultural landscape that bear testimony to social and cultural values of universal significance.

CRITERIA II: Exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design. The most significant architectural traditions, artistic schools, and cultural landscape trends of the first half of the 20th century converge in the University of the Philippines Diliman Campus: modern architecture, neoclassicism, art deco, modernism – all of which are localized and Filipinized.

Japanese visitors pose in front of the Carillon Tower (Photo: Regina Banaag)

CRITERIA VI: Directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance. UP Diliman campus, particularly most of its monuments have witnessed the birth of several artistic creations, political demonstrations, and other communal celebrations. Quezon Hall was witness to the Diliman Commune that overthrew a dictator. Palma Hall witnessed the birth of student activism. Most importantly, the grounds of UP Diliman continued to be a space to express oneself freely without being judged and being censored. The amphitheater witnessed the birth of the nation’s scholars as it is the official venue of the University’s commencement rites. The academic oval has witnessed the changing artistry of student and faculty artists as it is the official venue of all community-related celebrations such as the annual lantern parade every December.

The University Lagoon (Photo: Courtesy of Diliman Information Office)

My suggestion is to officially list UP Diliman in the nomination as “Historic Monuments and Cultural Landscape of the University of the Philippines Diliman.”

I believe the following monuments and cultural landscapes possess “outstanding universal values” and must be included in the inscription should the national government finally decide to nominate UP Diliman: (1) the University Avenue (including the marsh garden and the MassComm Hill), (2) Oblation Plaza, (3) Quezon Hall, (4) The University Amphitheater, (5) UP Lagoon, (6) Acacia Lane of the Academic Oval, (7) Palma Hall (Main Building), (8) Gonzalez Hall, (9) Benitez Hall, (10) Antonio Luna Parade Grounds, (11) Malcolm Hall Complex, (12) Melchor Hall (Main Building), (13) UP Film Center Complex, (14) UP Theater Complex (including the Carillon Tower and Garden).

For more information about UP Diliman, click here.



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