The University of the Philippines’ (U.P.) administration building, the Quezon Hall, was designed and completed by the National Artist for Architecture, Juan Felipe Nakpil (1899-1986) in 1948. It was named after the second President of the Republic of the Philippines, Manuel Quezon; whom the city is also named after.
Juan Felipe Nakpil (1899-1986) was the son, of the musician and composer, Julio Garcia Nakpil 1867 -1960) and Gregoria Álvarez de Jesús (1875 – 1943); who were known for their efforts during the Philippine Revolution (1896-1898). He initially took up engineering at the University of the Philippines, then he later studied architecture at the Fontainebleau School of Fine Arts, in France. After working for several architectural firms, Nakpil eventually opening his own architectural firm in 1930. Nakpil’s most noted works are San Carlos Seminary, Iglesia ni Cristo Riverside Locale (Now F. Manalo, San Juan), Capitol Theater, Captain Pepe Building, Manila Jockey Club, Rufino Building, Philippine Village Hotel, the Quezon Hall and Gonzales Halls of the U.P., and the Rizal Shrine in Calamba, Laguna. Nakpil was given the honor of National Artist for Architecture in 1973.
Part of the Quezon Hall plan is a wide amphitheater at the rear, which is used for daily promenades by the people and for special events such as the summer graduation ceremonies. On any given day, the area is filled with people from all over the city, hanging around the area to picnic, practice dance presentations, or just laze around under the shade.
In the greenery beside the amphitheater is one of the latest sculptures of the university, the “Covenant Monument“, by Nestor Vinluan. Installed in late 2016, the abstract sculpture represents “the Covenant of Leaders and Citizens with the Nation and the World, for Renewal, Unity, Peace and Prosperity.”
Nestor Olarte Vinluan (1949) is a mixed media artist, known for his abstract works. Vinluan took his studies at the University of the Philippines (U.P.) College of Fine Arts (CFA); and then took his masters at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. Upon his return, Vinluan started teaching at the U.P. CFA and served as its dean, for two terms. For his service and until his retirement in 2012, the U.P. conferred Vinluan with a University Artist III honor, as well as Professor Emeritus. Vinluan has exhibited both locally and internationally, representing the Philippines in the Hongkong Arts Festival in 1977, the 2nd Asian Art Show in Fukuoka, Japan in 1985, in the ASEAN Travelling Exhibition and Symposium on Painting, Photography, and Children’s Art in Jakarta, Indonesia in 1988. Among his many honors, Vinluan was the recipient of the CCP’s Thirteen Artists Award (1974).
Moving past the amphitheater is the U.P. Lagoon, a lush greenery in the heart of the campus. This forested area has become a haven for wildlife, as in rare occasions, one might come across a monitor lizard (bayawak), a soft shelled turtle (pagong), or even a python (sawa).
In the 1950s, the UP Lagoon was just a field of cogon grass, with a canal snaking through the overgrowth. And in the 1960s, there was an attempt to convert the area into a golf course. When that didn’t pull through, in the 1970s the UP administration began shaping the UP Lagoon to what it looks like today. And soon it became a haven for lovers to sneak off into the night for a quickie or two.
By the late 1980s, the area had become a miniature forest of sorts, with wild animals hiding in the dense foliage and fishes, such as tilapia, mudfish (dalag) and catfish (hito), swimming in its waters. The cadet officers of the U.P. ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corps) found this to be such an ideal setting for survival exercises for the Army Ranger training program. However, by the late 1990s, the UP administration started clearing the brush and installed lamps and walkways in the Lagoon, ending the wild forays of the animals and the ROTC cadets.
To enter the UP Lagoon from the Quezon Hall amphitheater, one will pass through the U.P. Charter Donor’s Garden or Tres Marias Plaza, as it is more popularly known. This new moniker was due to the sculpture of “Three Women Sewing the First Filipino Flag”, a 1996 monument by National Artist for Sculpture, Napoleon V. Abueva. Mr. Abueva was a dean of the U.P. CFA (College of Fine Arts), and is also considered one of the Godfather of Philippine Modern Sculpture. The sculpture commemorates the creation of the Philippine National Flag by Marcela Marino de Agoncillo, her daughter Lorenza, and Delfina Herbosa de Natividad, in 1897. This flag would be displayed for the first time in 1898.
Napoleón Isabelo “Billy” Veloso Abueva (born 1930) studied at the U.P. School of Fine Arts, under National Artist, Guillermo Estrella Tolentino (1890-1976), who was then the director of the school. Although trained in the classical style of sculpting, Abueva broke from its mold and began experimenting on modernist styles and techniques. Soon he became known as and Godfather of Philippine Modern Sculpture. Aside from the many historical monuments that are found all over the Philippines, Abueva has also been commissioned to create sculptures around the world. In his youth, he was awarded the Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines (TOYM) award; which would herald more awards and distinctions in his life. He was proclaimed National Artist for Sculpture in 1976, making him the youngest recipient of this distinction. And just like his mentor, Abueva also served as dean of the U.P. College of Fine Arts.
At the end of the lagoon is the Beta Theatrum, a stage built between 1983-84 by the Beta Epsilon fraternity. It was originally used for theatrical presentations and stage shows, while the audience sat across the lagoon. However, the UP administration had that part of the lagoon filled up and converted into a field. Now-a-days, the Beta Theatrum is once again used by the students for rehearsals and photo-shoots.
At the other end of the lagoon is Leonilo Doloricon‘s 1999 sculpture “Aklatang Bayan”, which is the image of two people reading a book as a tribute the esteemed literary society of the same name. Mr. Doloricon is a noted social realism printmaker, and a former dean of the UP CFA.
Leonilo “Neil” Ortega Doloricon (1957) is a painter, who is more known for his social realist prints. After graduation from the University of the Philippines (U.P.) College of Fine Arts (CFA), Doloricon worked as an illustrator for various dailies, such as the Manila Times. Doloricon started teaching at the CFA, and served as its dean for a time. In his service to the university, Doloricon received the 1999 Jose and Asuncion Joya Professorial Chair; the 2004 Guillermo Tolentino Professorial Chair; and the Fernando Amorolo Professorial Chair both in 1994 and in 2011. In 1990, Doloricon was honored the Thirteen Artist Award by the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
In 2017, the university launched the “Sansinukob” exhibit of public art, as part of the school’s celebration of the National Arts Month, of February. The U.P. Lagoon was one of the main exhibitions venues, with temporary installations and a few permanent works. Among the featured works is Ma. Rita Gudiño‘s “Mebuyan sa Idalmunon“, in which the Bagobo goddess of the underworld, Mebuyan, stands of the black river of Idalmunon, as represented by the brackish waters of the lagoon.
Ma. Rita Badilla-Gudiño graduated from the University of the Philippines (U.P.) College of Fine Arts, in Industrial Design; however she would later shift to ceramic art. Badilla-Gudiño now teaches at the UP CFA, and is the head of its ceramic studio. Badilla-Gudiño also heads the Kids At Art Workshop, as well as Putik Foundation, Inc., (Association of Philippine Potters), as part of her constant promotion of the art form.
The grassy field beside the UP Lagoon is the Hernandez Park, which was inaugurated in 1993, and named after the National Artist for Literature, Amado Vera Hernandez (1903-70). Mr. Hernandez taught in UP, and was a noted novelist, poet, playwright, and journalist. He was also a staunch freedom fighter, being part of the guerilla organization Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon, who fought the Japanese in World War II. After the war, he continued to fight as a labor organizer, until his arrest in 1951 on rebellion charges. He posted bail in 1956, and was acquitted in 1964.
During the 2017 Sansinukob exhibition, the Amado V. Hernandez Park became the site of Leeroy New‘s installation entitled “Agtayabon“. To the Bukidnon people, Agtayabon was one of the three creator gods, who is often described as a giganting bird-like creature, with a humanoid body. After a great heavenly battle between Magbabaya and Manawbanaw, over the creation of mankind, Agtayabon intervened and ended the great war, and helped the two gods continue their creation of the world.
Jan Leeroy C. New (1986) is a visual artist and designer, whose works are experimentations that mix theatre, film, fashion, product design, installation and painting. New first graduated from the Philippine High School for the Arts (PHSA), and continued his studies at the University of the Philippines (U.P.) College of Fine Arts (CFA). Focusing first on his paintings and installations, New has had many solo and group exhibitions in the Philippines and abroad, with the most notable are the Singapore Biennale in 2008, the Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale in 2009. As an artist, New has been honored with the 2009 Ateneo Art Awards, 13 Artists Award in 2012 by the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), and the 2014 Metrobank Foundation Award for Continuing Excellence and Service. As a fashion and costume designer, New garnered accolades with his designs for Tanghalang Pilipino’s Ibalong with the 2013 Philstage Gawad Buhay! award for Outstanding Costume Design, and he has also featured his works in the 2013 Istanbul Forum Fashion Week, the 2013 Design Philippines pavilion in the Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan, and the 2014 International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York. New collaborates with the designer, Kermit Tesoro (1988), and both have worked together on Lady Gaga’s muscle dress, for her music video “Marry the Night”.
Another nearby piece from the Sansinukob exhibition is Reg Yuson‘s “Langit-non“. The artwork relates to the Panay-Visayan myth of the creator god, Tungkung Langit and his wife, Alunsina. The circular top of the installation represents the gods’ sky home, and how Tungkung Langit look peer down to the earth below.
Every day and night, people amble around the UP Lagoon, in search of a quite spot under its thick foliage. However, they remain unaware of the cultural significance of the place and its monuments. I just hope that this piece is part of an effort for people to start sharing the significance of these cultural artifacts.