At the end of the University Avenue, stands the University of the Philippines (U.P.) administrative building, the Quezon Hall, which was designed and completed by the National Artist for Architecture, Juan Felipe Nakpil. The Quezon Hall also signifies the start of the U.P. Academic Oval, which is a 2.2 kilometer elliptical roadway, where many of the major academic and civic institutions of the UP are located.
From the western end of the Academic Oval, at the Quezon Hall the road splits on both sides Pres. Manuel Roxas Avenue (named after the 5th Philippine president) to the south, and Pres. Sergio S. Osmeña Avenue (named after the 4th Philippine president) to the north. Lately, the traffic on the Academic Oval has been routed to a one way counterclockwise flow, and half the road is allotted for cyclists and joggers. The whole oval is closed to vehicular traffic on Sundays, to allow more exercisers to use the area.
Entering the southern road of Roxas Avenue on the eastbound route, there is the U.P. Lagoon Garden to the left, and the U.P. Sculpture Garden on the right. The Sculpture Garden has many works of National Artists, such as Napoleón Isabelo Veloso Abueva (born 1930) and Abdulmari Asia Imao (1936-2014), alongside other artists’ works. This came about in 1982-84, when Napoleon Abueva and his students started installing their works on the field, from Abueva’s nearby foundry, when he taught and served as dean at the U.P. College of Fine Arts (CFA).
Beside the UP Sculpture Garden is the Vargas Museum (U.P. Jorge B. Vargas Museum and Filipiniana Research Center), which was build between 1982-1987. The museum is named after the 1st Philippine National Executive Secretary Jorge Bartolome Vargas (1890-1980) during the Philippine-American Commonwealth Era (1935-1946), who donated his entire collection of art and antiquities to the U.P. in 1978. Aside from holding regular exhibitions of noted and up-coming artists, the museum has an impressive collection of Spanish Colonization (1521-1898) and American Occupation (1898-1946) artworks, including a large compilation of the works of Juan Luna y Novicio (1857-1899), an award winning artist and Philippine Reformist.
Right after the Vargas Museum is the Bulwagang Rizal (Rizal Hall) or as it is better known as the U.P. Faculty Center. The Faculty Center or FC is the home of the College of Arts and Letters (CAL), and the building was built in 1983. Unfortunately the FC was gutter by a fire last April 2016, and no one can place how much priceless art, artifacts and information we lost that night.
On Roxas Avenue and next to the FC is the Palma Hall, which was designed and completed by Arch. Cesar Homero Concio in 1951. The building is named after Rafael Palma (1874-1939), the 4th U.P. President, and it is home to the U.P. College of Social Sciences and Philosophy (CSSP). However, the U.P. students still refer to the Palma Hall as AS; which is short for Arts and Sciences, the original name of the CSSP. The building is also the center point of the lives of all U.P. students, no matter what course they are enrolled in, because most of the General Education (GE) subjects are offered in the AS. The Palma Hall has a twin building, which is the Melchor Hall that is found on the exact opposite side of the Academic Oval, on Osmeña Avenue. There are many extensions to the Palma Hall complex such as the Chemistry and Biology wings at the rear, and the Palma Hall Annex.
Across the Palma Hall is the AS Parking Lot, which has now become a hub for eating among the UP students and faculty, while their drivers bide their time playing chess and Chinese checkers.
At the far end of the parking lot is the U.P. Beta Epsilon Way or Beta Way, which is a footpath that cuts across the Academic Oval’s “forest” to link Roxas Avenue and Osmeña Avenue. This was built in 1952 by the Beta Epsilon Fraternity, whose members found it difficult walking around the Academic Oval to get to Palma Hall to attend their GE classes, coming from their engineering subjects in Melchor Hall, on the opposite side of the Academic Oval. Originally a gravel pathway, the UP administration had the walkway paved with concrete in the 1960s.
In front of the Palma Hall Annex, there is a small road (Apacible Street) that bisects the Academic Oval from Roxas Avenue to Osmeña Avenue. In the middle of the road is the University Main Library, or the Gonzales Hall. Designed and completed in 1950 by Arch. Juan Nakpil, the library was named after Bienvenido M. Gonzalez, the 6th UP President.
After the Palma Hall Annex is the U.P. College of Education’s Benitez Hall. One of the oldest buildings in the UP Diliman campus, the structure was designed and completed in 1941-49, by Juan Marcos Arellano y de Guzmán (1888-1960). The building was named after Francisco F. Benitez (1887-1951), the 1st dean of the U.P. School of Education.
Finally, at the eastern end of the Academic Oval is a 5 hectare grassy field that recedes below the street level, the U.P. Sunken Garden. Formally known as Gen. Antonio Luna Parade Grounds, it was named after the American Occupation / Philippine-American War (1899-1902 “officially ended”) general, Antonio Luna de San Pedro y Novicio San Ignacio (1866 -1899). The Sunken Garden was once under the charge of the UP Reserve Officers Training Corps (UP ROTC), which utilizes it for the training and parades up to this day. However, it has become a favorite haunt for sports enthusiasts and picnickers on every day of the week. There are many theories to why the Sunken Garden is below the street level, ranging from its continuous sinking (which is unproven) is due to water canals that run through the campus or the effects of the nearby Marikina Fault Line; however no studies have even been conducted to prove these theories.
On the eastbound route, there are so much stories and artworks found in each building mentioned, and they will be tackled in detail in future articles. However, the next blog post will continue the tour of the Academic Oval on the westbound route, back to Quezon Hall.