At the University of the Philippines (U.P.) Diliman campus, one starts the tours of the school with the eastbound drive along Roxas Avenue in the U.P. Academic Oval. The first building along Rixas Avebue is the Vargas Museum (U.P. Jorge B. Vargas Museum and Filipiniana Research Center), and followed by the shell of the former Bulwagang Rizal (Rizal Hall) or as it is better known as the UP Faculty Center. The Faculty Center or FC was the home of the College of Arts and Letters (CAL), and the building was built in 1983. Named after the Spanish Colonial (1523-1898) Reformist and National Hero, José Protasio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda (1861-1896), the christening was allusion to the multi-disciplinary and progressive education as was expounded by Rizal. Sadly, last April 2016, a10 hour fire caused by the old electrical wiring gutted the whole Faculty Center. Untold amounts of important scholarship papers, artworks and artifacts were lost, and the irreplaceable.
In commemoration to the legacy of the Bulwagang Rizal, noted sculptor and installation artist, Toym Imao, erected the piece “Puso-Pusoan”. The temporary artwork took inspiration from the Lenten ritual where the sorrows of Jesus’ death are uplifted with his Resurrection. And with that, the final symbol is the phoenix, which will rise from the ashes; just like the newly proposed Faculty Center Building.
Abdulmari “Toym” de Leon Imao (born 1968) comes from a family of artists. He first took up architecture at the University of the Philippines, but the call of the arts was too strong and he became a sculptor. Later he took his Masters in Fine Arts at the Maryland Institute College of Art as a Fulbright Scholar. Aside from sculpture and installations, Imao has also done production design work for theater and film.
One of the artworks that did survive the burning of the Faculty Center is Napoleon Abueva’s 1991 sculpture “Siyam na Diwata ng Sining”. Representing the Nine Artistic Disciplines of the Arts, Abueva recreates the Muses of Greek mythology into the Philippine goddess form, the diwata. The nine arts that are represented are: architecture, dance, film, literature, music, painting, photography, sculpture, and theater.
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.
Behind the Faculty Center is the new KAL (Kolehiyo ng Arte at Literatura) Building, which was constructed between 2003 and 2007. To celebrate this long awaited expansion of the College of Arts and Letters, the university installed Napoleon Abueva “Magdangal” in 2008. This statue is the goddess Inang Bayan (Motherland), as she stands with dignity and honor (dangal). At the base of the statue is a poem by Virgilio Almario:
Magbangon ka, aking Mutya
Mula dagat ng dalita;
Pairalin mo sa lupa
Ang tarong, ragsak at laya.
“Arise, my Muse
From the ocean of sorrow
Bless the land anew
Justice, peace and freedom“
Virgilio Senadren Almario (born 1944) was once known by his nom de plume: Rio Alma (River of Kindness). Almario first took studies in Political Science at the University of the Philippines, and then he took his Masters in Education at the University of the East (U.E.). While at U.E. he met the young writers Rogelio G. Mangahas (born 1939) and Lamberto E. Antonio (1946), who kindled his passion for writing. Soon he became a poet, critic, editor and translator of many literary pieces. Almario and his companions championed a new movement in modernist Philippine poetry, soon help found literary groups such as Linangan sa Imahen, Retorika, at Anyo (LIRA) and Gallan sa Arte at Tula (GAT). He won numerous awards; such as the Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines (TOYM), the Palanca Award, Makata ng Taon (Poet of the Year) ny the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino, and more. He has also held many important positions in cultural and government organizations, such as the Executive Director of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts from 1998 to 2001. While serving as the dean of the U.P. College of Arts and Letters, Almario was conferred the honor of National Artist for Literature.
While all that is left of the Bulwagang Rizal are reminiscences, it will be years before it can be rebuilt and be filled by a new generation of students and teachers, who in turn will create their own memories. At the meantime, these two monuments by Abueva will stand as a testimony of students, educators, artists and other illustrious visitors who have walked the halls of the U.P. Faculty Center.