At the University of the Philippines (U.P.) Diliman campus, the main hub for all students activities is the Palma Hall, or as it is fondly called the A.S.. Despite the many colleges and departments scattered throughout the 493 hectares of the Diliman campus, all students will end up taking their general education (GE) classes at the Palma Hall. Designed in 1949 by Arch. Cesar Homero Concio Sr. (1907-2003), the building was completed in 1951 and named after the 4th U.P. president, Rafael Palma y Velasquez (1874-1939).
Arch. Cesar Homero Concio Sr. (1907-2003) first graduated with bachelor of science degree in civil engineering at the University of the Philippines in 1928, and then took up architecture at the Mapua Institute of Technology in 1932. In 1933, Concio ranked first in the government examination for architects. Later on, he studied his masters in town planning, and housing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in 1940. Upon returning to the Philippines, Concio started working at the Department of Public Works, from 1940-1945, while teaching at Mapua. By 1946, he headed the Department of Architecture of Mapua, and became its first dean. In 1948, the Capital City Planning Commission was created, and Concio was appointed executive secretary. He is also a president of the Philippine Institute of Architects (PIA). In 1969, Concio was given the Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan by the City of Manila.
The Palma Hall is located on the southern road of Pres. Manuel A. Roxas Avenue (named after the 5th Philippine president) of the University Academic Oval, which are four roads that form an elliptical shape, and where most of the oldest buildings in the campus are found. Right across the Academic Oval, and on the northern road of Pres. Sergio S. Osmeña Avenue (named after the 4th Philippine president) is the Melchor Hall, which is an exact copy of the Palma Hall. Both buildings were design by Arch. Concio, and completed at the same time.
The Palma Hall is called the A.S. as it was home to the College of Arts and Sciences (C.A.S.). Hence the students, faculty and alumni have kept calling the building A.S. up to this day. However in 1983, the CAS was divided into two entities: the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy (CSSP) and the College of Arts and Letters (CAL). The CAL moved to the nearby Rizal Hall, while the CSSP remained in the Palma Hall.
Since the Palma Hall is the main hub for all students, its 25 steps have become a silent witness to the of the many student gatherings, some social and some were definitive events in Philippine History. One such radical event was the 1971 Diliman Commune, where staged protests against the government of President Ferdinand Emmanuel Edralin Marcos, Sr. (1917-1989), and Salvador P. Lopez (12th U.P. president) called upon the students to barricade the campus from the oncoming police and military. At the end of 8 day protest, one student was killed and many others were arrested.
In 2015, to celebrate the activist legacy of the U.P. students, sculptor Toym Imao unveiled his installation “Coping with a Couple’s Copious Conjugal Cupboard of Curios, Cops, Cuffs and Corpse” on the A.S. Steps, as a commemoration to the 1972 Declaration of Martial Law, by President Ferdinand Marcos.
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.
Upon climbing the A.S. Steps, and facing the grand entryway of Palma Hall, one will noticed an enclosed alcove with a bust of the Philippine National Hero Dr. José Protasio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda (1861-1896). The image of the multi-disciplined reformist of the Spanish Colonialization (1523-1898) was created by Prof. Guillermo Tolentino, between 1955 to 1956.
Guillermo Estrella Tolentino (1890 -1976) is a classical sculptor who was named National Artist for the Visual Arts in 1973. Tolentino took his art studies at the U.P. School of Fine Arts, and later at the Ecole de Beux Arts. In 1926, he started teaching at the U.P. School of Fine Arts, and he would later be given the position of director. Tolentino sculpted the University of the Philippines’ most recognizable emblem, the “U.P. Oblation”, as well as the Bonifacio Monument in Caloocan City. He was also awarded the UNESCO Cultural Award in Sculpture in 1959, Araw ng Maynila Award in Sculpture in 1963, Republic Cultural Heritage Award in 1967, President’s Medal of Merit in 1973, and the Diwa ng Lahi Award in 1972, before given the highest honor as National Artist.
Another hub for student activities is the Palma Hall Lobby, where student gatherings and exhibitions are usually held. In fact, I once facilitated and judged a student competition where they made mandalas out of contraceptives, as a means to bring awareness towards women’s reproductive health.
At the rear wall of the Palma Hall Lobby, there is a large mural by Vicente Manasala. It is a surreal testimony to “Arts and Sciences”, which he finished in 1960.
The floor of the Palma Hall Lobby is a colorful mosaic, which was also created by Manansala in the 1950s. The symbols of the mosaic also represent the Arts and Sciences.
Vicente Silva Manansala (1910-1981) took his first art lessons under the turn-of-the-century genre painter Ramón Resurrección Peralta (1877-1940), before entering the U.P. school of Fine Arts in 1926. After graduating in 1930, Manansala continued his studies at the Ecole de Beaux Arts in Montreal, Canada, and in Paris, France. While in Paris, he took an apprenticeship under the French avant-garde artist Joseph Fernand Henri Léger (1881-1955). In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Manansala took more studies at the Otis Art Institute, in California, USA. Manansala’s first jobs in the 1930s were as an illustrator for the Philippines Herald and Liwayway and layout artist for Photonews and Saturday Evening News Magazine. As an artist, Manansala was honored with the Republic Cultural Heritage Award in 1963, the Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan Award from the City of Manila in 1970, and he was proclaimed National Artist in Painting in 1982.
At the second floor of the Palma Hall Lobby is the entrance of the Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater; which, in 1976, was named after the noted theater teacher and director of the U.P. Drama Club.
Wilfrido Maria Ocampo Guerrero (1911-1995) was a playwright, director, and actor; who was honored as National Artist for Theatre, in 1997. Guerrero was a child prodigy, whose talent was first noted by family when he was twelve; and at age 15, his play “No Todo Es Risa.” was produced at the Ateneo de Manila University. Although he never finished his formal schooling, Guerrero’s reputation grew with his work with the Filipino Players from 1941-1947, and because of that he was appointed as director of the U.P. Dramatic Club in 1947. In 1962, Guerrero organized and directed the U.P. Mobile Theater, which was twice awarded by the Citizen’s Council for Mass Media. Aside from the National Artist honor, Guerrero received other citations; such as Rizal Pro-Patria Award in 1961, the Balagtas Award in 1969, and the Araw ng Maynila Award in 1969, and the Republic Cultural Heritage Award in 1972.
Beside the entrance of the Guerrero Theater, there is a large mural entitled “Isandaang Taong Bukang Liwayway”; which features events of the 100 years of Philippine history, starting with execution of Dr. José Rizal and the Katipunan Revolution against Spain (1896-1898) in 1896, and all the way to present times. This 1996 mural was created by the members of the U.P. Artist’s Circle Fraternity.
U.P. Artist’s Circle Fraternity was founded in 1972, at the U.P. College of Fine Arts (CFA). Being the only arts related fraternity in the U.P. system and the only fraternity at the CFA, the Artist’s Circle is mainly comprised of visual artists and designers. But in time, they also started accepting members from the disciplines of theater, literature, music, film, and architecture. During the Martial Law era (1972-1981), the Artist’s Circle served as the acting student representatives of the CFA students, after all student councils were abolished. Many of the members of the Artist’s Circle have moved on to be movers and shakers in the art and design world.
Close to the 2nd floor lobby is the CSSP Office of the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs; and inside the office are several of my artworks, which were formerly displayed at the IPEG Office, where I used to work as an anthropological researcher in the 1990s. I will discuss that in detail in a while.
At the third floor of the Palma Hall is what is left of the Anthropology Museum. The museum is a collection of archeological and ethnographic artifacts of Prof. Henry Otley Beyer, which his family donated in 1967. Unfortunately, as the student population kept growing over the years, the museum gave way to classrooms, and most of the artifacts are crammed into a small space while others are in boxes.
Henry Otley Beyer (1883-1966) is an American who is considered the Father of Philippine Anthropology. His interest in the Philippines started when he attended the St. Louis World’s Fair (Louisiana Purchase Centennial Exhibition) in St Louis, Missouri in 1904. The Philippine Pavilion at the fair featured more than 1000 Filipinos from different ethnic groups, who were put on display like animals in a zoo. The diversity of the Filipino people intrigued the young Beyer, and he went to the Philippines and worked as a teacher among the Ifugao people, where he would later marry a local maiden. After pursuing an anthropological degree in Harvard University, Beyer was appointed as an ethnologist in the Philippine Bureau of Science. And by 1914, he became the only teacher in anthropology at the University of the Philippines. Beyer continued to develop the anthropological department in the university, even past his official retirement in 1955.
At the basement of the Palma Hall are two rooms that were once offices, which I used to work with. The first was the Inisyatibo sa Pag-aaral ng mga Ethnolinggwistikong Grupo (Initiative in Studies of Ethnolinguistic Groups / IPEG), where I worked as a freelance anthropological researcher. Sadly the office has been closed down and has been left empty. The second office was our twin unit, which was the Archeological Studies Office, under Dr. Wilhelm G. Solheim II (1924-2014). This too is gone, and the office space has been turned into the office for the various student organizations of the CSSP.
From the rear entrance of the Palma Hall, the area opens to a green space called the José Rizal Park. What was once a hodgepodge of trees and office debris, until the administration decided to spruce up the place and transform it into a park in 1996. The park is highlighted by a 1910 statue of the National Hero by Domingo Celis. The sculpture was donated by Celis’ daughter to the university, in 1996.
Domingo Alfonso Celis (1882-1964) was a noted painter during the American Occupation (1898-1946). Celis studied and graduated in the first batch of the U.P. School of Fine Arts in 1914, along with most noted contemporary Fernando Amorsolo. Before entering the university, Celis first studied at Escuela Superior de Pintura, Escultura y Grabado, after he attended his first ever art exhibit which was Exposicion Regional de Filipinas in 1895, where the paintings of the Spanish Era masters Juan Luna and Felix Hidalgo were on display.
In a covered area beside the José Rizal Park is the A.S. 101 office. Although it was once negatively (or positively) viewed as the hangout of the snobbish rich kids, the room is actually the Office of the College Secretary for CSSP.
The corridor of the A.S. 101 leads to the A.S. Walk, a pathway that spans the whole length of Palma Hall from its rear. The A.S. Walk has a few eateries and stores on the sides, as well as tambayan (hangout) nooks for student organizations and fraternities.
From the A.S. Walk, there are the four halls that are considered extensions of the Palma Hall. Originally called the Science Pavilions, these buildings housed the Chemistry, Physics and Biology classrooms and laboratories. Now these have been moved to the National Science Complex (NSC) in 2005, whereas the departments of the College of Arts and Letters moved in after the Rizal Hall burned down in April 2016.
Beside the Palma Hall is the Lagmay Hall, which was once called the Palma Hall Annex (PHAn). The building was renamed after the National Scientist for Experimental Psychology Alfredo V. Lagmay in 2015. Along with the renaming of the building was a presentation of a bust of Dr. Lagmay; which was sculpted by his son Prof. Alfredo Mahar Lagmay, as based on the death mask created by Napoleon Abueva.
Alfredo V. Lagmay (1919 – 2005) was a psychologist and teacher at the University of the Philippines. Lagmay is considered the founding father of the Psychological Association of the Philippines. He was awarded the He was conferred the distinction of National Scientist of the Philippines, in 1988.
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.
Walking through the Palma Hall and PHAn brings back memories for any U.P Diliman alumnus. And one cannot help but think of what happened to the teachers who once mentored them. I took time to visit Dr. Cynthia Neri Zayas, at the Center for International Studies at the PHAn. She, along with Dean Consuelo Joaquin-Paz were my mentors in anthropological research at the IPEG office. Their inputs, as well as many of the U.P. teachers, have helped mold the man that I am today.
I often hear how students now-a-days lack the mettle to forge ahead in life, in comparison to the past generations. However, as I walk the aisles of Palma Hall and observe these young people, I cannot help notice they they were no different from us in our time, and that they too have a bright future, as they are forged in the experiences at the U.P Diliman.