Aside from the Academic Oval, there is one more street where every student, teacher, and resident of the University of the Philippines (U.P.) Diliman campus will regularly visit throughout their stay (and sometimes for the rest of their lives) in the campus; and that is Pres. José P. Laurel Avenue. Named after the 3rd Philippine president, José P. Laurel (1891-1956), the road traverses from east to west, starting at the intersection with E. Ma. Guerrero Street in the east, and it ends at the intersection with Alejandro Reyes Roces Street in the west.
Coming from the east side, the first major heritage site along Laurel Avenue is the Church of the Risen Lord, the Protestant church that was built through the efforts of the student group, Christian Youth Movement (CYM). Designed by Arch. Cesar Concio, the Church of the Risen Lord was completed in 1955.
Arch. Cesar Homero Rosales 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.
Across the Church of the Risen Lord is a wide expanse with a long flat building, this is the College of Human Kinetics (CHK) Swimming Pool and University Arcade. The structure was built between the late 1960s and early 1970s, and is open to the public. However, the shops at the University Arcade had mostly closed down, with the exception of the handful still operating under dismal circumstances. And as for the pool, it too has seen better days, and many a student and athlete dread swimming there, in fears of being taken ill by whatever microscopic creatures lurk in the water.
As for the University Arcade parking lot, it has been transformed into a tiangge (flea market) and night eatery. Leading the pack of food services is Mang Larry’s Isawan, where one can buy a bevy of cheap barbequed snacks, especially the grilled chicken innards called “isaw”. Many Larry’s Isawan started in 1984, when Lauro “Mang Larry” Condencido Jr. wanted to augment his income as a messenger by selling isaw, in front of the nearby Kalayaan Residence Hall. Soon word got out of his delicious wares, and in a few years Mang Larry was able to retire a messenger, to focus of his growing business. People from all over the campus and from the outside troop to his stall every day, and now even if he earning more than may university graduates, Mang Larry still adheres to his humble roots and still manages the stall.
Right after the Church of the Risen Lord is the University Health Service (UHS), which is better known as the UP Infirmary. Constructed in the 1950s, the UHS is a 50-bed primary hospital capable of handling basic medical conditions.
Inside the University Health Service, there are many sculptural furniture by the late Jerry Araos. From his “Luklukan Chairs” to tables and magazine stands, these pieces were placed on display by his wife, Dr. Melen Araos, who works as the chief OB-GYN of the UHS.
Jerusalino “Jerry” Villamor Araos (1944-2012) was a self-taught sculptor, who originally studied English at the University of the East before he pursued a life of activism and art. In the 1960s, Araos went into the mountain to join the communist New People’s Army (NPA), in their war against the dictatorship of Pres. Ferdinand Marcos. He was later captured and tortured, which became the theme of his first exhibit “Bartonilna” (Jail), in 1980. Since then, Araos has been known to create sensuous abstract sculptures of people as well as sculptural furniture using old wooden from demolished houses and dead trees. Araos has also made a name for himself as a landscape artist, and he has represented the Philippines in many international exhibitions.
All over the university, there are many places to eat, shop, and even have a drink (even if it is illegal). One of those places is the University Shopping Center, which is a collection of photocopying shops, food stalls, a barber shop, a beauty parlor, a school supplies store, fashion and knick-knack stores, a laboratory supplies store, optical supplies stores, and even a pet shop. In 1949, the Shopping Center started as a row of bamboo and wood food stalls, as well as a few other services. By the 1970s, the long narrow concrete building was erected, and more shops were added. Soon many stalls were offering photocopying services, which was very important to the university’s academic community, where one can have whole books photocopied and bound. Sadly, all these services have ended with a fire that gutter the Shopping Center in March 2018.
One of the most famous stalls in the University Shopping Center is Rodic’s Diner, which is known for its tapsilog (a fried beef dish); which has been featured in many newspapers and magazines over the years, with a few television features added for good measure. On its walls are some of the printed articles about Rodic’s and its owner/founder Pacita Tecson, including Larry Alcala’s weekly cartoon “A Slice of Life”, featuring the U.P. in the 1950s. Last 2011, my wife and I joined in the celebrations of Rodic’s 60 years in service, being one of the first and original stalls of the University Shopping Center, in 1949.
Lauro Zarate Alcala (August 18, 1926 – June 24, 2002), also known as Larry Alcala, graduated from the U.P. School of Fine Arts in 1950. Although he earned the degree of Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting, Alcala pursued a career in commercial design and cartooning. He soon became famous for his comedic comic characters such as “Mang Ambo “ (1963), “Kalabog en Bosyo” (1947) and “Siopawman”. However, what launched him to the national consciousness was his weekly page “Slice of Life”, in the Manila Bulletin Weekend Magazine. He zealously campaigned to develop the illustration and commercial design courses in the University of the Philippines, which would lead to the founding of the Visual Communication Department of the UP College of Fine Arts, where he taught from 1951 to1981. In 1991, Alcala pushed for the creation of a group of young children’s book illustrators, which would become the Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan (Ang INK). In 1997, the Philippine Board on Books for Young People (PBBY) bestowed to Alcala the title Dean of Filipino Cartoonists, a title previously given to his teacher Irineo L. Miranda (1896-1964). In 2019, Alcala was posthumously honored as a National Artist.
Behind the University Shopping Center are several buildings, of which mostly deal with the financial needs of the U.P. populace. Connecting to the east wing of the Shopping Center is the U.P. Cashier’s Office, with the Philippine National Bank (PNB) and Land Bank of the Philippines branches at the ground floor. Further behind the Shopping Center is expansive U.P. Balay Atleta (Athlete’s Home), which used to be the residence of the Spanish Professor Martin Gregorio since 1971. Renovated and reopened in 2013, the Balay Atleta is the residence for the female athletes of the university.
Right across the University Shopping Center is the U.P. Parish of the Holy Sacrifice. The construction of the church was commissioned by Fr. John Delaney S.J., the U.P. Catholic chaplain; and the church was designed by National Artist, Leandro Locsin, it was completed in 1955. Being the first circular church in the Philippines, he Parish of the Holy Sacrifice boasts the collective work of four more National Artists: Napoleón Abueva, Vicente Manansala, Ang Kuikok, and Arturo Luz.
Leandro Valencia Locsin (1928-1994) is a man of many talents and interests, as evident in his entry to pre-law, then transferring to music and then architecture at the University of Santo Tomas. Early in his career, Locsin was creating theater sets for ballet and musical performances. Throughout his career, Locsin has designed 71 residences, 81 buildings, and 1 state palace; among these are 9 churches and chapels, and 17 government buildings. Best known for his massive, yet very breezy architectural style, Locsin’s most famous works are the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the Folk Arts Theatre, the Philippine International Convention Center, 1976; and the Philippine Plaza Hotel, the National Arts Center at Makiling, Los Baños, Laguna, the terminal of the Manila International Airport, and the Istana Nurul Iman (Palace of Religious Light), the palace of the Sultan of Brunei, which has a total floor area of 200,000 square meters. Locsin has garnered much recognition throughout his career, including the Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) Award for Architecture in 1959, the American Institute of Architects Hawaii Chapter’s Pan-Pacific Citation for consistent excellence in design in 1961, the Rizal Centennial Award for Architecture in 1962, the Republic Cultural Heritage Award in 1970, the Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan Award in 1972, and the Gold Medal Award from the Philippine Institute of Architects in 1978, an Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1980, the United Architects of the Philippines’ Likha Award and Gold Medal, and National Artist in Architecture in 1990.
Right next to the Parish of the Holy Sacrifice is the Acacia Residence Hall and Law Centennial Dormitory, which was constructed between 2011 and 2013.
At the end of Pres. J. P. Laurel Avenue is the Kalayaan Residence Hall, with its entrance at intersecting Alfredo Roces Street. The Kalayaan Residence Hall was opened in 1975, and is the primary dorm for freshman students in the university. Among all the dorms in the university, the Kalayaan (freedom) Hall is the only dorm for Filipinos that is not named after an indigenous tree species.
Inside the Kalayaan Residence Hall, there are two murals created by members of the Artist’s Circle Fraternity of the College of Fine Arts. The first is found near the lobby entrance, which is a cartoon map of the university, to help the freshmen maneuver their way around the campus. The second mural can be found at the end of the large interaction hall, where it features caricatures of campus life.
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.
Where Pres. José P. Laurel Avenue ends, Pres. José P. Laurel Street begins, which is a strip of residences turned into eateries. And this leads to the constant influx of visitors to the streets, making both J.P. Laurel Avenue and J.P. Laurel Street two of the most visited roads in the U.P. Diliman campus.