Driving through the whole Pres. Ramon Magsaysay Avenue at the University of the Philippines (U.P.) Diliman campus is an eclectic experience, from contemporary architecture to low single story barracks-like buildings, from edifices for education to residence halls, and from lots of overgrown vegetation to a beautiful garden of native trees. The road was named after the seventh President of the Republic of the Philippines, Ramon del Fierro Magsaysay, Sr. (1907-1957), a populist statesman who died tragically in a plane crash. Magsaysay Avenue is a 1.6 kilometer stretch from Katipunan Avenue, in the east, to Commonwealth Avenue in the west.
Starting at the corner of Katipunan Avenue, there is the Asian Center Complex, which was constructed between 2008 and 2001. Established in 1955 as the Institute of Asian Studies, the Asian Center was moved from one location to another, until its recent transfer to its new and permanent home. One of the major structures of the complex is the GT-Toyota Asian Center Auditorium.
Next to the Asian Center and at the corner of E. Ma. Guerrero Street is the Romulo Hall, which is home to the Institute of Islamic Studies, which was established in 1979. Named after the journalist, soldier, politician, and National Artist for Literature, Carlos Peña Rómulo (1899-1985), the building was designed by another National Artist, Arch. Juan Nakpil, who completed the structure in 1972.
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.
Continuing the westbound course down Magsaysay Avenue, and across E. Ma. Guerrero Street, is the Bocobo Hall & Law Center. Named after the lawyer, educator, journalist, and 5th U.P. President, Jorge Tabago Bocobo (1886-1965), the original structure was built between 1963 and 1964, and has been given a new lease on life with a much needed renovation.
Once hidden behind thick trees and a parking lot, the Bacobo Hall is now a welcoming sight, with its wide sloping driveway and fountain with a nymph that seems to be the work of Fermin Gomez (1918-2004).
At the entrance of the Bocobo Hall & Law Center, there is an undated bust of Atty. Jorge Tabago Bocobo, which may have been made by either Napoleon Abueva or Anastacio Caedo. Nearby, there is a stylize mural of Atty. Bocobo by Glenn Bautista.
Glenn Angeles Bautista (1947-2014) is a multi-awarded abstract painter, photographer, filmmaker and printmaker. Bautista first took his fine arts studies at the University of Santo Tomas in 1964, before transferring to the University of the Philippines (U.P.) and completing his studies in 1969. Although enrolled as an advertising student, Bautista’s painting career started when he won the 1965 World Literacy and Christian Literature International Art Competition in New York, with his painting “The Event”. Soon Bautista was taking on painting commissions, including portraits, while he was still a student. Bautista held his first solo exhibition at the Ateneo Art Gallery, right after graduation from U.P. Bautista took further studies at the Brooks Institute of Fine Arts, in Santa Barbara, California, in 1970; and he later took lithography at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in Germany, form 1980-1985. In 1974, Bautista was a recipient of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Thirteen Artists’ Award.
Right across Magsaysay Avenue, from Bocobo Hall, there is a long one story building from the late 1970s. This was once the home of the College of Community Development as Social Welfare, but now has become the residence of the U.P. Statistical Center. Established in 1953, the Statistical Center used to be at the Science Pavilions behind Palma Hall, before being moved to this new location.
The next major buildings along Magsaysay Avenue are the dormitories, which are mostly named after native trees and flowering plants. The first is the 378 capacity coed Yakal Residence Hall, which was built in 1962 over the demolished Men’s North Dormitory. Named after the Shorea Astylosa, the yakal tree is endemic to the Philippines.
The next dormitory is the 378 capacity coed Molave Residence Hall, which was built between 1949 and 1951. Named after the Vitex Parviflora, the molave tree is found Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Other dorms named after flora are the Acacia (Acacia Confusa), Ilang-ilang (Cananga Odorata), Ipil (Intsia Bijuga), Kamagong (Diospyros Blancoi), Kamia (Averrhoa Bilimbi), Sampaguita (Jasminum Sambac), and Sanggumay (Dendrobium Anosmum). There was once a Narra (Pterocarpus Indicus) Hall, which had burned down in 2008.
Right across the Molave Residence Hall are the ruins of some experimental houses that were put up the U.P. College of Architecture, in the late 1990s. Some students would live in these small homes as part of the testing of the designs. Whether it was a success or not has yet to be revealed.
The next edifice is the U.P. Ang Bahay ng Alumni (The Alumni Home), which was completed in 1992. The building was developed to host large events in the university, such as the Alumni Homecoming. The Bahay ng Alumni is also the home to several restaurants and business establishments, as well as a collection of several artworks, including that of the National Artist for Sculpture, Napoleon Abueva.
Right across the Bahay ng Alumni is the Washington Sycip Garden of Native Trees, which was established in 2012. The garden is named after the businessman and founder of the Asian Institute of Management, Washington Z. SyCip (1921). At the edge of the garden, close to Pres. Sergio Osmeña Avenue, is the U.P. Carillon Tower, which is also known as U.P. Memorial Campanille and the Bajo las Campañas. Originally conceived in the 1940s, it was only completed in 1952, as designed by the National Artist for Architecture, Juan Felipe Nakpil.
Beside the Sycip Garden is the U.P. Film Center, which was constructed in 1976. Renamed Cine Adarna in 2005, the theater was named after the 1941 classic LVN Studio film “Ibong Adarna”, which was based on a 15th century epic tale of a mythic bird of the same name: “Korrido at Buhay na Pinagdaanan ng Tatlóng Principeng Magkakapatid na anak nang Haring Fernando at nang Reyna Valeriana sa Kahariang Berbania”. With a seating capacity of 700 to 1000 persons, the theater is managed by the U.P. Film Institute (established in 2003), which is a branch of the U.P. College of Mass Communication.
Another structure beside the Sycip Garden is the Aldaba Recital Hall; which was named after the singer and founder of the Opera Guild of the Philippines, Dalisay J. Aldaba (1912-2006). The 200 person capacity theater is part of the 2000 person capacity U.P. Theater, or now known as the Villamor Hall. Named after the 2nd UP President, Ignacio B. Villamor (1863-1933), the theater was built in 1960.
Facing an open field along northeastern corner of Magsaysay Avenue and Region R. Ylanan (1889-1963) Street is the Benitez Memorial Alumni Hostel and Center, which was built in 1972. Named after the first dean of the U.P. School of Education, Francisco F. Benitez (1887-1951), the building was the hub for alumni activity, until the construction of the Ang Bahay ng Alumni.
Beside the hostel is the now stripped down Fonacier Hall, which was home to the U.P. Alumni store and bowling alley. The building was named after the former dean of the U.P. College of Liberal Arts / Arts and Sciences, Chairman of the U.P. Institute of Asian Studies, Officer-in-Charge of the U.P. San Fernando (Clarke Air Base branch) and founder of the U.P. Iloilo, Tomas Saguitan Fonacier (1898-1981).
Behind the Benitez Hostel and Bahay ng Alumni is what is left of the University Track and Field Oval. The oval had seen its glory days in the 1970s, but had fallen in to disrepair by the 1980s.
At the northwestern corner of Magsaysay Avenue and Ylanan Street is the U.P. Department of Military Science and Tactics (DMST) Complex, which is home of the U.P. Reserve Officers Training Corps (U.P. ROTC) and its fraternity, the U.P. Vanguards. Part of the DMST Complex is the Vanguard Building and Granadillos Hall or Cadet Officers’ Barracks. The whole complex was constructed in 1972, after the original office was burned down after the 1971 Diliman Commune. The original barracks was located where the U.P. Statistical Center now stands.
On the southwestern corner of Magsaysay Avenue and Ylanan Street, are the U.P. College of Music’s Ballet Studio and the U.P. Center for Women’s and Gender Studies (UPCWGS). The UPCWGS was first conceived in 1988 and formally established in 1992 as the U.P. Center for Women’s Studies, and it is an extension of U.P. College of Social Work and Development.
At the driveway of the U.P. Center for Women’s and Gender Studies is the sculpture “Dakila” (Great), by the feminist artist Sandra Torrijos. Created in 2008, the sculpture is a commemoration of the 20 years of the UPCWGS since its inception in 1988.
Sandra Buñag Torrijos (1960) is a noted artist, writer, educator and feminist activist, who graduated from the U.P. College of Fine Arts. Torrijos continued her studies at the Vermont Studio School and Colony in the United States in 1988. Torrijos has represented the Philippines in exhibitions in Europe, Asia and the United States of America. In 1992, Torrijos was among the Thirteen Artists Awardees of the Cultural center of the Philippines. Torrijos is also a co-founder of WeDpro, Inc., an international non-profit organization that focuses on violence against women and children.
Right after the UPCWGS is the U.P. College of Social Work and Community Development (CSWD), which was initiated as a program in 1950 under the Department of Sociology of the College of Liberal Arts. The CSWD was later established as an independent institute in 1961, and finally classified into a college by 1967. The present building of the CSWD is called the Tandang Sora Hall, which was named after the Philippine revolutionary Melchora Aquino de Ramos (1812-1919), whose nickname was “Sora”.
At the end of the lobby of Tandang Sora Hall is a interior garden with a 2001 mural entitled “Ugat Lahi” or “The Roots of Our People”, which features the Filipino family, different labor sectors and indigenous ethnic groups and religious sects. Ugat Lahi is also an artists’ collective, who specialize in Social Realist art.
At the 4th floor of the CSWD building is Bulwagang Tandang Sora (Tandang Sora Hall), which is a multi-purpose hall for the college. At one corner is the “Tandang Sora” mural, which depicts the life of Melchora Aquino, as well as monuments in her honor. The painting was created by Romeo Carlos and Norman Dreo, in 2015.
Romeo San Antonio Carlos (born 1945) is a graduate of the U.P. College of Fine Arts, and the Philippine National University. Upon graduating, Romeo first focus his energies teaching, before embarking on a fulltime painting career in 1984. From then, Mr. Carlos started participating in local and international exhibitions. Soon, Romeo was organizing group shows, specifically in connection with work with the U.P. Alumni Association (2009 to present) and the U.P. Fine Arts Alumni Foundation (2012 to present), which he has served the UPAA as director and executive director and the UPFAF as its president.
At the end of Magsaysay Avenue are the U.P. School of Urban and Regional Planning (SURP), U.P. National College of Public Administration & Governance (NCPAG), the U.P. School of Labor and Industrial Relations (SOLAIR), and the U.P. College of Human Kinetics (CHK). The CHK was established in 1976 as the U.P. Institute of Sports, Physical Education, and Recreation (SPEAR), with the U.P. Gym or Yllanan Hall as its home. The gym was named after the 1913 and 1915 gold medalist of the Far Eastern Championship Games and founder of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Region R. Ylanan (1889-1963).
There is much to ponder when traversing the whole Magsaysay Avenue, whether it is the history of the different buildings, the hidden gems of artworks inside those edifices, the individual experiences of U.P. residents of old and new, quality of education offered in each academic institution, or just a quiet contemplation in the different green nooks along the route. Whatever crosses your mind, the U.P. tour will always reveal new experiences and surprises on each visit.