A little more than 500 meters north from Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA for short) Roosevelt/Munoz intersection is the Quezon City General Hospital Medical Center. Opened in 1968, the five-story 250-bed capacity tertiary-level hospital has an older history than its medical service to the poorer populace of Quezon City.
The hospital was first the Jesuit run San José Seminary, which operated from 1936 to 1941, and was closed down due to the outbreak of World War II (1939-1945) and the invasion of the Japanese military of the Philippines in 1941. The first San Jose Seminary finds its roots in the Colegio de San José, which was established near Puerta Real in Manila, on 25 August 1601. By 1921, the school had been moved three more times, and had become both a major and a minor seminary along Padre Federico Faura Street. However, a fire ravaged the Jesuit run Ateneo de Manila campus in Intramuros, the school operations were transferred to the Jesuit properties at Padre Faura , basically taking over the Colegio de San José, while the now-renamed Seminario de San José (San José Seminary) was relocated to the Jesuit Mission House at Intramuros.
However, the Mission House was proving to be took small for the needs of the seminary, and in 1936 the San José Seminary was transferred to the district of Balintawak in the Municipality of Caloocan (now a part of Quezon City), coinciding with the construction of the North–South Circumferential Road (now EDSA), in 1936. However, with the outbreak of World War II, the San Jose Seminary was once more returned to Padre Federico Faura Street, in 1941. It was believed that the old seminary in Balintawak was used as a barracks by the Japanese, during the war.
Sadly, the San José Seminary and the Ateneo de Manila campus were destroyed during the bombing of Manila in 1945. When the Ateneo de Manila transferred its campus to Marikina (now part of Quezon City) in 1946, it would take years for the San José Seminary to be rebuilt. At the meantime, the studies of the seminary were transferred to the Jesuit Sacred Heart Novitiate in Novaliches and the Jesuit Mission House in Intramuros. And in 1965, the San José Seminary found its new home along the rolling hills of the Ateneo de Manila campus.
At the meantime, the 3.2-hectare property of the seminary in Balintawak remained abandoned for more than two decades, until Quezon City Mayor Norberto S. Amoranto converted the old building into a 25-bed capacity general hospital. As the decades passed, the old 3-story building began to deteriorate and was increasingly difficult to retrofit with modern technologies, so in 2009 a new building wing began construction.
With the new hospital building in service, the old seminary building was left to rot, with only the Saint Joseph: Husband of Mary Chapel still in use as the hospital’s chapel. The choice to name the seminary and chapel after St. Joseph relates to his role as the Nutritor Domini (educator/guardian of the Lord), which would was compared to the Jesuit education in both the San José Seminary and the Ateneo de Manila University.
During the years the San José Seminary remained abandoned after the war, masses were still held at the chapel for the nearby communities. The administration of the Sunday masses were usually handled by the Franciscan priests of the Santuario de San Pedro Bautista, roughly 3.5 kilometers away. That is why a statue of Saint Francis of Assisi (born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, 1181-1226), founder of the Order of Friars Minor (OFM, Franciscans, est. 1209) and Order of Saint Clare (est. 1212), stands near the entrance of the chapel.
In the 1950s, Jesuits would also serve the Sunday masses at the old chapel, and they would commission Severino T. Bermúdez to create statues of St. Ignatius of Loyola and Pope Pius X, in 1956. St. Ignatius of Loyola (born Íñigo López de Oñaz y Loyola, 1491-1556) is the founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in 1540. St. Pius X (born Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto, 1835-1914) served as pope of the Catholic Church from 1903 to 1914; and he is known for his adherence to church traditions (over modernization) and the publishing of the “Tra le Sollecitudini” in 1903 that promoted the Gregorian Chant in masses, his canonical coronation Our Lady of La Naval de Manila in 1907, his fight against the expulsion of the Jesuits from France in 1907, and his leading the official codification of Latin Canon Law in 1917.
Visiting the old seminary building can be unnerving, as visitors tend to “feel” the ghosts of Jesuits past, as well as the echoes of possible atrocities committed by the Japanese. However, it cannot be denied that the San José Seminary and the Quezon City General Hospital Medical Center are much a part of the history of Quezon City, especially for its very close proximity to the historical site of the Pugad Lawin Shrine, which will be the subject of the next article.