Former education secretary Dr. Alejandro Roces once said that “Institutions make a nation.” Founded in April 28, 1611, the University of Santo Tomas is perhaps the oldest institutions in the Philippines after the Roman Catholic Church. This almost four centuries old institution is even old than the Philippine Republic. At almost 400 years old, this venerable institution had stood witness to the country’s struggle for independence from Spanish rule.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer has posted an article ten years ago about the indirect contributions of the university to Philippine independence. The contribution came in the form of intense minds and courageous spirits that animated and pursued the war of independence from Spain with singularity of purpose. As part of the Spanish colonial establishment and veritable ministry of education in the 19th century, UST did not directly or officially participated in the Philippine Revolution. In fact, its academic life was interrupted from 1898 to 1899 at the height of the insurrection, one of only two occasions throughout its colorful history would be closed (the second one was during the second World War when the university was transformed by the Japanese occupation troops into a concentration camps for prisoners of war).
Nevertheless, UST did play a significant role in the Revolution as cradle of the intrepid souls who sparked the Revolution. Its students and graduates spearheaded the Propaganda Movement in Spain from 1880 to1895. One of the movement’s leaders was Philippines national hero Jose Rizal who was educated at UST.
UST nurtured the educated Filipino youth who became the ecclesiastics, lawyers, physicians, pharmacists, poets and journalist who would become the intellectual engines of the Revolution.
Its alumni served as in the First Republic as advisers of President Emilio Aguinaldo and as Cabinet members of the Revolutionary Government. Some became Generals of the Revolutionary Army. Sixty-two of its graduates and a still undermined number of alumni were deputies in the Malolos Congress that drafted the first Philippine Constitution.
Today, at 397 years, UST rightfully deserves the title as the Cradle of Filipino Heroes.
Information source: Philippine Daily Inquirer (Philippine Centennial 1998 issue)