It started with an update on Henry’s Facebook wall. A few hours and half a dozen comments later we had a plan. What started out as a lunch date at Almer’s snowballed into a full blown sightseeing of the whole UST campus.
I grew up in the University of Santo Tomas campus, having graduated from elementary, high school and college there. It was my second home for close to fifteen years. And to this day, I still know all the hymns (high school, graduation song and the official UST Hymn) by heart. I say this with so much confidence, I know every nook and cranny of that place.
That’s what I thought.
As soon as I entered the Espana gate, I knew this wasn’t my UST. Well, I haven’t been back for more than five years and so much has changed!
Henry was late (again) so I decided to explore all by my lonesome self.
My first stop was the old Elementary School because if talks are to be believed, I think this is the last year that UST will be offering elementary classes. I remember one of my friends telling me “wala na tayong alma mater”. It's really sad.
On my way there, I passed by rows and rows of food stalls in what used to be the parking lot in front of the UST Hospital.
There’s even a Mc Donald’s and a KFC outlet!
Seeing the Elementary School Building brought back a lot of happy childhood memories. It still looks the same except for the pavilions and the high fences, which looked higher than I remember. This used to be the venue of late afternoon "habulan", chinese garter, piko and volleyball games.
To complete my childhood tour, I went to see the old playground which is now dominated by a basketball court. The swings, see-saws, slides and other equipment were sadly pushed to the side.
The old Sports Complex cafeteria where I first discovered tacos (the soggy and stuffed with overipe tomatoes variety) is now gone and replaced by more food stalls.
I checked out the hospital canteen to see if they still offer my favorite chocolate cookies, which was sold only in UST, the name of which escapes me now (it was wrapped in clear plastic and had a red and yellow logo) and ube balls (or was it ube pastillas?) which we simply called “ube”. But unfortunately, they don’t sell it anymore.
Next stop was the UST Field and Grandstand which still looked the same, if not better, except for the cardboard cutout of what looked like the main building at the back of the Grandstand. I don’t have any idea of what it’s used for but honestly, it borders on tacky.
The façade of the Chapel still looks the same. Inside though, the altar had undergone a major renovation.
Walking towards P. Noval, which used to be my route home, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Lopez Canteen is still there.
UST High School still looked the same except for the walkway and the yellow HS logo.
The façade of the Central Library changed remarkably. There is now a building in front of the library that houses most of the university’s student organizations. I wonder what happened to the three statues that used to stand “guard” in front of the Central Library.
Colayco park is now gone and so is the statue of Manuel Colayco, the first casualty of World War II (I can’t believe I still remember my UST history!) and replaced by a fountain which wasn’t working when I went there. Notice the pattern of disappearing statues?
The AB Building (or is it still Commerce Building) still looks the same, badly in need of a major paint job.
Finally Henry arrived (hungry and without his camera) so we headed off to Almer’s . They serve sizzling beef, chicken, spareribs, sisig, etc. with bottomless gravy. One of our favorite places to eat next to Janet’s, which is gone now.
The original Almer’s Canteen burned down during my junior year (in college). It’s now under new management and has a new location (I forgot the name of the street).
I ordered T-Bone, which is a new offering and Henry opted for his old time favorite, Sizzling Spareribs.
The gravy, still bottomless, tasted the same and evoked a a lot of blue and white (our official college color) memories.
A visit to UST wouldn’t be complete without going to the Main Building. I’m so glad they closed off the "side" streets, got rid of the fences and opened up the walkway. By the way, parking in front of the grand old building is no longer allowed. The main building now looks “bigger” and more majestic. It looks like a medieval castle and the walkway looks like a grand old courtyard. For more pictures please check out Roadtrips with Mamu on Facebook or click to the Facebook link on the lower right screen.
Too bad Henry and I both have to be somewhere after lunch. But we promised ourselves that this homecoming of sorts would have a part two.