Spain ruled over the Philippines for nearly 400 years. Does it show? I’ve always said that Philippines is your “Latin country” in Asia. We do not have temples and wats, but the archipelago is dotted with many churches which see regular Mass-going Sunday crowds.




UST. 400 years of history.



The oldest university in Asia? Only last year, this Catholic University celebrated its 400 years of existence since April 1611. A quadri-centennial celebration which drew in many alumni from all corners of the world. I had many friends based abroad who came home just for this event. It was a grandiose celebration, helped along by funds donated by its alumni who spent many happy university years here and saw the event as a payback for the education they earned.




UST: Oldest University in Asia



Long before the Americans came, the Spaniards gave us education. This is the oldest university in the Philippines and the whole of Asia. It is also the only university ever visited by 2 popes 3 times: once by Pope Paul VI on Nov. 28, 1970, and twice by Pope John Paul II on Feb. 18, 1981 and January 13, 1995.




University of Santo Tomas.



The students and alumni called “Thomasians” count many prominent Filipinos. Our national hero Dr. Jose P. Rizal (JPR) studied medicine here before he left for and continued his studies in Madrid, Spain. UST also takes pride in counting 4 Presidents among its alumni: Manuel Quezon, Sergio OsmeƱa, Jose Laurel and Diosdado Macapagal.






The university belt bears witness to daily chaos. Traffic is bad and the streets are crowded with way too many pedestrians and ambulant vendors. The university has the largest campus grounds in the entire city and on the day I visited, I found many students enjoying a breezy afternoon within the “campus park”. A luxury I must say in this tropical country of over 90 million people.







Next time I visit, I’d check out the university museum.