The University of Santo Tomas celebrated its 410th anniversary with a Thanksgiving Mass on April 28, 2021. Livestreamed through the official UST Facebook page due to the ongoing pandemic, the celebration had the theme “500 Years of Christianity: 410 Years of Fidelity.”
In his homily, UST Rector, the Very Rev. Fr. Richard G. Ang, O.P., Ph.D., bid the Thomasian community to look back to the school’s long history for lessons and inspiration, particularly how from small beginnings may come great things. The humble Colegio de Nuestra Señora del Espiritu Santo in Intramuros, with its first group of 12 becarios in 1611 grew to a bustling, historic Manila campus with over 40,000 students, and with more satellite campuses set to rise.
The Rector, quoting the Quadricentennial Rector Rev. Fr. Rolando de la Rosa, O.P., Ph.D., said “‘The history of UST is a history that has been impelled by faith, propelled by hope, and compelled by love.’ These are the Tria Haec, symbolized by the three statues on top of the Main Building. Benavides and the Dominicans founded the University to make the Catholic faith inform and transform educators and students.”
Benavides’s contribution of his personal library and a seed amount from his personal funds encouraged donations from other donors, and his small deeds in the early 1600s had a multiplier effect, said Fr. Ang, emphasizing that Benavides manifested the Tria Haec, the three theological virtues, in his life. The excellence of UST today can be traced to those small deeds, like a big ripple in water coming from a small pebble.
“With our own efforts, we can only do very little. But with God’s help, we could do so much more,” said the Father Rector.
The Tria Haec in these times
Going through the history of the University during this historic milestone, the Father Rector wanted “to illumine the soul and revitalize the Tria Haec hiding inside one’s self.
Fr. Ang said, “Today, we need to believe, more than ever, even if there are reasons to doubt. We can hardly ignore the physical realities of the pandemic times. However, faith would go far beyond such realities. Faith is seeing light with your heart while all your eyes can see is darkness. It is acknowledging our limitations, entrusting ourselves completely into the hands of God…
“Today, we need to hope, more than ever, even if there are causes for despair. We can barely dismiss the difficulties of the present quarantine situation. Yet hope transcends such hardships. Soren Kierkegaard says that hope is passion for what is possible. Hope can help us get through the darkest of times, giving us the power to overcome challenges…
“Today, we need to love. We need to be charitable more than ever, even if there are justifications for resentment, for rancor, for anger, for bitterness. We cannot easily close our eyes to critics and detractors, to those who refuse to help us when we needed it most, to those who spoke ill of us. However, love and charity rise above feelings, challenges, and differences.”
He urged the community to take these values, immortalized at the physical and metaphorical center of the University, in their hearts. These may be difficult teachings to put into practice, but emphasized that with God’s grace, anything is possible.
The University of Santo Tomas was founded on April 28, 1611, after Archbishop Miguel de Benavides, O.P., bequeathed his library and 1,500 pesos for the establishment of a seminary college prior to his death in 1605. It was elevated by Pope Innocent X to a university on November 20, 1645, the first institution in the country to be recognized as such. King Charles III conferred the title “Royal” university in 1785 for its exceptional loyalty in readying Manila against the British threat, and in 1902 UST became the second in the world to be named a Pontifical University by Pope Leo XIII. The title “The Catholic University of the Philippines” soon followed in 1947, bestowed by Pope Pius XII.
In its 410 years, the University of Santo Tomas has made its indelible mark in Philippine history. Its ranks of alumni include the National Hero Dr. Jose Rizal, whose literary works contributed to the core of Philippine independence, four Presidents of the Philippines, 17 saints and martyrs, 19 National Artists, and more notable personalities, including the Master of the Order of Preachers Very Rev. Fr. Gerard Francisco Timoner, III, O.P. Within its historic campus resides four landmarks and one set of documents declared National Cultural Treasures by the National Museum.
As the first decade of its quincentenary closes, UST continues to expand the Thomasian brand of education to its first set of satellite campuses that are soon to rise, one in Santa Rosa City, and the other in General Santos City.