A topping-off ceremony for the first building of the 80-hectare University of Santo Tomas (UST) General Santos City campus was held on December 4, 2021, at Brgy. Ligaya, South Cotabato and livestreamed on the University of Santo Tomas Facebook page.
The topping-off ceremony is a builders’ tradition held when the last beam (or its equivalent material) is placed on top of a structure. It included a Eucharistic Celebration and blessing rites presided over by the Bishop of Marbel, His Excellency Most Rev. Cerilo Allan U. Casicas, D.D.
“May this topping-off ceremony remind us of what is at the heart of our faith. The Messiah has already come, and He has come first as a teacher. We must not only listen to Him, but we must accept Him personally and as a community,” Bishop Casicas reminded the community.
Aidea Philippines, Inc., one of the top architecture and design firms in Asia, helmed the planning of the new satellite campus. Its President and Chief Executive Officer, Ar. Abelardo Tolentino, Jr., is a member of class 1987 of the UST College of Architecture. He formally introduced the project after the Mass.
Tolentino shared, “It is a dream of a Thomasian architect to design a structure in UST. We are so happy and blessed that we got involved in this project, which started in 2018. It was an enjoyable collaborative effort between [Aidea] and the University officials.”
Primarily, the planning team considered two factors, said Tolentino. “[The design of the site] should be consistent with the branding of UST and it should have something unique that recognizes the culture and diversity of the [current locale, General Santos City]”
The Main Building, located in the Phase 1 Lot of the total 76.78-hectare campus, will be 52 meters tall, with six levels, 77 classrooms, and 25 laboratories that can accommodate up to 15,000 students. It will also contain a chapel, a cafeteria, a library, clinic, organization rooms, an auditorium, and various function halls alongside administrative office facilities. The first four Schools to be offered by the UST in GenSan, the School of Health Sciences, the School of Engineering and Technology, the School of Business and Accountancy, and the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences will be the first residents.
UST Facilities Management Office Director Rev. Fr. Dexter A. Austria, O.P., expressed that he “looked forward to the day that students from SOCCSKSARGEN and the Davao region will fill up the halls of this building.”
The General Santos City Mayor Hon. Ronnel Rivera said that the LGU “eagerly anticipates the presence of UST in our beloved General Santos City,” as its opening will further improve social services, livelihood opportunities, and quality education.
The UST Rector Very Rev. Fr. Richard G. Ang, O.P., Ph.D., said that UST GenSan will “train and employ people from the surrounding cities to work with us as faculty and staff, we will also form meaningful partnerships with local industries which will lead to generation of new job opportunities… This is our gift to GenSan – Luzon meeting Mindanao.”
Concluding the ceremony was the Entrustment Rites to the Blessed Virgin Mary led by UST Center for Campus Ministry Acting Director Assoc. Prof. Ma. Sanita Quilatan, Ph.D.
On December 3, another structure was blessed, the Filial House of San Martin de Porres. With a mass led by Fr. Gerard Zabala, O.P.,the blessing rites for the Filial House of San Martin de Porres followed. The three-storey structure will be the home of Dominican friars assigned to the UST General Santos campus.
As part of UST’s efforts to bring the Thomasian brand of excellence to more parts of the Philippines, the UST GenSan campus broke ground in 2018, while the 40-hectare rising Sta. Rosa campus recently topped off its first building, the UST – Dr. Tony Tan Caktiong Innovation Center, in August 2021.