Latest Stories

2-volume UST history charts evolution of higher education in the Philippines


The University of Santo Tomas will launch the two-volume “A History of the University of Santo Tomas: Four Centuries of Higher Education in the Philippines (1611-2011)” by the highly respected Spanish Dominican historian Fr. Fidel Villarroel, OP, on Jan. 24, 6 p.m., at the UST Miguel de Benavides Central Library.

Published by the UST Publishing House, the history volumes promise to become the most comprehensive and most definitive yet of UST, Asia’s oldest university.

Because of their scope and exhaustiveness, the history books are also a veritable history of education in the Philippines.

In the book, Father Villarroel, who systematized the UST Archives and is mentor to several historians and researchers, corrects a number of “faulty” items of history.

Villarroel, for example, corrects certain details about the assassination on Oct. 11, 1719, of Gov. Fernando Bustamante, whose “character and…administration of the Islands have been judged differently by various historians.”

Villarroel takes issue with Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo’s mural at the National Art Gallery of the National Museum, which illustrates a mob of Dominican friars murdering the governor.

Villarroel writes to straighten this anomaly in history: “[Hidalgo was] misled by some advisers [to] wrongly [portray] the Spanish missionaries as the promoters of the tragic murder.” Antonio Regidor, a mason prominent for his anticlerical sentiments, was the painter’s adviser, he explains.

Villarroel said the governor and the Church came into conflict when the governor’s soldiers stormed the Manila Cathedral, thereby violating the right of sanctuary. The violation was due to the governor’s orders to recover the government inventories and official records held by a notary public who was then taking refuge in the cathedral.

Upon consultation by Bishop Francisco de la Cuesta, the Dominican experts of canon law from UST declared that “under no circumstances or conditions could civil authorities exercise jurisdiction within sacred places, even under the orders of the governor and of the audiencia.”

The governor responded by imprisoning the prelate and higher ecclesiastics, including Dominicans, Villarroel writes.

The historian’s conclusion: “At the moment of the assassination of the governor, [the friars] were far away from the scene. They were in jail.”

‘Sad Night’ account

After taking up his masters in history from the University of London, Villarroel was assigned to the Philippines to head the Spanish department of UST in 1957 and university archivist in 1959.

Villarroel also became for more than 20 years a secretary at the Apostolic Nunciature.

But perhaps Villarroel’s highest achievement would be the positio, or historical research, that he made for the beatification of Lorenzo Ruiz and companion-martyrs. As a result of Villarroel’s solid historical research, Pope John Paul II beatified Lorenzo Ruiz in 1981 in the first beatification in history outside of Rome. (Lorenzo Ruiz de Manila and his companions were canonized by the same pope in 1987.)

In 2010, the Order of Preachers (the Dominican Order) made Father Villarroel a “Master of Theology,” along with Peruvian Dominican Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez, “the Father of Liberation Theology.”

He was responsible for transforming the university archives situated in a small room—“unkempt, very dusty, disorganized and dark, with termites eating up some of the books”—in front of the UST Fathers’ Residence into one of the best facilities of research in the country where scholars, even from abroad, would do their work.

Among the important records that Villarroel catalogued were student records of UST between 1619 and 1673. The records indicated the beginnings of higher education in the Philippines.

“The degree was earned after passing a series of tests and examinations, which were prescribed by the colegio’s statutes…,” Villarroel writes about the exams in the 17th century.

There was an air of sacredness in the examination rites and practices, he writes. “These were, in fact, faithfully followed with occasional updating, until the end of the Spanish period.”

Before the conferment of a degree, he writes, the candidate must undergo the “lengthy proceedings leading to the much-feared examination, [which] was so dreaded that the examination period was referred to as the Noche Triste (Sad Night).”

The tests, Villarroel writes, required proving a candidate’s competence to a panel of experts, who would not stop throwing questions until they were satisfied.

World-class mind

The history book highlights the achievement of Cardinal Zeferino Gonzalez, “the best philosopher the [UST] has ever produced.”

“His philosophical writings contributed greatly to the historic revival of scholasticism and Thomism in Spain and in the Spanish-speaking world in the 19th century,” Villarroel writes. “In fact, he was one of the most prominent philosophers in Europe.”

A rather extensive chapter is devoted to the Thomasian cardinal in Volume II, which tackles the decline of Scholasticism that followed the Age of Enlightenment.

The restoration of Thomism (the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas), which was spearheaded by Gonzalez, “received ecclesiastical approval and support when the Holy See officially recognized its merits,” Villarroel explains.

“Fifteen years after the publication of [Gonzalez’] ‘Estudios sobre la Filosofia de Santo Tomás,’ Pope Leo XIII issued a historic encyclical letter, Aeteni Patris, dated Aug. 4, 1879, a document considered as the Magna Carta of the revival of Thomism,” Villarroel continues.

The longtime university archivist also tells about the encyclical’s “unmistakable references to Zeferino’s [‘Estudios’],” that when it arrived in the country in 1880, the university rejoiced and, in the traditional way of Dominicans in celebrating momentous events, conducted literary programs (writing contests, performance arts and classical debate on philosophical issues), pageantry and elaborate festivals.

Meanwhile, the university press (the oldest in Asia and the second oldest in the world up to this day) immediately reprinted the encyclical in “an elegantly ornamented edition,” which was sent to the Pope as a form of thanksgiving.

While the series, of course, includes the usual narratives such as the foundation of the university and alumni like José Rizal, Villarroel objectively provides perspective and goes in-depth.

In the chapter “Student Unrest and Gom-Bur-Za (1869-1872),” the historian traces the connection between the national hero and Fr. Jose Burgos, who had received all his degrees from UST where he was also a professor.

In sum, “A History of the University of Santo Tomas,” with its 68 chapters, deserves to be the highlight of the conclusion of the fourth centennial of UST, as it affords everyone a look back and forward of a glorious institution that has withstood the test of time.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Education , History , Lifestyle , UST

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. How to enjoy Buntod
  2. Kim Atienza: At home with art and design
  3. Life lessons I want to teach my son
  4. No tourist draw, Malang the croc will remain wild
  5. ‘Wild West’ Masbate’s pristine marine gems
  6. The best flavors of summer in one bite, and more
  7. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  8. Homemade yogurt, bread blended with pizza, even ramen
  9. What has happened to Barrio Fiesta and Singing Cooks & Waiters?
  10. Haneda International Airport: A destination on its own
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. How to enjoy Buntod
  3. Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  4. How Margie Moran-Floirendo keeps her dancer’s body
  5. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  6. Miss America: Don’t suspend teen over prom invite
  7. ‘Wild West’ Masbate’s pristine marine gems
  8. Kim Atienza: At home with art and design
  9. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  10. Life lessons I want to teach my son
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  3. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  4. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  5. Vinegar test helpful vs cervical cancer
  6. From Jeannie to mom of suicide victim
  7. San Vicente beaches hidden but not for long
  8. Borgy and Georgina are back; others are off–again
  9. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  10. Sen. Angara: I thought Pia Wurtzbach gave a good answer


  • Retired SC justice Lorenzo Relova; 98
  • Ligots fight 2nd forfeiture case
  • PH will be partly cloudy in afternoon, evening—Pagasa
  • Ex-COA chief nabbed for plunder
  • John Paul relics abound: Bloodied shirt, unwashed fork…
  • Sports

  • Sharapova advances to Stuttgart quarterfinals
  • Galedo caps ride of redemption
  • Beermen, Express dispute second semis slot today
  • Lady Agilas upset Lady Bulldogs in four sets
  • NLEX roars to 7th D-League win
  • Lifestyle

  • ‘Recovered’ Banksy works on display ahead of sale
  • Marinduque: Visiting the ‘palm of the ocean’
  • First at Vatican in 60 years
  • How Jing Monis Salon gave Krissy the pixie
  • Want to be a supermodel? Work on your inner beauty, says Joey Espino
  • Entertainment

  • Paul McCartney to play at Candlestick concert
  • Kristoffer Martin: from thug to gay teen
  • Has Ai Ai fallen deeply with ‘sireno?’
  • California court won’t review Jackson doctor case
  • Cris Villonco on play adapted from different medium
  • Business

  • PAL hailed for ban on shark fin cargo
  • BSP to change tint of P100 bill
  • Nielsen sees car buying boom in the Philippines
  • How author of best-seller exposed ‘one percent’ economic elite
  • Bangko Sentral readies new bank lending rules
  • Technology

  • Cloud strength helps Microsoft earnings top Street
  • Vatican announces hashtag for April 27 canonizations
  • Enrile in Masters of the Universe, Lord of the Rings?
  • Top Traits of Digital Marketers
  • No truth to viral no-visa ‘chronicles’
  • Opinion

  • Editorial Cartoon, April 25, 2014
  • No deal, Janet
  • Like making Al Capone a witness vs his gang
  • MERS-CoV and mothers
  • A graduation story
  • Global Nation

  • Only 4 Etihad passengers not accounted for
  • Abandoned in Malta,15 PH seamen return
  • Senator hopes PH will also get same vow
  • HK victims to get P115M; traders raised money
  • Afghan hospital guard kills 3 US doctors, including Fil-Am pediatrician