WHAT seemed to be just another day on the UP Diliman campus turned into a nightmare.
It was social media that first broke the news that the UP Faculty Center (FC) was on fire in the early hours of April 1. We thought it was an April Fool’s joke, but the tweets and status updates were for real.
Upon entering the campus, we saw smoke billowing from the building. People huddled, smartphones on hand, taking pictures and videos of the fire.
Many had blank expressions, and some were hoping there would be something left to recover. Professors shed tears while helplessly watching everything go up in smoke.
We asked students and faculty on what they lost in the fire.
“I think it wasn’t just the documents, books and other physical things that were lost, but also the memories that come with being an Iskolar ng Bayan. From the times we spent queuing for enrollment at 2 a.m., to walking along the halls carrying stacks of readings from the photocopying machine, to talking to profs we love or hiding from those we are terrified of—and a lot more. Everyone in the UP community lost a part of themselves that day.”—Cassandra Lim, BS Business Administration and Accountancy
“Ultimately, UP lost a part of its identity. Research papers, readings, and other documents and works turned into ashes. It took years to collect these works from hardworking Iskos and Iskas and they were gone within a few hours. Faculty members lost their offices.”—Basit Manalundong, BS Civil Engineering
“The nation lost a lot of research papers written by the brightest minds of UP. The faculty holding office in FC was stripped away of priceless artworks, artifacts and other sources of knowledge—whose value is priceless.”—Alison Black, BS Business Administration
“Pawis ng mga estudyante. Buhay ng mga guro. Sentro at puso ng unibersidad.”—Raj Traballo, BS Business Administration and Accountancy
“Many students were dismayed at the sight of another building in UP burning. But the professors are the most affected. It’s like years of history nawala in just one day.”—Miguel Sunga, BA Journalism
“I was devastated because I knew the Faculty Center held a lot of academic papers and sentimental value not just for the students but, more importantly, the faculty and staff.” —Lance Tan, BS Business Administration
“The fire destroyed not just a building but also irreplaceable artifacts and documents. It destroyed a part of our history. And most of all, it destroyed the efforts and memories of everyone who consider this building a second home.”—Nikko Palomares, BS Industrial Engineering
“How disheartened I would be if I were in the same situation as those who lost their prized collection of books and other important documents, the materials they use in teaching, their little home in the university.”—Clarence Guanzon, BS Civil Engineering
“As a freshman, I will never know the anxiety of going to a professor’s office for consultation or oral exams. I feel robbed not only of an iconic building, but also the experience that upperclassmen have from FC.” —Miguel Villamor, BS Economics
“As a student from the College of Arts and Letters (CAL) I’m still mourning the incalculable loss of our department office and everyone who called FC their home. Whenever I ask fellow CAL students about the fire, a shadow seems to cover their faces. Life goes on, but I don’t think people understand just how much we lost. A part of our spirit burned along with the building… We barely have enough resources to prop ourselves up on a regular basis, as the age of the FC building will very well show you, and now we have even more to worry about. Despite the walls that were old and worn, the items that the FC housed were what made it rich.”—Isa Fojas BA English Studies
“It pains me to see how professors, whether I have taken classes under them or not, are grieving because of unimaginable loss. I also can’t stand to see what once was a magnificent structure that housed and preserved the works of people from the UP community turned into ashes. This, however, does not have to mean that our spirit and strength should go down in flames as well.”—Patrick Gan, BS Business Administration and Accountancy
“Due to the fire, classes in the CAL building have been suspended. Our lessons are delayed and we are forced to make adjustments in the syllabus.”—Kat Hernandez, BS Computer Science
“I’m from a far-off college, but in a way, CAL and CSSP (College of Social Sciences and Philosophy) have always been the closest to me. Sometimes I forget what happened, then I pass through it and remember. It’s hard for me to be attached, but when I look at how the roof caved in, I mourn for UP’s loss more than I have for some relatives.—Marianne Cadiz, nonmajor
“Despite being an Economics major, I hold a deep reverence for the Faculty Center. I always viewed it as the heart and soul of UP, where intellectuals were free to share and debate ideas. I was so heartbroken over the news, I couldn’t focus in class.”—Pita Ochave, BS Economics
“In the light of what happened, some students suggested ways on how UP can prevent future fires. The government needs to increase the budget for the state university to upgrade its facilities, rewire old electrical connections, install sprinkler systems and fire alarms, clear side streets for emergencies and build a fire station within the premises. Safety measures are needed not only for fires but for any form of force majeure.”—Mica Adriano, BS Psychology
“Coordinate with the Bureau of Fire Protection and have all buildings and facilities inspected. Ensure that there are backups of academic files.”—Belle Ginez, BS Administration and Accountancy
“If the fire was indeed an accident, then I think that some buildings in our school don’t have the necessary tools such as fire detectors, automatic sprinklers and fire extinguishers. On the other hand, if the fire was not an accident, then I realize that anyone can enter the campus without difficulty because there are too many entrances and none of these are properly secure. Though we have rules such as no ID-no entry, I feel like they aren’t being implemented consistently.”—Martin Cruz, BS Administration and Accountancy
This isn’t the first time that there has been a call to action regarding fire safety in UP Diliman. This is just the latest of three fires to occur in the last two years within the campus. One is already too much. Many of the students and faculty have never experienced an on-campus fire drill. Many have cited the susceptibility to fire of the Main Library and the College of Education. Sadly, the response of the community has shown little impact on those affected.
“Of course, you won’t really imagine a fire occurring in these buildings and knowing that it’s UP, sometimes you’ll have to work within your means.”—Mary Jodie Bibat, Faculty of the College of Arts and Letters
“I think the UP administration should step in. Kailangang magkaroon ng mas maraming assessment at kung merong structural problems, kailangang mabigyan ng solusyon.”—Francis Malban, Faculty of the Department of History
“On a scale of 1 to 10 on how safe I feel in UP, it would be around 3 or 4.”—Jace Nadong, BA Comparative Literature
Working within our means is not enough when our safety is in question. Students are already looking for justification for increases in tuition and budgets cuts, yet the process of retrofitting these outdated buildings has become a slow, arduous process. Let’s not wait for another building to burn down.
We may have lost so much in the fire, but we can still rebuild. We cannot allow our losses and drawbacks to impinge our right to education. By pursuing honor and excellence, we can lay down the foundation. By uniting in every struggle, we put up the walls. And by taking a stand as an Iskolar ng Bayan, we can rebuild the Faculty Center anew and call for safer infrastructures to protect the welfare of the students, faculty and staff not just in UP Diliman but in other state universities and colleges.
As UP president Alfredo Pascual said, “The flames may have consumed the rooms and material collections at the Faculty Center, but the legacy of generations of our faculty endures. Now, let a different flame be kindled—one which lights up ever so brightly in our hearts— in this, our dark moment. And let the light spread among us and guide our way, united in spirit and action as one UP.”