Of Arches and Portals
- Written by Jo Ann Ancheta-Oruga
Category: UP @ LB
Published: 10 September 2013
UPLB may be well-known for its academic excellence, the Makiling Forest Reserve, its leadership in research, and its graduates who have been excelling in almost all professional spheres. An alumna, Ms. Ariella Arida, is currently making the news for winning the Bb. Pilipinas-Universe 2013.
But besides these UPLB treasures are gems – arches and portals – that are mostly taken for granted and meriting just a cursory glance as one passes by them. The curious, however, would probably wonder how they came to be. Vestiges of an era long gone, some of these portals and arches just seem to spring from various spots in the sprawling campus. But mind you, they were built there for a reason and remain there because UPLB decided to spare them from the wrecking ball.
Today, they remain standing to remind the University of its storied past, a history that bespeaks of the culture of academic excellence that is a hallmark of learning in UPLB. The continued existence of the older portals and arches symbolizes how UPLB stands out from among many universities in the country especially in heritage conservation and preservation.
Visitors are welcomed to the vast campus by two pillars on each side of the main gate. Although sometimes obscured by the bustling environment around it, these two pillars are by no means ordinary.
The pillars feature an eight-panel mural in Byzantine and venezine tesserae of colorful glass. The UP Board of Regents commissioned these murals made of terra glass mosaic to Elizabeth Grace Chan on November 1977. The tiles, which were imported from Italy, are made of glass that are resistant to corrosion, necessary to protect the mural and enable it to retain its original vividness amidst the humid Los Baños climate. The mosaics are best viewed from afar, that is why the murals are placed on the top half part of the two pillars.
The original sculptures that marked the UPLB Gate until 1967 now stand a few meters inside the campus from the main gate. Sculpted by National Artist Guillermo Tolentino, it consists of two pillars located on each side of the road on top of which are four tamaraw (Mindoro dwarf buffalo) head sculptures, and the Man, the Plow, and the Carabao sculpture. These sculptural pieces are now at the heart of what has become known to UPLB residents as the Carabao Park or the C-Park, in between the College of Development Communication and the AG Samonte Hall.
Animal Science Arch
This is the eye-catching grand arch that stands at the entrance to the Animal and Dairy Sciences Cluster and the College of Veterinary Medicine complex. It was formed as part of a fencing system that was designed to protect the college herd from infections from the lower regions of Los Baños that was often visited by epizootics. The distinct artistic entrance was designed by a college engineer by the name of Engr. Arana and was funded by the Ranchers’ Club.
The Department of Animal Science was established on May 1, 1972 from the former Department of Animal Husbandry in keeping with its expanding role in the field of animal science. It housed the livestock and poultry, animal nutrition, animal breeding and physiology, animal health, and meat and extension divisions. The Dairy Training Research Institute, established with the assistance of the Danish government through the Food and Agriculture Organization, was then a separate unit from the Department and functioned solely as a research unit.
Poultry Husbandry Portal
On the right side from the Animal Science Arch is the restored portal of the old Poultry Husbandry building. The portal bears an engraving of the Los Baños Cantonese chicken. This was once bred in the campus led by the team of National Scientist Francisco Fronda before WW II. The research brought UPLB international recognition in poultry research.
The portal was recently restored, and a thematic sculptural garden has since then been created next to it. The theme suggests an ecological food web of symbiotic relationships. The mosaic chicken that is mounted on the floor of the garden symbolically feeds on the earthworm, another sculptural element in the area. This earthworm burrows into the soil to give nourishment to the trees. Sculptural pieces representing other living things such as trees, chicken, and earthworms complete the representation of the symbiotic relationship as trees, chicken, and earthworms fertilize the soil when they die, thus giving back a part of themselves to Mother Nature.
The sculpture and landscape mix is a collaboration between Dr. Susan Ong, landscape architect and Jun Yee, internationally renowned installation artist, and long time artist-in-residence of UPLB.
Department of Agricultural Education Portal
A stone’s throw from the Carabao Park is the portal of what used to be the building that housed the Department of Agricultural Education (DAE). Built in 1929, the DAE building was completed a year after the Department was established under the direction of Prof. Merle A. Foster who was preceded by the first Filipino leader of the Department, Francisco Sakay. Sakay assumed leadership upon his completion of graduate studies at the Cornell University. To serve as the laboratory school of the Department, the UP Rural High School (UPRHS) was established in the same year in a nearby building that still stands today and houses offices under the vice chancellor for community affairs. Meanwhile, the new UPRHS is located at Paciano, Bay, Laguna, a 10-minute drive from the UPLB Gate.
Dean H.L. Russel Arch
Taking the “kanan” (right) route to UPLB, the arch is located inconspicuously on one side of the UPLB Main Library building (renamed Bienvenido M. Gonzalez Hall) and the bridge that is part of Domingo M. Lantican Avenue. The arch is a tribute to H.L. Russell, dean of the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Agriculture (1907-1930), whose idea of forest schools that he introduced in 1925 to Wisconsin paved the way for a law that allowed school districts to own land for forestry programs. UPLB through the then College of Forestry, was granted full and exclusive jurisdiction and administration over the Makiling Forest Reserve through Republic Acts 3523 and 6967 to serve the primary purpose as a training laboratory for instruction, research, and extension. Dean H.L. Russell also sponsored scholarships for UPLB faculty members to travel to the US for graduate studies.
Old Chemistry building portal
The Old Agricultural Chemistry building was reconstructed in 1949, after the original building was destroyed during the WW II. It was home to the Departments of Agricultural Chemistry and of Zoology before a fire burned down the building that housed laboratory facilities and equipment then considered to be top-of-the-line in the late 1980s. The fire destroyed not only precious research work but one of UPLB’s historical buildings. Of the building, only the arch remained from the fire.
The College of Arts and Sciences Annex building now stands on the original site, but the original portal was preserved and incorporated in the building’s architectural design.
Department of Languages building portal
The Department of Languages building used to stand where the Physical Sciences building now stands. But its portal remains standing and has recently been repainted. Its immediate surroundings has been landscaped into a pocket garden with benches that beckon tired and weary souls to just sit and rest. The area is a perfect site for students to hold study groups or small-group meetings. It is also near the lower campus’s academic area, the post office, a bank, a canteen, and the University Police Force.
The portal is what remains of the old Department of Languages, which used to be known as the Department of English. The arch has been named in honor of Emma Sareptha Yule and Dr. Sam F. Trelease . Described as “a guardian of good grammar and style on the campus,” Yule headed the Department of English and served as the editor of the Philippine Agriculturist from 1917 to 1936. She tailored the English courses to the needs of the agricultural students. Dr. Trelease, meanwhile, reduced technical writing on the campus to a concise, methodical form. The two collaborated on the “Preparation of Theses and Other Manuscripts” in 1925 that evolved from the struggle to whip campus scientific papers into shape.
College of Forestry and Natural Resources portal
The College of Forestry and Natural Resources (CFNR), UPLB’s second oldest college, also boasts of a historical portal. Located at the CFNR quadrangle just in front of the College’s administration building, the portal completes the feeling of old world and mystery to the quiet upper campus. An old fountain frames the portal that symbolizes the gateway to the Makiling Forest.
UPLB has other old arches and portals for the departments of Agricultural Economics, Entomology, Animal Husbandry, and Agricultural Engineering. UPLB abounds with architectural treasures such as these portals. They are not just vestiges of UPLB’s past, but some also tell stories of the country’s resilience during the war-torn times, of international linkages forged, and of UPLB as a silent witness to changing landscapes and lifescapes.