The Charge of the Arch of Centuries

I

Two kilometers, two kilometers,
Two kilometers away,
All in the swamp of Sampaloc,
Rose the pontifical university,
“Relocate, the Thomasians!
“Rebuild for Veritas!” he said:
Into the swamp of Sulucan,
Highest building in all of Sampaloc.
II
Was there a student dismay’d?
Not one knew,
Someone had planned the future,
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs but to philosophize,
Theirs but to study and pass,
Into the swamp of Sampaloc,
Transferred the Thomasians.
III

Condo to the left of them,
Condo to the right of them,
Condo in front of them,
Construction unrelenting,
Boldly they built the ONE,
higher and higher,
Into the jaws of urbanity,
Stood the pontifical university.

IV.

Flashed the certificate of sacred site,
Sacrilege as they looked around,
Finding real estate gods there,
heritage site surrounded,
All of Manila wondered,
From swamp to urban jungle,
Mighty condos they built,
Urbanites and Provincials,
Loaned, rented, purchased otherwise.
Then they looked back, but not
Not the arch of centuries.
V.
Condo to right of arch,
Condo to left of arch,
Condo behind arch.
Volley’d and pound’d;
Storm’d at with concrete and glass,
While saints of old fell,
They that had fought so well
Came the jaws of urban Death
Back from the mouth of aesthetic hell
All that was left of them,
Left of arch.
VI
When can the arch’s glory fade?
O the second war did she survive!
All of Manila wondered.
Honor the arch they salvaged,
Honor the arch they transferred,
Noble arch of centuries.

 * Poem and Photo of Arch of Centuries, University of Santo Tomas, November 23, 2012 by M.R. Gaerlan (with apologies to  Alfred Tennyson, the Charge of the Light Brigade).

Additional Readings:

History of UST’s Cultural Heritage (http://lifestyle.inquirer.net/artsandbooks/artsandbooks/view/20110131-317554/The-history-behind-USTs-National-Cultural-Treasures0

Sino Ang Sasagip sa Maynila (http://www.varsitarian.net/editorial_opinion/editorial/20120819/sino_ang_sasagip_sa_maynila)

Arch of Centuries (http://www.philippineheritage.com/2010/12/arch-of-centuries-university-of-santo.html)

UST Protests Lacson-Espana Flyover (http://lifestyle.inquirer.net/60807/lacson-espana-flyover-takes-off-despite-protests)

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~ by Martin Gaerlan on November 23, 2012.

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