There are things one can easily own for their portability: a wallet, a necklace, and even someone’s love. But there are things far larger than one can personally keep. Take buildings and geographical spaces for example: a tower tall enough to scrape skies or even a plot of land wide enough to be named a region — their sizes too grand to permit intimate possession. Before people can claim them, these spaces seize the selves and the psyches first.
This month, The Menagerie showcases places that Lasallians had and have inhabited, and will continue to do so. The St. La Salle Hall, Agno, and the Henry Sy Sr. Hall are all spatial heritages to behold. There is much to know about these three spaces. What they possibly articulate about Lasallians is as significant as what Lasallians say about them.
St. La Salle Hall
St. La Salle Hall or “LS” if anyone calls to seek ye, has been the home of the College of Business since its childhood in the 1920s, when it just started out with two-year commerce programs. Today, Lasallians who are not taking up any business or economics degree seldom take the adventure of LS and its train-shaken rooms. Those who chance the need, find themselves lost and uncomprehending.
This stunning neoclassical building is an on-its-back, H-shaped structure with three levels of classrooms and offices along with a glorious chapel on the second and the fourth level being the Brothers’ residence. The man who imagined it was Tomás Mapúa, founder of the Mapúa Institute of Technology and the very first registered Filipino architect. He competed against nine others to design for De La Salle College’s new home when they had to transfer campuses from Paco to Malate in order to accommodate the growth of the student populace. Finally, in 1924, St. La Salle Hall was completed and since then, anyone passing by the school could peruse the beauty of its noble white façade.
St. La Salle Hall, with the fancy courtyard, used to be the kind of building that greets the city; however, today, the front of St. La Salle only peeps above the Marilen Gaerlan Conservatory, which was finished in 1998. After it left little of the real green, the ivory magnificence has become less of a dream and started to rearrange itself instead for the city’s cramped up lifestyle.
The Most Blessed Sacrament Chapel (formerly St. Joseph Chapel) was the site of a World War II massacre, a murder of 16 Brothers and 25 civilians on February 12, 1945. For two years, the building underwent reconstruction.
Wandering nostalgia for La Salle sends one, not only to the days of un-airconed lectures and summery, less Instragram, under-the-tree kind of social life, but even to the former glory of Manila where seas were properly blue, streets were cleaner, and citizens were disciplined. Such visions thrust a wanting for restoration in most people, or would it take shellfire, violence, and utter destruction?
Agno Street is devoid of the stateliness that St. La Salle Hall upholds. Agno also lacks a rich written history, but that does not exempt it from having a past. “Nung araw, ano pa ‘to, [maraming] sidewalk vendor… Puro kariton lang nung araw ‘to,” says Joy, who oversees the 17-year-old ‘Sylvia’ sari-sari store that Lasallians, then and now, love to frequent. Frances Batay-an, a 2006 Lasallian alumna, shares a similar memory of the place: “Agno back then literally looked like a typical eskinita.”
What passes for Agno’s architectural design today are the rows of Monobloc chairs and tables, the lines at food stalls, and the cloud of smoke that shape its exterior. It is an autonomous space bound by landmarks like the EGI Taft Tower, Gokongwei Hall and Miguel Gate.
But why do Lasallians, privileged as they are, flock in a suffocating space for something as modest as Ate Rica’s Bacsilog? Simple: escapism. Sabrina Dayao (IV, AB-LIM) takes Agno as “the great Lasallian equalizer.” By this she means that Agno’s existence is a way of destroying the myth of sosyal Lasallians.
“We are widely regarded as a university of the privileged, but Agno I believe breaks that stereotype,” she says, “No one is too good for cheap food, even among the most privileged of Lasallians.”
Through Agno, Lasallians escape their stereotype. But it is also in Agno where Lasallians may dwell in third-worldliness, complete with theft, poverty, and cigarette butts. When they could have chosen to stay safe inside the academe, Lasallians find themselves occupying this polluted space.
Agno’s popularity may suggest Lasallians’ willingness to settle in an immediate, less safe environment. The decades-long choice to eat or hang out in Agno is a decades-long Lasallian culture of adaptation. Interacting with street children, inhaling carcinogenic fumes, and facing the possibility of getting mugged are realities that Lasallians have continued to welcome.
The Agno spectacle is a microcosm of what might be currently Lasallian: participation in the ugly and openness to varied ways of living.
Henry Sy, Sr. Hall
Where are we going to play football/soccer/handegg now? That seemed like the ultimate question when the news first broke on the plans for the newest addition to the De La Salle University building family. Named after the project’s first donor, Henry Sy, Sr., it was constructed in celebration of the University’s centennial mark in 2011. The building is called a “habitable tree” by the architects from the Leandro V. Locsin Partners firm and holds other environmental cues with its indoor gardens and flush front lawn.
Behind all this beauty is a brain. It soon hopes to hold an astonishing 1,000,000 books at the Learning Commons and provides numerous places to enjoy them. Take your pick from your standard tables and chairs to the more casual beanbags.
Despite being the youngest of the bunch, it has leapfrogged over the other buildings in terms of popularity. Numerous students have already adopted the hall as their go-to tambayan. And this is not limited to the couches found by the books and computers. The mammoth pillars not easily missed hold two purposes. The first is to keep pens from rolling of the tables by ensuring the entire building does not fall over. And the second which is just as important is a place students can lie their backs. It may be on purpose or accidental but the curves found at the ends of the pillars make a great chair. Freshmen and seniors have picked up this fact alike as their bodies and bags can be found circling the pillars throughout the day.
There are numerous things spaces can do: provide habitat, entertain possibilities, and house people. But spaces are also capable of another function. That is, shaping consciousness. La Salle is nothing without its buildings. But the majority tends to forget that Lasallians too are lost without their nearest geographical markers.