You may not realize it, but your footsteps fall on the same ground that those who were brutally massacred walked on. You may not think much of it, but the halls you pass by everyday are silent testimonies of a nation’s struggle to rebuild itself after a war that changed the world. You may not be aware, but you tread the same place where, four years ago, a bombing tore off the legs of a 23 year old law student.
You may not know it, but behind the pleasant and well-kept exterior of our school, lie stories of ruthlessness, vengeance, and humiliation. So read on, then, if you wish to discover three tales that the walls of this school have been witness to.
Situated in the south wing of the St. La Salle Hall, the Chapel of the Most Blessed Sacrament is frequented by students usually at peak season or, as students like to call it, final exam week. Outside the chapel are names engraved on a plaque. Like an epitaph, the following inscription precedes the names: “They shall shine as stars for all eternity Christian brothers killed in line of duty.” For it was on that fateful day in February 1945 that a Japanese official with his band of 20 soldiers stormed into La Salle, which at the time was a refugee center for civilians as well as some Brothers.
The Brothers had previously been told to flee, but they refused, hoping that perhaps the presence of a religious order might prevent the enemy from harming those who sought refuge within the school. How wrong they were. Civilians and Brothers alike fell prey to bayonets and guns. So the next time you visit the chapel to send a prayer for good grades, perhaps drop a prayer or two for the souls who lost their lives in the hands of ungodly men within the house of God.
Post war recovery
World War II devastated the University in a way that’s hard to imagine now that most of the scars have healed. Along with the civilians and Lasallian Brothers who perished, much of what made the place an institution for education was gone. Bombs had obliterated parts of the campus and the invaders left what they could in ruins. The gymnasium was no longer existent, little was left in the library and laboratories, many classrooms were no longer usable, and only one Brother remained after the others were either killed or imprisoned.
The University was in a difficult state of recovery and although the brothers that were released had returned, the lack of manpower and equipment made it seem like De La Salle University was doomed. Yet, there were still those who persisted and in the same year, the school still produced graduates. The brothers, seeing the value of education in the nation’s recovery, kept the school alive. The war left the University in its worst state, but we should be thankful that there were people who remained true to their mission and kept it on its feet to educate more of the Filipino youth in the years to come.
Bar exam bombing
The streets of Taft Avenue are always alive with students walking to their leisure. It is easy to forget that even these streets outside the University can be as dangerous as any other. On September 26, 2010, DLSU was the venue of the Philipine Bar Exam. Thousands of examinees drew upon their knowledge with the goal of becoming recognized as lawyers. For them, it was a day of high hopes that ended in horror.
At around 5 pm on that very day, as the examinees were exiting DLSU and were being greeted by the crowd, a grenade exploded on Taft Avenue. Over 40 people were injured. Two of them needed to have their legs amputated. One innocent bystander was temporarily accused of being the culprit. Every person among these numbers had their sights set upon being a valuable member of this nation, but at the end of the day, they were all lucky to have left alive.
Suspicion arose that this incident was a product of fraternity violence, a key reason the University is against such organizations. The incident serves as a reminder that while the University prioritizes the safety of its students, there are still things that lie beyond its control. DLSU does what it can to keep its students out of harm’s way, but danger can always be lurking right outside its doors.
DLSU has seen its share of dark times. Aside from the effects of war and random acts of violence, there have been other times when it had seen people go through moments of pain, yet the University has always stood strong in the face of struggle to set people on their way for the future.
What may be more compelling than the unfortunate events it has gone through is how the University has always responded with its students’ well-being in mind. So, the next time you walk these halls, maybe you can pay a thought and say a prayer for those whose wills didn’t falter.