Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Faces of U.P. Los Baños 6: Facing the Freedom Park

* a view of the Freedom Park, showing prominently the acacia tree on the left and the Carillion Tower slightly off the center towards the right

* the Student Union Building

* the controversial Dao Tree which was once threatened by complete demolition, and has been visited by a senator; cool tree indeed

Arguably, the most historic of all places in the campus is the grounds of the Freedom Park. I still feel this awe even in looking at the photos I have taken of the present place, as the atmosphere of the past seems to pervade the place. I could not help but see in those silent skies the warplanes that once darkened them and the noises of screams and the heat of fires that once pierced these now peaceful surroundings.

Student Union Building

It would be not be good to neglect the Student Union (SU) Building, as it stands loud and pride adjacent to Freedom Park. It houses many sub-offices, particularly on the third floor, of the Office of Student Affairs as well the University Student Council and UPLB Perspective offices (where I once tried my luck in being a news writer but to no avail).

On the ground floor is big picture mural(?) of the UPLB history. This is a more informative one than the CAS wall presentation for in here we can find many structures and people that would have been otherwise unknown to a lay UPLB student if he or she would not be keen enough to learn about them. So if you have a free afternoon, you could lounge on the picnic tables below it, and look up and go back into the long and glorious past of UPLB. Adjacent to it is the SU canteen, offering varied foods, both good and bad. I once subjected my (once) little stomach to great sufferings when I has to endure those green pasta they called Pesto. One great eye sore there, but ironically of great convenience to many students, is the presence of a 7-11 branch there, right within the SU premises.

On the basement is the bowling center, still equipped with human pin arrangers (since I don’t know what they are really called). Old school, man! Then there is the billboard hall where I spent many occasions of solitude, or sometimes got caught in little plays of billiards of frat men, and of girls trying their abilities to playing the ball game. Beyond it is the area for table tennis, and just around are empty rooms for rent, probably for high fees as I have seen that not so many have occupied them during my time in the university.

* it seemed to me that it is a pillbox of some sort, but upon referring to a war prisoner’s sketch there, it seems that it was once a water tank, but I cannot really be sure of that

* the mighty Baker Hall; as to the car, well, it belongs to the man there

* the interior of Baker Hall showing that it has been turned into a multi-functional court; one cannot help but wonder what it looked like when it was still an internment camp

* the significance of this one has been confirmed on online notes by people who traveled here; this is actually a marker for a mass grave there for many have died during their internment

Baker Hall and the DMST

One of the long standing structures of the university is the Baker Memorial Hall, more commonly called by the students as Baker Hall or simply Baker. It was built before the war (the year of which I was not able to take note of). Its resilience is proved by withstanding the onset of the war and of the famous Los Baños Raid.

By 1943, it has become the internment camp of more than 2,000 American and Filipino prisoners, probably both civilians and militaries, whom the Japanese have either arrested or captured, including the area facing it, the present day Freedom Park. One well known prisoner there that I know was Father Reuter (a Jesuit?), who one have probably seen in Channel 4 or 5 because he had once a TV program. The rescue on February 23, 1945 was done by the combined forces of the US Army and the guerillas in the area and surrounding places.

* the DMST office, built in 1930

* the sketch of Leo Stancliff of the Los Baños Camp; found this on a Bravehost website

The present office of the Department of Military Science and Tactics also survived the war, having been the former infirmary of the college. Its presence, as well as that of Baker Hall, was documented through a sketch of one of the prisoners there by the name of Leo Stancliff. One can actually refer to it in finding structures that still remained after the war.

(My little discoveries from this sketch as well as from other photos during the raid shall be shared on my next entry.)

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