is Holiness Pope Francis will bring his message of “mercy and compassion” to at least 11 different venues in the province of Leyte and Metro Manila during his Apostolic Visit to the Philippines on January 15-19, 2015.

Pope Francis is expected to arrive in Manila from Sri Lanka, the first leg of his Asian trip, by plane past 5 p.m. on January 15, and will go on a motorcade to his official residence in the Philippines. The following morning, January 16, Pope Francis will be officially welcomed by President Benigno S. Aquino III at Malacañan Palace on J. P. Laurel Street in Manila. The Pope will also meet Philippine authorities and members of the diplomatic corps.

After the Palace reception, Pope Francis will go on a motorcade to the Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception (Manila Cathedral) in Intramuros for a Mass with bishops, priests, and women and men religious. Later, he will have an encounter with families at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.

In Leyte Province in Eastern Visayas, Pope Francis will visit the Archdiocese of Palo. He will offer Mass near Tacloban Airport  in the morning of January 17 and will have lunch with the poor and survivors of natural calamities at the residence of the Archbishop of Palo. Afterwards he will bless the Pope Francis Center for the Poor in Palo, and visit the Cathedral of Our Lord’s Transfiguration (Palo Cathedral) to meet with priests and women and men religious.

On January 18, the Pope will meet religious leaders and young people at the Pontifical University of Santo Tomas in Manila. In the afternoon, he will go on a motorcade for the Concluding Mass at Quirino Grandstand in Rizal (Luneta) Park.

Pope Francis will leave for Rome on January 19.


15-19 JANUARY 2015

Thursday 15 January 2015
17:45Arrival at Villamor Air Base in Manila
Friday 16 January 2015
09:15WELCOME CEREMONY at the Malacañan Palace
10:15MEETING WITH THE AUTHORITIES and the DIPLOMATIC CORPS at the Rizal Ceremonial Hall of the Presidential Palace
11:15HOLY MASS with the bishops, priests, women and men religious at the Cathedral – Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Manila
17:30MEETING with the FAMILIES at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila
Saturday 17 January 2015
08:15Departure by plane from Manila for Tacloban
09:30Arrival at the airport of Tacloban
10:00HOLY MASS near Tacloban International Airport
12:45Lunch with some of the survivors of typhoon Yolanda at the Archbishop’s Residence in Palo
15:00Blessing of the Pope Francis Center for the Poor
15:30MEETING with the Priests, Women and Men Religious, Seminarians and Families of the Survivors at the Cathedral of Palo
17:00Departure by plane for Manila
18:15Arrival at Villamor Air Base in Manila
Sunday 18 January 2015
09:45Brief Meeting with the Religious Leaders of the Philippines at the Pontifical University of Santo Tomas in Manila
10:30MEETING WITH THE YOUTH at the Sports Field of the University
15:30HOLY MASS at Rizal Park in Manila
Monday 19 January 2015
09:45Leave Taking Ceremony at the Presidential Pavilion of Villamor Air Base in Manila
10:00Departure by plane from Manila for Rome
17:40Arrival at the airport of Rome/Ciampino

Villamor Air Base

Pasay City

When Pope Francis visits the country in January, touchdown will be at Villamor Air Base in Pasay City.

Villamor Air Base is the home of the Philippine Air Force (PAF). It was opened in 1912 as a small United States Army Air Corps base, called Nichols Field. During World War II, the Japanese took control and used it as a bomber base. The United States Air Force turned over the facilities to the newly independent Republic of the Philippines on July 1, 1947. It was called Nichols Air Base.

In 1982, the base was renamed Col. Jesus Villamor Air Base after the legendary Filipino pilot and intelligence officer who fought the Japanese during the war. Colonel Villamor’s bravery and essential intelligence work earned for him the Distinguished Service Cross and the Legion of Merit. He was the PAF’s first recipient of the Medal of Valor, the equivalent to the USA’s Congressional Medal of Honor.

Today, the air base is PAF’s biggest and primary facility. It houses the organization’s air units and centers and is used as a major thoroughfare for transport and helicopter airlifts.

Villamor Air Base shares amenities with the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), the country’s main gateway that is administered by the state-owned Manila International Airport Authority. The airport was named after former senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., father of the current Philippine president.  The former senator was slain at the airport tarmac upon his return to the Philippines from the United States on Aug. 21, 1983 to fight the Marcos dictatorship.

NAIA Terminal 1, designed by National Artist for Architecture Leandro Locsin, was completed in 1981 and has a capacity of six million passengers a year. It services international flights coming into Manila. NAIA Terminal 2, designed by Aeroports de Paris, began operations in 1999. With a capacity of nine million passengers a year, it serves the international and domestic operations of Philippine Airlines. Terminal 3, the largest airport in Manila, sits on a 65-hectare property adjacent to the NAIA runway facilities and handles 13 million domestic and international passengers annually. Terminal 4 hosts the operations of local carriers. The one-level building is the oldest of all the terminals.

NAIA and Villamor Air Base function as a transit point for receiving and delivering donations locally and internationally, and thus serve a major role in disaster relief. Villamor Air Base was used as a shelter for victims of Typhoon “Yolanda” last year. This base will welcome the Vicar of Christ to the Philippines on his mission to spread the message of Mercy and Compassion to the country in January 2015.

– Frances Gutierrez

Malacañan Palace


Malacañan Palace viewed from across Pasig River

As the head of state and government of the smallest sovereign country in the world, the Vatican City State, Pope Francis will be formally welcomed by Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III into the seat of government of the Philippines, Malacañan Palace, the official residence and principal workplace of the President of the Republic of the Philippines.

It is officially called Malacañan Palace, and commonly referred to as “Malacañang”. The official etymology of the word goes back to the 1930s. The name is said to come from the Tagalog phrase “May lakán diyán” (“there is a nobleman there”), as it was originally the home of Don Luís Rocha, an aristocratic Spanish merchant of the Manila galleon trade.  The Rochas built their summer house on this spot in 1750. Other records say that the Spaniards claimed that the term Malacañang had come from “mámalakaya”, Tagalog for the fishermen who once laid out their catch on the Pasig River bend where the Palace now stands.

The property was purchased by the Spanish colonial government in 1825 to serve as the summer residence of the Governor-General.  After the June 3, 1863 earthquake destroyed the Palacio del Governador (Governor’s Palace) in Intramuros, Manila, the office and residence of the Governor-General was moved to Malacañan Palace.

Since then, the Palace has been the seat of the most powerful men in the country – eighteen Spanish Governors-General, fourteen American Military and Civil Governors, and later the Presidents of the Philippines.

The Palace has been enlarged and refurbished several times since 1750; the neighboring grounds were purchased and added to the expanding complex. Many buildings were demolished and constructed during the Spanish and American periods.  The most recent and massive renovations were undertaken in 1978 to 1979.  The Palace itself was drastically remodeled by then First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos.

When Pope Blessed Paul VI visited the Philippines in 1970, he was received by then president Ferdinand Marcos at the Palace.  His successor, Pope St. John Paul II, visited the country in 1981 and blessed the crowd from the balcony over the main entrance.  The last time the pope-saint visited the country was in 1995 for the quadricentennial of the elevation of the See of Manila to an Archdiocese and the erection of three suffragans: the Dioceses of Cebu, Nueva Segovia, and Caceres, and the staging of the 10th World Youth Day.  He was given arrival honors at the Palace grounds and a reception for dignitaries at the Rizal Hall.

When Pope Francis arrives in the country, Malacañan Palace will again host the customary welcome ceremonies for a visiting head of state.

– Rommel F. Lopez

rchdiocese of Manila/Manila Cathedral

Intramuros, Manila

Photo by:  Dominic Barrios

Photo by: Dominic Barrios

The Archdiocese of Manila

Manila was established as a suffragan diocese of Mexico on February 6, 1579 by Pope Gregory XIII by virtue of the Apostolic Constitution “Illius fulti praesido,” following the first successful missionary efforts.

On August 14,1595, Pope Clement VIII raised the Diocese to the status of an Archdiocese and created three new dioceses as suffragans to Manila: Nueva Caceres, Nueva Segovia, and Cebu. With the creation of these new dioceses, the territory of the Archdiocese was reduced to the city of Manila and the 10 civil provinces near it: Rizal, Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Batangas, Laguna, Cavite, Bataan, Zambales, and Mindoro.

On April 10, 1910, the province of Mindoro was established as an independent diocese by virtue of a Decretum Consistoriale executed by Pope Pius XI implementing the Bull “Quae Mari Sinico” of Pope Leo XIII. Eighteen years later, on May 19, 1928, Pope Pius XI established the Diocese of Lingayen, diving Manila and Nueva Segovia. In this division, 26 parishes were separated from Manila.

On December 11, 1948, the Apostolic Constitution, “Probe noscitur” further divided the Archdiocese of Manila by separating the northern part of the Archdiocese and establishing it as the Diocese of San Fernando.

On November 25, 1961, the Archdiocese of Manila was again divided. The civil provinces of Bulacan in the north and Cavite in the south were separated from the archdiocese. Bulacan became the Diocese of Malolos and Cavite became the Diocese of Imus.

The growth and development of the Archdiocese accelerated during the term of His Eminence, Jaime Cardinal Sin, D.D., who became the third Filipino prelate of the See of Manila on January 19, 1974. The Eastern part of the province of Rizal was removed from the Archdiocese of Manila on January 24, 1983. Fifteen towns and two barangays were separated from Manila to form the Diocese of Antipolo.

In the early 2000s, five more dioceses were carved out of the Archdiocese of Manila. These were the Diocese of Novaliches covering northern Quezon City and northern Kalookan, the Diocese of Cubao covering southern Quezon City, the Diocese of Kalookan (southern Caloocan, Malabon, and Navotas), the Diocese of Parañaque in the south (Parañaque, Las Piñas, and Muntinlupa, and the Diocese of Pasig (Pasig, Taguig, and Pateros).

The Archdiocese of Manila is now made up of five cities, namely, Manila, Makati, Pasay, Mandaluyong, and San Juan. The Arzobispado in Intramuros is the principal office of the Archdiocese.

The Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception

The Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception stands majestically before Plaza Roma in the walled city of Intramuros, Manila. Its walls of raw, natural stones polished by weather and time add to rustic charm and draw in people from all walks of life. The Roman travertine stone sculptures of Catholic saints that adorn its main facade act as reminders of the virtues the local faithful must constantly aspire for.

The Latin inscription just beneath its typanum and the intricate Marian and historical bronze inscriptions on its royal doors hint not only of the opulent architecture inside its walls but also of the rich Philippine heritage it has in its safekeeping. The Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception is more than just a mute witness to the changes in Philippine government, society, and people. It is a flourishing memorial.

Humble beginnings

The Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, otherwise known as the Manila Metropolitan Cathedral-Basilica, occupies 3,000 square meters of land. Its growth as a religious entity can be likened to that of a mustard seed that came from humble beginnings.

Manila Cathedral was established by Juan de Vivero on the parcel of land Miguel Lopez de Legazpi had apportioned in 1571 for the Church of Manila to be solely dedicated to La Purisima Immaculada Concepcion or Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. The church, initially made of nipa and bamboo, came under the auspices of Fr. Juan de Villanueva, the first parish priest. The parish was elevated to a cathedral in 1581 by Bishop Domingo de Salazar two years after Pope Gregory XIII established Manila as a suffragan diocese of Mexico.

When Pope Clement VIII raised the Diocese of Manila to the rank of Archdiocese in 1595, the Manila Metropolitan Cathedral became the seat of the Catholic Church in the Philippines.

It earned the title of Minor Basilica in 1981—exactly 400 years since it became a cathedral—through the own effort and motion of Pope John Paul II. At that time, His Eminence Jaime L. Cardinal Sin was the archbishop of Manila while Msgr. Augusto Pedrosa was the rector of Manila Cathedral.

Continuous transformation

Regarded as the Philippine’s Mother Church, the Manila Metropolitan Cathedral-Basilica was appointed by Cardinal Sin in 2002 to be the model to churches in the country. Its development from a simple parish to a minor basilica mirrors the growth of the Catholic faith in the Philippines from the time the Spaniards came to cater to the spiritual needs of its new colony up to becoming the third biggest Catholic nation in the world today.

Alongside the growth of the faithful community, the Manila Cathedral went through numerous developments in its physical structure, precipitated by earthquakes as well as war, fires, and typhoons.

There were actually eight cathedrals constructed from 1581 to 1958 on top of renovations. From the original structure of nipa and bamboo, the Manila Cathedral’s unique architecture is actually the byproduct of various foreign and local designers who employed a range of influences from Baroque to Neoclassical then Romanesque-Byzantine to Neo Romanesque in a span of almost half a millennium.

After its last major reconstruction in 1958, it was only recently that the Manila Cathedral was subjected to another repair. The wear and tear of the centuries had taken hold of the basilica’s structural security, prompted then Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales to close its doors in 2012 for a major upkeep. This move, mostly completed in April 2014, has equipped the Basilica with modern facilities such as LED lighting, digitally operated sound system, and carbon-retroffited structural foundation.

A religious and historical memorial

It is interesting to find not only the cathedral’s history but also the Philippines’ milestones interwoven in its design. The carvings on the main portal mark the blessing of the original church in 1579 by Bishop Domingo de Salazar, the fire of 1583 that consumed the nipa church, the earthquake of 1600 that caused the collapse of the first stone church, the consecration of the newly built cathedral of 1614 by Bishop Diego Vasquez de Mercado, the interim nipa-hut cathedral used after the earthquake of 1645, the collection of offerings from the people conducted by Archbishop Miguel de Poblete in 1654 for the construction the fourth cathedral, the major earthquake of 1863 that claimed many lives and the destruction of the church, and the destruction brought by World War II to the cathedral in 1945.

Photo by:  Dominic Barrios

Photo by: Dominic Barrios

The 134 stained glass windows portray the important stages in the life of Jesus and other key figures in the Bible such as John the Baptist, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and St. Peter. They also capture the memories of the EDSA People Power Revolution in 1986 and the canonization of the first Filipino saint, Lorenzo Ruiz, in 1987.

Being a Marian church, its beauty is a reflection of the Filipinos’ devotion to the Blessed Mother. Thus, the various titles, virtues, and stages in the life of Mary are seen on its walls. The life-sized, multi-colored, bronze statue of the Immaculate Conception made by Italian artist Enzo Assenza is enthroned in the main altar.

The basilica houses religious artworks of globally famous artists like Fernando Ocampo, Toni Fiedler, Michele Fisac, Giuseppe Perischetti, and Marcelo Mazzoli. It also serves as a depository of the sacred relics of popes and saints such St. Polycarp and St. Potenciana, and is the resting place of the remains of Manila’s previous archbishops: Jaime Cardinal Sin, Rufino Cardinal Santos, Gabriel Reyes, and Michael O’Doherty.

– Minnie A. de Luna

Mall of Asia Arena

Pasay City

Papal visits to the Philippines draw the largest crowds. One of the special moments the Holy Father, Pope Franics, will have in the Philippines is a meeting with families, to be held in a stadium with an adjacent open ground – the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena in Pasay City.

With a total land area of 64,085 square meters, the Arena was officially launched on June 16, 2012. It has a 15,000 seating capacity and a full-house capacity of 20,000. It is the venue for professional and college basketball games and volleyball leagues. Built on reclaimed land on Manila Bay, the Arena has hosted some of the biggest concerts, sporting tournaments, and events in the country. It has 10 elevators and 34 escalators. Special access lanes for disable patrons are available.

The Mall of Asia Arena is equipped with state-of-the-art technology and world-class facilities. Situated within the Mall of Asia Complex, events being held inside can be beamed live to SM Cinema theaters nationwide. Professional-grade, high-resolution CCTV cameras installed in the Arena are from the same company that installed the security cameras at the Vatican Apostolic Library.

The eye-shaped exterior of the Arena sends a message to audiences that every single event to be held in the Arena will surely be a “feast for the eye”.

When Pope Francis meets Filipino families in the Arena, it will be more than a feast for the eye. It will be a celebration of family and life.

Archdiocese of Palo

Leyte Province, Eastern Visayas Region

The Archdiocese of Palo in the island of Leyte was first created a diocese on November 28,1937, and then elevated to an archdiocese on November 15,1982 with four suffragan dioceses: Calbayog, Borongan. Catarman and Naval.

Up until the 18th century, Leyte and Samar were considered by the Spanish government as one single political unit under their original names of Tendaya and lbabao. They were then under the jurisdiction of the Spanish government in Cebu. In 1735 they were separated from Cebu and became a single province with Carigara as the capital, disregarding the narrow body of water, the San Juanico Strait, that separates them at one point. In 1768 they were split up into two separate provinces with Tacloban as the capital of Leyte. After the Second World War the island of Leyte was split up into the provinces of Leyte, comprising the upper three-fourths, and that of Southern Leyte occupying the southeastern part of the island.

Leyte and Samar have a shared history. Both islands were the scene of the arrival of the first Spanish expedition to the Philippines in 1521. Magellan first landed in Homonhon, a tiny island off the Samar coast. Later the first Catholic Mass in the country was celebrated on the island of Limasawa in the southern part of Leyte.

Historically Leyte has been a constant battlefield. A Filipino revolutionary leader, General Vicente Lukban, made Leyte his stronghold during the Philippine-American War. And during World War 11, the hero General Douglas MacArthur landed on Red Beach in Leyte to fulfill his promise to return to the Philippines to liberate it from the Japanese.

Today the Archdiocese of Palo (a major town in Leyte) comprises the civil province of Leyte, excluding four municipalities in the north which belong to the Diocese of Naval, and six towns in the southwest which belong to the Diocese of Maasin. it has a land area of 4,620 square kilometers and a population of 1,165,565 of which 95 percent are Catholics.

Pope Francis Center for the Poor

Palo, Leyte

The on-going construction of the Pope Francis Center for the Poor, a facility that will have an orphanage, a home for the aged and a clinic, located at the Archbishop’s Residence compound in supertyphoon (Haiyan) Yolanda-hit Palo, Leyte which the pope will visit this January. (Photo by Fr. Chris Arthur Militante)

The Pope Francis Center for the Poor is being constructed at Bukid Tabor in the village (barangay) of Arado, which is within the vicinity of the residence of the Archbishop of Palo in Leyte Province. Funded by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council Cor Unum for Human and Christian Development, the facility will have a chapel, a clinic, an orphanage, and a home for the elderly.

Pope Francis will bless the center when he visits Leyte on January 17, 2015. The Vicar of Christ has expressed his desire to share a meal with the survivors of last year’s calamities that struck Leyte as well as other provinces in Central Visayas. In particular, the Holy Father wants to meet those left orphaned by supertyphoon “Yolanda.” Archbishop John Du expects the construction of the center to be completed by Christmas.

– Madonna Escolano

Palo Cathedral / Archdiocese of Palo

Palo, Leyte

Palo Cathedral

The Palo Metropolitan Cathedral (or The Metropolitan Cathedral of Our Lord’s Transfiguration) is the principal church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Palo. The archdiocese is composed of seven vicariates of 34 parishes from the eastern district, and 13 parishes with one chaplaincy in the western district. The Diocese of Palo was established on November 28, 1937, and became and archdiocese in 1982 with Calbayog, Borongan, Catarman and Naval Dioceses as suffragans.  The current metropolitan archbishop is the Most Rev. John Forrosuelo Du, D.D.

The modern gothic church with its gold-plated altar was built in 1596 under the direction of the Jesuits who founded Palo. Construction was spearheaded by Fr. Juan del Campo, S.J. and Fr. Alonso de Humanes, S.J. In an aperture on the Spanish walls of the cathedral is an insignia of the Society of Jesus. The stations of the cross were carved by local artists. The open esplanade in the church patio was used as a rendezvous for people escaping from marauding moros.

Another Jesuit became the church’s permanent parish priest, who was instrumental to bringing together the baptized natives into a community. By 1600, Palo became a central missionary station with jurisdiction over the missions of Dagami, Malaguicay, Malirong, and Banabon. The church was taken over by the Augustinians in 1768, and by the Franciscans in 1843. Further construction and improvements were done under a Father Agustin, under whose supervision the two towers were built in 1850.

In 1892, the cathedral underwent reconstruction, with the addition of the convent and the hanging glass chandeliers. It was rebuilt twice, in 1897 after its destruction by fire and typhoon, and later when another big typhoon unroofed the church and destroyed the convent. Fr. Pantaleon de la Fuente installed a clock on the façade in 1896, using the money he had won from a lottery in Spain.

The church was proclaimed a cathedral on the Feast of the Annunciation on March 25, 1938, with the first bishop, Msgr. Manuel Mascariñas. It has since been the seat of the bishop of the Archdiocese of Palo.

During World War II, the Cathedral was used as an evacuation hospital by the American liberation forces. It was also used as a refuge of civilians from October 1944 to March 1945.

Last reconstructed in the 1960’s, the cathedral underwent major renovation work in August 2010 to 2012, costing over 25 million pesos. Under the commission of Architect Gervacio Amistoso, the roofs, ceiling, and electrical and communication systems, as well as the sanctuary and belfry, were renovated. The cathedral facelift was done in time for the diamond jubilee of the archdiocese on November 28, 2012.

On November 8, 2013, the force of Typhoon “Yolanda”, the strongest typhoon to hit land worldwide on record with winds of more than 300 kilometers per hour, ripped off the roofs of the rectory and the cathedral. About 500 people sought refuge in the cathedral while Yolanda wreaked havoc. Fortunately not one of those inside perished.  Several days after the typhoon, a memorial service was held in the cathedral for those who had died. Bodies were buried in the cathedral grave site blessed by Palo Archbishop John Du.

The latest renovation of Palo Cathedral benefited from the assistance of Phinma Foundation and other donors. The reconstruction focused on the reinforcements and retrofitting of the roof, and also the restoration and redesign of the cathedral’s dome structure.

 – Madonna Escolano

The Pontifical University of Santo Tomas

España, Sampaloc, Manila

Main building of the University of Santo Tomas

Because of its Pontifical status and its role as the Catholic University of the Philippines, the University of Santo Tomas is always part of the itinerary of papal visits to the Philippines.

UST enjoys the distinctions of being the oldest existing institution of higher learning in Asia and the largest of Catholic university in the world in one campus.

Its history, however, does not come in a nice, neat package, like the history of many institutions. Today, UST Day is celebrated on January 28, the feast of its patron, St. Thomas Aquinas, the “angelic doctor” whose writings now form the Church’s official philosophy. The date of foundation is actually April 28, 1611, when three friars of the Order of Preachers signed the Act of Foundation in the presence of the King’s notary.

The act was in execution of the last will and testament of Msgr. Miguel de Benavides, O.P., the Dominican missionary who became the third archbishop of Manila. In 1605, he left P1,600 and his personal library to help put up a seminary to be named after the Lady of the Rosary. A few thousand pesos more allowed the Dominicans to purchase a property near their shrine in Intramuros, the walled city that was the home of UST for three centuries.

The Dominican seminary was elevated to the level of university in 1645. In 1785, King Charles III formally granted the University of Santo Tomas the status of a “royal” university, recognizing the loyalty of the students and faculty in resisting the British. On September 17, 1902, the University was proclaimed “Pontifical” by Pope Leo XIII. In 1947, Pope Pius XII bestowed upon it the title of “The Catholic University of the Philippines”.

UST’s operations had been interrupted only twice: during the Philippine Revolution and the Filipino-American War, and World War II. During the British invasion of Manila in 1762, the University stood firm in its resistance to the British when students and professors raised four companies. These saw action in battles against the British until 1764. In 1768 the Dominican-run University of Santo Tomas was the only institution of higher learning left in the islands with the expulsion of the Society of Jesus from Spanish dominion.

During the Japanese Occupation, the new 21-hectare campus in Sampaloc, Manila (opened in 1927) was turned into internment camp for foreign prisoners of war. The destruction of the Intramuros campus during the war forced UST to move all operations to Sampaloc.

Famous alumni include national heroes, presidents, magistrates, and clerics. Heroes Jose Rizal, Emilio Jacinto, Marcelo H. del Pilar, Apolinario Mabini; and Philippine Presidents such as Manuel Luis Quezon, Sergio Osmeña, Jose Laurel, and Diosdado Macapagal are some of the most illustrious Thomasians in history.

Landmarks include the Arch of the Centuries, built from the main portal of the original campus in Intramuros; the UST Grandstand and the Open Field that had witnessed three papal visits; the Main Building, the administrative center of the university and the first ever earthquake-resistant building in the Philippines; the Quadricentennial Pavilion, a 5,792-seat multi-purpose gymnasium; the Quadricentennial Park; the Central Seminary, an interdiocesan seminary; and Miguel de Benavides Library.

UST was visited by Pope Blessed Paul VI in 1970 and Pope St. John Paul II in 1981 and 1995. As the Philippines hosts its fourth papal visit, the University will reflect even more deeply on its Catholic mission as exemplified by its core values: competence, commitment, and compassion.

– Chrixy Paguirigan

Rizal Park


The massive crowd for World Youth Day 1995

Quirino Grandstand, Rizal Park, Manila, during the Closing Mass of the 10th World Youth Day, presided by St. John Paul II

The Luneta National Park, also known as the Rizal Park, is not just an ordinary leisure haven and a tourist destination in the Philippines, but an urban park known for its historical symbolism and significance since the Spanish colonial period.

The important landmark has been graced by three papal visits since 1970. In the visit of Pope Blessed Paul VI, priestly ordinations were held in Luneta Park. A decade after Paul VI’s visit, Pope St. John Paul II took a six-day visit to the country, touring several provinces as part of his Asian pilgrimage. The 1981 visit marked the first-ever beatification outside the Vatican, that of St. Lorenzo Ruiz and his companion-martyrs in Luneta.

Pope John Paul II’s second visit to the country drew the largest crowd ever in a single papal event and the largest peaceful gathering in the human history. The celebration of the 10th World Youth Day in 1995, held in Luneta Park as well, brought together five million people. The mammoth crowd prompted an alternative arrival for the Holy Father, who boarded a helicopter instead of riding a popemobile.

Formerly known as Bagumbayan, Luneta Park became notorious for being the site of public executions during the Spanish colonial era, including that of the national hero, Jose Rizal, in December 1896. The Rizal Monument enshrines his remains. Before Rizal, three heroic priests, Mariano Gomez, Jose Burgos, and Jacinto Zamora, collectively known as Gomburza, and around 160 martyrs were executed in Bagumbayan during the Spanish period.

In front of Rizal Monument, the 150-foot Philippine flagpole marks Kilometer Zero, where the distance of the country’s towns and cities is measured from. Many national dedication days are held in the area, especially the wreath-laying ceremonies of foreign leaders during state visits.

The park was also the site of the proclamation of the Philippine independence from American occupation in July 1946. Most Philippine presidents took their oaths of office and made their inaugural addresses at Quirino Grandstand. According to, it was previously called Independence Grandstand and renamed after President Elpidio Quirino who first took his oath there, and has been the favored inaugural venue for presidents since 1949.

Surrounded by other historical markers, the national park is situated at the northern end of Roxas Boulevard and bounded by Taft Avenue, Padre Burgos Avenue, and Kalaw Avenue to the east of the boulevard. Nearby is Intramuros or the Walled City. Luneta Park is the heart of Manila because of its magnificence and its major role in the country’s politics and history, economy and industry, and religion and society.

– Brenda C. Grifon

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