The Faculty Center (FC), one of the most valuable buildings in the University, will be rebirthed in the new name of Faculty Commons.
According to the UP Media and Public Relations Office (UP MRO), the proposed structure will accommodate new offices, conference rooms, meeting spaces, lecture and multipurpose halls, libraries, galleries, an indoor and 6-storey outdoor parking lot, an outdoor amphitheater, and recreational areas like break rooms, lounges, and a cafe.
The P675-million project spearheaded by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) is targeted to be completed by the latter part of 2020.
Chancellor Michael Tan was quoted as saying that the new building will be “grander and more splendid.”
Until it was razed down in a freak fire accident on 01 April 2016, the FC (Bulwagang Rizal) constituted a big part of the University’s identity, housing various research papers and works from the students, professors, and even national icons.
“Narito ang mga opisina ng aming mga propesor at higit sa lahat narito ang mga hindi matutumbasang koleksyon ng mga kaalaman na pinaghirapan ng faculty at mga naging estudyante ng unibersidad, partikular na ng CAL [College of Arts and Letters],” said a senior BA Philippine Studies student.
Many treated the old FC as their “second home.” Inside are the faculty offices where professors kept their awards, gifts received from their students, diplomas, and books among other priceless collection of works. Many students would go to the FC to study in its calm and peaceful atmosphere. It was also a place of community, where students would go and bond with fellow students and meet with their organizations.
“I think people were disoriented and dislocated. As if all of a sudden you’re homeless. A lot of history there, I think there are many students and faculty who still feel nostalgic when passing by where FC used to be,” a senior BA Speech Communication student said about the burning of the former FC.
For UP students, the loss of the FC was not only the loss of a building in the University, but also the destruction of a rich trove of academic works and cultural treasure. “FC was not only a home for the professors, but also a home for the books and other materials that were used by everyone. Losing it was a devastating loss for the entire UP community. This meant that years and years of knowledge accumulated in the form books, theses, and the like were all gone as the fire engulfed the building,” said a fourth year Psychology student.
FC served as a link to the students of the present to these national icons. Various national artists such as Carlos P. Romulo, N.V.M. Gonzalez, Lino Brocka, Francisco Arcellana, and Ishmael Bernal, among others, also taught in the University and held offices there.
Five fires within a decade
According to official reports, the FC caught on fire on 01 April 2016 at 1:10 in the morning. The fire started at the third floor in the southeast portion, quickly spreading until the whole structure was engulfed with fire. The flames lapped on every surface of the building as it reached a level above the fifth alarm, going into “Task Force Alpha” before the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) declared the fire “under control” at 4:40 A.M.
A total of 41 fire engines and six ambulances responded to the scene.
For the past nine years, five fire accidents have visited UP, destroying important and historical structures. On 09 June 2010, Institute of Chemistry building was destroyed by fire. Five years later, the College of Arts and Sciences Alumni Association (CASAA) Food Center was gutted by fire on June 13, followed by the burning of the Alumni Center Canteen/Bowling Center (Fonacier Hall) on June 30.
After the FC burned down in 2016, the Shopping Center fell down in another freak fire accident on 08 March 2018.
No report, however, has yet been published by the BFP or the Office of the Chief Security Officer regarding the exact causes of these fire accidents.