I was doing my daily morning routine (brisk walking around the UPLB Library Building—which is becoming more necessary as I age) the other day when my attention simply automatically focused on the Library Marker beside the building door. The building has been there since 1973 (38 years) but I’ve never really paid close attention to its marker. I’ve always believed that this building was really UPLB’s Library Building, and the marker confirms this.
This is what’s on that marker: This Library building is dedicated to the pursuit of excellence and relevance in higher education and research in agriculture and related sciences and technologies in Southeast Asia, to the end that the peoples of the region, as well as the rest of the world, will live in dignity, peace and prosperity.
The building was launched and turned over to UPLB on October 9, 1973, with then President Ferdinand Marcos presiding. The building was constructed for the Southeast Asian Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) with funding from the governments of the Philippines and the United States. The UPLB was (and still is) the host institution of SEARCA. For many years, the building served as the headquarters of SEARCA. During that time SEARCA constructed its own headquarters building on the UPLB Campus, on the spot where the original Department of Mathematics, Physics, and Statistics was located. SEARCA turned over the building to UPLB on October 16, 1991, and then the UPCA Library, which was renamed UPLB Library, finally transferred to its new house.
What really caught my attention was the smaller brass plate below the main marker. It contained information as to when it was turned over to UPLB (see picture). the marker is full of graffitti, a form of expression of freedom of speech for students. Other exemplars of graffitti can be seen as “writings on the wall” in various areas, including the toilets.
Incidentally . . . Where the UPLB Library Building now stands used to be where the UPCA Administration Building was. Us UPCA students in those years used to call the place The Hill. It was a popular place because it was in that building where the UPCA’s CASELF (College of Agriculture Students’ Emergency Loan Fund) Office was housed. To us students, CASELF was the link to life in college. We could take a loan from the CASELF for tuition fees or simply emergency funding for the month while waiting for money from home. Most of the time, students took out loans of P10 on the average. We had until the end of the semester to pay back. Well, in those years, many of us UPCA students then survived on monthly allowances of about P50 or less on the average.
The old UPCA Library Building is the current headquarters of the UPLB College of Arts and Sciences.
It was in that old UPCA Library where I did my research for my first journalism project – a feature article on library vandalism – in a feature writing course in the then Department of Agricultural Information and Communications (which is now known as the College of Development Communication).
That article was published in the then UPCA Monthly Newsletter. Yes, even in those years, students already committed vandalism in the library. Still, in our time, we never touched building markers because we considered them off-limits to vandalism. Even vandals in those days used to have some kind of ethical standards.