By Patrick Reyes
Its walls witnessed waves of wars, socio-political movements, as well as a flurry of festivities and triumphs. It was one among many whose pillars withstood time and weather. Having its history and culture well-preserved, it continuously stayed as one of the country’s most reputable schools. This is the Colegio de San Juan de Letran.
The “turning-point” happened during the 88th NCAA, when the school hosted the league in 2012. It was during the Alas’ golden era, when Mark Cruz was still in his sophomore year in the court, but it wasn’t basketball that made me accept becoming a Letran Knight, after being rejected by the schools I had first wanted to be in—and it will never be always just about basketball. It was a celebration that really convinced me. Accompanied by my NSTP professor’s musical piece, a spectacle on pre-colonial Philippines and Intramuros was staged in Araneta, with lights that fascinated our young eyes and sounds that intrigued our ears.
Letran sees the value of culture and heritage, cultivating a culture that builds young-minded, sprightly, and curious individuals that could become its purveyors in the future.
Letran has a small population—making more than half of us familiar with almost every other person on campus. From the tireless guards, people who maintain the areas, most especially the modular “Salon de Actos,” students from other colleges and institutes, the faculty, priests, and executives—for the entirety of a student’s college life, one is sure to have met them all.
It was never the name for me, either, but carrying that name made me proud to bear wherever life will bring me. Like many others, I have built most of myself in this school, as a member of various organizations. There will always be something for you—from a wide variety of interest-based organizations, media and publication, cultural groups, and school-wide activities, Letran has it covered. Minds are well fed, as well as one’s passions.
It was once exclusive for boys, but the Dominican Order opened it to all, with pride and honor being passed to ages as time went by. In spite of being bound to Intramuros since its inauguration, while its former neighboring schools like the Ateneo de Manila and the University of Santo Tomas have long since transferred to a different area, it became more open to opportunities as a burgeoning institution of brilliance and merit, staying true to its morals as cradle of saints and heroes, and ardent lovers of truth, as the school vision says.
The school’s architecture, unknown to most, is earthquake-proof, and the statue of St. John the Baptist stands as proof. It has withstood war bombings and other massive disasters that have befallen the area. The school’s façade has remained largely the same throughout its more than three centuries of existence. Currently, it is being renovated in preparation for Letran’s 400th anniversary in 2020.
And as strong as the walls of Intramuros, Letran’s ideals as a catholic school never faltered, staying vigilant on national issues, such as indigenous peoples’ rights, violence against women, and war against drugs. More than just honing students to become well rounded members of society, Letran pays it forward by letting its students become a channel of dynamism and posterity.
Colegio de San Juan de Letran’s competency as an institution has gone beyond instilling knowledge to produce smarter minds. From sports, as one of the top-billed collegiate basketball teams in the country, to licensure passers, to competitions, to national and international media awards, the 400-year-old college stays to leave a mark.
At the helm of the transformative digital era, Letran remains to be traditional yet progressive, retaining what is good while improving its system and design through the ages. I refuse to agree that Letran is a secondary option. We are more than just that. Just like comparing apples to oranges, Letran has its own color. The proof is in its students, who put themselves out there after graduating. They will always want to go back to their beloved alma mater, craving for Mang George’s chicken, breaks at the catwalk, or even connecting to Sector 7. The amicable atmosphere made us more prepared for life beyond the gates of Intramuros. Muralla Street has become an avenue for many people to become more of what they are, and part of it will always be as a Letranite.
Like a modern knight, we fight not with a sword, but we bleed red and blue.