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Professors, scholars, and students cry as fire destroys University of the Philippines faculty centre.

Summary: 108-year-old university a repository of artefacts, rare books

Barbara Mae Dacanay, Correspondent

Manila: Professors, scholars, and students cried as fire destroyed a 47-year-old three-storey faculty centre of the 108-year old University of the Philippines. It was a coveted repository of art work that could not be duplicated, precious artefacts, rare books, recordings and research done over years, and creative writings without back-up copies, sources said.

"People were crying, some of them were down on their knees when they saw that the faculty centre was eaten up by fire at four in the morning. It began at past one in the morning of Friday. Everyone murmured about books, manuscripts, records of students' grades, and research materials. I couldn't understand, but I cried with them," Angelito Nicol of UP's Special Services Brigade told Gulf News as he manned the street that was filled up with cars, 50 fire-trucks, and 400 fire fighters from suburban Quezon City.

"Hard to replace philosophy books were lost in my room. I could not buy them again," said Professor Bobby Tangco of the philosophy department.

"My master's thesis on installation art was gone," wailed Assistant Professor Yayo Yambao of Art Studies who was on his knees. He lamented the loss of his precious books, and his roommate's rare records of 19th to 20th century church music.

"There is no peso value to all the valuable archival materials that were gone," assessed teary-eyed UP Diliman Chancellor Michael Tan, adding that a new faculty centre would cost 50 million pesos (Dh 4.166 million).

Describing how the fire was stopped, a fireman who called himself Sergeant Gimo said, "Hour by hour, with water hose and courage, many of us went inside hot rooms where fire spread. We did our best."

"The roof of the entire building's third floor was eaten up, fire crawled from the third to the second floor, and by lunch, 40 per cent of first floor was gone," said Jesus Fernandez, senior Fire Marshall of the Bureau of Fire Protection. By noon, an armoured car came to retrieve funds and records from Landbank, which was not burned on the first floor.

"The security guard identified Yambao of Art Studies and Neil Garcia, a poet, as the last ones who left the centre at past 12 of Thursday. Lights were also on in three other rooms of the centre after midnight," Fernandez said.

"I think the centre's house rule - that everyone should leave, put off lights, and unplug appliances by 11 in the evening - was not followed," said Professor Leoncio Co, who manages five restaurants in the campus.

"Days before the incident, faculty members complained about smelling something that was burning. The building's electrical wiring was checked for safety maintenance three years ago," Eric Juanillo, the centre's electrician told investigators. Those who were in the building before the fire began were asked to give statements to investigators, he added. The incident occurred ahead of UP's graduation rites at the end of April.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Apr 1, 2016
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