University of Santo Tomas (UST) archivist Professor Regalado Trota José delivered a lecture on centuries-old collection of the Archivo de la Universidad de Santo Tomas (AUST) titled “What did the Dominicans hoard in the Archives of the University of Santo Tomas for 400 years?”
He commenced the nine-day Dominican webinar series on history and heritage “BARCADA: The Legacy of the Order of Preachers in the Philippine Church” last 8 March 2021, held via Zoom and Facebook Live.
In his lecture, José emphasized that the Archivo was “a major resource for the heritage of the Philippines, not just for the Church, but the entire history of the country.”
Up to now, the Archivo maintains its full Spanish name of “Archivo de la Universidad de Santo Tomas,” primarily because most of its collection of old books and various incunabula are written in Spanish.
Presently located on the fifth floor of the UST Miguel de Benavides Library, the Archivo is the official repository of original documents and records relevant to the founding of UST since its foundation in 1611.
Included in the collection is the UST Foundation Act, dated 28 April 1611. On 28 April 2021, UST commemorated its 410th foundation anniversary.
José also showed the participants “the only tangible souvenir” of the UST Founder, Archbishop Miguel de Benavides, O.P., a document with his signature from a prior post, when he was still Bishop of Nueva Segovia in 1598.
Among the many gems of the AUST collection that were showcased were: The Baybayin documents, declared by the National Museum as a National Cultural Treasure in 2014; the handwritten “Libro de Piques” for Philosophy on the works of Aristotle that bears the oldest seal of UST, dated 1636; the “Libro de Piques” for Theology on the sentences of Peter Lombard, dated 1564. A “Libro de Piques” is an examination book that contains certain passages or ideas that candidates for a tertiary degree must explain or defend.
The AUST also houses one of only three surviving copies in the world of a Catechism book for Japanese Catholics by Juan Rueda de los Angeles, O.P. Printed by Tomas Pinpin in 1623, it offers the earliest depictions of the mysteries of the Rosary in the Philippines, a manual for confessions from a handwritten summary of the Manila Synod of 1582, and the Dictionario Hispanico Sinicum, the largest and earliest Spanish-Chinese dictionary written during the Spanish occupation of Taiwan from 1624 to 1642.
Professor Ricky Trota José, as he is known in the field, is the first lay archivist of the Archivo. He also shared some of the preservation procedures observed by AUST.
“First, we have to know the collection and go through the materials, find out which are the most fragile ones.
(From the examples seen earlier), we have them in acid-free boxes. We maintain a constant temperature in the vault. We also minimize the humidity. It is a continuous process of monitoring the collection to ensure that the proper coolness and humidity levels are observed so that molds will not grow,” he explained.
A specialist on Philippine sacred art, architecture, and history, José is a former Commissioner for Cultural Heritage of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) prior to his stint in UST. He received the National Research Council of the Philippines Achievement Award for Research in Philippine Art History in 2010.
Earlier this year, José published his book “Simbahán: An Illustrated Guide to 50 of the Philippines’ Must-Visit Catholic Churches,” two decades after his National Book Award winner “Simbahan: Church Art in Colonial Philippines, 1565-1898.”
“BARCADA: The Legacy of the Order of Preachers in the Philippine Church” was organized by the Dominican Studentate, Quezon City, in collaboration with the UST Graduate School Center for Conservation of Cultural Property and Environment in the Tropics. The series brings together various resource persons who will lecture on a variety of topics, from priceless archival materials and built heritages to histories and intangible expressions.