For UP the bells toll

By Bettina Sandiego, UP College of Mass Communications
December 20, 2007, 8:00am

The sound of the Carillon bells echoing through the vast expanse of the University of the Philippines Diliman campus may be a fresh experience to young generations strolling in the renowned campus.

The music of the UP Carillon was first heard on the Diliman campus in 1952. Called the "timekeeper," the Carillon is supposed to be a lifelong reminder of the joy, love, honor and excellence inherent in UP life.

The UP Carillon had its humble beginnings in 1940 when National Artist for Architecture Juan F. Nakpil, UP Music Conservatory director Ramon Tapales, and UP President Bienvenido Gonzales thought of constructing a tall, concrete tower in the midst of UP Diliman’s lush grounds.

Years later, on August 1, 1952, the dream that was the UP Carillon saw its fruition, with the finished tower that housed 48 bells. These bells, golden music-makers hidden in the high tower, were installed by Dutch carilloneeur Adrian Antonisse who worked with Carillon pioneers from the UP Alumni Association (UPAA) to build and lay the groundwork for the glorious tower. Hence the UP Carillon had stood as "a memorial to the spirit of the UP Alumni, living and dead," the UP Bulletin said.

Since its inauguration in 1952, many UP carillonneurs have serenaded the UP community with the relaxing music of the bells.

Among them were Dr. Wesley Tabayoyong (1953-1955), Prof. Flora Zarco Rivera (circa 50s), Crisostomo Gonzales (1956-1960), Prof. Jerry Dadap (1960-1964), Antonio Regalario (1965-1966), and Reynaldo Lauron (circa 70s).

However, due to unwarranted rust and age, the Carillon had ceased playing, delivering its final symphony at the Lantern Parade in December of 1988.

And now, the Carillon — a massive 130-foot-high tower situated at the heart of the UP campus — has begun to make its presence felt yet again through the ongoing Carillon restoration project spearheaded by the UPAA.

After almost two decades of neglect, the UP Carillon will soon bring melodies and symphonies to UP Diliman once again and will soon serenade those who have long been deprived of the relaxing tunes of the Carillon.

Previous attempts to restore the massive musical instrument were relatively unsuccessful due to lack of funds, but the UPAA is rather determined to make the bells alive once again, and ring the start of the UP centennial year.

"This is the flagship project of the UPAA," said Marita Carag, UPAA secretary, during the blessing of the newly acquired UP Carillon bells from Royal Bells Philippines, a Holland-based company.

The project has already cost UPAA five million pesos, a little below the expected 10 million. The UPAA has been raising funds primarily through approaching UP alumni and other prospective donors for cash donations.

"We wrote to alumni who we feel could help out, but the reactions are not the same. We need donors who will not refuse to extend a hand," said Frank Cornejo, UPAA executive director.

Indeed, the desire to leave posterity with the Carillon’s magnificence is what motivates the UPAA to continue this laborious but rewarding project, for the Carillon bells represent not only the rich history of UP, but also the memories woven into timeless mementos by older generations who bore witness to the beauty of the Carillon.