University of the Philippines Diliman
With the possible exception of the Oblation statue, nothing symbolizes the University of the Philippines more than the 130-foot Carillon Tower - a structure unlike any other in Diliman, a ringing echo of the University’s glorious past.
Built in 1952 at a cost of some P200, 000, the Carillon has serenaded generations of UP students, teachers, employees, and campus residents with its sweet cascade of chimes, rising above the early morning mist and attending the fall of twilight. From UP Beloved - and Planting Rice to the Beatles tunes and The lnternationale of later years, the Carillon grew with the times, and itself grew timeless, marking the same hours of different days as if to remind the listener that some things never change - love, honor, idealism, the joy and the challenge of learning beneath the broad canopy of a university life.
It was a musical instrument - to be technical about it, an assemblage of 46 tuned bells sounded by hammers, controlled from a keyboard or clockwork mechanism
- whose player we never saw, a perfect surrender of the person to the music. What was important was for the bells to be heard, for the listeners to be reassured that there was order in their universe - and not just order but beauty and pleasure, especially at the beginning and at the end of a long day.
When it played, the Carillon charmed us without the boisterousness of a brass band or the self-absorbed intensity of a piano; its delight lay precisely in its distance. It was a soothing voice over your shoulder, a scattering of happy notes in the vagrant wind. The Carillon could be heard in all corners of the campus, from classroom to laboratory to janitorial closet. It was solace democratized.
But lately it has fallen silent once again, ravaged by age and neglect. The tower itself is firm and robust, but the Hollandmade bronze bells have gone out of tune, a number of them needing to be retired and replaced; the wires and wooden levers of the keyboard have crumbled over time. The last time the bells were played was at the Lantern Parade in 1988, and since then the structure has been used as a stockroom, an art studio, and for various other purposes. Previous restoration efforts fell short of the funds needed for a complete overhaul.
It’s a sad slide from the dream of National Artist for Architecture Juan F. Nakpil and UP Music Conservatory director Ramon Tapales, who - along with UP President Bienvenido Gonzales - had conceived of the Carillon as early as 1940. It took the UP Alumni Association to realize that dream, mobilizing mightily to build the tower and buy and install the bells. On August 1, 1952, according to the UP Bulletin, the Carillon “was dedicated as a memorial to the spirit of the UP Alumni, living and dead.”
It’s the voice of that spirit that must have whispered in our ear when the bells of Diliman last played - and which we hope to hear again, once this proud tower of music is finally and properly restored
– Jose Dalisay Jr., PhD
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