FEU, a UNESCO Heritage oasis in the heart of downtown Manila

Dr. Lourdes Montinola, daughter of the university visionary founder Nicanor Reyes, initiated and managed the Far Eastern University Conservation Program. She recalled several events that put the university in a chaotic situation:

"After the destructive years of martial law… no wall inside or outside the FEU campus was spared from graffiti and vandalism. Meanwhile, a fire in 1989 destroyed the library of the main building, the first heritage building built in 1937, before the war. A few months after, other edifices were destroyed by an earthquake."

"Dom Rodrigo Perez, an architect and rector of San Beda College, first made me aware of the value of our main landmark building — now called Nicanor Reyes Hall," Montinola explained. "But, it was Augusto Villalon, architect and former Heritage Conservation Society president, who appreciated and inspired FEU’s efforts at proper conservation of the heritage buildings. Thus, the project has raised historic awareness in the community and the people started calling FEU a heritage ‘oasis’ in the heart of downtown Manila."
UNESCO Lauds FEU's Heritage Conservation Efforts
Since 2000, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has been recognizing the efforts of individuals and organizations who have successfully restored and conserved houses, institutional or religious buildings, gardens, bridges and other types of structures with heritage value in the Asia Pacific region. The UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Awards for Culture Heritage Conservation is given to 50-year- old establishments wherein restorations have been completed within the past 10 years and structures are in viable use for at least one year.

FEU Board of Trustees chair Lourdes R. Montinola formally accepted the 2005 UNESCO Asia-Pacific Honorable Mention Heritage Award presented by Programme specialist for culture Himalchuli Gurung, the official UNESCO representative of the regional advisor for culture in Asia and the Pacific. This award cited FEU as an "admirable and pioneering regional exemplar of holistic campus-wide approach to university preservation."

In her speech, Ms. Gurung stated that "…necessary new additions to the campus were sensitively integrated into the historic fabric of the compound, and the grounds themselves were treated as an integral component of the holistic conservation plan."

Bounded by Nicanor Reyes Street, Claro M. Recto Avenue, Lerma Street and Quezon Boulevard, the FEU campus inspired a conservation success for Manila. La Gota de Leche Foundation, the oldest charitable foundation in the Philippines, located a block away from FEU at Sergio Loyola Street, decided to conserve its 1917 headquarters building where it continues its charitable work which started in 1907. La Gota de Leche’s conservation effort was awarded an Honorable Mention in the 2003 UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards. Meantime, the 2001 UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Honorable Mention was given to Nielson Tower, now known as the Filipinas Heritage Library.
The Open-Air Complex, A Historical Art Museum
With the conservation of FEU, five of its 12 complex of buildings that were renovated by Architect Pablo Antonio Jr. and his firm are now considered heritage buildings. These are the Nicanor Reyes Hall, the Administration building, the FEU-East Asia Main or Girls’ High School building, the Law or Boys’ High School building and the Science building.

Commenting on the award, FEU president Dr. Lydia Echauz said, it "…embodies the three core concerns of FEU, namely: knowledge, heritage, and community. The buildings exemplify the vision of Nicanor Reyes, who believed that the better the educational facilities and the environment, the better the quality of education and the students."

Dr. Montinola reiterated that UNESCO’s recognition has "inspired the entire FEU community and given us all a sense of pride. The students now get a sensation that they are within a historical art museum."
Heritage Status Of FEU
The FEU campus is currently not protected by legislation. A proposal has been submitted to list the campus as a heritage site to the National Commission on the Culture and Arts (NCCA), as well as to the National Historical Institute (NHI) – national government agencies empowered to declare protected status on deserving sites.

Post-restoration maintenance is assured by the university maintenance fund. Regulatory framework and post-restoration maintenance is provided by the FEU Heritage Conservation program that outlines the conservation system to guide, approve and supervise all interventions to the buildings and the campus. The catalytic effect of the program has created a large impact on the community raising historical awareness in the community. It caused improvement in the off-campus physical improvement and made the community aware of the positive effects of heritage conservation.
The Brainchild Of Dr. Nicanor Reyes
Far Eastern University, the brainchild of Dr. Nicanor Reyes, has grown from 117 students in 1928 to 25,000 today. Dr. Reyes, a graduate of Bachelor of Arts at UP and Bachelor of Science in Commerce at the New York University, founded FEU along with other distinguished educators from the Department of Economics of the University of the Philippines. He was the first Filipino to acquire a Master of Science degree in Business Administration, and doctorate degree in Accounting at Columbia University.

From its initial focus in the field of accounting, business and finance, FEU today has expanded its course offerings in the fields of arts and sciences, education, law, nursing, engineering, architecture and fine arts, information and computer technology, as well as graduate studies.

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