Our Mission and Vision

The Mission of the UST Museum is aligned with UST's mission to safeguard its tangible cultural properties and open education to the public, and pursue a leading educational role in Cultural Heritage Studies by competent and compassionate professionals committed to the service of the church, the nation, and the global community.

The UST Museum envisions itself as a leading center of cultural heritage dynamism in the University in the fulfillment of its vision as a premier institution of learning in Asia, committed to the professional and moral formation of her stakeholders for social transformation.


The UST Museum's collection originally occupied two hallways in the Intramuros campus before being transferred to the Sampaloc campus in 1936. Most of the collection dates back to 1869.

The University of Santo Tomas Museum, considered as the oldest existing museum in the Philippines, was formally established in 1869, to comply with the 1865 Reglamento de Segunda Enseñanza that required all first class colleges to have a Museo de Historia Natural. Originally located in Intramuros, the UST Museum was later transferred to its present site at the paraninfo of the UST Main Building, built in 1928 in the Sampaloc district of Manila.

The paraninfo was meant to be a multi-purpose hall for academic functions or cultural events.

Professor of Philosophy Rev. Fr. Ceferino Gonzalez, O.P., who became later Cardinal Gonzalez, collaborator of Leo XIII in the restoration of Thomistic Philosophy, was the first Director of the Museum. In his “Filosofia Fundamental” which he wrote for his pupils in Manila, he mentioned the Museum of the University.

Another professor at the University and Director of the Museum was Rev. Fr. Ramon Martinez Vigil, later on Bishop of Oviedo in Spain, who wrote a “Curso de Historia Natural.” This work was edited in Madrid in 1883 but was written in Manila and continually refers to the Philippines. There are over one hundred references to the natural resources of the Philippines and over a dozen express mentions of the collection at the Museum.

The great Director of the Museum was Rev. Fr. Casto de Elera, O.P. He was born in Majorca (Leon), Spain on July 1st 1852; arrived in the Philippines in 1875 and in 1881 started teaching at the University of Santo Tomas as professor of Natural History and Director of the Museum. He reclassified everything and started a system of intercommunication of data and exchange of specimens between UST and the best museums of the world.

His main interest was the animal life of the Philippines. He organized field expeditions all over the Philippines to collect specimens. In the stocks of the Museum there are still many

Fr. Casto de Elera, O.P.

specimens, specially of very small, almost microscopic, shells, of butterflies, birds, etc. that have the field notes attached to them. A definite scientific work of his, and a catalogue at the same time of the animal specimens at the Museum of Santo Tomas is his monumental Catalogo Sistematico de Toda la Fauna de Filipinas Conocida Hasta el Presente y Alavez de la Coleccion Zoologica del Museo del Colegio Universidad de Sto. Tomas de Manila – Manila – UST – 1895.

In 1936, Rev. Fr. Silvestre Sancho, O.P., then Rector Magnificus, ordered the transfer of the Museum from one corridor and two big salles of the University’s original building in the old campus of in the Walled City of Manila to the present location in the Main Building in Sampaloc. This new location was originally conceived as the theater or the “paraninfo”. This was a large, general-purpose area meant for important gatherings like the Rector’s “Discurso de Apertura” to open the academic year, lectures, graduations and concerts.

In 1937, an earthquake threatened the University’s old main building in Intramuros with major damage. This resulted in a part of it being condemned and demolished, and the entire building undergoing a renovation. Subsequently, a number of black and dusty paintings had to be removed from the walls.

Fr. Sancho’s interest and curiosity were piqued, and he had the paintings restored, commissioning Prof. Rafael Enriquez, Jr. of the University’s School of Fine Arts to resurrect the pigment behind the dirt and soot that nearly obliterated the work of art underneath. The painting turned out to be a masterwork by a student of Murillo. When this painting was done, there were more to snatch from the ravages of time and neglect. This spurred Fr. Sancho to decide that something needed to be done about the state of art in the Philippines.

"BROWN MADONNA"Oil on canvas, 1938Galo B. Ocampo

Hence, on July 25, 1940, the UST Museum’s Art Gallery was formally opened to the public and in 1941 Fr. Sancho organized the First Annual National Painting Contest and began to acquire a quantity of masterpieces of Filipino artists for the Museum and the University. Following this event, the University was able to acquire works by such masters as Fernando Amorsolo, Vicente Manansala, Carlos “Botong” Francisco and Galo Ocampo. Since then, the UST Museum entered a new phase; it was no longer a museum only for the sciences, but arts as well.

During the Japanese occupation from 1941 to 1945, the grounds of the University were converted into an internment camp for civilians of Allied nationalities, but the Museum was preserved intact and respected by the Japanese authorities in deference to the neutrality of Spain. The Main Building was part of the internment camp and some internees requested permission to work on the collections of coins, shells and rare books. At its peak, the Main Building housed some 3,000 civilian prisoners, a few of whom were allowed to work with the Museum’s vast collection. Some of their names may still be found among the records, like Lois F. Croft, Agnes Day, William Ward, Marcella Butler, Senora Ryan, and a certain L. McCarty, who worked in the Museum from August 1942 to May 1943. Another internee named Leila Maynard subsequently wrote a book in which she recounted her experience of cataloging shells and rare books for the UST Museum. The Museum highlights the University’s critical role during this period.

In 2011, during the University’s Quadricentennial celebration, the UST Museum was instrumental in the declaration of the Main Building as a National Cultural Treasure, along with the UST Central Seminary, the Arch of the Centuries and the University’s Open Spaces.

After the Liberation in 1945, the Fathers who held the position of Secretary General of the University, directed the re-opening of the Museum to the public, and the care and increase of the collections, assisted by Drs. Quisumbing, de Jesus and Bantug.

In 1949, the International Council of Museums (ICOM) was organized and the UST Museum became, from the beginning, an active member up to the present day.

It continued its legacy of pioneering participation on the international front by becoming a charter member of the University Museums and Collections (UMAC) Sub-Committee when it was established in Barcelona in 2001.

From 1958 to 1972, under the directorship of Rev. Fr. Jesus Ma. Merino Antolinez, O.P., the Museum’s collections increased with the addition of archaeological specimens, the systematic replenishment of Ethnology, History and Biology specimens; the establishment of the collection of Christian Art of the Philippines. It was a great insight when Fr. Merino realized the importance of religious images in the molding of Filipino religiosity. He undertook the collection of Philippine religious images of saints, which at that time were appreciated by very few people but which today have become quite precious as collectors’ items.


The UST Museum logo copies the form of the capitals found in the different parts of the Main Building. The word capital from the Latin word, caput, means head. For this, the logo presents the Museum as the leader or head in giving witness and preserving the heritage of the four glorious centuries of the University of Santo Tomas. The name University of Santo Tomas Museum, Manila encircles the logo, that takes the place of the longer version: University of Santo Tomas Museum of Arts and Sciences. Underneath is 1869, the official year of the Museum’s inauguration.

Furthermore, at closer look, the logo is also an image of woven strips of materials like a banig or sawali. This signifies the UST Museum’s role as promoter of culture which is the fabric of every society, and its expansion beyond mere repository of artifacts to being an active agent of promoting the cultural heritage of humanity: our Catholic Thomasian heritage, OUR IDENTITY!