27 January 2011

The Transformation from Copra Factory to SENTRUM


In the summer of 1995, I and my boys had the option of holding our scrimmages inside this huge ugly structure that was located in the coconut grove just to the west of the field. Basically, it was just this roughly-paved wide something with a huge towering roof above it, intended to be covered courts for use by PE classes as well as basketball and volleyball training.

Notice there was no mention of football. We trained there, nonetheless. On the concrete, yes; it was summer training so we could focus on passing and all without the need for brisk physical challenges. So the boys were all required to come to training with sneakers as well as their spikes. Having a roof over our heads while we trained in the summer, that was a luxury we only ever enjoyed that particular summer.




It did not even have a name; the structure, I mean. From the road, the large green roof made the structure look like something of a large rice mill building. So, somebody called the unnamed building the “Rice Granary.” If ever a name was inappropriate, this one was. First of all there was no rice; and second, the place was surrounded by coconut trees that had yet to be brought down. Copra Factory would have been more appropriate…

Then, of course, the Brother Lolo came and the rest, as the old cliché goes, became History. To many people, of course, the Brother Lolo was a visionary. That was probably true. Where his predecessors saw a coconut grove, he saw lavish buildings. Where I saw a copra factory, he saw a large multi-purpose arena that could be used for sports and culture.



Sometimes, though, turning a vision into reality also needed the confluence of certain factors. In the case of the Brother Lolo, he met and befriended a contractor named Engr. Hernan Billano, who would become his instrument in the transformation of this once outback station into a large ambitious college with diverse academic programs.

First, he had to build. The Brother Lolo summed up his building – nay, management – philosophy with this totally unoriginal statement: “If you build it, they will come.” The statement is, of course, from the movie “Field of Dreams.”

For the benefit of the blank faces of the young folks who happen to be reading this story, the movie starred Kevin Costner – and go ask Mommy or Daddy if he is Kevin Who to you – as a farmer in Iowa who kept hearing voices from within his cornfield that said, “If you build it, they will come.” They pertained to the ghosts of Chicago White Sox players who were expelled from the game after they allegedly threw away the 1919 World Series.


But ‘nuff said about the movie…

At any rate, between the Brother Lolo and Billano, they managed to transform the ugly copra factory into a building that, to quote the Brother Lolo, would be the center for sports and culture in the whole Province of Batangas. Amen.

In about half a year, lo and behold, the Brother Lolo was right. The ugly structure we used just the previous summer as a pseudo-futsal court had morphed into this elegant building that would become the school’s iconic landmark for years to come.

We needed a name for it, so the Brother Lolo launched a naming contest for the nameless new building. So, being the dutiful lackeys of the Brother Lolo that we all were, we all scratched our pates and thought up the most inventive names. What a privilege it would have been to have the name we submitted selected; by the Brother Lolo, of course. The building was, after all, his own pet project.


Needless to say, the Brother Lolo had a name naman pala inside his head all the time. Of course we were all told that the names we all submitted were “just not right” for this fabulous new building that was the first of many more to come. Nahihiyâ lamang sigurong sabihing meron na siya… Tsk!!! Brother Lolo talaga

So, at the end of the contest period, the Brother Lolo being himself, he told us all that “it just sort of came to me” that the name of the new building was to be the SENTRUM. The name – daw – did not really have a meaning. And please, please be careful to use ALLCAPS in spelling the name…

It was not an acronym, per se. Rather – daw – the “S”, the “T” and the “M” were to stand for “Samahan” at “Tipanan” ng mga “Mag-aaral.”

The EN and the U were of no consequence. Go figure.

And so we all nodded our heads and said, “Ahhhhh….” like we understood what he meant…


The basketball goals, the Brother Lolo liked to brag, were NBA-standard and were flown in all the way from the United States. The parquet flooring of the basketball court – again the Brother Lolo liked to brag – was American Oak.

And so we nodded our heads all over again and once again ahhhhh-ed like we bloody well could tell American Oak from ipil-ipil… Didn’t matter… The Brother Lolo made it sound so impressive and we were just so proud to have the SENTRUM.

Of course, not too long after we inaugurated the place, it really rained cats and dogs and what do you know? It rained inside, repeat INSIDE, the SENTRUM as well! The Brother Lolo would have none of the criticism people were quick to make of this totally unexpected development.

It was the rain’s fault!

After the SENTRUM, up went the MTDC (later renamed the Diokno), the Chez Avenir (renamed Chez Rafael after you-know-who), the Noli and the Fili (now the Jose Rizal Buildings) the Unified School Building (renamed the St. La Salle), the Centennial Sports Plaza and the I.T. Domain (renamed Gregorio Zara). I was getting tired of organizing building inaugurations, if I am being honest.

My favorite, and for no other reason than it being the Brother Lolo’s first, is of course this once copra factory which even today can still take my breath away whenever I walk into the campus.

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