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Inspiring a new generation

By PAULO ALCAZAREN, The Philippine STAR Published Feb 25, 2023 5:00 am

I’ve known architects Tony and Tina Turalba, the accomplished couple behind Active Realty, for over four decades. They are fellow alumni of the UP College of Architecture and very active (no pun intended) also in culture and the arts.

I did not hesitate to accept an invitation from them recently to attend the unveiling of an Ed Castrillo sculpture they donated to the College of Engineering. It is located on one side of Melchor Hall, which is also home to Tony’s fraternity, Tau Alpha.

The first place in the campus I set foot in was, in fact, this very corner of Melchor Hall. This was in the summer of 1966. What struck me were the stately buildings amid wide green spaces. My father and I needed a wide lawn to launch a toy rocket (powered by pressurized water). The side lawn of Melchor Hall was perfect, as there was only a large sundial at the corner. (Years later I found out that the original was built by UP engineering students in the Padre Faura campus of UP and it was one of the largest in in the world at the time.) We flew the rocket a few times. It never went higher than the antennae of DZUP, which had its studios at the western corner of the building.

The Tau Apha-donated Centennial Sundial

Six years later, I was a sophomore at the College of Architecture and regained my acquaintance with Melchor Hall, since the college was housed on the fourth floor. The sundial was damaged a few years earlier and removed. The space had a paved area and concrete steps and was a favorite meeting place of the Tau Alpha fraternity (also because the cafeteria was nearby).

It aims to provide all students of the university options to cross between Melchor and Palma Halls.

One Saturday morning, in September of that year, I was at Melchor Hall waiting for an org meeting to start. The meeting was called off, as we found out that Martial Law was just declared. The DZUP station upstairs was rendered non-operational in a raid by the UP Vanguard a few hours later. A classmate of mine, an ROTC captain, led the squad that did the job.

Architect Tony Turalba poses in front of the dramatic Ed Castrillo sculpture he and his family donated to the UP.

We resumed studies at the UP a few months later and I spent most of my time at UP during the martial law years. While there, the campus went through much change, including the installation of many sculptures and environmental art. Most of these were the work of National Artist Billy Abueva. He created pieces for the colleges of Business Administration and Fine Arts, around the Faculty Center, the grounds of the Vargas Museum, and beside the amphitheater.

Palma Hall, housing the college of Arts and Sciences, was the site of many art installations and cultural presentations. UP became known for its campus art. Melchor Hall, however, was one of the few sites with no sculpture or landmarks.

From left are Tony's son-in-law Arnie Fuentebella, granddaughter Brie, daughter Anjeanette, Son Antonio Jr., grandson Juha and daughter Antonella.

This has now changed with the Turalba family’s donation of the Castrillo sculpture. “Pagsisigasig, Pagyabong, Pag-unlad” was part of Tony and Tina’s collection, one of their key pieces that used to grace their expansive residential estate at Mt. Malarayat Golf Resort. The resort is the jewel in wide portfolio of real-estate projects all over the country. The company is now being run by their architect son Toti, also an accomplished alumni of the UP.

Tau Alphans Bert Mendoza, Val Volente, Tony Turalba, Teodoro Salud, Mario Montejo, Ramon Panganiban and Roland Cruz on the Tau Alpha Fraternity Legacy Boardwalk

Tina was a few years ahead of me at the college and joined the faculty while I was in my senior year. I would eventually work on projects of Active Realty, designing landscapes and outdoor amenities for their many subdivisions. We became friends as well as collaborators in Tina’s many other projects in architectural heritage and cultural fields. 

Tony was always active with Tau Alpha, his fraternity, and attributes his success to a good extent to how his fraternity shaped his aspirations in his chosen profession and trained him for success in business.

New UP president Angelo Jimenez speaks in front of several generations of Tau Aphans.

I caught up with him at the unveiling and asked him about this gesture of giving back to the university. He confided, “My wife Tina and I, along with my children and grandchildren, decided to donate the sculpture as a gift to UP. Three generations of Turalbas have studied in the UP Diliman campus. We hope that the sculpture will inspire university students to strive hard to grow and flourish personally and professionally. It is also extra-meaningful for me as a proud Tau Alphan that the sculpture is located at the Tau Alpha corner of the Tau Alpha Fraternity Legacy Boardwalk, which is the fraternity’s gift to the university, as Tau Alpha celebrates its 90th year.”

The event was graced by UP Diliman Chancellor Fidel R. Nemenzo, dean of the College of Engineering Maria Antonia N. Tanchuling, immediate-past UP president Danilo L. Concepcion, and incoming UP president Angelo Jimenez, who noted the importance of arts and the humanities in creating well-rounded “iskolars ng bayan.”

The Tau Alpha corner is now Turalba Plaza.

Tau Alpha was founded 1932, when the campus was in Manila. To mark its ninth decade, the fraternity has embarked on several projects, including the Tau Alpha Fraternity Legacy Boardwalk. The boardwalk, which will be inaugurated soon, was also an initiative of Tony’s firm, as well as supported by other companies led or owned by other prominent Tau Alphans.

The boardwalk and sculpture settings were designed by landscape architects Horacio Dimanlig and Holtz Abbu, both also noted UP alumni. It aims to provide all students of the university options to cross between Melchor and Palma Halls, as well as vantage points along its elevated path to appreciate the rich biodiversity of the Diliman campus.

The terminus at the Melchor end is the sculpture setting, which anchors the Tau Alpha corner. The corner is now called Turalba Plaza, in honor of its donors. Also in the space is a new sundial, replacing the original landmark I first saw at the UP. With these, the sun will forever rise and set on a campus gifted with dramatic art and functional amenities bequeathed by the Turalbas and the Tau Alpha fraternity.