Katipunan Hall, located along Dumaguete’s Hibbard Avenue, is one of Silliman University’s oldest buildings and was built in 1915. No sources indicate it, but the building was most likely designed by Silliman’s Master Builder, Charles Glunz.
The building was first used as the Silliman Mission Hospital, the first hospital in the province of Negros Oriental. While run by the same missionaries that ran what was then Silliman Institute, the hospital had an independent administration. But after many negotiations it was integrated into the Silliman system. When the College of Nursing was opened in the 1960s, The Mission Hospital first acquired its academic function.
In the 1970s, Silliman opened the Medical Center, located along Laguna Highway. All hospital functions were transferred there, and the vacated Mission Hospital building had since been converted into academic offices and classrooms. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of the offices housed in it, the building was renamed “Katipunan hall” (“Katipunan” meaning “gathering”). But the hall’s past as a hospital could still be seen in its many features.
Katipunan Hall has housed various offices throughout Silliman History, including the Graduate School and the College of Nursing. Today, it houses the English Department, the Filipino and Foreign Languages Department, the School of Public Affairs and Governance, the College of Education, the Political Science and History Department, and other offices.
That it houses the English Department makes it particularly prominent in Philippine Literary History. Many great writers have sat as English Department chair: the National Artist Edith Tiempo, Dr. Edilberto Tiempo, Dr. Leoncio Deriada and Prof. Merlie Alunan. Many other writers have been part of the English Department faculty. The English Department still has a large role in the organization of the Silliman National Writers Workshop, the oldest writers workshop in Asia. In fact, some of the past workshop sessions were held in Katipunan Hall, earning it the nickname “Katayan Hall” (“katayan” meaning “slaughterhouse”) from workshop fellows.
Katipunan Hall is touted as one of the most haunted buildings in Dumaguete. Having a history of being a garrison during the war, the sound of marching soldiers are said to be heard at night. The sound of steps going up and down the staircase is also commonly reported. A little boy is also said to wander around the hall’s corridors. Many teachers also tell of how they find themselves locked up in a room for hours before being opened by nobody.
But the building has many charming features that are a result of either the conversion from hospital to academic building, the unique architectural style of the designer, or both. It was very easy for me to fall in love with it and call it home.
(On April 5, 2002, Benjaline “Beng” Hernandez was murdered in Arakan Valley, North Cotabato, with three others. She was an Ateneo de Davao student, one of the last AB Literature students of the University, and was in Arakan conducting research on the human rights situation of the area. Investigations and hearings point to a company of CAFGU members led by M/Sgt. Antonio Torilla as responsible for the killings. The point of contention, which to this day is still unresolved, is whether the killings were justified (then North Cotabato Governor Manny Piñol insisted that Hernandez’ companions were armed and that they were killed in an encounter). In August 2010 the United Nations Human Rights Commission released a resolution holding the Philippine government into account for Hernandez’ death. But the Regional Trial Court in Kidapawan, where Torilla and others were detained, not only granted bail to the accused (which is not allowed for cases of murder or homicide), but acquitted them shortly after the UNHRC released its resolution. To this day the deaths remain without justice.
Beng was Vice President for Mindanao of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) and a campus journalist and poet. She was invariably part of that part of the AdDU community which showed the Ateneo’s deep involvement in social issues, a part which has nevertheless paradoxically been seen as a removed group by a more moderate-minded community. Today her legacy suffers the Ateneo community’s short collective memory, and as a new generation of Atenistas come every year, her name becomes less and less remembered.
I was never able to meet Beng (she was killed before I entered AdDU). I may also be part of that more moderate majority, and my opinions with regard to Society’s marginalized sectors may have clashed sharply with hers. But I deplore the unnecessary loss of life and condemn the continued injustice of her case. Had I known in my time as president of the Ateneo’s Literature Club (SALEM) that she was a Literature Major, I would have organized a tribute for her.
To honor her memory I will try to find some of her literary works and share it here. But for the meantime, here is a translation of a poem by Mick Basa, published in Dagmay in 2008. Mick Basa, an Ateneo de Davao graduate, is a freelance journalist.)
Hunghong ni Beng
ni Mick Jethro Basa
Samtang ang kalibutan nag banha-banha
Uban sa nagkalipay karong orasa,
Ako nagasulat, nagamugna, ug naghunahuna.
Samtang ang adlaw nipahulay sa pag-atubang sa pikas tungas iyang dagway,
Ani-a siya sa akong tapad.
Di’ makita apan siya mabati
Ug siya mihunghong,
“Ayaw kabalaka, hasta ra nang sayuna”.
Iyang pulong usa ka huyuhoy sa pinakamahayahay.
Milingi ko kun diin naggikan ang tingog –
Nga misugakod kuyog ang bugnaw nga paghuyop
Nga hangin gikan sa electric fan.
“Kinsa diay ka? Kaila ba tika?”
Mitubag ako human mabati nga siya niistorya.
“Dili kana importante. Basta, sayon ra na”.
Balos niya sa sulod sa akong panghuna-huna.
“Murag nakaila na ko nimo.”
Apan siya wala na nitubag.
“Kaila gayud ko nimo.”
“Kaila sad ko nimo.”
Nabati usab nako ang usa ka tingog
Nga wala pa nako nabatian –
Apan ako nang nakaila.
Samtang nilabay na ang panganod
Ug milutaw na ang hayag nga bulawanong bulan,
Nahuman na sab kining akong tulubagon.
Kini, samtang ako nagasulat,
Nahinumduman tika ug ang imong ngalan.
“Dili ba ikaw si Beng?
Salamat kay ani-a ikaw.”
Ug siya mitando. “Sa makausab, sayon ra na”.
Paghinumdom alang kay Benjaline “Beng” Hernandez
While the world outside is loud and vibrant
With the laughter of those amusing themselves at this hour
I am here writing, imagining, thinking.
And while the sun has taken its rest from displaying half of its face to the world
She is here beside me
Unseen, but felt
And she whispers,
“Do not worry, it will be very easy.”
Her words caress like a breeze, like a carefree breath.
I look back to see where the voice had come from-
And I face only the cold blowing of the electric fan.
“Who are you? Do I know you?”
I answer back when I hear her whisper.
“It does not matter. Basta, that will be easy.”
She replies in my mind.
“I think I know you.”
But she does not answer after that.
“I think I really do know you.”
“And I know you.”
And I hear a voice
I have never heard before-
But a voice I have long known.
And when the clouds have passed
To reveal the golden moon,
I come to know what to answer.
This, while I write,
I recall you and your name.
“Aren’t you Beng?
Thank you, thank you, for being here.”
And she replies. “Again, it will be easy.”
In Memory of Benjaline “Beng” Hernandez
From this skyscraper height
These myriad lights become an urban