Philippine Nationality Room

As we near the University of Pittsburgh, our eyes are instantly drawn to an imposing Gothic-style building rising majestically against the horizon. This is the CATHEDRAL OF LEARNING: 42 stories high and  considered to be the tallest educational building in the Western hemisphere!

Within this imposing building are THE NATIONALITY ROOMS: a unique collection of 31 classrooms modeled from around the globe in painstaking detail. Founded by Ruth Crawford Mitchell at the request of  then Chancellor John Bowman, these one-of-a-kind classrooms are decorated in the distinctive styles of Pittsburgh’s ethnic and cultural homelands.

Inspired by these classrooms, the Filipino-American community in Pittsburgh decided to build its own Philippine Nationality Room. The PNR Task Force was formed, consisting of members of the Filipino American Association of Pittsburgh (FAAP), the Philippine American Medical Society (PAMS), and the Philippine American Performing Arts of Greater Pittsburgh (PAPAGP), under the guidance of Father Manny Gelido of West Virginia.

Good fortune shone on the challenging task of finding a Filipino house design when Professor Fernando Zialcita, co-author of “Philippine Ancestral Houses”, led us to the Quema House, one of the “Bahay na Bato” (“House of Stone”) heritage houses in the town of Vigan. Like all other classrooms, this design is representative of the era prior to 1787, the year the University of Pittsburgh was founded.  It was no wonder this ancestral house inspired Filipino architect, Popi Laudico. to design a room that would proudly represent the Philippines in the Nationality Rooms collection. The native design, challenging as it was, turned out to be not as daunting as raising the funds to finance the actual construction of the Philippine Nationality Room (PNR)! Originally estimated at $250,000 in 2000, it took 18 years before the targeted amount was reached. By that time, the same estimate had ballooned to $500,000.  Room construction finally began in May, 2018.

The stained wide- planked floors, white-washed wooden walls and matching ceiling, instantly remind visitors of the familiar Bahay na Bato . Especially appealing to Filipino visitors are the capiz shell windows and the ventanilla balustrades, which let in air to naturally cool the room. Otherwise, when it is raining outside and windows have to be closed, an antique chandelier takes over the task. Two wide and tall wooden cabinets proudly display Philippine artifacts. While seated on the wide and sturdy “solihiya” backed wooden chairs, the visitor is encouraged to look at the wall and ceiling artwork of Filipino artist, Eliseo Silva. Look around further to admire the lectern and credenzas made to the design representative of the Filipino heritage homes.

The PHILIPPINE NATIONALITY ROOM (PNR) blessing ceremony was conducted by Father Manny Gelido on December 1, 2018. All Presidents of the three organizations constituting the PNR Task Force were
invited, along with some university officials.

The Dedication Day was on June 9, 2019, featuring the following events:
• Heinz Chapel – 2:00 P.M.: University Turnover ceremony
• Commons Room, Cathedral of Learning – 3-5 P.M. Pagdiriwang Celebration (including a tour of the Philippine Nationality Room}, a program featuring Filipino Folk Dances and preceded by a Santa Cruzan march.
• Heinz Chapel – 5:00 P.M. – Holy Mass celebration
• Pitt Alumni Hall at 6:15 P.M. onwards – Formal Dinner and Program