Thru the Fire

by Oliver Carlos

In the summer of 1990, I was an eyewitness to one of the largest fires in UPLB. I was a freshman college student when the one-story Old Chemistry building, was razed by a fire. That building is located at the heart of the campus, very near the UP Oblation statue. I was with the crowd of onlookers standing in front of the Old Chem building as the firefighters extinguished the flames. Nobody died or was hurt in the fire, as everybody was able to exit the building in time. However, there was a very expensive electron microscope that got destroyed in the fire. Some say that the microscope was more expensive than the whole building.

Upper right: The UPLB Old Chemistry building in flames in the summer of 1990 (photo by Lepomis, from, ctto). Left: This is how that same building looks like now (photo by Jet Castillo).

What caused the fire? Based on what I heard from my professors and classmates during that time, the culprit was a brown out. When power came back, sparks in a laboratory grew into a flame. Brown outs were very rampant back then. Our country had a power crisis in the late 1980s to the early 1990s.

What was left of the Old Chem building was its façade. The ruins were an eyesore for a long time as its reconstruction got stalled. But now, when I visited my alma mater, I noticed that the facelift is complete, and a modern 2-storey building is in place. The 100-year old arched entrance was kept intact and stands as a reminder of the building’s trying but rich history.

In my time as a student, that building was known as the Old Chem building, because the “new” Chem can be found inside the more modern PhySci building. What was housed in the Old Chem building at that time was the Zoology department of UPLB. There were even rumors that a monkey perished in that fire. I don’t know if that’s true. Anyway, today the building is now known as the CAS Annex Building 2.

Looking at the new building, nobody would think that once upon a time giant flames ate up that structure together with a very expensive equipment. The architectural design and the paint blended well the old façade with the new body of the building.

The word “fire” was mentioned many times in the Bible and was used in various allegories. One instance is in 1 Peter chapter 1. Fire is used as a purifier of gold. This precious metal has a melting point of 1,064 degrees Celsius. That temperature is more than 10 times the boiling point of water. That’s a very strong heat!

However, any fire less than that heat level wouldn’t melt gold. What gets consumed are the other stuff clinging to the piece of gold. Thus, after going thru the fire, these elements that are not gold get eliminated, and what remains is gold only. So, it is said that fire indeed purifies gold!

Peter used this illustration to encourage his readers who were going thru several trials. Let’s read 1 Peter 1:7 (NLT)

“These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold — though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”

The troubles that come our way are like flames that gold has to go thru to get purified. Peter likened our faith to gold. Faith gets refined by life’s trials. Our trust in God improves a notch higher every time we experience such. When we see and feel God’s saving power, first-hand, in our little problems, we gain more confidence in him. The impurities like doubts and unbelief get burned away at the end of the day. When bigger troubles come, we know God will carry us thru. The end result is that our faith shines like gold in God’s eyes!

Are you going thru some testing fire these days? Fear not, instead believe that God will carry you through.



Oliver Carlos wears many hats. He's a history professor, a life coach to young adults, an athlete, a sports media practicioner, and a loving family man.

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Blog is Life

Oliver Carlos wears many hats. He's a history professor, a life coach to young adults, an athlete, a sports media practicioner, and a loving family man.