BrightWorld

Dreams, Optimism, Wisdom

UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES: HAPPY CENTENNIAL! June 21, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza y Delago

Happy Centennial Anniversary to my Beloved Alma Mater, the University of the Philippines!

Being a development expert, I wish to highlight in this briefer the developmental side to the premier university of my beloved country. The University or the Philippines or U.P. is foremost of all an indication of the maturity of Filipino education and educators, in that after 100 years of existence, we as a people were able to show to the world the viability of a grand university run by ourselves (Filipinos).

Tertiary education was imported directly from the West, being transplanted here from Europe during the Spanish colonial era (1500s-1800s). Albeit the idea of tertiary institutes run by Filipinos themselves is a fairly recent development. To be exact, it was only after World War II, coherent with our own independence from the USA, that the striving for Filipino-run tertiary educational institutions became one of the greatest challenges in Philippine education.

The University of the Philippines was constituted by the Americans after the conclusion of the Philippine-American War.  When that war ended in 1900, there was a period of intense reorganization of the entire society and state, as well as the reconstruction of the economy that was damaged by two (2) consecutive wars (the Philippine revolution against Spain was the first). In 1908 the University of the Philippines was born.

The idea of a premier state university was not, however, an imposition by the USA on the Philippines. During the brief period of Aguinaldo government (1898-2000), the new Philippine state already prioritized the constitution of such a university in consonance with its desire to establish a modern educational program. The pedagogy of that university, had it succeeded, could have been close to those of Spain’s tops, notably the University of Barcelona and University of Madrid.   

But the grand vision of the new republic wasn’t fulfilled as the Americans grabbed that opportunity for self-governance by the new state. However, the Americans themselves realized the soundness of the concept, and so they took on the cudgels for constituting a premier state university. The flagship campus was then the Padre Faura campus in Manila, while the branch outside Manila was the UP College Los Banos. The Philippine General Hospital served as the service arm of the new university. Anglo-Saxon pedagogy and philosophy served as the core foundation, following those of the Ivy League universities.

Americans served as the first professors and administrators of the noble institution. Then, gradually their Filipino apprentices joined the faculty, until the time was ripe for Filipinos to serve as top management officials. Note that it took two (2) decades for such a process to take. When the grand statesman Manuel Luis Quezon became President of the commonwealth, Filipinos were already showing their prowess in administering the university, designing and managing academic programs, launching pioneering research programs, and running classrooms as professors.

The commonwealth government was a testing period for self-governance which incidentally found solid support inside the United States congress and executive. By the early 19040s the self-governance prowess of Filipinos in the state university was already established. So when the USA departed from the Philippines in 1946, Filipinos already had the upper hand in running this institution and there was no great need to import experts (professors and consultants) to run the university.

It was a rough ride all along for the state university. No matter how rough it may have seem, when asked for an opinion, I would prefer to stress the victory of Filipinos first of all in showing the capability to run the university ourselves.

Since that time on, the state university had become the bastion of nationalism and critical thinking in the country. During the dark years of Martial Law, the U.P. became the most powerful lamp that lighted the surrounds for the whole nation, and people outside were dying to read the Philippine Collegian and dying to hear U.P. professors and youth leaders speak about the true state of the nation. This libertarian and Enlightenment facets of the U.P. are very much intact till these days.

Furthermore, the Filipinos were already able to veer away from their Anglo-Saxon heritage in U.P. Gradual Filipinization across the decades led to a rediscovery of the Pacific and Asian roots of Philippine culture, and the result was a blending of Western (Anglo-Saxon, Continental) and Eastern (Malayan, Asiatic) philosophy cum pedagogy. The U.P has led efforts at re-engineering the Filipino language from a conversational to an intellectualizing language sufficient for articulating higher level concepts, a re-engineering that continues till these days.  

Finally, the U.P. also evolved into the top producer of knowledge and art works for the archipelago. It is the nation’s top think-tank, the bastion of national collective reflection, where we can find the highest concentration of brilliant minds among professors, research scientists, artists and students. All other institutions in the country seek counsel from the U.P. about their core state of affairs, a proof of the maturity and esteem that the U.P had gained across the decades.

Long and arduous will be the route that the state university will traverse yet, but having proved its resiliency and capacity across one century, I am confident that this University will grow and prosper over the next one hundred (100) years of its sojourn. Let us all wish the best of luck for this very noble institution, which may turn out to be the last bastion of freedom for Asia at a time of growing global fascism.

Glory, genius, grandeur!

[20 June 2008, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City, MetroManila]

 

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