U.P. Turns 100 Today

(Editor’s note: Below is the article from the June 18, 2008 online edition of
the Philippine Star.)

UP Turns 100 Today
By Juaniyo Arcellana

The University of the Philippines, the school that bred many of the nation’s leaders, artists and rebels, turns 100 years old today.

UP officials have prepared elaborate celebrations for the milestone event, culminating in a grand alumni homecoming this weekend at the Araneta Coliseum in Cubao, site of many a sporting spectacle but on Saturday will be transformed into a melting pot of memories and nostalgia of all things UP.

Barely two months ago the new UP Charter was signed into law in UP Cebu, granting it fiscal autonomy as a national university.

Created by an act of the Philippine legislature in 1908 during the American period, the State University has come a long way from its early halcyon days along Padre Faura, the original campus, where the first seven colleges were constructed of sawali and galvanized iron.

There are now seven constituent universities located in 12 campuses throughout the country.

Act 1870, otherwise known as the UP Charter, created the university to “provide advanced education in literature, philosophy, the sciences and the arts; and to give professional and technical training to every qualified student irrespective of age, sex, nationality, religious belief or political affiliation,” a statement from the Diliman Information Office said.

In those days that section of Ermita was like a mini university belt, with nearby schools Ateneo and Assumption also located there. Many of the streets were named after the states in the US: Florida, Colorado, Indiana, spilling all the way to Malate area, the exception being Isaac Peral, now United Nations Avenue, names only the oldtimers would likely remember.

When the Centennial Year was launched last January, celebrations began early in the morning in UP Manila, the template campus that houses the College of Medicine, precursor of the 1908 university charter, and wound up in the evening with a bonfire on the main campus of Diliman across town. Today at the Philippine General Hospital the UP Manila’s Indayog will be dancing the tinikling.

The Faura campus survived the war years, with the Conservatory of Music (Villamor Hall) being turned into a headquarters by Japanese occupying forces where the indios were supposed to surrender whatever firearms they had, as documented by author Benito Legarda in his book “Occupation ’42.” On the upper floors of the Conservatory, the intellectuals of the day were detained and interrogated, including the American editor of the Free Press magazine.

In 1948 UP held its last commencement exercises on Padre Faura, before transferring to Diliman the following year. Emerenciana Yuvienco, the lone summa cum laude of that batch, recalls that President Manuel Roxas was the commencement speaker. An April downpour gave them all a good drenching and Roxas himself refused an umbrella being provided by an aide. Two days later he was dead, after suffering from a heart attack in Clark Field.

Of things UP there are many, consisting of a random enough timeline that varies with each person who walked – maybe even sleepwalked – through the groves of that academe.

The General Education Program was introduced in 1959, which the university president of the new millennium, Francisco Nemenzo, sought to strengthen alongside the system’s fiber optic backbone, and so better equip the UP graduate in the 21st century.

The Creative Writing Center was set up in the late 1970s with a seed fund of a million pesos from the late President Ferdinand Marcos, but even before that there were already regular writers’ workshops being held both in Diliman and the campus in Baguio City.

Any history of UP would not be complete without mention of student activism, as it has been commonly known as a hotbed of radicalism and free thinkers, the well-off families who weren’t necessarily stingy would think twice about sending their children to State U.

Unforgettable was the Diliman commune in 1971, the smoke coming from the barricades could be seen kilometers away, and dzUP was taken over by ideologues mouthing the isms over the static. Of course, the likes of Joma Sison and Ninotchka Rosca hung out at the basement cafeteria, among the other bohemians (both political and apolitical) of the day.

During martial law the university seemed to be under temporary sedation, but only on the surface: dissent in its most extreme form hovered just around the corner. Rallies were nipped in the proverbial bud, but this didn’t stop the Iskolar ng Bayan from putting in his or her five centavos worth against the dictatorship.

The student publication The Collegian soldiered on, with its slogan printed in bold type near the masthead: Kung hindi tayo kikilos, sino ang kikilos? Kung hindi ngayon, kalian pa?

Billy Lacaba, a staff member of the Collegian editor Ditto Sarmiento during the late ’70s, spoke of the time the paper’s adviser Francisco Arcellana, whose job it was to read through the contents to check for anything incendiary, merely signed his name to approve the galleys without bothering to look at the copy, all in the name of press freedom. Both editor and adviser, may they rest in peace, were soon invited to Camp Crame for debriefing and an intensive refresher course on the New Society.

There was Lean Alejandro walking around campus in slippers. Francis Pangilinan, who would one day be senator, already looked kind of slick even then.

Members of the Eraserheads lived in the Diliman dorms, while Yano’s song State U remains a wake-up call for the Iskolar ng Bayan.

The Ikot jeep too has now a special place in UP annals, the ride round campus that started with a 5-centavo fare. There was subsequently a jeep that plied the opposite route, known as the Toki, because history too can run counter clockwise.

And whereas tuition in the old days added up to little more than spare change, lately there have been grumblings – not unjustified – about the 300-percent increase in enrollment fees starting with those with student numbers beginning with the numbers 2007.

Long time employees are also wondering when their centennial bonus will come, before the money from katas ng tuition and assorted fund-raising gets lost in the mammoth celebrations.

Yet the bitterness and heartaches can be set aside for a day or two, for the sake of UP Naming Mahal, not coincidentally host of this year’s University Athletics Association of the Philippines (UAAP) games.

Though UP won NCAA basketball titles in the pre-war years, its first and only UAAP basketball crown was notched in 1986, when Benjie Paras, Ronnie Magsanoc and Eric Altamirano led the charge at the Ultra in Pasig. This centennial year the Fighting Maroons hope to win a game or two, after going 0-14 last year.

Not at the Ultra, but at the Araneta this Saturday will there be a lookout for the great beauties of Dekada 70 – Ascencia, Rosanna, Jacqueline – if they are in more ways than one still aboveground, and if time has been kind to them as UP most likely has.

Grand community sing-alongs during flag-raising at Quezon Hall in Diliman, and a multi-media tribute and concert at the Cultural Center from today till Friday conspire to usher in State U to its next one hundred years.

Author: Web Admin