Friday, February 3, 2012

UPCA Revisited (Part 1)

In our entry on 1st February, titled Down Nostalgia Lane, we talked about how we chanced upon the script of the first and only multimedia production about the history of the UPCA done in 1984.  Reviewing that script, we unearthed again pieces of information many have forgotten but remain part of rich history.  I’d like to revisit the script and share with you what those historical footnotes are.

Perhaps all UPLB alumni and students know that UP was founded in 1909, but one wonders if any one knows that the exact date of the foundation of UP was March 6, 1909, and the date that UPCA (now UPLB) was founded on June 14, 1909.  UPCA alumni, of course, know by heart that the first four faculty members (Americans) and 12 Filipino students had their first class in October 1909 in tents at Camp Eldridge in Los Baños.  When the UPCA got its first building later, that building housed everything from classrooms, to offices, to tool shed, and even a post office.  One should no longer wonder where the postal address “College, Laguna” started.   Of course, this particular postal address has always been an irritant between UPLB and the town of Los Baños.

The following year, in 1910, the first four-year curricular program in agriculture was put in place at UPCA, together with the two-year program called “Forest Ranger” course.  Those were hard times for the first students under the BSA program.  During days of classes, they had to clear the forest and grassland to prepare land for crop experiments.  Usually, these same students would fetch water for household use, do their laundry, and take their weekly bath at Molawin Creek.  It is said that students subsisted on penoy for breakfast, lunch, and supper for months on ends.  Even in those times, students found it usually difficult to find a place to stay.

The first graduates of UPCA finished their BSA program and graduated in 1911.  They were Manuel Roxas, Clodualdo Tempongco, and Jose Zamora.  Two years later in 1913, Manuel Roxas finished his MS degree and became the first MS graduate of UPCA.  It was also in 1913 that the Student Body Organization at UPCA was organized.   In 1917, eight years after its establishment, the UPCA had 500 students, six academic buildings and various agricultural experiments going on.  It was time also for Dean Copeland to retire.  Dean Charles Fuller Baker became the second UPCA Dean, from whom one of the later buildings of UPCA was named after (Baker Hall).  The following year, 1918, after a speech by Laguna’s military commander, Gen. Gailles, the faculty and studentry of UPCA volunteered en masse on October 10 to fight for freedom and democracy in WWI in Europe.  The volunteers never got to Europe as the war ended before they could be transported, but October became what, for a long time, was known as Los Baños Loyalty Day, the birth of the Los Baños Spirit.

The UPCA Administration Bldg. was located right where the UPLB Library (and current Office of the UPLB Chancellor) stands today.  We used to call this, The Hill. 

Loyalty Day celebrations were made much more popular with the Loyalty Day Ball.  Coeds from UP's Padre Faura campus and other Manila-based universities were invited to Los Banos as special guests during the Loyalty Day Ball.

By 1921, five females enrolled at UPCA, One of them, Mamerta Manahan, even got elected later on as President of the UPCA Student Body Organization.  That time, too, UPCA admitted the first four foreign students from China, Indonesia, India, and Thailand.

Because of the Los Baños Spirit, UPCA Alumni began trooping back to Los Baños every October 10th to renew their allegiance to UPCA.  One such alumnus was Joaquin J. Gonzales (class 1919), who upon coming back to celebrate the Loyalty Day in 1925, promised to give a medal, for eternity, to the UPCA graduate with the highest GPA.  Until today, the Joaquin J. Gonzales medal remains the most coveted medal for all aggie graduates.

Dean Baker died on July 22, 1927 at age 55.  He was succeeded by Dr. Bienvenido Ma.
Gonzales, an animal scientist who was a student of Dean Copeland.  During the deanship of Gonzales, UPCA became known for its scientific endeavors.  The animal scientists of UPCA developed the Bekjala swine,  Philamin (cattle breed), and the Los Baños Cantonese chicken.  To promote excellence in research, the Los Baños Biological Club was also born.  Many Filipino members of this Club also became members of the prestigious American Men of Science.  At about this time, too, the UPCA constructed its Main Gate, which became a significant marker until today.  The Gate, by the way, was a donation of the entire UP studentry that time.

The old UPCA Gate (right pix).

Dean Gonzales was known as a disciplinarian and absolutely strict when it came to academic and professional performance.  He was, indeed, quoted as having said, “I want every product of this College, whether it be a student, a plant, a domestic animal, or a scientific paper, to bear a mark similar to that of sterling on silver.”  It was also during the time of Dean Gonzales when UPCA graduated its first alumna, Ms. Victoria Mendiola, who became the first Filipina plant pathologist of the country.  At about that time, UPCA had 822 students, 88 faculty members, 369 has. of land, 61 buildings, 130 courses offered, a library with 7,000 volumes of holdings, and many more resources.

Dean Gonzales left UPCA to become the first Filipino scientist to be appointed President of the University of the Philippines on April 20, 1938.  Dean Leopoldo Uichangco took over the Deanship of UPCA.  It was Uichangco’s time when WWII broke out and Baker Hall became the Concentration Camp of the Japanese Imperial Army, holding the American Faculty of UPCA as prisoners of war from Christmas 1941 until September 1942.  Dean Uichangco was held prisoner and even charged as protector of Americans who were considered enemies.  Many at UPCA thought Uichangco was siding with the Japanese so not a few were surprised when the Japanese held him prisoner and gave him a death sentence.  Lucky Uichangco was because there were individuals close to the Japanese military who interceded so that instead of having Uichangco put to death he was just removed from office.  The Japanese Army installed Dr. Fancisco O. Santos as UPCA Dean, but after the war Dean Uichangco took over again the UPCA Deanship.

When Uichangco inspected the campus on April 4, 1945, he found UPCA completely devastated.  Only three buildings were left standing and 180 books were recovered out of 20,000.  But after WWII, UPCA reopened still.  Nineteen professors reported for work and 119 students enrolled.  Between 1942 and 1946, UPCA even managed to graduate some 51 individuals, one of whom was the first summa cum laude from UPCA, Obdulia Fronda.

Between 1948 and 1954, UPCA greenhorms (new entrants or freshmen) couldn’t avoid what could have been the most pervasive hazing in those times – the mandatory wearing of skull caps among freshmen.  No freshman could ever be on campus without the skull cap.  Upperclassmen were not required to wear skull caps.  Soon after, more events transpired on campus, including the famous rodeo.  Around that time, UPCA already had some 4,000 students for a student-faculty ratio of 22:1.

(To be continued.  Meantime, drop me a note at:

No comments:

Post a Comment