Happy 100th birthday to UP

TODAY, I WOULD LIKE TO SING “HAPPY BIRTHDAY” to the University of the Philippines as it celebrates its centenary.

UP noon. In the early 1950s, my batch mates at Mapa High School and I often visited the UP campus. In front of the Oblation, we promised one another that we would study diligently to be worthy of entrance to this great institution of learning. Unfortunately, although granted a UP scholarship, I could not enroll because my impoverished parents could not afford the then 15-centavo bus ride between Diliman and our small rented apartment in Cataluna Street in Sampaloc, Manila.

My classmates were luckier. They all excelled in their UP courses. Among them were Doctors Cornelio Banaag Jr., Reginaldo Picache, Romeo Atienza and Ernesto Resurreccion; Engineers Filemon Berba Jr. (magna cum laude), Benjamin Apolinar and Angelo Manahan; as well as former UP Dean of Architecture Geronimo Manahan.

Nonetheless, I never lost my affection for UP. That is why I cherish the membership granted me 10 years ago in the UP Chapter of the Phi Kappa Phi International Honor Society. That is the closest I can claim personal affinity with “UP Beloved.”

I encouraged our children to enroll at UP. Two of them did and graduated with honors. In fact, our only son Jose Artemio III (Archie) finished with the distinction of being the second student to have earned “summa cum laude” honors since the founding of the UP College of Music and of having the highest average among UP’s 3,300 graduates in 1989. Too, my wife Leni finished her MA (in statistics) there.

During my college days, I specially prized the friendship of UP student leaders. They were trained to think and behave independently. They upheld student rights at the risk of their own studies and careers. Fernando Lagua, the then president of the UP Student Council, was suspended and Homobono Adaza, the then editor of the Collegian, was expelled for insisting on their right to free expression.

UP sa batas. In the legal profession, UP definitely leads. It has produced the most number of chief justices, Supreme Court magistrates, bar topnotchers and lawyers, many of whom (like Raul Pangalangan, Theodore Te, Romeo Capulong, Harry Roque, Emil Capulong, Marvic Leonen and Manuel Diokno) should be acclaimed for choosing to represent the marginalized and the disadvantaged. Since 1946, UP graduates have always dominated the composition of the highest court of the land.

Small wonder then, the UP Alumni Association has deservedly picked Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno as the “Most Distinguished Alumnus of the UP 2008 Centennial Year.” I must say that CJ Puno provoked some of the most memorable intellectual encounters I relished in the Supreme Court. Early on, I described him in my book “Justice and Faith” (1997) in these words:

“Like a trained surgeon, he uses his pen with laser-like precision to separate and excise fabrication from truth and pretension from reality. In the process, he gives life to populist causes and libertarian ideals. Daring, gutsy and erudite, he—like Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes—oftentimes wages lonely battles against conventional wisdom with his stirring dissents and insightful opinions.”

Among the other centennial lawyer-awardees are Supreme Court Justice Conchita Carpio Morales, Court of Appeals Justice Magdangal M. de Leon, retired Justice Leonor Ines-Luciano (lifetime achievement), Antonio A. Oposa (for “environmental conservation and sustainable development”), Loida Nicolas-Lewis (for “global entrepreneurship”) and posthumously, former Court of Appeals Presiding Justice Romeo A. Brawner.

UP ngayon. UP is unlike any other in the country. It has 50,000 students in seven constituent universities located in 12 campuses nationwide. Of its faculty, 30 percent hold doctorates and 42 percent have masteral degrees. It offers the most number of academic programs, 246 undergraduate and 362 graduate degrees.

Some of our most outstanding leaders, scientists, physicians, dentists, educators, engineers, artists, writers, journalists, broadcasters, business persons, accountants, biologists, inventors and entrepreneurs carry UP diplomas.

UP has consistently been the best institution of higher learning in the country. It has always rated among the top 500 universities of the world. Now, as it celebrates its centennial, it is the first of only two Philippine universities (the other being Ateneo de Manila) that were included among the global “Top 500” in the 2007 survey of the Times Higher Education Supplement-Quacquarelli Symonds (THES-QS).

Like Tokyo University in Japan, University of Toronto in Canada, Cambridge and Oxford in the United Kingdom, and Harvard, Yale and Stanford in the United States, UP has produced the largest number of presidents, legislators, Cabinet members, local government leaders and civil servants in the Philippines. Whether for good or otherwise, UP graduates have brought this country to where it is, and to where it will be in the foreseeable future.

May the University of the Philippines maintain its liberal traditions, academic excellence and research standards. May it continue to nurture intellectual and cultural growth, encourage innovation and creativity, and develop its technological and physical facilities. Most of all, may it (like Harvard) secure all the financial resources it deserves so no poor but talented student is ever denied UP education. Maligayang bati po, Centennial President Emerlinda R. Roman, the first woman UP chief.

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