by: Madrileña de la Cerna
First Posted in Cebu Daily News, 11/21/2010 and 12/05/2010 issues.

On December 2, a historical marker will be installed at the UP Cebu College Administration Building in Lahug, Cebu City, by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines under Dr. Ambeth Ocampo’s watch. The move for its declaration as a historical site was initiated in 2008 by the UP Cebu Centennial Committee, which I chaired, to highlight UP Cebu’s contribution to the UP Centennial.

In time for the installation of the marker, the architecture class of the University of San Carlos College of Fine Arts and Architecture, under the direction of Architect Melva R. Java, came up with a very informative Outline Conservation Management Plan of the UP Cebu Administration Building.

Special thanks to Ray Marionn Linao, Jalen Marie Lemosnero and Janiero Barinan of the Architectural Conservation 1, Baleli Group for wonderful work. The group said the UP Cebu College Administration Building is one of the beautiful buildings built during the American Period in the Philippines with its 81 and ongoing years of existence.

The administration building is more than a beautiful structure. It is the oldest regional unit of the University of the Philippines System and has the most colorful and exciting history. In its struggle for existence and eventual recognition, other more significant issues stood out.

It all began in 1916, eight years after the founding of the University of the Philippines in Manila, when some people in the Visayas realized the need for establishing a branch of UP in the South. In 1917, Rep. Celestino Gallares of the First District of Bohol presented a bill in the Philippine Legislature that did not prosper at that time. On April 30, 1918, the Cebu Gov. Manuel Roa filed a petition for the establishment of a branch of UP in Cebu.

The Board of Regents acted favorably on the matter, and the Philippine Legislature, with Sergio Osmeña Sr. as speaker, approved Act No. 2759, which incorporated the salient features of the former Gallares Bill authorizing the Board of Regents to establish colleges in Manila or in any other place in the archipelago as soon as in its judgment, conditions shall be available for their maintenance.

The Board of Regents approved the establishment of a Junior College of Liberal Arts in the Cebu City on May 3, 1918.

The opening of the school year 1918-1919 being only a month away required the untiring efforts of Hon. Paulino Gullas, the first registrar, and Dr. Lawrence Wharton, the first dean, to organize the college faculty and the admission of students.

After a grand inauguration with a big crowd of the Cebuano community in attendance, classes were formally opened on July 1, 1918, at Warwick Barracks, former quarters of the American soldiers, fronting Leon Kilat Street in the Ermita District, near the present site of the Carbon market. There were only 28 students and two faculty members.

In April 1922, Dr. Jose Mirasol became the first Filipino dean of the college. In the same year, the college moved to a more spacious rented two-story building owned by the Philippine National Bank located at the corner of Colon and Norte Americano (now D. Jakosalem) Streets in Parian District. The Junior College of Liberal Arts became a separate unit of the university and was renamed Junior College of the University of the Philippines.

Conditions in the 1920s gave rise to the increasing need for more Filipino teachers. In 1923, a first year high school class was organized for teacher training. A year later, 12 students graduated with a high school training certificate. For unverified reasons, the program was abolished in 1926.

Sometime in 1924, there was a movement in Manila opposing any further expansion of the college, which culminated in the first concrete threat of closure. On Dec. 8, 1924, the Board of Regents approved a resolution to suppress the pre-medical course. However, due to the strong protest of Dean Mirasol, the faculty and the Cebu community, the Board of Regents on Jan. 8, 1925 suspended the effectivity of the resolution for one year.

Compounding the difficulty of the college at the same time was a fraternal organization ?Ang Mga Anak sa Lungsod, which acquired the building that the college was occupying. The College had to move to the old Spanish Fort San Pedro, more popularly known as Kota, a historical picturesque setting by the sea but hardly conducive to academic endeavors.

On Oct. 8, 1925, the Board of Regents again decided to discontinue the college beginning June 1926. This raised protests from Cebuanos led by former representative Paulino Gullas and other Cebu legislators, the provincial government, Dean Mirasol and the college constituency. The Board of Regents, in a meeting in February 1926, reconsidered its decision by authorizing the continuance of the Junior College provided that the Province of Cebu would contribute to its maintenance.

In answer to this challenge, the Cebu Provincial Board, headed by Gov. Arsenio Climaco, donated a 13-hectare site at Lahug, contributed P100,000 for the construction of a building and a yearly contribution of P30,000 to help defray the expenses.

Prof. Teofilo Reyes of the UP College of Engineering arrived in the later part of May 1927 to finalize plans for the Lahug campus with the completion of a two-story concrete edifice, constructed by the Jereza Construction Co., a Cebu-based engineering firm, at a total cost to the Province of P200,000, and made ready for occupancy during the summer term of 1929.

The building was inaugurated by UP president Rafael Palma on March 26, 1929, during that year’s commencement exercises.

The global economic crisis in the early 1930s brought about by a gradual but steady reduction of the annual aid from the Cebu provincial government and the threat of closure once again loomed over the UP College in Cebu. Congressmen Romero, Kintanar, Dosdos, Rama, Cuenco, B. Rodriguez, and D. Tan filed a bill approving the release of P40,000: P10,000 would be used for 1935, while P30,000 would be used for 1936. It also stated that starting 1936, it should be given P30,000 annually by the national government.

On Oct. 10, 1936, Act No. 4244 was enacted making the Junior College a permanent branch of University of the Philippines and appropriating P30,000 annually for operating expenses from the national government. This solved the financial difficulty and also provided the College an opportunity to expand its role in the province by offering courses in the first two year levels leading to degrees in Commerce, Education, General Preparatory Law and Preparatory Medicine.

With the outbreak of World War II, the College was closed on Dec. 13, 1941. The main building was used for a time as an internment camp for American and British civilians and later occupied by the Japanese troops as the stockade for condemned prisoners. After Liberation, it housed the General Engineering District Office of the United States Navy. On Oct. 31, 1945, the campus was returned to the University.

On Dec. 1, 1945, the College was reopened and classes were held at the buildings which the Americans had built and had left behind. The main building had been damaged, equipment and furniture lost, and the athletic field was plowed. In 1946, conditions improved with funds secured from the War Damage Commission for repair of the buildings.

A law does not always guarantee stature. In 1950, the College was closed as a result of a political action when a Cebuano Senate President was angered by the valiant outcry of UP Cebu students over the acts of armed, bearded goons of powerful Cebuano politicians during the presidential election in the late 40s. Only the students of UP Cebu dared to lampoon these politicians in editorial cartoons of their campus paper, The Junior Collegian, getting the ire of the powerful political lords of Cebu.

Congress omitted the budget item for UP Cebu from the 1950-1951 Appropriations Act, and UP Cebu was closed a second time. Class 1950 was the last batch to graduate. The undergraduate students were forced to transfer to UP Diliman in Quezon City.

Despite representations made by the students and alumni with the President of the Philippines, the President disapproved the recommendation of the UP Board of Regents for continuation of the operations of UP Cebu College. The grounds and buildings were turned over to the Cebu provincial government and leased to the Jesuits for 10 years. It was named Berchman College, which housed Jesuit scholastics.

On Jan. 8, 1960, after constant representations by the alumni for its reopening by holding annual reunions and homecomings, and with the support of U.P. President Vicente Sinco, a Cebuano from Ginatilan town, the Board of Regents authorized the reopening of the college on condition that its operations and maintenance should be supported by tuition and other fees, including those that could be generated from private sources.

On July 1, 1963, the College was reopened for the Graduate School. With a high enrolment and quality of graduates, the alumni saw an opportunity to push for an undergraduate program reinstituted and a high school department was finally established during its first alumni homecoming in 1969 attended by President Salvador Lopez. He recommended the opening of a High School Department but the Board of Regents approved the recommendation only in 1972.

The High School Department formally opened in July 1972, with first and second year courses offered. The undergraduate studies program was reinstituted in 1973 commencing with two programs, B.A. in Social Sciences and a B.A. in Business Management.

The period 1969-1976 could have provided the momentum that the college was coming on its own. But in 1977 unfortunate developments in the college divided the academe and brought tension to the campus. The next ten years 1979 to 1989 were another challenge to the maturity and viability of the College. In 1983, the University authorized the initial construction of a two-storey undergraduate studies building.

Changes in the UP infrastructure in 1986-1987 placed UP Cebu, UP Tacloban and UP Iloilo under one autonomous university UP in the Visayas, with the chancellor as head with office in Iloilo.

In 1990-1991, the onset of a new administration signaled the start of a rehabilitation quest. The entire collegial organization was restructured with academic programs clustered into five disciplines, namely: Management, Humanities, Natural Sciences and Mathematics, Social Sciences, and the High School. In 1999, the Social Sciences and Mathematics and Computer programs transferred to the Arts and Sciences Building (the unfinished Cebu provincial dormitory). The years 2000-2008 saw more programs housed in the Arts and Sciences building.

The College was granted autonomy by the Board of Regents on Sept. 24, 2010 putting it under the Office of the UP President.

The successive births and rebirths, and academic upheavals have vested this Cebu unit with a succession of names: 1918 – Junior College of Liberal Arts; 1922 Junior College of the Philippines; 1930 -Cebu Junior College, UP; 1947 – Cebu College, UP; 1963 – UP Graduate School; 1966 – UP School in Cebu; 1971-UP at Cebu; 1975- UP College Cebu; 1991 (to the present) UP Cebu College.

In 2008, as part of the celebration of the UP Centennial, the UP Cebu Centennial Committee submitted to the National Historical Institute now known as the National Historical Commission, a proposal to declare the Administration Building a historical landmark. Under the direction of chairman, Ambeth Ocampo, the Commission sent documentarists to survey the building in 2009 and reviewed the history of the College provided by the committee.

On Dec. 2, 2010, the historical marker on the UP Cebu College Administration Building was formally unveiled and turned over to the administration. In his message, Ocampo reminded the administration, faculty, students, staff and the alumni present to help preserve the building for in doing so the place of UP Cebu College in Philippine history is ensured