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Photo by Asst. Prof. Kim P. Bondoc, M.Ed.

The school that lived

UP Cebu is no stranger to change or to struggle. In fact, in a PowerPoint presentation based on an article on UP Cebu’s history, author and UP Cebu history professor Dr. Madrileña de la Cerna includes a photo of Cebu College taken around the late ‘40s with the caption “The School that Refused to Die.” When it comes to perseverance, resilience and sheer tenacity, UP Cebu knows what’s up.

The Junior College of Liberal Arts in Cebu City was established on May 3, 1918, with classes at Warwick Barracks in front of Leon Kilat Street in Ermita District, near where Carbon market is now. The fledgling college soon faced challenges such as the lack of a permanent home, the effects of a global economic crisis, and opposition in Manila against the further expansion and continued existence of the college. But the will of the Cebuano people and the UP Cebu community prevailed, and the Junior College of Liberal Arts in Cebu City was granted a 13-hectare site in Lahug plus yearly funds by the Cebu Provincial Board.

In 1927, Prof. Teofilo Reyes of the UP College of Engineering finalized plans for the Lahug campus and oversaw the completion of a two-story building, which was inaugurated by UP President Rafael Palma in 1929. In 1936, the Junior College became a permanent branch of UP through Act No. 4244, enabling it to expand its role in the province by offering more courses leading to degrees in Commerce, Education, General Preparatory Law and Preparatory Medicine.

When war broke out, the College was forced to close on December 13, 1941. Its main building was used as an internment camp for American and British civilians and later as a stockade for condemned prisoners by Japanese forces.

In 1945, the campus was returned to UP, and classes were held at the buildings the Americans had built. The main building and athletic field, which were damaged during the war, were repaired through funds from the War Damage Commission.

A few years later, in 1950, the College was closed again when UP students protesting the actions of powerful Cebuano politicians and their armed goons during the presidential elections angered a Cebuano Senate President. As Dr. De la Cerna wrote: “Only the students of UP Cebu dared to lampoon these politicians in the editorial cartoons of their campus paper, The Junior Collegian, getting the ire of the powerful political lords of Cebu.”

After UP alumni campaigned for it, the College was reopened in 1963. The next decades saw turmoil within the College, followed by changes in 1986-1987 that placed UP Cebu under the UP in the Visayas. In 1990-1991, 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 2010, the UP Cebu College was granted autonomy by the BOR. Then in 2011, UP Cebu grew again as construction began for its new campus in a five-hectare lot of Cebu City’s South Road Properties, which is now home to the UP Professional Schools, offering degree programs such as Master of Business Administration, Master of Science in Computer Science, Master of Education and Master of Science in Environmental Studies. Finally, on the 27th of October 2016, the UP Cebu was elevated as the 8th constituent university with the installation of the former Dean to Chancellor, Atty. Liza D. Corro.

Not bad for a tiny junior college that started out with 28 students and two faculty members.

The school of reinvention

UP Cebu has gone through war and upheavals, political and administrative opposition, uncertainty and tension, and has risen above it all. It has mastered the art of rebirth and reinvention, changing its name eleven times throughout its almost 100-year history—from the Junior College of Liberal Arts in 1918 to Cebu College in UP in 1947, to the UP Graduate School in Cebu in 1963, to the UP Visayas Cebu College in 1987, to the UP Cebu College in 2010, and finally to UP Cebu.

As the UP constituent unit born in the Queen City of the South, the campus wears both its history and the culture of the Central Visayas region proudly on its sleeve—most clearly evident in the campus’ iconic landmark, the Administration Building, in front of which the Oblation stands. The Administration Building was declared a historical landmark on December 2, 2010, by the National Historical Commission. The building is also featured prominently on UP Cebu’s logo, symbolizing both UP Cebu’s significance as the oldest campus outside Luzon and its resilient character, said Lloren.

As if reflecting UP Cebu’s spirit of resilience and reinvention, the campus has evolved through the years. Other buildings were constructed during the ‘70s and ‘80s, and infrastructure development escalated further since the first decade of the 21st century. The campus today is a green, tree-lined haven featuring buildings with modern architectural designs such as the Arts and Science Building, and modern facilities such as the UP Cebu Library, which served as the media center during the Visayas leg of 2016 Presidential Debate; the Performing Art Hall on top of the Library, which served as the venue of the historic presidential debate of 2016; the Open Field where sporting events and the annual UP Cebu Cookout are held, and which now includes a Jogger’s Path; benches and gazebos that serve as student tambayans; sculptures and art installations scattered everywhere; and the site often featured in photographs of UP Cebu, the UP Cebu signage and seal in front of the Oblation and Administration Building.

The school that looks forward

With its history at its heart, UP’s youngest constituent unit has embraced the modern, the artistic and the high-tech, as befits its role as one of the country’s centers of excellence in design and information technology. For example, the Department of Trade and Industry inaugurated the first Fabrication Laboratory (FabLab) in Cebu last year under the UP Cebu’s College of Communication, Art and Design. The Fablab is a service facility established for UP Cebu’s Fine Arts program. It aims to give arts and design students, professionals, entrepreneurs, and the public access to advance prototyping, printing and related equipment, as well as training and workshop facilities.

Through the Cebu Business Incubator in IT (CeBuinIT), UP Cebu and the DOST aim to create an environment that would help startup tech enterprises become sustainable and commercially successful. UP Cebu is also one of the implementing agencies for the DOST’s PHIL LiDAR 2 program, which aims to produce high-resolution maps and data to be used for ongoing government development programs. The UP Cebu SRP campus is a model of modernity and environmental awareness, featuring a circular e-Library with 53 computer units and green building design. And as proof of UP Cebu’s strength in creative design and IT, the Shu-Te University of Taiwan will begin offering a Master of Arts in Applied Arts and Design (MAAAD) program for interested graduates or professionals in arts and design through UP Cebu this year.

As for the spirit of UP Cebu, Lloren says: “The campus is very much attached to its Cebuano heritage. Thus, we are proud to use the pusô to embody our ideals of resilience, hard work, nurturing spirit, and sharing. Our motto: Nurtured to Create, Inspired to Innovate, Destined to Serve. The first line represents our design thrust. The second represents IT. The third speaks of our mandate to serve the region and the country.”

UP Cebu has thrived despite the odds with the support of the UP community and the Cebuano people. And like the young man in Lloren’s video, UP Cebu stands at a height, looking outward and forward to the future.


Written by Celeste Ann Castillo Llaneta