In March 1913, UP President Murray Bartlett (1911-1915) sowed the seeds of the University of the Philippines Alumni Association when he urged College of Law Dean George Malcolm to call a meeting for the purpose of forming such an association. The inaugural meeting, held on April 2, 1913, was attended by the UP president, deans and alumni of colleges. Elected first president of the UPAA was Dr. Victor Sevilla (MD ’10). By 1912, UP had already graduated 119 students, including those from medicine, nursing, law, agriculture, arts and sciences and forestry; these were the first members of the UPAA. (The academy of medicine, precursor of the College of Medicine, preceded the founding of UP in 1908 by a few years.)
Earlier, during the first decade of UP, its first Filipino president, Ignacio Villamor (1915-1920), in his inaugural speech, spoke of the need to recognize the alumni and to strengthen the sentiment of nationality and service to the country. The same message would resonate at various times in later years. When Dr. Carlos P. Romulo became UP president, he made nationalism as a platform of his administration, and a mission of the UPAA.
In 1986, then UPAA President Edgardo B. Espiritu said that “the university has established the tradition of being the main nursery of the nation’s leadership.” The alumni had become a force such that ”the impact of the University on various aspects of national life may be felt mostly through that force.” Then UP President Jose V. Abueva echoed the same sentiment when he called for the University to take part in the great task of national transformation after the EDSA Revolt.
UPAA Institutions and Projects
Throughout its history, the UPAA has been fired up by its mission of fostering Honor and Excellence, Service and Leadership, the very same ideals held sacrosanct by the Alma Mater. Projects of the association have sought to promote these ideals, as well as encourage unity, loyalty and institution building among the graduates, so that united, they can better serve their communities and the nation, thus doing their Alma Mater proud. The UPAA has undertaken several projects to promote excellence in teaching, research and extension services.
Ang Bahay ng Alumni
Atty. Abraham Sarmiento, the first UPAA president to become a member of the Board of Regents (BOR) by virtue of R.A. 5706, was able to secure from the board an agreement in which it allowed the use of the present site in Diliman for Ang Bahay ng Alumni, a joint project of the University and UPAA. Launched in June 1992 as a convention center, Ang Bahay today has become a venue of choice for conferences, concerts, art exhibits and reunions of organizations, whether or not they are connected to UP.
In 2011, under the leadership of President Gladys S.J. Tiongco, UPAA completed the air conditioning of the Salazar Hall with contributions from generous alumni. Thus, on June 25, 2011, the UPAA homecoming took place in the newly air-conditioned Salazar Hall.
An enduring institution of the UPAA is the Alumni Institutes. It was envisioned and initiated in 1935 by then President Jorge Bocobo as a vehicle for the University’s interaction with its alumni and for their continuing education and professional growth. The institution has also served as a stimulus for the founding of more alumni chapters in the provinces and abroad, and for the re-activation of dormant ones.
The Oblation, which was unveiled in the UP Manila campus on National Heroes Day of 1935, was the brainchild of UP President Rafael Palma and the creation of National Artist Guillermo Tolentino. In 1949, the Oblation was transferred to Diliman under the auspices of the UPAA. The following year, the BOR appropriated funds to set the Oblation in true bronze. The UPAA financed the installation of the new statue atthe Oblation Plaza in front of Quezon Hall. These were inaugurated on National Heroes Day in 1958, the same year when UP celebrated its golden anniversary.
Another beloved icon of the University is the Carillon, the 130-foot tower with its bronze bells of varying sizes. Inaugurated on August 1, 1952, the Carillon would bring joy to generations of Dilimanians for more than three decades, until it came to a state of disrepair. The alumni of two fraternities, the Tau Alpha and the Upsilon Sigma Phi, helped the UPAA raise funds for the refurbishing of the Carillon, including the replacement of its bells and the landscaping of the Carillon Plaza. In December of 2010, a concert was held at the Plaza, marking its turn-over to the UP Administration by the UPAA.
Alumni Awards at the Homecoming
A regular feature highlighting the Annual Homecoming and Reunions of the UPAA is the conferring of the Distinguished Alumni Awards. From the beginning, these were given to alumni who excelled in their professions. Service to the nation was exemplified by government service. In the late 1960s, however, when relevance became the watchword in the University, alumni had to ask themselves, In whose interest are you working for?
The UPAA celebrates its 100th year in 2013. One hundred years of enduring heritage and legacy to the University as well as to the nation. Led by its president and Alumni Regent Ponciano E. Rivera, Jr., the UPAA has come up with a distinctive Centennial logo and slogan, “Bagong Siglo, Bagong Sigla” — underscoring its constancy of purpose with renewed vigor in promoting the interests of the Alma Mater and the alumni. These are memorialized in the UPAA Centennial Commemorative Stamps issued through the cooperation of the Philippine Postal Corporation on April 2, 2013, the 100th foundation day of the U.P. Alumni Association.
The majority of our national artists and national scientists, as well as many national leaders, are alumni of the University, but the UPAA itself is proud to be an integral part of the University, as well as its full-fledged partner in contributing to nation-building. The UPAA can look back to its first 100 years with pride, and look forward to its next 100 years with the query, What more can we do for our country and Alma Mater?
* Adapted from “Milestones in the History of the UPAA” by Jaime B. Veneracion, UP Professor of History (ms. n.d.) with additional information and inputs from other sources).