Friday, July 9, 2010

UP Los Banos: farming, food engineering, bees and bananas, community radio, and much more ...

We attended this year's homecoming and reunion organized by the University of the Philippines Alumni Association (UPAA), our first since forty years ago when we graduated with a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering.  Just about a dozen of us Ruby Jubilarians were able to get together, but we had fun remembering our then 'age of Aquarius' and musing if we could be still be around to be honored like the older Golden and Diamond Jubilarians, and there were plenty of them in attendance.

One of this year's recipients of the UPAA's distinguished alumni awards--Dr Rey A Elizondo (BSAE'68)-- happens to be a fraternity brother who we last saw forty-five years ago before he moved from Diliman to Los Banos to finish his agricultural engineering course.   He was given recognition for his achievements in food engineering, an area which he teaches at the California State University and the California State Polytechnic University.  His involvement in the cannery project for the Ukraine to meet international food safety standards earned him the US President's Volunteer Service Award in 2007.

There were three other distinguished alumni from UP Los Banos in the roster of  twenty awardees.  Dr Cleofas P Rodriguez-Cervancia (BSA'68, MS'72, PhD'82) was cited for her achievements in community development through research and extension services.  She's well known in the bee industry. Her name is associated with the UPLB Bee Program, and she has shown through her studies how bees contribute to increasing crop yield and biodiversity of wild plants.

Dr Agustin B Molina, Jr (BSA'73, MS'79), a senior scientist widely known in Asia and the Pacific, was cited for his focus on banana research. He has worked on the control of the most destructive diseases of banana, the conservation, characterization, evaluation and use of the Musa germplasm. and he contributed to the rehabilitation of the lakatan industry in Luzon.

Ruby jubilarian Mr Lucio N Tabing (BSA'70) was recognized for his work in rural community empowerment through broadcast communication.  As a communicator and broadcaster, he has helped and empowered poor Filipinos like the small fishermen of Laguna Lake, farmers and fishermen along the Pampanga River, the Ilongots, the Dumagats and the Aetas in Zambales and Pampanga.  His pioneering community radio 'has changed the lives of local communities, contributing extensively to many aspects of community life such as agriculture, environment, health, livelihood, cultural expression, public service and local governance.'

Their achievements and fields of specialization speak of the evolution of the college of agriculture established by the Americans in 1908, one of the original core of colleges of the University of the Philippines, "primarily for the purpose of furnishing proper higher education and training for farmers in the Philippine Islands (Copeland 1914)."

Back then, more than a century ago, three courses were offered:  "a course of six years to which graduates of the intermediate schools are admitted; a course of four years for high school graduates; and a special course, which does not lead to a degree, of a single year, for the training of teachers of agriculture in the public schools (Copeland)." Its department of forestry trained young men to become forest rangers for the Bureau of Forestry and the successful ones were given additional courses leading to a bachelor of science degree and trained for higher positions in the bureau.

Los Banos town had "one main street with a number of frame houses, besides the regulation nipa houses." There was a little hotel with hot springs, an old building used as a hospital during the Spanish regime that had been converted into a military hospital by the US Army,  and an American store patronized by soldiers. (Boyce 1914)

Copeland wrote that "nearly all of the students live in groups, each occupying a house ... most of these houses are on the campus, some owned by students, some by the Bureau of Forestry and occupied by its pensionados, and some built by a club organized for the purpose."

Around 1914, board was P10 a month, and cost of living was also around that much.  Many students were self-supporting, and "there [were] various opportunities for students to earn their way. The college employ[ed] all students who desire work, at field work at the rate of 10 centavos an hour, so long as the class work of the student [was] satisfactory."  Advance students could earn from P10 to P25 monthly as office, library, laboratory or field assistants; they could also be janitors.  "The most prosperous self-supporting student is probably the one who furnishes music for the Los Banos cinematograph,"Copeland wrote.
Through the years, the cool sprawling campus sprouted with academic buildings for specialized academic disciplines evolving from agriculture and forestry, and with housing units for faculty members and dormitories for students.  The one-main-street town itself has evolved into a commercial hub constantly in flux to meet the housing and supply needs of the continuing stream of UPLB students. 

Certainly, the 2010 distinguished alumni from UPLB had far more convenient and comfortable accommodations off or on campus. More so the students of today.


Boyce, W.D. (1914). The Philippine Islands/Illustrated.  Chicago and New York: Rand McNally and Company.  Retrieved from

Copeland, E.B. (1914, Feb.). The College of Agriculture. The Philippine Craftsman.2(8):609-619. Manila: Bureau of Printing. Retrieved from

UP Alumni Association. (2010). UP 2010: Galingan Pa (Yearbook).

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