MANILA, Philippines -- A 100-year-old alumnus will light the first torch that will kick off the centennial celebration of the University of the Philippines on Tuesday evening.
Fernando Javier of Baguio City, the oldest known UP alumnus, will start a 100-torch relay at the UP academic oval in Diliman, Quezon City, to open year-long activities marking the 100th year of the country?s first public university.
Centennial activities also hope to raise P5 billion to improve the state university, created by an act of the Philippine legislature in 1908. From a modest block on Padre Faura Street in Manila, the university now has seven constituent universities on 12 campuses, with a student population of about 50,000.
Javier, who celebrated his 100th birthday last Dec. 22, graduated with a degree in Civil Engineering from UP-Manila in 1933. ?He?s the [oldest] one we were able to discover. He?s up and about, still strong and he?s excited about it. We will arrange for somebody to stand behind him during the torch relay,? said Ponciano Rivera Jr., president of the UP Alumni Association.
UPAA came to know about Javier when he paid a ?courtesy call? on UP president Emerlinda Roman after a recent homecoming of UP?s engineering alumni.
He was immediately drafted into the list of centennial torch bearers, a roster that includes members of the Board of Regents, past UP presidents and representatives of the seven UP units?Diliman, Manila, Baguio, Los Baños, Visayas, Mindanao and the Open University.
?Our idea is the first torchbearer will light the second torch. Then the two of them will go to the third torchbearer, so that there will be more flames after each pass,? Rivera told the Inquirer in an interview on Friday.
The 99th torchbearer will be the youngest one. He is Michael Reuben Dumlao, a sixth-grader from the UP Integrated School chosen for his strong academic showing.
Roman, the university?s first woman president, will carry the 100th torch and will light the centennial cauldron in front of the UP Oblation?the university?s signature monument representing education and freedom.
?It?s a scene of the young passing on to the old,? said Rivera.
The flame, Rivera said, symbolizes the ?knowledge and inspiration? that each UP graduate receives from the university.
At the same time, 100 trees around UP-Diliman?s beautiful academic oval will be lit.
?We want to make it as impressive as possible, and start the centennial with a big bang,? Rivera said.
?It?s going to be bigger than the First Quarter Storm,? Rivera said in jest, referring to the movement of student activists, many from UP, that started the series of protests against President Ferdinand Marcos in January 1970.
And while UP counts alumni on both ends of the political spectrum, Rivera said the centennial would veer away from politics.
?We?re avoiding politicians. We don?t want to give it any color ... We might be accused of something else ... There should be no political color,? said Rivera. Exempt are UP officials who happen to be in politics, including former UP president Sen. Edgardo Angara, the chair of the UP Centennial Commission, and members of the UP Board of Regents, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, Rep. Cynthia Villar and Romulo Neri, chief of the Commission on Higher Education.
Expected to gather some 5,000 alumni, students and faculty from the entire UP System, Tuesday?s kickoff will begin with a Mass and morning program at UP?s birthplace on Padre Faura, Manila.
From the Manila campus, contingents from different UP campuses will stage a motorcade to Diliman between 3 and 4 p.m.
Dragon dancers and an ati-atihan parade will greet the motorcade on University Avenue.
From a plane borrowed from the Philippine Air Force, sky divers representing the seven UP units will parachute onto a vacant lot in front of Plaridel Hall, a short distance from the Oblation. ?The last skyjumper will land in the area carrying a banner ?UP, Ang Galing Mo!?
Ten tambuli (horns) will sound off, like a call to order. At the same time, a hundred rockets (kwitis) will be lit, Rivera said. This will signal the start of the centennial flame relay.
After the torch lighting, UP-bred artists, including Ryan Cayabyab and the UP Madrigal Singers, among other people, will stage a free concert at the amphitheater behind UP?s Quezon Hall, Rivera said.
The UP Alumni Association has calendared several commemorative lectures, cultural shows and homecomings around the seven UP units for the coming 12 months.
?The Centennial Commission is raising the P5 billion for the improvement of facilities, improvement of salaries of teachers, improvement of academic programs through donations that we can gather,? Rivera said.
Tuesday?s event would be separately funded, with the commission raising at least P1 million through donations and the UP System contributing P500,000 to the launch festivities, Rivera said.