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Remembering old UP

OUR SCHOOLING was interrupted by World War II. Many colleges and universities, including the University of the Philippines, were closed during the Japanese occupation in 1941-1944.

Though UP reopened in 1945, I could not return to the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) until June 1946. With only a few students enrolling, registration was a breeze. The CVM then was in Pandacan, while the main UP campus was in Ermita, both in Manila.

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As a vet med student, I had to commute between Pandacan for the veterinary courses, and Ermita for liberal arts subjects, like English, mathematics, chemistry, etc.

From Pandacan, we took the shuttle bus to Ermita. If we missed it, we had to walk for almost an hour, making us late for our classes. If the professor was not so strict, we were excused. However, some were not—not surprising in UP.

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Veterinary medicine was not a popular course then. We were only 11 in our class, eight Filipinos, including one woman (the only one in the whole college then), and three American men who were WWII veterans.

Because we were in Pandacan, we were excluded from activities on the main campus. Vet med students were considered “country yokels.” So we set up our own student body and organized activities. But we had to ask a female student from Ermita to be our college muse, or sweetheart.

The main event at CVM was the Veterinary Formal Ball Night, held before the end of the academic year at an exclusive club. It was strictly coat-and-tie for male faculty members and students and evening dresses for women. The activity gave us respite from our difficult academic courses and equally tough professors.

To Diliman

In 1949, UP transferred its main campus to Diliman, Quezon City. The transfer, initiated by Commonwealth President Manuel Luis Quezon, was opposed by many prominent alumni citing the distance and “isolation” of Quezon City.

But then UP president Bienvenido Gonzales, former dean of the UP Los Baños College of Agriculture, pushed through with the transfer.

For us vet med students, it was a wise decision as it enabled us to get better clinical experience in the Quezon City area. It also integrated the college with the main campus, erasing our identity as “country yokels.”

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Students and faculty members, who joined the transfer motorcade, sang “Push On UP.” It was a stirring and emotional moment for all of us who participated. Those who joined the march were each given a certificate as a “Pioneer” signed by Gonzales.

In Diliman, each college got its own building. Since we were dealing with animals, CVM was placed at the far end of the campus and got two former Army motor pool buildings entirely made of GI (galvanized iron) sheets.

The buildings were hot during summer and noisy when it rained that we could not hear the lectures or recitations. If the rains did not stop, classes were dismissed, to our joy. (After we left UP, in 1954, during the term of president Vidal Tan and through the United States Agency for International Development, a concrete building was constructed and inaugurated. It is now the College of Fine Arts.)

Our college’s location isolated us again from the rest of the campus, except during elections for the student council and certain campus activities like the traditional Pink and White Ball (for junior-senior students) and, for our vet med female classmates, the traditional Cadena de Amor. The latter was memorable for me because my wife, Leonor Rivero, BS Pharmacy 1951 and also a Diamond Jubilarian, was a participant.

When we graduated in 1951, the UP Student Council voted to have Sen. Claro M. Recto, a brilliant lawyer and oppositionist to then President Elpidio Quirino, as commencement speaker. We admired the courage of Recto and enjoyed his speech, which was critical of the administration.
But Quirino, an alumnus of the UP College of Law, did not like it, prompting Gonzales to resign as UP president.

Successful

All the members of vet med Class 1951 succeeded in their chosen fields. The Americans became successful practitioners in the United States while the lone female member of the class became a senior researcher in the US Department of Health. One alumnus became a senior veterinary supervisor in the US Department of Agriculture. Two of the men became corporate vice presidents in the Philippines and one, the chair of the Veterinary Inspection Board of Manila.

The author became a faculty member and later dean of the UP CVM. He was appointed professor emeritus of UPLB and proclaimed National Scientist by the president of the Philippines.

CVM Diamond Jubilarians and all UP alumni are invited to attend UP’s General Alumni Homecoming on June 25.

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TAGS: College of Veterinary Medicine, Education, Japanese occupation, University of the Philippines, UP Diliman, World War II
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