May 24, 2024

(Editors’ note: The Midland Courier is reprinting this story written by the late Lt/Col. Juan S. Aguas (AFP), published in the May 29, 1966 issue of the paper and remains relevant to the present day.)

Not very long ago, it was but a dream taken lightly by those whose vision reached only within the range of life’s immediate necessities. I refer to the reality that has enriched Baguio life during the last two decades – the cold fact that this resort city has virtually become a citadel of learning not only for students in Northern Luzon but also for other youths from foreign lands, mostly fellow Asians.

A number of Americans also count among our studentry. For example, a girl coming from as far as Maine, U.S.A. is due at Brent International School next fall.

For a population of barely 60,000, Baguio’s role as a college town would not be out of the ordinary, if this were the United States. More would be so if we had here only one big university and only one or two other colleges.

But Baguio’s case is unique, what with three state-supported institutions – the Mountain State Agricultural College (now Benguet State University) in nearby Benguet, the University of the Philippines College Baguio (now UP Baguio), and the Philippine Military Academy – all within the angles of an imaginary triangle extending from La Trinidad to Loakan.

EDUCATIONAL CENTER — Baguio City earned its moniker as the educational center of the north with the presence of rated higher learning institutions such as the Saint Louis University, University of the Cordilleras, University of Baguio, Easter College, Pines City Colleges, Baguio Central University, and the premier military institution in Asia, the Philippine Military Academy, among other institutions. — Harley Palangchao

In this triangle also stands Saint Louis University. Within elbowing distance from each other inside Baguio’s main business district are Baguio Colleges (now University of the Cordilleras), Baguio Tech (now University of Baguio), and Eastern Philippines Colleges, each lending its might in the task of nation-building, each holding high a flaming torch to push away the darkness of ignorance, greed, and intolerance.

The above named institutions offer collegiate and secondary courses. In addition, they admit students working for their master’s degrees. The Baguio Military Institute, Brent International School, Baguio Chinese Patriotic High School, St. Theresa’s College – all these, together with the government-run Baguio City High School and the other downtown colleges already mentioned, make the training of close to 10,000 boys and girls on the high school level alone.

To be mentioned independently is the Baguio General Hospital School of Nursing, one of the few such schools north of Manila. Annually, the BGHSN turns out a complement of trained nurses many of them from the Mountain Province. It’s these girls in white and blue who lend much color, dignity, and grace to many a local parade of city-wide importance.

The spectacular rise in the enrollment of most of the schools and colleges in Baguio during the last 10 years gave impetus to the movement now noted in all these institutions: the increase in facilities and the expansion of space for new students, not to mention the efforts exerted in improving faculty material through the employment of additional well trained specialists and the encouragement of teachers already in the service to study further.

An enterprise common to all institutions of learning in Baguio these days is the improvement of library facilities including the expansion of reading room space.

Brent School looks forward to building a separate house for its library; SLU has enlarged its reading room and refurnished it; and Baguio Tech transformed its Little Theater into a main library complete with a mezzanine for the exclusive use of the graduate students. It has also started a well-stocked Filipiniana section.

Substantial concrete buildings are going up in most college campuses. Baguio Colleges is putting up a multi-story main structure for its downtown offices, classrooms, laboratories, library, etc. The building will overlook Burnham Park from Governor Pack Road.

Easter Philippines Colleges is giving the finishing touches to its Teachers College edifice on Magsaysay Avenue. The topmost floor of this building is shaping into combination gym-auditorium. Baguio Tech has a six-storey reinforced concrete building going up on Kalantiao Street, four doors away from the six-year old high school building, another permanent campus structure.

Down Guisad Valley, Easter School is completing its three-storey building of mixed materials. Started in 1906, this school was the first elementary school opened in Baguio City. In July, it will admit fourth year high school students for the first time.

The PMA has been Baguio’s price for more than half a century. First, it was in Camp Henry T. Allen, then at Teacher’s Camp where the war caught up with it. The bombs dropping from Davao to Camp John Hay demanded of the Philippine Army command at the time a prompt decision – the immediate graduation of the first class cadets who, together with the members of the two lower classes, were speedily commissioned and inducted to the USAFFE.

Not to be left holding the bag, the plebes volunteered to serve in the non-commissioned ranks. They were also inducted to the USAFFE.

The war ended with honors won by PMA sons who proved their mettle in many a clash with the third foreign forces to invade the Philippines. Casualties were heavy among the young officers but the greatest casualty was the PMA itself. This held true until the officer-training school reopened at Camp Allen in May, 1947.

Three years later with Lt/Gen. Tirso G. Fajardo as superintendent, the PMA moved to Loakan. Today, Fort del Pilar is a thriving community of cadets and soldiers and their families with a complete elementary school and a golf course of its own on sunny days, specially in summer, visitors flock to PMA, a costly investment on national security for which no sum of money can ever be too much.

Many will be happy to learn that in the PMA the faculty-student ratio is better than one to 10; many more will be surprised to know that the PMA is not under the department of education and hence does not force, repeat force, the cadets to take 24 hours of Spanish. Six units of the language are perhaps deemed enough for a good officer to run an army with.

Only two weeks ago, the Mountain Agricultural College observed its golden jubilee. True, MAC is not in Baguio, but its influence, especially those of its alumni and faculty, cannot be ignored in a write-up such as this. Before the last war the school was a must to Baguio visitors to whom Trinidad Agricultural School had a special charm.

The war left the school prostrate but through slow degrees it has risen to its present prestige as a college. More can hardly be said about the institution which, though “promoted” in rank has not been given the funds corresponding to its promotion.

MAC has been neglected, nay maltreated; it is not unlike a colonel who gets a corporal’s pay.

Another school not within Baguio’s business zone is the Baguio Military Institute. Originally founded as a degree-granting college, the BMI, a few years after its inception in 1956, has decided to offer only secondary courses until such time when its own alumni can form the nucleus of a collegiate enrollment.

For its excellent, dormitory facilities, its wide landscaped campus, its well appointed dining hall, its big gymnasium and its gem of a chapel, the BMI is worth more than one visit by parents who have sons of high school age. Under Major Jose Dado, a West Pointer, the school has had a congenial atmosphere for some years now.

There are two girls’ schools that help make for Baguio’s rich harvest education wise. These are the St. Theresa’s College and Maryknoll. The former turns out annually a crop of high and elementary school graduates. Maryknoll takes in girls from kindergarten to seventh grade. One should see the Maryknoll girls leave for home at noon. They are not allowed to go unless accompanied by persons known to the sister-in-charge at the school gate.

Just as Saint Louis University leads all Catholic institutions in the Mountain Province, so the University of the Philippines College in Baguio tops the public school system here. The local UP campus stands on a knoll one valley away from the Pines Hotel.

Only a year ago this campus was declared the cleanest in the entire country, a distinctive honor shared in by Baguio City and justly coveted by the college administration headed by Dean Felixberto Santa Maria.

Late last March, the UP college auditorium was the setting of the First National Arts Festival. The show – opened by President Carlos P. Romulo and attended by local and foreign art enthusiasts – touched off a renewed countrywide interest in the graphic and plastic arts. More than a dozen leading artists whose works formed the bulk of the exhibits were present during the course of the five-day show.

Enrolment at the UP College does not increase by bounds, not even by leaps. The college authorities are in no hurry, it seems, because they have set their goal of only 500 students during the next five years.

There is one point, rather a landmark, on the UP campus that cannot escape this writer’s time. Many have seen and admired this piece of statuary on the Diliman campus. I refer to the Oblacion, a replica of which was donated last year by the local UP alumni.

The statue, that of a youth just blessed with the full vigor of manhood, seems to be in the van a host of others like him offering his all in answer to the well-remembered apostrophe of Rizal’s Padre Florentino which begins with “Where are the youths who will consecrate their lives for their native land?”

What has Baguio City profited from the being the /educational center that it is?

Economically, the city has progressed fast with so many students around. They boost business in all its phases: from the sale of beauty aids to the distribution of life’s essential needs – articles of food, clothing, shelter and reading matter.

In the realm of the abstract these institutions directly or indirectly enrich the Baguio citizen’s social, cultural, and moral values. They train musicians, actors’ dancers, artists, and athletes who give public performances at nominal admission prices if not free of charge. They encourage attendance to religious duties prescribed by the churches to which the students belong. In parades of city-wide significance all the schools and colleges are always duly represented. Even in the promotion of foreign relations Baguio schools have never lagged: their students waving flag have often lined the streets to welcome foreign VIPs.

By all indications, Baguio is the city to watch in the overall picture of education in the Philippines.

As of now it suffers from a shortage of electric fluid and from lack of water, but so long as its air, sunlight and rain are filtered through the fine fingers of wavering pine boughs and so long as youthful minds in Baguio’s educational outposts of enlightenment are in the expert care of trained mentors, there can be no better field for effective citizenship-training that this God-favored haven, Baguio City. ¢