The straight-talking man on the barber’s chair, Mr. Rosendo Donida, was a realtor from Manila who had leased from the Baguio diocese the Antipolo building, a spectral survivor of the fight for Liberation like most of the other buildings left standing on Session Road, and ambitiously transformed it into a hotel of four storeys. But the tourist trade did not turn out as well as he expected. There was only a trickle of visitors from the United States aside from the GIs briefly stationed in town while waiting to be assigned to the interior. It was this structure that the professor-barber looked over with a rising excitement, there and then deciding it would more that suffice for a school. Knock down some of the partitions and you have the classrooms.
Donida further enlisted the help of a former classmate of his in Pre-Law at U.P., Atty. Benjamin Salvosa, from Unisan, Quezon, who in turn brought in Mrs. Andrea Tapia from Pampanga, who contributed some funds for laboratory equipment. Salvosa, a corporate lawyer and onetime chairman of Philcoa, turn out to have graduated from U.P. on the same year that Nanding marched out with his master’s diploma. With Salvosa as president, the four of them lost no time in organizing the Baguio Colleges that set out to offer Law, Engineering, Commerce, Liberal Arts, Normal, Education, High School and Elementary. It was agreed that Fernando Bautista would be executive dean and registrar aside from teaching Psychology and Education at a salary of P250 a month, while his wife Rosa Bautista (then heavy with her sixth son Gil, born on April 4, 1946) would be principal of the Elementary and High School and dean of the Normal Department at a salary of P200.
With some 400 enrollees, Baguio Colleges opened its doors in January of 1946, the first school to hold classes after the war besides St. Louis which had a little earlier scrounged up its High School for boys and girls. Bautista had at first recruited teachers in and around Baguio but after the first quarter of school applicants started pouring in from Manila and the northern lowland provinces. He had tried to look for his old colleagues at U.P. but it seemed he was the only one from the college left behind in Baguio after the exodus of the war.
A knack for the deal again came into play. As a concession to him, his partners had allowed him to procure with his own money the textbooks and reference materials and rent them out to the students. He scoured the secondhand bookstores in Manila, and initially using the money he earned from the barber shop, bought the Barnes and Noble textbooks very cheap, as low as P2 to P5 apiece (the rate of exchange in 1946 was two pesos to a dollar). Within a quarter or two of the schoolyear he was able to recover his expenses.
By its second year the enrollment in Baguio Colleges had jumped to 1,500, elating Salvosa and reassuring Nanding Bautista who had bounced back with even greater enthusiasm and energy to teaching - with no great loss to vegetable vending or barbering (although he certainly had done well at either).
In that same year, the Sisters of the St. Mary’s Primary School implored Bautista, who by then was known for his connections in the education bureau in Manila, to help them put up the papers for their primary school. A year later he also worked on the papers of the Baguio Chinese Patriotic School where he became English supervisor. Fr. Overbeckt, then a Philosophy professor at Baguio Colleges, likewise asked his help with the papers for the St. Louis College. “We were good friends and I was happy that he asked me to help him,” Bautista says. (St. Louis, now a university, “a rich institution” owing to its large foreign endowments, looms large and solid right across the University of Baguio whose unpretentious structures had obviously grown by a slow accretion. But being neighbors has never bothered Bautista. “There’s enough room in Baguio for all of us,” he says.)
As president of the PTA Federation of Baguio, a post he was elected to soon after Liberation, he tirelessly threw himself into the work of rehabilitating all the public elementary schools in the city. He was helped by the city government (then under Mayor Pedro Carino) which was then also still trying to prop itself up on its feet. Bautista organized PTAs in all elementary schools and enlisted them in fund-raising activities, like kitchen showers and bazaars (the guy who sewed the curtains and the tablecloths in Sta. Ana Elementary School was no stranger to such matronly enterprises) to raise money for desks, blackboards, and bookcases. One big event he spearheaded was the Liberation Festival Beauty Queen contest which raised a substantial amount of money for the school rehabilitation fund.
Nanding had enrolled his boys at the Baguio Central School to show his confidence in the public schools system. He served as president of the PTA Federation of Baguio for 12 years. His stint with Baguio Colleges was much, much shorter.
In January of 1948, two years after the founding of Baguio Colleges, Nanding and Rosa resigned their posts. They sincerely felt they would do better on their own as school administrators, fired by their own vision for a school. “Our idea was to produce young men and women who are technically trained to assist in the immediate rehabilitation of Baguio City and the country and who will complement the work of engineers and other professionals. What was urgently needed was a vocational school offering courses that required relatively short periods to complete,” Bautista explains.
Just about the time the Bautistas had made up their minds to leave Baguio Colleges, U.P. President Bienvenido Gonzales came with an offer of posting Bautista as registar in either Cebu or Iloilo (he must have sincerely thought Bautista, with a wife and a whole caboodle of kids, might be eager once more for the excitement and adventure of another faraway place). The good president tried to bait him with a salary of P500, but of course Bautista could only smile and politely decline: he was already making as much as P1,500 from his store and barbershop. And the radiant opportunity of founding his own school beckoned – a technical school which he and Nanay had decided to call Baguio Technical and Commercial Institute.
They had all the qualifications to set up their own school: they both had a Master of Arts in Education from U.P. and they both had been model teachers in Manila. It made things easier for them, too, that they had the convenient connections in Manila. The approving officials were former supervisors of theirs who would have no quarrel with their credentials. Dr. Manuel Carreon, the Director of the Bureau of Private Schools, was chief of the Tests and Measurements Division where Nanding was once placed on special detail. And Prudencio Langcauon, the Secretary of Education, was the superintendent of city schools when Nanding was principal of the Rizal Elementary School and Rosing was the principal of the M. Hizon Elementary School.
But the couple’s finances were a bit frayed. It was Rosa who volunteered to make the trek to Malabon and make a proposal to Dr. Florentino Cayco, who had trained Rosa to be a model teacher and, in that mortifying episode, interviewed Nanding for his post as Drawing instructor. Cayco was then president of Arellano University and they thought he might be interested in joining them as partner in their vocational school venture. Dr. Cayco was indeed enormously interested, so much so that he wanted a 51 percent share of the venture. But Nanding, quite rightly, wanted capital assist more than another boss.
That left him with raising the needed funds himself. Luckily, he had this 400-sq m property along Sampaloc Avenue in Quezon City which he had acquired before the war and fully paid for during the Occupation. He had no difficulty finding a buyer: Mr. Max Sanvictores who put up the popular Max’s Chicken Restaurant on the site.
For the school building itself, what could be a more convenient site, under the circumstances, than Nanding’s barber shop and li’l store on Session Road? No sooner had the brilliant idea hit him than he set about raising the roof, building a second floor to accommodate two classrooms, and not to forget, the living quarters for his unstoppably growing family, and converting the ground floor, including the narrow alley, into more classrooms. Such was his spunk and determination that it did not occur to him that the structure, viewed from the street, looked more like a barracks than a school, what with its walling of burnt GI sheets whitewashed with carburo.
Hearing about the Bautistas’ frenetic efforts to put up a vocational school, Mr. Victor Oteyza, who owned one, offered to sell his school to the Bautistas outright but Nanding was more interested in Oteyza’s decrepit typewriters. Most of them were worthy candidates for the junkyard but Nanding, the practiced tinkerer and practical genius, was sure they could be salvaged. He bought the whole lot and by cannibalizing two or three units for spare parts he was able to recondition some 14 machines. He got Mr. Pedro Orden and Mr. Canuto Mabalot to handle typing classes and Mr. Julian Reyes to teach steno.
For the automotive and diesel mechanics courses, he hired Mr. Sampang who owned an auto repair shop near Burnham Park, never mind that he could speak a word of English. A chemical engineer, Mr. Vivencio Villaruz, gave the lectures while Mr. Sampang, with his grease-stained mechanics, gave the demonstrations and hands-on training. For textbooks on auto mechanics as well as typing and bookkeeping he relied on the softcover EM editions (which also put out the popular novels and classic masterpieces selling for a dime apiece on the sidewalks of Azcarraga). Always one to keep an ear cocked for bargains, he got a weapons carrier for a song at an auction of old equipment on Clark Air Base. The vehicle was used for instruction and demo. Radio equipment, from the war supplies left behind, were easier to come by. He got Captain Serquina and Mr. Jorge Borja Sr. to handle radio courses.
The flurry and excitement of organizing the new school was dampened by a family tragedy. While Rosa and Nanding were working on the papers for the school in Manila, their eight-month-old daughter Generosa fell sick of amoebic dysentery. Generosa was so named to acknowledge the generous blessings of God who had finally blessed them with a daughter after six sons in a row; born in June of 1946, she came between Virgilio, who was born in 1946 after Liberation, and the seventh boy and last child Joselito, who was born in 1949. Generosa was a frail baby and her death was all too sudden. They rushed back home upon getting word that the baby was ill, but it was too late to save her. Three days after they arrived, their one and only girl, the little angel, died of dehydration.
But there’s a happy footnote to this tragedy. Several years later, in January of 1956, Nanding and Rosa came upon another beautiful baby whom they adopted and named Rosalynn. The baby’s mother, who was from Benguet, and had had five other daughters, died while giving birth to Rosalynn. Rosalynn’s grief-stricken father, a Chinese named Santiago Chan, blamed the baby for the death of his wife. Dr. Dominador Narvaez, who delivered the baby, and who happened to be Nanding’s compadre, persuaded the father to entrust the three-day-old infant with the Bautistas until such time as he would be ready to take her back.
And so it came to pass that Rosalynn grew up with Nanding and Rosa and the seven rowdy boys who spoiled her. When she was six years old she was brought to the Baguio Chinese Patriotic School. It was here that she came to know of her sisters, whom she would join at play during recess, drawn to them by a brood instinct natural among little beasts and children. The older sisters grew fond of her, their little sister, and when Lynn turned 13 they pleaded with the Bautistas: “Can we have her with us?” The natural father had had a change of heart and had forgiven the child and himself. With a heavy heart, Rosa and Nanding surrendered the girl. But Rosalynn never really abandoned her foster parents. When she got married, to Hiber Damoco, a Chinese mestizo, her two fathers gave her away, one on each side of her as she marched down the aisle. Rosalynn finished Nursing but she has gladly abandoned her career for home and family, and now assists in the family’s growing rice dealership while raising her three boys. Baguio Technical and Commercial Institute, Baguio Tech for short, opened in schoolyear 1948-49, with 89 students and five fulltime teachers in the modest five-room (including alley) carburo-washed structure on a 200-sq m squatter lot on Session road midway between Mabini street and Malcolm Square. It was authorized to offer commercial and technical high school and courses in automotive Mechanics, Radio Mechanics, Radio Telegraphy, Horology, Stenography and Bookkeeping.
On the first year of operation, most of the enrollees in the vocational courses were US Veterans pensioners who qualified for their monthly stipends only if they were enrolled in a school, whether academic, vocational or technical. Most of them were previously enrolled in a vocational school in the lowlands which had been found out to be anomalously charging the US Veterans Administration for equipment and books. When these schools were declared off-limits to Veterans students, the pensioners transferred to Baguio Tech, many of them for the two-year courses in Radio and Auto Mechanics. Word of the courses in Baguio Tech spread like news of MacArthur’s “landing,” resulting in a continuous supply of US Veterans students from Pangasinan and the Mountain Provinces, not a few of whom were as old, if not older, than the founders of the school. On its first year, Baguio Tech graduated 14 high school students. “It was, by all accounts, a good start for any institution – in Baguio or anywhere else,” Bautista remarks. It helped that the school employed carefully chosen fulltime teachers as well as the best instructors from the Baguio City High School doing parttime. Rosa Bautista herself was proficient as a Mathematics teacher and a sharp one in English, Psychology and Social Sciences. The reputation of the Bautistas as excellent educators, and for would-be teachers, as exemplary public school principals, was furthered bolstered when on the second year of Baguio Tech, a two-year Normal course was added to accommodate transferees from the other schools. (U.B. would consistently top Competitive Teachers Tests.) To make room to the growing student population Baguio Tech leased an apartment at the back of Pines Theater.
In January of 1950 the city council passed an ordinance that decrees that only concrete structures would be allowed on Session Road, then and now the center of commerce and tourism in Baguio. But with or without the ordinance, the salvaged-wood-and-GI sheet labyrinth definitely had to go. Baguio Tech would have to move on from the rough-and-tumble entrepreneurship of the Liberation era to the technological challenges of the modernizing 50s. The problem, however, for the constantly cash-strapped couple was: where to get the resources to acquire a new and better location for the expanding school.
Nanding hied off to Dr. Teodoro C. Arvisu, a Baguio oldtimer and former director of the Baguio General Hospital, who owned the Session Road lot occupied by Baguio Tech, and pleaded with him to lease the place to him to P200 a month. The doctor, having other plans for it, declined. The heavens intervened.
From one of their instructors in Baguio Tech, Honorio Estepa, an Ilocano, Nanding and Rosa learned about a 1,000-sq m property costing P18,000 in the Holy Ghost Subdivision along General Luna road owned by the diocese of Nueva Segovia whose seat was in Vigan, Ilocos Sur. Without much delay, Nanding and Rosa betook themselves to Vigan to pay a visit to bishop Sancho of the diocese, an elderly Castilian gentleman who spoke neither Ilocano nor Tagalog.
Providence was on the couple’s side. The bishop’s secretary, Fr. Daniel Cortez, who solved the communication problem, listened attentively to them and then made a convincing case in their behalf, the urgent point being that the Bautistas wanted to turn the idle property into a thriving center of education in the Cordillera. Bishop Sancho did not only see the brilliance of this vision, he also sympathized with the couple’s impecuniousness. It was a most extraordinary transaction, the art of the deal with a heart. “We told Father Cortez that we did not have the money to buy the lot but if he would lend us the title we could use it as a collateral to borrow money from the bank. Father Cortez laughed and said, ‘You have not given us a single centavo and you want us to give the title? How is that?’ I felt my heart sink a little but I replied, “Father, we are telling you the truth. We don’t have the money to buy the lot but we need to transfer our school and if we cannot get the lot we will have to close our school.”
The good bishop smiled and nodded. The title was transferred to the couple’s name without any downpayment. On the strength of the title they were able to get a loan of P10,000 from the PNB Baguio. Nine thousand went to pay for one-half of the cost of the property, one thousand to dismantle the building on Session Road. Then Nanding contracted architect Aida del Rosario and her husband the engineer Jose del Rosario to build the school for P32,000. “I don’t know how I was able to raise the money but God was very kind. Somehow I was able to pay for the building and at the same time to honor my commitment to Bishop Sancho.”
As agreed upon with the bishop, the balance of P9,000 was to be offset by providing the Retreat House of Nueva Segovia in Baguio with concrete hollow blocks and decorative cement tiles. To fulfill this obligation, immediately after the construction of the first phase of the building on General Luna the Bautistas offered the making of hollow clocks and decorative tiles as part of the vocational courses. In less than a year, the balance with Nueva Segovia was settled.
The first building on the General Luna property, whose cornerstone was laid in the summer of 1950, would be commonly referred to as the Main Building and became the nucleus of the institution whose growth surpassed the expectations of the modest couple. It began as eight-room affair, three floors high, with Nanding’s office located on the ground floor adjacent to the library. He moved to the building with his original teachers and the office staff – Mr. Mabalot, Mr. Alzate, Mr. Julian Reyes, and Apolonia Diaz-Academia, then a student assistant who worked in the office together with Jorge Borja and Bautista’s cousin and man Friday, Tiyo Tanching. (Tiyo Tanching (de la Cruz), the family oral history has it, was the storybook boy from Tondo, a wild orphan whom Nanding Bautista had taken under his wings and set on the right path. He was the son of Lola Bitang’s half-sister Pina. After the war he went to work at the Atok Big Wedge in the assay office of the chemist Mike Ampil. He later became a postman in Baguio.)
The Main Building was finished in time for the 1950-51 schoolyear when the Bautistas opened four-year courses in Commerce and Liberal Arts along with a Normal Training Department for prospective teachers in answer to the pressing need for trained elementary schoolteachers. With the inclusion of these courses the technical and commercial institute deemed it fit to rename itself a college and thus also became a corporation.
Educational institutions are traditionally not known to be money-making ventures. The new corporation attracted stockholders only from the Bautistas’ immediate relatives: Pablo and Luisa Sulit, an uncle and aunt, who came up with P2,000 each; Amado Bautista, Fernando’s older brother, who contributed P1,000; and Illuminada C. Boado, in later years the dean of the College of Education, who cautiously fished out P100, the only faculty member who responded to the invitation to become shareholders of P100 per share. Founders Fernando Bautista and Rosa Bautista remained president and secretary-treasurer, respectively, in the revered tradition of family corporations. (Being a proprietary institution; the University of Baguio also reserves the right of membership in the board of trustees exclusively to members of the family.) Rosa Bautista was the first principal of the High School, a position she relinquished to Ernesto C. Alcantara in 1957 when her cousins, Angeles and Rosario Castillo, also joined the school to teach Pilipino and Home Economics. Nanding and Rosa Bautista ran the school like family, giving it their utmost personal attention, dealing with problems of students and teachers directly, with sympathy and understanding, like a Tatay and Nanay, the names by which they would be known famously to everyone all over the mountainous provinces.
In the bustle of the eventful years that followed, Ding Bautista still found time to help organize in 1956 the Baguio Military Institute, located at Irisa Heights, eight kilometers from the city down Naguilian Road, an exclusive boys’ school especially meant (although they didn’t exactly say so then) for spoiled, wild scions of wealthy families. BMI had Benito H. Lopez, a shipping and sugar magnate from Iloilo, as president, and General Jesus Vargas, Commodore Francisco Andrada and General Basilio Valdes as board members. Ding Bautista was secretary and dean of studies.
It was Lopez and Bautista who hatched the idea of an institute for high school-age boys that instilled a military-style discipline and decorum. Bautista designed a curriculum patterned after the military schools in the United States. To the school were herded the young and frisky colts from old-rich families – the heirs of the Chiongbians, Antoninos, Zamoras, and the sugar barons in Negros, a son of Sen. Teodoro Evangelista, and two children of the Pelaezes. For the privilege of entering BMI, they paid P12,000 to P15,000 a year (a stupendous sum in the 50s). The boys sported 12 sets of uniforms, one for drill, one for parade, one for the classroom, another one for excursions and so forth. No school then, in Baguio or elsewhere, could be more swanky and exclusive.
It was everything Baguio Tech was not, but Nanding Bautista of course would never have meant for his school to serve only a few. His commitment has always been education for the masses, especially for the people in the Cordillera.
BMI was an altogether different enterprise. It got on to a good start with books, laboratory and sports equipment from Baguio Tech. Nanding Bautista also recruited teachers from Baguio Tech to handle courses parttime, while he himself handled English for junior and senior classes. He even enrolled his two sons, Rhey and Des, there. But for four years later, in 1960, he resigned from BMI to devote his full time to Baguio Tech which was growing by leaps and bounds. (BMI eventually closed in 1964 after some serious problems with students and the teaching staff.)
Under the watchful eye of Nanding and Rosa Bautista, Baguio Tech had grown indeed, even beyond their expectations.
The expansion of the Main Building sparked off the rise of other structures around it, boldly shaping a skyline that has become, like the spires of the Baguio Cathedral, part of the familiar sights in the heart of the city. The Main Building grew an additional six rooms on its western side after its first year; on the third year it added another six rooms on its eastern flank, followed by another large annex the next year. In 1952 the Main Building was joined by the laboratory school for elementary students that also housed the auto-diesel department.
Other buildings and facilities sprouted through the years on the main campus grounds bounded by General Luna on the west, Assumption Road on the east and Kalantiao which is parallel to Assumption, as well as on the other proximate properties along Bonifacio and AnacletoDiaz streets. The 60s, particularly, saw a splurge of construction: the eight-storey High School building that also houses the U.B. Little Theater; the multipurpose Auditorium-Gymnasium; the high school building that was later converted into residences for U.B. administrative officials; the seven-storey Arts and Sciences building; the U.B. House which serves as home for the University President and other administrative officials; the Student Center which houses the canteen, a student lounge and a management conference room.
The 70s saw the construction of the Education building which houses the University Ladies Hall; the seven-storey Commerce building whose blessing coincided with the University’s Silver Anniversary; the Outdoor Theater and basketball court on a 1,000-sq m sloping terrain in front of the High School building; and the Student Services building. In 1980 the College of Engineering and Architecture building rose on the Gym extension adjacent to the Open Theater.
Physical expansion frantically tried to keep pace with academic progress, an activity described in great detail by Herminio Guanzon in his masteral thesis in 1980. In 1958 the College of Engineering was opened in response to the tremendous technological changes. Three years later, the Graduate School was established to ensure the University of Baguio’s leadership in the professional growth of teachers in Northern Luzon (Mrs. Victoria de los Reyes was the first to receive a masteral degree in 1965). At the same time it gave impetus to the training of leaders in the Mountain Provinces and Northern Luzon and the preservation of Cordillera cultural communities (“cultural minorities” is a term loathed by Bautistas as fallacious and a slur). The vision for the Cordillera is upheld by BIBAK, an organization of students from Benguet, Ifugao, Bontoc, Apayao and Kalinga. In 1962, Reinaldo Bautista, then the executive vice president, with the help of Emmett Brown Asuncion, founded the Science High School, a source of pride for the college. Possibly the first such school in the country, it started as part of the preparatory high school, in a selected honors class known as the Star Science Scholar Section, and is open to top elementary school graduates from Baguio and its suburbs.
In answer to a nationwide demand for improved police personnel services, Baguio Tech opened in July of 1967 a four-year course in Criminology, one of only two institutions in Northern Luzon offering such a course in the seventies. In that same year the course on Medical Technology was also introduced, again in answer to the demands of students wanting to qualify for work opportunities in this field in the United States and the Middle East.
The growing curriculum remained faithful to the original vision and mission of the school, which is to be relevant to the needs of the people, the community and society. This vision has been repeatedly articulated by Fernando Bautista in his many talks and in his writings.
The relevance of education to the country’s manpower needs is foremost among his education principles. “Enrolment figures and unemployment ratios show an imbalance between school graduates and manpower needs in agriculture, commerce, and industry,” said Dr. Bautista in his address to the Philippine Association of University Women in Bauang, La Union, in 1972. “It is high time we redirected, more that we have done before, the education of our people toward science and technology which have changed the face of the earth. Science and technology will generate wholesome changes in the Philippines, especially if we redouble our efforts at training our youth properly in these fields of study.”
He could not stress often enough the significant contribution of private technical education to the country’s economic progress. “The nation’s need for vocational and technical skills does not appear to be matched by the effort in training citizens along this field,” he told delegates to the Conference on Private Education in Cebu in June of 1972. “The nation’s school system is and has been oriented toward the lower and higher levels of the educational ladder. Our country over the years has produced a literate population and a large professional class, but not a strong middle class of trained manpower necessary to placing the Philippines at par with the technically advanced countries of the world.”
Dr. Bautista spoke these words at a time when private schools were being beleaguered from all sides. Since the advent of the seventies, private education had been subject to one crisis after another resulting from radical student activism, intransigent teachers’ demands and emasculating departmental orders and legislative fiats. “Students and parents are clamoring for quality education but they are up against increasing tuition fees. Faculty members and non-teaching employees are demanding higher pay and more fringe benefits; at the same time the government is insisting on higher standards and first class facilities. Private education has been accused of failing to respond to the national needs, of colonialism, of profit-making and of miseducating.” He observed in cold and piercing tones in his keynote address at a convention of the Philippine Association of Private Schools and Colleges, held in Quezon City in 1972.
And then he roared: “These accusations may or may not be valid or justifiable. But should these be reason for us to close our ears and eyes to these indictments? Should we adopt an attitude of defiance or indifference? Must we close our doors and, in effect, abandon our strategic role in nation-building? Surely, the answer must be NO! We must welcome these criticisms. They are, at least to me, a challenge to excellence!”
In a lighter mood he was also heard to remark, quoting a colleague, that “it’s better, more peaceful, and more profitable to put up a funeral parlor or a memorial park than to operate a private school.” But Dr. Bautista, despite incessant bombardments against school administrators coming from all sides, was not about to give up his educator’s oath for the psalm for the dead.
As for serious charges that private schools were raking in huge profits and contributing to humanitarian projects allegedly to atone for their “sin” of profiteering, Dr. Bautista took the floor of the Constitutional Convention in 1971 “to set the record straight”: “Contrary to popular belief, our private schools are far from being the money-making establishments their critics depict them to be. In 1968-69, a survey was made of the 40 so-called big private universities and colleges in the country to determine their actual financial standing. Of those surveyed, 31 schools reported either outright losses or rate of profit below 12 percent of their net worth. The Bureau of Internal Revenue described their position as ‘precarious.’ Only nine schools reported rates of return which may be considered fair, meaning a return of 12 to 13 percent of their net worth. If a similar survey were to be held now, I am sure the results will show far worse conditions because of the tremendous increase in the cost of school operations.”
Dr. Bautista says today: “The financial situation of private schools, I believe, is still very much the same today. At least it is so for our school. Through the years the money we earn is plowed back into the improvement of school facilities.”
And he has stood four-square on the continuing importance of private institutions of learning to economic progress and “intellectual and social advancement of the nation,” and will eagerly go to bat for needed educational reforms, autonomy and academic freedom for all institutions of higher learning and not just for universities established by the State, the lifting of oppressive and unfair taxation of private schools, material assistance from the government, and for making private schools “the last bastion of religious freedom.”
Toward the end of the sixties, despite the crises and the difficulties, the higher calling of Baguio Tech as a University was even then emerging – steadily, clearly, and inevitably.
On its memorable 20th Triple Eight celebration on August 8, 1968 – marked by a street parade and merrymaking, intramural games and a dinner dance, and a torch parade that cheerfully wound its way in the rain – Baguio Tech was cited by then President Marcos as a viable school “which has contributed to the shaping of the Filipino youth and the nation’s future.” During the graduation ceremonies of the institution a year later, then Education Secretary Onofre Corpuz affirmed that “Baguio Tech has the makings of a university.”
Baguio Tech made good on these shining words when on August 7, 1969, after serving the country for 21 years, it officially became a university. On December 18, 1969, Fernando G. Bautista, after four decades of earnest involvement in the education of the young under eight Presidents of the Republic, was formally installed as the first president of the University of Baguio in an investiture ceremony attended by ranking officials of the Department of Education, prominent people of Baguio City, heads or their representatives of some 20 educational institutions in the United States and Great Britain, and presidents of more than 60 colleges and universities in the Philippines.
In his inaugural address at the U.B. Au-Gym, he proudly cited the advances made by the school through the years and reiterated its commitment to “the task of increasing and transmitting the body of knowledge which man now possesses.” In a touching tribute to the Igorots and Ibalois who have taken him to their hearts as one of them – son, father and teacher to them – he commended the establishment of the first Igorot Museum with the cooperation of alumni and students which has since stimulated more research work and writings on the Cordillera peoples. “To the end that the native culture be allowed to flourish unhampered among the Igorots, to the end that this culture be further enriched and given more impetus for wholesome growth, and to the end that positive ways be sought to galvanize worthy groups with high ideals and great potentialities, this university will exert more than casual efforts,” he vowed.
He declared once more the institution’s philosophy that man is the greatest asset of man, but “only if his potential is fully developed and harnessed for his welfare and that of society.” He added: “We have thus unceasingly directed our efforts and resources to unleashing that potential.” He owed to “continue to advocate and uphold academic freedom so that professors and students…will be afforded a wholesome climate where there is a free and uninhibited exchange of ideas in the search for truth,” as well as to provide for students, “a balanced program of academic, physical, social, cultural, and moral opportunities that will contribute toward the development of the whole man.”
Above all, he reminded everyone, “We should instill in the youths a wholesome fear of God, and a consciousness that unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. I pray that we shall not falter in our service to our young people.”
The new president ended with the prayer:
Let Your hands guide mine in all the things I do, Let me see through Your Eyes all that I behold, Let me listen through Your Ears all that I should hear, Let me feel through Your Heart both joy and sorrow, Let me think through Your Mind what I dare say On this my Investiture Day. Body of Christ, I surrender my helpless self to Thee.
The investiture was a fitting recognition to distinguished educator as well as a touching tribute to the poor from Tondo who had carved out a respectable niche fro himself in society and in academe. The honor was further capped by an honorary degree, Doctor of Science in Education, conferred on him on April 3, 1971 by the Thomas Aquinas University of Legaspi City. He received the honor together with Dr. Jose Motomal of Sto.Tomas University. “This is a heaven-sent,” he said in his speech, at once awed and tickled. “Now I can proclaim as I am shouting now: My God, now I can afford to die, because I have realized a dream I have been cherishing all these many years. If on entering the gates, St. Peter will dare try to stop me, I will tell him this much: Hey, look here, Peter, remember you are only a saint. I am a doctor and a doctor of Science in Education at that. I’ll not even mention that it is honoris causa.”
The ticket to heaven also marked his leave from the halls of academe in order to run for the post of delegate in the 1971 Constitutional Convention, his first and last foray into politics. He deferred to his eldest son Fernando Jr., who became the second president of the University of Baguio, although the elder remained the chairman of the board of directors.
New programs were introduced with each new president. Under Fernando Bautista Jr.: the postgraduate Doctor of Education, the Bachelor of Science in Foods and Nutrition, and the Bachelor of Science in Forestry. Under Reinaldo C. Bautista, the third president: the Doctor of Dentistry degree program, and the Bachelor of Science in Hotel and Restaurant Management. In June 1989 Atty. Wilfredo Wi became the fourth president of the University of Baguio, a term that was sadly marked by two catastrophes that hit the university in 1990: the conflagration on June 10 that gutted the College of Education building and the Administration building, the Graduate School library, the deans’ offices, and several dental laboratory equipment and supplies; and the killer earthquake on July 16 that destroyed the Commerce building, the Auditorium-Gymnasium and Engineering building and substantially damaged the Arts and Sciences, High School and Elementary School buildings.
Virgilio Bautista was installed as the fifth president on October 18, 1992, and soon after announced the opening of new programs in Computer Education, Optometry, Physical Therapy and Environmental Engineering.
But whoever it is at the helm of the University, the guiding philosophy set forth by Nanding and Rosa Bautista, in those first early days of the school when it was literally struggling out of the dark alley into the light, will always remain the same. That philosophy is the “pursuit of perfection,” spelled out as the development of (a student’s) total personality and his “competencies (that are) responsive to the demands of the nation and the needs of the times.” In his message on the University’s 20th anniversary, Fernando Bautista defined this perfection as “a state as unreachable as the stars,” but even so it still is a desirable goal. “The stars from their infinite heights,” he pointed out, “are able to guide lost seamen.”
This philosophy has been criticized by some quarters inside and outside the University as too lofty, too idealistic, and absolutely unattainable. Maybe so, but Nanding and Rosa Bautista had always believed that “either you do a thing perfectly right or you don’t do it at all.”
“If you don’t set you sights on the stars, you will bump your head against the low doorway,” says Dr. Fernando G. Bautista. And it’s the truth, whether he’s speaking from the school’s rostrum or the barber’s chair.