Except for a few special and usually commercial crops, agriculture in the tropics until recently lagged behind agricultural advances in the temperate zone. Now pressure of population and the world’s most abundant under-used lands with available water compel attention to the 40 degrees of latitude straddling the equator. As tropical agriculture becomes a leading frontier for science, the social and human problems of transforming traditional rural life present an even greater challenge.
As the first university college of agriculture established in the tropics, that of the University of the Philippines at Los Baños had a modest though auspicious beginning. Twelve students and their four teachers in June 1909 started classes in two tents pitched among the scrub of a weed-grown farm below Mount Makiling, 68 kilometers southeast of Manila. These and additional Filipino students, with their American professors, cleared their experimental farm and erected the first thatched bamboo student house.
The mission of the institution was “production of men of superior training in agriculture in the broad sense,” in the words of Charles Fuller Baker who gave the last 15 years of his life as professor and later dean. As a young Filipino faculty emerged—some of whom had started as working-students—and made scientific contributions that won the COLLEGE status, students came also from Thailand, China, Indonesia and India.
The COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURE and its faculty were cruelly hurt by World War II. First a camp for Filipino war prisoners, then an internment camp for Allied nationals and headquarters for the Japanese Army, the campus was also a center for guerrilla resistance to the enemy and their collaborators, as well as a battleground. Driven out by liberating American troops, Japanese soldiers returned and in two days devastated the campus and its invaluable collections and records.
In the reconstruction of the Philippines the COLLEGE, with distinguished entomologist Leopoldo B. Uichanco as dean, played a vital role: its graduates staffed numerous key offices in government and private business, they increasingly led in the work of the new organizations of the United Nations, and the COLLEGE became a test ground in Asia for utilizing assistance from international agencies in the immense task of bringing knowledge to the service of the farmer.
By presidential decree in 1972 the COLLEGE became the core of the new University of the Philippines at Los Baños. Its 235 faculty in nine departments, plus an Institute of Plant Breeding and a National Crop Protection Center, do the majority of agricultural research in the country, at the same time instructing almost 3,000 students, of whom some 800 are in graduate studies. Several hundred foreign students come from Asia, the Middle East, Africa and the Pacific. Today the Los Baños complex also includes a College of Forestry, the International Rice Research Institute, a Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture, and other innovative institutions.
This “critical mass” of scientific and intellectual talent now confronts a new challenge: that of bridging the intellectual gap between villagers and urbanized decision-makers and educators. A genuine “rural breakthrough,” essential to the future of humanity in the tropics, depends upon effective application of the unique “Los Baños spirit”— dedication, innovation and tenacity.
In electing the COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURE OF THE UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES AT LOS BAÑOS to receive the 1977 Ramon Magsaysay Award for International Understanding, the Board of Trustees recognizes its quality of teaching and research, fostering a sharing of knowledge in modernizing Southeast Asian agriculture.
Sixty-eight years ago, on June 14, 1909, the UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURE was born at Los Baños, Laguna. Under the leadership of Dean Edwin B. Copeland, 12 Filipino students and four American scientist-educators literally hacked out the COLLEGE from semi-wilderness with the tenacity, innovativeness and camaraderie that have come to be known as the “Los Baños spirit.” Out of these beginnings, and with the same spirit, successive generations of faculty and students have made of the COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURE and of the larger university that has evolved out of it, the productive academic community that it is today.
The College of Forestry branched out of the COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURE in 1916. In the early sixties the Agricultural Credit and Cooperatives Institute and the Dairy Training and Research Institute were created, later to become separate units of the University. Since 1972 the COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURE has undergone much transformation, largely brought about by the creation by presidential decree of an autonomous University of the Philippines at Los Baños (UPLB) under the University of the Philippines System. In addition to the older units, the UPLB now has a Graduate School, College of Sciences and Humanities, Institute of Human Ecology, Institute of Agricultural Development and Administration, Institute of Agricultural Engineering and Technology, Agrarian Reform Institute, Center for Policy and Development Studies, and a National Training Center for Rural Development. The UPLB also has a National Center for Agriculture and Resources Research.
At present the UPLB COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURE retains nine academic departments: Agronomy, Horticulture, Animal Science; Soil Science, Entomology, Plant Pathology, Food Science and Technology, Agricultural Education, and Development Communication. By two presidential decrees it has added within its organization an Institute of Plant Breeding and a National Crop Protection Center. It also has a Sugar Technology Program, the Central Experiment Station, the UP Rural High School and a Research and Training Station in La Granja, Negros Occidental.
In its 68 years the now UPLB COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURE has tried to do its best, and will continue to try to do so, in carrying out its mission of service to country and people and to the region as a whole. Its strength continues to lie in its faculty, other academic and administrative staff, students and alumni who share a deep sense of commitment to national development. Representing these constituencies through the years is the succession of deans of the COLLEGE after Edwin Copeland: Charles F. Baker, Bienvenido M. Gonzalez, Leopoldo B. Uichanco, Francisco O. Santos, Dioscoro L. Umali, Faustino T. Orillo, Fernando A. Bernardo and your humble servant. As the incumbent, I am greatly privileged to receive this recognition today of the COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURE’S cumulative achievements over the years.
I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the contribution and support to the COLLEGE of our Chancellor of the University of the Philippines at Los Baños, Dr. Abelardo G. Samonte. Likewise, the COLLEGE would not have earned this recognition without the help and cooperation of its sister units in the UPLB. I convey to all of them our sincere appreciation.
I must also say that the COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURE has had excellent cooperation from, and working relationships with, the Department of Agriculture, its National Food and Agriculture Council and various agencies; a number of foreign governments; philanthropic organizations such as the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations; academic institutions such as Cornell University, the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI); and many other agencies, institutions and organizations, both public and private, local and international.
It is with distinct pleasure that I accept on behalf of the COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURE, UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINE’s AT LOS BAÑOS, the Ramon Magsaysay Award for International Understanding. My colleagues and I pledge ourselves anew to the service of our fellow beings—especially the many small farmers in the Philippines and in Asia—guided by the spirit of Ramon Magsaysay and his concern for the masses.