Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The vision of Benjamin Salvosa, UC Founder

- by Joel Rodriguez Dizon

The former Baguio colleges Foundation (BCF) is now a uni-
versity. The old main building at right is dwarfed by the new
EDS bulding at left. I took this photo from the balcony of SM.
     The first college established in Baguio City was the Baguio Colleges. The year was 1947, the city was virtually still smoldering from the fire and smoke of the Allied carpet-bombing of Baguio in World War II. Baguio was carpet-bombed by the Americans to flush out Japanese Imperial Army holdouts, and force them to surrender. It was a terrible miscalculation based on horrible intelligence-gathering. Their quarry, General Tomoyuki Yamashita who led the retreating Japanese soldiers was ultimately captured in Hapaw, Hungduan, Ifugao--some 500 kilometers away. Talk about missing a "target."
     That mindless Allied strategy--the true forerunner of the Pentagon's "shock and awe" concept--left Baguio City utterly levelled to the ground.
     Shortly before that,  around 1946, a young Manila lawyer named Benjamin Salvosa was diagnosed with terminal tuberculosis and given six months to live. Upon his doctor’s advise, he packed all his books and belongings and migrated to Baguio City, known for its healthful climate.

This is where it all started for Baguio Colleges Foundation
(BCF) which has been renamed University of the Cordilleras
(UC). This is Antipolo Building which now houses the Rural
Bank of Baguio and the famous Teahouse
     When he arrived, he looked around,  saw the utter destruction, and said  "This place will become the Educational Capital of the North." How he came to that absurd prediction is truly amazing. But he set out and established a teachers college in four or five rented rooms in Antipolo Building (now Teahouse) and later on went across the block to rent the Lopez Building (now Mandarin Restaurant). He went on to produce some of the finest local teachers, some of them went on to establish their own schools-- Fernando Bautista, Sr. who started the Baguio Tech (later University of Baguio) and a small diminutive man named Galo Weygan. He established the Baguio School of Business and Technology (BSBT).

     As his hair turned grey, Benjamin Salvosa thought of another absurd idea---he dis-inherited all of his six children and donated all of his assets (meaning the entire school) to a foundation, called Baguio Colleges Foundation (BCF). That way he was assured that even after he died, the school would continue to exist in perpetuity rather than be split apart in what could have been a tense competition among heirs  for inheritance.
     BCF produced some of the finest lawyers, engineers, architects, accountants, journalists, criminologists, computer techies and, of course, teachers. But Benjamin Salvosa’s most cherished dream was to someday see a college of nursing and medicine added to the school. Tragically, he died before the dream came to pass. He was ahead of his time, but his vision was even farther ahead of him.
     Fighting sentimental melancholy all the way, the name BCF was eventually retired. Benjamin Salvosa's baby was all grown up. It is now known as the University of the Cordilleras (UC), with an annex in Legarda Road that houses its Hotel and Restaurant Management and Tourism (HRMT) school. The department  is fondly referred to as the UC Legarda Annex or "UCLA."
     Beside the original main building now stands the modern 10-storey EDS Building (named after Benjamin Salvosa’s wife, Evangeline Domingo). It houses the College of Nursing--the one department the old man wanted to see in his lifetime. It is also the home of the College of Law.
     One of his children once remarked, "I wish Daddy Ben were here today so he could see all of this," referring to the now sprawling modern campus. I’m a close friend of the Salvosa family, and I remarked back, "Actually, Daddy Ben saw all of this before anyone else---way back in 1947."
     Benjamin Salvosa did not die within six months, as decreed by his doctors in 1946. This amused him no end, as he sat in his favorite leather swivel chair, looking out at a typical Baguio sunset from his penthouse (which has since been converted into a Research Center).
     "No doctor's diagnosis  can scare me, I am a collector of incurable diseases," he boasted as he pushed past 70,"the only incurable disease I still don't have is AIDS--but give me time...!" He predicted he would outlive all his doctors. As true as that is, that  prediction is probably his most inaccurate. It was way off.
     He did not only outlive his doctors, he outlived himself. Many years after he died, the legacy of this great man continues to live and breathe in every lawyer, engineer, architect, accountant, teacher and nurse that graduates from the University of the Cordilleras.  They all caught a "pioneering virus" from him. When they go home to their hometowns and see another bleak unpromising frontier, they will see a bright future for these towns as Benjamin Salvosa did for Baguio City in 1947.


aleccm88 said...

Sir, the Baguio Colleges was founded in 1946, not 1947. Officially, it started June 19, 1946. That means, it'll be our 65th year this year.

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