CRITICISMS that the history being taught in the schools, particularly on the martial law period, has been inadequate prompted me to verify this impression with my graduate students. My class of mostly public schoolteachers have been the recipient of these remarks about the inadequate history that they teach. Given that they are on average 50 years old this year, they must have been 20-year-old college students in 1986—30 years ago—and have but a faint knowledge of EDSA 1986. They wanted to know about the state of the public campuses during EDSA 1986. “Did EDSA affect state colleges,” they asked? Yes, indeed, I said. It did affect my career.
EDSA happened during my tenth year as the academic affairs VP at Xavier University, the Ateneo de Cagayan in Cagayan de Oro City. This is Region X where there was the Don Mariano Marcos Memorial Polytechnic State College, (chartered recently as the University of Science and Technology of Southern Philippines, or UST-SP). Two other state HEIs in Region X are in Bukidnon—the then Bukidnon State College (now a university) with its four-hectare campus some 96 kilometers from CdO. Farther in Musuan, Maramag, Bukidnon is the Central Mindanao University, an agricultural school which boasts a 3,080-hectare campus that includes forests, mountains, springs and grazing meadows for its flocks of poultry (geese, turkeys, guinea fowls) and swine. With such vast landholdings, having its own market, church, etc., Musuan is usually referred to as a university town.
EDSA 1986 spilled to the campuses of the SUCs such as those in Region X. Little did I know then that these circumstances would greatly impact on my life. My family sat, as on a vigil, listening to Radio Veritas as June Keithley reported on the events of February 24 and 25. March came and went.
Surprise No. 1: In the first week of April, I had to go to Taipei for ASAP’s international convention, as the then president of the American Studies Association of the Philippines (ASAP)-CdO Chapter. Shortly after I settled in at the hotel where ASAP-International had booked me, I learned that I was to give the opening remarks on behalf of the representatives of the ASAP chapters worldwide. To date, I cannot remember what I said in my remarks. That assignment was a complete surprise to me. At dinner, being seated near a retired Taiwan judge, a member of the organizing committee, I asked why it was I who was chosen, among other members who came from much bigger chapters (Canada, the US, UK, etc). His answer was, “because you are a woman and a Filipino. And your President is a woman.” Then I understood. Cory’s glory reflected on me!
May and June slipped away from us at Xavier U, still full of the EDSA euphoria. It was not easy to forget the event, since echoes of EDSA were loud and clear all over the country. At the then Don Mariano Marcos Memorial Polytechnic State College (DMMMPSC), the officer in charge during martial law was replaced by another person who was sworn in in the presence of the justice secretary as the college’s president. Teachers and staff protested since they preferred somebody with a Ph D. Over half of the teachers and staff left the campus and recited their classes, conducting their jobs in makeshift offices in the frontplaza of the Provincial Capitol. Such was the daily scene since classes opened in June 1986.Over in Malaybalay, Bukidnon, some 90 kilometers away, protests “enlivened” the campus of the then Bukidnon State College, asking for a president while an officer in charge took care of daily business. Such “EDSAs” were going on in many other SUC campuses. In presenting the state campuses landscape, no judgment on school officials is being made here.
Meanwhile, Xavier University had invited President Corazon Aquino to be conferred an honorary doctorate on a Friday, July 7, 1986. As VP for academic affairs, I had to oversee the many details for the great event that morning. The ceremonies went well; the guests, which included then Generals Fidel Ramos and Ponce Enrile, had their lunch. The DMMMPSC protesting heads had an audience with President Cory.
Surprise No. 2: It was a relief to have my lunch in my office, the ceremonies having gone well for EDSA’s celebrated President. Shortly after lunch, Education Minister Lourdes R. Quisumbing knocked at my office. “Wear your shoes,” she advised. Then I learned President Cory had forged an agreement with the DMMMPSC that I was to take over as officer in charge of the college to “normalize campus operations.” Minister Q then led me to the Xavier U president who was told that to help out, I was to be ”borrowed” to quiet the academic landscape, the protestors having agreed to return to their campus. Let’s skip the emotional details. In a little while, I was sworn as the officer in charge.
And so, I left my office of 10 years for DMMMPSC that Monday, July 11, 1986, to “normalize campus operations.” However, in September, I had to go to the Bukidnon State College—again to quiet campus unrest. By January, rather than accepting the assistant directorship and eventually the directorship of the Bureau of Higher Education of the MECS in Manila, I began a new leaf in my career. I accepted an appointment to the BSC presidency—Malaybalay being closer to my family, my five boys being then all enrolled at Xavier U. EDSA, indeed, impacted my life. Praise be Father God!
The author, one of the country’s most accomplished institutional management experts, held top academic positions at Xavier University (the Ateneo de Cagayan) before heading chartered institutions. She attended topmost universities in the Philippines, Germany, Great Britain and Japan. An internationalization consultant on call, she is journal copy editor of, and Graduate Studies professorial lecturer at, the Liceo de Cagayan University. Awards include a Lifetime Professional Achievement from the Commission on Higher Education and recently, the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (Verdienstorden der Bundesrepublik Deutschland).