IN the coming week, the College of Liberal Arts of the De La Salle University, headed by Dean Jazmin Llana, will celebrate the centenary of the college. We count our founding from the establishment of what would become the School of Arts and Sciences in 1918.
Just what is liberal arts? Simply put, we cannot just be technical people knowledgeable in medicine, engineering and business, but devoid of humanity. Because man does not live by bread alone, he also has to make his life meaningful. The liberal arts education is what makes us human. And I’m proud to say, of the Catholic universities in the country, DLSU is the most liberal.
According to the research of Irene Bonpin, a Humanities major who collected the oral history of the history department in 1993 for her AB thesis, when De La Salle College opened their tertiary level in 1917, there were only two courses being taught: “pre-law” and “pre-medical.” It reminded me of what my Spanish professor Teresita Alcantara told me, that during the late Spanish period, there were only three main professions: be a lawyer, a doctor or a priest.
History was already part of the basic subjects then: “History A” tackled Modern and Contemporary Europe, and “History B” tackled Philippine History.
According to the article “The College of Liberal Arts at De La Salle University–Taft: In Retrospect,” written by my colleague in the history department and the most senior among us in terms of years of service to the university, professor José Victor Jimenez, this pre-law and pre-medical two-year course led to an Associate in Arts degree. Its first graduates were conferred their degrees in 1919; the last recorded batch graduated in 1931.
So, the degree was scrapped. During that time, not many people were interested in the subject. There was lack of personnel to teach the course. Also, other private colleges offered the same course. But former DLSU president Brother Andrew Gonzalez, FSC, considered the quintessential Lasallian, talking to Jimenez, gave another reason: The commerce program being offered by La Salle was more attractive than the arts program. Lack of enrollment from a “practically oriented clientele.”
So even before, as it is to some people today, non-science and non-math courses were deemed useless.
But following the end of World War 2, in 1953, the School of Liberal Arts was re-established at La Salle (renamed School of Arts and Sciences once again in 1973). The administrators deemed it important to include liberal arts courses as part of the general education subjects.
Prior to the 1970s, there used to be a Department of Social Sciences. According to the interview given to Bonpin by the historian and faculty of the history department, Dr. Marcelino Foronda, “…this happened …during [the] student unrest, no. And then most of the students were activists …they came from the department of social sciences. …I think it was perceived that there was a felt need to have the department of history-political science rather than social science, …it’s broad. There was a time it even included sociology, anthropology, history, political Science…Dahil there were not so many students taking up that major and it could not support itself, kung history lang o kung political science lang, mahirap i-suporta yung major.” Thus, there was once a History-Political Science Department.
La Salle became a university in 1975 and thus, the School of Arts and Sciences became the College of Arts and Sciences, which in 1982 was divided into the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Science.
The History-Political Science Department was again divided in 1984. Times had changed. “Because it was beginning to be big so for purposes of administration, kailangan nang mahati, so they divided,” said Foronda. And the DLSU History Department was born.
This department, my home for 10 years now, headed by Dr. Ma. Florina Orillos-Juan, houses in it some of the best in the field. Not much into in-breeding, we were schooled in various universities and colleges, having different persuasions and perspectives but maintaining our collegiality which make us more productive, the most productive in fact, based on the award given by the annual Pillar of Lasallian Excellence for 2017-2018.
The high standards of scholarship demanded of the faculty is replicated in the whole college and university. That is why, although much work still needs to be done, the college deserves to celebrate its centennial with pride. Taking this opportunity to remind each other of our mission to “develop our students into ethically committed leaders and knowledge producers, grounded in the humanities and social sciences, towards social transformation in the global community” into becoming “a dynamic community of faith-inspired learners engaged in creative endeavors and scientific scholarship for the service of humanity and society, especially the marginalized.”