UPAA: A Brief History


In 1912, the University of the Philippines, founded in 1908, already had 119 graduates, including those from Medicine, Nursing, Law, Arts and Sciences, Fine Arts, Agriculture, and Forestry. The Academy of Medicine and the School of Fine Arts (later becoming full-fledged colleges) preceded the founding of U.P. by a few years.



In March 1913, Murray Bartlett, the first UP president (1911-1915), asked College of Law Dean George Malcolm to convene the alumni for the purpose of forming an association. The inaugural meeting and banquet were held on April 2, 1913, at the Grand Hotel de Francia on Ronquillo St. in Sta. Cruz, Manila. In attendance were the UP president and the deans and alumni of the colleges. Named UP Alumni Association (UPAA), the organization elected Dr. Victor Sevilla (MD ’10) as first president.

Two years later, the first Filipino UP president, Ignacio Villamor (1915-1920), a future Supreme Court justice, articulated in his inaugural speech, “The University should foster university spirit through alumni associations in order to preserve the sacred memory of the Alma Mater and to strengthen the unity of the sentiments, interests and ideals in favor of a common cause.”

The UPAA had its first home in the UP Alumni Hall, a three-story building at the corner of Padre Faura and Florida (now Maria Orosa) streets within the old UP Manila campus. (The edifice was destroyed during the Liberation of Manila in 1945.)


The Oblation

What has become the iconic symbol of the University of the Philippines was the brainchild of UP President Rafael Palma (1925-1933) and the artistic creation of Guillermo Tolentino (later a Nationalist Artist), who drew his inspiration from Jose Rizal’s Ultimo Adios (“Last Farewell”). Called “Oblation,” the sculpture was unveiled in the UP Manila campus on National Heroes Day in 1935.

In 1949, during the second term of UP President Bienvenido Gonzales (1939-1943, 1945-1951), the UP administration and most of the colleges transferred to Diliman, Quezon City. The Oblation was likewise moved to the new campus under the auspices of the UPAA. The following year, in preparation for the fiftieth year of the University, the Board of Regents (BOR) appropriated funds to set the Oblation in true bronze. The UPAA funded the installation of the new statue and development of the Oblation Plaza in front of Quezon Hall. These were inaugurated on National Heroes Day in 1958, UP’s golden anniversary.


The Carillon

The UP Carillon project was conceived in 1940 by UP Music Conservatory Director Ramon Tapales, along with UP President Bienvenido Gonzales and National Artist-to-be Architect Juan Nakpil. World War II, however, prevented its realization. The UPAA adopted the project in September 1948, a few months before UP transferred to Diliman, to be the alumni contribution to the new campus. Completed with its 130-foot tower and 46 bronze bells from the Netherlands, the UP Carillon was inaugurated by President Elpidio Quirino on August 1, 1952.

Through the years, some of the bells went out of tune, had to be replaced or retired, and eventually fell silent. They were restored in 1982, but funds fell short. The bells were last played was at the UP Lantern Parade in 1988. Once more, the UPAA stepped in. The restoration became a major project of three successive UPAA boards during whose terms several generous donors contributed for the replacement of the bells and the landscaping of the Carillon Plaza. The UPAA turned over the Carillon to UP in its present restored condition in December 2010, marked with a concert by the Madrigal Singers.


Office of Alumni Relations

In 1964, UP president Carlos P. Romulo (1962-1968) tasked Dr. Tomas S. Fonacier, then recently retired dean of the College of Liberal Arts, with reorganizing the Office of Alumni Relations (OAR). As OAR director, Dr. Fonacier also became the first executive director of the UPAA in a concurrent capacity. Like first UP President Ignacio Villamor, he believed that “the alumni are an integral sector of the academic community, together with the administration, faculty and students. They are the precise yardstick which measures the quality of the university… as alumni reap laurels, the university gains added prestige.”


UPAA Presidents as UP Regents

Until the 1960s, several UP alumni had served as UP regents. The year 1969 became a milestone with the enactment of Republic Act No. 5706 of 1969, which made the UPAA president an ex-officio member of the UP Board of Regents. It gave the UPAA a direct role in policy-setting and strategic decision-making for the University. The 25th president of the UPAA, Atty. Abraham Sarmiento (1973-1979), served as the first ex-officio regent.


Annual Homecomings

The alumni homecoming on April 9-10, 1970, was called the “UP Alumni Conference,” as suggested by Dr. Fonacier. It had for its theme “University of the Philippines Today,” with then UP President S.P. Lopez (1968-1975) as keynote speaker.

In 1983, the 75th anniversary of UP, the homecoming was held at the Philippine International Convention Center in Manila. The next two annual reunions took place at the National Engineering Center in UP Diliman. In 1986 until 1992, the Fiesta Pavilion of the Manila Hotel was the venue of the homecomings. The following year, the affair was held at the UP Film Center.


Distinguished Alumni Awards

Conceived in 1933, the UPAA alumni awards began with the UPAA Gold Medal of Merit and the Diploma of Honor – conferred on Manuel L. Roxas (BSA’11, MS’13) and Cristobal Manalang (DTM’17), respectively, during the traditional Alumni Homecoming and Reunion that year. Until 1938, only two UP alumni were chosen annually to receive what has now become known as the Most Distinguished Alumnus or Alumna Award.

As the University grew older, more and more UP alumni attained distinction. Thus, in 1957, the UPAA began giving awards in the different service categories. These are what are known today as the UPAA Distinguished Alumni Awards. The majority of the national artists and national scientists, including many national leaders, are alumni of the University and UPAA awardees. The UPAA is supremely proud that they remain an integral part of the University and full-fledged partners in nation-building.


Alumni Institutes

Envisioned in 1935 by fifth UP President Jorge Bocobo (1934-1939), the Alumni Institute is a vehicle for interaction with the alumni and their continuing professional growth. It also serves as a stimulus for the founding of more alumni chapters in the provinces and overseas, and for the reactivation of dormant ones.

The first Regional Alumni Institute (RAI) was held on November 25, 1976, at UP College Cebu, with the second in Baguio in February 1977. Succeeding RAIs met in other Philippine cities, but the 20th took place in Brunei Darussalam in November 1998; followed by the 21st in Bangkok (May 1999); the 23rd in Bogor, Indonesia (September 2000); the 35th in Singapore (October 2010). The 40th RAI was hosted by UPV in Iloilo City in April 2013. The succeeding 41st RAI was held May 2015 in Roxas City, with UPAA-Capiz Chapter as host.


Ang Bahay ng Alumni

During UPAA President Abraham Sarmiento’s term (1973-1979), the UPAA secured the approval of the Board of Regents for the use of a site in the Diliman campus for a building to be called “Ang Bahay ng Alumni.” Launched in June 1992 during the second term of Regent Edgardo B. Espiritu (1985-1988, 1990-2000), it became a joint undertaking of UP and UPAA.

A team headed by former regent and UPAA 1st Vice President Nelia Gonzales solicited close to P85 million from alumni donors both here and overseas. The UP General Alumni Homecoming in June 1994 was held at Ang Bahay ng Alumni, although the building was not yet fully finished. Inaugurated in 1996, Ang Bahay became a venue of choice for conferences, concerts and reunions, not only among UP organizations, but other groups as well. Rentals from tenants earn revenues for both UP and UPAA. All succeeding UP alumni homecomings were held in the new campus landmark, except the 2008 UP Centennial Homecoming, which was held at the Araneta Coliseum.


UPAA Chapters

The UPAA presently has 177 accredited chapters, organized locally by alumni from the various UP colleges and overseas by UP alumni residing in various cities around the globe. Both the UPAA and its chapters have established professorial chairs and scholarship funds in various colleges throughout the UP System.

During the University’s Diamond Year and Centennial celebrations, the UPAA and its chapters raised tens of millions of pesos for UP – a most telling sign of the burning alumni spirit wherever UP graduates might be.


Centennial Celebration

The UPAA celebrated its Centennial in 2013, led by UPAA President and Alumni Regent Ponciano E. Rivera, Jr., with the theme Bagong Siglo, Bagong Sigla (“New Century, New Energy”) — underscoring its constancy of purpose with renewed vigor. A Centennial logo-design contest produced a festive image inspired by the colourful, Quonset hut-modeled pediment of the Ang Bahay façade.

To kick off its Centennial celebration, the UPAA held an Alumni Family Fiesta in March 2013 – with an early morning Fun Run around the campus, followed by fiesta games at the track and field oval, and a bingo social at Ang Bahay in the afternoon. The Philippine Postal Corp. memorialized the milestone in the UPAA Centennial Commemorative Stamps issued on April 2, 2013, the 100th Foundation Day of the UPAA. The UPAA Centennial Alumni Homecoming in June 2013 was held in two venues: Ang Bahay ng Alumni for dinner and fellowship, and the UP Theater for the presentation of the UPAA Distinguished Alumni Awards.



From the beginning, the UPAA has been fired up by its mission of fostering Excellence, Service and Leadership, the sacred ideals of the Alma Mater. In 1986, then UPAA President Edgardo B. Espiritu said that “the university has established the tradition of being the main nursery of the nation’s leadership.” The alumni have become a force such that “the impact of the University on various aspects of national life may be felt mostly through that force.”

Projects and programs of the UPAA seek to promote these ideals, at the same time encouraging unity and loyalty, as well as institution-building, among the alumni – in the process helping them to better serve their communities and the nation, not to mention pay back the Alma Mater.




UP President Jose V. Abueva (1987-1993), in a speech at the 77th General Commencement Exercises on March 27, 1988, called on the University, specially the graduates, “to strive without ceasing for intellectual and moral excellence.”  He added: “(This) is the spirit of oblation to our people, the spirit of UP… (that) will empower us to work with others and help transform our society.”



SiningSaysay (Philippine history in art)

An impressive depiction of Philippine history in art from prehistory to the present, SiningSaysay consists of thirty awe-inspiring mural-sized paintings (6’x9’) by twenty-seven UP alumni artists of note. The project, jointly sponsored by U.P., Araneta Center, and  UPAA, was conceived at the end of the term of UPAA president Gari M. Tiongco (2006-2009) as a grand segue to the 100 Years, 100 Nudes exhibit cum coffee table book project of UPAA for the 2008 U.P. Centennial.

After six years in the making, the “murals” were put up on display on November 21, 2014, then formally opened on Feb. 18, 2015, at the fifth level gallery of the Gateway Tower at the Araneta Center, where they will remain for public view and appreciation for the next two years. Thereafter, they will be housed in the U.P. campus.