MSU-General Santos City commemorates 40th anniversary

(October 10, 2013) – Mindanao State University- General Santos City commemorates today, October 10, its 40 years of existence.

MSU-General Santos started as a community high school at the West Elementary School campus in 1967.

In 1973, it was absorbed by main campus, Mindanao State University- Marawi City, as part of the MSU campuses in Mindanao.

At the 57th meeting of the Board of Regents held at the Aberden Court in Makati City on October 10, 1973, Resolution No. 822 was passed that created the university.

The said Resolution No. 822 series of 1973 stipulates, “Resolved, that upon recommendation of the President, the University is hereby authorized to take necessary implementing measures for the full absorption of the community high schools in Lanao del Sur and other areas, including the Marawi City High School and the General Santos City Community College, on a case-to-case basis, is hereby approved”.

The following is a story that narrated significant undertakings of MSU-General Santos City in the past.

Fruits of Our Labor

By Russtum G. Pelima


Professor Deogracias Romero recounts the years when Mindanao State University-General Santos was braving the challenges of time. It is notable how one retired professor and historian brings back memories of the university’s younger years and narrating them to bring light to those who may have forgotten the university’s significant accounts of the past, or at least to enliven their love for history. For some details he forgets, Romero prompted the writer to ask his contemporaries, former Chancellor Abedin Limpao Osop in particular, to fill up the missing pieces.

Here is a fourfold episode of retelling MSU-GSC’s beginnings- a story of hard work and determination, of hopes and dreams, and of servitude.


The Humble Beginnings

The year was 1967 and there was no public high school in General Santos City. This is where MSU – GenSan started, and here is how it happened.

It’s been more than four decades but there was already the zeal to put up the Mindanao State University here. Moved by this and for love of education, the MSU Community High School was created by its founders – some civic leaders and educators who stood up as the board of directors. Then Jacobino Java was principal of the West Elementary School who eventually led his colleagues in the sprouting of the first ever high school in the city. Later, Java became the concurrent principal of the MSU Community High School.

With this beginning, the MSU – Marawi curriculum was used by the MSU Community High School for four years, or that the name MSU was dragged and tagged to the school to sustain its existence, branding it as one of its own. In the next three years, there was no very significant intervention or assistance coming from MSU-Marawi that reached the pilot school other than some used books.

The very challenge at this time then was keeping the high school alive for the next three years to produce its first graduates- the time when community leaders joined hands to put up and sustain the community high school. The Parents, Teachers, and Community association (PTCA) then must be very dynamic and creative to have ran it through very low tuition fees of students.

In 1971, the adopted school produced its first graduates, around 200 students. Thus, 1967-1971 was MSU’s tender years, its high school days. The year commenced MSU’s next challenge: entering college, for the first batch of graduates prompted the community leaders to have a college. Initially, the plan was to cater the students to a general education course or liberal arts for two years. MSU-General Santos was to work as a “feeder” to MSU–Marawi by sending there its graduates of the two year general education course. At some time, officials from Marawi visited MSU-General Santos “adopted” by the West Elementary School. Likewise, the mayor of General Santos, Antonio “Toning” Acharon, was one of the members of the delegation to Marawi to seek help.

The school managed to run like a private college. Romero recalled two then instructors who taught at the Dadiangas West Elementary Campus- Prescillano Campado and Engr. Felipe Galia who, in their first year of teaching (1974), experienced the challenges of lack of classrooms in the campus. They had to conduct Physical Education lectures and other courses like CST, a non-academic course, under the trees.

A year earlier, in 1973, Marawi had already relented and absorbed the community college as integral part of MSU through BOR Resolution No. 822, henceforth the salary of teachers was then paid by government fund through MSU. That was then good news for the school. On the other hand, the declaration of Martial Law in 1972 continued to threaten the community college’s existence. Remarkably, the various social disturbances occurring in 1972 had almost stopped MSU-Marawi from operating. Despite the times, it reopened after few months later and was among the last tertiary schools in the country to operate again.



The Two Transfers

Three years after the Martial Law and the drift it brought to educational institutions in the country, the community high school college is now confronted with a more immediate problem-to leave the area it temporarily occupies and find its place somewhere. This struggle lasted for two years, from 1975 to 1976. The West Elementary School is one of the oldest complete public elementary schools in Dadiangas. The school was also the MSU community college. The PTA buildings which were put up earlier were already old and needed renovation.

Meanwhile, at the MSU-Marawi Campus, Ali Dimaporo was appointed Acting Officer-in-Charge, in 1976. As OIC, Dimaporo was the “overseer” of all MSU Campuses. Abedin Limpao Osop, the first chancellor of MSU-General Santos, was actually the appointed Director of External Studies by then MSU President Tamano when MSU Marawi reopened in 1973. Osop took over the office until 1976. During this time, there was no name calling of MSU as a “system”. Osop left Marawi campus in 1976 and spent his time in Dadiangas, helping the community leaders build the community high school college after monitoring it for three years and had witnessed the school’s sad plight at the West Elementary campus. Earlier, a formerly maternity site of 3.2 hectares was earmarked to the school. Later, Mayor Antonio Acharon brought in the approved papers from Malacanang donating the said area to MSU.

Dimaporo visited the community college for the first time in November 1976. After a conference with the school board, he poured in a fund of P556,000.00 for the construction of classrooms, replacing the makeshifts temporarily built in the maternity site. What is now the oldest two-storey classroom building in the Dadiangas campus with 15-15 classrooms was originally a two-storey, 10-10 classroom building. Officials at that time thought of partitioning the building to 15-15 classrooms to accommodate more students.

Working on the ground throughout this time was the school board composed of civic leaders who started the building structures. It is also important to note that by this time, the population of students grew up to approximately two thousand officially enrolled in the community high school college.

Finally, the following year (1977), the community high school college managed to transfer to the Dadiangas Campus.

The idea to have a college was perceived even earlier than this first transfer- from West Elementary to Dadiangas Campus. When the first batch of graduates marched in 1971, college education was already thought of by the “visionaries” and developing the small school into a high school- college. Osop asked, “How can we develop if we are only a “feeder” high school?” The batches from 1971 to 1975 were to take a two year general education course at the community high school college and were recommended or “fed” to Marawi Campus for them to complete a baccalaureate course.

In 1976, Professor Deogracias Romero was hired as instructor among others right after finishing his MA in History in the University of Pittsburgh and had taught at then Notre Dame of Marbel College for ten years. It was in Romero’s time when the first ever development plan for MSU General Santos was crafted. Here’s a gist: even before the transfer to Dadiangas Campus, the Development Plan was pointed to one more direction- transferring the college to Brangay Tambler.

In the context of such plan to have an independent college, Romero discovered the myth behind the “feeder” MSU General Santos. By looking closely at the honorable dismissals requested by the students, he found out that the graduates of two-year general education course did not actually enroll or at least intended to enroll to MSU Marawi.

The 1977 transfer to Dadiangas Campus from West Elementary School was quite remarkable, with 587 college students officially enrolled, almost doubling the highest number of collegiate enrolment since the college started. There was no stopping for the college to grow fast with the number of enrollees adding up by the hundreds during the next four years because of the complete college degree programs the university started to offer that year. Also, there was a huge increase of the number of faculty members from only 14 teachers in 1976 to 60 in 1980.

Further, there were only four complete courses offering in the college- Agriculture, Accountancy, AB History, and AB English, in 1977. On November 20, 1981, prior to the transfer from Dadiangas to Tambler, the Board of Regents met en banc for the first time at the then newly completed Tanghal Building. With the will to establish complete college courses, there existed the ‘one man, one college’ in the colleges of Fisheries and Education.

Before the Tambler Campus was ready for occupancy in 1982, constructions had already been going on. Among the first structures erected were the Tanghal Academic Building in December 1980 and the succeeding buildings on March 1, 1982 such as the Faculty Building (CAS), Gema East and West, Administrative Building, Powerhouse, Cafeteria, and the dormitories.

The Presidential Proclamation No. 2029 provided reservation for the Tambler Campus thus, the proclamation “hereby set aside as Civil reservation for Mindanao State University Site-General Santos Unit and Human Settlement for landless families a parcel of land of the public domain…” signed by late President Ferdinand Marcos on November 11, 1980.

This presidential proclamation was further amended by Presidential Proclamation No. 2162 “identifying the reservation for Mindanao State University Site, General Santos City Unit, and the Human Settlement for landless families subject to private rights, if any there be, within that parcel of land containing an aggregate area of approximately 556 hectares situated in General Santos City…” This proclamation assigned in particular Lot No. 2 with a 149.76 hectare land area for MSU on February 12, 1982.

After Lot No. 2 was assigned to MSU in 1982, putting up the perimeter fence immediately followed. Inside the campus, the faculty cottages were built near the boundaries of the 149.76 hectare land aside from the barbed wire cordoning it “in order to drive home the idea that this area was owned by MSU,” the way Romero put it.

Finally, it was in June 1982 when the second transfer took place – with even more challenges. Romero recalled how the broadcast media criticized the transfer of the college to this barren land area; as a college of agriculture, it cannot grow as fast if it stays at the Dadiangas Campus.

Uhaw was literally uhaw (thirst)-this part of Dadiangas was uninhabited, no people, no trees, only ranches and pasture lands. The name and the barangay unit called Fatima did not exist yet. With few settlers visible outside the campus perimeter, the University started to extend water supply to the houses through a water pipe. That gravitated students and families and, after a couple of years, more began to settle around the area. Here they had education, water, and a piece of land to build a house.

Despite the challenges, MSU started and nurtured a community far from the center of the city. Nevertheless, the transfer to Tambler Campus complemented the incidental reorganization that was then necessary for the MSU General Santos to be an independent institution–the non-absorption from the University of Southeastern Philippines.


The Great Irony

The absorption and return from USP

The absorption and “return” of MSU General Santos is a story and a movement, an unforgettable struggle in the history of MSU.

One of the laws passed during the maiden session of Batasang Pambansa in 1978-1979 was BP Blg. 12 or the establishment of the University of Southeastern Philippines based in Davao City. The establishment of USP involved the integration of five state-run schools in Region XI including MSU General Santos.

The phenomenon was the opposite of what actually the visionaries wanted MSU-General Santos to be-a university system composed of autonomous campuses, not a regional university. The absorption was furiously opposed by the constituents from the first time the bill was filed (as Parliamentary Bill No. 153). Incidentally, the BP Blg. 12 was the only law passed the Batasang Pambansa that did not get an executive approval: It eventually lapsed into law on December 5, 1978, thirty days after it was passed.

With then Assemblyman Jorge Royeca informing Osop the passage of PB No. 153, the word equivocally meant “MSU no more”. To them, it sounded like a “bombshell”. A convocation of oppositions then followed persuading OIC and Governor Dimaporo, first and former MSU President Antonio Isidro, Faculty and Staff and students. With parents extra careful about the issue having not seen a copy of the bill up to that time, the officials suspected that perhaps they were informed late about the bill so that their reaction will also be late.

This fate was for them a metaphor of bringing the dead back to life. Somehow, the hope to bring MSU back to its mother university went on intermittently. Along this time, university officials, local leaders and university constituents sought for the last drop of hope they could get along the way, trying to express their sentiments for an independent university from USP while banking on the university charter and its mission to provide education to the poor, Muslim and the minorities.

In January 1979, PB No. 406 had been passed for first reading in order to amend certain provisions of Batas Pambansa Blg. 12 “to accede to the desire of the Staff, Faculty and students that the Mindanao State University General Santos Unit remain a unit or branch of the Mindanao State University. By allowing the said branch to remain with MSU, we can correct the impression that MSU General Santos Unit phase out is an initial step in phasing out Muslim in Region XI because MSU is for their educational enhancement.”

After this, there was a long wait. It was only in October 14, 1980 when Batas Pambansa Blg. 87, formerly Parliamentary Bill No. 406, was passed into law “amending certain provisions of BP Blg. 12 and providing for the exclusion of MSU General Santos from the University of Southeastern Philippines” that absorbed it in 1978.


The Reorganization 

Back in the Dadiangas Campus, the 105th meeting of the Board of Regents on March 9, 1981 on the proposed administrative reorganization plan for MSU- General Santos, was approved through Resolution No. 60. So why was there a need to reorganize and why in the midst of the struggle for non-absorption from USP?

The Mindanao State University when viewed against the Charter creating it through RA 1387 as amended was mandated “to better implement the policy of the government in the intensification of the education of the Filipino Youth, especially among the Muslims and other belonging to the national minorities.”

This mandated task given to the University became the very core and rationale of all its programs and activities since its creation.

Resolution No. 60 approved the reorganization plan proposed earlier including the structural charts and descriptions of functions and responsibilities. The Rationale of the proposal reads: “Reorganization because of the foreseen need for modification and changes in the administrative structure of the Unit due to the grant of autonomy by the Board of Regents and the desire of the MSU-General Santos Unit to exercise such autonomy.”

To further, “It is felt that changes brought about by the horizontal and vertical expansion of the organization structure would necessitate the anticipation of a board range of manpower and other resource requirements to set up a more stable, efficient and effective administrative machinery. It is envisioned that by this proposal, there would be a provision for opportunity for the proper allocation and projection of required resources to produce a balanced administrative organization.”

In June 1981, the university academic program had six colleges-Arts and Sciences, Agriculture, Fisheries, Engineering, Education, and Business Administration, with the ‘one man, one college’ in the colleges of Fisheries and Education.

With this was the approval by the Board of the creation of Planning and Development Office which is an indication of its formal recognition of MSU General Santos’ capability and its encouragement to hasten development stride. In relation to the struggle for non-absorption from USP, the approved proposal continued: “with the absorption of the MSU-Davao by the said university excluding MSU General Santos as the only unit of Mindanao State University in Region XI thus absorbing the functions of the former and its burden of share towards the fulfillment of the objectives of the university, then there is a felt need to enhance the efforts for the development of MSU General Santos.

Such development is envisioned to be facilitated by providing a stronger structural framework where authority and responsibility are exercised and properly delegated to ensure effective disposition of academic and administrative functions.”

The structural charts embodied in the proposal include the change of title from Director to Chancellor, the Assistant Director for Academic Affairs which Professor Romero occupied from 1978-1980 to Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs, the Office of the Vice-Chancellor for Administration and Finance, the Management and Administrative Office and the sub-offices under them that dispose similar duties and responsibilities up to present.


Of Attitude and Success

Perhaps, naming names and entities from within and without the university that shaped the successes in the past would tire this last issue. The accounts in Part 3, and even the thoughts underlying the events of the past were lifted from a report entitled “The MSU General Santos Triennial Report 1979-1982” and the narration of Professor Romero. The three-year report in pages was written some thirty year ago with “the binding cracked and the pages started to yellow”.

Once more, here’s a thought of an unforgettable instance when that one turning point in the university history took place:

It was a conference on December 21, 1979 at the old library building (still at the Dadiangas Campus permanent building, second floor). The place was crowded with people just to participate and express their views. It was right this time when the local executive of General Santos City took side and said his piece extensively; the university leaders inspired everyone else including the faculty and staff and students to a common cause; it was this time when “Vox Populi, Vox Dei” emancipated.

Even the absorption of MSU to USP (USEP) through the BP Blg. 12 was emancipation – an emancipation law- because through it the visionaries and leaders of the time learned to unite and bound closely together more than ever for an independent MSU.

The day after the conference, a delegation was organized. The Faculty and Staff Club met to finance the delegation to Malacanang to see the President of the Philippines.

“Yes, we were then technically and legally under the USP starting 1978, but our audience with Minister Juan Manuel of the Ministry of Education and Culture and also chair of the Board of Regents told us then that he will make an “extra legal arrangement” that the MSU General Santos budget remains with MSU while they will work for the exclusion from USP.” And that was what happened.

The team was unable to see President Marcos then. They were contented with the promise of Juan Manuel to work for exclusion and maintain the budget with MSU through the extra legal arrangement he promised.

“In the case of MSU history, and in the context of time, politics is the art of the possible. If we gave in to what was simply availed to us legally, we are not what we are now.”

Towards the end of his narration, Romero recalled how in his time he and his contemporaries would come to their home cottages for a chat practically about everything over a tea party. He said it was during these leisure times when pathways to a better MSU were created slowly, naturally.

This story neither included the lineage of leadership in the university nor the names of our succeeding leaders. Rather, the conclusion must be that each leader in his own time at the university has had significantly contributed to the growth of MSU General Santos. Good deeds have never been a competition.

The present Chancellor, Atty. Abdurrahman T. Canacan, urges the faculty and staff to exude a higher degree of enthusiasm and commitment to go an extra mile for the best interest of the university.

May the wisdom of the past continue to teach us and lead us always to success, so the historian has always to say. “Ideas must be supreme in a university and our attitude towards achieving those ideas and towards learning must embody the oneness of reason and sincerity of our intention.