Except for a few special and usually commercial crops,
agriculture in the tropics until recently lagged behind agricultural advances in the
temperate zone. Now pressure of population and the world's most abundant under-used lands
with available water compel attention to the 40 degrees of latitude straddling the
equator. As tropical agriculture becomes a leading frontier for science, the social and
human problems of transforming traditional rural life present an even greater challenge.
As the first university college of agriculture established in the tropics, that of the
University of the Philippines at Los Baņos had a modest though auspicious beginning.
Twelve students and their four teachers in June 1909 started classes in two tents pitched
among the scrub of a weed-grown farm below Mount Makiling, 68 kilometers southeast of
Manila. These and additional Filipino students, with their American professors, cleared
their experimental farm and erected the first thatched bamboo student house.
The mission of the institution was "production of men of superior training in
agriculture in the broad sense," in the words of Charles Fuller Baker who gave the
last 15 years of his life as professor and later dean. As a young Filipino faculty
emergedsome of whom had started as working-studentsand made scientific
contributions that won the COLLEGE status, students came also from Thailand, China,
Indonesia and India.
The COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURE and its faculty were cruelly hurt by World War II. First a camp
for Filipino war prisoners, then an internment camp for Allied nationals and headquarters
for the Japanese Army, the campus was also a center for guerrilla resistance to the enemy
and their collaborators, as well as a battleground. Driven out by liberating American
troops, Japanese soldiers returned and in two days devastated the campus and its
invaluable collections and records.
In the reconstruction of the Philippines the COLLEGE, with distinguished entomologist
Leopoldo B. Uichanco as dean, played a vital role: its graduates staffed numerous key
offices in government and private business, they increasingly led in the work of the new
organizations of the United Nations, and the COLLEGE became a test ground in Asia for
utilizing assistance from international agencies in the immense task of bringing knowledge
to the service of the farmer.
By presidential decree in 1972 the COLLEGE became the core of the new University of the
Philippines at Los Baņos. Its 235 faculty in nine departments, plus an Institute of Plant
Breeding and a National Crop Protection Center, do the majority of agricultural research
in the country, at the same time instructing almost 3,000 students, of whom some 800 are
in graduate studies. Several hundred foreign students come from Asia, the Middle East,
Africa and the Pacific. Today the Los Baņos complex also includes a College of Forestry,
the International Rice Research Institute, a Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate
Study and Research in Agriculture, and other innovative institutions.
This "critical mass" of scientific and intellectual talent now confronts a new
challenge: that of bridging the intellectual gap between villagers and urbanized
decision-makers and educators. A genuine "rural breakthrough," essential to the
future of humanity in the tropics, depends upon effective application of the unique
"Los Baņos spirit" dedication, innovation and tenacity.
In electing the COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURE OF THE UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES AT LOS BAŅOS
to receive the 1977 Ramon Magsaysay Award for International Understanding, the Board of
Trustees recognizes its quality of teaching and research, fostering a sharing of knowledge
in modernizing Southeast Asian agriculture.