City of Manila

San Beda, the University

Last February 6, 2018, the institution known before as San Beda College finally was granted by the Commission on Higher Education the status of being a university. For the San Beda community, it is a culmination of years of hard work to attain such a status.

Thus, it is fitting that the Urban Roamer pays tribute to the newly-christened university the focus in this particular entry as we learn the story of how it rose to become a premier institution in the metropolis and the country in general.

The birth of San Beda

The history of San Beda began in 1895 when 13 monks belonging to the Catholic Benedictine Order arrived from Spain, originally to do mission work in Surigao in Mindanao. However, they came at an “interesting” period as the Philippine Revolution broke out the following year and Spanish rule in the country came to end 2 years later, only to be replaced by the Americans despite the resistance of the Filipinos. As such, the Benedictines came to be the last Catholic religious order to have arrived in the country during the Spanish colonial period.

The change in the country’s atmosphere also meant a change in the plans of the Philippine-based Benedictines.They decided to exert more efforts in promoting the Catholic faith in the capital as Protestantism and the Iglesia Filipina Independiente were gaining ground. As part of those efforts, the Benedictines established a school on June 17, 1901, named after the Benedictine monk from England who became a Catholic, the Venerable Bede or Beda as he was known in Latin/Spanish. It must be noted that the Venerable Bede was a noted author and ecumenical scholor, which may be a reason why the school was named after him.

Rising to the top

Recreation of the old San Beda gate in Arlegui at the current campus. the iron gate itself is the original gate installed at the old campus.

San Beda back then was an all-boys school whose campus was located along Arlegui Street in Quiapo, Manila. In time, the student population grew to a point that the old campus could no longer accommodate the growing needs of the school. By 1926, San Beda moved into a larger campus along Mendiola Street in nearby San Miguel district, just a few meters away from the Malacañan Palace complex. Around that time, it also began offering primary and secondary education. During World War II, the school became a Japanese concentration camp though classes were still being held quietly at the neighboring Abbey of the Our Lady of Montserrat, also run by the Benedictines. The campus was spared from the destruction of the Battle of Manila so for a time, the school became a US Army hospital.

But it was during the postwar years that San Beda became more known in the public consciousness. Part of this postwar growth is the opening of its law school, the San Beda College of Law in 1947 which earned the distinction of having a 100% passing rate streak in the Philippine Bar Examinations from 1952-1957. Around that same period, San Beda rose to be a powerhouse in college basketball at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), thanks to the efforts of its star player during that time, Carlos Loyzaga. Since then, San Beda has become known as an academic and athletic powerhouse, often being compared and pitted against the “Big 4” which are the University of the Philippines, University of Santo Tomas, Ateneo de Manila, and De La Salle.

St. Bede Hall, the first and oldest building at the campus

21st century transformation

As San Beda celebrated its centennial in 2001, it marked the beginning of a new era for San Beda, in more ways than one. Firstly, San Beda began offering more courses outside those in Law and in the Arts and Sciences. These included medicine, nursing, graduate business programs, and liturgy. Then in 2003, San Beda decided to open its doors to female students, a move that earned some controversy, especially some of the old Bedan alumni.

St. Benedict’s Hall, the second oldest building at the campus, built in the 1950s

But perhaps the most radical of these changes was the relocation of San Beda’s elementary and high school departments to a new campus 20+ kilometers away from the Mendiola campus, at the upland portion of Taytay in Rizal province. It generated, at least, a mixed feedback as parents and students balked at the move. Of course, it was an advantage for those living in the eastern part of the metropolis and in Rizal, but the move also found families who found it convenient to have their sons study at the heart of Manila suddenly feeling “abandoned.”

It’s been said that these changes were made with the intent of becoming a university in mind. And based on the results, those risks San Beda were a success.

What’s next

Now that San Beda is now a full-fledged university, what is next for this institution? For one, it is busy in its expansion with a new building being built in the campus. For sports aficionados, there is also the question whether San Beda will leave the NCAA, which it has been a founding school and a longtime dominant force, to join its former NCAA rivals Ateneo, La Salle, UST, UP, and FEU at the Universities Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP).

For now though, congratulations to San Beda University. Animo, San Beda!


Acknowledgements as well to Wikipedia

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