Thursday, September 18, 2008
The Greeks in the Philippines
To regular Manila commuters, Adamson University is easily identifiable as one among the string of educational institutions that dot Taft avenue, along with Manila Science High School in the corner of United Nations Avenue to Sta. Isabel College down to the Philippine Normal University near SM Manila.
Others may have even referred to it simply as the school near Masagana supermarket. But only a few, aside from its students, knew that Adamson University was founded by the Greeks. This is among the interesting and eye-opening facts that one learns from the 151-page commemorative hardbound book, which the University published under current president Rev. Fr. Gregorio L. Bañaga, Jr. to detail its 75th year of existence in the country.
On the cover of the book is the digitally composed group picture of Vincentian priests, the Adamsons and some members of the faculty, a picture that dates back to the late 1800s. At the lower half of the cover is the 1948 photo of the St. Vincent Building. On the back cover is the St. Vincent Building (the University) as is stands today in San Marcelino street.
The story of the Adamson University is ingeniously presented under 75 chapters, which the editorial team referred to as 75 “touchstones” or standards against which the University’s success can be measured.
A Grecian Mind
Appropriately, the chapters start with “The Adamopolous Odyssey” presented in a two-page timeline form ably helped by a sprinkling of pictures serving as a brief backgrounder on the University founder himself George Lucas Adamopoulos. Readers come to know about Adamopoulos’ birth in Parnassus, Greece in 1899, to his completion of his degree in Chemistry at the University of Athens, to the changing of his surname to Adamson (“poulos” means son in Greek) in Australia in 1928, to his employment in a distillery in Albay, Bicol, and to his eventual establishment of the Adamson School of Industrial Chemistry in Manila in June 1932. It was Adamson’s firm belief that what the country’s educated sector needed to learn was “applied chemistry” for the Philippines to benefit from its wealth of natural resources that either lay unused or were amassed for export. Adamson saw the opportunity to manufacture such raw resources.
Following the principle “a maximum amount of practical education in a minimum amount of time,” George Lucas Adamson, together with his cousins Alexander Athos, and George Athos Adamson, started teaching a night class in a one-lecture room setup at the Paterno Building on Plaza Goiti, Sta.Cruz in Manila. They also created the Adamson Technical High School, which employed the teaching methods and techniques of top European schools at that time. The secondary education offered a variety of specialization courses that by 1935 it numbered to 40 including sugar technology, commercial preparation of fruits and vegetables, mining and metallurgy, ceramics, soap-making, leather and tanning, essences and foods, and glass manufacture, among others. The Adamson School of Industrial Chemistry held its first commencement exercises on June 30, 1934 with 76 graduates, four of whom were women. For a newly-established Philippine Commonwealth, this development was a big push towards the country’s goals of becoming an industrialized nation. The School eventually evolved into the Adamson School of Industrial Chemistry and Engineering in 1936, and finally into the Adamson University in 1941. The University grew and with the Philippine government’s thrust of nationalizing all alien-controlled schools, Adamson, not a Filipino citizen himself, saw it prudent to turn it over to the Vincentian priests on December 4, 1964. The rest, as they say, is history.
Adamson Under the Vincentians
And who were the Vincentians? The Vincentians arrived in the country in 1862 tasked as they were by ecclesiastical authorities to educate the future priests in the Philippines. Almost sixty percent of the Philippine ecclesiastical hierarchy were trained by them. Among the alumni of the Vincentian-run seminaries were Cardinal Rufino Santos, Cardinal Julio Rosales, Cardinal Jaime L. Sin. The Daughters of Charity, who were also under the Vincentians, runs today’s Colegio de Sta. Isabel, the school beside Adamson University (interestingly, the book states that the College was originally established to educate orphans of Spanish officers, and later on, girls from poor families).
To date, the Vincentians actively runs the Adamson University with its ten colleges offering over 50 courses. The University also currently has a Basic Education department comprised of high school and grade school units with computer subjects, along with the St. Vincent School of Theology, which offers graduate courses.
Overall, this commemorative book provides a stimulating and easy read on the interesting history of Adamson University, helped by a good layout. One gets amused, for example, by the story involving alumnus Andrew de Real who, on being reprimanded for his exuberance inside the school library, declared that he’ll someday build a library where one could laugh to his hearts content. Thus, was born the popular comedy bar in Malate called The Library. Adding further to the readability of the book are light-hearted short features on the Adamson students’ casual fashion sense, their favorite hang-outs, and snacks available around the campus.
More importantly, the book has clarified for the readers Adamson University’s key place in the history of the country’s crucial stages at becoming an industrialized nation, and is a fitting ode to a Greek who made the school’s existence possible.