Ramon Magsaysay Award for International Understanding

On August 31, 1977, the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation awarded the College of Agriculture the “Ramon Magsaysay Award for International Understanding” in regognition of its quality of teaching and research and of fostering a sharing of knowledge in modernizing Southeast Asian agriculture.

The citation noted the work of the College in agricultural research, serving as “a test in Asia for utilizing assistance from international agencies in the immense task of bringing knowledge to the service of the farmer” and “instructing 5,139 students of whom 1,100 are in graduate studies”. By then, students from Asia, the Middle East, Africa and the Pacific were enrolled in the College.

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Photo shows Dean Cledualdo B. Perez, Jr. receives the 1977 Ramon Magsaysay Award in behalf of the College of Agriculture, University of the Philippines at Los Baños

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Photo shows Dean Perez poses with fellow awardees during the presentation ceremonies held at the Philamlife Auditorium on August 31, 1977 at 5:30 in the afternoon.

The complete citation of the Ramon Magsaysay Award reads:

“Except for a few special and usually commercial crops, agriculture in the tropics until recently lagged behind advances in the temperate zone. Yet, pressure of population and the world’s most abundant under-used lands with water available now compel attention to the 40 degrees of latitude straddling in 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, the University of the Philippines Los Baños 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 houses.

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 life as professor and dean. As a young Filipino faculty emerged, some of whom had started as working students, and made scientific contributions that won the College status, students came also from Thailand, China, Indonesia and India.

The College 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 guerilla resistance to the enemy and their collaborators. Initially 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, under the distinguished entomologist Leopoldo B. Uichanco as dean, had a vital role. Its graduates by now staffed numerous key offices of the government and private businesses and increasingly led in the work of the new organizations of the United Nations. The College became a test 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 Baños. 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 while instructing 5,139 students, of whom 1,100 are in graduate studies. Aside from Asia, the several hundred foreign students come from the Middle East, Africa, and the Pacific. Today, the Los Baños complex 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.

The “critical mass” of scientific and intellectual talent now confronts a new challenge; that of bridging the intellectual gap between village reality and urbanized decision makers and educators. A genuine “rural breakthrough” essential to the future of humanity in the tropics depends critically upon effective application of this unique “Los Baños spirit”.

In electing the College of Agriculture, University of the Philippines Los Baños 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.”

Note: The Ramon Magsaysay Award is equivalent to the Nobel Prize for Asia. It awards outstanding Asians in the fields of community leadership, public service, government service, international understanding, journalism, and communication.

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