A Succession of Leaders
A Gallery of UMak Presidents
An Excerpt from Skyward: The Rise of The Heron
A Gallery of UMak Presidents
An Excerpt from Skyward: The Rise of The Heron
The year 1972 was a tumultuous time politically both on the national and local fronts. In Makati, where Mayor-elect Nemesio Yabut held the reins of power, a metamorphosis slowly unfolded. Filthy streets were swept; pavements, cleared and painted; garbage, collected—it was what appeared to be a metaphoric drive to narrow the gap between the elites who control 90% of the town’s resources and the “have nots” who elect leaders into office. It was a fulfilment of a campaign promise that put a premium on the imperatives such as the upliftment of the lives of the impoverished who constituted 92% of Makati’s population. As the city groped for balance in an attempt to move forward, the mayor provided opportunities where none previously existed. Yabut uplifted the lives of the impoverished citizens by providing reliable and trust-worthy police force, post-secondary education, healthcare, and livelihood programs. Hence, the foundation of a local college named Makati Polytechnic Community College (MPCC) that catered to underprivileged students who wanted to pursue secondary and/or technical-vocational programs of study, which would help improve their lives and of Makatizens.
The Appointment of the First President
Dr. Frederick So. Pada, Founding President
February 1972 – July 30, 1973
It was most logical that Dr. Frederick So.Pada—a man of vision and industry who once wrote in his paper, “The Future of Science and Technology in Asia,” how the region had been left depleted by the exodus of its skilled workers to the West, seduced as they were by money and pastures greener and lusher—laid the groundwork and clearing in the locale of Makati in a turf he now had the power to stir to progress.
The horizons he spotted many years later extended back to 1972 when a task force was organized to prepare a feasibility study of a college funded by the municipal government. In a speech he would deliver, he noted in retrospect:
I was chosen upon the recommendation of the director of the defunct Bureau of Vocational Education (BVE), Atty. Andres R. Asistin. The Task Force was chaired by Mr. Melgre Granada while Mr. Buddy Gomez of the Filipinas Foundation, Inc. (FFI), now Ayala Foundation, was consultant.
In the article, “Pamantasan ng Makati: A Retrospective,” it was noted that his assignment was to conceptualize and structure a plan for a tuition-free college for the people of Makati. Many years of experience in government service in scientific, technological, and educational fields, further informed by his vast knowledge of vocational education—the fruit of which was his book Vocational Education: New Directions and Perspectives (1974)—may have compelled him “to rationalize,” in his own words, “the position that the identified educational and training need at the time for the economically underprivileged but educationally deserving youth of Makati was in vocational technical education.” Hence, his sound suggestions for the three academic components of the proposed college, namely: a technical high school as the feeder school; two streams of post-secondary programs in the Institute of Industrial Technology and the Institute of Business Technology.
The two-year technical program was ladderized with a projection that they become diploma courses in the medium term not exceeding five years.
As cited in the above-mentioned article, he further confided:
I likewise recommended the opening of evening-opportunity program for continuing education and training of employed youth desiring to upgrade their knowledge and competencies in response to advancement in technology and changing labor market demands and requirements.
The nod of then Mayor NemesioYabut paved the way for the birth of the tuition-free college known as the Makati Polytechnic Community College (MPCC). The first school building, an unfinished structure along Buendia, now Gil Puyat Avenue, offered by the Yupangcos, was purchased between April and May 1972. In haste, the Engineer’s Office rushed the partitioning of the first, second, and third floors for classroom purposes. Describing the early years of the MPCC, Dr. Pada recalled:
There were neither chairs for students and tables for teachers, nor chalkboards in the classrooms. We had to use makeshift chairs from plywood cut-outs and concrete hollow blocks used in construction. Through the initiative and ingenuity of the technology faculty and with the permission of the construction overseer, we fabricated chairs and tables. By the end of August 1972, there was then a semblance of classrooms and organized class activities.
True to his vision and the lofty goals of reducing unemployment and underemployment and thereby alleviating poverty by uplifting the quality of life of the poor, the makeshift school building stood proudly along Buendia. The founding president’s resolve to brave it through and find his way in the labyrinth of odd circumstances was a testament to his character and integrity—ardent in his desire to build something out of scratch and succeed.
Atty. Rodolfo N. Medina
August 23, 1973 – July 3, 1984
His task no less daunting than his predecessor, Atty. Rodolfo Medina boldly took on his mission of reinforcing the school’s foundations in policies and creating a more conducive environment for the academe. His tenure, lasting to a decade, served as an initial ground to build a more robust and dynamic college. He was remembered as the second longest-serving president who instituted measures to formalize the organization, as well as standardize administrative policies to strengthen the bureaucracy as a way to depoliticize the young and promising community college. It was said that he was a delegative leader, an administrator who gave the deans the free hand to manage their programs. “A man of few words,” a colleague would say. Atty. Medina assigned the best people to be department heads from whom he would elicit reports and give instructions. His adherence to an honest, straightforward leadership was a light in the dark.
The Third President
Atty. Jose O. Custodio
August 1, 1984 – May 26, 1985
The university’s shortest serving president prepared the clearing for the college’s eventual transition into a bigger institution in the years that followed. His administration’s thrust, similar to his predecessor’s, was the strengthening of the bureaucracy. His tenure was cut short by an appointment of an OIC.
Dr. Claro Anastacio
July 1985 – February 1986
Against the backdrop of political unrest in the country that saw the demise of a dictatorial regime, Dr. Claro Anastacio’s sojourn as an OIC proved crucial for bigger steps ahead. He paved the way for a more stable stint of his eventual successor, the first woman president of the school’s history.
The Fourth President
Dr. Anita N. Bustillo
February 13, 1986 – December 31, 1993
Social somersaults and political upheavals characteristic of this era incidentally catapulted women on top of the hierarchy of power. Coinciding with the rise of President Corazon Aquino as the first woman Filipino leader was the ascent of Dr. Anita N. Bustillo as MPCC’s first woman president.
Her term spearheaded two name changes to the school. In 1987, Makati Polytechnic Community College was renamed Makati College. Meanwhile, the Philippine Army turned over the Fort Andres Bonifacio College to the municipal government and merged with Makati College in 1990. In 1991, the school was renamed Pamantasan ng Makati by virtue of Municipal Order 433.
Renaming signified internal reorganization, a charting of new pathways, a review of the landscape, the scouring of new horizons. It was at this juncture that the Institute of Education and the Institute of Arts and Sciences were appended as significant additions to a growing college, alongside the inception of the Graduate School. It was part and parcel of the president’s marching orders which consistently sat well with her stance as a “pro-student” leader, a meticulous watcher who looked after the welfare of her brood. It was no surprise then when someone shared that she personally inspected the facilities like restrooms and classrooms to provide the best learning environment for students. Sadly, Dr. Bustillo’s term was cut abruptly by political circumstances and by a growing discontent of employees who disagreed with the way she micro-managed operations.
The Institute of Industrial Technology (IIT), one of the pioneer departments of the MPCC, headed by Director Ricardo Sibug. Picture taken in 1986. First row (seated from left to right): Mrs. Felicitas Vibal, Mrs. Alicia Rivera, Mrs. Norma David Camunay, Director Ricardo Sibug, Mrs. Gloria Valdez, Mrs. Erlinda Frogoso, Mrs. Mamitang. Second row (standing from left to right): Mrs. Nanette Flores, Mrs. Emelita Villamin Dulay, Mrs. Renee Reyes Ferolin, Mrs. Juliet Paiso, Mrs. Angelita Balatbat, Mrs. Cecile Belen, Mrs. Melecia Mutuc, Mrs. Gertrudes de Castro, Mrs. Hedina Abenes Oguing, Ms. Irene Bergona, Mrs. Susan Fader, Mrs. Bella Estanislao. Third row (standing from left to right): Mr. Ermys Bornilla, Mr. Alberto Claveria, Mr. Frank Derit, Mr. Lito Cariaga, Mr. Ricardo Buela, Mr. Gumtang, Mr. Jose Eviza, Mr. Dominador Martin, Mr. Senando dela Virgen, Mr. Erbil Ecano, Mr. Pablito Vibal, Mr. Hector Austria. Fourth row (standing from left to right): Mr. Joseph Canapi, Mr. Diosdado Macapagal, Mr. Abraham Valdez, Mr. Melchor Santillan, Mr. Joy Cabangon, Mr. Ronnie Zorolla, Mr. Roland Oguing, Mr. Conrado Pirante, Mr. Reggie Dionisio, Mr. Teodulo Gonzales.
The Fifth President
Dr. Antonio E. Orendain
January 2, 1994 – October 8, 1995
His brief brush with leadership as the university’s top brass shifted the school’s culture of free tuition into a semblance of commerce. He firmly believed that students and their families would value the affordable yet quality education the school provided if tuition would not be entirely free. Prior to his assumption as president, he was already a member of the Board of Regents of Makati College in 1990. During his leadership, Pamantasan ng Makati (PnM) tied up with the Philippine Computer Society which was eventually housed in the Buendia campus. Through this partnership, the PnM offices were given the technological know-how and had access to Windows-equipped computers.
Dr. Orendain inherited an organization that was fragmented. Aware that his first challenge was to unite the community, he strengthened cooperation among his constituents. He was described as “smart,” “brainy,” and “benevolent” and always came to the office in barong. He showed kindness towards his subordinates and lower-ranked employees. He was critical and firm but always extended compassion to every employee, from the janitors to the academic personnel. His demeanor betokened professionalism at its best.
However, a fatal pneumonia cut short his stint before he could fully see fruition to his dream of unifying campus factions and heal wounds.
The Sixth President
Professor Herminio B. Coloma
January 9, 1996 – February 1999
Systemic alterations and a futuristic mindset drove Prof. Coloma’s presidency. His term effected three major changes, namely: the institutionalization of the University Council, the creation of the Merit Promotion System, and the birth of the College of Computer Science.
A note from the academic programs in 1998-1999 relayed that towards this end, one significant move initiated by the academic department was the creation of the Institute of Integrated Development Education, the Institute of Technical Resource and Entrepreneurial Development and the Physical Education, Recreation, and Sports Development Center, which came to fruition later. Moreover, another article from The Year’s Highlights PnM 1998-1999 showed that “…in answering to the need of improving the critical deficiency and internal efficiency of the Technical High School, the PnM Board of Regents in its 199th meeting on November 10, 1997 finally renamed PnM Technical High School to Pamantasan ng Makati Science and Technology High School, aimed to provide well-rounded education for the total development of its students through an academic program which focuses on science and technology vis-à-vis co-curricular offerings which aim to develop aptitudes, special abilities and talents and promote moral value and leadership skills.”
More than the pursuit of academic growth, the trail to stabilize the school through the institutionalization of the University Council and the Merit Promotion System abetted the morale of both the faculty and staff in that their voices could now be heard and their endeavors accordingly rewarded. The council served a multi-faceted role as it could discuss, consent, and advise the board about university issues and policies directly affecting the workforce.
Moreover, the president pushed for a more autonomous student government, a display of goodwill on one end and an attempt to create a more dynamic relationship in the community on the other. Not to be outdone was the birth of the College of Computer Science. A cap to his feather, it anticipated the rule of computer technology that is now around us and with us.
Like Dr. Orendain, the vision for a greater university was cut short by a call of national duty to serve in DOTC. President Coloma’s affiliations to the industries and government were a two-edged sword that opened PnM’s door to the outside world on one end, and closed the executive’s personal door on the other. It was reported that “the wounds that were starting to heal reopened because he was not involved in the day-to-day operations.”
Dr. Jacobson Kliatchko, VP for Academics, called the shots in his place. He was brainy, possessed of a grand vision for the struggling Pamantasan. He was always well-dressed. In a sea of plain polo and office barongs, he would come to office in long-sleeve polos matched with ties and stuck out like a sore thumb. But unlike Dr. Orendain, Dr. Kliatchko was not well-liked as he alienated some of the employees due to his strict and candid disposition, which was exacerbated by his high expectations from his constituents. This may be partly due to his religious background. An Opus Dei—an ultra-conservative group within the Catholic Church that seem to filter everything for perfection—his demands intimidated both the academic personnel and ordinary rank-and-file.
His conceptualization of the Institute of Integrated Development Education (IIDE) stood out as a legacy, a program serving as a stepping stone before students move to college. Alongside was the implementation of a 12-unit teaching load with a class size of 30 as a maximum (specifically under IIDE). Teachers did not have time-in and time-outs but had to submit a monthly accomplishment report reflecting their accomplishments in instruction, research, and extension. Ironically, this led to division and “the reopening of the wounds that were about to heal.”
The Seventh President
Prof. Tomas B. Lopez Jr.
February 1, 2000 – February 2019
“We must never forget who we are, whom we are for, and what we have to do for those for whom we are.”
The words of the longest-serving president of the University of Makati seemed an echo of the school’s fervor to serve Makati’s underprivileged the best way it can. His voice must be hovering somewhere beyond halls and conference rooms, beyond auditoriums and buildings to lodge somehow in the recesses of those who had brushed elbows with him through the years; at a moment’s bidding, it can be heard readily by the mind’s ears. It is there, half-memory, half-reality, as if to remind people to stay on course as they chart new passageways where wings and wind are one, a harmony advancing in flight to chase perfection.
“He projected an air of competence without any hint of arrogance. He was warm and sincere with open hands always ready to help anyone in need. He was very cerebral, like a walking encyclopedia—a book of knowledge before Google,” intimated his pal Ed Lacson, recalling his impressions of Prof. Lopez in a Daily Tribune tribute-article simply titled, “Tomas B. Lopez Jr.” Not only did he transform UMak to a full-fledged university with modern multi-story buildings, auditoriums, classrooms, libraries, Olympic-standard sports facilities and a high-caliber faculty and staff, but he also, throughout his long tenure, gave full scholarships and a guaranteed full employment to the graduates through a partnership with Makati-based enterprises, Lacson averred.
Prof. Lopez came in to office with 50 factions to deal with. To execute his vision, he had to fix things, break walls, and make a new enclosure for his wards. He started with the students and created the Maximum Residency Requirement (MRR) whereby all students registered in the baccalaureate programs were given five years to finish their degrees and extensions for those who were working and those who filed a leave of absence not exceeding two semesters had to be duly approved by the dean of the college concerned. Graduate program students were also prescribed the same: four years for master’s degrees and five for doctorate. He then proceeded surgically to address systemic flaws. He went through the stormy phase before finally calming and uniting divided factions. It was in this light that Prof. Lopez’s words, “It’s difficult to dream together unless everyone is on board with the dream/vision” became a mantra for all.
The Eighth and Acting President
Hon. Mar-Len Abigail S. Binay
March 2019 – September 2021
A lawyer by profession, the youthful mayor of Makati City, the country’s financial capital, exudes a vibrant, energetic air in tugging the university along the pathways of progress. Her vision of pursuing programs that promote good and efficient governance through the use of modern technology wends its way to education. Among her many accomplishments of 2019, the free education program stood out. A generous grant of PHP1.43 billion for free education in Makati speaks volumes about her propensity to alleviate school standards and lift them to a global level of excellence. Mayor Abigail Binay, it was noted, has been generous to students, not only giving them scholarship opportunities but also equipping schools in the city digital tools like the Singaporean Mathematics Software Program, Koobits. Moreover, the Free Relevant Excellent Education program provides free uniforms, school supplies and the likes to motivate students to excel.
“Through our collective efforts, we will be able to build and develop a smart and sustainable city that can withstand the challenges of the future.”
The Ninth President
Dr. Elyxzur C. Ramos
October 2021 – Present
A graduate of BSBA in Economics, with an MBA degree from Colegio de San Juan de Letran in Manila and a PhD in Management from the International Academy of Management, the soft-spoken, unassuming top brass is a portrait of a successful educator whose vast experience in various fields have put him as the University of Makati’s OIC-President while maintaining his position as the Vice President for Academic Affairs.
Having served as a member of the Commission on Higher Education’s (CHED) Technical Working Group on K+12 transition program and being a present consultant of the K to 12 Project of the German Cooperation in developing a plus program for students taking Technical, Vocational and Livelihood Tracks in Senior High School, Dr. Ramos may have been the right executive to guide UMak, a leading local university with 16 colleges and over 15,000 students.
His functions as a general supervisor of all academic units and the powers it entails over all the deans and directors of academic and quasi-academic centers over a period of time as Vice President adequately groom him for the top job to steer the university forward.
Prof. X, as he is fondly called by peers, poised to take on the new educational challenges of the pandemic-riddled new normal order, sets his eyes on the future as UMak braves the landscape.