UP and state universities

EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales - The Philippine Star

They came in droves with their pencils, erasers, snacks; lucky charms and prayers and wild and thumping nervous hearts filled with hopes and dreams.

The first person in line arrived at the University of the Philippines Diliman campus in Quezon City in the wee hours of the morning of June 3, at 1 a.m. to be exact, and slept in the car to avoid heavy traffic, said UP president Angelo Jimenez.

There were 104,000 senior high school students who applied for the UP College Admission Test (UPCAT) and on June 3 and 4, they trooped to the 102 testing centers all over the country, the first time again the pencil-and-paper test was held after three years of postponement due to the pandemic.

Of this, the university will only be able to accommodate 15,000 students for the freshman intake for the 2024-2025 academic year.

In the Diliman campus, UP hopefuls were everywhere, scattered all over the campus, some with their parents; others just alone with their wracking nerves. Cars were moving at a snail’s pace, although there were warnings about this legendary UPCAT traffic months ahead.

A friend and our former Graphics editor at the Philippine Collegian even thought of selling cakes and pastries to UPCAT takers that weekend to earn some extra cash because he knew the crowd would be huge.

Some UPCAT takers arrived for the morning test even before the sun was up, while others were found tired and in a daze after the exams. Some of them lingered at the UP Sunken Garden after the test which, during my student days back in the day, was my own “field of dreams and nightmares.” Perhaps, they were pondering if they did well.

One account online shared a photograph of the famed UP Oblation, that iconic symbol of the university. In a poignant caption, the owner of the account said he just finished his test and all he could do was to take a photograph of The Oblation because that was all he could have of UP. He felt he wasn’t going to make it to the country’s premiere state university, having found the entrance exam very difficult.

State universities

It really is a competitive process getting into UP, especially since then president Duterte signed in 2017 Republic Act 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act which mandated free education in Philippine state colleges and universities.

It is a reality in the Philippines that the average middle-class Filipino family still finds it difficult to send their children to private universities, what more the lower-income families. Lucky are those with rich parents who can send their sons and daughters abroad.

This now drives me to my point, which is that we need more quality state colleges and universities in the Philippines.

While there are more than 100 state colleges and universities in the Philippines, less than a dozen are in Luzon, if the information available on the internet is correct. And some are not as well-known when it comes to providing quality education.

The crowd of the latest UPCAT takers is enough indication that the Philippines really needs more quality state colleges and universities. The government can work on this by allocating a bigger budget for this sector to enable more research, attract better faculty and have better facilities.

I hope President Marcos will realize this emergency, this crisis in education.


This way, many Filipino families will have other options. As it is now, many Filipino families want their sons and daughters to get into UP because it is the premiere university in the country. Perhaps many saw their own parents become who they are because of their UP education.

Growing up, I, too, saw in my own family the kind of nation-loving individuals the university produced. One of them was my grandfather, the late Jorge Gonzales. He was a hardworking family patriarch and a very kind hearted man who served his country to the best of his abilities. He was at one point the chief legal counsel of state-owned National Power Corp. It was amazing how he finished law, considering that the war disrupted schooling. While a Liberal Arts student, he also joined the Upsilon Sigma Phi fraternity in 1939 and became its Illustrious Fellow in 1949 when he was already a student at the UP College of Law.

His wife, my grandmother, the late Belen Gonzales, was a brilliant English professor in UP Diliman who also taught in UP Iloilo in her younger days. She graduated with a Bachelor of Secondary Education in 1941 in UP and obtained her Master of Arts degree in American Literature in the University of Minnesota.

She was teaching until she retired.

They were blessed with two sons, my father included, and two daughters who all went to UP as well and are servant leaders in their own right. I am the third generation UP graduate in our family and it was because of them that I, too, wanted to be in the university.

I hope in the future, we will have many more universities that would give this nation’s children quality education and teach them love of country, because inasmuch as I wish all UPCAT takers would pass the entrance test, the university just cannot accommodate them all. I hope Filipino children, their children’s children and so on, would have more options in the future.

The great Filipino dream after all is really to leave a legacy of quality education for the succeeding generation. I hope our government can help this nation of 114 million achieve that dream.

*   *   *

Email: [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at EyesWideOpen on FB.

vuukle comment


  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with