By Mariela Angella Oladive
Central Philippine University (CPU), the first Baptist university in Asia, celebrated its 118th foundation anniversary on Sunday, October 1, coinciding with the centenary of its transition into a co-educational junior college in 1923.
Under the theme “Central Spirit: Honoring the Generations of Empowered Centralian Women,” the celebration paid tribute to pioneering women who played pivotal roles since the institution’s inception in 1905.
Atty. Jeremy Bionat, CPU Alumni Association, Inc. (CPUAAI) president, cited the significance of this year’s celebration which highlighted the dual commemoration of CPU’s 118th anniversary and the pivotal moment when the university embarked on the journey of Filipinization.
“It’s some sort of double celebration because it was also the start of the Filipinization of the university. The university was originally known as the Jaro Industrial School and later became Central Philippine College, primarily under the influence of American missionaries, and it was only in 1923 that the first woman in the name of Felina Laureano de Luzurriaga was appointed to the board of trustees,” Bionat told Daily Guardian.
This turning point in CPU’s history was not only a milestone in gender inclusion but also marked the beginning of the university’s active involvement in the women’s rights and suffrage movement.
Atty. Bionat emphasized, “It is the beginning of the year [in 1923] when CPU took the lead in women’s rights and suffrage. Especially in suffrage, such that in 1939, Filipino women were already allowed to vote. CPU played a great role in that endeavor.”
In commemoration of this significant legacy, an art exhibition titled “Babaye,” presented by the Centralian Visual Artists Society (CENVAS) of the CPU Cultural Affairs Office, kicked off the week-long celebration. The exhibit, located in the Henry Luce III Library lobby, features artworks of women available for sale, with proceeds supporting the university’s Arts community.
The following days were filled with various events, including awe-inspiring performances by the renowned Kabayao family quartet during “MUSICALE AT CENTRAL: Joyous Faith and Praise” on September 27 at CPU’s Rose Memorial Auditorium.
On September 28, the university honored six outstanding alumni during the Outstanding Alumni of Central Philippine University Awarding Ceremony at Jade Ballroom, Grand Xing Hotel, with four of the six awardees being women. The recognition reflects the remarkable achievements and contributions of Centralian women in various fields.
A youth-centric celebration, “ADLAW SANG MGA PAMATAN-ON,” was set on September 29. Fitness and philanthropy combined in “ZUMBA FOR A CAUSE,” while alumni reconnected at the “ALUMNI HOMECOMING AND GENERAL ASSEMBLY” on September 30.
October 1 was marked by a wreath-laying ceremony to honor those who devoted their lives to CPU, particularly the martyrs of Hopevale. Located in Brgy. Katipunan Tapaz, Capiz, Hopevale is a place where eleven courageous missionaries, seven of whom were women, refused to surrender and evacuated to the mountains during a critical period in history.
Atty. Bionat proudly noted that CPU is currently a female-dominated community, with women holding key positions in the CPU Board of Trustees and the Central Philippine University Republic (CPUR), the first student government in the Philippines.
“In the long line of CPU Republic, this is the third time that we have a woman as president, Ms. Mitzy Ruth Delector, a medical technology student,” Atty. Bionat remarked, adding that this year’s CPU Board of Trustees includes seven women among its 15 officers and four ex-officio members.
“This is a female-dominated community as of this year,” he declared.
As CPU commemorates 118 years of excellence and empowerment, the spirit of Centralian women will undoubtedly continue to inspire generations to come.