The story is prepared by an amateur movie-script writer who uses a planning tool, the Logical Framework in writing the movie script. We intend to show the story of the Pensionados from a largely university setting. For educational and historical research purposes, the story demonstrates how a student organization of Filipinos respond to a historical question and how a process of research inquiry evolves when students discover a body of work that is worthy of further academic discussion. In the process, research paper presentation, the use of business planning in solving problems, and conflict negotiation are demonstrated and intertwined in retelling the story of the Pensionados as an important historical treasure of the Philippines.  Furthermore, choosing Cornell as the university setting for retelling the story of the Pensionados is ideal because it is the university in America with the oldest connection with the Philippines through the First Philippine Commission when Dr. Jacob Schurman was appointed in January 1899 as the Chairman of the First Philippine Commission.

Four  Fil-American students studying at Cornell University find themselves talking about the  Pensionados when their casual conversation inside the Cornell Dairy Bar is directed to knowing who are the first Filipino students in the university.  One of them answers that his great grandfather is a  Pensionado. The Pensionados are the first students from the Philippines sent to study in the US. As all of the four students took up  Spanish in high school, they think the word Pensionados does not mean a scholar. Indeed, the first Filipino students in the university where they presently study are the Pensionados or affiliated with the program.

Julia Stuart, Half Filipino Born in the Philippines as the Lead Female Character

Julia Stuart, half Filipino, from Queens, New York  enrolled in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations; Camilla Sanchez,  from Cleveland, Ohio, enrolled in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences;  Ronald Tuason, from San Diego, California,  enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences; and Alfred Sison, a descendant of a Pensionado from Brooklyn, New York  and enrolled  in the College of Engineering,  all agree in carrying out a research on the Pensionados for a mere curiosity and to have something to share with the fellow members of the Cornell Filipino Club. They select Julia Stuart to lead them because she is more inclined to the type of historical research useful for the undertaking.

Julia first asks her family about the Pensionados. Her father, an American who came to the Philippines as a Peace Corps volunteer and with deep knowledge of Philippine-American history, confirms they are the first groups of boys and girls sent to study in America and he mentions two Cornell alumni; Tomas Mapua, the founder of one of the country’s premier engineering schools, the Mapua Institute of Technology now the Mapua University; and Ambrosio Magsaysay, the co-founder of the Magsaysay Lines, which is the pioneer in the training and international placement of Filipino seamen. Julia then finds a website that contains a research paper on the history of the Pensionados written by Mario Orosa,  the son of  Vicente Orosa, a Pensionado from Taal, Batangas, who studied  Civil Engineering at the University of Illinois.  In his research that starts in 2005, Mario Orosa finds his way to the Library of the New Mexico State University at Las Cruces where Dr. Alexander Sutherland taught and became its President later after leaving the Pensionados Program. Alexander Sutherland, who serves as the Spanish Secretary to Governor-General William Taft prepares the Pensionados Program approved by the Second Philippine Commission. Together with his wife, they are in the journey of the first 104 boys that left Manila on October 9, 1903. He supervises the program while he is based in San Francisco and Washington D.C. until 1908. 

Cornell Filipino Club Members Agree to Present the Research Work on  the Pensionados by Mario Orosa, Son of Vicente Orosa, a Pensionado from Taal Batangas

The four members present their initial report during a regular meeting of the Cornell Filipino Club by focusing on Cornell Pensionados first. They are Tomas Mapua from the School of Architecture, Ambrosio Magsaysay and Apolinario Baltazar from the College of Engineering, Victor Buencamino from the College of Veterinary Medicine, and Antonio Torres from College of Law. After the presentation,  the Cornell Filipino Club agrees to sponsor a seminar that will present the research works of Mario Orosa in the  Southeast Asian Studies Center of Cornell University. The adviser of the Cornell Filipino Club is a faculty in the center, Teresa Roxas. She facilitates the preparation of the submission of the necessary requirements for review and approval of the paper. The seminar paper is approved by the Southeast Asian Center.

Preparation for the Paper Presentation

There are six months of preparation. Mario Orosa, based in Cincinnati, Ohio, son of a Pensionado who keeps an extensive historical account of the program comes to Ithaca, New York as the speaker. He asks Linda Lazaro,  a descendant of Cornell Pensionado Emilio Quisumbing, Civil Engineering Class of 1908, to join him in the paper presentation. The  preparation involves  a Filipino party with food, music, and dance after the seminar.

Mario Orosa Presents His Research Entitled the Pensionados Story at the Cornell Southeast Asian Center

Welcome Address by the Director of the Southeast Asian Center

Dr. Tim Jones,  the Director of the Southeast Asian Center, opens the seminar and he reveals that he immediately reviews the Cornell-Philippines connection after the abstract of the presentation of Mario Orosa reaches him. He discovers that Cornell’s presence in the Philippines is already prominent shortly after the US rule of the country starts. He discovers a Cornell Alumni News  file that he shows wherein Cornell alumni are already working for various government services less than ten years after the start of the US occupation of the country.  He himself believes that the Cornell-Philippines connection is first established through Dr. Jacob Schurman and because of this long historical ties, the Pensionado program needs to be studied at Cornell. 

Mario Orosa Starts His Talk About the History of the Pensionados

Mario Orosa starts his talk about the history of the  Philippine Commission Act No. 854  that authorizes the sending of Filipino students to the United States for four years of study in American colleges and universities. Orosa first narrates the biography of Sutherland, who is a very important character in the Pensionados Story.

Mario Orosa Narrates the Memoir of Alexander Sutherland

Mario Orosa presents the journey of the Pensionados based on the memoir of Alexander Sutherland that starts on October 9, 1903, aboard the Japanese ship Rohilla Maru with 104 Filipino students and the Sutherlands, they have the monopoly of the ship for the three-day voyage to Hong Kong. In Hong Kong the Pensionados board a larger ship, the SS Korea of the Pacific Mail Line and their journey to the U.S. continues on October 13. They arrive in San Francisco, as Sutherland describes in his memoir,  “It was a bedraggled and unsophisticated bunch of boys who on a chilly, drizzly November 8, 1903, marched up Market Street, two by two from the dock, dressed in limp white cotton   drill suits, straw hats and soggy shoes, carrying armfuls of nondescript bags and bundles.”

In the Sutherland memoir, “The students were placed the first winter in the various high schools of Southern California to avoid the more severe weather of the east and to give them orientation and needed intensive work in English. This proved very satisfactory and after a special summer school at Santa Barbara they were taken in special cars for a special trip to the Louisiana Purchase Exposition at St. Louis, MO. They were quartered for a month in the Philippine reservation where they served as guides and as waiters in the mess hall. In the fall of 1904, they were distributed to selected colleges and universities, already prepared for them, throughout the country according to the courses of study in which they had been assigned.” 

Mario Orosa then proceeds with the narration of Alexander Sutherland about the Pensionados. In 1950, Alexander Sutherland returns to the Philippines and meets  the living Pensionados and for his last journey to the Philippines. He is  honored by President Elpidio Quirino, whose elder brother Antonio Quirino,  is  a member of the Pensionados Class of 1903.  In this gathering, Sutherland further gathers information that he finally puts together in his memoir that is now kept at the  New Mexico State University at Las Cruces where he served as President. 

The Alexander Sutherland Memoir

In his memoir, Sutherland starts with the Pensionado engineers. The first in the list is  Saturnino Lopez, executed by the Japanese before the liberation. Then he mentions Marcial Kasilag Sr., Vicente Manalo, Emilio Quisumbing, and  Fidel Larracas. He continues his narration with   Carlos Barretto and Antonio Toledo, the architects in the Bureau of Public  Works.  Then he mentions Apolinario Baltazar, Mateo Roco, Vicente Fragante, Luis Francisco, Roman Licup, Ambrosio Magsaysay, and Francisco Ycasiano. These engineers are responsible for building public infrastructures such as buildings, bridges, irrigation systems, and waterworks.

In the field of Medicine,  Sutherland places in his memoir the pioneering and heroic works of Dr. Antonio Sison, Dr. Potenciano Guazon,  Dr. Pepertuo Gutierrez, Dr. Arturo Garcia,  Dr. Liborio Gomez, Dr. Daniel de la Paz, Dr. Gervasio Santos Cayuga,  Dr. Carmelo Reyes, and  Dr. Jose P. Bantug. These doctors work for the development of the Philippine General Hospital and the UP College of Medicine. Dr. Carmelo Reyes contributed to the development of the Far Eastern University Institute of Medicine. These Pensionado Doctors have combined significant contributions to the development of general hospital management, dermatology and venereal disease,  pathology, surgery, gynecology, communicable disease,  leprosy, and public health. They also serve the medical schools in the studies of  medicine such as anatomy, pharmacology, and bacteriology.

In the field of science, the  Pensionados have produced two renowned chemists, Francisco Reyes and Angel Arguelles both in the Bureau of Science of which Arguelles is the first Filipino head. 

In the educational field, the Pensionados have been most active, many teaching upon return from America and some later entering other fields. Cenon Monasterial, Francisco  Benitez, Digno Alba, Francisco Llamado, Jose Espiritu, Eustacio Ilustre, Alejandro Santos, Esteban Ibalio, Elizabeth Florendo, Eleanor de Leon, and Clementa Asturias have largely remained in their classrooms.  Jose Batungbacal gives up teaching to study law and then gives up Law to write books. The Pensionados give Presidents of universities, deans of colleges, superintendent of schools, and classroom teachers. Francisco Benitez is the “Mr. Education” in the Philippines.

Sutherland also specifically mentions in his memoir lawyer Martin P. de Veyra, industrialist Carlos Lopez, an Engineer in the largest cement plant in the country Felix Valencia, and Capiz Governor Ludovico Hidrosollo. The lawyers that he individually cites include Antonio de las Alas, Camilo Osias, and the one who turned priest, Jose Ma. Cuenco, who became Bishop of Iloilo. In the field of agriculture, he includes Silverio Apostol, who is considered as the Father of Agriculture, Victorino Borja, Teodulo Topacio, Mariano Manas Cruz, and Jose Sanvictores.  Mariano Manas Cruz is the first Filipino Director of the Bureau of Plant Industry. Sotero Baluyut, an Engineer who serves as a Governor of Pampanga and a Cabinet Secretary is also included in the memoir.

Conrado Benitez, an Economist and Dean of the UP College of Business Administration is also included in the memoir. The list also includes lawyer Felipe Buencamino Jr. Mariano H. de Joya, Ernesto Quirino, Jose Teodoro, Segundo Hipolito, Alfonso Ponce Enrile, and Delfin Jaranilla. Francisco A. Delgado, a diplomat is also included. Finally, the last Pensionado Sutherland mentions is Jose Abad Santos, which he considers as one of the greatest men he knew.

Mario Orosas Concluding Notes

Mario Orosa mentions William Alexander Sutherland towards the end of his story. “He passed away in 1969 at the age of ninety-two. The original Pensionados are long gone, my own father passed away at the age of eighty-nine.  But only did he was endowed with a long and fruitful life, he outlived many of his Pensionados.”  Mario Orosa concludes that the Pensionados program has been largely forgotten for a long period. But lately, there seems to be an interest in the academic world. “I prefer to observe it as a human story of more than two hundred young Filipinos who received a wonderful one time opportunity which they repaid in droves.” 

In his own conclusion in line with the relevance of the Pensionados program to the current time, Mario Orosa envisions that the Pensionados program is still a timely model for educating the new leaders of the country. He affirms that the collective story of the Pensionados cuts across the different periods in the history of the Philippines, and perhaps how they adapt to the needs of the time is worthy of recognition. 

First.  they are born in the last period of the Spanish rule. Second,  they are the first group to be sent to the US to study and would assume principal roles in different areas of endeavor during the transition for Independence. Third, they come back and most of them devote their respective careers in government service; they rise from the rank through hard work and continuous education. Their wealth of experience qualifies them in assuming the leadership roles in education, infrastructure building, agricultural development, medicine, and government service but still during the time the Philippines is under the US rule. They have many pioneering works. Fourth, which is the sad part of their story, is they suffer from the Second World War and many of them lost their lives. Their families suffer, they participate in the resistance movement, and their pioneering works are destroyed. The war costs them dearly. And finally, most of them are already in the twilight of their careers to exert great influence when the country gains full independence from the US. The new breed of politicians and leaders in science and industry mostly educated in our own system, a few are sent to the US for graduate studies,  would take over the country. In fact, the  Pensionados are not given the real stewardship of the country because the time is not with them and they do not have the number.

The presentation receives around of applause as Mario Orosa vividly gives very interesting historical accounts of the Pensionados program and the contribution of the alumni in basically every aspect of the Philippine society.

Why the Pensionados Program was Stopped Immediately?

In the open forum, Dr. Ronald Tan from Singapore asks,  “In spite of what you consider an initial success of the Pensionados program, why did the US Government stop the program immediately? Dr.  Tan is a fellow at the Southeast Asian Center. He adds, “perhaps Singapore learns a lesson from this program because Singapore until today sends students to Cambridge and Oxford and the Ivy League universities in the US in spite of the high global ranking of our National University of Singapore.” Mario Orosa reveals that he has no answer but he believes that the program should never be stopped.

Question About the Narrative that the Pensionados Brought the US Style Graft and Corruption

A question from Thomas Williams, a  faculty in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, who is familiar with the history of the role of US universities in international development. “There is another view that the Pensionados introduced the US-style graft and corruption to the Philippines, did you encounter any writing on this in your research? Orosa’s answer is, “none in the formal publication but in the social media, there are some who are against it but they do not have any evidence to show.

Cornell President Alludes to the Role of Cornell President Jacob Schurman Role in the Philippines for a New Cornell and Philippines Cooperation

In the wrap-up, the President of Cornell, Dr. Marina Albert is asked to comment on the role of Cornell in the Pensionados Studies.  Dr. Michael Yumul is able to relate the Pensionados Studies  to the Ezra Cornell motto of “I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study.”  Dr. Albert replies that perhaps her expertise in artificial intelligence and educational administration are timely for the Philippines today, in the same way that the expertise of the third President of Cornell, Dr. Jacob Schurman, a Political Scientist was needed for the First Philippine Commission in 1889.   She alludes to the fact that Cornell must employ the use of artificial intelligence for a holistic academic and research collaboration in any instruction and in any study and on this basis, she states that the  Cornell motto must go along with the revival of the Pensionados program of educating young boys and girls to be future leaders of the country in any field. 

Furthermore, Dr. Albert understands the Cornell-Philippine connection as she says “By virtue of history, we are the first American university that established a connection with the  Philippines through the First Philippine Commission. The seeds that we sow maybe are just hibernating, and its genetic vigor remains in those seeds.  We have to use the simplest, and if genetic engineering is needed, every available means to make the seed sprout and employ the best technologies and management practices to attain the best yield and eventually to produce quality seeds for the next planting.”

Mario Orosa’s Pensionados Story Presentation Triggers  Interest in the Philippine Community in the US

The seminar paper that   Mario Orosa delivers then triggers the attention of  Fil-American associations in the different universities across America. In a span of six months, he then speaks at  Harvard, the University of Chicago, Columbia, the University of Indiana, the University of Illinois,  and the University of California at Berkeley upon the invitation of Fil-American student associations. Filipino Americans start to become aware of the Pensionados as a vital piece of why they are now in these universities. 

There is now a challenge because the interest on the Pensionados is spreading. For every speaking engagement of Mario Orosa, the open forum always results in the move to revive the historical program. However, reviving the program entails a large amount of money although logistics would be much easier today. 

Facing the Challenge for the Revival of the  Pensionados

The four Cornellians carry out research on how to generate the fund for the program and how to establish an organization that is going to manage the new Pensionados Program.  The four realize a basic problem as no one of them has a special skill set to develop a business plan. They ask  Carlos Mercado for assistance. Carlos is in his senior year in the Dyson School of Cornell taking up Applied Economics and Management. They agree to prepare a business plan for the fundraising and management of the program.

Carlos did the research and he himself becomes attached to the Pensionados program. After two meetings with the four students, the business plan is completed. He presents the plan in a special meeting attended by Teresa Roxas, the adviser of CFC. Carlos Mercado outlines his business plan. “First, we have to request the universities that participated in the Pensionados program give scholarships for Filipinos. Second, we must create a  “Trust Fund” that manages the contribution from various sources. And third, we have to use music, arts, and movie in the promotion of the program. This approach is an integral part of the campaign. Based on the hit song “Pensionados,” charity concerts in the US, a new approach to attract corporate and institutional donors is outlined in the business plan. Movies are produced related to the Pensionados. And fourth, our plan is a rolling action plan, not a blueprint type.”

Opposition to the Pensionados Revival

The execution of the plan encounters many hardships and natural oppositions common in Philippine society. Those in the left-wing nationalist movement in the Philippines oppose the revival because it will just breed a new elite that is pro America. There is also a campaign that the program is only for the rich because the children of prominent families are the recipients of the award and this will be just be repeated. Apparently, the allegations are serious issues. The proponents in the revival of the Pensionados program really need to exercise fortitude of spirit. There is a challenge for a debate proposed by the National Union of Students based in the University of the Philippines. The Cornell Filipino Club through Carlos Mercado replies that instead of a debate, they challenge the NUS to work with them for a common purpose. The only intention of the CFC is to assist in a specific part of educating the leaders by providing an environment with diversity. The NUS officials are enlightened and they agree to cooperate and follow the same approach the CFC has done.  from among its members further solidifies for a unified cause and they get more support from the Cornell alumni, not only the Filipino Cornell alumni. 

Julia Stuart’s Columbia University Paper on Adhering to the Pensionados as an Old Human Resources Development Model as a Wake-up Call to the Opposition and for the Filipino Community to Unite in Support of the Pensionados Revival

Julia Stuart, with a background in human resources development, is invited to talk in a human resources development conference sponsored by Columbia University in New York City. She opens her speech: “In my  Human Resources Management course, I decided to settle down with an old business model, rather than to engage myself in the most modern theories in human resources development. The claim that the  Pensionados Program is purely a machination tool used by the US for the colonization of the Philippines really surprises me. I just learned also that this  narrative has been passed from generation to generation of the  anti-US faction.”  She confirms her advocacy, which is to resurrect the Pensionados model. She says that “While we are living in a different time, still we need a new breed of scholars because the educational system in the Philippines is no longer producing the visionary leaders the country needs. Any educator in the Philippines who still embraces the rhetoric that the country has adequate educational preparation as we are sending our best graduates abroad does not understand the real problem. The problem is not about mass-based technical training and the ability of our individual graduates to compete internationally in any given field. The problem is the lack of collective visionary leadership that the educational system has failed to produce.  There is no substitute for molding the leaders at an early age. In addition,   they must be molded as strong parts that can be collectively put together in shaping a nation. Furthermore, they must be in a fairly adequate number, not just a  few students without the binding force that is going to build a

whole nation when their respective opportunities arrive. Sending them out together but in different schools builds the needed diversity. The revival of the program must  include sending students not only to  the US and Canada but also to  the best universities in Asia and Europe in the future.” This speech gained attention both in the mainstream media and social media and is considered one of the finest speeches delivered by a Fil-Am student in the US.

There is no more turning back for  CFC because what is already at stake is the awareness and enthusiasm triggered by the Pensionados Story of Mario Orosa, which has been opened-up for academic debate. The speech of Julia Stuart in the Columbia University Conference is a vital wake-up call. 

They decide to actively participate in improving access to education for would-be leaders. They carry out the plan with the purpose of being more closer to their Filipino roots. Eventually, they campaign on the internet and in the social media. They eventually approve the holding of the yearly Pensionados celebration at Cornell.  

Filipino Community Awakening on the Importance of the Pensionados Education Model

Filipino association participates in the “Adopt the  Pensionados Program.” A movement to use the name Pensionados as the common identifying name of all Filipino-American associations in the universities in the US has received support.  They organize a lobby group to rally in Washington DC to support the program. 

Two Years of Campaigning

After two years of campaigning, with Julia already in the Cornell Law School;  Roland in the College of Medicine; Camilla already employed in the US Department of Agriculture in Washington D.C., and Alfred continues his graduate studies at Cornell in the College of Engineering, the first group of new Pensionados scholars arrives in the US.  Meeting them in San Francisco are the four alumni who initiated the Pensionados campaign. The name of the program, even as a misnomer, is no longer changed. The Pensionados Center is already established in Ithaca, New York as research and think tank center for Philippine studies. The center manages the trust fund, engages in the fund generation, and manages the Pensionados Fellowship Program.

The New Pensionados Revival

The first group of New Pensionados numbering 100 flies direct to San Francisco via a Philippine Airlines flight from Manila. The flight reenacts the Pensionados journey across the Pacific, this time by airplane. The send-off party in Manila is sponsored by San Miguel Beer, the same brewery that provided refreshment in 1903. 

The movie ends with the welcome reception for the five Pensionados who are going to attend Cornell University.  A welcome party was prepared. Relatives of the new Pensionados come to Ithaca from within the US and from the Philippines to witness this another historic event. The Cornell Filipino Club adopts the yearly celebration of the Pensionados Day, which they expect to spread all over America and even in the Philippines and in other parts of the world. 


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