1909-1930: The Formative Years

On March 6, 1909, the UP College of Agriculture (UPCA) was established as Dr. Edwin Bingham Copeland, a botanist, as its first Dean. The town of Los Banos in Laguna was to be the site of the newly founded college.

The first class started on June 14, 1909 and held in the houses of faculty members and in tents. Entomology was one of the first departments established during that inaugural year with economic entomology and zoology among its initial courses.

The first structure rose months later on a 73-hectare abandoned farmland at the foot of Mt. Makiling. The Forest School (now the College of Forestry and Natural Resources) was then created in 1910, with George P. Ahern as the first Dean. During that same year, Mt. Makiling was proclaimed as a National Forest Reserve.

During the early years of the college, and for the most part of the American administration, Mt. Makiling became one of the most heavily collected mountains in the country, and one of the first biological research station as well. Collections were spearheaded by no less than the faculty and students of UPCA.

Thesis results began to appear in the Philippine Agriculturist and Forester (now the Philippine Agricultural Scientist) since its first issue in 1911, just two years after the founding of the college. Copeland had made it clear to all beforehand that no student would be granted a degree without satisfactorily completing a thesis research.

The arrival of Charles Fuller Baker in 1912 initiated the first insect collections of the Entomology Department, collecting extensively in the country and establishing the single largest collection of Philippine insects.

Owing to his untiring efforts, the Philippines, specially Mt. Makiling became well known in the world literature of entomology, with over 500 foreign publications on Philippine insects based on this collection. He also named a genus of leafhopper Makilingia, after Mt. Makiling. 

He became dean of UPCA in 1917. He died unexpectedly in 1927; his whole collection was then transferred to the US National Museum.

Leopoldo B. Uichanco, a student of Baker, became the department’s first Filipino instructor in 1915 as well as its first Master of Science graduate in 1918. Uichanco became the first Filipino to head the department in 1923, holding the position up to 1956 (also known as the Uichanco Period).

In botany, Copeland started the college’s first herbarium in 1912; Copeland’s study collections and type specimens reached an assemblage of some 25,000 mounted specimens, including 600 holotypes.

Elmer D. Merrill, Professor of Botany at UPCA (1912-1918), while at the time with the Bureau of Science (based in Manila) published the Flora of Manila (1912) in which Mt. Makiling was one of the collection localities.

Calixto Mabesa, a faculty of the Forestry Department, collected a new form of Mussaenda philippica forma aurorae in 1915.

The best known Makiling botanical collections were made by ADE Elmer in 1917 comprising more than a thousand specimens which became the basis of his planned “Forest Flora of Mt. Makiling” (but was never published). Trealease and Mclean’s enumeration of fungi and other non-vascular plants in Mt. Makiling (1919) were mainly from Baker’s collection. “Plant Life on Mt. Makiling” by DA Herbert was published in 1924.

A student of Copeland, Eduardo Quisumbing became a faculty of UPCA from 1920-1928. He worked with Merrill in describing one genus and 72 new species of Philippines plants including Pandanus nobilis.

Zoological collections by the fledgling college during the formative years were probably non-existent as the faculty roster at that time was composed mainly of agriculturists, entomologists and botanists and field zoology, as a discipline was not yet part of the curriculum.

In 1920, during the construction of the College Country Club, Robert McGregor of the Bureau of Science collected specimens of the striking Green-faced Parrotfinch (Erythrura viridifacies). These may have been the first specimens of the species, although ornithologists are still uncertain.

The Philippine Giant Frog (Limnonectes woodworthi) was first discovered in Mt. Makiling in 1923 near the campus in what is now known as Barangay Lalakay. The frog was named after one of the entomology professors who also taught general zoology, HE Woodworth.

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