The University of the City of Manila, more popularly known by its Pilipino name, Pamantasan Ng Lungsod Ng Maynila or PLM, is the first scholars’ university in the Philippines, perhaps even in Asia. By scholars here, we mean that it is a tuition-free institution of higher learning that has set the bar for other institutions of the sort.
The university was created by Republic Act No. 4196 signed by then-President Diosdado Macapagal in 1965, although it opened its doors two years later in 1967. To this day, in its enclave behind the walls of the ancient fortress-city of Intramuros, it remains to be the bastion of free education to deserving students from the less-fortunate families of the Manila populace and beyond.
When former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada became Mayor of the City of Manila in 2013, he vowed to continue the educational excellence and scholarships that PLM and other city schools provided. This was in line with his ERAP PARA SA MAHIRAP battle cry and advocacy, where having less in life did not necessarily mean less in educational opportunities. I do recall that he had put a premium on education ever since – as mayor of San Juan, as Senator, as Vice-President, and even as President.
In 2015, Manuel V. Pangilinan, or MVP, was invited to be the commencement speaker at the PLM and was awarded the degree of Doctor of Humanities, honoris causa. Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno was the Chairman of the PLM Board of Regents then.
In his speech, MVP extolled the graduates to aim for excellence and to not be afraid to take risk. He also announced that he will give a PHP 20-million donation to the university, as well as provide for free Wi-Fi through PLDT, free drinking water through MAYNILAD, and free repair of electric wires through MERALCO. What ensued was a thunderous applause! This was part of the assistance that the MVP Group provided to public schools around the country.
True to form, and in line with the commitment of President Mayor Erap to improve public education in the city, the PHP 20-million MVP Technology and Innovation Center was recently unveiled to the public at the PLM, built through the donation managed by both PLDT-SMART Foundation and One MERALCO Foundation.
MVP had mentioned that in aiding public schools, priority was given to those that lacked necessary equipment like computers in providing for quality education. President Mayor Erap himself had said that he inherited a bankrupt city with dilapidated educational equipment and facilities, so much so that he had to depend on the generosity of the private sector for assistance.
On hand during the unveiling ceremonies where President Mayor Erap himself and MVP, where the latter turned over a symbolic key of the Center to Manila’s local chief executive.
Also on hand to witness the occasion were PLM Regents Teresita Aquino-Oreta and Bienvenido Laguesma, PLM President Dr. Leonora “Lenny” De Jesus, PLM Academic Vice-President Gil Evasco, MERALCO President and Chief Executive Officer Oscar Reyes, and PLDT-SMART Foundation President Esther Santos.
Ben Diokno, Benny Laguesma, Lenny De Jesus, and I had served in the Cabinet of the Erap administration. Tessie Aquino-Oreta was a Senator when Erap was President, and she also served as the Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Education.
In his speech, President Mayor Erap only had kind words to say to MVP: “On behalf of PLM officials, faculty and students, as well as the entire City of Manila, I extend my deepest thanks to you for this generous gesture of support to our city’s educational sector.”
MVP himself had said that this is not the end, but merely the beginning in the continued assistance that he intended to give—to PLM and to other public schools in dire need.
This should, hopefully, inspire others to also do their share in investing in education for the future of our nation.