First, FEU was, is, the realization of Dr Reyes’s grand and noble vision to provide access to quality higher education to all Filipinos. It was grand, being outsized in ambition; and it was noble in that it sought to bring out the best in the people who were touched by the dream, especially the faculty, staff, and students of FEU.
Second, since its establishment in the Commonwealth Period, FEU has seen its fortunes rise and fall with those of the country. It was bright with promise during the heady days of the antebellum years when the Philippine Islands were preparing for independence from American rule; it underwent tremendous suffering during World War II; and, with great difficulty, it rose from the ashes in the post-war years.
The late 60s through the mid 80s were, to borrow a phrase from the writer Jose Lacaba, “days of disquiet and nights of rage” in the FEU campus as everywhere else in the country. Thus, given its history, FEU cannot but work for the country’s good and that of its citizens.
Third, the stewardship of FEU passed to Dr Lourdes Montinola in the late 80s, and now it has been passed on to her children. Aurelio Montinola III is the Chair of the Board of Trustees and the CEO, Antonio Montinola is a Trustee and the lead in FEU’s sports engagements (as his uncle, Alfredo, was), Juan Miguel Montinola is the CFO, and Gianna Montinola is the Vice-President for Corporate Affairs.
Under the stewardship of the Montinolas, FEU has metamorphosed into a system with seven schools and 11 campuses. The schools consist of FEU Manila, FEU Institute of Technology (or FEU Tech), FEU High School, FEU Diliman, FEU Cavite, the soon-to-open FEU Alabang, and Roosevelt College, which was acquired in 2016. The campuses include the original school grounds, which are now being shared by FEU Manila and FEU High School; a 17-story building in nearby R. Papa Street, which houses FEU Tech; a 6-story building in Makati (which is a satellite campus of FEU Manila); the more traditional school grounds in Diliman, Quezon City, and Silang, Cavite; and a rising building complex in Filinvest, Alabang; plus the five sites of the Roosevelt College schools, which are in Cubao, Marikina, Cainta, San Mateo, and Rodriguez. It is a school system ascendant, by which I mean that all of the schools are on a relentless journey seeking to deliver ever higher quality in order to improve the lives of an ever increasing number of students and graduates.
Fourth, FEU is rising to meet the opportunities and challenges presented by the future. Recognizing on the one hand that, because of a propitious demographic age structure, the Philippines has a chance to become a rich country in the next 80 years or so if Filipino workers can find gainful employment, but on the other that, because of globalization and rapid technological change, workers are being displaced by automated processes, FEU is adopting innovations to prepare its graduates for the fast-changing landscape of the world of work. These include well-designed learning spaces to create a conducive learning environment; an emphasis on digital literacy, effective communication, and critical thinking in its curriculum to foster the skills most needed by workers to succeed in the workplace: the adoption of new delivery strategies, such as blended learning, among others, as well as learning-management and artificial-intelligence powered adaptive learning systems to make learning more efficient and effective; and the use of data analytics to track student engagement and learning outcomes. The aspiration is that, as a result of their engaging and immersive experience in FEU schools, graduates will be future-proofed and future ready.
Fifth, as with thousands of hapless Filipino civilians, Dr Nicanor Reyes Sr and his household fell victim to the wanton cruelty of the Japanese troops in the last days of the Battle of Manila. He died on February 9, 1945, perhaps an hour or two past 4 pm, that is, exactly 73 years ago, almost to this very hour. In her book, Breaking the Silence, Dr Montinola recounts that Dr Reyes just had time to gather the household in the vestibule of their residence before the Japanese soldiers barged in with their murderous intent.
His last words to them were “Be brave.”
Sixth and last, through the 90 years of its existence, FEU has heeded the clarion call of its founder to provide quality education to Filipinos. We in the FEU Community of today fervently believe in his cause; we are inspired by his vision; and we are motivated to take part in his mission and, indeed, are ennobled by our various roles in it. As we face the headwinds of the future, our collective will continues to be emboldened by his last directive, be brave.
And so now that you have been primed for it, ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to present the film documentary “Be Brave: The Story of Far Eastern University.”