Saturday, December 01, 2007

October 19, 1886 - July 23, 1965

By Leslie Bocobo
October 19, 2006
Manila Bulletin

"Our faith is firm that when the sun goes down, there shall be no regretting, but we shall look back with a sense of achievement," thus spoke Dean Jorge Bocobo to the College of Law students of the University of the Philippines many years ago. Prophetic were his words, for he left us a legacy of sterling achievements.

He served his country in various capacities for no less than half a century - a clean public record probably only a few Filipinos can equal. He was a scholar, an educator, a lay preacher, a moralist, an author, an essayist, a jurist, a nationalist, and most of all, a Filipino who loved his country so deeply. The greater part of that service was rendered in the University of the Philippines.

He started his public career as a law clerk in the Executive Bureau in 1907. When the UP College of Law was founded in 1911, he was appointed to teach civil law. His appointment came even before his admission to the Philippine Bar. Among his students, four became presidents of the Philippines - Jose P. Laurel, Manuel A. Roxas, Elpidio Quirino and Ferdinand E. Marcos.

When he succeeded George Malcolm as Dean of the College in 1917, he initiated weekly, and later fortnightly assemblies where students discussed the issues of the day and heard inspirational talks by prominent men. Every week he posted on the bulletin board a one-page essay entitled 'monday mentor' which carried his nationalistic sentiments and his exhortations to his students. He promoted the tradition of excellence of the college by raising to '2.75' or better the general average for graduation. For his dedicated service to the UP College of Law, the UP Law Center - Bocobo Hall was named after him. A similar building at the Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, where he finished his law course also bears his name.

The observance of National Heroes Day and the revival of Filipino folk dances began during his incumbency as acting president of the University of the Philippines from 1927 to 1928. In his crusade for good manners and right conduct among the students, he organized a courtesy committee and circulated a publication known as 'Courtesy Appeals.' He was permanent president from 1934 to 1939. Through his initiative, the 'Statue of Oblation' was erected. To him, the university must be committed to the "ideal of constructing an edifice more lasting than stone and steel, and that is, a sturdy character for men who shall uphold that righteousness which exalteth a nation, men with the powerful brawn and physical courage of Elias, the civic-mindedness of Isagani, and the learning and patriotic fervor of Ibarra." He was chairman 'ex-officio' of the UP Board of Regents when President Manuel L. Quezon appointed him in 1939 as Secretary of Public Instruction (Education). As secretary, he worked for more Filipino materials in the content of education, the use of the local dialect as auxiliary medium of instruction, and the inclusion of Philippine historical events in the curricula of the public schools in the country. In 1942, he was appointed Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. In that magistracy, he penned some of the decisions which have become miletones in Philippine jurisprudence to this day. In 1947, he was designated chairman of the Code Commission which drafted the Civil Code of the Philippines, also known as the 'Civil Code of the Brown Race' or the 'Brown Race Civil Code.'It was primarily through his efforts that certain provisions such as giving more rights to married women, implanting the principle of equity in Philippine jurisprudence, promoting the solidarity of the Filipino family, elevating Filipino customs to the category of law, and exalting the human personality were incorporated in the Civil Code.

Considered as an international legal luminary, he was a distinguished member of the international commission created to draft a common penal code for all Spanish and Portuguese-speaking peoples, the 'Instituto Hispano-Luso-Americano Derecho Internacional,' and the 'Academia de Jurisprudencia y Legislacion' - to name a few. This true Filipino who had a complete mastery of the English and Spanish languages wrote 'Radiant Symbol,' 'Streams of Life,' 'Furrows and Arrows,' and the unpublished 'Henry and Loleng' - the first Filipino novel in English, became an honorary member of the 'Academia de la Lengua Espanola,' and translated from Spanish to English Dr. Jose Rizal's letters and novels - the unexpurgated version of the 'Noli Me Tangere' and the 'El Filibusterismo.' For his broad learning, profound wisdom and long distinguished public service, Dr. Bocobo, who was one of the first government 'pensionados' to the United States where he took up law at the Indiana University, was thrice conferred the degree of Doctor of Laws, 'honoris causa' by the University of Southern California (USC) in 1930, Indiana University (IU) in 1951, and the University of the Philippines (UP) in 1953.

Jorge Cleofas Bocobo was born on October 19, 1886 in Gerona, Tarlac of hardy Ilocano parents and was married to Feliza Zialcita de Castro of Orani, Bataan and Balayan, Batangas. Seven children were born of this marriage: Elvira, Florante, Celia, Ariel, Dalisay, Israel and Malaya.

When his sun went down on July 23, 1965, he knew there was no regretting, yet he must have had the desire, as he expressed it on a momentous occasion, "to see how much we have not done rather than how much we have done, so that in all humility, we may resolve to do more."

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