NOW IT’S settled.
A scholar from Cebu has sided with the University of Santo Tomas (UST) in the lingering dispute with Cebu’s University of San Carlos (USC) over who’s the oldest.
In an article in the January-April 2011 issue of Philippiniana Sacra, the official publication of the Ecclesiastical Faculties of UST, Fr. Aloysius Cartagenas argued that Santo Tomas, founded in 1611, has the rightful claim to the title, not San Carlos, which can only trace its foundation to the year 1867.
San Carlos cannot claim to have descended from the Colegio de San Ildefonso founded by the Jesuits in 1595, despite taking over the latter’s facilities when the Jesuits were expelled by Spanish authorities in 1769, Cartagenas said.
Cartagenas is a professor at the Seminario Mayor de San Carlos of Cebu, part of the same institution as the then College of San Carlos until 1924 when they separated.
Cartagenas echoed the position of the Spanish Dominican historian Fr. Fidel Villarroel, O.P., who maintains San Ildefonso ceased to exist with the expulsion of the Jesuits.
The Cebu theologian said there is “no visible and clear link” between Colegio de San Ildefonso and USC.
On its website usc.edu.ph, San Carlos claims to be the “oldest in the country.”
“It was also here [in Cebu City] that the oldest school in the country emerged—the University of San Carlos,” USC said on its website.
San Ildefonso was a grammar school for boys attached to the Jesuit residence. But what emerged in 1783 or fourteen years after the Jesuit expulsion was a diocesan seminary named Colegio-Seminario de San Carlos, named after St. Charles Borromeo.
Cartagenas said USC only took over the facility of the former Colegio de San Ildefonso.
“The latter (USC) was specifically for the training of diocesan priests, and it simply took over the facility of the former, a Jesuit central house with an attached day school,” Cartagenas said.
Cartagenas said that the Vincentians took over the seminary in 1867 from the Cebu diocese and turned it into a seminario-colegio, or a seminary with a program of secondary education for boys not intended for ecclesiastical service.
“Following Church tradition, the foundation event and date of University of San Carlos should be the decree of Bishop Romualdo Jimeno on 15 May 1867 (turning over the seminary to the Congregation of the Missions) and the first day of classes in the history of what is now USC is 1 July 1867, the day P. Jose Casarramona welcomed the first lay students to attend classes at the Seminario de San Carlos,” Cartagenas said.
Historians point out that unlike UST, whose operations were interrupted only by war and were continuously under the Dominicans, San Carlos changed owners several times.
In 1924, San Carlos split into two under a Vatican decree that seminaries should only be for priestly training. In the 1930s, the San Carlos college moved to a different location, P. Del Rosario Street, while the seminary remained at Martires Street.
The Society of the Divine Word took over the college in 1935. It became a university only in 1948.
The seminary, meanwhile, was returned to diocesan control in 1998.
UST has been a university since 1645.
Villarroel, a former UST archivist, had debunked USC’s claim as early as 1995 in an article in Unitas, the UST scholarly journal. That year, San Carlos celebrated its 400th year.
“Whatever date may finally be fixed and conventionally accepted as [USC’s] foundation date, it cannot be the year 1595,” Villaroel said in his essay published in the September 1995 issue of Unitas.
He said that in that year, the Jesuits established a mission in Cebu consisted of a residence and a church “under the advocation of San Ildefonso.”
“It should be noted that most Jesuit residences in the Philippines, as elsewhere, were called colegios, whether they were educational institutions, houses of formation, centers of apostolate, or seats of government and administration for the Society,” Villarroel said.
Villarroel also noted that when the Society of Jesus was expelled in 1769, the Spanish government confiscated all its institutions, houses, churches, schools and properties, leaving only the Colegio de San Jose of Manila in operation.
“All other Jesuit institutions, without exception, ceased to exist, never to rise again as they were,” Villarroel said. “No institution took over its works and mission, and none claims to be its continuator.”
However, Villarroel said the Colegio de San Ildefonso’s buildings were not demolished and were left to fall to ruin until Most Rev. Mateo Joaquin Rubio de Arevalo, bishop of Cebu, requested the Spanish government to use the structure for the establishment of a diocesan seminary.
“King Charles III granted the request, and steps began to be taken for the foundation for the seminary,” Villaroel said. “[In 1867], the Cebu Seminary of San Carlos became a mixed seminary, a seminary-college, offering courses to the candidates for the priesthood and, besides, some basic courses in humanities (then called latinidad) to non-boarding Cebuano kids.”
The Colegio de San Carlos of Cebu, according to Villarroel, was “entirely separated from the Seminary” in 1924 due to the Church’s “disapproval of mixed seminaries.”
“The publication of the new Canon Law promulgated by the Sacred Congregation for the Seminaries left the Vicentian Fathers with no option but to comply with the Church’s legislation and separate the college section from the seminary proper in all the conciliar seminaries,” Villarroel said.
“It is [my] contention that the passing from one institution to the other has not been done by homogeneous growth, and so one does not become the other,” Villarroel said. “You do not call a mango tree an orange tree just because the mango tree has grown in the place where formerly an orange tree was planted, grew and died.”
“Hopefully, some future historian of San Carlos University, with the aid of original documentation, may arrive at the clarification of the origins of his institution beyond any reasonable doubt,” Villarroel said.