Reuben Gonzaga Manalaysay

1915 - 2016

Rueben Manalaysay, first Filipino president of Philippine Union College, now Adventist University of the Philippines, was also a talented performer on violin and piano. Following his tenure as president of PUC, he also held positions in higher education in the United States, Canada, and the Far East.

Reuben was the second of four children and the only son of Emelio and Elisa Manalaysay. His father had been a public school teacher prior to his conversion to the Adventist church and became one of the first Filipinos to become an ordained minister and an evangelist. Just as he was beginning his ministry, he contracted malaria during a campaign and died at age 31, when Reuben was six. His mother, also a public school teacher, would raise her children on her own, the youngest having been born three weeks after her husband's death.

In spite of the financial challenges the family faced, the children had opportunities in music, with Reuben starting violin lessons at an early age. It was immediately apparent that he had a natural musical talent and possessed an affinity for the violin. When Reuben was sixteen his mother purchased a piano, and all of the children were given lessons.

He enrolled as a full-time student at Philippine Union College, working in the furniture factory on campus to pay his way. At the same time he also enrolled at the University of the Philippines music conservatory to study both violin and piano. He excelled in his music study and was encouraged to be a concert violinist.

After graduating from PUC in 1937, Manalaysay started teaching in the high school program at PUC. He and another teacher, a singer, were sent by the college in the summer of 1938 to assist as musicians on recruiting trips. It was during one of these trips that he first met a young girl, Racquel, who then became a student in the high school at PUC. They would marry in May 1942, six months after the invasion of the Philippines by Japan in December 1941. By this time he had become a teacher and a department chair at the college level.

When the American missionaries who had been in administrative positions on campus were placed in internment camps, Manalaysay became interim president, the first Filipino to hold that position. Even during the difficult war years, he was able to help the school improve. Following the end of the war in 1945, he attended the University of the Philippines where he obtained a master's degree in education and a bachelor's degree in music. Prior to this time he had earned a master's degree in psychology at Far Eastern University

On the recommendation of three professors at UP, he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to attend Indiana University. Remarkably, within one academic year he obtained a doctorate in education. His dissertation was titled A Study of Seventh-Day Adventist Secondary Schools in the United States. In 1952, a year after he returned from the U.S., he was appointed president of PUC, a position he held for the next twelve years. Additionally, Raquel, who also had earned a Ed.D. at Indiana University, served as head of the education department at PUC for ten years during that time.

He provided visionary leadership and during his tenure several new bachelor degree programs were developed, a graduate program was approved by the government, the faculty was upgraded, and an administration building and auditorium were constructed. Today, he is credited with laying the foundation for a school that is today nationally known and respected.

Following his presidency at PUC, the Manalaysays taught at Walla Walla College, now University, and he then taught at Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada. He also served on the board of trustees at Andrews University in the early 1970s.


Source: Herman L. Rogers, Dr. Man, the Man; Consuelo R. Jackson, The gift of Choice, the Lives and Times of Leon Zumel Roda and Alfonzo P. Roda, Father and Son, 2003, 77,78; North Pacific Union Gleaner, 4 June 1962, 8; 9 March 1964, 8; Canadian Union Messenger, 25 December 1968, 519; Death announcement at the Adventist University of the Philippines website, January 5, 2016.