Golden profiles: Emil Q. Javier


The Quintessential Leader

by Higino A. Ables

Intelligence.  Integrity.  Humanity. Three words to aptly and concisely describe Emil Q. Javier.

I have come up close and personal to Emil, having graduated from UPLB the same year, and having served as his vice-chancellor for academic affairs when he was chancellor of UPLB.  Yet, I found writing this article not so easy as I had thought.

As a public figure, Emil is very good copy.  But as he has attained prominence in the arenas of scientific agriculture, agricultural development, and university administration,  it is not easy to look for facets of his life that would interest the reader who may have read about or known him during the last 50 years since we finished college.  Be that as it may, I shall still outline here his career, accomplishments and current concerns.  If I go beyond the space allotted, maybe the editor would make an exception of our class president, a personality who has gained the most (among us class ’60 if not among all UPLB alumni) acclaim in the international and national scene.

Born on 11 September 1940 and raised in Sta. Cruz, Laguna, Emil’s intellectual and leadership gifts were manifested early on. He always topped his class and was always voted class president. Graduating valedictorian from the Pedro Guevarra Memorial High School, he had dreamed of entering the Philippine Military Academy but his height and weight prevented him from pursuing that dream.  It was Los Baños’ good fortune that he enrolled in the UP College of Agriculture in 1956 as an entrance scholar.

Coming from a family of modest means like a number of our classmates, Emil had to earn his way through college and became a student assistant under the tutelage of Dr. Dioscoro Umali. Emil led a balanced life as an undergrad, carefully dividing his time among his job as student assistant in plant breeding, his academic studies and social and political extra-curricular activities – in that order of priority. He graduated cum laude with the highest academic average in the BSA curriculum. He was a popular but reluctant student politician who ended up as class president anyway.

With him as president, the senior class broke tradition when it held a senior class ball instead of a junior-senior prom.  The class also sponsored the debate on Rizal’s retraction (or non-retraction) inviting prominent speakers from Manila and Diliman.

In the last issue of the Aggie Green & Gold that I edited in 1960, we featured four Students of the Year, and Emil was one of them (the others were Leodegario Ilag, Lina Luna who married Ilag, and Lourdes Gapud – all cum laude members of class ’60).

Dr. Umali who succeeded Dean Leopoldo Uichanco in 1959 recruited more than twenty members of class 1960, perhaps the biggest number from any one class ever.  It was a calculated move, designed to guarantee replacements for retiring professors and strengthen some weak units in the college.  Emil was taken in as research assistant in agronomy department, but in 1962 left for graduate studies at University of Illinois where he earned the master’s degree.

Emil went to Cornell after that, was put on the UP Cornell Graduate Scholarship Program for UPCA faculty, and was awarded the PhD in 1969.

A TOYM awardee in agriculture, Emil worked closely with the then Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources getting grants for research and extension to develop pasture grasses and legumes which nobody else was attending to. On his initiative, the Institute of Plant Breeding (IPB) was established by presidential decree by President Ferdinand Marcos, with him as the first director.  Like DLU, Emil drew into the IPB an interdisciplinary coterie that formulated long-range breeding programs for various tropical crops.  A skillful organizer, he founded the Crop Science Society of the Philippines.

In late 1972, what used to be the UPCA, became the nucleus of an autonomous university campus, the University of the Philippines at Los Baños, a creation of the UP Board of Regents intended to stave off a secessionist move by UPLB administrators.

Emil’s career made a dramatic turn when the first chancellor, Dr. Abelardo Samonte, died of a heart attack in December 1978. In January 1979, Emil Q. Javier was elected by the UP Board of Regents to succeed Dr. Samonte.

Investiture as UPLB Chancellor, April 1979

Receiving University Mace from UP President O.D. Corpuz

If DLU is credited for the modernized campus that justified conversion into a university, and Bel Samonte for the reorganization of the campus into a network of colleges, institutes and centers, Emil did both physical and organizational restructuring.  Whereas before UP Los Baños was known only for agriculture, and forestry, during his watch it became  known for its strengths in biotechnology, computer science, chemistry, biology and environmental science. He started distance education in science and mathematics teaching (forerunner of the UP Open University), and transformed the agricultural engineering department into a comprehensive college of engineering. All these he foresaw as essential for scientific and technological advance of the nation and positioned UPLB not only to be the region’s pre-eminent agricultural university but also a leading science and engineering university.

Emil’s meteoric rise did not stop there. Then President Marcos tapped him to head the National Science and Development Board which he transformed into what then became known as the National Science and Technology Authority (now DOST), with regional offices and a system of sectoral councils (PCARRD, PCIERD, PCHRD, NRCP), and a science career system with higher salaries and better conditions of service for researchers.  There he also introduced the centers of excellence in the sciences concept which was later adopted by the Commission on Higher Education.

State Visit- Establishment of diplomatic relations with China, June 1975: Energy Minister Geronimo Velasco, Central Bank Governor Jaime Laya, Agriculture Minister Arturo Tanco and UPCA Assistant Professor Emil Javier... President Ferdinand Marcos (with hat)

A year before Malacañang changed hands in 1986, Emil decided not to seek reappointment as chancellor and concentrated on his part-time concurrent cabinet job as Minister for Science.  After the ouster of the Marcos administration, Emil accepted a fellowship at The Hague, Netherlands. There he wrote papers and proffered policy advice in various countries in Africa for the International Service for National Agricultural Research (ISNAR).

Three years later, he was appointed Director-General of the Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center in Taiwan.  At AVRDC, he established vegetable research centers in Africa and Latin America, thus making it global in scope.

The chance to serve his country again presented itself when the UP Board of Regents appointed him as UP’s 17th president (1993-1999). Emil prepared hard for the UP presidency determined to measure up to the lofty standard set by the late Bienvenido Gonzalez, the first Los Banos alumnus to become president. While still in Taiwan, Emil asked me to assemble for him the extensive literature on the history of UP and the administrations of its past presidents. Thus armed, he skillfully charted the course of UP during his watch despite strong resistance in Diliman to the farmer from Los Banos.

As UP President, he established the UP Mindanao, the Open University, the National Institutes of Health in Manila, the National Graduate School of Engineering in Diliman, molecular biology and biotechnology institutes in Diliman, Manila and Visayas to complement with the first biotech institute he himself headed in Los Banos a decade earlier and the UP Provident Fund to benefit every UP employee upon separation from service.  (If you are interested to learn what he did in UP, from programs to speeches, please  look up his ten-volume terminal report published right after he left the UP presidency.  As far as I know, his is the only report of its kind – i.e., unprecedented, comprehensive.)

But of all his notable achievements, the institution closest to his heart was the Oblation Corps or Pahinungod, a volunteer service program which seeks to instill in U.P. students, alumni, faculty and staff, compassion and spirit of selfless service and “give back” to the people what they enjoyed as scholars.

After UP, Emil’s talent and expertise were re-harnessed to serve international agriculture. He was appointed Chairman of the Rome based Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) of the influential Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) which includes IRRI and 15 other international research centers. He was the first and only developing country scientist to serve as Chairman of the so-called “thirteen wise men of world agriculture.”

Emil has received many awards of recognition among them, the Presidential Pro Patria Award, the Most Distinguished UP Alumnus Award, the Outstanding Filipino Award (TOFIL) given by the Jaycees, the Distinguished International Alumnus Award from his other Alma Mater, the University of Illinois, the ASEAN Science Award, as well as diplomatic awards from the Republic of Korea and Taiwan.

After walking the corridors of power, after hobnobbing with the great men of the world, and having spoken before the best and the brightest minds in all fields of endeavor, Emil still retains the same modesty, friendliness and charm he exuded in his youth.  Indeed, he has come a long way since his Sta. Cruz days.

At his home in Umali Subdivision in Los Baños,  he lives with wife Alma (UP AB Psych/MA Educ Counselling), with whom he has five children: Gayndah, oncologist-internist at Makati Med; Emil, Jr., agriculturist; Preben, agribusiness management; Lea, devcom graduate who got married late last year, and Ilie, who just finished with his master’s in civil engg from Penn State.

Can you say he has retired? By no means!  After playing tennis every morning, he goes to his lakatan banana farm in Bay. He is in his fifth year as President of the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST), the country’s highest and most prestigious scientific recognition and advisory body. Besides being member of the board of Del Monte Philippines, Inc., and Centro Escolar University. Emil is active in several service groups, still heads our class 1960,  steers the Agham Partylist, is senior scientific advisor to the Biotech Coalition of the Philippines and serves as adviser pro bono to the Secretary,  Department of Agriculture.  Asked why he does not entertain any compensation from DA, Emil said: Having one’s ideas help small farmers is compensation enough!

“There you have it – the personality sketch of a visionary, an institution-builder, a man of the world. Emil Q. Javier, the quintessential leader!”


3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by leo c. carpio on August 4, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    I consider myself fortunate to be associated with a distinguished man in the person of Emil Javier. As a classmate, co-SA in the Dept. of Agronomy, and later neighbor in the College UPCO Housing, Emil has not shown any indication to become “a man of the world.” Soft-spoken and humble, his phenomenal rise to greatness is beyond expectation. As I read Gino’s brief write-up about Emil, I can’t help but recall one noontime summer of the early ’60s when I went to see former U.P. President Carlos P. Romulo in his Diliman office to talk about certain ethnic issues. Our former classmate later occupied the same office as CPR.

    Leo Carpio
    U.S. Midwest


  2. anu po email address nyo at contact no.? 😀


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