The Geodetic Engineering Story*

By: Prof. Dominador I. Ilio
Associate in Surveying (AS) ’35, BSGE ’39, BSCE ’39, Iowa State U: MSEngg ’53
Poet, writer, surveyor, engineer, educator, painter, guerrilla, bridge player, brother, and friend.**

     Few people realize the role that the elements of geodetic engineering has played in the development of modern civilization. Just to reflect that the Greek word for the earth is Ge, one can see that the minds of the thinkers of ages and ages ago had centered on the nature of the earth. What devices and methods had been developed not only to determine the size and shape of the globe but also mensuration and its practical applications, especially in the ownership of territories.

     And if we have to narrow down the concept of ownership to real property, then the term surveying comes up. During the centuries of conquests and colonization, The Columbuses, Pizzaros, Livingstones, Salcedos, etc., had the knowledge of the rudiments of geometry, latitude, areas, physiography, astronomy and so forth. If one reads through the histories of nations and peoples, hardly there are mentions of names who measured the extent and the boundaries of territories. The explorers and defenders, yet. (But we know that Rizal took courses in surveying while he was a student in Ateneo. And George Washington’s profession before he became an army general was surveying.)

     In the Philippines during the Spanish regime, there were the agrimensores who did land measurements by compass and tape, and titles of the landed properties were issued by a government body. But the accuracies of the surveys led afterwards to controversies, some of them not resolved even to the present day.

     Prof. Angel TronquedProf. Maximo P. LachicaWhen the Americans took over, one of the government units that was organized and staffed at the top by the Americans was the Bureau of Public Lands. The first American Director of Lands was Charles H. Sleeper. When F.B. Harrison became governor general the “Filipinezation” policy was adopted, and Vicente Mills became the first Filipino bureau director of Lands. In order to train Filipino surveyors, the bureau put up a school of surveying which was in the same grounds of the Philippine School of Arts & Trades. The students were called Bureau of Lands “pensionados”, scholars. It was a 2-year course in which after finishing the course the graduates had to serve the government.

     In 1925, an arrangement was made to incorporate into the UP College of Engineering the School of Surveying of the Bureau of Lands (B.L.). The surveying students were subject to the same terms as engineering students. The Bureau of Lands contributed with the College whose services were also available for surveying courses for engineers. The first such B.L. surveyor-instructors were Numeriano Montes and Casimiro Panajon. Later Maximo P. Lachica relieved N. Montes. And in 1933, C. Panajon was relieved by Angel Tronqued. Of course, aside from the two permanently detailed instructors, B.L. special lecturers offered the courses in law of property, public land and mining laws and surveying accounting.

     The School of Surveying was a unit of the College of Engineering offering the Associate in Surveying title to its graduates.

     Even as the Bureau of Lands suspended sending in “pensionados” starting in 1932 on account of the depression, the School of Surveying – College of Engineering arrangement still held. There were non-pensionado students and some “stragglers”.

     first GE graduatesThen in 1936, the Bureau of Land restored sending again pensionados which were selected by a nationwide examination. Professor Maximo Lachica, surveyor and civil engineer, and had been triangulator to the Bureau of Lands, had been advocating for the elevation of the surveying course to the 4-year bachelor of science in geodetic engineering course. And the proposal and the curriculum was approved in early 1937.

     So, in June 1937, the Department of Geodetic Engineering was created under the School of Surveying. There was a new batch of pensionados; those of the June 1936 batch were now in second year of the geodetic engineering curriculum. But then eight students enrolled in the third year, either having finished the associate in surveying course or were transferees from civil engineering.

     So that this year 1987 is the 50th Anniversary of the Geodetic Engineering. The first graduates in geodetic engineering received their diplomas during the commencement exercises of the University on April 4, 1939, with Paul V. McNutt, the U.S. High Commissioner as commencement speaker. However, only seven of the eight went up the stage: Delfin R. dela Cruz, Ricardo C. Cruz, Jose Ibalio, Dominador I. Ilio, Francisco V. Raymundo, Norberto S. Vila and Fidel Vizmanos. Many others followed in the succeeding years.

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*This story was originally written and delivered by Prof. Ilio during the 50th Anniversary of the UP DGE in 1987. It was re-published in August 2012 during the department’s 75th Anniversary. This story is made available online as a way to bring back the memories of how the UP BS GE and the GE profession in the Philippines came about more than 75 years ago.

** From Prof. Ilio’s Facebook page.