The oldest city in the Philippines is Cebu City, the site of the earliest European settlement in the country established by Spanish conqueror Miguel Lopez de Legazpi in 1565. It was also here that the oldest school in the country emerged — the University of San Carlos (USC).
Founded by the Spanish Jesuits on August 1, 1595, USC was formerly known as the Colegio de San Ildefonso. In 1769, it was closed upon the expulsion of the Jesuits from the Philippines. It reopened in 1783 along Martires Street on the initiative of Bishop Mateo Joaquin de Arevalo under the name Colegio-Seminario de San Carlos, named after St. Charles Borromeo, the great patron of ecclesiastical training in the Renaissance. In 1867, the Vincentians took over the administration of San Carlos.
In 1930, the Colegio de San Carlos (CSC) was transferred to the new P. del Rosario building, while the Seminario de San Carlos remained in Martires Street. Five years after, the Colegio was turned over to the Society of the Divine Word (SVD – Societas Verbi Divini), which managed the school for 70 years now.
The Second World War saw the closure and occupation of CSC by Japanese troops. And shortly before Liberation, in 1944, bombs from US planes fell on San Carlos, almost reducing the school to rubbles. San Carlos became a university in 1948, three years after it reopened.
Following Communist persecution of the foreign clergy in China in 1949, the University of San Carlos would benefit from the migration of SVD priest-scholars to the Philippines. This accidental émigré culture in USC spawned pioneering research in anthropology, physics, engineering, philosophy, and other fields, here in the Philippines. This would have tremendous impact on the nation’s Post-War reconstruction.
Rapid expansion of the University during the 60s under the leadership of foreign priest-academicians came with the decade’s wave of militant nationalism, which culminated in calls for the Filipinization of the administration of all Catholic schools in the country. In 1970, Fr. Amante Castillo became the first Filipino president of USC.
USC continued to experience growth in the decades that followed, even as the school became witness, and often involved, in the turmoil and triumphs of the times, such as during the dark years of Martial Law in the 70s and the People Power Revolution in EDSA in 1986. Today, the University regularly produces topnotchers in board exams and alumni who have earned public recognition for achieving excellence in their own fields. This is proof that USC has remained true to its commitment to excellence in education.