Jorge Bocobo

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Jorge Bocobo
Born October 19, 1886
Gerona, Tarlac
Died July 23, 1965
Spouse Felisa de Castro
Parents Don Tranquilino Bocobo
Doña Rita Teodora Tabago

Dr. Jorge Bocobo (October 19, 1886-July 23, 1965) was a renowned Philippine scholar, lawyer, journalist, leader, and educator. He was the fifth president of the University of the Philippines from 1934-1939. Known to be moralist and disciplinarian, he was influential in the development of education in the Philippines.

Early life and education

Bocobo was born on October 19, 1886 in Gerona, Tarlac to Don Tranquilino Bocobo and Doña Rita Teodora Tabago. His first teachers were his parents. His mother taught him the alphabet and his father taught him how to write. He started his formal education in Gerona where he had to work as an apprentice in the municipal government. He went to Manila in 1903 to attend school on Padre Faura street. On the same year, through the initiative of Governor William Howard Taft, the Philippine Commission was able to send Jorge and other Filipino pensionados to the United States for four years of study in American schools. Jorge and his group took up special summer classes at Santa Barbara, California before proceeding to their destinations. Bocobo was able to attend Puss High School in San, Diego. After finishing high school, he proceeded to Indiana University to study law, and received his bachelor's degree in June 1907.

Early career

A few days after receiving his college diploma, Bocobo went back to Manila. He worked as a law clerk in the Executive Bureau in 1907. Three years later, he took the bar examination and obtained an almost perfect score in Civil Law.

In 1911, he began teaching at the University of the Philippines College of Law. He was made assistant professor of Civil Law in 1914 and associate professor two years later. In July 1917, he was appointed full professor and acting dean of the college. As an educator, he was strict in implementing rules and always insisted on the highest standard of training.

Bocobo also helped President Manuel Quezon in drafting speeches and statements and in fighting for Philippine independence as a member of four independence missions to the United States.

He was awarded a Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) by the University of Southern California in 1931. The same was done by Indiana University in 1951 and so did the University of the Philippines in 1952.

President of the University of the Philippines

Bocobo became president of the University of the Philippines in 1934. He was known to be a moralist and a disciplinarian, urging the students to strive for basic virtues. He implemented improvement of the teaching method, student guidance, a reading period before the final examinations, and the formation of the alumni institute. He was also devoutly religious, urging students to always go to church. He was very strict and as a result, he expelled a student for printing a poem that was deemed to be immoral and even suspended a whole batch of students for violating the dance regulations. He wanted teaching to be not only about doling out knowledge or moral principles but to inspire the students to live up to those principles. Bocobo was also a firm believer in the importance of education for women.

Public office

He retired as UP president in 1939 and became the Secretary of Public Instruction during the term of President Manuel Quezon. He worked to instill nationalism in the youth and to promote more Filipino sources in education, as well pushing the observance of historical events.

He was a justice of the Supreme Court from 1942 to 1944 and the Chairman of the Code Commission from 1947 to 1962. He was given a Presidential Award of Merit by President Elpidio Quirino in 1949 for his work as a principal author of the Civil Code of the Philippines.

He was charged with treason by the Americans on May 17, 1954 because he held office with the government installed by the Japanese during their occupation of the country. He was imprisoned but later cleared of the charges and set free.

Other activities

Bocobo was chosen to represent the Philippines at various conferences held abroad, including:

  • The International Missionary Council in Jerusalem, 1982
  • Real Academia de Jurisprudencia y Legislacion, Madrid, 1928
  • World Pacifist Conference, New Delhi, 1949
  • Prime de las Academia de la Lengua Española, Mexico City, 1951
  • International Congress on the Administration of Justice and Penal Laws, Madrid, 1953

Being a protestant, he was active in the YMCA and in other social and religious organizations. He promoted the Boy Scouts among the Protestants. He led an organization for the promotion of Protestantism in the Philippines. He was a strong advocate of the Community Chest and a member of the United States Eduational Foundation in the Philippines.

Bocobo was a writer, an essayist, and a dramatist. He translated the Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo of Jose Rizal into English. He also translated the Code of Kalantiao, the Philippine National Hymn, and the Bonifacio Decalogue. He wrote legal publications including outlines of the laws on property, obligations and court decisions from 1924-1944.


He was married to Felisa de Castro and they were gifted with seven children: Elvira, Florante, Celia, Ariel, Dalisay, Israel and Malaya.

He died on July 23, 1965.




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