Dr. Jorge Bocobo was a much travelled man, scholar, lawyer,
writer, journalist, religious leader, educator, political scientist and successful college executive. He prepared himself well for any task that awaited him. Into any undertaking, he always put the best of his energies and, to use his own expression, "made the failure of any work which I undertake my own failure, its success my own success."
He was born on October 19, 1886 in Gerona, Tarlac to Don Tranquilino Bocobo y Duenas and Dona Rita Teodora Tabago y Cleofas. Talking about his family, he wrote, "my father's family name was Bocubuc but at the suggestion of the Spanish alferez in Gerona illy father changed it to Bocobo. My father was induced to make the change because people used to tease him and his brothers and sisters as bubuc. "
He learned the alphabet from his mother and writing from his father, using as a primer the Cartilla, a paperbound pamphlet containing the Spanish alphabet, a syllabary and some prayers.
His formal education started in Gerona and he had it by apprenticeship as a clerk without salary in the municipal government. He once dreamt to be a doctor but early contact with public and judicial affairs later influenced him to take up law. In 1903 he went to Manila to attend school at Padre Faura Street.
On the initiative of Governor William Howard Taft the Philippine Commission passed Act. No. 854 on August 26, 1903 in order to send 100 Filipino students to the United States for four years of study in American schools. Bocobo and the other pensionados sailed on October 10, 1903 in a Japanese ship Rochilla Maru. The group took special summer classes at Santa Barbara, California before proceeding to their destinations. Bocobo attended Puss High School in San Diego and in September 1904, proceeded to Indiana University to study law. He graduated in June, 1907.
A few days after graduation he left for Manila, arriving there in August 1907. He worked as a law clerk in the Executive Bureau. In the 1910 bar examination he obtained an almost perfect score in Civil Law. A year later he transferred to the College of Law of the University of the Philippines to become an instructor. On September 30 that year he married Felisa de Castro. They were gifted with seven children Elvira, Florante:, Celia, Ariel, Dalisay, Israel and Malaya. In 1914 he was made assistant professor of Civil Law, and associate professor two years later, in July 1917 he was appointed full professor and acting dean of the college. During that span of years, he always insisted on the highest standard of legal training. This greatly contributed to making U.P. the most outstanding law school in the country and the one with the best legal library.
Bocobo helped President Quezon in many ways: from drafting speeches and statements to fighting for Philippine independence as a member of four independence missions to the United States in 1919, 1922, 1923, and 1924.
He dedicated two of his books to the cause of Philippine autonomy - For Freedom and Dignity, which opposed the Hare-Hawes-Cutting Law and General Wood and the Law, a book consisting of articles he had written for the newspapers upholding the stand of President Quezon in the celebrated controversy between Filipino leaders and General Wood. When President Quezon dedicated a day of prayer forPhilippine independence in October 1923. Bocobo wrote the national prayer for the occasion.
In 1930 he was awarded a Doctor of Laws (honoris causal by the University of Southern California. Indiana University did the same in 1951, and so did the University of the Philippines in 1952.
In 1934 Bocobo became the fifth president of the University of the Philippines. He presented the following initial ideas upon his assumption to office: student courtesy, improvement of the teaching method, student guidance, church attendance, reading period before the final examinations and formation of the alumni institute. A moralist and disciplinarian, he urged students to return to the simple but basic virtues. As a result he expelled a student for printing a poem that he deemed immoral and suspended a whole batch of students for violating the dance regulations. He said that "moral and civic education, being the paramount objective of the school, is the most exacting, for it requires that the teacher should not merely dole out knowledge or
moral principles, but should inspire the pupils to live up to the principles that we imparted." Dr. Bocobo likewise believed in the importance of education for women. He wrote that "the paramount objectives of women's education, which is that a girl should be raised to be womanly, just as a boy should be taught to be manly ... that she should cultivate her feminine charm ..."
He became the Secretary of Public Instruction in President Manuel L. Quezon's cabinet upon his retirement as U.P. President in 1939. He worked to instill nationalism in the youth, to promote more Filipino sources in education, and the observance of a patriotic calendar whereby historical events were taught and observed in public schools. He asserted that "there is a need of shifting the tendency of your young people from frivolous social gatherings toward serious patriotic commemorations when they may ponder upon the past endeavors." He also believed that "the observance of historical events especially those which led the foundation for the Filipino nation, is an effective way of inculcating nationalism among the children and the youth. While a great deal had been done in recent years along this line in the public schools, still there should be greater emphasis upon patriotism."
From 1942 to 1944 he was justice of the Supreme Court and
Chairman of the Code Commission frorn 1947 to 1962. He was the
principal author of the Civil Code of the Philippines for which work
he was given a Presidential Award of merit in 1949 by President Elpidio Quirino.
Following orders of President Quezon to hold office for the Japanese government, he was charged with treason by the Americans on May 17, 1945. He became a political prisoner but was later cleared of the charges and set free.
Bocobo was chosen the Philippine representative at various conferences held abroad, among those were the International Missionary Council in Jerusalem, 1928; Real Academia de Jurisprudencia y Legislacion, Madrid, 1928: World Pacifist Conference, New Delhi, 1949; Prime de las Academia de la Lengua Espaņola, Mexico City, 1951; International Congress on the Administration of Justice and Penal Laws, Madrid, 1953 and others.
He was likewise active in other social and religious activities. Being a Protestant he was active in the YMCA. He was a coordinator and promoter of the Boy Scouts among Protestants. He was the leader of the evangelical union, an organization for the promotion of Protestantism in the Philippines. He was a member of the United States Educational Foundation in the Philippines and a strong advocate of the Community Chest. He was also president of a civic organization of pensionados whose objective was to foster better relations between Filipinos and Americans.
Bocobo was a lucid writer an essayist, and a dramatist. He translated the Noli Me Tangere, and the El Filibusterismo of Rizal into English along with the Code of Kalantiao, the Philippine National Hymn, and the Bonifacio Decalogue. He copied and translated into English Rizal's preface and Professor Fernando Blumentritt's Filipinas. His legal publications included outlines of the laws on property, obligations etc. court decisions from 1924-1944 and others.
He died on July 23, 1965. He led a full life and lived through seven epochs of Philippine history from the Philippine Revolution to the Third Philippine Republic.