Fulbright Program marks 70 years in the Philippines

The Fulbright Program operates in 160 countries, but nowhere has it been in longer, continuous operation than in the Philippines.

More than 4,200 scholars — 3,200 Filipinos and 1,000 Americans — have pursued graduate studies, taught and conducted research in each other’s countries since 1948. Among them are some of the Philippines’ highest-achieving artists, scientists and public servants.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government. Participants are selected for both academic merit and leadership potential. In the Philippines and dozens of other countries, binational commissions help run the scholarship program, with direct and indirect support from the countries involved.

Literary critic and essayist Resil Mojares, recipient of the Philippines’ highest honor for the arts, says a 1982 fellowship allowed him to conduct research in 14 major U.S. libraries and archives that helped build collections of the Cebuano Studies Center at the University of San Carlos. “It was an extremely rich experience,” he says.

Seven Fulbright students standing beneath a hill with a U on the side (Courtesy of Kriza Calumba)
Current Fulbright Scholar Kriza Calumba (center), a Filipino food sciences instructor completing a master’s degree at Louisiana State University, in Utah with fellow Fulbrighters (Courtesy of Kriza Calumba)

Other Fulbrighters early in their careers include Kriza Calumba, a University of the Philippines Mindanao instructor in food sciences and chemistry pursuing a master’s degree at Louisiana State University.

The scholarship “has increased my passion to serve society as a food scientist” and provided insights on how to “improve the food security in my home country,” Calumba says.

Fulbrighter Mark Preston S. Lopez is completing an education doctorate at the University of Florida. “The cross-cultural experience has enriched me both as a person and as a professional,” says the educator from the Philippines’ Mountain Province State Polytechnic College in Bontoc. “I’m trying to stretch everything I’m learning so I’ll be able to apply [it] in my local context.”

Both the Philippines and the United States contribute to the Philippine-American Education Program, which oversees the scholarships.

Michelle Zabat, an American conducting food microbiology research at the University of the Philippines Los Baños, travels as often and widely as she can to meet Filipinos from all walks of life. “There’s so much to learn here, undeniably within the walls of the Philippines’ universities, but also around every corner outside them,” says the Brown University graduate.

And that’s precisely what a young senator named J. William Fulbright had in mind when he proposed the exchanges in 1946 to promote international goodwill.