The Association of Science Department Heads of Caloocan (ASDHC) held Caloocan’s first Science Congress in partnership with the Young Christian Physicist Society of the Philippines (YCPSP), the Scientific Career System (SCS) and the Philippine Association of Career Scientists (PACS), Inc. at STI College, Caloocan City last October 23, 2014.

A total of 333 participants, composed of students and teachers from 31 Caloocan high schools, attended theevent. Six SCS scientists, namely, Dr. Arvin Diesmos, Dr. Lucille Abad, Forester Arsenio Ella, Dr. Norvie Manigbas, Dr. Florencia Pulhin, and Dr. Edwin Alcantara gave the participants ideas about their fields of specialization.

Dr. Diemos, Scientist III of the National Museum of the Philippines, discussed the richness of the Philippines’ natural resources, species extinction and biodiversity; and the country being a biodiversity hotspot. “Field research is a fun job although teaching is nobler. You get to see all these things you didn’t know exist; you never expected to see when you were young. Something you may want to look further into,” he said.

Dr. Abad, Scientist I of the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), provided the audience a deeper understanding of radiation. She emphasized that radiation is not only about nuclear power. Radiation, when used properly, is highly beneficial. In the medical field, use of hydrogel wound dressings produced using gamma radiation helps heal burn wounds more efficiently. For agriculture, using the right amount of gamma rays help rice resist the rice tungro virus disease.

Reinforcing the message of Dr. Diesmos, Forester Ella, Scientist III of the Forest Products Research and Development Institute of DOST, showed how rich and diverse the Philippines is by sharing his studies on different tree species that produce high valued resins. Fragrant exudates extracted from pili tree is now considered a major dollar earner as it is exported to France for manufacture of expensive perfumes. Forester Ella stressed that proper tapping of trees can increase sap yield and at the same time prolong life of trees. This can eventually increase both production and quality of resin which means increased income for the community especially indigenous peoples.

Dr. Manigbas, Scientist I of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), talked about “Breeding Rice Varieties in the Philippines.” He shared the processes involved in breeding rice, the rice situation of the country and the reasons why there is a need to import rice despite the country’s vast areas planted with rice. He also emphasized that through biotechnology, 10 years needed to produce variety through breeding can be reduced to eight years. Dr. Manigbas also exhorted the audience to be “RICEponsible” in consuming rice to effectively contribute to the rice self-sufficiency program of the government. He stressed that billions of pesos are wasted in every two spoons of rice left by a single consumer.

Dr. Pulhin, Scientist II of UP Los Baños, discussed potential impacts of the climate change to the country and informed the participants of strategies that can help the Philippines address this issue and be more prepared at times of disaster. She added that although a natural phenomenon, the changes in climate are happening faster than predicted.

The last speaker, Dr. Alcantara, Scientist I of UP Los Baños, spoke about the application of biotechnology to corn production and how it can help produce better and safe products and lessen dependence on synthetic chemicals. “Modern biotechnology is a viable option. Don’t be overwhelmed with fear on matters like this and always look at things from a scientific perspective,” said Dr. Alcantara. Further, Dr. Alcantara challenged the audience, “We have to work hard to progress. It is only us who can do it. Others cannot do this for us!”

The congress ended in a high note after meeting the objectives to help students develop scientific and environmental awareness, appreciate their environment to become dynamic and responsible members of society, and uplift their significant role as stewards of God’s creation through science and technology.