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Vol. XXVI, 2nd Quarter
April–June 2008
A toast to DOST veterans

Many were called. But not all stayed.

Those who heeded the call and worked for 25 years or more at the Department of Science and Technology or its agencies received loyalty medallions and certificates of recognition in a recent ceremony.  The setting was rather austere – at the lobby of the brawny DOST main building in Bicutan science complex – perhaps inadvertent, but seemed characteristic of a mistaken and longstanding reputation of the people and institution jointly celebrating a milestone in endurance, among others.

The award called Gawad Lingkod Kagawaran went to the 1,005 employees or about a fifth of the DOST system’s entire workforce.  It’s one of the high points of DOST’s golden anniversary celebration.  DOST Secretary Estrella F. Alabastro led the awarding program.

“I didn’t know anything about science then, I was just a ‘katulong’ [helper]”, Noel Bonete quipped as he recalled his early days working at the then Forest Products Research Institute (FPRI), now Forest Products Research and Development Institute. “I was barely out of high school and had ‘zero knowledge’ in science and technology.”

Bonete told the crowd of senior DOST employees he eventually learned, as he worked on husks and charcoal, about the science of forest products and the importance of research in developing technologies.

Bonete spoke, most likely his first to such an audience, as the longest serving among his peers with an impressive 45-year service record.

The stories are rich in inspiration.

Linda Leopando, now Scientist II started very young at the then Philippine Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), forerunner of the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute.  “I was a scholar of the National Science and Development Board (NSDB), so I was required to render service in any of its agencies after graduating from college.” 

NSDB, forerunner of DOST, was created in 1958 integrating PAEC and the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) into the new system. Other agencies at the time like FPRI, PAGASA [Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration], PHIVOLCS [Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology], and the Food and Nutrition Research Institute--all previously known by different names were eventually restructured into full agency status and integrated into the system.

NSDB became the National Science and Technology Authority in 1982, and then elevated into cabinet line agency as DOST in 1987.

“I started as a ‘daily’ employee, one who received wages on a daily basis,” Leopando recounts. Armed with a BS Chemistry education, she decided to work in isotope production. She now heads the Isotope Techniques Research Group of PNRI’s Atomic Research Division.

“I love my work, and this is why I stayed” for 43 years now, she explained. “Every problem we work on is unique and this is what makes it exciting.  We also see the relevance of our work because our projects have industrial applications.”

On the other hand, Science Research Technician IV Gregorio Lee of Industrial Technology Development Institute [formerly NIST] began training at NIST when he was barely 15 years old.

“It was a UNESCO-sponsored training on glass blowing” in the early 60s. Glass blowing was a hit worldwide, thrusting the craft into a kind of art.

Age wasn’t an issue back then, so Lee was readily accepted for training following some preliminaries. He trained for three years at the old NIST building along Herran St. [now Pedro Gil] in Malate, Manila. In 1966, NIST absorbed him and since then never considered working in another institution. “Loyalist ako, eh,” he said, laughing.

For many years, he worked with glasses creating and repairing an assortment of glassware and also training many others in the art.  When UNESCO eventually stopped supporting glassblowing projects, Lee shifted to calibration.

Of his 42 years in service, he has only one regret. “I wasn’t able to continue college education.”  That’s because shortly after he got a regular position at NIST, he got married, raised kids, and didn’t find time to go back to school. “This is why I cannot be promoted to higher positions.”

In over four decades of his stay in DOST, Lee looks back to the times of former Secretaries Ceferino L. Follosco and Ricardo T. Gloria as the “best years” because “employees received equal benefits”.

To the younger and incoming DOST employees, he has only one advice: “Habang narito sila sa DOST, ipagpatuloy nila ang pag-aaral. Mag-Masters at mag-PhD sila” [While they are working at DOST, they should continue studying. They should obtain master’s and PhD degrees].

So there, a golden nugget of insight from someone who’s ‘been there and possibly done some of that’.