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Vol. XXVI, 2nd Quarter
April–June 2008




Rodel G. Offemaria











When instability short circuits societies, gold becomes more than a symbol of constancy. That's why this precious metal becomes a choice refuge for the prudent and sneaky. It’s rust-free. Its value expands over time.

Gold's significance comes to mind as the Department of Science and Technology reaches its golden jubilee. The string of commemorative events over the past few months bears out the cheery mood.

This is also a time of musing over what DOST stands for in the light of its national development responsibility, and in the life of the men and women who strive to measure up to such responsibility. This is an occasion that doesn't come around until another 50 years.

There are heroes and heroic achievements since RA 2067 [Science Act of 1958] created the National Science Development Board, now DOST. Some of the more notable feats brought pride and relief to the nation such as geothermal energy, enhanced natural disaster mitigation, plant-based medicines, nutrition improvement, aquaculture advances, and expanding coconut byproducts, among others.

In a more favorable time, they must be tenderly codified to remind – perhaps inspire–a cadre of future S&T partisans. They could then draw distilled insights and lessons missed to avoid miscalculations that mortally lead to treadmill third-world-to-first development wish. They must strain to understand the structure and the tension of opposites that induce both curious and earnest policies, which customarily steer DOST to whichever impulse that beat stronger. They must whip up collisions of ideas, balance them with realities, and take on the consequence. That's because fear and indecision assure inertia. And inertia is a high-octane brain drain fuel.

As much as it is a source of joy, the golden jubilee also speaks to the future. It should be a future that truly starts and built around DOST's own knowledge workers. Because, as Frank Co Tui said in "The Status of Science in the Philippines as of January 1967", "it is not healthy in either the long or short run for the national science and technology to be on the shoulders of one man [or woman] or small group of men however wise" they believe they are.

“The burden of scientific advancement,” he warned, "must be the business of the national corpus of scientists and technologists" led by "a dynamic crusading promoter who has a sense of urgency and the knowledgeability of how to get things done".