From ice drop vendor to UPLB chancellor.
It has been five years since I found myself at a crossroad as I march, along with hundreds other, and wait for my chance to walk up the stage and get my diploma on Development Communication from the University of the Philippines Los BaAaAaAeA~o
But somehow -- in the middle of the week, somewhere along the way, I would still feel a sudden urge to just go back, stroll carelessly from St. Therese Dormitory to Freedom Park and just look at the stars. Certain days, I couldn't believe the proven or isaw in Raymundo or the choco milk in Animal and Dairy Sciences are now three hours away. Several years after, I still long for Elbi as if college was just a week ago. Food was not the only reason. The time I spent in the campus of over 14,000 hectares shaped me to the person I am today.
So whenever life allows me to visit the campus I'd refer to as home, I'd made sure to spend time with my mentors -- one of which is Chancellor Ruben Villareal - a professor who at 78 years old could still recall the scientific names of each of the flower or plants in his garden.
Looking at him, I knew he loved what he was doing, and barely noticed it was work. It was not at all surprising that this man helped solve the Southern Leaf blight epidemic in 1970, a crisis that caused about one billion dollars in production losses.
But his greatest frustration still lies on the fact that the entire crisis could have been prevented had US corn breeders recognized the results of his research, which proved a direct relationship between the disease and the presence of the "Texas" cytoplasm, a man-made material used by plant breeders to simplify the process of hybrid corn seed production.
At that time, no one wanted wanted to recognize the work of a Filipino scientist with meager research resources. But Dr. Ruben remained insistent. After all, the former chancellor of UPLB was used to the most difficult circumstances.
While learning sentence construction and basic math, he had to deliver loads of unfinished shoes from small shoemakers to big factories for five centavos a pair. He would also sell ice drop and buchi to finance his studies.
As a young kid, he saw his father juggle three jobs as shoemaker, barber and carpenter just to make ends meet. Some days, he would fail still -- despite the hard work and the perseverance. But everyone in the family, especially him, admired his father's persistence -- his eagerness to fight for their upkeep day after day.
When Dr. Ruben was rejected admission to the Philippine Military Academy or when his
application for assistantship to the Department of Agricultural Engineering was declined, he saw it as a sign to pursue a career in Agriculture. Rightly so.
Over the years, Dr. Ruben has assumed key positions, including Chancellor of UPLB, Vice President of the National Academy of Science and Technology, Dean of the College of Agriculture, and Director of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), among others.
Whenever we meet, he would remind me that the more important question is not whether you have failed but rather whether you are content with it. Failures, he said, are just milestones to success.
Six decades prior, Dr. Ruben scrubbed the hallways and cleaned the toilets of the Institute of Plant Breeding. Today, he is one of the most revered authority in the scientific community in and outside the country.
Anna Mae Yu Lamentillo