Inspiring science in the Philippines


We just finished our third stop for the Pueblo RISE 2016 program in the Philippines. Our RISE program takes our organization around the world to work with local teachers and to help them implement hands-on science activities in their classroom. To relax and explore the region, our group decided to visit the northern islands of Iloilo. On the recommendation of our local partners, we went to Isla Gigantes. As I write this now at daybreak, the roosters are busy waking up the locals and a couple of fishermen are about to leave with their boats. Near my feet, a hermit crab just created a hole and is pushing sand out of it. It is hard to imagine how these beautiful islands were ravaged by typhoon Haiyan last year with locals needing to seek shelter in the nearby caves.

The community has since recovered, but other problems are still apparent. The population is rapidly increasing as families typically have 8 to 10 children. Seafood is abundant but fruits and vegetables are clearly lacking. Drinking water is bought and hauled over from mainland Iloilo since the inland water sources on Isla Gigantes are not potable. Electricity is generated through generators built in 1996 that require petroleum brought from Iloilo by boat. On the beach, garbage bags and cans of beer are interspersed with scallop shells.

This is just one of the many islands that we have visited while running the Pueblo Science RISE program over the past 6 years, and certainly there’s much that needs to be done to resolve the issues that affect the standard of living in such remote communities. This is what I have also observed in my hometown in the northern Philippines.

Traditional ways of living and modern commodities seem to clash. Through education, sustainable ways are being developed and progressively adopted, and I believe that a strong science education is the key to preserving the unique natural treasures around the world and providing a better quality of life for all.

On our first day of training in Iloilo we had a very constructive dialogue with the participants. Many of them believe that hands-on science activities are essential to effective science teaching, but they don’t have readily available means to implement them. They need experiments that are based on affordable and locally available materials. That is why some of them traveled for hours over rough terrain to attend our workshop.

During the training, all of them were very enthusiastic and told us that our activities would be useful for their schools. Some teachers told us that they will use the ice cream making to help some of the families in their communities get additional income. Many of them invited us to their respective islands for another training and offered to be our hosts. Everybody was excited to go back and share what they have learned from us!

We hope that using our tools, these teachers will instill a sense of curiosity and wonder in their students. Because the future of these islands and the health and prosperity of the people who live there depend on them.