Saturday, July 22, 2006

Dr. Deogracias V. Villadolid: Father of Fisheries Education in the Philippines


Melchor F. Cichon
Otolith, January-March 1996, p. 13

Many UPV constituents were surprised when former Chancellor Francisco Nemenzo approved the naming of the present Administration Building of the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, University of the Philippines in the Visayas, in Miag-ao, Iloilo to DR. DEOGRACIAS V. VILLADOLID HALL. They were surprised because it was the first time that they ever heard about this man.

Who is Dr. Deogracias V. Villadolid? Why honor him?

Villadolid is not known among non-fisheries graduates. However, those who have been trained in fisheries know him especially in relation to the early beginnings of fishery science and fisheries education in the Philippines.

It was Villadolid who introduced tilapia in the Philippines in 1950 when he was Director of the Bureau of Fisheries. He also initiated fisheries education in the country. For this reason, he is known as the Father of Fisheries Education in the Philippines.

From his humble beginnings in Nasugbu, Batangas, Villadolid rose to become the most respected Filipino fisheries scientists in his time. In fact, he is also known as the Dean of Philippine fisheries. He studied agriculture at the U.P. College of Agriculture (UPCA), now the College of Agriculture, University of the Philippines at Los Baños, Laguna. He earned three degrees from UPCA: Bachelor of Agriculture in 1919, Bachelor of Science in Agriculture in 1923, and Master of Science in Agriculture in 1923.

From UPCA, he proceeded to Stanford University in Palo Alto, California in the United States of America where he obtained a Doctor of Philosophy degree, major in marine biology and minor in aquatic botany in 1927.

Upon his return to the Philippines, he taught at the UPCA. It was there where he designed a course of instruction on limnology, biology of aquatic fauna and flora, particularly fishes, phycology and a general fisheries program. This course was incorporated in the College of Agriculture program. It was also at this time when Villadolid trained UPCA students on the mechanics of fishery science.

From UPCA, he transferred to the newly organized Fish and Game Administration of the Department of Agriculture where he worked with the world famous ichthyologist, Dr. Albert Herre. (the latter was the man who discovered the smallest fish in the world, Pandaca pygmea, which was then found at the Dagat-Dagatan lagoon in Malabon, Metro Manila. Thanks to the development projects of our government and to the pollution contributed by our people so that the lagoon and this Philippine pride are now gone. But you can still see the preserved form of this very rare species at the UPV Museum of Natural Science in Miag-ao, Iloilo)

Villadolid then served as Director of the Bureau of Fisheries and continued to do so even during the Japanese occupation. After the war, he spearheaded the establishment of the first fisheries school in the Philippines, the Philippine Institute of Fisheries Technology (PIFT) in 1946. The school, then located in Navotas, Port Area, Manila, attracted students not only from the Philippines but also from Thailand, Burma, Indonesia, Vietnam, India and Pakistan. The said Institute was transferred from the Bureau of Fisheries, Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources in January 1957 to the University of the Philippines through Republic Act 997 or the Reorganization Act. This law was approved by the Philippine President Ramon Magsaysay. (It was in this school where Dr. Rogelio O. Juliano, the former Chancellor of the UPV received his Certificate in Fisheries in 1952). This school stayed in Port area, Manila until 1962. On April 10, 1958, the PIFT was reorganized by the UP Board of Regents and became the UP College of Fisheries. This pioneering school became the forerunner of more than 50 fisheries schools in the country today.

It was during his stint in the Bureau of Fisheries where Villadolid produced about 150 articles on fisheries research, most of which are pioneering researches on Philippine fisheries. In fact, the proceedings of the D.V. Villadolid symposium held on March 22, 1966 and sponsored by the National Research Council of the Philippines, the Philippines Fisheries Commission and the U.P. College of Fisheries, listed 146 works authored by Villadolid which also included those done in collaboration with other Filipino fisheries scientists.

During his term as Director of the Bureau of Fisheries, he succeeded in sending 125 Filipino fisheries pensionadores to the United States of America to train on deep-sea fishing. He also contributed to fisheries development in the country by declaring a Fish Conservation week which until today is being observed every October throughout the country.

Villadolid was a well-traveled person. He had gone to several countries like Washington, D.C. in the U.S.A., Japan and Denmark as a Philippine delegate to many international conferences and meetings or a vice-chairman and later as chairman of the Indo-Pacific Fisheries Council (IPFC). He was also a member of several professional and honor societies like Phi Kappa Phi, Sigma XI, and the National Research Council of the Philippines.

For his distinguished achievements and services for the development of fisheries in the Philippines and in the region, Villadolid received awards from local and international organizations. Two of these awards were the Distinguished Science Star medal and Diploma of Honor as a Philippine Presidential Awardee in Science in 1954. He also received the Dr. Shinkishi Hatai Medal in Tokyo, Japan when he was a special Guest of the 11th Pacific Science Congress in Tokyo, Japan. This award is bestowed to scientists with the most remarkable contributions to marine biology in the Pacific area. Villadolid was the first Filipino to receive such an honor.

He retired from government service on March 22, 1961 on his 65th birthday. During his retirement, he served as the Vice-President of Araneta University and as Dean of the Institute of Graduate Studies and Applied Research in the same university until his 70th birthday in 1966.

Indeed, Dr. Deogracias Villamin Villadolid served as a guiding star to numerous Filipino fisheries scientists for many years and even long after he died at the age of 80 in 1976.

Dr. Juan Salcedo, Jr., then Chairman of the National Research Council of the Philippines, describes the Father of Philippine Fisheries Education as: “One of the country’s outstanding biologists, Dr. Deogracias V. Villadolid devoted the last years of his life to the advancement of research in fisheries in the Philippines and in the Indo-Pacific area. He contributed a great deal to the sustained study and interest in the biology of fishes, especially cultivation and conservation as well as to the promotion of the fishery industry.”