Thursday, July 20, 2006

Jose S. Domantay: An Internationally Acclaimed Natural Scientist


Melchor F. Cichon
Otolith, April-June 1997, p. 11

Mr. Jose Sison Domantay was considered by his contemporaries as the only living Filipino and among the very few living ochinodormists of the world. His article which he co-authored with P. B. Sivickis, "The morphology of a holothurian, Stichopus chloronotus Brandt" , published in Philippine Journal of Science, 37(1928):299-332, was the first written article exclusively on Philippine holothurians or trepang. He followed this with 10 articles on holothurians published mostly in the Philippine Journal of Science and the U.P. Natural and Applied Science Bulletin between 1931-1961. Three of these are, "Autotomy in holothurian," (1931); "Littoral holothurioidea of Port Galera Bay and adjacent waters, " (1933); and "Four additional species of littoral holothurioidea of Puerto Galera Bay and adjacent waters", (1934).

His deep interest on Philippine echinoderms was inspired by the works done by Captain Ziesenhenne of the Allan Hancock Foundation on the many echinoderms caught during the survey of Manila Bay after World War II. Ziesenhenne classified those echinoderms but the result was not published.

Domantay was born on November 5, 1897 in Malasiqui, Pangasinan. He finished his elementary education in his hometown while he had his secondary schooling at the then National Academy High School (NAHS), now the National University, Manila in 1917.

From NAHS, he proceeded to the University of the Philippines (UP) where he obtained four undergraduate degrees: Associate in Arts (AA, 1921); Bachelor of Philosophy (PhB, 1923); Bachelor of Science (BS in Zoology, 1925); and Master of Science (MS zoology, 1928). After the war, he enrolled at the Graduate School of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA, as a Fulbright Scholar for his Doctor of Philosophy degree. Unfortunately, he was not able to finish the degree because his superior at the Bureau of Fisheries did not approve the extension of his official stay at the U.S.A.

From 1935 to 1940, Domantay along with other Filipino fisheries scientists like D. Villadolid, G. Blanco, A. Umali and others, was trained by Dr. Albert Herre on marine resources of Philippine seas. It was during this period that a worldwide economic depression took place. This resulted to the drastic cut of the bureau and the salaries of the staff reduced. Despite this situation, Domantay stayed with the bureau. For this reason, he was called by Jose Velasco and Luz Baens-Arcega as one of the Preservers of the Bureau of Science.
At 21, he worked as a senior clerk at the Municipal Treasurer’s Office in Malasiqui, Pangsinan while pursuing his college degree at U.P. In 1923, just after he obtained his PhB degree, he was appointed as Assistant Instructor in zoology at the U.P. College of Liberal Arts. Three years after that, he was promoted as instructor. During this time, he was simultaneously teaching zoology classes at UP and at the Ateneo de Manila University. In June 1937, he accepted the position of a Fisheries Technologists at the Division of Fisheries of the Bureau of Science. After 25 years (May 5, 1961), he was appointed as assistant director of the Bureau of Fisheries. But in 1954, while working at the Bureau of Science, he was granted permission by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources to teach at the Graduate School, University of Santo Tomas (UST). Since then, he had been connected with UST as a Professional Lecturer.

Like other Filipino scientists who worked in the Philippine government office, Domantay was privileged to conduct researches on Philippine fisheries. Some of his other studies other than that on trepang were on turtle fisheries at the Turtle Islands; marine vegetation and the fauna of the Hundred Islands in Lingayen Gulf; and on the taxonomy of the holothurioides collection of the Allan Hancock foundation, University of Southern California.
Before he retired on November 5, 1962, he had published more than 60 papers on various aspects of Philippine fishes and fisheries.

It was also during this time that Domantay was able to collect valuable rare specimens of Philippine fishes and fisheries. It was said that these specimens were left at the Philippine Institute of Fisheries Technology (PIFT), the forerunner of the UPV College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. He was once a faculty member of PIFT when the institute was still under the Bureau of Fisheries. He also had another set of biological collection in Zamboanga City where he was once assigned. However, all these valuable specimens were lost during the war. But he continued his mission of collecting Philippine biological specimens after the war. Upon retirement, he donated the gathered specimens to the Bureau of Fisheries.

Due to his accomplishments as a scholar and as a scientist, he became a member of honor societies and scientific organizations like Sigma XI, Phi Sigma, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Research Council of the Philippines, and the Philippine Association for the Advancement of Science.
After his retirement from government service, Domantay continued to teach at the Graduate School, UST, Manila. He was, in fact, the thesis adviser of the former dean of the UPV College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences—Prof. Prudencia V.Conlu when she took her MA degree in Zoology at UST.
Prof. Conlu rose to become one of the most prominent Philippine ichthyologists of her time.


Anon. 1962. (Nov-Dec). "Assistant director Domantay Retires." Fisheries Gazette, p. 1
Blanco, Guillermo J. and A. R. Montalban. 1051. "Bibliography of Philippine Fishes and Fisheries." Philippine Journal of Fisheries 1(2):115-138.
Francisco, Isidro M. (Nov-Dec), "A Man of Science Retires". Fisheries Gazette, pp. 56-57, 64.
Velasco, Jose R. and Luz Baens-Arcega. 1984. National Institute of Science and Technology 1901-1982: A Facet of Science Development in the Philippines. Manila: NIST. 196p.