The newly-launched Sulong-Agham series of multilingual children’s books aims to inspire Filipino children to pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) by showcasing the lives and work of Filipino scientists.
Born out of a collaboration between the UP Diliman College of Science (UPD-CS) and non-profit organization Supling Sining, Inc. (SSI), together with the UP Diliman College of Arts and Letters Departamento ng Filipino at Panitikang Pilipino (UPD-CAL DFPP), Sulong-Agham was successfully launched last December 12 at the UPD-CS Admin Building.
Limited signed copies of the first book in the series, “Ang Doktor ng Dagat,” were given out at the event, which was graced by the author, former UPD-CAL dean and professor emeritus Dr. Rosario Torres-Yu; and the titular subject of the tome, pioneering oceanographer and marine scientist Dr. Deo Florence Onda of the UPD-CS’ Marine Science Institute (MSI). Written in Filipino, Cuyonon, and English, the storybook touches on Dr. Onda’s life and work as the first Filipino and one of the first humans ever to explore Emden Deep in the Philippine Trench — the third deepest place in the world’s oceans.
Following the successful launch of this first volume, Dr. Torres-Yu announced that the next title in the Sulong-Agham series will tackle the life and work of famed Filipino biologist Leonard Co.
Dr. Torres-Yu also talked about how “Doktor ng Dagat” began as a passion project during the pandemic. It was, for her, a creative spark of hope at a time when it was most needed: “Sa karanasan kong ito, lalong lumakas ang paniniwala ko na ang malikhaing imahinasyon ang naging sagwan ko sa pag-gaod sa dagat ng takot, kawalang pag-asa, at lungkot upang matuklas ko ang misyong lumikha ng mga kuwentong magbubukas sa mga batang Filipino sa mundo ng agham.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Onda fondly recalled how he all but stumbled into becoming a scientist, initially pursuing a biology degree as the first step to fulfilling his parents’ wishes for him to become a medical doctor. However, he quickly discovered that his interests were elsewhere: “Habang nagba-Biology, doon ko narealize na hindi biyolohiya ng tao ang gusto ko. Isang araw, sumulat ako sa mga magulang ko. Sabi ko sa kanila na hindi na ako magmemedisina. Gusto ko na lang ituloy ang pagiging biyolohista, at maging isang marine biologist pagkatapos.”
He also looked back on the thrill of his adventure in Emden Deep. It was a scary once-in-a-lifetime experience that he just couldn’t pass up: “Ilang beses lamang ba nagiging balita ang isang siyentipiko? Ilang beses lamang ba nagiging kuwento sa buong bansa ang kuwento ng isang siyentista? Napakalimitado. Napakakaunting panahon. Napakakaunting oportunidad.”
But Dr. Onda quickly added that the real story at the heart of “Doktor ng Dagat” is much bigger than himself; it’s about the liberation and empowerment that comes from following a dream. “Sinasabi ko po lagi, ‘yung kuwento ng Emden Deep, mas malayo pa siya sa kuwento ko. Kuwento ‘to ng mga batang nangarap, nangangarap, at tinutupad ang mga pangarap nila. Sana ‘yung kuwento ng Doktor ng Dagat ay maging inspirasyon ng mga batang wala masyadong oportunidad sa buhay. Sana maging daan rin siya para mangarap sila at ‘yung mga taong tutulong sa kanila ay maging inspired rin para tulungan sila.”
UPD-CS Dean Giovanni Tapang wrapped up the launch by highlighting the rarity of children’s books that feature scientists, and his hope that the Sulong-Agham book series could help children see scientists in a more positive light. “Importante na magkaroon tayo ng mga ganitong klaseng libro para bigyan ng ibang klaseng pagtingin ang mga kabataan natin na maganda maging isang siyentista, mag-aral ng agham, kasi ito ang kailangan natin sa ating lipunan ngayon.”
The full proceedings of the book launch can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/UPDScience/videos/829153225012586