UP MSI celebrates 50th Anniversary with a bang

Featured Photo: The scientists of UP MSI, both past and present. Photo taken by Lourie Hinaloc.

The UP Marine Science Institute (UP MSI) commemorated its 50th Anniversary with three special events on Thursday, April 4. With the theme “Beyond Borders”, UP MSI invited UP officials and long-time partners to celebrate 50 years of marine science in service of the Filipino people. 

Beginning with the renaming of the main building to the Edgardo D. Gomez Hall, followed by the inauguration of a new building and a gala dinner, UP MSI honored the scientists, staff, and organizations that together built its foundations.

“The stars aligned,” said MSI Director Dr. Laura David, quoting founding director Dr. Edgardo Gomez’s words on his efforts to become a marine scientist and establish marine science research in the Philippines. “The rest, as they say, is history. Half a century of history.”

LEGACY. Dr. Jose Edgardo Gomez Jr. (center left) and Chancellor Carlo Vistan II (center right) unveiling the historical marker for the Edgardo D. Gomez Hall. From left to right, they are joined by UPD-CS Dean Dr. Giovanni Tapang, the Gomez family, MSI Director Dr. Laura David, former Chancellor Fidel Nemenzo, and MSI professor Dr. Rene Abesamis. Photo taken by Lourie Hinaloc.

The day’s anniversary events started with a tribute to the late Dr. Gomez, who founded the institute as the Marine Sciences Center on March 28, 1974. Former UP Diliman Chancellors Fidel Nemenzo and Michael Tan reminisced about their time with the founding director, with Chancellor Tan’s speech being delivered by MSI professor Dr. Rene Abesamis in his absence. 

Chancellor Carlo Vistan II then unveiled the historical marker together with Dr. Gomez’s son, Dr. Jose Edgardo Gomez Jr. 

Gomez Jr., who is currently a professor for the UP School of Urban and Regional Planning, expressed his thanks to UP MSI for keeping his father’s legacy alive. “I shall hope that [UP MSI] shall continue to serve as a model and inspiration for our fellow citizens, especially the youth,” he said.

UP President Angelo Jimenez and former president Alfredo Pascual led the inauguration of UP MSI’s new building, which is set to house the institute’s specimen collections as the Marine Biodiversity Resources and Information System. 

After the ribbon cutting ceremony, the two presidents spoke about UP MSI’s innovations such as Fish-i and the ARAICoBeH or A Rapid Assessment Instrument for Coastal Benthic Habitats system. President Pascual said he was looking forward to what new breakthroughs were in store for UP MSI’s next 50 years.

OPENING NEW DOORS. From left to right, Former Chancellor Fidel Nemenzo, UP MSI Director Dr. Laura David, former UP president Alfredo Pascual, UP President Angelo Jimenez, UPD Chancellor Carlo Vistan II, and UPD-CS Dean Giovanni Tapang at the ribbon cutting ceremony. Photo taken by Dorothy Andrada.

Veteran journalist Ces Drilon took the stage as the host for the gala dinner, which invited institutional partners and long-time collaborators for a night of food and celebration at the new building’s event hall. Books from the UP MSI Library greeted guests as they entered the doors. Speeches from President Jimenez, Chancellor Vistan, and College of Science Dean Giovanni Tapang formally opened the event.

Chancellor Vistan listed UP MSI’s historic achievements throughout the years, such as saving the giant clams from local extinction and the establishment of the National Academic Research Fleet. He stressed the importance of collaboration in making past and future achievements possible. 

“To fully unlock our potential as an archipelagic nation, we must each do our part in sharing our knowledge with one another,” said Chancellor Vistan. “Our oceans are deep, and there is so much more potential we can bring to the surface.”

ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS. The retired faculty of UP MSI, together with their mentees and current faculty of UP MSI. Photo taken by Dorothy Andrada.

UP MSI also honored its retired faculty with a special event with their mentees and current faculty. Each one was called to the stage, where their former students would gift them with a jacket custom-made by weavers of the Applai tribe of the Agape Weavers Association in Baguio. 

The earlier generations of UP MSI faculty pioneered projects in oceanography, taxonomy, conservation, and molecular biology that shape the efforts of many laboratories in UP MSI and beyond. Honored during the event were National Scientist Lourdes Cruz, National Scientist Gavino Trono Jr., Academician Porfirio Aliño, Academician Rhodora Azanza, Academician Gisela Concepcion, Academician Gil Jacinto, Academician Marco Nemesio Montaño, Dr. Edna Ganzon-Fortes, Dr. Flor Lacanilao, Dr. Suzanne Mingoa-Licuanan, Dr. Maria Lourdes San Diego-McGlone, and Dr. Helena Yap.

Awards were also given to institutional partners that were influential in supporting UP MSI’s projects throughout the years. Representatives from the UP System, UP Diliman, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Department of Science and Technology, the National Security Council, the Commission on Higher Education, the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, and the United States Agency for International Development were given plaques carved in Ifugao by artisans of the Ayangan and Tuwali tribes. A plaque was also awarded to the Philippine Native Plants Conservation Society for their support of UP MSI’s Garden of Indigenous and Flowering Trees, a legacy project of Dr. Gomez.

UP MSI’s history of marine science research in the Philippines is set to be featured in Saribuhay, a book announced at the gala dinner. Saribuhay aims to share valuable knowledge about Philippine marine biodiversity, through chapters highlighting UP MSI’s projects in giant clams, seaweed, marine biotechnology, and more. The book will be released within the year.

ALWAYS REMEMBERED. The dearly departed of UP MSI, who were paid tribute to with Noel Cabangon’s performance of Kanlungan. Photo taken by Dorothy Andrada.

The gala dinner also featured musical performances during the event. Conducted by Jose Buencamino, members of the Junior Philippine Conductor’s Association debuted a piece titled Sirens. The song is a call to action for protecting marine biodiversity from the threats of climate change, pollution, and overfishing. 

Ending the anniversary celebrations for the night was a touching performance from Noel Cabangon. An In Memoriam video of UP MSI’s deceased faculty, staff, and partners played in the background as the musician performed Kanlungan. 

In her closing remarks, UP MSI Director Dr. Laura David was misty-eyed as she thanked everyone for joining UP MSI in its celebrations and goals to pursue marine science research for the country.

“You, all of you, are the stars that helped make this happen,” she said. “Truly, our shared mission to take care of our environment and make the lives of Filipino people better goes beyond our individual, institutional borders.”

The April 4 events are only the latest of activities in commemoration of UP MSI’s 50th Anniversary, which is held with the theme “Beyond Borders”. Other anniversary activities include the MSI@50 Lecture Series, Arribada 2024, and the upcoming Sportsfest. UP MSI’s 50th Anniversary activities will be concluded with the All MSI Homecoming in October. More details will be announced soon.