Angel Alcala, National Scientist


Dr. Florangel Rosario-Braid

The passing of Dr. Angel Alcala, noted marine scientist saddens not only his friends, students, and colleagues but the Filipino people and the nation. He is a rarity even among the best of our best scientists.

For friends and colleagues like myself who had known him over the years, he represents the kind of leaders we need today. After his passing a few days ago, several accounts and accolades said about him noted his outstanding accomplishments as a marine scientist – his scholarly research and his academic accomplishments, even his early beginnings as a son of a fisherman in a poor coastal community in Negros, there was no mention of his qualities as a human being except that it was his early experiences with nature that had developed in him the lifelong passion of working on the preservation of the fisheries resources.

Angel was a man of great humility, unassuming, soft-spoken and friendly, reaching out to many who needed his help, a man of great integrity and faith. Despite the fact that he had been bestowed with almost every national and international recognition one could think of, (except the Nobel prize which he certainly deserves if he waited a little longer), he had remained humble, grounded, and thoughtful of needs of others, especially the marginalized.

I had the privilege of having worked with him at the CAP College’s Distance Learning project which started in 1980 during the time of former Education Secretary Anding Roces. Dr. Alcala took over as chair after his stint as chair of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED). The project has been a modest but effective model of how college education in the country can be delivered through distance education. It offers a Bachelor of Arts, a Bachelor of Science, and a Bachelor in Business Administration. It offers as well a Ladderized Interface Between Technical-Vocational Education and Higher Education where one can obtain an Bachelor of Science in Information Technology. Among the notables on the board were the late Dr. Edith Tiempo, National Artist.

In the light of the country’s deep concern over the continuing deterioration of our biodiversity, especially our marine resources, Dr. Alcala’s exceptional performance in arresting further destruction of environment is indeed commendable. His work was primarily aimed at helping local fishing communities provide better yields as well as raising people’s awareness of the advantages of protecting the coral reefs. He has worked as consultant to the UN Environment Program, the World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank.
One of his remarkable achievements was the restoration and preservation of areas with large predatory fish populations in a marine sanctuary in APO called Sumilon Reserve Marine Resources. He also worked on the conservation of coral reefs and the protection of giant clams.

For all these, he was named ASEAN biodiversity hero in 2017 and awarded the Guggenheim fellowship for natural sciences, the Field Museum Founders Council Award of Merit, the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1992, and National Scientist in 1999.

These are among his lifetime accomplishments: about 160 scientific papers and books; 50 new species of animals; ensured conservation programs were put in place in the country; set up artificial coral reefs; headed the Institute of Marine Biology at UP; was deputy executive director of the Philippine Council for Aquatic and Marine Research and Development.

Dr. Alcala obtained both his master’s and doctorate degrees from Stanford University.
We deeply condole with his family, his wife Naomi Lusoc, and six children and the hundreds of thousands of environment warriors in the country. Farewell Angel, you will be deeply missed.

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