Scientia: Blast from the Past”

by Luis Tolentino and Andrea Ong

One was an editor-in-chief, the other, a humble staff writer. Editors and writers are the driving forces behind Scientia through the years. We got some of them to look back on their glorious days working on the development and publication of the paper.

  1. Karl Ramirez, Staff, Culture Section (2000–2001)

Scientia goes face-to-face with the former physicist turned musician, Karl Ramirez, as he recounts his memories as a former Scientia staffer.

Introduce yourself.

[I am] Karl Ramirez. [I was part of the] Scientia staff for a mixed task. It was for the culture section and in digital photography back then. From what I know, it was the same Scientia batch back then that revived [the paper] from its sleep in the ’90s. Kami iyong nag-start ng pagrevive.

What was your undergraduate degree program?

I entered UP and took on a BS Applied Physics course. But I dropped out around 2001. Nag-drop out ako as a student to pursue my passion for music. On my 2nd or 3rd year, I was a social activist working with people’s orgs while studying music in my own time. I tried studying songs, performing in bars, and eventually nag-avalanche into opportunities na napanghahawakan ko ngayon. So kumbaga, I really didn’t graduate from my course, but it has influenced me siguro to put science in what I do — in my musicianship. We use gadgets, we use techniques, parang scientific. At hindi lang basta dapat sa feelings ang pagsulat namin ng kanta, dapat may science behind it.

Why did you join Scientia?

We find the situation kasi na [ano eh na] dapat ang isang college, ang isang studentry sa isang kolehiyo, may student paper. Well, university-wide may Collegian, and we learned na sa college level dapat meron. Subjective iyon eh dapat iyong students themselves, dapat nag-oorganize sila ng paper, pero for those number of years hindi nangyari. Siguro partly dahil some students or the studentry, the CS students didn’t take interest, kasi nandun naman iyong budget eh. Naipon lang iyong budget every year. Walang problema dun ang kailangan mo lang ayusin ay sino iyong tatao. Practically iyon iyong solution dun.

What Science or society issues did you cover?

The first big issue that we covered was I think, the issue of budget in education and in ST. Magkarelate iyon eh. Even science students should involve themselves in campaigning for higher budget, state subsidy for science, research and basic ed. To develop more scientists, kailangan pondohan mo iyon. To develop more opportunities for science grads, kailangan may pera dun. You can’t expect multinational companies coming here and establishing opportunities for scientists other than BPO’s. So dapat the government should intervene in that aspect. So what we thought back then was that the studentry must intervene. They should voice their dream. Iyong pangarap nila does not start after they graduate kundi before they graduate. Kung walang opportunity after they graduate they should start calling now those in authority to please create opportunities for scientists before we and other batches graduate.

Pangalawa, we [had] this. [M]erong countercurrent during that time. [W]ell, hanggang ngayon naman, groups of scientists and engineers are advocating for using ST for the people [and not allowing] the corporations [to do so] for their profit-making and their greed. So halimbawa niyan, may countercurrent, may scientists and engineers who are advocating [and] campaigning against mining companies. [They are] using their skill to disprove ang sinasabi ng mga mining companies na okay ang open-pit mining, okay itong mga ginagawa nilang mining operations, mabigyan ng permit. Iyong mga science students at that time, pati mga science professionals ay may countercurrent organization, AGHAM, at meron rin silang movement na tumulong sa mga environmentalists pati sa mga indigenous people.

[Basically,] iyon yung two main issues na kinover, plus iyong domestic issues ng college. Actually at that time, wala masyadong problema sa college except dun sa lab fees, the usual, pero ito kasi ay reflective dun sa budget na binibigay sa isang State U.

What was your most remarkable memory working in Scientia?

Well, I was able to use a digital camera. Pero this was not sanctioned by Scientia — I mean iyong digital camera ay personal ko, sa tatay ko. Iyong tatay ko kasi at that time had the opportunity to be some kind of beneficiary ng Olympus. Nabigyan siya ng first digital cameras, alam mo ang resolution noon ay 640x480, 72 dpi? May mas mataas siyang version na 1024x768 pixels! Imagine mo iyong mga cellphone natin ngayon mga 2000 plus, 3000 plus pixels. Mag 5 megapixels ka that’s somewhat like 5000x3000. Ayun! It was the first time na makagamit ako ng ganun at napabilis niya iyong work namin dahil kuha ka ng photo, hindi mo na kailangang ipa-develop, diretso mo ng ipoprocess, import mo na lang iyong picture. Okay rin siya sa coverage kasi 8 mb lang — 8 mb lang iyong card pero dahil maliit lang iyong resolution — 100 photos! Pwede kang makapili in action. Hindi ka manghihinayang dahil wala kang film. Remember this was in 1997, ’98 or ’99. For me, it was an eye-opener na may digital tools pala sa photography.

Tapos it was my first time to use a Mac. Ito naman it was Scientia that purchased a Macintosh PC. Ito iyong mga mukhang pagkain, iyong colorful sila. They come in varying colors at hindi pa sila flatscreen. It’s one TV na nandun na lahat, diba mahilig iyong Mac sa mga ganoon? Hindi katulad ng iba na, you have your monitor, your cpu. Sila isang ganun. At the same time napaka-fancy nung kulay. It was my first time using Adobe Pagemaker to layout the actual page. First time ko rin gumamit ng Photoshop nun to edit photos. So iyon iyong mga first, iyon yung mga remarkable experiences namin dahil beyond what we need to cover, it’s new technology at iyong pagiging geek namin, dahil kami ay science student, ay na-fulfill! It was something we needed to study.

What did students think of Scientia?

Well, may Wow Factor kasi walang Scientia before. Even iyong pa-graduate na noon, hindi nila inabot iyong Scientia dahil 11 years nga nawala. Kahit iyong those taking masterals, wala silang kilalang Scientia, so noong nagkaroon ng Scientia and we had the debut issue na glossy iyong cover pati iyong inside pages tapos colored. So natuwa sila and it was well circulated, people were even asking for copies para ipreserve lang nila dahil it really looked good at that time. Dahil naipon iyong budget eh, we had a lot of money to print a fancy revival issue. Afterwards naging regular na, full color pa rin naman iyong cover pero iyong loob black and white na.

What can you say about the state of science journalism in this country?

It is focused mostly on the technical aspect, which is from my POV, is correct. But I think in the situation of the Philippines, dapat ang science journalism should also fuse with social conditions. It would be interesting for people to understand the scientists, to understand what others in the profession are doing by fusing in social issues not merely as a citizen but as a scientist as well. For example as Physicists, dapat may stories connecting why we need them, why people should appreciate what they do kasi they help communities in this or that way. Science journalism should put a human face dun sa mga scientists. Hindi lang iyong puro “nagtagumpay siya [o] may bagong discovery sa atoms etc. tapos Filipino iyan”. Minsan ganoon lang pero dapat i-relate sa mga common tao. Pwedeng gawin ay parang si Pacquiao na yes, it is putting credit sa mga Filipinos pero kailangan i-expand mo din dun, ano ang [kontribusyon] ng discovery na iyan, how can we use it and if we own that, what use can it be for the poor. Iyon tingin ko.

Any regrets?

I would run a story similar to what I just said, fusing science, technical writing and social issues, the best that we were able to do was explain why ST and RD and science students and State U must need funding. Hindi kami nakagawa ng stories on why Science and people are related to each other, kung bakit meron tayong STS (Science, Technology Society).

What are you currently doing?

I am a musician and I am the executive director of an organization of musicians and composers. So my day job is I run an NGO of musicians and composers and my other job is still being a musician, composer, performer and doing various projects for various entities such as tv shows, film etc.

What are your wishes for the future of Scientia?

My wish is for Scientia to have those forms of articles, fusing in, parang STS. Fusing Science and Society, pero ngayon ang challenge ay coming up with [is basically] iyong stories muna within the college. To develop its methods in getting stories around the college, stories beyond the corridors. Last time we had stories on the beggars. Iyong mga paikot-ikot dun nagbebenta ng pantali ng buhok? Meron pa ba sa UP na ganun? S’amin si Aling Lina, si Aristocart. They are UP community people selling food, different stuff, to compensate for the busy schedule at iyong maliit na allowance ng mga estudyante. For 30 pesos, you can have lunch. It helps the future scientists to go on through [their] day. Wala na iyon ngayon eh. Pero kahit iyong cafeteria eh, na nagpo-provide ng murang lunch, it helps you. So I think para magkaroon ng human face ang Scientia, run stories about, not only the scientists, but the people who help the scientists and the science students around CS. Si Janitor, iyong nagaayos sa library, they help you. And if there is a need to run stories to raise funds for some of these people who help students, please do…

2. Jann Adriel Sy, Editor-in-chief (2011–2012)

Formerly an MBB major and now on his final year at the Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore, Jann Adriel Sy reflects on some of his fondest experiences as EIC of Scientia.

Introduce yourself.

My name is Jann Adriel Sy. I was a Features Writer and Editor, and eventually the Editor-In-Chief for Scientia. Hobbies would include things like watching sci-fi, drama, or comedy TV series, movies, hanging out with friends, building nanoblocks. Currently, I’m interested in medical research — mainly in metabolic disorders and aging and I’m doing my MD at Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore. When I was an undergraduate, I was doing research under my incredible mentor, Dr. Rey Garcia of the National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, in his lab, the Disease Molecular Biology and Epigenetics Laboratory.

Why did you join Scientia as an undergraduate?

I joined Scientia back when I was an undergraduate to continue my interest in writing, which I carried over from Xavier School, where I was also a Features Editor in my senior year.

What issues did you cover during your stay?

In the past, we covered routine things such as CS elections, KaSCIyahan, different feature and pop-culture topics such as gaming, music, TV, profiles of students. We also covered various time-relevant issues such as GMOs, health updates, college of science updates, news-related scientific issues such as the BP oil spill in 2010.

What was your most remarkable memory as EIC?

I think the most remarkable memory as an editor was working with my staff. We were such an easy-going bunch to work with and it was such an amazing experience to put so much effort into making our first publication and seeing the fruits of our effort.

What challenges did you encounter back then?

There’s the perception that CS students are very apathetic and not aware about current events or relevant issues. I think that the main struggle that Scientia dealt with was to break this stereotype and to keep students informed, but also keep topics relevant and interesting. Also, I feel that there was the struggle to recruit interested contributors and writers in CS. That’s not to say that there aren’t many talented writers in the pool of CS students, but there was not that much perceived incentive for these writers to join Scientia, as compared to joining the Philippine Collegian, which has more of a journalistic drive and publishes every week.

Any regrets?

No regrets whatsoever.

What did CS students think of Scientia?

I can’t really say what CS students thought of Scientia. I think they must have thought it was quite sporadic — disappearing now and again. It is the duty of the incumbent Editor-in-Chief to ensure that there is proper succession. However, sometimes that duty isn’t fulfilled.

What are your hopes for the newly revived Scientia?

I just hope that there is some continuity. There is a mechanism in place succession written in the Scientia charter. I simply hope that future editors would build on what previous editors have done in the past.

How has working in Scientia helped you in your current endeavors?

I think that being a leader, not only in Scientia, gives you the management skills you need in any sort of occupation you would pursue — whether in medicine, education, administrative work or research. Eventually, you will end up being the big boss, or at least the boss of someone else, and the skills you gain from writing, working with others, and being a leader will translate to any field you choose to pursue.

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