Mikaela Irene D. Fudolig
College of Science Recognition Speech
April 22, 2007(Click here to hear my speech. Will upload a video on YouTube soon!)
Let me start my speech with this quote: “Pinagpapalà ang pinagpapala, at pinagpapala ang pinagpapalà.”
For those who didn’t get that, let me literally translate it in English: “Blessed are those who shovel, and those who are blessed are made to shovel.” Of course, it loses its lyricism, so I repeat: “Pinagpapalà ang pinagpapala, at pinagpapala ang pinagpapalà.”
From the various talks that I have attended, I noticed a general theme: that aside from being good students, which is the primary reason why all of us are here today to be recognized by the College of Science, we should have leadership capabilities and social responsibility. Of course, the fact that we’re from UP sets great expectations.
Do I agree with that? I will make this clear: yes, I do agree. Academic excellence alone is a joy that you will most likely keep to yourself, and if not put to good use, then the University has invested on something for nothing.
The question now is: how do we, as scientists, help in nation building?
I have noticed, again, from the many talks that I have attended, that the common idea of “community service” is Sangguniang Kabataan. Red Cross. Gawad Kalinga. Opinion leaders view community service, which they correlate to nation building, as using physical energy to help the poor. You want to do community service? Solicit money from your congressman and donate a school building. You want to do community service? Help during calamities. You want to do community service? Build houses for the poor.
Again, let me make this clear: These ways are indeed community service. But are these the only ways to do community service? Should community service simply be giving something for nothing? Should community service necessarily involve a lot of legwork? Should the effects of community service be immediate?
Let me ask you now: When Michael Faraday discovered magnetic induction, was that community service?
When James Hutton developed and Charles Lyell promoted the theory of uniformitarianism, was that community service?
When our very own Alexander Edward Dy made it possible for amoebiasis to be tested based on salivary IgA instead of stool, was that community service?
Current conventional wisdom would answer: NO. Faraday had been criticized before for discovering something without practical use. And so what if slow geological processes occurred eons before and continue until now? And how can Alexander Dy’s amoebiasis test serve the poor in the squatters’ area? His method will definitely not give jobs to them. It wouldn’t give them shelter. And it’s not FREE.
But Faraday’s discovery of magnetic induction is what led to using AC power in our homes. It is the reason why we can power this microphone. It is the reason why you have lights at home and in the classroom. It is the reason why you can power your refrigerator.
The concept of uniformitarianism did nothing to help the poor, but it helped gain more understanding of the Earth. And it is uniformitarianism that influenced Charles Darwin in formulating his theory of evolution. And I think you know how influential Darwin’s theory of natural selection had been.
Mr. Dy’s amoebiasis test would probably not be given for free. It would not give them shelter, and most probably, wouldn’t give jobs, at least not to the usual recipients of charity. But if amoebiasis can be diagnosed faster simply by getting the saliva of a patient, something which can be readily obtained, then more amoebiasis patients would be cured. More lives would be saved.
The community service of scientists is often underestimated. Our discoveries are often tagged as having no practical applications, of no use in calamities, and of no immediate help to the poor. If Faraday had concentrated on donating blood, if Hutton and Lyell focused on building houses, if Alexander Dy, now magna cum laude, insisted on tutoring every single kid in his barangay FOR FREE, then they would be considered by the majority as excellent servers of the community. But they would not have done what they have done. Where would we be now?
Fellow scientists, do not be disheartened. Our efforts may be devalued by those who seek immediate, visible, and tangible results. But the fact remains: science drives the technology that makes lives better all over the world. Our devotion to our craft, our unceasing search for our holy grail, that piece of knowledge that will change the way things are, is as much community service as the more popular and immediately recognized forms of giving. Let not the pressure to be recognized make us stray from our efforts to improve the life of humanity in the best way we can.