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Angel C. AlcalaSep 30, 2011

Dr. Angel C. Alcala

Conservation advocate in the field of reptiles, amphibians, marine biology, reef management
Born: March 1, 1929

The Real Deal
To be honest, I don't really know the man. But his name keeps surfacing like an itch you can't scratch - but in a very good way. I first heard of him through marine biologist Rene Abesamis who matter-of-factly describes Dr. Alcala's work as instrumental to the level of understanding we now have of amphibians, reptiles and marine biology. I'm sure Rene said more than just that in the more-than-one occassions Dr. Alcala's name popped out in our many conversations. I forget the details but the lingering impression I have of him is that of an icon...a man of science who's the real deal - not some schmo made famous by political appointment or a by-product of a marketing hype by some public relations outfit. Like I said, the Real Deal! who earned his stripes through the decades, in the field and in the lab.

Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, Angel Alcala Angel Alcala, Mark Wallbank, TheLoneRider

Degrees, Achievements and Awards - in a Nutshell

  • BS in Biology magna cum laude from the Silliman University
  • Ph.D. Stanford University
  • Magsaysay Award for Public Service
  • more than 30 years experience in tropical marine resource conservation
  • respected authority in ecology and biology of amphibians and reptiles
  • credited for his contribution to artificial coral reefs
  • credited for the the addition of 50 new species of amphibians and reptiles
   We should celebrate our national heroes while they are still alive! How ironic it is that we idolize people who do not contribute much, but we know nothing about the people who contribute to science and knowledge about our islands. Celebrating scientists - making them rock stars! We'd like to make a tradition out of it.
-- Anna Maria M. Gonzales
   Wild Bird Club of the Phil.

Hanging out with Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio
The tipping point came when I was browsing inside National Bookstore in the postcard section. Lo and behold, I saw Dr. Alcala's postcard, side by side with Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio. Whoa! And then it dawned on me that...yes, Dr. Alcala's achievement in science is no less significant than the gains garnered by our national heroes in pursuit of a greater Philippines. Rizal armed himself with his pen, Bonifacio with his machete, and Dr. Alcala with his microscope. These are all potent instruments to nation-building...when partnered with the right ideology.

Star Struck
The first impulse for me was to buy the postcard. Of course! Next thing was to get Rene to have it autographed for me - which he did. Whoa! I was getting star-struck. I'd prop his signed autograph where he faces me as I do my daily chore in front of my laptop - makes me feel being in the presence of greatness.

In the Flesh
My next episode came at the 7th Annual Bird Festival held at the Silliman University last weekend. As a non-active member of the Wild Bird Club, I was there to nose around and see familiar faces and meet new ones. Then I saw this very familiar guy walk right passed me - the ONE! Homina...homina...homina...what was I to do? I dropped everything I was doing and introduced myself to him. Of course I mentioned I was the owner of the postcard he autographed. I'm not even sure if he was pleased, flattered or even amused by it. He seemed like a serious guy who carried the weight of conservation on his shoulders. He went on to give a talk about Philippine Ornithology.

Ending Thoughts
It was after the lecture of Dr. Rabor's son that I heard Anna Maria M. Gonzales from the Wild Bird Club exclaim, "We should celebrate our national heroes while they are still alive!" I agree completely, absolutely and totally. This one's for you, Dr. Alcala!

--- TheLoneRider

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