I know I’m supposed to only post happy things here (aside from a few old writings here and there from old blogs when I’m too lazy to post anything new) but let me take a moment for this… I was in tears this morning and I am in tears as I write this. I could and can not help it. These people were an important part of my life. They were my inspiration. They were my pillars of support. I have loved them as biologists and mentors. And today my heart weeps.

Daniel Lagunzad (1957 – 2010), Terrestrial ecologist and taxonomist

The College of Science mourns the untimely passing of Dr. Daniel A. Lagunzad on 16 November 2010. Dr. Lagunzad is a professor of the Institute of Biology and its Deputy Director for Administration. He obtained his BS (Biology), MS and PhD (Botany) degree from the University of the Philippines in 1978, 1982 and 1989, respectively.

Dan first joined the Institute of Biology as an instructor in June 1978. He will be profoundly missed by his wife, Cathy, and his two sons, Janzen and Kit Daniel, as well as his colleagues and friends at the Institute of Biology and the College of Science.

18 November 2010

I have just come back from a short impromptu trip from Hong Kong and was not aware until now. I got the messages from the Association of Biology Majors (ABM) Facebook account. Thank you for letting us alumni know.

Leonardo L. Co (1953-2010), Taxonomist
By Fidel Nemenzo*

Leonard Co has had an extraordinary career as a scientist, specializing in the study and classification of plants and biodiversity studies. He entered UP in 1972, just before the declaration of Martial Law by former President Marcos. He chose to study botany, to continue his childhood hobby of observing and identifying plants. I guess for Leonard, plants are among his closest friends. They seduced him, and he loved them back.

When I entered UP in the late 70s, I already knew Leonard by reputation: an intensely passionate scholar who knew Philippine plants better than anyone else. He was also politically idealistic (a dreamer!), like many students of that time, as UP students should be. He joined the revolutionary underground movement, and spent the next several years doing medic and education work in the peasant communities of the Cordilleras and the Sierra Madre, while continuing to do research as well as writing a book on the medicinal plants of the cordilleras. In recent years, he has been active in the advocacy of biodiversity conservation.

Leonard has also published in both local and international scientific journals. Over the years he has continued to do research and has also mentored many science students, now with PhDs and established careers in botany. In a recent letter to the college of Science, he described his singular purpose in life: to discover real knowledge and share the joy and thrill of discovery with others.

This was so refreshing to hear, at this time when many people make their career decisions on the basis of fame or monetary rewards. (The university should encourage young people to dream!)

All these years, Leonard Co pursued his science without a degree, so the pure practice of science does not require one. But this year– UP’s Centennial– the College of Science has decided to confer on Leonard a well-deserved BS Biology degree.

N.B. Dr Nemenzo is the coordinator of the CS Science and Society Program. He introduced Leonard during an STS lecture that the latter delivered about two years ago. Leonard agreed to give another STS lecture in the 2nd semester, SY 2010-2011 but it will not happen anymore. He obtained his BS Botany degree from UP in Summer 2008.

17 November 2010

Sir Dan was my teacher in Ecology. He was a very amiable man. I had loved being in his class, no matter if I missed some of the field trips because I was that kind of college of student. I had loved Ecology so much that when I was contemplating on which Masters degree I was going to pursue, Ecology and Ethnobotany was one of my choices (along with Marine Science and Theater Arts). He was such a beloved teacher that when I was going to be married in 2006, I came to him and asked him to be one of our primary sponsors. I was so thrilled when he said yes.

Sir Leonard was never my teacher, but he was always there for us. He was always helping us with specimen identification and it was always a joy to speak to him about things he loved most. It took me quite some time to graduate as I took one semester of leave of absence and had a hard time with my math subjects, especially calculus – but Sir Dan would tell me, “Don’t let that affect you. It says absolutely nothing about what or who you are, whether you’re smart or not, whether you’re good enough or not. Look at Sir Leo. He never graduated but that did not stop him from being here or doing what he loves. If you have not done yet it, it’s not because you can’t, but because it’s just not your interest.”

I had thought about that the entire year I was stuck in college just taking calculus every semester. My IB professors would just smile at me and kindly assure me that things will turn out well, that I’d eventually pass Math 54. I owe my Institute a lot. I had grown to love all of my professors – even the ones who used to send me to their faculty rooms to lecture me on the importance of being present in class.

It is with such a heavy heart that I face this news of their passing. I have loved them so, in the little roles they have played in my life.

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