Skip to main content

insights on the 26th Philippine Chemistry Congress

The 26th Philippine Chemistry Congress was held at the Waterfront Hotel in Lahug, Cebu City on April 13-15, covering the theme "Chemistry: Providing Solutions to Global Challenges".

There certainly were a few hiccups on the day I first arrived at the venue. My name wasn't in the list of participants despite being registered way before the conference; hence I originally didn't have a name tag, food stubs, a conference kit, and certificate of attendance. These were all ironed out because I had the necessary paper work (the certificate will be sent via email, the lady at the complaints section said). A friend's paper has been accepted but wasn't included in the published schedule. That also got fixed; his talk was the last one in the food chemistry session. For big events like this, organisers always hope that everything runs smoothly; when trouble strikes, they have solutions.

my hand-written ID tag

Attending this conference for the first time, I felt that I was a fish out of water... a microbiologist working in the field of grain quality research surrounded by true blue chemists. Many of the talks were Greek to me, especially when they started talking about theories: chemical structures and reactions, for instance. Hence, I stuck to lectures focusing on practical chemistry.

One interesting lecture was about making industrial chemical processes environmentally friendly. Engr. Reynaldo Esguerra (DOST) talked about assessing the life cycles of the products we use everyday like soda pop bottles and shopping bags. For instance, there is an increasing move to use paper bags rather than plastic bags. He made the following comment (paraphrased):

Plastic bags are not allowed to be used for shopping in many parts of the Philippines. Why? Because they clog the drainages. So we shift to the alternative, paper bags. But paper bags will eventually clog the drains. So will we shift to banana leaves? Doing so would cause these leaves to also block the drains. Why not just ban the drains so that nothing will be clogged?

[For me, this comment means that we're not supposed to be rabidly against the use of plastic bags. We, however, should only use the disposable type (from the grocers') minimally. If these bags are designed for reuse or can be sold off for recycling, then I don't see why these should be banned totally.]

Then there's a jargon-heavy presentation on ciguatera toxins (the what?!?) in the food chemistry session. I hardly understood the lecture because of the chemistry terms, but I did take some important information home. Ciguatera is a foodborne illness that comes from eating carnivorous fish that have ingested other (herbivorous) fish that ate dinoflagellates (finally, some connection to microbiology!). The way the toxins reach people is similar to the way they do in red tide poisoning cases.

[For me, this means one thing: there's a reason to be happy that I'm allergic to many seafood. Plus, for those who do eat these types of fish, they could eat them during their drinking sessions. The alcohol is supposed to prevent the toxins from being absorbed by the body, that is, if I have understood the chemistry properly.]

Meeting chemists working in the Philippine National Police Crime Lab was also a good experience. They're the real-life CSIs! Their stories about what it's like to be in forensics were also very interesting.

All in all, it was quite an experience for me. I learned a lot. I saw some of the challenges Philippine chemists face in terms of furthering the sciences and their research interests (many were into natural products research).

Popular posts from this blog

my top 10 life lessons from Suits season 1

I enjoy watching this series on TV called "Suits". It follows a strong mentor-mentee relationship. Harvey Specter (played by Gabriel Macht), one of the best lawyers in the city, gives valuable lessons to his associate, Mike Ross (played by Patrick J. Adams), the lawyer without the law degree. I find myself taking notes (and tweeting them) as I watch the different episodes.
While waiting for the July 1 premiere of the second season of Suits on Jack TV, I list down the top ten lessons that I gleaned from watching the first season of series. It's not surprising that many of them came from the great Harvey Specter. There are few things in there that came from Mike and Harvey's arch-nemesis, Louis Litt (played by Rick Hoffman), as well.
NOTE: if these sound like a lecture, it's because these are notes I write to myself for when I need them... and to whoever is reading this list.

Here we go:
1. "First impressions last. Start behind the eight ball and you'll ne…

Federico de Vera's brand of beauty at the Ayala Museum

On my latest visit to the Ayala Museum this year, I was able to catch the exhibit curated by Federico de Vera. I haven't heard of him, most likely because I'm not part of the art circles. I'm just an occasional museum hopper who likes to visit beautiful art pieces. This time, I was about to learn what beauty is, in the eyes of famous curator de Vera.
I was blown away by how he presented art pieces he picked up from other art collectors. Some of these pieces I've seen in other museums before. BUT, these are presented in a more striking manner... Instagrammable being the first word that comes to my mind. Spot lighting and subtle backgrounds really make the artworks pop. Walking through the different sections of the exhibit, I kept saying wow to myself. I liked the way that the curator presented every piece... he succeeded in putting the best face of each piece on display. There was a sense of meticulousness in the detail... not just dumping pieces together on a table or…


Back in college, I used to play with the UPLB Ethnomusemblia, a group of students who liked to play traditional Filipino music as live accompaniment to the UPLB Filipiniana Dance Troupe, those students who performed Filipino local dances. Tribal music was what I learned with the group: music filled with textures of the sounds from kulintang and agong; the resonating sounds of simultaneously beaten gangsa; and the deep tones from the dabakan. However, I never learned how to play stringed instruments that are part of the rondalla. I attempted the banduria but to no avail. That's why I never learned to play the music for the tinikling; instead, I contented myself with listening to the rondalla people play the lively song.

Tinikling is the national dance of the Philippines. In this lively dance, the man and the woman imitate the movements of a tikling, a bird found in the country, over two parallel bamboo poles set horizontally on the floor. The dance is made more challenging as the b…