Learn from the best: an epitome of a people’s researcher

Dr. Belinda A. Tad-awan is an administrator, educator, and researcher of Benguet State University (BSU). She is the current Director of university’s Higher Education Regional Research Center (BSU-HERRC). Prior to her designation as HERRC Program Director, she was the Dean of the BSU College of Agriculture. She was also designated as the Department Chairman of Agronomy for a decade, Regional Technology Program Coordinator and College Secretary.

She teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in Agronomy, Plant Breeding and Genetics, Biotechnology, Crop Physiology, Sustainable Agriculture and others. Ms. Tad-awan is a senior faculty researcher of BSU with 16 completed research projects and currently implementing seven projects on crop improvement, genetic resources conservation, and stress physiology.

Dr. Tad-awan scored 50 publications in various forms (scientific papers, abstracts, technology and book chapter) published in indexed and refereed journals, proceedings, copyrighted books, forum and technology primers.

She finished her doctorate degree in BSU with her dissertation conducted at the Ben Gurion University of Negev Israel while she finished her Master of Science in Plant Breeding degree at the University of the Philippine–Los Banos. She graduated Magna cum laude in Bachelor of Science and Agriculture in her undergrad degree in BSU.

Dr. Tad-awan is an active member of several scientific and professional bodies, some of which are the Organic Agriculture Society of the Philippines, Philippines Society for the Study of Nature, Conservation Farming Movement, Mycological Society of the Philippines, Philippine Association of Agriculturists, Crop Science Society of the Philippines, Philippine Phytopathological Society, Society for Advancement of Vegetable Industry, University of the Philippines – Los Banos Alumni Association, Shalom Club Philippines and the International Society for Tropical Root Crops.

Research as a tool to help the farmers

Fresh from college, Ms. Tadawan started as a research assistant for special projects, starting with survey projects. She admitted, however, research was never within the range of her field. It was only later that she learned the potential in research. She began to understand that research work can extend beyond the walls of the university to deliver services to the needy marginalized farmers in our locality. From thereon, the seed to serve the people was planted in her head. She saw research as a tool to help aid our less-privileged and marginalized farmers sprout from the rubbles of backward farming towards more modern technologies.

Client-researcher two-way development 

Even when she knew research work can promote her professionally, she always kept it secondary to her aspiration in helping her target clients.

Promotion and development, according to her, are a two-way progression coming from both the researcher and the beneficiaries. Development for the researchers in agriculture should emanate from the clients’ liberation from the bondage of undeveloped conventional farming.

Mining for ideas through community immersions 

Field work and community immersions brought her closer to the agriculture sector’s plights. There, she developed further her interpersonal skills as she witnessed and experienced first-hand different situations farmers are facing during her field interviews. Aside from data gathering, these community immersions were also her candy store of inspirations for her future project proposals. Best researches are separated from the pile of good researches through community immersion.

It was the camote, along with her mindset to help the local sweet potato producers and consumers, that served as her plane ticket overseas. Our locality is overflowing with potentials for  research, and according to Ms. Tad-awan, we do not have to go far beyond our borders because ideas are already in front of us. The only thing left for us to do is to learn how to harvest from this bounty for our research. The best way of doing this is through community immersions and there is no substitute for that.

Molding new breeds of researchers   

Ms. Tad-awan also holds dearly the lessons from and mentoring of her superiors during her graduate school studies. The lessons and techniques bestowed upon her along with her mindset of helping farmers is her framework in molding new breeds of researchers in BSU. A mentor’s job are not merely to teach but mainly to encourage young minds in the vocation that they are shadowing, according to her.

Hesitant at first, Ms. Tad-awan was persuaded by her mentors to submit research proposals for the International Foundation for Science (IFS), which she thought at that time, was out of her league. Lacking in confidence, she felt her proposals will be rejected. But due to her mentors’ relentless encouragements and her personal knowledge of the topic which she owes to the community that hosted her immersions, her research proposals were granted funding by the IFS.

In her graduate school classes, the content of Ms. Tad-awan’s  mostly come from her concluded researches. By doing this, she believes she imparts greater knowledge to the students. Her students are molded to report not for the sake of reporting but to report research results which they were a part of. Though it may seem hard, it is Ms. Tad-awan’s way of training her students to be great researchers.

Countless research assistants were mentored by Ms. Tad-awan, however, most of them moved on to other government institutions because there are no available positions in BSU.

Though unfortunate, Ms. Tad-awan sees this as an achievement on her part for having influenced an army of researchers she nurtured with the mindset to serve the people and are now sprouting as good researchers in various government offices.

To her research assistants, Ms. Tad-awan annoys them with daily check-ups and updates on their each assigned tasks. Ms. Tad-awan recognizes how distinct the youth of today as observed from her research assistants. According to her, not all her research assistants have initiative. Instead of looking down at them, she motivates them while she guiding uncover their true potential.

“I let my research assistant do the draft for our presentation then I do the finishing touches,” said Ms. Tad-awan when asked of her technique of being frequently awarded the best paper.

Re-echoing your locality to the world 

In her conferences and overseas visits, Ms.Tad-awan consciously forges linkages and friendships outside our borders. She would always seek advice during her trips from fellow researchers who are mostly scientists. According to her, you not only gaining wisdom from the international delegates but you also voice out the plight of the farmers through your research.

In the international arena, you act like the ambassador not only for your institution but for your clients as well.

During her trips, Ms. Tad-awan saw how diverse the international research community is. She saw that there are no age barriers for researchers. Differences in the levels of academic attainment in the scientific world have no bearing in conducting researches, as witnessed by Ms. Tad-awan.

Looking forward with hindsight

In her countless travels acquiring knowledge while echoing our farmers’ concerns, Ms. Tad-awan always finds herself returning back to the Philippines, most especially to the rural areas where our farmers dwell.

Never had she thought of settling down overseas despite the opportunities presented to her. It is her passion to serve the needy local farmers, her roots. A testament of this is seen in all of her researches which are on local concerns.

Researchers should always read and write

“Researchers should read”, emphasized Ms. Tad-awan. Researchers should explore all various information media and not limit themselves to the materials from the social media. To teachers, this would help greatly in updating their syllabi, and what a better way to do this than to enshrine your current research in its words. “You’re an effective teacher if you have researched and you are an effective researcher if you are a teacher,” said Ms.Tad-awan.

Always carrying a notebook, Ms. Tada-awan constantly takes down notes during her travels, conferences and simple trips to the market. She then reviews these notes and meritorious ones will serve as the foundation for future research proposals.

Serving the people through research is a social responsibility 

Ms. Tad-awan underscored, ‘Sino ngay ti ag-reseach no haan nga datayo?’ (If not us, who will conduct research for us?). She added, “Don’t expect people from Laguna to come here and conduct researches for the local needy farmers. If there are any, it is always best that our local researchers are the ones to conduct the research. Locals who are the direct witness to the conditions of the farmers. Local researchers should embrace this endeavour as their social responsibility to their locality.”

Ms. Tad-awan recalled when her teaching units, whether on full load or not, did not curtail her in writing research proposals. Even if these written research proposals had no funding. As her gesture of helping and enlightening her students to their social responsibilities, Ms. Tad-awan will offer these written proposals to her students for their thesis. Most proposals were crafted by Ms. Tad-awan intentionally to be conducted in the hometowns, mostly in the rural areas, of the students.

Said research proposals by her students do not stop there. Ms. Tad-awan ensures that all her proposals are put into trial in the different parts Benguet or Cordillera.

“Never stop doing proposals,” stressed Ms. Tad-awan. According to her, proposal writing should be inherent to every researcher. Researchers should be ready at any time if they were asked for their proposals. Researchers should have no reason as to why they can not write proposals because our communities, here in Benguet alone, are overflowing with ideas.

BSU is now the big elder sibling in research among the rest of the SUCs in the region. As such, BSU is now required to adopt and guide fellow SUCs in conducting research. This is one way of improving the research functions of the faculty department of other SUCs i which will eventually develop their instruction function.

Even now after having secured the Professor VI position, Ms. Tad-awan still conducts research while at the same time mentors young researchers. To her, her position is just an appellation of her good work. According to her, serving the people whether through research or any form is a social responsibility which each and every one of us must hold.

By Rocky Ngalob

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