The PhilRice community deeply mourns the passing away of Dr. Gelia Tagumpay Castillo, 89, National Scientist and longest-serving trustee of the Institute. She succumbed to acute respiratory failure on August 5. Her ashes now rest at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
Ma’am Gelia dedicated her life to the service of Filipino farmers as a rural sociologist. She was in the Board of Trustees of PhilRice since December 1986 and served as a consultant of the International Rice Research Institute.
PhilRice recognized her in 2005 as the “heart and conscience of the Institute,” and the “lovable grandmother and true lover” of PhilRice.
“She mothered the Institute since its birth and as it grew, she made sure that it was in the right direction. During our Board meetings, I listened intently to her profound comments and suggestions. Indeed, she had foresight and wisdom which I valued a lot as head of PhilRice then,” Dr. Leocadio Sebastian, former PhilRice executive director, wrote in his social media account.
She reviewed and celebrated the role of rice and Filipino life in her book titled Rice in our life. In her article in the April-June 2010 issue of PhilRice Magazine, she wrote: “Seeing is believing” may be trite but it still works. However, it is not enough. We need to add, DOING; USING; KNOWING; UNDERSTANDING; and ADAPTING is believing. All these actions are important so farmers can actually experience not only the technology’s performance but also why it works.”
She also published three well-known books titled All in a Grain of Rice, Beyond Manila, and How Participatory is Participatory Development?
In 1999, Dr. Castillo was conferred as National Scientist by then President Joseph Estrada. She was also a Professor Emeritus of UP Los Baños.
In her years of working for Philippine agricultural and rural development, she has always believed that “science must serve a human purpose. When the best of science and scientists are devoted to the problems of those who have less in life, that is ethics and equity at its best. For the millions of Filipinos who do not produce enough rice and those who cannot afford to buy enough rice to eat, what better human purpose is there for rice science?”