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Rona T. Dollentas is a soil scientist. She has greatly contributed in producing the guide books for different soil types in the Philippines. Copies of which are available online at the PhilRice website. While she is a soils expert, Rona now plays major roles in doing development work in PhilRice Bicol.

Apple of the eye

Rona describes herself as a fast-learner. She can easily adapt and master new skills.
With her strong reflexes and ability to effortlessly toss a ball, she became the ball captain of their high school volleyball team, which made her popular in a village in Irosin, Sorsogon.

Aside from being active in sports, Rona also made sure that she was doing well academically. She was a consistent honor student from primary to secondary school. Rona has five siblings, and her parents are happy that she made it to UPLB on a full scholarship by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in 1998.

Iskolar ng bayan

Like other scientists that we featured in the previous months, Rona had apprehensions pursuing a degree in agriculture. She originally wanted to take math-related programs, however, she did not make the cut off for these programs at UPLB.

She then decided to pursue agriculture to utilize the DOST scholarship and ended up falling in love with it.

“I want to be successful to help my family financially and give them a better life,” says Rona.
Early this year, she finished her master’s degree in Development Management offered by the Development Academy of the Philippines under the Public Management Development Program funded by DAP and PhilRice’s Staff Development Program.

As a soil scientist

Rona worked at PhilRice Central Experiment Station from 2003 to 2007. Working with other soil experts, she was involved in the characterization and interpretation of soils in the provinces of Isabela, North Cotabato, Negros Occidental, Tarlac, Pampanga, and Iloilo.

She was a part of the team of soil scientists that developed the very first prototype Guidebook for Soil Series Identification (Isabela) with the Nutrient Management Support System (NuMaSS) Project, a computer-based software that generates fertilizer recommendation for upland crops including upland rice. The project was funded by Soil Management Collaborative Research Support Program based in Hawaii. After implementation in other provinces, a rice technology bulletin on Improving Agricultural Productivity was published in 2006, a guide for farmers for better productivity with proper soil management.

After her master’s degree at UPLB, from 2010 to 2012, Rona was deployed in PhilRice Negros. She then worked along the same line i.e., characterizing soils in the Visayas. Together with her team members, Jesiree Elena Ann Bibar and Judith Carla Dela Torre with Wilfredo Collado as project lead, they have developed the prototype of soil series guidebook for Panay Island.

“This book can serve as a guide for farmers and agricultural extension workers to identify the inherent fertility of soils especially when grown for rice, the crop management needed to improve productivity, and the most suited crop for a particular type of soil,” says Rona.

In 2012, she moved to PhilRice Bicol, where, in the same year, she initiated similar initiatives on soil characterization in Region 8.

As a soil scientist, Rona says that there is a need to dumb down soil science a bit as their technical reports are indeed complex. If not simplified, they will not be of any use to farmers.

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Seeing rural development needs

At PhilRice Bicol, Rona is wearing another hat. She has just been designated as the station’s Business Development Coordinator. The task is to ensure the accessibility of quality seeds in Bicol and Eastern Visayas with the help of local seed growers. Additionally, she leads the Rice Seed System project in Bicol and Eastern Visayas.

“Under this project, PhilRice focuses on producing foundation and registered seeds for distribution to seed growers who will eventually produce seeds for farmers in the region. We will also promote the newly released varieties especially public hybrids,” explains Rona.

With PhilRice Bicol, established in 2012, as the newest station of the Institute, Rona has been working hard to generate more R&D funds. She has proposed several studies, which also led to recruiting more staff members for the station.

“I have been mentoring several staff members of the station in proposal writing so we can have more projects to implement, which, by extension, will push rice research for development in the areas covered by the station,” shares Rona.

In 2015, she leads the implementation of PalaYamaNayon in Bicol that resulted in the establishment of Knowledge Sharing and Learning Center at a farmers’ field in Polangui, Albay.

Rona, along with her colleagues in PhilRice Bicol, has also been instrumental in putting up One Stop Information Shops (OSIS) in 4 state universities and colleges in Bicol and 1 in Eastern Visayas. OSIS is more like a mini library for knowledge products on rice.

Rona and her family are based in Sorsogon. She has five children, namely Aron Danshel, Aryonna Sofia, Arianne Faith , Arnee Shayne , and Arjon Josef.

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Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) is a government corporate entity attached to the Department of Agriculture created through Executive Order 1061 on 5 November 1985 (as amended) to help develop high-yielding and cost-reducing technologies so farmers can produce enough rice for all Filipinos.

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Philippine Rice Research Institute