Placing crown on rice science education
Science is usually communicated through publications, news and features, conferences, and seminars. At Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), however, farmers and the general public are educated in an out-of-the-box way called arts.
Dr. Diadem B. Gonzales-Esmero, Supervising Science Research Specialist of PhilRice Community Relations Office and Senior Curator of the Rice Science Museum, leads in popularizing rice science and sharing the culture and practices of Filipino farmers through artwork, music, and theater.
Recognized as Distinguished Alumna in Culture and the Arts by the University of the Philippines Alumni Association (UPAA) and Central Luzon State University (CLSU), she also leads in developing interactive, digital exhibits to promote rice science and technologies.
Re-launching Rice Science Museum
Established in 2004, the Rice Museum then focused on few collections about the Cordillera, which limits rice appreciation only in the highlands. With its renovation on Sept. 3, 2014, major curatorial updating was conducted and was re-launched as Rice Science Museum. A facility accredited by the Department of Tourism, the 320-square-meter building, which was the original administration building of PhilRice, features thematic displays that are bi-annually updated.
“The limited resources we had was a challenge, but it became an opportunity, opportunity to partner with other agencies. It’s just a matter of being resourceful and passionate in undertaking this work and getting the job done,” she said.
Partnerships with major museums in the Philippines such as the National Museum, Mind Museum, Clark Museum, and Museo Pambata expanded not only the museum’s reach in showcasing rice science and technologies, but it also complemented science and agricultural classes in different parts of the country.
She led the development of a “phygital” exhibit in 2018 featuring the latest breakthroughs in rice science in partnership with the Department of Agriculture – Bureau of Agricultural Research. She also established the Rice Science Museum as a “Palayamanayon: A Cultural Hub for Rice Research and Development in Central Luzon” funded by the National Commission for Culture and Arts.
The learning materials developed and displayed in the museum were shortlisted in the 2017 Reimagine Education Awards, sustainability category, by the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and QS Quacquarelli Symonds.
“I see the potential of the Rice Museum as a primary venue for promoting, increasing public awareness and preserving ricescapes,” she said upon being elected as President of the Central Luzon Association of Museums (CLAM).
Taking the path
Hailing from San Mateo, Isabela, the consistent Dean’s Lister in college once dreamed of pursuing a career in medicine.
“I wanted to become a doctor. But because we are financially challenged, I decided to choose another profession,” she shared.
Diadem’s career in development work started in 1999 where she worked as a Science Aide at PhilRice-Isabela after obtaining Bachelor of Science in Social Sciences from CLSU. She was then involved in promoting hybrid rice.
As a PhilRice scholar, she finished her Master of Science in Development Communication at the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) in 2004 as a cross-registrant at both UPLB and UP Diliman (UPD).
“As a cross-registrant, I endured long hours of travel from Laguna to Manila to attend my UPD classes. But my passion for learning and my extreme desire to help my family after graduating helped me along the way,” she recalled.
After completing her master’s degree, Diadem worked as a technical staff under former Executive Director Leocadio S. Sebastian. In 2017, she earned her PhD in Anthropology from the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia as a Ford Foundation International Fellowships Program scholar.
Diadem, who headed the Development Communication Division, was given the Executive Director’s Award in 2017.
“I find joy and fulfillment in educating people and seeing them acquire new knowledge – a small feat and contribution that nourishes one’s spirit,” she said.
Off work, Diadem is a wife and a mother of two. She introduced arts to her five-year-old twins, and it became their way of bonding. Painting, drawing, making crafts, and storytelling are among the things they do for fun and education.
“My bonding with my twins served as my testing ground for teaching methods. In our 2017 exhibition, Wonderful World of Rice, school children had experienced scientists’ work and learned about growing rice. Now, more educators advocate museum visits to complement school learning,” she said.
Diadem and her team continue to develop new ideas and learning methods, believing that the Rice Science Museum is a great place to ask the universal question, “why”?.