Department of Biology celebrates 3 years of cooperation with Brgy. San Vicente in Roxas, Oriental Mindoro

October 23, 2015

When faculty members of the Ateneo de Manila University’s Department of Biology travelled to Mindoro in early 2012 to check suitable sites for their field research activities, they stopped at the remote barangay of San Vicente in Roxas, located in the southeastern portion of the biogeographically interesting island.
 
They were warmly welcomed to rural area located near the Baroc River, blessed with a rich indigenous culture, beautiful mountains, and hidden waterfalls. Its residents, though, faced challenges brought by underdeveloped infrastructure and limited sources of income.

Hon. Ronel S. Sescar, Brg. Captain of San Vicente, Roxas, Oriental Mindoro receiving his Certificate of Appreciation and Commitment handed over by Jiggy Lim, BS Biology thesis student, on behalf of the AdMU Biology Department
 
From the beginning, the administration of San Vicente, under Hon. Brgy. Captain Ronel Sescar was open to and supportive of the Ateneo team. Recently, the Department of Biology awarded him with a Certificate of Appreciation and Commitment.

Dr. Dennis Raga was one of the initial organizers of this cooperation. The photograph above is from a meeting when he briefed the indigenous community of Tagaskan about the proposed projects prior to the signing of a MoA with the Sadik Habanan Buhid.
 
The collaboration has proven to be very fruitful for the Department of Biology: seven students have successfully defended their undergraduate theses for which they conducted intense fieldwork in San Vicente. Several more students, both graduates and undergraduates, are currently conducting studies in the barangay.

AdMU BS Bio students Spica Cagande and Jiggy Lim during an ecological sampling for their thesis at the Tauga Diit Water Fall.
 
The area serves as the main site to test the suitability of Philippine Water Beetles as bioindicators and biomonitoring organisms.
 
Along with these studies, the Ateneo team has discovered a good number of new species in the freshwater habitats of the barangay. Formal scientific descriptions have already been published for more than 10 of them, some with scientific names honoring San Vicente, its localities, and its indigenous communities, e.g. Paduniella sanvicentis, Psychomyia taugadensis (caddis flies), Ancyronyx buhid (Buhid Spider Water Beetle). Several international media outlets, including The Guardian (UK) reported on the discovery of the latter

Conservation efforts, environmental management workshops and research activities were conducted under the projects “Rainforestation Farming: Indigenous Forest Rehabilitation for Biodiversity Conservation and Promotion of Sustainable Income for the Rural Communities” (Rufford Foundation, London) and “Survey and Evaluation of Rural Landscape Biodiversity of Roxas, Oriental Mindoro, with Identification and Scientific Description of Taxa New to Science and Identification of Priority Areas for Conservation and Forest Rehabilitation” (CHED- PHERNet).

Ateneo Biological Organization – eXplore. eXperience. eXcel. (BOx) officers (AY ’12-’13) and BS Bio alumni (Batch 2014) Dustin Cruz and Deo Macahig teaching elementary and high school students about Philippine biodiversity.

The local participants after the five-day Rainforestation Workshop held in May 2015.

BOx officers (AY ’14-’15) and BS Bio students Jhoana Garces and Spica Cagande provided a short microscopy course to elementary students of San Vicente.
 
The Department of Biology would like to the following persons and institutions for their continued support: Brgy. San Vicente, Roxas, especially Hon. Brgy. Captain Ronel S. Sescar, as well as all the barangay kagawads and tanods; the Buhid communities of Tagaskan and Tauga Diit; the National Commission for Indigenous People (NCIP); the Municipal Government of Roxas under Hon. Jackson Cinco Dy; the Rufford Foundation (London); PHERNet - Philippine Commission of Higher Education (CHED); PENRO Calapan (Oriental Mindoro); CENRO Roxas; and Visayas State University.
 
Photo credits: Department of Biology, Ateneo de Manila University