by Rachel N. Nuñez with reports from Arneth D. Abad
A hundred and twelve (112) high school students and 20 teachers representing 12 schools from different parts of the country took part in the two-day 9th Genetic Camp held on January 18-19 at the UP Los Baños (UPLB) Institute of Biological Sciences (IBS) in Los Baños, Laguna.
Officially endorsed by the Department of Education (DepEd), this year’s camp themed “GENEnovation: Paving the way for Medical Improvement through Pharmacogenomics,” highlighted pharmacogenomics -a new field in genetics that produces tailor-made drugs suited to each person’s genetic make-up, which targets to create cheaper and personalized therapies.
The UPLB Genetics Society (Gene Soc) 9th Genetic Camp aims to promote appreciation of Genetics and its developments. According to Kate Samaniego, this year’s Genetic Camp head, the growing interest in the medical field was their inspiration for this year’s camp.
Participating schools include Aurora National Science High School, Caritas Don Bosco School, Joroan National High School, Laguna College, Philippine Science High School Western Visayas Campus, Quezon National High School, Ramon Magsaysay High School, Rosario Quezada Memorial High School, San Juan National High School, St. Anne College, St. Jude Catholic School, and Tabaco National High School.
Professors from the UPLB Genetics and Molecular Biology Division served as resource persons for the camp including Dr. Rita Laude, Dr. Ma. Genaleen Diaz, and Dr. Merlyn Mendioro.
The UPLB Genetics experts were accompanied by Dr. Geraldo Balaccua of Pascual Laboratories, Inc. and Dr. Francisco Heralde who are both specialists in pharmacogenomics. Drs. Balaccua and Heralde discussed the process and application of pharmacogenomics.
Dr. Heralde, associate professor at the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology of the University of the Philippines Manila, said that the event is an opportunity to disseminate the new study to a wider audience.
“It’s good that this event is for the high school students and teachers so that they will become more aware of the advances in science and technology, genetics, molecular biology, and pharmacogenomics and their current applications in the Philippines. In one way, we encourage these high school students to go to the field of science because there is a need for more Filipinos to engage in the field and apply this in the local setting,” Dr. Heralde explained.
“Right now, with all these development in molecular biology and genomic research, you see that there is a lack of information dissemination on the various local and therapeutic drugs. There is an opportunity for us to apply these new tools to benefit the Filipinos. Essentially, that is my motivation to use my knowledge to develop new therapies to benefit the Filipino people,” he added.
When asked about some concrete actions needed to promote the use of pharmacogenomics in the industry, Dr. Heralde explained, “We start with the education; it has to be injected in the curriculum. I’m glad that the Gene Camp is organized but only few students can participate so it has to be wider. We need to focus on the new generation. The ones on top should influence the policy-makers. Let them appreciate the value of this kind of work in pharmacogenomics. Also, in one way, we work with some government agencies like Food and Nutrition Institute. Usually, their findings are used as basis for policies.”
Kristan Licaycay, third year high school student from Aurora National Science High School, found the camp activities interesting during the first day of the event particularly the experiments they conducted in the laboratories where they had DNA isolation and had observed mitosis on onion root tip cells. “Matutunan po namin ang application ng pharmacogenomics at kung paano namin ito magagamit sa society especially po sa school,” Licaycay shared.
One of the highlights of the Gene Camp was various competitions such as the Genetics Inter-High School Quiz Contest, essay writing contest, poster making contest, slogan making contest and debate. The winners in the events are as follows:
- Emson Mari Pumar (Most Bibo Kid): Laguna College
- Marion Alfonso Naynes (Face of the Day-Male): St. Anne College
- Erika Ong (Face of the Day-Female): St. Jude Catholic School
- Andgrel Heber Jison (Fashionista Kid Award-Male): Caritas Don Bosco School
Genetics Inter-High School Quiz Contest
- 1st place: Mark Joseph Pasciolco, Laguna College
- 2nd place: Ardee Caro, Philippine Science High School-Iloilo
- 3rd place: Matthew Tan, St. Jude Catholic School
Essay Writing Contest
- 1st place: Anlene Jane Rocha, Tabaco National High School
- 2nd place: Isabel Louise Reyes, Laguna College
- 3rd place: Katrina Claire Marcalda, Quezon National High School
Poster Making Contest
- 1st place: Patrick Chan, St. Jude Catholic School
- 2nd place: Patricia Andrea Orio, St. Anne College
- 3rd place: Ronielle Emmanuel, Philippine Science High School Western Visayas Campus
- 1st place: Erika Ong, St. Jude Catholic School
- 2nd place: Nathaly Kate Bohulano, Philippine Science High School Western Visayas Campus
- 3rd place: Alfred Van Darell de la Cruz, Laguna College
- Best Speaker: Franklin Cercado, Philippine Science High School Western Visayas Campus
- Best Debators: Joshua Surquia (Quezon National High School), Duane Tenorio (Quezon National High School), and Franklin Cercado (Philippine Science High School Western Visayas Campus)
Over-all Champion: Philippine Science High School Western Visayas Campus
Teachers from the different schools also attended a special workshop to improve their teaching strategies on genetics. Mr. Jickerson Lado, an instructor from the Genetics and Molecular Biology Division and junior adviser of the Gene Soc, conducted the workshop.
On his seventh year to witness the event, Mr. Lado noted the improvements with the systematic and organized flow of the camp. “The preparations for the started March last year and I’ve seen the effective leadership of the steering committee head, Ms. Kate Samaniego. Moreover, it’s a first time that the Gene camp had participants from the Visayas,” Mr. Lado said.
“Ang daming teachers yung natutuwa dahil yung expectations nila ay na-exceed namin at mas maganda ang na bring ng Gene Soc for this Genetic Camp. And that is very rewarding kasi when we’re doing this, ang gusto lang namin is to share information. That’s the primary objective of the organization which is to promote and create awareness of the science of genetics. Add na lang or bonus kung magsasabi sila na ang ganda at nag enjoy sila,” he added.