For the love of ‘fish’ and the passion for teaching

by Aessen Tapiador and Eirene Grace Zaragoza

In celebration of the World Oceans Day (June 8), let’s take a peek into the success of a woman who built a career in fisheries, marine zoology, and aquaculture.

As we share what we learn to others, we make them a part of our lives.

This is one of Dr. Blesshe Querijero’s principles in life. It’s no surprise that after a decade’s worth of research, she found herself in the academe teaching zoology in the Institute of Biological Sciences (IBS) at the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB).

As an enthusiast for marine life, Dr. Querijero has published researches internationally. Her field of specialty is fisheries, focusing on marine and aquaculture. She has also been granted with the prestigious Elvira O. Tan Award for most outstanding aquaculture research.

With much success in her field, it’s interesting to know how she developed her interest in the sciences and discovered her passion in sharing knowledge to others

Starting Point

The field of fisheries has always been very close to Dr. Querijero’s heart. She grew up in the island municipality of Quezon in Quezon Province located in the southern tip of Alabat Island, an island rich with marine life.

Back when she was little, her favorite pasttime was swimming and diving. She’s enthralled with exploring the corals and various fishes inhabiting the sea. Her father also brought her picture books from Reader’s Digest about fisheries and marine life. She enjoyed looking at the pictures of corals, fishes, marine mammals, and invertebrates.

This childhood love for the sea inspired her to study more about acquatic organisms. She took up BS Zoology major in Marine Zoology in UPLB back in 1976. Her interest in fisheries became the beginning of her life-long adventure in this field.

Third Time’s a Charm

While many students labor through finishing their research in the shortest time possible, the young Querijero went through creating and re-creating her thesis three times. But alas, the third time’s a charm.

Querijero pursued her master’s degree in Fisheries major in Aquaculture in UP Visayas. On her first attempt to finish her thesis, her research samples were stolen just a week before the final collection of data. She repeated her study from scratch. This time, a storm ravaged her samples.

Querijero decided to change her research topic. She focused on how food passes through the digestive system of tilapia. With that study, she did not just graduate with a master’s degree, she also bagged the Elvira O. Tan Award for Most Outstanding Aquaculture Research in 1990.

Through these mishaps and triumph, Querijero learned that “it (success) really takes time; you cannot control what can happen. The making of a person is what is important.”

She also took another MS Degree in Public Management major in Technology-based Management in Ateneo School of Governance where she graduated summa cum laude. Until now, she gets invited in Ateneo to be a consultant for students presenting their research.

Ganbatte Years

After finishing two post-graduate degrees in the Philippines, Querijero found herself in Japan taking up her PhD in Fisheries. For four years, in the course of her study, she published three Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) journals refereed by scientists from all over the world.

Sometimes, she would sleep in the laboratory to finish her research. She motivated herself with the Japanese word, “ganbatte”, which means “cheer up, bear up, keep your chin up, be courageous, and do your best.” When she finished her PhD in Japan, her professors offered her a job as a faculty. She refused the offer; she preferred to go home and be with her family. Had she taken the job, though, she would have been the only female faculty and a second foreigner to teach in the Faculty of Fisheries in her university in Japan at that time

Teaching as a Passion

Upon returning to the Philippines, Querijero was hired as dean in Marinduque State College (MSC) where she taught for 10 months. Though less than a year, for her, the months she spent teaching in MSC were the most rewarding and fruitful days of her career. That was when she realized that teaching has a great impact on her.

After serving as dean in MSC, she was hired as an assistant scientist in DOST and worked there for 13 years. In 2013, she decided to pursue teaching again. “I love teaching”—in three words, Querijero has summed it all.

She shares that teaching gives her greater happiness and satisfaction as she shares her knowledge, and inevitably, herself.

Teaching is a passion; an intense desire to positively influence students not only in the subject matter but also in their eager pursuit to discover and harness their potential; that they may become better persons and citizens.

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