Lucky are those who received award at the height of their glory when every beat of their heart and vein can feel it, but still lucky are those who received it when their heart beats no more, for their family and loved ones can feel the extension of its glory. Yes, Leonardo L. Ong made it as 2011 NAST-Hugh Greenwood Environmental Science awardee on May 2, 2011 at Hyatt Hotel, Manila after his death on November 15, 2010, when he was in Kananga, Leyte as a biodiversity expert by the Energy Development Corp. (EDC) for its tree legacy program BINHI looking for mother trees (with two of the team) were caught in crossfire between government troops and separatist rebels.
Co, of the University of the Philippines received the award for his outstanding botanical expertise in biodiversity profiling of Philippine forest, tree planting activities and species identifications of Philippine specimen in several herbaria.
The said award conferred by the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST), Philippines is intended to recognize outstanding scientific and technological research works that contribute to environmental protection and conservation.
Co extensively conducted long-term mapping and studies of the forest trees in Palanan, Isabela (Co et al. 2006) and the information on forest composition and dynamics could help the environmentalists, policy-makers, and ordinary people alike in the understanding of the spatial and temporal scale of natural forest processes thereby coordinating the global and national needs of biological conservation with the local demands for social and economic development. This is in parallel with the vision of the philanthropist Dr. Hugh Greenwood that it is important that our remaining resources be used wisely with the rapid pace of environmental degradation and the eventual depletion of natural resources.
He was also lauded for his pioneering and seminal work in compiling and publishing the text on “A Manual on Some Philippine Medicinal Plants” – the first authoritative manual on medicinal plants in the country aimed at popularizing local herbal medicines and the production of medicines from readily available and accessible materials. He was able to impart his expertise in the Cordillera region establishing community-based health programs like training the local health workers on the use of these medicinal plants and the practice of acupuncture for indigenous villages in Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Kalinga, Mountain Province, and Ifugao.
Co completed his baccalaureate degree in Botany at the University of the Philippines, Diliman (2008). He was a museum researcher at the Institute of Biology, College of Science, University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD) prior to his retirement. He authored and co-authored 13 peer-reviewed articles, including six books in which he was the senior author in four.
The recipient will receive a cash prize of $1,000 from Dr. Greenwood, a trophy and a 1 million research grant from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) through NAST. In addition, the recipient will also receive a cash prize of Php50,000 from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Three finalists also presented their papers for the category of NAST Talent Search for Young Scientists namely: Flordeliza H. Bordey, PhD, (International and Food Policy) Philippine Rice Research Institute; Jamee R. Encabo; MS, (Microbiology) Institute of Biological Science, UP Los Banos; and Christopher P. Monterola, PhD (Physics) National Institute of Physics, UP Diliman. Estrella Z. Gallardo