Two young women from Catanduanes named winners in DOST, DA search


One after the other, two young women brought honor to the province of Catanduanes as they won in separate, national-level contests of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

Last Dec. 2, 2021, Cristina Lato Torreda of Yocti, San Andres, followed up her victory at the regional level to emerge as national winner in the recently-concluded DA Search for Outstanding Rural Women:  “Gawad Parangal sa Katangi-tanging Kababaihan sa Pagsasaka at Pangingisda sa Kanayunan” held at Quezon City.

For establishing the emerging agri-tourism destination of Cristina’s Strawberry Farm, Torreda took home the P150,000 top prize for her contribution to the agricultural sector and to her community, the DA stated.

The following day, Dec. 3, Virac’s Anne Gille Pastor Balmadrid, a registered Professional Agricultural and Biosystems Engineer, shared first prize in the 2021 Magsaysay Future Engineers/Technologist Award given by DOST and the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST).

A 2020 graduate of University of the Philippines Los Baños, she split the top prize of P150,000 with Darius Joseph Diamante of De La Salle University during the four-hour virtual presentation of the research papers of seven selected nominees and awarding ceremony via Zoom and Facebook.

Cristina Torreda

Tin was the youngest contender among the rural women nominees from the different regions and was the only single woman nominated for the same category, as most of the nominees are already married.

The 28-year old farmer is planning to develop and expand her Cristina’s Strawberry Farm as she envisions it to become an agricultural learning site, with her efforts to make her farm flourish an inspiration to other farmers to be more involved in agriculture.

Starting with 130 pieces of strawberries in 2018, it now offers lodging services and is currently engaged in hydrophonic gardening. Fruit trees and leafy vegetables can also be purchased in the farm.

“Kung sa farming ka nadapa, sa farming ka rin babangon. No one is going to win the battles for you,” according to Cristina, sharing the hardships she experienced in life that did not deter her from achieving her goals.

After super typhoon Rolly destroyed her farm in November 2020, she persevered to rebuild the farm, soliciting funding online and securing support from government agencies and the local government unit.

Anne Gille Balmadrid

A university and college scholar at UPLB, Balmadrid graduated cum laude with a degree in Bachelor of Science in Agriculture and Bioprocess Engineering and was valedictorian of her graduating class.

She was a recipient of the CEAT Alumni Association Medial for Academic Excellence awarded by College of Engineering and Agro-Industrial technology in August 2021.

The daughter of DPWH Catanduanes District Engineer Gil Augustus Balmadrid and San Andres Municipal Engineer Evangelica Pastor-Balmadrid is an alumnus of the Catanduanes State University Laboratory Schools.

She was among the 507 out of 1,392 examinees who passed the licensure examination for Agricultural and Biosystems Engineers given by the Professional Regulation Commission last September 2021.

Nominated by UPLB for the 2021 Magsaysay Future Engineers/Technologists Award, she submitted as her entry her research entitled “Prediction of Paddy Rice (Oryza sativa L.) Seed Quality Parameters Using Visible and Near-Infrared (VIS-NIR) Spectroscopy.”

Balmadrid said that the use of the VIS-NIR spectroscopy would be a better alternative to the standard germination tests, which she said is destructive, time-and-labor intensive and requires laboratory tests.

In using radiation light reflection to detect levels of moisture and protein in sample rice seeds, she proved that spectroscopy can non-destructively measure paddy rice qualities and assure farmers and seed companies of the quality of their seeds.

Now on its 15th year, the Magsaysay FET Award aims to recognize outstanding research outputs on engineering and technology at the collegiate level and to encourage young Filipino students to pursue a career in science.

Conducted by the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) Philippines, the competition is open to Bachelor of Science students enrolled or graduated within the last 12 months in an Engineering program or related fields. Areas of study should fall within the priority areas of the Department of Science and Technology, specifically in the areas of biomedical engineering, machinery, engineering products, engineering sources and product development.

Aside from grades in engineering, science and mathematics, the nominees are mainly judged on their research output, particularly Methodology (20%); Quality of innovativeness/originality/creativity (15%);    Quality of write-up/presentation (15%); and, Contribution to national development/knowledge (30%).

The board of judges for the 2021 competition was headed by Engr. Angel Lazaro III, with academicians Dr. Jose Cruz Jr., Dr. Benito Pacheco, and Dr. Ruby Cristobal, and Engr. Jonathan Puerto as members.

NAST President Rhodora Azanza and DOST Secretary Fortunato dela Peña delivered messages during the virtual presentation while former Sen. Ramon Magsaysay Jr, who proposed the award, urged the DOST and the awardees to do something to make things better for the youth to appreciate Science & Technology, Mathematics and Engineering.

“We expect a lot from you,” Lazaro told the winners, adding that the board of judges would be very interested to know whether the award made a difference in their future careers.

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