The Edge of Knowing

My Take on Research as a Machine of Science, Technology, Development, & Innovation

Cristy E. Davalos, Writer and Researcher for Materials Library Expansion

A VOYAGE OF DISCOVERY

My experience as a Researcher for MATICHUB’s Materials Library Expansion was like a voyage of discovery into a new and strange land where I learned a lot after the expedition. Though I like writing and words, never have I ever had the chance to write for research or article for publication for that matter. My last scholarly write-up was my thesis back in college (six years ago) and after that, I was only exposed to writing and publication when I worked as a Data Analyst in publication companies. Though I was bombarded with various data in my previous jobs, I am more of an MS Excel-type than an MS Word-type of person. In fact, I never thought that I’d have this opportunity to do a research project, that’s why when I was given this chance, I was skeptical and at the same time excited for this new adventure as a writer/researcher. I’m grateful for this opportunity given by MATICHUB and the gift of camaraderie and guidance from the team.

Through the course of almost four months, I was proud, amazed, and hopeful with everything that I’ve discovered regarding the country’s resources. Most of the time, I’d be in awe of how human creativity and innovation have transformed a simple material into a useful and efficient product outputs through the aid of science and technology. 

THE WANDERING AND WONDERING…

Just like most voyages, I started my journey as a researcher with a plan. Prior to the commencement of this project, I already scanned through some of the previous write-ups in MATIC’s website, then I listed all the possible materials to be used in the project. And just like any other voyage, some things just didn’t go according to plan. A few of my pre-listed materials were not used in this project because they are either just provincially utilized in a handful or there are hardly any references, studies, and related sources as the materials are not yet familiar and studied. 

When I think I’ve exhausted all the possible materials in the Philippines that can be featured in the website, with the team’s approval, I’ve decided to wander and expand the research to available resources in other Southeast Asian countries. Reading and researching through many of other countries’ discoveries and innovations, made me hopeful and left me wondering like “how about we also utilize our resources just like what other countries did?” As long as it is done in an eco-friendly and sustainable way, aside from making the most out of our environmental resources, it could also be a good opportunity for the livelihood of many locals and to boost our country’s economy. For example, Baino or commonly known as Lotus which was greatly utilized in India, Thailand, and Vietnam in the fields of arts and crafts, and even recently used in the textile and fashion industry. Philippines also is capable and is currently growing Lotus but they are not well-utilized. They’re grown because they are either naturally inhabitant of the area or they are propagated for the aesthetic and medicinal benefit of its flower and oil. But I also know that some things are easier said than done that’s why it may not happen right away. It would most probably take a lot of time, studies, training, funds, and other resources before it could come to reality in our country. And ultimately, these available write-ups which can be accessed by anyone online thru MATIC’s website, can be of help to this endeavor.

TREASURE CHEST OF KNOWLEDGE & AWARENESS

I always have the greatest fascination with the artistic and innovative mind of humans which when powered by science and technology results in vast creations. And my discoveries on the promising and astounding potential of various, mostly simple materials, just deepened this fascination. 

I’ve learned that there are many available resources in the country that I’m not aware of, which I think are also alien for many people. Furthermore, the Philippines has resources that are not utilized but are evidently usable/transformable into useful and sustainable products as proven by other countries. Take for example, Vetiver grass which is locally known as Moras grass. Prior to this project, I’ve known this species only as a weed growing uninvited in lawns, gardens, and farms competing for the nourishments that’s supposedly for the crops. In almost all occasions that I’ve observed, people would often get irate whenever vetiver grass would grow in their area as this results in a dense and weedy environment which is very suitable for rats, snakes, and pests to live. In fact, I’m one of the many people who have this misconception that vetiver grass is just this unfeasible weed that needs to be uprooted in order for other crops to grow healthy. Never have I imagined that this is used as a vital ingredient in perfume products of many world-renown brands such as Jo Malone, Creed, Chanel, Hermés, Carolina Herrera, and many more. (Uh-huh. You read that right.) Another example is the Sargassum seaweed. For someone who has lived her entire childhood and teenage years on an island, me, seeing a bulk of sargassum seaweed lying in the sand or floating in the sea is just a walk in the park (figuratively and literally). Countless times I’ve seen sargassum seaweed especially during summer in the nearby beach park, and in all those times, I’ve only thought of it as a sore to the eye and something that emits unpleasant odor whenever exposed to the raging heat of summer sun. Though I’ve known that the Mindanao region of the Philippines is active in the seaweed industry, I was only aware of the fact that the production is more on the commercial potential in the culinary industry. So, I was greatly amazed when I read that in other countries especially in Mexico, sargassum seaweed are used in making papers, coffins, shoes, and even houses. (Uh-huh. You read that right again.) And it was also reported that there’s a plan to build a hotel made of sargassum bricks. 

Above are just some instances of how knowledge when given adequate consideration and resources can turn a simple material into unexpectedly feasible products that sometimes surpasses our imagination.  Also, how correct and sufficient knowledge helps a person to take a look at things in a different perspective, taking into consideration its importance, application, and possible annihilation if utilized improperly. We can also see the importance of Research and Development (R&D) which is given high regards by both the government and private institutions in order to make use of the materials that are abundantly available but are under-utilized. And last but not the least, the fact that other countries have research studies, discoveries, and innovations that can be of inspiration and reference for farmers, businessmen, manufacturers, and product developers in the Philippines. 

After all the readings and research, I was made aware of the truth that in many cases, we tend to focus on the effect and benefits of the environment in our economy that we missed to look at the other way around. So, in the past years, the effect of the economy in the environment is starting to show itself. Climate change, global warming, and other environmental issues can also be traced back to improper and undisciplined use of our natural resources. Mishandling and overexploitation resulted in a major backslash in our resources and later on to our people as this affects not just the sustainability of their livelihood but also their residence. In order to produce merchandise as much as we can for the time being, we overlook the vital question of whether or not we can sustain it and we tend to act once the resource is already at its critical level. Change and progress is inevitable in this advancing world that we are now, but we also need to consider how the environment, our source of materials, is coping up with this progress. Fortunately, at present, the government and many non-government organizations are working hand-in-hand in order to close this gap between the economic progress and the environment’s welfare by creating and implementing laws, protocols, and programs to save and protect forests, rivers, and other natural sources. Also, in recent years, people are little by little turning to eco-friendly products that even big companies and manufacturers are now promoting and creating sustainable and environmentally-friendly products.

POSSIBLE FUTURE EXPEDITIONS

The Materials. It’s not new to us that due to the Philippines archipelagic structure, it is an environmentally and naturally-rich country full of under-utilized, if not undiscovered resources. Consequently, one of the possible ways that we can take on is to further research on materials that have been successfully utilized in other countries that are also present in the Philippines but were not given enough consideration to. Providing high regards to Research and Development (R&D) has been proven efficient in the development of many countries. R&D should provide the basic facts and questions, the available know-hows, the daunting what-ifs, the best possible solutions, and next possible steps to take.

The People. The Philippines also is a home of many great and creative minds. May it be in the field of Research, Science, Technology, and Arts, Filipinos have taken a spot in all of these endeavors. Unfortunately, only few are given the opportunity to advance in any of these fields because of different reasons such as lack of knowledge and resources. In many local settings, people continue to use their traditional methods of consumption and production even though safer and more efficient ways are available because they lack knowledge on the new and improved technologies. And sometimes, they’re not aware of the promising potential of the materials available in their area. Providing people with as much knowledge and resources as possible especially on what is feasible to produce in their area by conducting more programs, seminars, and training especially in the local community.

As important as providing people with knowledge through printed materials and face-to-face seminars and training, this knowledge should also be made readily available in the fastest and most convenient way possible through the help of the internet. People are now drawn to their gadget whenever they are in the look of even the basic know-how, and by putting these available and allowable information and researches in the web, anyone can easily access the material and make use of it. Currently, we can only do so much after the Philippine economy declined due to the pandemic. Local production of merchandise that can be produced at home set-up can be a good opportunity for many to stand back up after the devastating effect of the pandemic. Many have turned back to sustainable farming and for those who have the resources such as the land and the fund, with the correct and available knowledge, they can have this opportunity to try and grow something different which they can produce for commercial purposes. Furthermore, locally produced sustainable and eco-friendly crops, materials, and product outputs can be promoted and sold through online groups, fares, and markets where anyone will have the opportunity to highlight their produce and everyone will have the chance to check it out. Maybe the local government units can help with that by creating an online market and encouraging their locals to showcase their respective produce especially the farmers, weavers, product developers, and producers whose online presence is not yet established.

We may have the natural resources and most probably, we already know about it but maybe just too little of it. That is why we need to re-search, re-evaluate, and re-study in order to discover gems of knowledge that’s of power for further development and innovation. It will surely take a lot of time, effort, funds, and other resources, but it is an established fact that research, knowledge, and innovation come hand in hand. And with the aid of science and technology, the power of knowledge becomes limitless.

“I believe in innovation and that the way you get innovation is you fund research and you learn the basic facts.”

– Bill Gates

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