“Have faith in God, love yourself, seek support from family, faculty, and friends, learn to appreciate the value of forestry as a degree program, and aim high”. These are the words of encouragement from the UPLB-CFNR’s cum laude for 2021, Mr. Gerard B. Villancio, to the lower batches of BS in Forestry (BSF) students. Gerard garnered a general weighted average of 1.71, the highest in BSF Class of 2021. He is a Recipient of the Faculty Award for Academic Excellence in Forestry and Natural Resources. He took Environmental Forestry as his major field and specialized in Plant Physiology with Dr. Marilyn Combalicer as the major adviser. His thesis, “Physiological Response of Philippine Teak (Tectona philippinensis Benth & Hook.f.) Seedlings to Different Environmental Conditions”, determined the physiological response of the species to different water and soil conditions with increasing light intensity, and provided recommendations on the suitable conditions in ex situ.
Landing on the BS Forestry Program
Gerard recalled that BSF was not his preferred degree program as he is more inclined in the Arts. But when he was admitted to UPLB, he convinced himself to delve into a more technical field — BS Forestry, which is the most available degree program at that time. At first, Gerard was a bit worried if he would be able to complete his undergraduate program as he had very little appreciation for forestry. His turning point was his excellent performance in Botany 1 (Introduction to Plant science) offered in the First Semester of his first school year (SY 2015-2016). By taking BOT 1, he developed his enthusiasm in the field of forestry.
Facing the Challenges as a BSF Student
While taking his undergraduate program, Gerard faced several challenges and these revolved around three areas: academics, financial, and mental health issues. Because of his initial lack of interest in BSF in the first few months, the challenge was how to sustain and complete the course. Gerard added that his family is financially constrained, and hence, he had to make sure that his meager allowance would cover all his basic needs while in-campus. His greatest challenge was when he was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and anxiety disorder in 2018. According to Gerard, he has been experiencing anxieties and depression, perhaps because of academic and financial pressures. As such, he had to take medications, which added costs to the family expenses. Gerard took a Leave of Absence (LOA) for a year, which provided him the opportunity to reflect and realize the value of life.
Gerard’s positive outlook in life, particularly his aspiration to have a better quality of life; strong support from family, friends, and several CFNR faculty members; and his faith in God, were among the crucial drivers that helped him cope with his daily hurdles. After a year of rest and reflections, Gerard went back to UPLB-CFNR, re-charged and re-energized, and completed the course with flying colors.
Perceived contributions of BSF graduates
Currently, Gerard is employed as an Extension Officer of the Coastal and Marine Ecosystems Management Program at the DENR-Provincial Environment and Natural Resources (PENRO) in Oriental Mindoro where he provides technical support in natural resources management. His employment with the DENR made him realize the value and contributions of BS Forestry graduates to natural resources conservation and management. “I have no regrets taking BS Forestry. Now, I truly appreciate the value of forestry in national development,” Gerard emphasized.
Gerard acknowledges the UPLB-CFNR for providing an enabling environment to its students. He values the physical environment, which is very conducive for learning and for reflecting, as well as the social environment, which is even more enticing because of the presence of faculty members who are very supportive of the students. During his trying times, the faculty members, along with his fellow students and friends, were among his support system. As his final remark, Gerard stressed that “at CFNR, you will never be alone.”
Gerard hails from Lopez, Quezon, and is the third in six siblings. His parents are Mrs. Gina Villancio and the late Arnel T. Villancio. He is an active member of the UP Painters’ Club, UP Plant Biological Society, PRAEFECTS: UP Guild of United Minds, and the Zeta Beta Rho Honor Fraternity. (CFNR-CIMRC)