’59 B.S. CHEMISTRY
IN THE SHADOW OF A CELEBRITY:
“The Other Oades”
A Sentimental Journey
All these years in San Diego, my close circle of friends calls me “The Other Oades” although, in my own right, they know I am also an accomplished achiever in the academe and the scientific research world. I have shied away from the limelight by choice and lived a sheltered and private life after finding serenity and comfort in the shadow of a SDSU professor, author and an indefatigable civic leader. But such is not without some hurts, pleasures and challenges.
This Is My Story:
The Formative Years
At the University of the Philippines (Diliman) I was a GARCIA. My other three siblings are also die-hard UPians. My parents firmly believed that UP provides the best education one can get in the homeland. And they saw to it that all four of us – Roberto, Renato, Rita and I — finished our studies in Medicine, Engineering, Nutrition, and Chemistry without any interruption.
When it was time for us kids to go to high school, my parents decided to lease out our lucrative fish (bangus) farming business in Luzon; and made our education their full-time career with utmost parental supervision. From our Malabon, Rizal residence they prepared to relocate on or as close to the Diliman campus as possible.
Unfortunately, not just anybody could either buy a house or live on campus. One has to be a UP employee to occupy one of the University-owned WWII vintage quonset huts that surround the school buildings then.
Undeterred, my father gave up his dental practice, applied for the UP Campus Chief of Police position (using his Army officer WWII experience and distinguished record) and readily got hired. We then became members of a closely-knit UP community.
After a few years, my family was among the first few to build houses in a newly- opened housing subdivision called UP Village in Diliman. As in the main campus housing, the privilege of lot ownership was extended only to UP employees. My enterprising papa built a house for each one of us.
All four of us have long resided in the United States even after our parents’ death by auto accident, but none of us ever think of selling those properties at UP Village. Nostalgia? I often ask myself: “Is it because they serve as sentimental recollection of our self-sacrificing parents, the UP that helped prepare us for the real world, and the Garcia-Sioson family tradition of education and enterprise?”
I graduated in high school as a Valedictorian in 1954 and in college at the top of my class with a B.S. in Chemistry in 1959. Such academic excellence led to a teaching appointment in the Chemistry Department and, a year later, a promotion to the Philippine Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) as a senior scientist. Unfortunately, the latter would not materialize.
The Philippine Nuclear reactor is located right at the entrance to the UP Diliman campus, a walking distance from our house. I can still vividly recall how I often dreamed of working at this facility when I finished school. But it was not meant to be.
Just before signing my appointment papers with PAEC, I received a Fulbright Fellowship from the U.S. State Department and a teaching job offer at the University Of Kansas Dept. of Chemistry – opportunities difficult to pass up.
It was a long way from Diliman to Lawrence, Kansas, but this started my globe-trotting lifestyle and a family life filled with the usual challenges that build my inner strength and moral courage.
While at the University of Kansas, I spent many vacations in other states of the country and overseas (e.g., Japan), all funded by numerous National Science Foundation travel/study grants.
These trips broadened my horizon; and reduced the stress that comes with working for a Masters degree on a tight schedule while teaching two classes on campus.
After I finished my M.S. in Organic Chemistry I accepted a teaching job in Organic and Food Chemistry at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, one of the most scenic campuses I have ever seen and justifiably a member of the Ivy League.
It was on this campus where I met a versatile Fulbright/Smith-Mundt Scholar who impressed me very much and eventually became the father of my two wonderful sons – Kahuku and Krizpin. He was then a noted history professor at Far Eastern University (FEU) on leave for study abroad.
I could have stayed in Cornell University for the rest of my teaching career, but the U.S. State Department required us — scholars and fellows — to apply what we learned and trained for in the U.S. to our homeland for at least two years.
Both of us then returned to the Philippines to resume our teaching jobs at the American School and FEU in Metro Manila. Two years thereafter, I came back to the U.S. for a post-graduate study in Textile Chemistry at Clemson University in South Carolina; only to move to Honolulu, Hawaii where my future husband and I together pursued our Ph.D. degrees.
Although Hawaii is somewhat confining, we had a happy life there, surrounded by Filipino friends, many of whom were either university scholars or East-West Center fellows. We loved the place and vowed to retire there in time.
It was in 1970 when I came to California that I changed my surname to OADES.
Having traveled the country extensively, I found San Diego a racially diverse community, an ideal place to finally settle down and raise a family.
We rightly thought our kids would grow up there, keenly aware of their Filipino identity and rich history. Their Filipino ethnicity is important to us, and the expanding Filipino population in the County only reinforced our wish for them.
Developing parenting skills, however, became one of the difficult challenges for a working mother like me. One challenge was my other half, although a liberal, was a strict, demanding Tagalog father, who kept our kids closely supervised and occupied in their studies and extra-curricular activities. I tried to balance his stringency with the kids by being a nurturing and caring mother.
Looking back, I think we did okay. My two sons have had fine education and are very successful professionals in science and food industry. The eldest has given us a smart, handsome grandson Joaquin, who is a source of our joy.
In San Diego, I did not only change my name, but also shifted my career from teaching to medical research at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in La Jolla, California. For more than 3 decades I found a comfortable niche working with top scientists from all over the world. This job gave me a more flexible work schedule, well suited for one raising a family.
Also, my work enabled me to take better care of my two sons who have had asthma since they were kids. Coincidentally (and not really by choice), my field of expertise and research specialization focused on lung diseases that included emphysema, asthma and respiratory distress syndrome for both infants and adults.
I have been a recipient of a number of outstanding academic and professional awards. But my exploits at Scripps had brought me greater fame and material comforts. My contributions to TSRI are published in prestigious scientific journals, many of them translated in a number of foreign languages. This kind of recognition, as well as grant funding from government and private sectors enabled me to attend numerous local and international scientific conferences as a presenter. (For those interested in my published works, a list is readily available via the Internet).
Out of the Shadow
A few years before my retirement, I concurrently served as a consultant for a drug development company that has exclusive manufacturing and marketing rights to the results of some of our work at Scripps. All the clinical trials were successfully done so now I look forward to the final approval of the drugs (e.g., Surfaxin) by the Food and Drug Administration with the relevant patents pending.
It was a difficult decision to retire from an exciting world of research and a very rewarding scientific enterprise. But retirement means simplifying one’s life and finding out who you really are. It also means spending more time with my grandson. And whenever possible, I travel around the world with a group of retired friends whose favorite question at almost every destination is, “where is the restroom?’ How much simpler can life get?
Upon retirement my immediate concern was to put my financial affairs in order. Thereafter I seriously considered volunteering in various community projects and activities now that I have time and desire. As I journey through the golden years of my life, I have also grown fonder of the UP that prepared us siblings for the real world — along with the cherished memories of our parents and the legacy they unselfishly left behind. Such unraveling has been accompanied by the strong urge to come out of the shadow into the sunshine… perhaps with an umbrella over my head?