On November 19, 2008 the prestigious Gawad Saka Awards of the Department of Agriculture distributed P 2.19 million in cash prizes to 12 outstanding farmers and fisherfolk along with five farmer and fishing groups that made notable contributions to the growth of the agriculture sector this year.One of the recipients of a Presidential Citation, P120,000.00 cash prize and Php 1,000,000.00 research grant (Individual Category) was Dr. Louella Rowena de Jesus of the Department of Agriculture (DA) Regional Field Unit No. 4B as Outstanding Agricultural Scientist. The award was presented to her by no less than President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at the Manila Hotel.

 What has come to Dr. Louella Rowena de Jesus or simply Louella to her friends and peers was not given to her on a silver platter, so to speak. There have been some struggles and hurdles before she tasted the fruits of her success. But, luck seemingly became a chum of this lady these past several months because not only had she won a prestigious award at both regional and national levels but she also just received one of life best gifts - the gift of marriage.

Born on November 9, 1961 in Cebu City, Louella is a product of one of the country's top agricultural state universities, UP Los BaƱos. She graduated in 1982 with a degree in Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, major in Entomology. She has been employed at the Bureau of Plant Industry a few months after her college graduation where she worked as a Research Assistant for one year until her assignment as Entomologist II from August 1983 until May 1985. She went back to UPLB in 1985 and took up Masters Degree with the same major field of specialization which she finished in 1988. In 1989, she started working as Senior Agriculturist in the DA- Region IV until her designation as the OIC of the DA-Regional Field Unit IV-B (DA-RFU IV-B) Research Division, Lipa City from 2007 up February, 2009. She studied for her Doctorate at the Tokyo University of Agriculture in Tokyo, Japan in 1999 and graduated Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Applied Entomology in 2004.

It was not until the mango industry in Palawan soared down due to a pest called Mango Pulp Weevil (MPW) that the de Jesus name soared high in the field of agricultural research, at least in the Southern Tagalog Region, during the late '90s. Her research paper entitled "Bionomics and Control of the Mango Pulp Weevil in Palawan" had been adjudged by the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) as Best Research Paper, Crops Category in 1997 and in 1999, the Bureau of Plant Industry had given her a Recognition Award for the same paper. Also in 1997, her work "Life cycle, field infestation and control of the mango pulp weevil in Palawan" won the First Place in the National Research Paper Award in Agriculture and Natural Resources, given by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources and Development (PCARRD). For the same work, she received a plaque of recognition from the Southern Tagalog Agricultural Research and Development Consortium (STARRDEC) and for also bagging the First Place, Technology for Dissemination Category.

In 2003, her papers entitled "Method in sex discrimination in the mango pulp weevil, Sternochetus frigidus (Fabr) (Coleoptera:Curculionidae)" and "Component fatty acids from green mango fruit surface stimulate oviposition of the mango pulp weevil, Sternochetus frigidus (Fabr)" had both received the DA Secretary's Awards from BAR for Published Paper Category.

Her early awards include: 1)Best Research Paper Award for her work "Effect of field population of citrus psyllid, Diaphorina citri Kuwayama, insect vector of citrus greening disease", given by DA-Region IV in 1991, 2) Best Research Paper Award Crops Category for "Ecology and control of Diaphorina citri Kuwayam, insect vector of citrus greening disease" given by BAR in 1994.

In 2004, Louella got her first Regional Gawad Saka Award from the DA-RFU IV-B, Outstanding Agricultural Scientist category. This feat she was able to duplicate in this year's search which led to a bigger achievement by way of winning the National Award from the DA GAWAD SAKA.

Dr. de Jesus has authored various scientific and professional publications, majority of which focused on the mango pulp weevil. She has also co-authored some publications with researchers here and abroad, specifically Japan. Added to these are posters and video presentations on the control and prevention of the mango pulp weevil. The two video presentations entitled "The Mango Pulp Weevil in Palawan" and "Save Palawan Mango" and its Tagalog versions have been produced by the DA-RFU IV-B Regional Agriculture and Fisheries Information Division (RAFID) Staff. These documentaries have been distributed and shown to stakeholders in Palawan province. Palawan mangoes may still be under MPW infestation but the fact remains that the time, effort and dedication poured into it by Dr. de Jesus and her co-workers had somehow made a big impact as far as awareness on MPW control method is concerned.

The interventions and recommendations base on the researches/studies conducted by Louella for mango pulp weevil are: 1) Open-center pruning - prune the topmost 25% of mango tree canopy diameter to expose the trunk of the three where the weevils rest; 2) Field sanitation - to eliminate weevils developing in fallen fruits; 3) use of pyrethroid insecticides to kill the weevils; and 4) Strict enforcement of domestic quarantine to maintain low infestation levels.

This resulted to MPW field infestations that had been kept at low levels. This alone is one big feat to beat because were it not for the continuous research studies made the mango industry of other mango-producing provinces in the country might have also fallen at risk.

Presently, Louella is a project leader of two (2) research projects being conducted in Brooke's Point, Palawan. One project deals with the improved control and detection of mango pulp weevil under ACIAR-IPM is now completed. A final report has already been submitted to ACIAR and the other is about mass rearing of pulp weevils and transporting of pulp weevil test insects for irradiation experiments to the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) in Quezon City. This is a USDA mango pulp weevil project and its final year of implementation. The last shipment of mango pulp weevil infested fruits is scheduled for airlifting to PNRI on May 5, 2009.

After winning the scientist award Louella is too busy as a projects leader. Phase 2 of the ACIAR-IPM project has been approved and is being implemented also in Brooke's Point, Palawan. Two more experiments are being conducted in Digos City, Davao del Sur and Samal Island, Davao del Norte in collaboration with UPLB and the Provincial Agriculturist Office of Digos City and Samal Island.
Another is, the ACEF has awarded a research grant and the MOA for year one (1) worth P36M is ready for signing. The grant is worth P 100M for four (4) years. The program s entitled "Eradication of mango Pulp Weevil and Intensification of Plant quarantine Operations in Palawan". Louela is the program manager for this.

I asked Louela if she already received the P1M research grant as part of the prize of her winning as outstanding scientist and what is her plan for this? "I have yet to prepare the research proposal. The grant will not be released without it. I plan to finish the proposal in the first semester of 2009. I plan to prepare an applied research proposal on mango integrated pest management for northern Luzon, she said.

As of today Louella is the designated as RIARC Manager in DA-MiMaRoPa last February 2009. As a manager Louela said in order for research to be productive especially in MiMaRoPa region, first thing to do is to identify properly the research problem that needs to be addressed in the areas then think of a workable solution that can be profitable for the farmer for it to be sustainable after project completion. This is the current direction of our research work.

And personally, she's crafting a lifetime project on how to become a good lady of the house together with her new hubby. Now, with a marriage contract to boot to her already good credentials, what more could this lucky lady ask for? Congratulatory greetings are in order - for the nuptial award and for the GAWAD SAKA award!

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