MANILA — Multi-awarded food scientist and University of the Philippines Diliman professor Alonzo Gabriel lost his battle to cancer on Tuesday, leaving behind a body of work in food science and technology aimed at helping small-scale food enterprises.
Gabriel, 39, succumbed to cancer after less than a year of fighting the disease.
His death was confirmed by the university, where he served as professor in the College of Home Economics' Department of Food Science and Nutrition. It did not say what form of cancer ailed Gabriel.
"Gabriel generously shared his innovations and researches in food science and technology with micro and small-scale enterprises," UP Diliman said as it honored the late professor.
'Cancer ka lang, maganda ako'
Gabriel's cancer battle was well-documented in his social media accounts, where he enjoys a sizable following.
"Being diagnosed with cancer may have been one of the biggest trials given to me, but it has also made me realize how loved I am," Gabriel told his Facebook friends in September last year when he announced his diagnosis.
On Twitter, Gabriel was known as "Sir Casm."
Despite the pains of cancer treatment, Gabriel never lost his humor.
"'Yung totoo? Pagooooood na pagooooood na ako. Pero p*ta, laban!!! Cancer ka lang. Ako, maganda ako," he captioned in a photo where he can be seen strapped in a chemo device.
(The truth? I'm exhausted! But fight! You're just cancer. I'm beautiful.)
Over a week before his untimely demise, Gabriel was still working on a research project, but admitted that his body was "already giving up."
"Thank you, Lord for making my mind work even if my body is already giving up on me," he said on Twitter.
Advocate for food safety and security
In 2017, Gabriel was named one of the 2017 Metrobank Foundation Outstanding Filipinos, where he explained his advocacy in promoting food security and food safety among micro food businesses.
"[My advocacy is] tulungan ang mga family-based business na magkaroon ng access o kaalaman tungkol sa maayos at tamang pagha-handle ng pagkain," Gabriel told Metrobank Foundation in an interview.
(My advocacy is to help family-based business to have access or knowledge about proper food handling.)
Aside from the recognition from Metrobank Foundation, Gabriel was also among The Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines (TOYM) in 2013.
Gabriel obtained his PhD in Bio-functional Science and Technology (Food Microbiology and Hygiene) from Hiroshima University in Japan.
A life well-lived
For many young and aspiring scientists, Gabriel was well-regarded as an inspiration and mentor.
"Mayroon ngang kasabihan na wala na daw ibang mas magandang trabaho pa bukod sa pagiging guro kasi you're able to touch the future kasi napakalaking responsibilidad non eh," Gabriel said of being a teacher.
(There's a saying that there's no better profession than being a teacher because you're able to touch the future and that's a huge responsibility.)
The Philippine Society for Microbiology, Inc. (PSMI), in a Facebook post, paid tribute to their former president.
"He showed exceptional leadership in guiding the society and bringing its officers and members closer together. He was known and respected for his achievements in research particularly in Food Science," PSMI said.
"A life well lived. Sir Al will be greatly missed," the group added.