Community pantry organizer, molecular biologist among TOWNS awardees

Davinci Maru, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 30 2022 02:14 PM

Courtesy of Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News/UP Diliman College of Science Facebook Page
Courtesy of Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News/UP Diliman College of Science Facebook Page

MANILA — Two Filipinas who have made significant contributions in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic were among The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service (TOWNS) awardees this year. 

Community pantry organizer Ana Patricia Non and molecular biologist Dr. Pia Bagamasbad will receive the TOWNS award for community service and for medicine and public health, respectively.

The TOWNS award recognizes women "who have shown outstanding dedication, exceptional talent, and a history of contributing positively to society." The awarding ceremony will take place on Oct. 25.

Non began the community pantry movement in the country to aid those in need during the pandemic. She organized the first food bank at Maginhawa St. in Quezon City, which was replicated nationwide.

"Puwede tayong maging mabuti. Puwede natin tulungan 'yung isa't isa. 'Yun ang goal ng pantry. Hindi lang siya basta tungkol sa pagkain, tungkol din sa dignity ng bawat isa na may puwede tayo i-offer," she told ANC's "Headstart" on Friday. 

(We can be kind. We can help each other. That is goal of the pantry. It's not just about food, it's also about the dignity of everyone, that we have something we can offer.)

Despite being red-tagged and harassed online, Non didn't give up doing community service.

"Napapagod ako maraming beses... tapos iniisip ko minsan mag-give up pero kapag nakapahinga na ako, ang realization ko, 'Uy huwag mo naman i-flatter 'yung sarili mo kasi hindi ka lang naman mag-isa dun sa parang road na tinu-take mo para sa mas maayos na community,'" she said. 

(I get tired frequently and I sometimes think about giving up, but once I get to rest, my realization is, 'Do not flatter yourself because you are not alone in the road you are taking towards a better community.)

Non, or Patreng to her friends, is a fine arts graduate from the University of the Philippines and has been involved in other projects to help the poor.

Meanwhile, Bagamasbad is among Filipino scientists at the frontline of COVID-19 research.

As a molecular biologist, she has helped trained over 2,000 laboratorians across the country on COVID-19 detection. This led the Philippines to expand its testing capacity.

"It's the job of a molecular biologist to understand how the virus works, how to design the vaccines, and for us, how to train people to do RT-PCR," she also told "Headstart".

"Before, RT-PCR was just a technique. It was used in research lab. Now, it's commonly spoken by ordinary people," she added.

RT-PCR is considered as a gold standard in COVID-19 testing.

During the pandemic, Bagamasbad realized that the country should improve more its state of STEM or science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

"We need to build a critical mass of STEM professionals to be able to address the evolving challenges that our country will face," she said.

Bagamasbad is currently an associate professor and the principal investigator of the Molecular Endocrinology Laboratory at the National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology.

The other TOWNS awardees include: