A Former Frontier
(by Teresita O. Galamay-Shiner, PhD  1/26/2017)

Two decades ago, when computers and internet were not yet in demand in the Philippines, newspapers were the only resources available. A scholarship announcement from the Embassy of Japan in Manila caught my attention, while reading the Philippine Daily Inquirer. It was a competition that was open to anyone who wanted to study in Japan. My hand written applications were sent via mail, which included a write up of my academic plans. A telegram from the Embassy of Japan arrived with an invitation to be interviewed for that scholarship.

A letter and telegram from the Embassy of Japan congratulating me for being an awardee of the Monbusho Scholarship. The letter stated that I was scheduled a flight in April 1987, and while in Japan, we were met by the Japanese Monbusho Scholar’s Coordinators, who led us to the lounge to receive our allowance and took us to our hotel near Osaka International Airport. During the overnight stay at Osaka International Airport Hotel, I ate udon and miso shiro-wakame and also the first time I ever used chopsticks. The 4-hour flight brought me to Osaka, Japan around 7:00 o’clock in the evening. It was a cold spring evening. Everything to me was foreign. The Japanese signs written around me were abstract scribbles. At this time, I did not know how to read Japanese characters, Kanji, Hiragana, and Katakana, which later I learned.

Five Filipino Scholars were all bound for Nagoya University Foreign Student House. We were met by a Foreign Student Adviser and our senior mentor, who we referred to as Sempay. They started all the processing of our Resident permit, Health and Medical information.

The six-month Japanese Intensive Language course was a challenge, since I never had the chance to learn any basic Japanese until then. The language instructors were all nice and did all their best to make sure we learned well. My role was a Research Student under the Crop Science Department under the Faculty of Agriculture. I made a lot of Japanese friends and practiced my Japanese with conversations. I was able to adapt to the new environment. Over the years, I learned the language, the culture and appreciate the simplicity of living alone and studying Japanese. I joined the Foreign Student Association and participated in many activities to fully immerse myself in their society. Filipino scholars were like brothers and sisters to me. We encouraged and supported one another in many ways. We visited parks, saw the cherry blossoms, autumn leaves, hot springs, Ikebana, Bon-dori and joined trips sponsored by Aichi Prefecture, Toyota, and Honda. We also stayed at the homes of a few Japanese families.

After one year of being a non-degree research student, I passed the Graduate Entrance Examination and studied to be a Doctorate in Agricultural Science, under the direct supervision of Professor Ebata. Because Professor Ebata was retiring, Professor Yasuhiro Kono Sensei became my adviser until I was awarded the degree. Professor Kono was very helpful and ensured that all the research studies we made were published in scientific journals, locally and internationally.

After several years of serving Isabela State University, Philippines, I moved to California, USA to live with my family. I was first hired by the Travis School District to teach science subject. When I applied the qualification required a four years degree and passed the California Basic Educational Skill Test (CBEST), all credentials were met except for CBEST which was waived by former California Gov. Gray Davis. Prior to this substitute teaching, I was a parent volunteer which enabled me to know the educational system which allowed me to be hired as a teacher for the district. I was also a parent volunteer member for English Immersion Program for non-English speakers in the school district.

Two years later, I was hired by the County Department of Agriculture as an Agriculture Biologist/Extra help-contractual. Other than my credentials that allowed me to work for the county, I had to obtain a county agriculture inspector/biologist examination. My responsibilities were to deploy insect trap in rural and urban areas, used pest detection, monitor and inspect, and helped enforced agriculture laws. I discovered that all farm growers need to obtain a Certificate as Producer from the county of agriculture. Once all necessary documentation is received, then onsite inspection will be conducted. Crops listed on the certificate must be growing at the same time of site inspection. The office of the County Agriculture Commissioner/Sealer of Weights and Measures is a regulatory agency performing under the jurisdiction of the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the Department of Pesticide Regulation. The goal was to provide protection of consumers, agriculture industry and the environment while encouraging the continuity of agricultural trade and commerce in cooperation with other agencies.

Later, I became an Animal Tech Research Assistant at the University of California-Davis, School of Medicine. I assisted a senior scientist in the study of Liver Metabolism using micro-pigs as the experimental animals. After the research project, I transferred to the University of California Cooperative Extension- Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UCCE-DANR) as a Nutrition Educator and a Program Coordinator for Fish Mercury Project under the FSNEP-USDA. I organized Adult Extension Classes and coordinated with the local government unit. Participants were mostly migrants and migrant workers who were mostly recipients of government financial assistance and enrolled in the English as a secondary language and immersion program. I enjoyed my work with UC Davis, and the challenges it sets forth.

My travel experiences in multiple countries such as, Australia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, South Korea and Hong Kong, gave me the opportunity to learn other languages beyond my own. This gave me the edge as an applicant to come into not as entry level federal government Agriculture Specialists, but as a mid-level.

This career has armed me with the knowledge and fast-paced discipline for this environment. I served as an expert and technical consultant in the area of agricultural inspection, quarantine, intelligence, analysis, examination, and law enforcement activities related to the importation of agricultural commodities. Protecting American Agriculture is our main goal. I was trained to undergo Professional Academy for Agriculture Specialist, under the USDA Program in Frederick, Maryland. Even though difficult and tedious, and maintaining 80% of all exams, I enjoyed the challenge.

As an academia, exposure to different governmental structure from other countries, have opened my mind to the possibilities of volunteer jobs with the United Nation in the Poverty Alleviation and Empowerment Sector, through Education.

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