Highlights of Manila Observatory’s 150th Anniversary Conference


Front row, left to right: Dr. Gemma Narisma,1,2 Dr. William Padolina,3 Fr. Jose Ramon T. Villarin, SJ,1,2 Mr. Oscar M. Lopez,3 Fr. Daniel J. McNamara, SJ,1,2,5 Mr. Fernando Zapico,6 and Director Antonia Yulo Loyzaga.1 Second row: Dr. Keith Groves,7 Dr. George Mount,8 Mr. Masanobu Tsuji,9 Dr. Fredolin Tangang,10 Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr,1,2 and Mr. Guillermo Escribano.6 Third row: Dr. Celine Vicente,1 Dr. Shiny John Vairamon,11 Dr. James B. Simpas,1,2 Mr. Carlos Madrid,12 Mr. Juan Carlos Lopez,6 and Mr. Juan Pita.6 AFFILIATIONS: 1. Manila Observatory, 2. Ateneo de Manila University, 3. National Academy of Science and Technology, 4. Oscar M. Lopez (OML) Center, 5. Ateneo de Davao University, 6. Embassy of Spain, 7. Boston College, 8. Washington State University, 9. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), 10. National University of Malaysia, 11. Stella Maris College, Tamil Nadu, India, 12. Instituto Cervantes de Manila Not in the photo is Dr. Akimasa Yoshikawa of Kyushu University. (Credits: Mariel Templanza for the the picture; Salve Martinez and Inenila Roberto for the identification of guests)

Manila Observatory inaugurated its 150th anniversary with an international conference entitled, Scientific Frontiers: Serving the Peripheries in Times of Change, which was held last 25 September 2016, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM at the observatory’s Fr. Francis J. Heyden, SJ Hall. Fr. Jose Ramon T. Villarin, SJ, President of Ateneo de Manila University and Chair- man of MO’s Board of Trustees gave the Welcome Remarks, while Executive Director Ma. Antonia Yulo Loyzaga gave the Opening Remarks.

The keynote speaker was Fr. Augustin Udias, SJ of Catedra de Geofisica, Faculty of Physical Science, Universidad Complutense, Madrid. Fr. Udias is the author of the book, Searching the Heavens and the Earth: The History of Jesuit Observatories (2003). A section in the book featured Manila Observatory. Fr. Udias was introduced by Fr. Daniel J. McNamara, SJ, MO’s Science Director.

The recorded video presentation of Fr. Udias was then followed by 30-minute presentations of other resource speakers with 15-minute open forums. Below are the list of resource speakers and the titles of their talks:

  1. Dr. George Mount, Laboratory for Atmospheric Research, Washington State University: Existing and Emerging Atmospheric Measurement Systems for Understanding Air Quality in Mega Manila.
  2. Mr. Masanobu Tsuji, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA): RS-GIS, Aero- space Initiatives: Strategies in Responding to Disaster Risk
  3. Dr. Akimasa Yoshikawa, International Center for Space Weather Science and Education, Kyushu University: MAGDAS Network, Space Weather, and Geomagnetic Storms.
  4. Dr. Keith Groves, Institute for Scientific Research, Boston College: SCINDA Net- work and GNSS for Equatorial Ionospheric Research
  5. Mr. Ishmael Narag, Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PhilVolcs): State of Earthquake Science in the Philippines and the West Valley Fault System.  

Dr. Gemma Teresa T. Narisma, MO’s Associate Director for Research and Program Manager of Regional Climate Systems, gave a 20-minute talk on MO’s Science Agenda and Director Antonia Yulo Loyzaga gave the Closing Remarks.

After the program, the speakers and guests were given a tour of Manila Observatory’s Exhibition at the Solar Research Building which showcased the instruments, photos, and other memorabilias in MO’s 150-year history.


Dr. Obiminda Cambaliza gives an overview of the history of Manila Observatory to the speakers and guests of Manila Observatory’s 150th Anniversary Conference



Manila Observatory’s 150th Anniversary Exhibitions: Discoveries, Transitions, and Frontiers


Stamp issued by the Philippine Postal Corporation in celebration of Manila Observatory’s 150th Anniversary. The stamp was designed by Randell G. Teodoro, research staff of the Solid Earth Dynamics program of Manila Observatory.

In celebration of its 150th anniversary, the Manila Observatory presented three exhibitions: Discoveries (1865–1940), Transitions (1940–1990), and Frontiers (1990- Present). The Exhibition is housed at the Solar Research Building. This building was designed to house the spectroheliograph which was operated by Fr. Richard A. Miller, SJ, Fr. James J. Hennessey, SJ and Fr. Francis J. Heyden, SJ from 1965 up to the late 1990s:

“A combination solar spectroheliograph and spectrograph, newly installed in the Philippines at 8-h East longitude is described. The rotatable vacuum spectrograph follows an Ebert design, consisting of a plane grating and two mirrors. These off-axis mirrors are figured sections of one single mirror form and function as collimating and camera mir- rors. The spectrograph system matches the f/24 Gregorian-type telescopic quartz mirror system of 30.5-cm clear aperture, fed by 41-cm coelostat mirrors. The grating drive is wholly within the tank. Spectroheliograph scans are with fixed slits but with a moving image and moving plate or filmholder. Slit jaws are of stainless steel and form slits 76 mm long. Dispersion is 2.75 A/mm in the first order. An 8.3-cm x10.8-cm plateholder receives the spectrogram or spectroheliogram image. Visual monitoring and 35-mm photographs of the solar image at the entrance slit are made through an Ha Halle monochromator. A typical spectrogram and spectroheliogram are shown.” —R. A. Miller, Applied Optics, 4(9), 1085–1089 (1965).

The MO 150th Anniversary Exhibition Committee is composed of several members from different re- search programs of the observatory:

  • Dr. Obiminda Cambaliza (Committee Head), Niño Uy and Melliza T. Cruz of UAQ / ITD (Urban Air Quality / Instrumentation Technology Development)
  • Randell G. Teodoro of SED (Solid Earth Dynamics)
  • Dr. Quirino M. Sugon Jr. of UAD (Upper Atmosphere Dynamics)
  • Mariel Templanza of Archives

Yael A. Buencamino, Managing Curator of the Ateneo Art Gallery, served as project consultant.

A. Discoveries (1865–1940)

The first exhibition, Discoveries, showcases the beginnings and rapid growth of the Manila Observatory from 1865 under the Spanish government, and its reorganization under the American administration from 1901 up until World War II.  From its humble beginnings in an abandoned pigeon house, the Meteorological Service of the Philippines known as the Observatorio Meteorológica de Manila was established under the Royal decree issued by the King of Spain in 1884.  The Observatorio was later recognized as the Philippine Weather Bureau after the passage of a bill in 1901 under the American government.  Through the intersection of excellence in scientific research and the Observatory’s mission to serve the community, the Jesuit forefathers made significant contributions in the fields of Meteorology, Seismology, and Astronomy.  (Exhibition Dates: April– June 2015)

B. Transitions (1940-1990)

Transitions Exhibition showcases the rise of the Manila Observatory from the ruins of the Second World War.  After the government decided to establish its own Philippine Weather Bureau run by Filipinos, the Jesuits of the Observatory discerned on its new direction for six long years while waiting for the reconstruction funds from the Philippine War Damage Commission: the Manila Observatory shall focus on seismology and sun-earth relationship. These new research directions were at the frontiers during those times: Russia launched its Sputnik satellite only in 1957 and the Plate Tectonic theory was firmly established only in 1965. (Exhibition Dates: July–August 2015)

C. Frontiers (1990–Present)

The timeline of the Frontiers Exhibition is from 1865 to the present, and will also encompass, in part, our vision for the future.  Since its inception in 1865, the Manila Observatory remained consistent in responding to the needs of the country, making incremental contributions to challenging Science questions that affect our people’s quality of life.  In the 1990’s, with disproportionate use of fossil fuel, climate change is more obvious and became alive in our consciousness as an institution.  We recognized the changing needs of our country, region and also our planet.  Combined with our increasing poverty and population density, this global problem makes us more vulnerable especially in the face of extreme weather events, worsening air pollution, and natural geophysical hazards.  It is in the light of these that the Observatory established its present Science Agenda to address the challenges of sustainable develop- ment and poverty reduction through centers focused on advancing its mission across the following areas: remote sensing and ground-based environmental observations; climate change, variability, and extremes; disaster risk and sustainable development; and public health and human vulnerability.  As a Jesuit scientific research institution, the Manila Observatory remains committed to venture to the scientific peripheries in service of the community.

Ateneo Physics and Math faculty receive LS Scholarly Work Grant to study seismoelectromagnetics of 2010 Moro Gulf Quake


Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr, Dr. Felix Muga II, Fr. Daniel J. McNamara, SJ, and Fr. Sergio Su, SJ were recently awarded the Loyola Schools Scholarly Work Grant by the Ateneo de Manila University to undertake a research entitled, Seismoelectromagnetics: Finding magnetic precursors of the 2010 Moro Gulf Quake using MAGDAS data. The grant, worth Php 300,000, was allotted for the 6-unit deloading of Dr. Felix Muga and the hiring of Christine Chan as the project’s Research Assistant. The grant’s duration is from January 1 to December 31, 2016.

The idea for the seismoelectromagnetics research proposal was conceived last April 9-11, 2015, during the Strategic Planning of Manila Observatory. In this planning, the Solid Earth Dynamics (SED) program was represented by Fr. Sergio Su, SJ and Randell Teodoro, while the Upper Atmosphere Dynamics (program) was represented by Fr. Daniel J. McNamara, SJ, Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr., and Clint G. Bennett. Dr. Sugon presented proposal to the University Research Council of Ateneo de Manila University in behalf of the group.

About the Proponents

Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr is an Assistant Professor of the Department of Physics of Ateneo de Manila Univer- sity (on leave) and the head of the Upper Atmosphere Dynamics (UAD) program of Manila Observatory (on leave). He is currently working as Associate Professor at the International Center for Space Weather Science and Education (ICSWSE) of Kyushu University. Dr. Felix Muga II is an Associate Professor in the Department of Mathematics of Ateneo de Manila University. His research interests are in Combinatorial Network Theory, Graph Theory, and Data Science. Fr. Daniel J. McNamara, SJ is the Principal Investigator of the Philippine MAGDAS project. He is a Professor of the Department of Physics of Ateneo de Manila University (on leave), Professor at the Department of Physics at Ateneo de Davao University, Rector of the Davao Jesuit Community, and Science Director of Manila Observatory. Fr. Sergio Su, SJ is the head of the Solid Earth Dynamics program of Manila Observatory.

The Moro Gulf experienced 41 earthquakes of magnitude 4.0 or greater in the year 2010, with 31 of the quakes occurring in the days July 23-30. The quakes were not destructive, unlike the similar quake that happened in 1976. As the late Fr. Victor Badillo, SJ, the past Director of Manila Observatory and Head of the Upper Atmosphere Division wrote:

“A few minutes after midnight on 17 August 1976, a violent earthquake originating beneath Moro Gulf spawned a tsunami that affected 700 km of coastline bordering Moro Gulf. Residents in those areas experienced what seemed to be the longest thirty minutes of their lives. When the sea had spent its fury and rolled back to its normal cadence, the survivors looked upon the scenes of death and destruction. About 8,000 were dead or missing. About 10,000 were injured and about 90,000 were homeless.”—Fr. Victor Badillo, MO Technical Report, 1976

The Moro Gulf Quake of 2010 was chosen for the study, because it was a significant quake of magnitude greater than M 6.0 that happened on a magnetically quiet day, i.e. there were no geomagnetic storms. In this way, electrical currents due to the rock stresses prior to the quake may be visible in the 1-second resolution MAGDAS magnetometer data for Ultra Low Frequency range of 1 Hz to 1 mHz (period of 1  s to 1,000 s). Also, there were actually three quakes in a one hour period, so that potential quake precursor may be tested thrice, while keeping the epicenter roughly constant. The difficult part, however, is the isolation of lithospheric current signals from pulsations of geomagnetic field lines in the magnetosphere which also have the same frequency ranges.

MAGDAS Magnetometers

At present, the seismoelectromagnetics group is working on the inverse problem of locating ionospheric and lithospheric electrical currents from magnetometer data and determining their distributions, directions, and strengths. The group will use the data sets of nearby MAGDAS magnetometer stations in Cagayan de Oro (CDO) and Davao (DAV).

The present principal investigator of the MAGDAS project is Dr. Akimasa Yoshikawa of the the International Center for Space Weather Science and Education (ICSWSE) of Kyushu University. The Upper Atmosphere Dynamics program of Manila Observatory hosts the ICSWSE Subcenter for coordinating the activities of the MAGDAS network. Clint Benett is the present Coordinator of the Philippine MAGDAS network. And in the absence of Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr, Dr. James B. Simpas serves as the head of the Upper Atmosphere Dynamics (UAD) program, while also serving as the head of both the Urban Air Quality and Instrumentation Technology Development (UAQ/ITD) programs and as the Associate Director for Research at MO.

Manila Observatory appoints Dr. Antonio La Vina as Executive Director


Dr. Antonio G. M. La Vina is the new Executive Director of Manila Observatory

by Genevieve H. Lorenzo, Quirino Sugon Jr, and Deanna Marie P. Olaguer

In a memo dated 15 September 2016, Fr. Jose Ramon T. Villarin, SJ, Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of Manila Observatory, announced the appointment of Dr. Antonio G. M. La Viña as Executive Director of the Manila Observatory (MO) starting 1 October 2016. Dr. La Viña is a lawyer, a member the Board of Trustees of the Manila Observatory since 2004, and was the dean of the Ateneo School of Government for the past 10 years, as well as undersecretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in 1996. He has worked nationally and internationally on the policy concerns of various environmental concerns, including climate change. Dr. La Viña was a spokesman, advisor, and negotiator for the Philippines at the COP21 climate summit in Paris in 2015. He finished his Master of Laws and Doctor of Juridical Science degrees at Yale Law School in New Haven, Connecticut.

Dr. La Viña succeeded Ms. Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga who served as Manila Observatory’s Executive Director since 2007. During her term, Ms. Loyzaga positioned the observatory as a center for disaster science and risk management, focusing not only on observation and monitoring of natural disasters like typhoons, floods, and earthquakes, but also on how to quantify the disaster risks to help the government and private sectors mitigate the effects of disasters and organize the relief efforts. In his homily at the mass celebrating the culmination of MO’s 150th year anniversary last September 26, 2016, Fr. Jose Ramon Villarin, SJ thanked Ms. Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga for her nine years of service as Executive Director from 2007 to 2016, for her outstanding leadership that has brought the Manila Observatory international recognition as an institution in the frontiers of disaster science and risk reduction, and for the successful series of scientific symposiums, meetings and exhibits during MO’s sesquicentennial.


Dr. Antonio G. M. La Vina and Ms. Ma. Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga

Message of the Executive Director

I am now Executive Director of Manila Observatory, a Jesuit scientific institution that, among others, works on climate change, disaster risk reduction, poverty mapping, etc. I replace my friend Toni Yulo Loyzaga whom I helped recruit to join MO a decade Ago. She has done a wonderful job and her shoes will be difficult to fill.

I have been in the MO board for twelve years and is totally committed to its work. And so when the request to head the oldest observatory in Asia came from Fr. Jett Villarin, the Chair of the board, I could not refuse. I am actually excited and enthusiastic to do this, especially at this time when there is a good chance that the international community working together can defeat climate change with the Paris Agreement and reduce significantly, via the Sendai Framework, the most serious risks of disasters. I am also very happy to join a community of the best physical scientists in the country, including our wisest colleague Fr. Sergio Su who welcomed me warmly and many young scientists at the start of their careers. My job is to make sure they have the enabling environment and the resources to do excellent science. My responsibility is to help them identify priorities and to shepherd the results of their work for better impact, among others to influence policy and governance decisions.

On a personal note, I welcome this opportunity to do solid technical work. It’s a chance to detach a bit from our vicious politics. I will still be teaching law in a number of schools, doing governance work with the Ateneo School of Government, and will continue to do legal, policy and capacity building work for government and international organizations but leading MO now rises to the top in terms of my priorities.

Facing the New Frontiers


Diwata-1 Philippine microsatellite. Image credit: Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines, PAGASA (public domain)

Last 27 April 2016, the Philippines launched its own satellite Diwata-I, named after the fairies in Filipino folklore, from the Kibo Module of the International Space Station (ISS). The microsatellite was made possible through the efforts of DOST (Department of Science and Technology), Hokkaido University, and Tohoku University. A bill was recently filed by Dr. Rogel Mari Sese, Program Leader of the National Space Program, in the Philippine Senate (SB 1211) and House of Representatives (HB 3637) for the creation of PhilSA or the Philippine Space Agency. The launching of satellites may be beneficial to the country in terms of weather imaging and telecommunications, but doing so also puts the satellite infrastructure at risk to natural disasters that haven’t yet caught popular imagination—disasters such as geomagnetic storms, solar radiation storms, and radio blackouts.

The Manila Observatory started in an abandoned pigeon hole which expanded into a network of stations for monitoring the storms that rage in the heavens. Now, as the Philippines is venturing into space, the Manila Observatory has partnered with different institutions to access data from different instrument arrays to monitor the storms not only in the troposphere, but also in the lithosphere, ionosphere, magnetosphere, and the heliosphere. We are all in the sun’s atmosphere and the agitations in the solar interior send shock waves to disturb our life here on earth.

“1865 is when the Manila Observatory opened for business,” wrote Director Tony La Vina, as he shared the story of Manila Observatory’s beginnings written by the Jesuit historian Fr. Horacio de la Costa, SJ. “I feel so young to lead such a great institution in the 21st century.”

The Universe and Beyond: a public lecture by Dr. Reina Reyes


a public lecture by
Reina Reyes, Ph.D.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016
6:30 – 7:30 PM
Natividad Galang-Fajardo Conference Room
Ground Floor, De la Costa Hall

The lecture is organized by the PH 157.4 (Cosmology) class under the late Fr. Georges de Schrijver, SJ, who passed away on October 7, 2016.

Reina Reyes graduated B.S. Physics from Ateneo de Manila University, obtained a Diploma in High Energy Physics from Abdus Salam Institute for Theoretical Physics, and a Ph.D. in Astrophysics from Princeton University. She currently works as a data science consultant and a part-time lecturer at the Ateneo de Manila University.

Remmon E. Barbaza, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Chair
Department of Philosophy
Ateneo de Manila University