Beyond the Storm: a children’s book about Dr. Gemma Narisma

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Dr. Ma. Mercedes Rodrigo (left) and Dr. Gemma Teresa T. Narisma (right) together with a poster showing the book covers of the Women of Science Series published by Bookmark.

by Quirino Sugon Jr.

Dr. Gemma Teresa T. Narisma, Associate Professor of the Physics Department of Ateneo de Manila University and Associate Director for Research at Manila Observatory, was featured in a children’s book, Beyond the Storm, which is part of the Women of Science series written by Dr. Ma. Mercedes T. Rodrigo, a Professor of the Department of Information Science and Computer Systems (DISCS) of Ateneo de Manila University. The Women of Science series was published by Bookmark, Inc. and was launched at the Rizal Library of Ateneo de Manila University last 20 May 2017.

Illustrated in color by George Vincent Bien, a graduate of BS in Digital Illustration and Animation from Ateneo de Naga University, the 20-page children’s book tells the story of Dr. Narisma and her adventures in Naga City. Doing regional climate projections computer simulations is easy for her; making ordinary people understand the significance of her work to their daily lives as farmers is more difficult. A computer bug can be found. But finding the right weather conditions that led to the loss of entire rice fields due to the sudden rise of black bugs is not as straightforward. As Dr. Didith Rodrigo wrote in her book, Beyond the Storm:

“Putting down the phone, Gemma thought about the road ahead. Helping this community would be difficult. She needed the help of other scientists, other researchers. She needed to reach out to local government, communities, and the organizations that worked with them. She needed to train the younger researchers to help her, to make sure the research continues and grows. She took a deep breath. Her work has just begun.”

The book’s cover shows a woman in blue dress wielding a shield and a sword, facing the billowing and bellowing clouds trying to blow her away in a storm. But there she still stood: slender as her steel blade, strong as her shield. And we wonder who this woman was. What distant place and time did she come from? Can she calm the sea and the storm?

“You look so pretty, courageous, and ready for battle, anak,” Gemma’s mother told her after seeing the book’s cover.

Gemma smiled, as she narrated her mom’s words in strong Visayan accent during her response at the launch of the Women of Science series at Rizal Library. Gemma is from Davao and she speaks Visayan or Cebuano.

“I am so grateful to Didith who gave my mom such happiness,” Gemma said. “Thank you Didith for featuring my story–our work on climate disaster risk.” She glanced at Dr. Didith Rodrigo on her left, sitting with other featured women scientists before a long table covered with white cloth. Across them was a crowd of students, staff, faculty, and friends sitting on white monoblock chairs. Behind the audience was the entrance to the venue flanked by Bookmark’s registration booth to the right and a shelf of children’s books further to the left. Near the shelf was a glass wall, a window to a gloomy gray world drenched with rain.

“The planet is not well,” Gemma continued. “As most of you know well, the climate is changing worse than expected. In a sense, we look for the planet’s vital signs as what we do when we have fever. How bad is it going to be? Will Mindanao have a higher temperature than Luzon? Will some parts of the Philippines be dehydrated or inundated? To see these effects in detail, we use climate models. We don’t make rampa. Rather, we use computers to translate equations into figures to allow us to see how the changing climate will affect our country.

“We are very vulnerable. We have to act in a way that is guided by scientific information to protect ourselves from climate change. It is important to know the right dosage of medicine given. Without scientific data, we might not adapt in a very good way. The dosage may not be right–we may overdose or underdose. So we do the number crunching, run our models, and look at observation data.

“I like the title, Beyond the Storm. We have to look beyond the storm and work hard. We have to be inspired, hopeful, and engaged. This series of books is such a source of inspiration to do scientific work. We need collective solutions and science plays a big role. For Didith to write a children’s book to inspire future climate scientists is amazing. I really thank her for featuring my story–our story–the story of all the women featured in this collection. I hope these books inspire a more women to do science in the Philippines.”

Beyond the Storm: a Story about Gemma Narisma written by Dr. Didith Rodrigo is now available at Loyola Schools Bookstore for Php 120.

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About quirinosugonjr
Physics professor and corporate blogger

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