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


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.


Manila Observatory talk: “Identifying major climate risk areas in the Philippines using a case study approach” by Benjamin Franta


Manila Observatory’s Brown Bag talk: “Identifying major climate risk areas in the Philippines using a case study approach” by Benjamin Franta, PhD candidate, 18 Feb 2015, 11:30 am to 1:30 pm, Klima Conference Room

The Regional Climate Systems of Manila Observatory invites you to a brown bag session:

Identifying major climate risk areas in the Philippines using a case study approach

by Benjamin Franta, Ph.D. Candidate


The Philippines is believed to have one of the highest levels of climate-change related risk in the world.  The reasons for the country’s high risk include its exposure to hydrological events, such as typhoons that may change as a result of global warming, as well as its socioeconomic vulnerability resulting from widespread poverty, developing infrastructure, and challenges in governance, features common to many developing countries.  Managing climate-related risks in the Philippines requires managing both disaster events and long-term risks.  In this talk, I illustrate some of the challenges facing climate change adaptation efforts in the Philippines, using the areas of Cagayan de Oro and Iloilo as case studies.  The case studies are informed by stakeholder interviews carried out in 2014 and are useful for identifying immediate risk factors within the local context as well as more fundamental, systemic risk factors that are important globally which I call “major climate risk areas.”  Addressing these major climate risk areas will help to build general resilience to climate change at a national scale.

About the Speaker

Benjamin Franta:

  • Ph.D. Candidate in Applied Physics from School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University
  • Visiting Researcher in Resilence to Climate Change Impacts at Manila Observatory
  • Graduate of Harvard’s Graduate Consortium on Energy and Environment
  • Research Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, 2014-2015
  • Has background in Physics / Applied Physics, Mathematics, and Archaeological Science

Dissecting Disasters: Climate Change, Development, and Impacts forum with Dr. Gemma Narisma

The Ateneo Institute of Sustainability invites everyone to a forum entitled


Dr. Gemma Teresa T. Narisma

Wed, 18 Feb 2015, 4:30 – 6:00, Faber Hall Function Room


The disaster risk framework in the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX; IPCC 2012) illustrates the importance of both weather and climate events and the role of non climatic factors in determining disaster risk to the impacts of weather and climate hazards. This talk will delve into this risk framework and its components as applied to coastal cities in the Philippines. It will discuss the changing characteristics of weather and climate extremes in light of human-induced climatic changes. It will also show the evolving patterns of exposure, focusing especially on land use and urbanization and how these patterns of development can potentially change the complexity of the disastrous nature of coastal flooding due to extreme weather events.

About the Speaker:

Dr. Gemma Teresa Narisma is the Associate Director for Research and Head of the Regional Climate Systems Program at the Manila Observatory, Head of the Climate and Disaster Program of the Ateneo Institute of Sustainability, and is an Associate Professor at the Physics department, Loyola Schools.

Admission is free.

You may still register at

For inquiries, please contact Deo Estanislao at 426-6001 loc 4851 or email us at

Ateneo Physics student Julie Mae Dado chosen as DOST-SEI ICON for 2013

Julie Dado receiving the DOST-SEI Icon Award for 2013

Julie Dado receiving the DOST-SEI Icon Award for 2013

by Quirino Sugon Jr.

Julie Mae Dado, a DOST ASTHRDP Scholar who has finished MS in Atmospheric Science in Ateneo de Manila University, was awarded the DOST-SEI ICONS Award during the National Science and Technology Week (NSTW) last 23-27 July 2013 at the SMX Convention Center, Mall of Asia Complex. According to Dr. Gemma Narisma, Julie Dado’s research adviser, the ICONS award is given to “the scholar/graduates of SEI that exemplify excellence in the aspects of poverty alleviation, countryside development, climate change, and industry competitiveness—areas deemed as the focus of the current administration.” Julie was chosen by SEI “for being a key contributor in the country’s climate resiliency efforts.” In the DOST-SEI booth at SMX, the DOST ICONS had their photos posted with a short write-up on their respective impacts on the said development areas. Julie Dado shared her experiences with high school students last July 26, 2013 at the SMX Convention Center Meeting Room, in order to motivate them to choose science courses in college and become part of the science community. Below is an interview with Julie Mae Dado by the Ateneo Physics News.

1. Can you tell me more about your award?

It is called DOST-SEI ICONS Award because it is an award given to DOST scholar graduates. I was a DOST scholar graduate for my Master’s degree in Atmospheric Science in Ateneo. DOST wants to feature successful scholar graduates such as myself in the National Science and Technology Week (NSTW) for this year. The objective of the award is to inspire other students, in particular DOST scholars, to pursue careers in science. The goal is not just for them to obtain a science degree, but to entice these students to pursue a scientific career. The current administration’s priorities include, among others, climate change. That is why DOST wanted to feature Atmospheric Science graduates such as myself because of the work I have done involving climate resiliency efforts which was made possible because of the Manila Observatory’s Regional Climate Systems (RCS) program.

There were six of us. One is the former Dean of the College of Engineering of UP Diliman, Dr. Rowena Cristina Guevarra. For Geology, it is Dr. Carlos Primo C. David of the National Institute of Geological Sciences of UP Diliman. There is one for chemistry – Mr. Admer Rey Dablio. For stem cell research and molecular medicine it is Dr. Pierre Dimamay. Then there’s another one for Computer Science and Information Technology – Dr. Delfin Sabido. They are all former DOST scholars.

This is the first time DOST gave an award like this. Every year, DOST-SEI sets up a booth in the Science and Technology Week. This year, they wanted to feature the scholar graduates.

Julie Dado giving a talk at SMX Mall of Asia

Julie Dado giving a talk to science high school students at SMX Mall of Asia

2. What are you currently working on?

My field is climate studies and I focus on climate modelling in particular. I run climate models to study the climate variability of a particular area. I also run projections for various analyses, such as for crop models. We also analyze historical data to see climate trends, and to see whether there have been changes. I am just a part of a group of climate modelers. I don’t do all the work; we are a team. Therefore, I would like to acknowledge the Regional Climate Systems group and especially, Dr. Gemma Narisma, the climate research head and associate director of the Manila Observatory. I am honoured to work with a Climate Studies expert like her.

I also study land-atmosphere interactions. In particular, my graduate thesis focused on urbanization and its effects on the Southwest monsoon rainfall. We found that urbanization enhances rainfall during the Southwest monsoon.

3. What are the software or hardware requirements for climate modelling?

Regional climate models can actually be run using any computer, but raw power is of course an advantage. Long term phenomena at fine resolutions are now possible because of advances in computing hardware. In the Regional Climate Systems at the Manila Observatory, we run models using quadcore computers which are well-suited for parallel computing. Climate models also require a lot of hard disk space, i.e. we can use up an 8 terabytes of space in just 2 months of work.

4. Do you have a computer cluster?

At present, we don’t have a cluster, but we plan on building one. Although we have a 24-core computing machine.

5. What software do you use?

As of the moment, the Regional Climate Systems has the capacity to run three models: REGCM4, WRF, and MM5. I myself use RegCM4.

6. Are you using Windows or Linux?

Almost all of our models run using the Linux platform. In Linux, you can easily alter and tinker your OS. Climate models are written in Fortran, so it also helps if you have a background in Fortran if you wish to work on climate modeling studies. It is also helpful to have knowledge in C, C++, or Python, for analyzing model outputs.

Julie Dado at the DOST-SEI booth in SMX Mall of Asia

Julie Dado at the DOST-SEI booth in SMX Mall of Asia

7. Can you describe your career path at Manila Observatory?

I have been with Manila Observatory since July 2009 right after I finished college. I took up BS Applied Physics in UP Diliman and finished in 2009. My research before was on image processing with Dr. Maricor Soriano of the Instrumentation Physics Laboratory in the National Institute of Physics (NIP), UP Diliman. After graduation, I thought hard about pursuing a Master’s degree in physics. I was also open to pursue other research areas. There was an opening in Manila Observatory which involved Climate Modeling. I worked initially as a climate modeler, but given that I had no previous background in climate modeling, I found that the next logical step is to pursue a degree in atmospheric studies.

8. What are your future plans?

My short-term goal is to publish my work on urbanization and rainfall. I’m also exploring other opportunities for further studies.

9. Do you have any parting words?

At present, there is only one scientist for every 10,000 Filipinos. Scientists are the ones who push the envelope of knowledge further. If we want a better future as one people, it is therefore imperative that we increase that number.

For college students majoring in sciences and also those who are planning to take it up, they should not limit themselves to their specific fields. They should see their course only as a stepping stone. The skills that they can learn in during undergrad are important. Don’t be easily discouraged. Eventually they will find their niche. They should always ask questions with a mind of eventually finding the answers. Never stop.

Carina Sarmaniego of the Archives: From Manila Observatory to Ateneo de Manila University

Carina Sarmaniego of Ateneo de Manila University Archives

Carina Sarmaniego, Assistant Director of Ateneo de Manila University Archives

by Quirino Sugon Jr.

Carina Sarmaniego is the new Assistant Director of the Ateneo de Manila University Archives.  Before coming to Ateneo, she worked for more than ten (10) years in Manila Observatory’s Library and Archives.  Below is an interview with Carina by the Ateneo Physics News.

1. How were you able to work at the Manila Observatory Archives?

After graduating April 2001, I was looking for a job. I went to UP and saw the announcement from the Manila Observatory posted on the announcement board of the (then) Institute of Library Science. Since I had my CV and other important documents with me, I went to MO and applied. After a few days, they called me for an interview. After a series of interviews and after a month of looking for a job, I got one from MO. I started on May 2001.

I started as a Special Collections Assistant under the (formely named) Climate Change Information Center (CCIC) program (now the klima Climate Change Center). I handled the Special Collections Library, a small collection of books relating to climate change and environmental science. It’s very small library compared to the old MO Library. The old books from the MO Library were stored at the basement of the solar building. Fr. Victor Badillo, SJ during that time was the custodian of the archival collection. He was still at MO at that time.

I was on my first year in MO when I got my license from PRC. Yes, we librarians need to take a licensure exam from PRC. After a year of working in MO, I took my graduate course in UP, concentrating on Archives and Records Management. I often used archival materials of MO for my projects. So I always went to Fr. Badillo to ask for help. When Fr. Badillo got sick, there was no one to manage the collection. So I took it on the task. I started familiarizing myself with the collection, going through each of the boxes that Fr. Badillo used to store the materials.

Faura Barometer for predicting the approach of typhoons

Faura Barometer for predicting the approach of typhoons

Around 2005, there was a grant opportunity from Ford Environment and Conservation Grants Philippines. Klima spearheaded the submission of the project proposals and one of these was to organize the MO Archives. Unfortunately, it was not approved. The following year we applied again, but we redesigned the proposal for the MO Archives. Instead of arranging the entire archival collection, we just focused on one subject area which is natural disasters in the Philippines. So the new proposal is to select and digitize materials relating to typhoons, earthquakes, volcanic eruption, and drought which were recorded by the Manila Observatory. The output of the project is a DVD compilation of the digitized version of the selected documents. That is the first project we did for the MO Archives. It was a good start because before the materials were just kept in a storage room where no one can have direct access except for Fr. Badillo. For me, that project gave me the push to really work hard for the MO Archives.

In 2007, a representative from Cives Mundi, a Spanish NGO, came to MO looking for projects that can be presented for funding by the Spanish government through AECID. One of the projects that MO presented was the establishment of the MO Archives, basically the same project we presented to Ford that was not approved. I remember it was a big team effort finishing the proposal. Fr. Dan McNamara, Kendra Castillo, Atty. Angela Ibay and MO Admin helped me finish the proposal. By the end of 2007, we received the news that of the 2 proposals that MO submitted, the archiving project was chosen for funding. It was such a happy news for MO. The project started immediately after the notification. Honestly, it was a big project aimed to be finished for 12 months. In the middle of implementing it, I started to worry because of the volume of work that needed to be done and we were already halfway through with our timeframe. Fortunately, Cives Mundi saw what we have achieved given the limited time and what we wanted to achieve at end of the project and proposed that we submit another proposal for Phase II. Thankfully, AECID approved it and we were given another year of funding and project implementation. So after almost 26 months of hard work, we now have the MO Archives and Library. Handling that project taught me a lot, in terms of archiving, managing resources, planning activities, and communicating with our funders.

Manila Observatory Archives Exhibit last 5 July 2012

Manila Observatory Archives Exhibit last 5 July 2012

2. What happened during the time when Queen Sofia of Spain almost visited the Manila Observatory Archives?

We were identified as one of the potential areas to be visited by Queen Sofia because the MO Archives was funded by AECID. When I first got the call from the Spanish Embassy, I was already advised that the visit to MO will be part of the alternative program on July 5 if her visit to the provinces will not push through because of bad weather. There were ocular inspections conducted by officials from the Embassy, AECID and Malacanang. We were also advised that we will only receive confirmation of her visit to MO on the night of July 4.

We did our best to prepare for her visit. It is already an honor to be considered as one of the places she will visit, even if we were just part of the alternative program. Fr. Joey Cruz helped us in preparing the program and in designing the flow of the exhibit that we planned to set-up. The exhibit aimed to highlight the MO Archives and its collection as a result of the project funded by AECID.

So last July 5 we still pushed through with opening the exhibit. We thought that we should still launch it, whether or not the Queen was present. The opening of the exhibit was led by Fr. Jett Villarin and it was attended by University officials, members of the Manila Observatory Board of Trustees, and partners and members of the MO Community. For me, it was a successful event.

3. Sorry, I took pictures and then I learned that picture taking was not allowed. But it was in museum mode so there is no flash.

Aside from protecting the materials from direct light/flash from cameras, we decided not to allow taking photos of the materials on exhibit primarily because of the nature of the contents of the materials. We would not want people to just use them without the permission of the Manila Observatory.

Flowers awaiting Queen Sophia of Spain

Flowers awaiting Queen Sophia of Spain

4. What brought you here in Ateneo de Manila Universty Archives?

It just came to the point that maybe it is time for me take on a new challenge. It has been almost 10 years with MO and I think I have done enough for the MO Archives and Library. There were opportunities that I could have taken before but I just felt that timing was not yet right. I prayed that if it is time for me to leave MO, I will not leave my work unfinished. So I guess, after almost 10 years, this was the right time for me to move on.

5. What do you do here?

My main task is to organize the current collection. Through the years the collection accumulated and my focus is to organize the collection based on archival standards. The university has different records, of different nature. Majority of what I handled in MO Archives are purely historical and scientific in nature as compared here in the University where we have historical and operational records. We just do not want to be a repository of records. But personally, I want to establish a good records management system for the University. It is a challenging step. But we want to establish a system that only archival materials are to be brought to the archives. The offices thought before that anything old should be in the Archives. We have limited space, resources, and manpower. We want to make sure that what we have here are records with permanent value. Hopefully, in the coming months, we shall establish a schedule of records to guide each office on whether a particular record ought to be brought to the Archives or to be kept in their respective offices. We also want to standardize how we process materials here. We have papers, maps, photos, and office records. Each type of material has its own system of arrangement and description. Personally, I do not want to be too technical about it, but I want to come up with a system that can work given what we have. Another is to digitize our archival materials. Basically those are the main tasks I need to implement in the Archives.

6. Any parting words?

I am always grateful for the experiences that I gained from MO. I think I will never fail to thank everyone there. Fr. Badillo, Fr. Dan, Fr. Jett, and Fr. Su inspired me a lot. Whenever they would go to the Archives, they would say that they are very happy to see what has been done for the Archives. Those kind words—they inspire me to love this job. I am not taking all the credit. It is a collective work. It is a blessing that even if I left MO, I am still in Ateneo. It is really hard to leave MO, for I will always ask, “What will happen to the MO Archives if I leave? Will they remember where the things are placed?” It is as if you are leaving your own child. It is a blessing that whenever MO needs me, I am still here to offer my help. Seriously, I am really thankful.

Carina Sarmaniego in the Ateneo Room of the University Archives

Carina Sarmaniego in the Ateneo Room of the University Archives

Carina Sarmaniego in the Ateneo Room of the University Archives

Carina Sarmaniego in the Ateneo Room of the University Archives