Undertake geological research; systematically collect, preserve, study rocks, minerals and fossils of plants and animals; maintain reference collection.
The Geology Division is one of the first divisions of the National Museum, along with other natural sciences like botany, entomology, ichthyology, herpetology and mammalogy. In the early years of the National Museum, it was not considered as a division until 1947 when the National Museum was recreated with a status of a bureau by virtue of Executive Order No. 94. Hence, in 1947, it was given the name of Geology-Paleontology Division with Mr. Inocentes Paniza as the first chief geologist. It had three sections; namely, Structural Geology, Dynamic Geology, and Paleontology.
At the start, the focus of activities was the buildup of collections of mammalian fossils like elephant and rhinoceros in Iloilo, Pangasinan, Metro Manila and Cagayan Valley, side by side with an extensive mapping of Pleistocene sediments in an attempt to discover the earliest man in the Philippines. The meager collection that survived the war was rehabilitated and was augmented mainly through field expeditions, donations, purchases and exchanges with other museums. Most of the donations came from the Bureau of Mines.
In the mid-SOs, the discovery of fossil elephant and rhinoceros led to the conduct of more intensive studies on mammalian fossils in Cabarruyan Island and in Kalinga-Apayao where 117 fragments of fossilized elephant bones were found. In the following decade, research work including geologic mapping, specimen collection and identification, were concentrated in Tabon Caves in Palawan, Iloilo, Cagayan Valley, Samar, and Pangasinan where Pleistocene sediments yielded large amounts of fossils. More than 150 mammalian fossils were recovered in Cagayan and Pangasinan alone. Such discovery of fossils associated with man-made flake tools had brought credence to the theory that the prehistory of the Philippines dates back to alinost half a million years.
Under the Martial Law rule, the name of the Division was changed to Geology Division, with Paleontology, Geological Survey, and Petrology and Mineralogy as its three sections. A new breed of geologists helped to beef up the collections of rocks, minerals and fossils. Collection of mammalian fossils particularly in Cagayan was also intensified in the belief that the remains may have been associated with the Pleistocene Man, since a new species of Pleistocene pig and fragments of fossilized mammals were recovered in this area by National Museum paleontologist Silvio Lopez along with other geologists.
Aside from its massive specimen collection drive, the Division was immersed in a host of researches documenting the results of their expeditions. Public exhibitions likewise formed a large part of information dissemination efforts as their discoveries were shown in many different areas in various styles or formats.
In order to hasten rock and mineral collections, the Geology Division launched the so-called "Collections from Different Mining Companies Project" which drew much attention frorn different mining companies in the Philippines. Eventually, these companies donated a considerable number of specimens to the National Museum.
The marvelous findings of Lopez and his group heralded the Geology Division's first major recorded accomplishment. On account of these findings, a cooperative project among geologists from the National Museum and from Iowa State University was initiated for the purpose of defining the Pleistocene terrestrial sequence in Cagayan Valley basin and documenting the in situ situation of artifacts and Pleistocene fauna. Yet another amazingly significant discovery was made: an in situ elephant skull with two complete upper molars.
Inspired by the apparent success of its first scientific venture, the Iowa State University inked another project with the Museum not long after the first project was completed. This time, the research was concerned with the paleomagnetic polarity to date the pyroclastic deposits of Cagayan Valley.
The Cagayan Valley discoveries, on the other hand, added a new dimension to Philippine geological history. The discoveries were first exhibited at the Old Congress Building in the late years of the 70s. A follow-up exhibit was shown in Bolinao, Pangasinan after a few years, this time in dioramas, but most of the exhibited specimens were rocks and minerals and about 30% were fossils. Another geological exhibit was put up in Cagayan Branch Museum, highlighting mammalian fossils, rocks, minerals and other geological information about Cagayan.
These successive exhibitions paved the way for the staging of more geologic exhibits in various parts of the country. The most well-received of these shows was the Fort Pilar Branch Museum geological exhibition, a general geology exhibit of rocks, minerals and fossils of the Philippines in the Pre-Tertiary Period, the Tertiary Period and the Pleistocene Period. The exhibit also depicted the evolution of the Philippines beneath the sea along the southern margin of Mainland China.
Even the Mt. Pinatubo eruption did not escape the interest of geologists, as an exhibit was set up in the Old Congress Building where numerous photographs taken before, during, and after the eruption were presented for public viewing. Another exhibit on volcanoes was additionally set up in Cagsawa Branch Museum, consisting of eight luggage-type showcases that featured the different rocks and minerals found in the Philippines.
Lastly, the findings of Pleistocene sediments in the previous decades had led to the intensiiication of collection efforts in other areas of the country, such as in Iloilo, La Union, Pangasinan, Aklan and Ilocos Sur, where generous yields were obtained, as well as in Quezon, Palawan where deposits of the late Quaternary were found.
A Broader Role
The Geology Division is primarily responsible for undertaking basic studies in Petrology, Mineralogy and Paleontology, establishing and maintaining an adequate reference collection, and disseminating scientific information through exhibits and relevant publications.
The last decade up to the present was a period of improving and enhancing the Division's reference collection, research projects in collaboration with other divisions, participation in activities of other geoscience organizations, dissemination of information about rocks, minerals and fossils and refurbishing the existing geological exhibits. Collection management includes acquisition and maintenance through cleaning, accessioning, cataloguing, labeling, storing, restoring, and inventory. More than 18,000 specimens are being maintained yearly while more than four thousand specimens were acquired through field collection, donation and exchange. Databasing of all specimen collection for documentation and exhibition and thin sectioning of rock specimens are some of the on-going activities being conducted to enhance its collection.
Today, the role of the Geology Division has been expanded. Projects are now concentrated in areas where there are archaeological and anthropological interests, for which the Division provides geological background and other relevant information that may be of help in correlating the finds and the surroundings. Technical assistance is likewise provided to different schools and scientific bodies.
Quest for Excellence
With the significant results of their explorations, the Geology Division has received an overwhelming recognition from scientific practitioners here and abroad. Not only did the division's research findings become phenomenal successes but the names of prominent personalities like Paniza, Lopez, Gutierrez, and Alagar also became familiar words in scientific and historical books and publications.
The Division likewise earned the respect of the National Committee on Geological Sciences (NCGS) as it has been invited to participate in activities and projects like the declaration of Ilocos Sand Dunes and Hundred Islands as geological monuments and the launching of a national contest on the National Mountain of the Philippines. The PCARRD, a DOST-initiated research organization, was impressed with the Division's geologic achievements and has granted project funding for the Study of Zooplankton in Aklan Province. Foreign collaborations such as that with the Iowa State University are also living proofs of the Division's capability in handling scientific researches.
The Geology Division led today by Mr. Roberto SP De Ocampo looks forward to the coming years with great anticipation as new programs and new projects will provide new findings in the geological sciences. After all, the success of the Geology Division is also the achievement of the Filipino people in general.
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