Dr. Deogracias V. Villadolid: Father of Fisheries Education

By Melchor F. Cichon

Librarian, St. Paul University

Iloilo City


Many University of the Philippines Visayas (UPV) constituents were surprised when former Chancellor Francisco Nemenzo approved the naming of the present Administration Building of the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, University of the Philippines in the Visayas, in Miag-ao, Iloilo to Dr. Deogracias V. Villadolid Hall. They had never heard about this man before.

Who was Dr. Deogracias V. Villadolid? Why honor him?

Villadolid is not known among non-fisheries graduates. However, those who have been trained in fisheries know him in relation to the beginning of fishery science and fisheries education in the Philippines.

It was Villadolid who introduced tilapia in the Philippines in 1950 when he was Director of the Bureau of Fisheries. He also initiated fisheries education in the country. For this reason, he is known as the Father of Fisheries Education in the Philippines.

From his humble beginnings in Nasugbu, Batangas, Villadolid rose to become the most respected Filipino fisheries scientist in his time. In fact, he was also known as the Dean of Philippine fisheries.

He studied agriculture at the U.P. College of Agriculture (UPCA), now the College of Agriculture, University of the Philippines at Los Baños, Laguna. He earned three degrees from UPCA: Bachelor of Agriculture in 1919, Bachelor of Science in Agriculture in 1923, and Master of Science in Agriculture in 1923.

From UPCA, he proceeded to Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, USA, where he obtained a Doctor of Philosophy degree, major in marine biology and minor in aquatic botany in 1927.

Upon his return to the Philippines, he taught at the UPCA. It was there where he designed a course of instruction on limnology, biology of aquatic fauna and flora, particularly fishes, phycology and a general fisheries program. This course was incorporated in the College of Agriculture program. It was also at this time when Villadolid trained UPCA students on the mechanics of fishery science.

From UPCA, he transferred to the newly organized Fish and Game Administration of the Department of Agriculture where he worked with the world- famous ichthyologist Dr. Albert Herre,  who discovered the smallest fish in the world, Pandaca pygmea, at the Dagat-Dagatan Lagoon in Malabon, Metro Manila.

Villadolid then served as Director of the Bureau of Fisheries and continued to do so even during the Japanese occupation. After the war, he spearheaded the establishment of the first fisheries school in the Philippines, the Philippine Institute of Fisheries Technology (PIFT) in 1946. The school, then located in Navotas, Port Area, Manila, attracted students not only from the Philippines but also from Thailand, Burma, Indonesia, Vietnam, India and Pakistan.

PIFT was transferred from the Bureau of Fisheries, Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources in January 1957 to the University of the Philippines through Republic Act 997 or the Reorganization Act. This law was approved by then President Ramon Magsaysay. (It was in this school where Dr. Rogelio O. Juliano, the former Chancellor of the UPV, received his Certificate in Fisheries in 1952).

On April 10, 1958, the PIFT was reorganized by the UP Board of Regents and became the UP College of Fisheries. This pioneering school became the forerunner of more than 50 fisheries schools in the country today.

It was during his stint in the Bureau of Fisheries where Villadolid produced 146 articles on fisheries research.

As Director of the Bureau of Fisheries, he sent 125 Filipino fisheries pensionados to the United States to train on deep-sea fishing.

A well-traveled person, Villadolid had gone to Washington, D.C. in the U.S.A., Japan and Denmark as a Philippine delegate to many international conferences and meetings in his capacity as vice-chairman and later chairman of the Indo-Pacific Fisheries Council (IPFC).

For his distinguished achievements and services for the development of fisheries in the Philippines and in the region, Villadolid received awards from local and international organizations.

He retired from government service on March 22, 1961 on his 65th birthday. Thereafter, he served as the Vice-President of Araneta University and as Dean of the Institute of Graduate Studies and Applied Research in the same university until his 70th birthday in 1966.

Dr. Deogracias Villamin Villadolid died at the age of 80 in 1976.