ANGEL S. ARGUELLES                

(1888-1952)

 

 

Dr. Angel S. Arguelles dedicated 42 years of his life to faithful service in the former Bureau of Science, now the Department of

Science and Technology.

 

He was born in Quaipo, Manila on August 2: 1888, to Mariano Arguelles and Rita Anponueva. Shortly after his father's death, the

family transferred to their ancestral home in Batangas, Batangas. He completed his elementary and secondary education there where he earned a reputation for being a reserved and studious boy and a close observer of human nature.

 

In 1905, he was one of a group of promising young Filipino pensionados sent to the United States by the Philippine Government. In Chicago, he enrolled at the Lewis Technical Institute. After completing a number of preparatory courses, he transferred to the University of Illinois where he obtained his Bachelor of Science degree in 1909.

 

He returned home and joined the Bureau of Science. He first served as chemist researcher and was promoted in 1918 to chief of the Inorganic Analysis Division. Prior to his appointment as head of the Division of Soils and Fertilizers in 1923, he was sent by the government to work in the United States Department of Agriculture, particularly in the bureaus of chemistry and soils, and of standards and plant industry. He also visited various experimental stations in the eastern and southern United States. With the help of the director of the Bureau of Chemistry at Washington D.C., he prepared the draft of a tentative fertilizer, insecticides and fungicide law. Upon his arrival in Manila, this draft was incorporated into a bill which was presented to Congress. He defended the wisdom of passing such a law and so convinced the legislature of its utility.

 

He then pioneered in the study of  "The Soils of the Islands of Luzon" which appeared in the Philippine Journal of Science in 1914. His other studies included "The Composition and Moisture Content of the Soils and the Type of Vegetation at the Different Elevation on Mount Makiling," which also appeared in the Philippine Journal of Science in 1917. His "Galvanized Iron Roofing in the Philippines, brought about the establishment of standard government specifications for this particular imported construction material. The research he undertook along this line was documented not only in the Journal of Science but in the journal Philippine Engineering Architecture as well. His studies on the "Citrus Belt of Florida" and the "iron Smelting in the Philippines," were published in 1922; "Some Technical Phases of Coconut Oil Industry." 1924; "The Guano Exploitation and "Fertilizers in the Sugar Cane Industry" were published in 1925.

 

From 1922 to 1924. Arguelles was a professional lecturer on chemistry and soil fertility at the University of the Philippines and

National University. He was also a member of the Coordination Board on Agricultural Activities.

 

After serving as chief of the Division of Soils and Fertilizers, he was promoted to assistant director of the Bureau of Science. He later became its director, the first Filipino to hold such an office.

 

He also served as acting director of the National Museum from 1929 to 193l; technical assistant in the Department of Agriculture

and Natural Resources; chairman of Industrial Committee and member of the Educational Survey Committee and Committee on Trade Relations in 1935: chairman of the Board of Examiners for Chemical Engineers from 1935, to 1940: and member of the board of directors of the Cebu Portland Cement Company from 1933 to 1941.

 

Dr. Arguelles represented the Philippines in the international scientific congress in Rome in 1938, and in the UNESCO international conference in Beirut. in 1948.

 

In 1930, he was seCretary of the Philippine Research Institute, chairman of the Research Council from 1937 to 1938, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, member of UNESCO National Commission for the Philippines, chairman of the Chemical and Pharmaceutical Division of the National Research Council and a member of the Philippine Columbian Association.

 

In recognition of his scientific studies his name was listed in "American Men of Science." The Philippine Women's University conferred on him the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa, in 1939.

 

An interesting incident in the life of Dr. Arguelles demonstrates the integrity and honesty he showed in public service. One day when a friend called on him in his office, he was very busy signing a high pile of mining reports which he had to attend to immediately since other visitors were waiting outside his office. The friend told Arguelles that he could make hundreds of thousands of pesos a day if he would give priority to the more recent applicants for mining reports as long as he went along the system known as lagay. However, Arguelles refused and handled the mining reports strictly on a "first come first served" basis.

 

World War II  devastated his bureau's offices and laboratories. When the war ended, the great task of rehabilitation became the director's headache. Once again, he proved himself more than equal to the task. With a much depleted staff, he was able to gradually organize and rebuild the bureau.

 

As a writer, he did not confine himself to technical subjects. He also excelled in the literary field. His Tagalog essay, Labing-dalawang Dakilang Simulain, is a fine example.

 

The heavy burden of rebuilding the Bureau of Science from the ruins of war and his obsession to raise the bureau's prestige adversely affected his health. Despite his failing health and his advanced age, however, he always made it a point to report to duty on time.

 

After a brief illness, he died at the Philippine General Hospital on July 10, 1952 at the age of 64. He was survived by his wife, Carmen Llana and five children: Leonardo, Aurora, Angelina, Angel. Jr.. and Marcelo.

 

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