“My struggle in the US was the first night panic attack. I wasn’t able to sleep during my first night there even if I had no sleep for the past 24 hours. I was slowly unpacking my things in the apartment when it suddenly hits me: ‘I’m so, so far away from my home and my family. Who will see after me when I have fever?’”
Thousands of miles away from home, Dr. Ruel Mojica entertained these thoughts. To be alone and tasked to conduct research on top of adjusting to a new culture and community is a familiar situation many Fulbright alumni have experienced during their program. For most scholars, some holidays, graduations and adventures just have to be spent alone.
Serious Work and Travel
Dr. Mojica spent one year at the Texas Agricultural and Mechanical University (Texas A & M) doing advanced research in Agricultural Engineering. From 2013 to 2014, he worked on his research entitled: “Elucidating the Solid, Liquid and Gaseous Products from Pyrolysis of Coffee Pulp”. This gave him the opportunity to conduct his experiments in a state-of-the-art laboratory like the Bioenergy Testing and Analysis (BETA) Laboratory which has a complete set of testing and analysis facility for biomass and biofuels.
“It has inspired me to dream big for my home university. I spoke with my host faculty regarding my plan of developing an implementable action program upon return to the Philippines with proper timeline, budget requirements and facilities and equipment needed. The program would be meant to improve the coffee farmers’ income and bring the quality of the Philippine coffee into competitive world market product,” he explained.
Other than being able to work in a world-class facility, he travelled all over the U.S. during his grant. In his itinerary were Arizona, Nevada, Utah and California and National Parks such as the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend in Arizona and National Muir Woods, Yosemite Valley and Lake Tahoe in California. He also toured the Las Vegas Strip which is famous for its night life. “Seeing those places reminded me how beautiful the world is and how perfect God created earth that every man should protect it,” expressed Dr. Mojica.
The Coffee Grower’s Champion
Ruel describes himself as a highly motivated and very determined person. When it comes to work, he takes his duty seriously and does it religiously. “I usually see things in perspective and believe I’m quite easy to get along with. I’m an optimist rather than pessimist type of person but I’m a realist too. I am good in finding solutions to problems. Above all, I would say that I’m a down-to-earth and God-fearing person,” he added. As a lover of gory, violent movies, he favors the likes of “Wrong Turn” and “Final Destination” film series.
He is currently living and working in Cavite as the director of the Development and Extension Center of Cavite State University. “I did a lot of trainings for the different coffee stakeholders (farmers, processors, buyers, students, researchers, etc.) in the Philippines sharing the knowledge and skills I gained from my experience. I did a lot of project proposals which were instrumental in generating research funds for the university. Most of the projects were focused on the opportunities that may be derived by small-scale coffee farmers,” he said.
In a post published by in a local tourism blog for Indang, Cavite, the creation of a batch-type coffee roaster by Dr. Ruel Mojica and Dr. Engelbert Peralta of the University of the Philippines- Los Baños enabled coffee growers to conduct small-scale roasting so they could sell their produce at a higher price.
Great Dreams, Greater Lessons
Asked what his long-term goal is, he said it is “to be instrumental in transforming lives of Filipino people in general and poor Filipino coffee farmers in particular. I am highly motivated and determined to accomplish that goal. I also helped Fulbright Philippines in promoting their programs through conduct of outreach activities.”
“I see the world as people with lives as real as ours here in the Philippines who have experienced problems, despairs and victories. I see the world as an environment full of resources and opportunities. I have developed my attention and intuition about the rest of the world. I found myself suddenly caring about the economic crisis in Europe, the war threats in the Middle East, and even the lives of coffee farmers in Africa, whereas before I was not affected by such issues,” Dr. Mojica said when asked about his learnings during his grant. He continued: “Being conscious of how you want people to see and remember you helps you make better choices. I try to live with integrity… I want to be remembered for doing good stuff and for helping other people. I also want to be remembered as a loving and caring person.”