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Edmund Rosales: Living the Dream

by M. Aleah Taboclaon


 Astronomer Edmund Rosales was fascinated by the stars even at a young age. But unlike other people, his love for astronomy would prove to dictate his life's path.
Photo source: James Kevin Ty.

Most people I know have dreamt of becoming an astronaut when they were children. A child's imagination is limitless, and he could only think of what he would like to be. With "impossible" not in his vocabulary, he is free to think of himself as the ultimate explorer—going where no one has gone before. And what is more "ultimate" than outer space? Add to this the countless films on space missions, and you have the perfect formula for a childhood dream.

But how many actually live their dream of working in the astronomical field, much less still want to be an astronaut when they grow up? Most would give it up once they reach high school, and think of becoming a doctor or a lawyer instead. A vast majority would even forget their childhood fascination with the stars.

Young Astronomer

But this did not happen with Edmund Rosales. He, too, like countless others, was fascinated with the stars, especially when he was able to see the lunar landing of Apollo 11 on television when he was three years old. He too, became hooked on astronomy, watching the skies whenever and wherever he could. But unlike other people, his interest in astronomy would prove to dictate his life's path.

In high school, Edmund's love for the stars strengthened. Aside from just occasionally looking up the sky, he began to look for a place where he could regularly observe the heavens. Learning about the PAGASA Observatory, he looked for its address in the telephone directory. Thus began his overnight sessions at the observatory in UP Diliman, and his friendships with the staff there. Even at such a young age, he had shown enough dedication and determination to learn that PAGASA eventually allowed him to use the telescope on his own.

Total Dedication

In college, of course, he wanted to take up astronomy, but there was no course then (until now!) offered in the Philippines. Even if there had been, his parents would not have allowed him to take it, probably seeing the field as less practical than taking up medicine.

Thus, Edmund took up Medical Technology at Far Eastern University, at the same time also studying on astronomy on his own. He was a full time FEU student by day, but spent nights studying astronomy and doing astronomical observations, thereby making a name for himself as a young amateur astronomer. This was recognized, and at the age of 17, he started giving lectures on astronomy at the Manila Observatory.

After two years as a Med Tech student, Edmund shifted to BS Biology at FEU, because, according to him, if he had continued with Med Tech, he would have lost time to see Halley's Comet, which started to be visible in February 1986. Talk about dedication, and of letting heavenly objects dictate one's course of action!

The 'Official' Astronomer

Edmund graduated with a BS Biology degree in 1987, and proceeded to take up Medicine in 1988. However, he still continued with his "extracurricular" activities in astronomy. Once, sometime in 1989, Fr. Victor Badillo (who was then president of the PAS of which Edmund was also a member) was supposed to give a lecture in NISMED but could not make it at the last minute. Fr. Badillo then asked Edmund to substitute for him. He arrived on time for the scheduled lecture, but found the teachers there still waiting for someone so he also waited. The waiting game ended when the organizers asked him when Mr. Rosales would be arriving, not knowing that he was Mr. Rosales, with him looking so youthful.

However, the teachers and the organizers liked Edmund's lecture and he was invited the second time. Eventually, they offered him a regular teaching job at NISMED. By then, Edmund was already in Medicine proper, but for him, his priorities were clear. He did not hesitate to accept the job and went on leave from his medical studies. From then on, his path was clear. His life's work was suddenly laid out in front of him.

His Life's Work

For 13 years, Edmund worked as a science education specialist at NISMED, training teachers about the basics in astronomy. He also writes science books, making full use of his Biology degree. However, his main preoccupation is taking charge of the NISMED observatory, acting as the "astronomer in charge." When guests come, he takes care of them, usually starting with a brief orientation on the basics in astronomy, then setting up the scope for viewing of the moon or whichever heavenly object is visible.

When there is an astronomical event, e.g., a lunar eclipse, Edmund is kept busy because people usually come in droves. There are even times when he spends three nights in a row without sleep—and without overtime pay! Of course, when there are school field trips, an arrangement is usually made about payment, but the observatory is basically open to the public and anyone may walk in and be given the chance to use the telescope for free.

For his work in NISMED, Edmund was sent for further education in astronomy to Indiana University, Hiroshima University, and Tokyo University. He had also studied in Penang, Malaysia and lectured at a university there in 2000.

Outside NISMED, Edmund also holds lectures and conducts other astronomical activities. He was a former president of the PAS, and is now the PRO and former Vice President of the Astronomical League of the Philippines (ALP), an organization he established with other amateur astronomers.

Family Life

However satisfactory Edmund's professional life might be, he did not allow it to dominate his personal life. He got married in 1995 to Bernadette, a nutritionist and dietitian who also worked at NISMED, and they now have a 12-year-old son, Luigi, and a six-year-old daughter, Bea Nicole. As expected, both children are interested in astronomy. Every year, on Luigi's birthday, the whole family spends the night at Sunken Garden in UP Diliman, to watch the Geminid meteor shower (December 13-14).

Does Edmund wish for his children to follow his path? Probably. Although as a father, he probably only wants his children to find happiness in their chosen fields, as he certainly did, living a lifelong affair with astronomy that can only be dreamt of by most people.

ALEAH sees herself as a traveler whose ultimate dream adventure is to explore outer space.




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