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Rolando Peña, a Filipino geologist and author the book Lexicon of Philippine Stratigraphy.

Biography by Noe L. CaagusanEdit

How do you restrain a raging flood in a jar? How do you send back the rambling genie into his bottle? Ask Rolando Pena, geologist, campus writer, revolutionary. He produced this Lexicon of Philippine Stratigraphy (2008).

Only someone, like Rolly Pena, who has the passion and persistence and steeped in the science of the rocks would undertake to collect between book covers the myriad nuances and distinctions of formation names that had deluged the Philippine geological literature.

While the compilers of the Geology of the Philippines (1981) succeeded in accounting for every bibliographed report, they also unleashed a self-generative device that liberally established variant names of rock units, or even invalid nomenclatures that cluttered the stratigraphic column.

Rolly sensed these superfluities, as he knew personally many of those who had written the geological reports where the Geology of the Philippines were culled. He was familiar with the parochial bias of many writers and their penchant for “updating” formational definitions and appending a new name as well.

He should know. He performed the petrography of the field samples of those writers as a geologist in the former Bureau of Mines. He was also the petrologist in a special field team that reviewed during 1964 to 1971 the setting of Philippine ore deposits. As a field geologist, he was too familiar with the hazard of classifying rocks merely by a hand lens.

Since over fifty years ago, when W. Corby published the Geology and Oil Possibilities of the Philippines (1951), various authors had sought to update the definition of fundamental divisions of the stratigraphy of the Philippines. Teves compiled a typewritten Lexicon which he submitted to the International Commission on Stratigraphy in time for the 1956 International Geological Congress. Since then, in every epochal wave of foreign research groups and with every boom time of mining and oil exploration, new names either expanded or contracted formational coverage in three dimensions.

The most prolific age was the mid-60s, just before the 1:1,000,000 scale Geologic Map of the Philippines was printed. The then Bureau of Mines had the most robust crew of geologists in its history which, numbering about 70, spent a cumulative 6 to 11 months in the field every year until 1967.

The Japanese university research groups had always been there, providing field and laboratory assistance. The names Hashimoto and Kanno even opened new post-graduate opportunities for Filipino geologists.

Then came the American university groups in the 70s. Karig and McCabe led the tectonic researchers and established a new depth in stratigraphic concepts. The 80s brought the French school of thought led by Rangin from the University of Paris and Mueller, who was with the German advisory team at the Ministry of Energy. This phase took advantage of the new technologies of oil exploration to view the offshore subsurface. Philippine stratigraphy, at this stage, took on a much broader outlook in concepts and geographic extent as well.

JICA and UNDP projects sent geologists of the Mines Bureau to far flung and daunting places and gave flesh to the skeletal knowledge of geology in some of these areas.

Evidential tectonic and stratigraphic correlations with the neighboring Indonesia and Malaysia were emphasized with the advent in the 90s of the group of Pubellier and a vigorous research team from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau.

When Rolly rejoined the Bureau of Mines (now Mines and Geosciences Bureau) in 1992, he noted in particular the misreadings of field occurrence of rocks in the Baguio District in a United Nations Development Program (UNDP) publication. Armed with a keen sense of rock composition, he worked out the evolution of igneous rocks in the microscope and their relation in the outcrops. He was ahead of most owing to his third eye on rocks that had been named in published maps. In this instance, he lost no time in churning out an article putting the stratigraphy of the district in proper perspective.

Rolly interacted with all the young geologists involved in various projects. By the time the 90’s came around, much new geological information had accumulated.

The time was ripe, and with the full support of Toti Almeda (then Chief Geologist of the Bureau), he initiated the project on revising the Geology book in 1995

In 1997 he delivered a paper at a geological symposium in Cebu calling for the preparation of a Philippine Stratigraphic Guide (Guide) that would put order in the naming of rock units. Reading and re-reading the book and many manuscripts in the course of the revision of the Geology book and preparation of the Guide immersed him in a sensation of drowning in the imprecision and ambiguity among formational assemblages in the narratives.

While he was a Regional Director of the MGB, his decades of professional experience goaded him to read with a critical purpose many vintage reports. He endured re-reading onion-skin manuscripts and musty leather-bound field books on file at the Bureau of Mines. The green-clad volume of the Geology of the Philippines was ripe for a thorough flushing of its stratigraphic plumbings. His meanderings through the geological literature started a trickle of notations and question marks that gushed into a full-scale effort to find explanation in the why and wherefore of formational names that soused the pages of the Geology book.

The Philippine Stratigraphic Guide was finalized in year 2000 by a committee of the Geological Society of the Philippines (GSP) chaired by Rolly and the initial draft revised of the Geology of the Philippines, was made available in 2004.

And now, after many years of soaking himself in books, academic dissertations and manuscripts, the rage to publish eponyms subsided and was caged like a genie in the new Lexicon.

The compelling disambiguation of the Philippine rock units makes way for the gainful linkages of productive time-rock levels.

And what’s more, this genie-in-the-book gives you answers to more than just three questions. It leads you from the drop of a name to the story of a rock from the Cordillera to the Cagayan Valley. The Lexicon even tells you why the Universal Formation in Bicol is so rare that you’ll need to find a mine shaft just to get the drift of abbreviated beds in a shallow sea.

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