Aloysius “Ochie” Baes was a brilliant Filipino scientist who was active in the movement for democracy and freedom in the Philippines, an environmental expert who has been influential in offering a people-oriented framework in environmental advocacy.
Ochie took his BS chemistry degree at UP Los Baños, graduating cum laude in 1969 (friends say he would have graduated magna cum laude had he not displeased certain school officials). After graduation, he taught chemistry at UP Los Baños and later in Diliman. His teaching stint was interrupted for some time by a period of incarceration under the Marcos dictatorship. In 1982 he left for the United States to pursue studies at the University of Minnesota, completing his doctorate degree with distinction. He taught for a year in a university in Japan, then returned and resumed teaching at UPLB in 1989. Later he turned his sights on environmental concerns.
As a youth, Ochie was courageous and indefatigable. In his fourth year in high school, he led a protest against an oppressive teacher. He is one of the founders of the UP Los Baños chapter of the Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan (SDK) in 1967. He helped organize SDK chapters around the UPLB campus. As chair of the University Student Council in UPLB, Ochie organized student debates and discussion groups. The Council during his term held summer camps where students stayed in rural villages and lived with rural folk. Many UPLB students gained their political consciousness under this program. UPLB was a major presence during protests against oil price increases in 1970, partly through Ochie’s efforts. Ochie led a long protest march from UPLB to Manila in 1971, when then President Marcos suspended the writ of habeas corpus.
When martial law was declared in 1972, Ochie left the university and went to work organizing farmers in Laguna, He was arrested by martial law authorities in 1973 and released the following year. He returned to teaching but continued to support efforts to organize and teach activists to fight the dictatorship. Even in the United States, he was closely involved with the Alliance for a Just and Lasting Peace-USA. After his return from abroad, Ochie helped organize the Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines (CEC-Phil.) and was its managing director from 1989 to 2003. He also helped found AGHAM, an organization of nationalist and pro-people scientists.
Ochie was tireless in elucidating a pro-people framework for scientists involved in environmental advocacy. Many groups and networks acknowledge Ochie’s role in helping them spell out their vision, mission and goals in environmental work.
Through his research, Ochie helped expose the adverse environmental and health effects of a coal-fired power plant in Calaca, Batangas. Ochie was one of the brains behind a national campaign against toxic wastes left behind by the US military in the Subic and Clark bases.
Ochie did field studies and community education in mining areas in the province of Marinduque. The field studies encouraged residents and local officials to pursue a campaign for environmental justice, rehabilitation and mining moratorium in the island. He was a member of a fact-finding commission that scrutinized the controversial Lafayette mining, a flagship project of the Arroyo administration.
When the Ormoc flooding tragedy happened in 2004, Ochie predicted future landslides and called on government to immediately identify critical areas and prepare residents. The subsequent tragedies in Quezon, Aurora, and Leyte prove Ochie’s dire predictions.
Ochie’s many talents includes music. He came from a family of musicians. His father was a tenor and a band leader, his mother sang and played the organ, and a brother was a renowned faculty member of the College of Music in UP Diliman. Ochie himself played the piano, flute, guitar, clarinet and other instruments. During his incarceration, Ochie composed a slew of songs that soon became very popular and would later become classic fare among activist and progressive circles. The songs include “Huwad na Kalayaan,” “Mutya,” “Kay Taas ng Pader,” turning prison virtually into a music factory.
Ochie had a heart condition. His health steadily deteriorated, until he died of kidney complications in 2006. With his passing, the country lost a dedicated and brilliant son who gave all that he had to give, his time, energy and talent for his country and people.
Born July 28, 1948, in Los Baños, Laguna
Died December 21, 2006, in Quezon City
Parents Aurora U. and Gerardo E. Baes
Siblings 2nd child of 5 children (3 brothers, 2 sisters)
Elementary Makiling Elementary School
High School UP Rural High School
College BS Agricultural Chemistry (cum laude), UP Los Baños, 1969
Masteral University of Minnesota, USA
Doctorate University of Minnesota, USA