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March is the celebration of the National Women’s Month which serves as a tribute, (a platform, and a call to action that highlights) to the extraordinary roles of ordinary Juanas in the society as trailblazers and harbingers of change. This celebration, spearheaded by the Philippine Commission on Women, is also a venue to discuss and address the issues that women continue to face so empowerment can be fully achieved. The campaign is also a call for concrete, sustainable, and inclusive actions towards gender equality.

 From the land of writers — Bulakan, Bulacan — the nursery of lovers of the word, one girl grew up being obscure, but begun finding her voice as the town’s gift of expression touched her soul for a special calling. And that simple girl from an obscure place is now known as Prof. Joyce L. Arriola, PhD, a 2018 National Research Council of the Philippines’ Achievement Awardee, an empowered woman.

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Prof. Joyce L. Arriola, PhD, a 2018 Achievement Awardee of the National Research Council of the Philippines (NRCP) from the University of Santo Tomas

On 24 February 2021, the second webisode of iShare: Stories of Inspiration and Creative Research, NRCP released the stories of Prof. Arriola and Dr. Karlo L. Queaño, both 2018 NCRP Achievement Awardees, with the goal to inspire budding researchers, scientists, and writers.

This webisode, attended by more than 300 participants (59% female, 41% male), highlighted the story of a woman who was inspired by the 1986 EDSA Revolution to pursue literature after “realizing the importance of the free press, culture, writers, values, and morals for the nation.”

Arriola, Professor at the University of Santo Tomas (UST), recalled how she was often cornered in between practicality and idealism, leading her into moments of indecision.


“I realized that these kind of indecisions—me, being in between worlds—would define my career later on,” Arriola shared. That moment of indecision in college defined her later career choices as a researcher, pivoting in between the practical world and the idealistic academic world of her research interests.

On giving and breathing life on another human

A woman who finds fulfilment in engaging discipleship and mentoring, Arriola truly dedicates her life in

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Prof. Arriola with her mentees

enriching the minds and hearts of the rising young generations. “It is about giving, breathing life on another human being through what you have learned,” she emphasized.

Arriola reminds the youth and the budding researchers on the importance of the following virtues: patience, rigor, diligence, and perseverance. Having herself as a great example of a courageous empowered woman, she advised the young generation — those afraid and impatient to go out from their comfort zones— to be prepared in exploring terrains outside their discipline. “You have two advantages in your life: you have your youth and energy and you have time,” she underscored.

According to Arriola, being an undergraduate literature major in UST, the youth must understand the value of staying focused and engaging in uninterrupted reading; the need for note-taking and close examination of sources; the essence of writing and rewriting; and, the patience required by the method of close reading. “What do you do after you have left the field and you have gathered the data? You sit down and write. Patience is important and close-reading, which is very important if you want to follow a career in research,” she mentioned.

Unveiling the little inner voice of a researching self, Arriola discovered about the role of research in improving the quality of truth. Being motivated to join the mass media, Arriola took up MA Communication, major in Journalism at the University of the Philippines. More than disinterestedness and rigor, she learned about the role of research in improving the quality of truth and the importance of compelling questions, like “What can it do for the nation?” “If you can do something for your community, for the nation, that will really give you a compelling argument that will give you the best rationale for your study,” she added.

Her networking prowess in the research arena

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Prof. Arriola with Wei Jin Daryrl Lin of University of Reading, Elsa Clave of University of Hamburg and Mulaika Hijjas of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London,  at the 2019 European Association for Southeast Asian Studies (EuroSEAS) at Humboldt-Universitat zu Berlin, Germany.

In order to communicate the research results or creative outputs, one must have an excellent networking and negotiating skills. Networking through conferences “becomes a necessary adjunct to research.”

 “If you do your job, somehow, people will approach you and they will say, ‘Can we collaborate?’ You are not a lowly scientist from a third-world country. You are one with them,” she said. Getting involved with research journals connected her to a wider audience.

Regardless of the field you are in, actively building connections and leveraging relationships in one or more circles is a high-value activity. Building a wider variety of networks can provide researchers an opportunity to explore fields outside their expertise, which can help them develop deeper knowledge and make new peer relationships along the way. “You will not only gain friends. These are like-minded individuals who share your interest in some disciplines,” she emphasized.

Arriola received the National Book Award for Film/Film Criticism in 2007 for her book “Postmodern Filming of Literature: Sources, Contexts and Adaptations,” published by the UST Publishing House.

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Prof. Arriola’s Pelikulang Komiks: Toward a Theory of Filipino Film Adaptation

A strong advocate of indigenization of knowledge

A patriot expert-writer, Arriola is a strong advocate of indigenization of knowledge which she believes “will benefit Filipino scholars whose historical dependence upon received knowledge prevent them from producing localized or original categories of terms.”  She said that the Filipino researchers’ journey in scientific theorizing begins when they express theories in local languages.  “Localization of theory should be the aim of research in the first place,” she said. “When we can intellectualize knowledge in our languages, more than 130 of them, then that would mean we can have an original take on world knowledge,” she added.

After receiving the 2018 NRCP Achievement Award in the Humanities in 2019, her book titled Pelikulang Komiks: Toward a Theory of Filipino Film Adaptation, came out, courtesy of the UP Press.  She considers it a culmination of her advocacy for indigenization of cultural theory.

What she believes: Theory-building as the Pillar of Humanistic Research

Arriola believes that Critical Research sharpens and polishes “the quality of truth.” It focuses not only on data generation and interpretation but also on theory-construction out of data. It targets “to position the subject of research, the process of research, and the researching self as part of an ongoing conversation where contending issues are negotiated.” The research delves with texts and interactions as these are illumined by particular theoretical perspectives. Critical Research may be used interchangeably with Critical Theory.

The story of researching woman and the action against gender stereotypes

and gender-based inequalities

The story of Prof. Arriola is an effective model that may end gender stereotypes and gender-based inequalities worldwide that continue creating a barrier against many girls and women from career opportunities in science, technology and innovation. Arriola is one of the living testimonies that women are now being represented in high-profile journals and they are no longer neglected for promotion.

The 2018 NCRP Achievement Award in the Division of Humanities was given to Arriola in recognition of her dedication in advancing Philippine literature with aplomb, in promoting indigenous knowledge and culture with pride, and in reshaping Filipino discourse with cogency.

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