Dr. Betchaida Payot, Associate Professor of the National Institute of Geological Sciences, started her scientific journey as a way to help her family make ends meet. She grew up in Bukidnon and is from a big family—she has 6 brothers and 2 sisters! Constantly, her parents always reminded her and her siblings the importance of education and how it can help them get better opportunities in life.
“My parents only attained secondary education, they did not even go to college, which made them work harder in the pineapple fields in order for us to get an education and eventually pursue our dreams. They saw education as the equalizer to our situation.”
With the overwhelming support from her family, Dr. Payot pursued a science degree in UP Diliman and was a DOST Scholar. A physics major at first, she had a hard time dealing with the subjects and she had to contemplate whether science was really for her. A good friend of hers, a geology student, told her to not give up science and suggested she try geology instead. Dr. Payot shifted to Geology on her second year and from then on, things went uphill and she finally envisioned herself building a career in geosciences.
When Dr. Payot graduated, there was a decline of jobs for Geology graduates, so most of her batchmates pursued graduate school and she applied as a research assistant for a project in NIGS. She also needed a job to support herself and her family.
“The project actually wanted a male research assistant since the terrain was difficult and the project staff were concerned if I could do it, but I really needed that job and I insisted that I could do anything I set my mind to. I got the job and I finished it! It was my first project and it was very rewarding! It fueled myself even further to continue research.”
Dr. Payot is thankful for the support she is getting from her colleagues in NIGS and she never felt she can’t do certain things because she is a woman. She is also thankful that there were female professors that came before her, which paved the way for younger faculty members like her to excel in a male-dominated scientific field.
Dr. Payot is currently working on the research program “Growth of an island arc (GAIA): Tectonic consequences and human impacts”, a DOST-PCIEERD funded program under the Manila Economic and Cultural Office – Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office (MECO-TECO) initiative. The program comprises two projects namely: “Project 1. Evolution of the Luzon Arc: From Igneous to Sedimentary Processes” and “Project 2. Tectonic Consequences of Subduction in Northern Luzon”.
Despite the scientific breakthroughs and accomplishments women scientists achieved, Dr. Payot says they still receive misogynistic remarks from men, and even women, regarding their careers. She wants everyone to do away with this patriarchal thinking and respect the choices of women.
“There are instances when women scientists, who are not married, would receive questions and unsolicited advice about marriage and starting a family. It’s already 2021, we should do away with the notion that this is the only role a woman plays. Women should be free to do what they want in life.”
Dr. Payot emphasizes the need for more opportunities and proper education for every girl in the country in order for them to achieve greater things and pursue their dreams. She is a living testament to this and she is still in awe how an educational opportunity made her successful in her field and achieve the dreams her family always wanted for them.
“We need to provide more platforms and opportunities for young girls. When young girls are really given the right opportunity and support, they grow up to become empowered women, doing and achieving mighty things. It happened to me, so it could happen to others as well! Who would’ve thought that a Probinsiyana like me, who used to imagine life beyond the pineapple plantations in Bukidnon, would become a scientist achieving things beyond I imagined.