It’s funny how sometimes in life, things don’t seem to go the way we plan them; yet somehow everything falls together in the right place.

At an early age, Antonio Andres Alfonso showed propensity for excellence by constantly excelling in his classes, all while helping his family earn more income by helping out in the farm.

Dr. Alfonso initially wanted to pursue a career in medicine and get a degree in Biology for his undergraduate studies. However, fate took a turn. Due to financial constraints, he was not able to pursue his childhood dream.

While it was their lot in life that prevented him from pursuing his dream, it was also what helped him discover his true calling. His undergraduate course, combined with his predilection for farming, paved the way to a career beyond his imagination. He eventually earned the title “Doctor” after finishing his doctorate degree in Plant Molecular Biology at the Cornell University in the US.

“My exposure to general biology also made me discover and fall in love with molecular biology and genetics and, later in my career, find ways to use my knowledge and skills along this line to develop better crops. As a farmer’s son, I understood early on the importance of using superior and appropriate varieties for bountiful harvests and high income for the farmers,” Dr. Alfonso said.

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As a rice breeder, Dr. Alfonso has made significant contribution to the development of nutritious and agronomically superior rice varieties—a task whose significance no Filipino can undermine, with rice being the Filipino food staple. As the popular saying goes, “Di baleng walang ulam, basta may kanin.”

In his nearly 20 years of being a rice breeder, Dr. Alfonso has been Chief Science Research Specialist for the Philippine Science Research Institute (PhilRice). It’s the top government entity,connected to the Department of Agriculture,responsible for developing high-yielding and cost-reducing technologies so farmers can produce enough rice for all Filipinos—an undertaking for which he has been awarded the Outstanding Young Scientist award in 2008.

And as if these breakthroughs weren’t enough, in the same year,Dr. Alfonso also achieved another career peak when he was presented with The Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) award, an honor given in recognition of young men and women whose selfless dedication to their profession or vocation has resulted in significant contributions to the welfare of their countrymen and the advancement of their fields of endeavor. Among of the top awardees included in its prestigious roster are journalist Karen Davila, the late statesman Jesse Robredo,  and boxing legend Gabriel “Flash” Elorde, to name a few.

Amid the fast-changing world, Dr. Alfonso urges the younger generation to keep themselves smart and vigilant to opportunities in their respective fields.

“Young Filipinos need to keep themselves abreast with the inevitable ongoing global changes in terms of the physical, economic, social and political environment and recognize the accompanying challenges and opportunities. They need to understand these changes, anticipate their impact and equip themselves to be able to adjust and make significant contribution to our country and to humanity,” he said.

The Outstanding Young Men award was initiated by the Manila Junior Chamber International (JCI) as a chapter project back in April 6, 1959. Subsequently, it was adopted by theJCI Philippinesand has since become a national affair.

Now, for the first time in its 56-year history, TOYM is holding its nominations online. If you know an exceptional young man or woman worthy of the title you can head over at http://toym2015.org/ to nominate.