Dr. Castillo is recognized for her outstanding contributions to agricultural social science resulting in a body of knowledge about Philippine rural society which has enabled the Filipino to better understand the social conditions and dynamics of agricultural and rural development.
Her research on leaders and leadership patterns brought her to barrios at different stages of urbanization in Laguna, and she learned about the Filipino family—their composition, number of children and how they are spaced,working wives and support help, conformity to the norm of husband superiority, their exposure to printed media, and others. With collaborators and students, she studied social and political factors involved in rural development. Her report revealed that the Filipino farmer was receptive to technology and that he was interested not only in yield per hectare but in the cost of labor and inputs; this would determine if he would continue planting the new variety. The farmers’ preferences, what practices they can accept and ready to use should be considered even if they do not produce as much as other technologies. Her research on the Filipino family revealed that the nuclear family was the predominant pattern although close interactions with extended family members are maintained through exchange of work, gifts, loans, moral support and the like. She likewise studied the Filipino woman—her role in the family and society, and analyzed the Green Revolution. With these projects behind her, she undertook the monumental task of the analysis, review and synthesis of published literature, reports and theses to produce the scholarly books—All in a Grain of Rice, Beyond Manila: Philippine Rural Problems in Perspective, and How Participatory is Participatory Development?, now considered standard references in rural Philippine sociology.
Dr. Castillo obtained her AB Psychology degree magna cum laude from the University of the Philippines (UP) (1953), MS in Rural Sociology (1953) from the Pennsylvania State University and PhD Rural Sociology (1960) from Cornell University. She joined the Department of Agricultural Education of UP College of Agriculture at Los Banos as instructor. She became Professor in 1972 and University Professor in 1988. Professor Castillo developed and taught graduate courses in rural sociology, research design, social and cultural change, sociology of development, social psychology, and rural institutions for more than 35 years at UPLB and mentored many PhDs and MS students from the Philippines and other countries. Upon her retirement in 1993, she was appointed as University Professor Emeritus.
She held numerous professions, among which are: President, Philippine Sociological Society from 1995 to 1966; Member, Southeast Asia Study Group on Cultural Relations for the Future from 1970 to 1972; Member of the Board of Governors, International Development Research Center (Canada) from 1979 to 1982; Member of the Board of Trustees, Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation from 1978-1979 and Vice Chairman from 1979-1980; Commissioner, National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women in 1987; and Consultant, International Rice Research Institute. She also held vital positions and memberships to other local and international institutions like World Bank, Asian Development Bank, World Health Organization, Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, United Nations, and International Labor Organization.
Among of the many awards of Dr. Castillo are: Jose Rizal Pro Patria from the Philippine Government (1966); Ten Outstanding Women in the Philippines from the Federacion International de Damas Abogadas (1968); honorary doctorates— Doctor of Science from the Agricultural University, Wageningen, Netherlands, Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle University; national social scientist, Philippine Social Science Research Council (1993); Research Award from Ford Foundation;
Dr. Gelia T. Castillo was elected to the NAST PHL as academician in 1983. She was conferred the highest honor and rank of National Scientist in 1999.
Dr. Castillo was born on March 3, 1928 at Sta. Cruz, Laguna. Her Necrological Services will be on August 12 at 10:00AM at the Department of Science and Technology to be followed by the State Funeral at 12:00 Noon at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.