Geography in the Field: A Course-Based Extension Program

| Written by UP Media and Public Relations Office

Geography focuses on the study of the earth as the home of humans. A holistic discipline, it examines human-environment interactions, spatial processes, and the development of places and localities. It studies the physical and human processes of the earth and investigates how these produce different landscapes. It uses geographic techniques such as spatial analysis, cartography, geographic information science (GIScience), remote sensing, and statistical methods to explore and comprehend the complexities of natural and cultural systems and how they relate to each other. These can lead to better understanding of the factors that lead to the transformation of everyday spaces on the local, regional, and global levels.

The UP Department of Geography aims to bring geography to where it should be—at the center of decision-making in our country. The department takes an active role in propagating geography as a discipline in order to raise awareness on how our daily lives are influenced by human-environment interactions, and to empower localities in facing the challenges of an increasingly globalizing world.

Origins of Geography Field School

The Local Government Code of 1991 (RA 7160) provides geography as a discipline the opportunity to showcase its relevance to society. In 1995, the department initiated partnerships with various local government units, non-government and peoples’ organizations, and other institutions. These partnerships involve the engagement of students of the department with partner communities. It has resulted in successful outputs such as planning documents and maps, which are vital for development planning especially in the remote areas of the country. It also serves as a venue for students to learn the skills of geographic inquiry, data collection, and analysis while serving the participating communities.

The Department’s Physical and Socio-Economic Profile (PSEP), now referred to as the Ecological Profile (EP), is a document in which the department often collaborates with local government units. This document is essential in formulating the Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) mandated by the Local Government Code; CLUP will be enacted through zoning ordinances.

The first of these collaborations took place in 1995 with the local government of Jordan, Guimaras, which was then a sub-province of Iloilo. The field class came up with the PSEP and accompanying maps used by the LGU as inputs to their CLUP. After this successful engagement, the department continued to reach out to other LGUs, expanding its services by assisting them with their development goals.

Participatory 3D Mapping project of Geog 192 students led by Dr. Jake Cadag with the local children of Basud, Camarines Norte in partnership with UNICEF.

Geography Field School

Geography 192/202, Field Methods in Geography (or Field Geography at the graduate level), is a course-based extension program offered by the Department of Geography every mid-year/summer term. The course allows the faculty and undergraduate students of the department to support the development planning processes at the provincial, municipality and community levels. It also fulfills the goals of service learning in enhancing academic learning among students and faculty while extending assistance to communities in a professional manner.

Since its inception, the program has assisted 48 barangays, municipalities and cities all over the Philippines. The department has collaborated with different local government units (LGUs), peoples organizations (POs), academic and research institutions, non-government organizations (NGOs), and community members towards the enhancement of their capacities to make informed decisions through research, technical assistance, and utilization of geographic information resources and tools such as geographic information systems.

In recent years, the course objectives have broadened and diversified to accommodate the changing nature of development projects initiated or supported by the LGUs or local organizations. The following are the extension activities that are being carried out under the program.

Geog 192 class consulting with the Mayor of San Jose, Nueva Ecija.

Ecological Profiling/Physical and Socio-economic Profiling

The ecological profile (EP), formerly known as the physical and socio-economic profile (PSEP) is a comprehensive database composed of systematic description and analysis of the different sectors of an area or municipality, namely: social, physical, economic, institutional and environmental sectors.

The ecological profile is also the more comprehensive replacement of the socio-economic profile as it gives equal coverage to the physical, biological, socio-economic, cultural and built environments (DILG).

The Local Planning and Development Coordinator (LPDC) of the LGU is responsible for the preparation of this document. However, due to lack of personnel, data and technology, some LGUs reach out to other institutions for assistance in the formulation of the EP.

As of 2016, 28 municipalities have been given assistance with their PSEP/EP by the department.

Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP)

The Comprehensive Land Use Plan is a planning document prepared by the LGUs to rationalize the allocation and proper use of land uses. It also projects public and private land uses in accordance with future spatial organization of economic and social activities.

It is mandated in Article 41 of the Local Government Code of 1991 (RA 7160) that LGUs shall prepare their CLUP which will be enacted through zoning ordinances. Similar with the lack of capacities to prepare such documents, some LGUs engage with other institutions for assistance in the formulation of their CLUP.

The department assisted the formulation of CLUP of Lucban, Quezon in 2001.

Minimum Basic Needs Profile

The Minimum Basic Needs Profiling provides a strategy of prioritizing primary requirements for survival, security and enabling needs of the community. It is also a way of using basic needs as basis for situation analysis, planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.

The department conducted the preparation of the Minimum Basic Needs Profile of Barangay Iniwaran, San Pascual, Masbate in 2005.

Darlene Gutierrez of UP Department of Geography receiving the 2016 Parangal sa Gawaing Ekstensyon with UPD officials.

Community Resource Management Framework Plan

The Community Resource Management Framework Plan is a strategic plan of the community on how to manage and benefit from the forest resources on a sustainable basis. It describes the community’s long-term vision, aspirations, commitments and strategies for the protection, rehabilitation, development and utilization of forest resources. It also provides detailed activities for the first five (5) years) which shall serve as a five-year work plan of the people’s organizations(POs).

The department assisted in the formulation of the CRMF of Barangay Calawis, Antipolo City, Rizal in 2009.

Participatory 3D Mapping

Participatory 3D mapping is a community-based mapping method which integrates local spatial knowledge with data on elevation of the land and depth of the sea to produce stand-alone, scaled and geo-referenced relief models.

In 2015, the UP Department of Geography, in partnership with UNICEF, facilitated the participatory 3D mapping in the municipalities of Paracale and Basud, Camarines Norte.

Participatory 3D Mapping project of Geog 192 students led by Dr. Jake Cadag with the local children of Basud, Camarines Norte in partnership with UNICEF.

Geographic Information System (GIS) Orientation/Workshop

Geographic Information System or GIS, is a computer system for capturing, storing, checking and displaying data related to positions on the earth’s surface. GIS can show many different kinds of data on one map, such as streets, buildings, and vegetation. This enables people to easily see, analyze, and understand patterns and relationships which can be vital for the development of an area.

Other planning documents prepared by the department include the following:

Risk and Hazard Assessment
Community Resource Inventory
Evaluation of Ecotourism
Social Impact Assessment
Community-based Monitoring System
Asset-based Livelihood Profiles
Social Vulnerability Assessment
Coastal Resources and Fisheries Profile
Historical Geography


Both the local communities and the department benefit from the Geography Field School.

Students undertake rigorous procedure for data collection, consolidation, validation, and data abstraction to ensure the most effective delivery of important information thus, developing their research skills. They also develop their communication and writing skills as well as their leadership, teamwork and decision-making skills, which is essential when they start their professional careers.

Students also develop critical thinking towards social, economic, political and environment issues that concern the communities that they work with.

It is not only the communities and the LGUs that benefit from the program. The faculty and the students are enriched by the opportunity to contribute to the communities through the process of building knowledge of place using the skills and the tools provided by the curriculum of the UP Department of Geography.

As of 2016, 48 municipalities/areas have been given assistance by the department. In May 2016, the Geography Field School was awarded as the best extension program in UP Diliman, in the degree granting unit category, besting two other extension programs, namely: Project Kapnayan of the Institute of Chemistry and Buklod Bohol of the Asian Institute of Tourism.


Dr. Daniel L. Mabazza is Associate Professor and Chair of the UP Diliman Department of Geography. Kevin Nicole S.Vega is University Research Associate in the same department. Email them at and

Photos provided by Dr. Daniel Mabazza of the UP Diliman Department of Geography.