As a National Science Development Board scholar from 1963-1968, Willy finished a B.S.Ag.Chem. (magna cum laude) in 1968 from the University of the Philippines Los Baños and became a licensed chemist in 1969.
He completed a Ph.D. in Botany/Phytochemistry in 1973 from University of Texas at Austin as a Fulbright-Hays scholar. In 1976, pursued postdoctoral studies at the world famous carotenoid chemistry labs of Prof. Synnove Liaaen-Jensen, Norwegian Institute of Technology (now the Norwegian University of Science and Technology), Trondheim, Norway.
An academician of the Philippine National Academy of Science and Technology and formerly full Professor of Chemistry at the University of the Philippines Los Baños, Willy was appointed Secretary(Minister) of Science and Technology by Philippine President Fidel V. Ramos from July 1994 to 30 June 1998 and was retained by President Joseph Estrada until 31 January 1999. He taught continuously for 24 years (1968-1992) even while pursuing graduate studies in the United States. At the University of the Philippines Los Baños, he was first hired as a research assistant and as instructor in Chemistry in 1968. He resumed his teaching duties upon return to the Philippines in 1973 and became a full professor of Chemistry in 1985.
Willy served as a deputy director general at IRRI, heading the Institute's communications, publications, events, visitors, and exhibits; biosafety; security; intellectual property (IP) management; legal services; library; and the seed health unit operations.