Tuesday, August 15, 2017

I love insects for twelve reasons

Dr Abe V Rotor
Cottony moth

                                                      Coconut or rhinoceros beetle; enigmatic firefly
1. I love insects for their honey, the sweetest sugar in the world, elixir, energy-packed, aphrodisiac, therapeutic, the culinary and confectionery arts it makes;

2. I love insects for their silk no human fabric can equal - cool in summer, warm in winter, velvety to the touch, flowing and free, friendly to the wind and sun, lovely in the night, royal on the throne, smooth to the skin, hypoallergenic, dynamic to fashion and casual wear;
3. I love insects for their shellac, the best varnish that lasts for years, unequaled by synthetic substitutes; their wax, the best lubricant and natural polish that makes the dancing floor alive and schoolrooms happy.

4. I love insects for the resin they produce with certain plants which is used in worships, to bring the faithful to their knees, similarly to calm down fowls on their roost, drive vermin or keep them at bay, pacify and make peace with the unseen spirits;       A pair of golden moth 

5. I love insects for the amber, transparent rock originally from resin, which forever entrapped fossils of insects and other organisms, complete with their genes and attendant evidences of natural history, enabling us to read the past, turning back the hands of time in visual imagery;
  Green beetle; leaf insect
6. I love insects for their crimson dye produced by certain scale insects that made the robes of kings and emperors, and only they were privileged to wear; likewise for their phosphorescence like the wing scales of butterflies that make the most beautiful and expensive paint for cars today;

7. I love insects for their medicinal substances they produce - antibiotics from fly maggot and soldier ants, cantharidin from blister beetle, formic acid for weak heart, bee sting for rheumatism;
Field cricket, green cricket - nature's violinists 
8. I love insects as food, high in protein and minerals, elixir and stimulant, not only in times of famine but as exotic food in class restaurants, and on occasions that bring closer bonding among members of communities and cultures;

9. I love insects for all the fruits and vegetables, the multiplication of plants, geographically and seasonally, through their being the world's greatest pollinators; and in effect make the ecosystems wholesome, complete and alive;

10. I love insects for disposing garbage, of bringing back to nature organic compounds into elemental forms ready to be used again by the succeeding generations of living things.

11. I love insects for play, and for lessons in life - how they jump and fly, carry tremendous load which I wish I could, how they practice frugality, patience, fraternity, and how they circle a candle one lonely night and singed into its flame that inspires heroism and martyrdom;
Leaf insects resemble the leaves of their host plant
12. I love insects for whatever nature designed them to be, their role in health and sickness, , sorrow and joy, ugliness and beauty, deprivation and abundance, even in life and death, for I have learned that without insects, we humans - so with many other organisms - would not be here on earth.~

Monday, August 14, 2017

Grains Museum Re-opened After 30 Years

Grains Museum Re-opened After 30 Years
The ingenuity at the grassroots cannot be underestimated. Farmers' technology developed with the birth of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent thousands of years ago, and spread throughout the world. 

Dr Abe V Rotor 

The re-opening of the museum signifies the revival of the original objectives of the museum, which the author envisioned and pursued as its first curator in the early 1980s. . . 

One of the seven dioramas, Rice farming on the Banaue rice terraces

Featured in the Grains, official publication of the National Food Authority, the NFA Grains Industry Museum with address at the Regional Office in Cabanatuan City (NE) is now inviting students, scholars, researchers, and ordinary folks, even while restoration is on-going. 

The feature story is quoted in part, as follows:  (December 2016 Vol. 44, No. 4), written by Ms Lina G Reyes and Ms Josephine C Bacungan), 

"Old farm tools and artifacts had been sitting quietly, gathering dust at the dilapidated museum of the Central Luzon Regional office in Cabanatuan City. National Food Authority Grains Industry Museum was a brainchild of then NFA Extension Director Abercio V Rotor with a vision to highlight the evolution of the rice industry through various images on production, post-harvest activities, processing, storage and marketing /distribution of rice and other grains .  It was intended to serve as NFA's contribution to the preservation of cultural traditions particularly in the agricultural landscape.  It operated for sometime but was closed down due to lack of funds and trained personnel to maintain it.  But thanks to he history-loving team of Director Amadeo de Guzman and Assistant Regional Director Serafin Manalili, and then Asst Director Mar Alvarez, et al ... "(the whole staff of the NFA regional and NFA provincial offices.) 
Rare Artifacts   
Operated by hand this native rice mill made of wood and bamboo separates the husk from the grain, leaving the grain intact with its bran.
Brown rice or pinawa dehusker made of bamboo and hardened earth with hardwood grinder displayed at the former Farmers' Museum of the National Food Authority in Cabanatuan City.c 1981 
The bran contains minerals, vitamins, oil, and digestible fiber which conventional rice mills removed during polishing. Polishing removes the bran leaving the grain white and polished. In the process, much of the grains is broken, particularly the defective and immature ones chalky and powdery.  It is the bran that gives the nutritious tiki-tiki which is extracted in the final boiling stage in cooking rice. Tiki-tiki was developed by a Filipino scientist, Dr. Manuel Zamora, a cheap and practical source of infant food supplement which saved thousands of babies during the second World War. It was later popularized as United Tiki-tiki. 

 Biggest wooden harrow (suyod) with a span of two meters, more than twice the size of a typical harrow for upland farming.  

The harrow is of two designs and make. One with iron pegs (left) is used on wet paddy. It serves as harrow and leveler.  The second is made of bamboo with natural and embedded pegs used as harrow for the upland.  

Author demonstrates a rare wooden planter with a sliding wooden block at the middle. The block creates a tic-tac sound to let know the worker is busy on the job, while the deep sound warns birds and rodents to keep away from the newly planted seeds. The block vibrates the stake shaking off clinging soil and dirt before it is thrust to make the next hole. Whoever put this mechanism into multiple and unified uses must be a true genius. 
At the background (above) are naturally shaped hame* made of bamboo.  At the foreground is the mould (cross section) showing the formed hame. The process involved is simple.  The mould is placed atop an emerging shoot.  The shoot grows through the mould and grows to maturity. One or two years after, the bamboo is cut with the mould, and cured and seasoned for durability all in the natural way.  (Hame is a curved harness that fits over the nape of a draft animal like carabao and bullock. Hame for the horse is made of two wooden pieces, padded and clamped together around its neck.) 


Native raincoats made of leaves of anahaw (Livistona rotundifolia), cowhide, and woven bamboo slats, with matching headgears likewise made of native materials.  Foreground: Sleds, one made of bamboo (left) and the other of wood. 

All over the world there are similarities, based on a general pattern, save variations for ease and comfort in usage, which we call today ergonomics, Thus primitive farmers were the founders of this new science. Pride in the farmer can be read on face on discovering these simple tools displayed in the museum.   

These sets of mortar and pestle in different designs came from different regions of the country, principally for dehusking palay into rice, and making rice flour. Other uses include  cracking beans such as mungo, and grinding corn into grits and bran. 

Photo below was taken just after the inauguration of the Museum (1982). The author (left) shows new collection to Dr Romualdo M del Rosario (in barong), deputy director of the National Museum, who helped in setting up the museum. 

The ingenuity at the grassroots cannot be underestimated. Farmers' technology developed with the birth of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent thousands of years ago, and spread to many parts of the world. The commonality of inventions is more on function, rather than scientific explanation, the latter serving as basis in improvement and diversification.
Rice Industry Showcase
The Farmers' Museum of the then National Grains Authority, now National Food Authority, was put up in response to the administration's thrust in food self-sufficiency.  It was during the time the country gave emphasis on developing cultural pride as a nation and people, as evidenced by the expansion of the National Museum, the putting up of the Philippine Convention Center, and the National Art Center on Mt Makiling, among others, during the administration of the late President Ferdinand E Marcos. The Farmers' Museum occupied the right wing of the Regional NFA Building in Cabanatuan City for two decades, until it closed down.  It was once a pride of the agency, the centerpiece of visitation by foreign dignitaries, convention participants, tourists, professors and students, and most especially farmers who found the museum not only as a showcase of the agricultural industry, but as a hallmark of their being the "backbone of the nation." AVR   

There are seven dioramas, four of these are shown in these old photographs. A wall mural meets the visitor on entering the museum.  Indigenous farm tools and implements are lined on the foreground.  The dioramas are grouped at the center of the cubicles.   

 Rice Industry Dioramas 
The flagship of the Marcos administration Masagana 99, a nationwide
 rice production program that made the Philippines a net exporter 
of rice in the later part of the seventies.
Rainfed (sahod ulan) farming dominates the uplands and hillsides. 
Good harvest depends on generous amount and distribution of 
rainfall during the monsoon. Since ancient times festivals implore 
providence for bountiful harvest. This practice still exists especially 
among the  minorities like the Yakans.  
World famous rice terraces in Banaue in the Cordillera have been declared World Heritage by UNESCO. Rice farming on the terraces is as old as the terraces believed to be as old as the Pyramids of Egypt, and much older than the Great Wall of China. Science is still studying the sustainability of these terraces. 
 The Encomienda System dominated agriculture during Spanish rule over the
 islands for more than three centuries. The friars and Spanish officials were the encomienderos,similar to hacienderos.   Although the system underwent land reform, it still persists to this day under corporate umbrella such as the case of Del Monte pineapple plantation. Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac still retains some features of the system.                          

This mural was destroyed when the wall had to undergo major repairs.
How primitive are farmers' tools and implements? The animal-drawn sled predates the wheel cart, and has not changed since its invention thousands of years ago.  It is still used in the remote countryside. 
Brain coral for shelling corn raises eyebrow to the city bred.  Biggest iron bar scale (timbangan), probably is  another item for the Book of Guinness. 

“Education is the lifeblood of museums. Museum education has the power and the responsibility to do the challenging inner work of tackling tough topics and turning them into teachable moments... If we truly believe in the power of cultural institutions to impact communities and engage authentically with social justice issues, if we believe in museums’ capacity to bring about social change, improve cultural awareness, and even transform the world, than we must also believe that our internal practices have an impact, and must act according to the changes we seek.”

― Monica O Montgomery

“Closing a museum to save money is like holding your breath to save oxygen...”
― Nanette L. Avery  

Relevance of Henry David Thoreau Today (Article in Progress)


Oil pastel is best medium for budding artists.

  Dr  Abe V Rotor
Still Life in pastel by Anna Cristina Rotor-Sta Maria
Chalk is made of limestone or gypsum and compressed into powdered sticks. Soft pastels are made from pure mineral pigments. The same pigments are used in oil paint, acrylics, and water color. ... The pigment, is in effect, crystals been spread across the paper. Oil pastel (also called wax oil crayon) is a painting and drawing medium with characteristics similar to pastels and wax crayons. Unlike "soft" or "Japanese" pastelsticks, which are made with a gum or methyl cellulose binder, oil pastels consist of pigment mixed with a non-drying oil and wax binder. Wikipedia


I watched my daughter Anna draw with oil pastel.  She seemed to be playing with colors leisurely, while I, using oil or acrylic on canvas, would labor at my medium for hours. She did this drawing (above) in three or so sittings.  In between she had time to practice her piano lessons, play games, and attend to her pet rabbit. 

What really make things easy for one and difficult for another, even on the same subject?  In this particular case, the art of drawing and painting, an expression of creativity?

Art to the young is pure and simple, to us grownups, it is complex, and oftentimes we have to knock down a wall before we could create our own world. Anna as a budding artist, and I her tutor, found ourselves at a crossroad, before us is an endless horizon where one could find full expression of creativity.

I was more interested in the process she used oil pastels. It is in the combination of colors, not only by choice but blending. She took freedom to experiment with the medium. Here are some techniques she used. 
  • Pre-blending on palette by cutting or scraping pieces of oil pastel she wished to blend. With palette knife and fingers the mixture was mixed and applied on the drawing board or canvas. Bright colors are preserved and enhanced this way, such as the oranges in this specimen work.   
  • She would directly apply the color of her choice on the board and apply a second color of oil pastel adjacent  the first color, and rub the adjoining edges until the two edges appear smooth. This forms a gradient of colors desired.  This is effective in drawing folds of curtain and cloth, and in drawing a bunch of fruits like bananas as shown in the drawing. 
  • She would mix or overlay the color pastels directly on the board, first by generously making a layer  followed by a second layer of a different color. There are instances she would make additional layers to achieve the desired hue, as in the apples and grapes.
  • Scrumbling is a method to develop texture and value, done by selecting two or more colors, with one color first applied by scribbling across the board, followed by the other colors in random and overlapping strokes.  This technique was applied on the papaya and curtain.  Modification by cross-hatch to enhance light and shadow can be appreciated in the pineapple and floral drawings. 
  • Blending with fingers is often used with oil pastel but extreme care is necessary to prevent smudging.  Fingers must be kept clean before moving to the next part of the drawing.  Avoid finger clots which may have made the watermelon to appear over ripe.   
  • One tool Anna used is a pastel shaper, the palette knife being the most popular. I used boy scout knife for ease and emphasis of light and shadow. Observe caution so as not to leave cuts and over-scraped parts. Scrapers include paint brushes, wood, Q-tips, and even sandpaper. Stumps (tightly wound rolls of paper shaped like pencil) are effective in creating fine details and sharp edges.  On the other hand stumps are used in creating smudged effects. 
Experimenting with pastel is joy and challenge; it leads to discovery of techniques in developing one's style, and in coping up with today's various art movements. 

Whenever I conduct drawing and painting workshops for kids I use Anna's Still Life as model. And if she is free, I would invite her to personally explain her techniques to children, who some years ago, were like her - ardent and eager to become artists. ~   

    Sunday, August 13, 2017

    A School of Green Fish

    Dr Abe V Rotor
    A School of Green Fish in acrylic (20"x24") AVR 2015

    If by being green means mimicry to vegetation,
    to defend yourself from predation;
    to be bold among your enemies and your kin, 
    but It’s just a flimsy shield of your skin.

    If by being green you capture the rays of the sun,
    to make food and oxygen for everyone,  
    you dream of youthfulness like the silly Sybil;
    but only plants have the chlorophyll. 

      If by being green you keep company with the young,
    with your brood and the children around;
    to be different from others the key to diversity,
    it’s also the passport to liberty. ~  

    Chinese Parasol and Baobab Trees

    Dr Abe V Rotor
    Chinese parasol Cavanillesia hylogeiton Malvaceae, UST Manila  
    Cavanillesia belongs to the same family as the baobab Adansonia. 

    Baobab is also called 'boab', 'boaboa', 'bottle tree', 'the tree of life', 'upside-down tree', and 'monkey bread tree'. It grows in Madagascar, mainland Africa, and Australia. The baobab is the national tree of Madagascar. "The Big Baobab Pub" South Africa is 22 meters (72 ft) high, 47 m (155 ft) in circumference, and is said to have been carbon dated at over 6,000 years old.

    The baobab tree is known as the tree of life, with good reason. It can provide shelter, clothing, food, and water for the animal and human inhabitants of the African Savannah regions. The cork-like bark and huge stem are fire resistant and are used for making cloth and rope. The leaves are used as condiments and medicines. The fruit, called "monkey bread", is edible, and full of vitamins.

    The fruit has a velvety shell and is about the size of a coconut, weighing about 1.44 kilograms (3.2 lb). It has a somewhat acidic flavor, described as 'somewhere between grapefruit, pear, and vanilla'. The tree can store hundreds of liters of water, which is an adaptation to the harsh drought conditions of its environment. The tree may be tapped in dry periods. Mature trees are usually hollow, providing living space for many animals and humans. Trees are even used as bars, barns, wine and beer shops and more.~

    Secret of the Rainbow Eucalyptus

    Dr Abe V Rotor
    What's your secret in capturing the elusive rainbow
     and weaving it into a gown you now wear? 
    Ever since I was a child, I've always dreamed of reaching 
    the rainbow - not for the pot of gold, I swear.
                     And down below, I imagine your roots wearing the rainbow gown, 
    but what would it matter? 
    Oh, I'd rather not ask, if you have found the treasure and buried 
    it down there forever. ~