Friday, May 18, 2018

Bantaoay Children’s Integrated Art Workshop

Bantaoay Children’s Integrated Art Workshop
San Vicente, Ilocos Sur, May 16 to 18, 2018
(Selected Works Part 1)

Dr Abe V Rotor
Workshop Instructor
 Ashley Dianne Rios, 10

Birds flying low over the field and tall grass
meet the morning sun, but never in a rush.
Neil, 8

Flying kite is a wholesome pastime for kids,
away from computers, loafing and misdeeds.

Shaun Michael R Remular, 11

Fluffy clouds hang free above the trees,
while the wind blows gentle Into breeze.

Migi, 7

A hut among the trees, my home,
I shall never want and feel alone.

Jamiela Marie Almachar, 8

A world of a kind: three trees, three birds, three kids,
from the bigger world, peace and freedom never at siege.  
Jedd, 11

Fantasy land, romanticism its uniqueness;
somewhere carved out of our loneliness.
Tristan, 11

Blue pond, reflection of a clear sky and peace around,
wonder where these three passersby are bound.
                                                               William Kelly, 8

Field scorched in hot dry summer,
takes a break with the first shower.
Jeod, 11

Rebirth comes in many ways, yet all the same;
life coming back is our Creator’s lovely game.

Vitrish Anne Arguelles, 6

Like a  jIgsaw puzzle, the cracks of the soil mend with rain,
save the wastelands, often cursed, yet life’s last domain. 

Sandra Valencia, 10

Life peeping through, shy and afraid;
says the sun, “Get up and be brave.”
Christian Delle Garcia, 12

After the first rain in May,
creep the lowly algae;
living things soon aplenty

arrive here and stay. ~

Selected Works Part 2 
San Vicente, Ilocos Sur, May 16 to 18, 201
Dr Abe V Rotor
Workshop Instructor

Jedd, 11

Ahoy, there! Keep off the rocky shore!
Join the race in the deep blue azure.

Jamie Althen Florendo, 12

Dark clouds at sunset tell of a coming storm.
Hurry up for home before high waves form.
Frea Billedo, 12

The sun is biggest on the western horizon,
smallest on the east just when it is born.
Jamiela Marie Almachar, 6

Savage fangs spare no one at sea,
even the bold ones crying for plea.
Tristan, 11

Join the regatta and vie for the trophy;
romantic, but the danger is another story.
Shaun Michael Remular

Sea gypsies for want of land to settle down,
travel on boats to nowhere they are bound.

Wacky B, 10

This is playground at the edge of the sea,
virtually open to all without boundary.

Denise Kaye R Ancheta

Wind blowing hard like giant arms at sea,
warns of misery and death without mercy.
Christian Delle Garcia, 13

If all fruits were yellow, orange, and red,
I would pick the green for ripening;
If all fruits come in the summer season
I would sorely miss those in spring.

Franceska Billedo, 10

Coy and shy fuits may appear to some one,
wait until they are ripened by the sun.

Frea Billedo, 12

A basket full of fruits and flowers,
the best the fairest maid showers.

Jamie Althea Florendo, 12

Fruits are full of energy,
stored by the sun and Thee.
Jamiela Marie Almachar, 8

All fruits a work of the bee,
if we review our ecology.
Wacky B, 10

Move over fancy culinary;
give way to Ceres’ bounty.

Lance Adam, 5

Where goddess Ceres descends,
Epicurus joins the feast,
and man contends -
else the banquet be missed. ~

Old Bridge across Banaoang Pass

"You are a peacemaker and guardian, oh, bridge,  
    rather than a bridge of sigh; 
You tame the wind, the river, and the mountains, 
     and countless passersby." avr 
Dr Abe V Rotor 
Living with Nature School on Blog 
Old Bridge across Banaoang Pass in acrylic (60" x 41") by the author. 
 Painted for Dr Laurence (Rencie) Padernal), April 29. 2012

Past your golden age, three generations have passed, 
     Once in your prime, and also was mine; 
The world over the horizon across your span, I sought 
     For dreams the sweet goal of time. 

While across your other end leads to home, sweet home, 
     For loyal sons and daughters in homage, 
Returning to childhood memories, to peaceful repose, 
     Gateway indeed you are to every age. 

And in between, fleeting were the years, but never 
     Lost - dream fulfilled, or never was - 
Matters but little in your own world, bright and windy, 
     As the sun rises through the Pass. 

And if a lonely soul comes to your world, gazes around 
     And high, the strength of the towering 
Rocks, the sharp, gentle slopes of green and golden
     In their pristine - they're Nature blessing. 

From the cliff down the ravine, the great divide 
     Of the rugged Cordillera, surrenders 
To a mighty river born in a fertile valley, gathers 
     Strength as it flows and meanders. 

You are their peacemaker and guardian, oh, bridge - 
     And rather than a bridge of sigh, 
You tame the wind; you tame the river, the mountains, 
     And every day countless passersby. 

Bearing their weight and their load uncomplaining, 
     Their pain and joy of going and returning; 
And seeing yonder farmers and fishers in their work - 
     All’s well ‘til the sky sent the river roaring. 

Now it is your time to rest, the wind, river, and mountains 
     And I, to bid you goodbye in the setting sun; 
But your ruins rise a monument seen by all and from Above, 
     Where once a boy with dreams crossed your span. 

Presentation and unveiling of the painting to the birthday celebrant 

Quirino Bridge is named after President Elpidio Quirino, a great Ilocano leader. It spans across the mighty Abra River passing through Banaoang Pass, and joining the towns of Santa and Bantay both in Ilocos Sur province. The bridge survived a recent strong typhoon but was soon retired and replaced by a new bridge. Its beauty however, cannot be equaled.

Twilight view to the East, source of the mighty Abra River
Sunset view to the West where the river empties to the South China Sea

Cirrus clouds over the Cordillera Range; promontory partly blocking the bridge's view to the West. 

Placid river in summer, fisherman on raft steers for home before dark.

Exuberance of youth meets sunset on the edge of Banaoang Pass, as the Cordillera turns to amber and the Abra River to emerald. ~

Blue Starfish: a piece of the sea and sky in my hand

Dr Abe V Rotor

Blue starfish, Calatagan, Batangas

A piece of the sea and the sky in my hand,
     blue - the color of eternity and infinity,
the boundless prosperity of sea and land,
     and a lifetime of fleeting immortality. ~

Starfish is the more popular name of sea stars - relative of brittle stars, sand dollars and sea urchins. This rare specimen was collected on the coral reef of Calatagan, Batangas. It belongs to Phylum Echinodermata, the most advanced of all invertebrates. Its radial symmetry is perfect for its structure and design, typically equipped with five arms, although there are dimorphic forms of having four or six arms. 

The starfish has a remarkable ability of regeneration, and asexual reproduction. When cut in half through the center, each half regenerates into an independent individual. Sea stars are predators of shellfish and are considered pest of oysters, clams and mussels. 

The predatory technique is to pry the shellfish through persistent force alternately using the arms, until the victim opens up to the gaping mouth of the predator. Photo by Matthew Marlo R. Rotor. ~

Tropical Rainforest Mural: Bring nature into your home

Dr Abe V Rotor
Tropical Rainforest mural AVRotor 2001
Nature represents the idea of the entire universe in a state of perfection. Nature is one: it unites heaven and earth, connecting human beings with the stars and bringing them all together into a single family. Nature is beautiful; it is ordered. A divine law determines its arrangement, namely the subordination of the means to the end, and the parts to the whole.

After putting down my brush, I took a view of the mural from a distance. The scene – unspoiled nature – one spared from the hands of man and typified by the tropical rainforest, flowed out from a wall that was previously white and empty.

In the course of painting the mural, which took all of seven days and in the days following its unveiling, I took notice of the reactions of viewers. It must be the stillness of the scene, freshness of its atmosphere, and its apparent eccentricity that attract passersby as if in search of something therapeutic. It seems to slow down busy feet, soothing tired nerves. There is something I thought was mysterious beyond the levels of aesthetics. For the huge scene is a drama of life completely different from city living. It is respite. It is transformation from concrete to greenery, from cityscape to landscape.

Yet, I found it difficult to give it a title and an explanation that captures both its essence and message. This time many ideas crowded my mind. At the start of my painting labors, the challenge was how and where to start painting. Now that it is completed, what else is there to say after one has “said” it all in colors and lines, hues and shadows, perspective and design? What more is there to declare for after the last page of a book? For a painting, it is the same.

Relaxation did not come easy for me after many hours of concentrating on my subject, dealing with a fast-drying medium of acrylic. What made it more challenging was the unending attempt to capture those fleeting impressions and recollections that pervaded my mind as I painted. I then took a pen and slowly wrote my thoughts. From the mural, I saw the scenery of my childhood on the farm, views of my travels here and abroad, imagery from my readings, and views drawn out like a thread from the mass of a golf ball. It was imagery and memory working jointly.

Tropical Rainforest Model

I chose the tropical rainforest scenery since it is the richest of all ecosystems in the world. The Philippines, being one of the countries endowed with this natural wealth is a treasure, indeed. For this reason, I believe that, the tropical rainforest closely resembles the description of the biblical paradise. It is not only a living bank of biological diversity; it is the most important sanctuary of living matters on earth.

To paint such a big wall is no easy task. It is not unusual to face a blank wall, literally speaking, and not knowing what to do first even with all the colors and tools on hand – and a predetermined topic in mind. Shall I start at the center and move outward, or from both sides slowly progressing inward? Or do I divide the wall into parts, working on them one by one, then unifying them at the end?

…and Heaven and Nature Sing

Christmas was already in the air and the Siberian winds were bringing in the chills. Carol music was now being played in malls, schools and homes. I was engrossed in my work when some students, watching me paint, sang a familiar song. On this particular occasion, something about the song chimed inside me, directing me towards the central theme of my mural.

“…and heaven and nature sing,
and heaven and nature sing,
and heaven, and heaven and nature sing.”
- Joy to the World

What does this mean? Is it the idea of nature representing the entire universe in a state of perfection? Or is it nature as one? Does it unite heaven and earth? Does it connect human beings and the galaxies as one family?

Little did I know of my ecology. As a subject I teach in college and in the graduate school I depend much on formulas and equations, principles and case studies. My knowledge about the environment is structured and formal. I use module maps or course syllabi based on accepted teaching techniques and references. My approach was comparative analysis. I was a judge of the beautiful and ugly, the do’s and don’ts.  At times I am a Utopian; at others, conformist.

Little did I realize that the order of Nature is not merely determined by natural laws applied as ecological tenets, but as a divine law which determines its arrangement, the subordination of the means to the end, and the assimilation of the parts to the whole. Many of us are ignorant of this law, or if we know it, seem to forget or disregard it as we relentlessly work to exploit the earth.

In our apparent failure to preserve nature, perhaps it is time to look at ecology with the essence of this popular Christmas song – a song that makes everyday of the year, Christmas. Ecology is “heaven and nature singing together.” Only then can we truly understand the term, balance of nature – a kind of dynamic equilibrium that leads to homeostasis where there is stability among interdependent groups that characterize natural processes, and the period in which they take place. The ultimate conclusion is always a balanced system. We have to look beyond books to understand biological diversity, and its application in nature, to find the common phrase: In diversity there is unity. The general rule is that the wider the diversity is in terms of number of living species, and in terms of the number of natural species and their habitats, the more closely knit the biosphere becomes, resulting in a richer, more stable environment. Undoubtedly, all this is part of a grand design inspired divinely.

A Hole in the Sky

Looking at the mural from a distance one notices a darkened part of the sky, apparently a hole (though this is not the ozone layer pierced by CFC pollution). It gives one a feeling that it is a tunnel to infinity as if to link both earth and heaven. Through this hole, one envisions a Higher Principle. From the foreground, which is the placid stream of a downward meandering river, its tributaries and banks lined with trees and thickets, the eye soon reaches the forested hills and mountains shrouded by clouds.

But it does not end there. Here the cloud is a curtain laden with the radiance of the sun, and the life-giving provenance of rain, useless each without the other for life on earth to exist. This is the crossroad. The cloud opens with a backdrop of infinity. The universe, whose limit is unknown, bursts open a foreground that reveals a whole drama of life on earth. After that, the eye repeats the journey. In the process, the viewer becomes sensitive to the details of the painting. He searches for things familiar, or situations that later become a new experience.

Creatures in the Forest

Light in the Forest, mural (5ft x AVRotor 2010

Creatures in general are not as visible as they appear in books and on the screen. They blend with their surroundings mainly for predatory anticipation and protective camouflage. But there are other reasons too, that are not well understood. Take the case of the butterflies. Their beauty is extravagant for their basic function as pollinators. Fish jump for mere pleasure, dragonflies have wings that split light into prisms. Birds stay in the sky longer for the sheer joy of flying, and not just to cruise in search of a prey.

Among the animals suggested to me while painting the mural are flying lemur, Philippine monkey, heron, monitor lizard, boa constrictor and hornbill. I painted these - and many more, the way I imagined them in their natural habitat. I put a touch of Noah’s Ark, painting them in pairs. For the rodents, ducks and doves I made them in amiable groupings that exude a familial atmosphere.

Whenever I see viewers seriously searching for these creatures with walking fingers, I am tempted to add to the collection of creatures, making them even more difficult to find. But that might change the ambiance to fun and puzzle solving, rather than of meditation and recollection.

People in the Mural

The trees and the massiveness of the scenery dwarf the characters in the mural. They appear mindless of events and time. They care not for the chores of the day. Those who are engrossed fishing with a simple hook-and-line do not show excitement even as they land their catch. Others patiently wait for a bite. There is a sense of tranquility and peace to all characters, whether they are promenading or just passing the time away. Their faces show only the slightest hint of anger or sadness.

I noticed viewers trying to identify themselves with the characters of the mural. Some construction workers envision themselves fishing. High school students are drawn by the promenades. But there are those who simply imagine themselves part of the scene. “This place is familiar to me,” one would say, apparently recalling provincial life. “We have flying lemurs in Davao,” says another.

Where does the water flow, and what does the mural mean to us? Water is everywhere. It is free to flow. Tributaries abound as if there were no limit. Trees are everywhere and far into the backdrop is a vast virgin forest. There is no sign of man’s  destructive hand. At the foreground is a placid pond where Nymphaea and lotus grow.  It is in contrast to the lively pulse of the river. This is a corner where life is peaceful and serene. It is here that we draw strength in facing the river and beyond.

What really is the message of the mural?

Quite often, images of nature enrapture us. These are reminiscences of childhood, a re-creation of a favorite spot we may have visited or seen, or products of the imagination greatly influenced by the society we live in.

These images reflect a deep-seated biological longing to be part of nature. Putting it in the biblical sense, it is a natural searching for the lost paradise. They are a refuge from city living, a respite, and an escape from the daily grind.

But these images do not only tell us of what we are missing. Rather, it reminds us what we are going to miss, perhaps forever, if we do not heed nature’s signal towards a fast declining ecosystem. If we do not change our way of life from too much dependence on consumerism, to one more closely linked to conservation of nature, we may end up building memories and future archives of a lost world.

The warning is clear. The painting challenges everyone to do his part to save Mother Earth so that her beauty is not only kept in the form of images, but a scenery of real life enjoyed by us and future generations.~

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Guava - Tree of Happy Childhood

Where have all the kids gone?
Native guava (Psidium guajava) Family Myrtaceae

Where have all the happy children gone
Perched on the spreading branches bowing,
Their faces and clothes with fruit stain over
Heeding no care, time and parents calling.

Doldrums, doldrums, how hard it is to bear,
In the school like Huckleberry Finn;
The tree's image on the blackboard seen,
With the hours in countdown to the scene.

The clock strikes five and the tree is alive again;
Make haste for childhood comes back never.
And the guava tree does not stay long neither,
'Cept in sweet memory where it lives forever. ~
If there is a ninth or tenth wonder of the world, it is the guava tree. For me it is the first wonder - the wonder of childhood.

Have you seen a tree bearing “fruits” bigger – and heavier - than its whole structure?

And here is one for the Book of Guinness. Have you heard the guava tree talk, laugh and shout, sing beautifully or grunt, make echolocation signals? Parents remind their children not to miss their siesta or classes. Then doldrums reigns but briefly. But soon the children are back to their favorite tree.

Take the backseat London Bridge, Golden Gate or Eiffel Tower. The guava tree can bend and touch the ground, and become upright again – not once, not twice but many times in its lifetime - and in a child's lifetime. And every branch equally obliges to the 180-degree weight and pull of children. No wonder the best spinning top and the best frame for slingshot are made from guava wood, and is perfect "Y", too.

It is a living Christmas tree, sort of. Birds come frequently. The perperoka and panal - migratory birds from the North, come with the Amihan and eat on the berries, while combing the place of worms, and gleaning on anything left by harvesters. The pandangera bird (fan-tailed) dances on the branches, while the house sparrow perches, picking on ripe fruits and small crawlers. And if you wake up very early, meet the butterflies and bees gathering nectar and pollen from the flowers. Take a deep breathe of the morning air spiced with the fragrance of both flowers and ripe fruits.

And the tree has eyes. True. Round and luminescent in the dark, mingle with the fireflies and the stars – and a waning moon. It is romantic, scary and sacred. Fruit bats come at night and pick the ripe fruits. Rodents and wild pigs scavenged at night. Moths and skippers, relatives of the butterfly, are nocturnal in their search for food and mate. Old folks would warn us kids never to go near the tree at night. In my career as biologist I had the experience to see in the middle of a field guava trees lighted with fireflies. This scene was in Sablayan in Mindoro island. What a sight - Christmas in another time and in another place. What a magnificent sight!

Would a child go hungry where guava trees abound? I don’t think so. Because the fruits are packed with sugar, vitamins and minerals. The fruits are made into jelly, pickled and cooked as vegetable. It is perfect for sinigang. Have you heard of guava wine? It is the most aromatic of all table wines made from tropical fruits, and it displays a rare pinkish glow. Nutritionists say guava is rich in Vitamin C, richer than most fruits, local and imported. I came to learn later of the cancer-preventing substance derived from Psidium guajava,its scientific name, and its miraculous healing attributes.

Name the ailments commonly encountered, and the guava offers a dozen home remedies. Chew the tops and make a poultice to relieve toothache. The village dentist tells you to first make a poultice the size of a marble, then after he has extracted your tooth, he tells you to seal the wound with it to prevent bleeding and infection. Pronto you can go back to your usual chore.

Guava stem is the first toothbrush, try it. Soften the smaller end and you can also use it as toothpick. This is practical when traveling in a remote area. Chew a leaf or two for astringent and tooth paste. Crushed leaves serve as aromatherapy, a new term today. And for an unconscious person, burn some dried leaves, fan the smoke toward the patient while pressing his large toe with your thumb nail. The patient senses both pain and smoke and soon takes a deep breathe - another, and another, until he gets enough oxygen and he wakes up.

Decoction of guava leaves for bath is practical in eliminating body odor. Guava soap is effective against skin disorders like pimples and eczema.

My daughter Anna Christina developed in her college thesis Guava Ointment, an all-natural antibacterial solution of the plant’s anti-inflammatory and therapeutically active properties against wounds or burns. Extract from the leaves contains 5 to 10 percent tannin, and fixed oils that have antibacterial and inhibitory effects against microorganisms that cause infection.

Here are the main ingredients of Anna’s Guava Ointment.

• Tannin, a non-crystallizable complex polyhydroxylphenolic compound is present in the leaves and stems.
• Fixed Oil which is frequently found in the roots, stems, branches, flowers and fruits. It exists as oil globules in special cells.
• Volatile Oil is an odorous compound found in various plant parts. It usually evaporates when exposed to the air at ordinary temperature. It is obtained by stem distillation, solvent extraction or absorption into purified fats.
• Petrolatum is the ointment base used, sometimes called “Petroleum Jelly”. It is a purified mixture of semi-solid hydrocarbons obtained from petroleum.

You can make your own Petrolatum with castor oil, coconut oil, beeswax, sorbitan tristearate, silica, tocopherol (vitamin E), and natural flavor. You may consult your local pharmacist about these ingredients. Petrolatum is thoroughly mixed with the extract and kept for use in a typical ointment container.

When I was a kid my auntie-yaya would gather succulent green guava fruits as remedy for LBM. Tannin regulates the digestive enzymes and stabilizes the digestive flora. She would also make guava leaf tea as a follow-up treatment.

As an offshoot of all these experiences, I asked my students to look into the potential value of guava seeds. The seeds contain 14 percent oil, 15 percent proteins, and 13 percent starch. And study also the bark and leaves in the development of drugs against diarrhea, and as astringent.

At one time I was isolating yeasts that occur in nature which I needed in preparing bubod – yeasts complex for basi wine fermentation. I stumbled upon two kinds of yeasts - Saccharomyces elipsoides and Brettanomyces - the second, I discovered is the secret of French wine quality. This French yeast resides in our home yard, in the flower of the native guava!

Preparing guava jelly at home; closeup of ripe fruits

Guava bird; closeup of flowers, source of wild yeast strain for wine making.
Later I found out, the same yeast naturally occurs in the flowers of macopa (Eugenia jambalana) and duhat (Syzygium cumini), both members of the guava family - Myrtaceae. I am very grateful to the Food Development Center (FDC) under the National Food Authority for helping me in the isolation and identification of these specimens.
Guava is the tree of happy childhood. The tree bears fruits and children. Look at all the children climbing, swinging on its branches, some armed with bamboo poles, others with small stones, still others with slingshots aiming at one thing: the ripe fruits on the tree. The tree builds sweet childhood memories.
Nature has a way of preserving the guava species through seed dormancy. Dormancy is a temporary delay of seeds to germinate for a few days to several years. This is important as a survival mechanism. Guava seeds are not destroyed by gastric juice and peristalsis of the digestive system of animals that eat the fruits, whether they are cold or warm blooded. It is because of their thick and hard pericarp. This biological process enhances not only germination but dissemination in a new territory.

You can’t crack guava seeds. If you do, especially with a decayed tooth you’ll end up going to your dentist. Oh, how I would wince and hold on anything. Either the old tooth is forced out of its place or the seed has lodged in a cavity.

Old folks also believe that guava seeds can cause appendicitis. Well, its seed is too large to enter this rudimentary organ. I believe though that it is its abrasive nature that makes way for bacteria to enter and cause infection. And subsequently inflammation. Well, if this is true, then it’s a risk one takes in eating guava. You really can’t remove all the seeds, and if you succeed you take away the fun and quaintness of eating guava.

We have introduced foreign varieties of guava which really don’t grow into a tree. The fruits are very much bigger, but far from being as sweet as those of our native variety. In a few years the guapple, as it is called, becomes senile then dies, while the native guava lasts for a lifetime, a generation, perhaps longer, and reach several feet high.

Today when I see children climbing guava trees it reminds me of my childhood. It reminds me of its many friends – birds, ground fowls like ducks, chicken, bato-bato (wild pigeons), goats and self-supporting native pigs. I imagine butterflies, dragonflies and Drosphila flies attracted by the ripening fruit. And frogs and toads patiently waiting for these flies to become their prey. Finches and sparrows, the quick and dainty La Golondrina (swift), the pandangera, panal andperperroka – I miss them.

Yes, the fruit bats, they are the source of children stories, among them is about clumsy bats dropping their load of ripe fruits accidentally falling of rooftops. In the dead of the night what would you imagine? “It’s the manananggal! (half-bodied female vampire).” Our folks at home would even make their voice tremble. And we would cling to each other in bed we kids in our time. Our elders would take advantage of the situation and whisper, “If you don’t sleep, it will come back.”

In the morning who would care about the mannanaggal? Or seeds causing appendicitis? Or the danger of falling from the tree. Or chased by wild boar? Or challenged by billy goat or brooding hen? As usual we would search for ripe berries and have our fill. Then we would hurry down and run to relieve ourselves, too loaded we simply take comfort in some thickets. In time guava trees would be found growing in these places.

Years after, I will see children climbing these trees and having their fill of the fruits, joyous in this adventure of childhood, making the guava tree the greatest wonder of the world. ~