Saturday, December 22, 2012

I am a waterfall - a drawing exercise

Dr Abe V Rotor

Waterfall mural, AVR 2009

How do you see yourself as a waterfall?

This exercise leads us to differentiate reality from imagination. Second, how can we combine reality and idealism to express ourselves?

Here is a drawing exercise suitable to both young and old, class or workshop.

As a participant draw a waterfall from your own experience and imagination. You have ten minutes to finish it on a one-fourth bond paper using pencil or pen.

A background music is provided while you work. Nature’s sound: water cascading or flowing accompanied by songs of birds and other creatures, and occasional breeze. The theme of a song is Somewhere Over a Rainbow. Other appropriate pieces are The Blue Danube and Flow Gently Sweet Afton.

If you are ready to start the exercise, at this juncture, please pause.

You will come to know the basis of judging your work after you are through. It takes some twenty minutes to finish.

NOTE: Do not read these criteria until you have completed your drawing.

Exchange your paper with your seatmate's. The instructor will now guide you in checking the papers with the criteria below. Use a scale of 1 to 10, starting with 1=Very Poor to 5=Average, and to 10=Outstanding. It's now your discretion to grade the paper given you.
  1. Height of the waterfall
  2. Fullness of its water
  3. Lushness of its watershed
  4. Abundance of its source, river or lake
  5. Force and power of the fall
  6. Strength and firmness of the rock face
  7. Downstream flow and direction
  8. Creatures in their natural habitat
  9. No wasteland, no space left out
  10. Naturalness and artistic presentation
Add the points obtained from each of the 10 factors. The perfect score is 100. Return paper to the owner.

The second part of the exercise is sharing. What is the significance of this exercise? How does it relate to life?

Relate each criterion with your personal life, your dealings with people, Nature, and the Creator. This takes about half an hour or so.

This exercise leads you to know yourself better - your strength and weakness - and most important - your potentials. ~

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Ruins of a Sunken Pier

Dr Abe V Rotor
Puerto, Sto Domingo, Ilocos Sur (Megabooks)

No, it was not the big gun
that brought you down; 
it was old Lamarckian 
who brought in the clown.

When not in use, a thing
degenerates into nothing;
once a rudiment,
it is a useless instrument.

The limbs of a reptile,
the coccyx of the tail,
Intramuros or Great Wall
are of no use at all.

Idleness and uselessness
are a duo in the art of waste;
great indeed is loss in disuse,
the grey matter's no excuse.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Young Musicians

Dr Abe V Rotor

Marlo, Anna and Leo at home

I imagine young Haydn mimicked
a strolling fiddler with pieces of stick,
and young Beethoven writing music
from birds and lambs at the creek.

In Messiah Handel saw God's image,
while Mozart excelled before the king,
and Chopin the piano-poet of his age
saw neo-classical music emerging.

Happier are those who play the tune,
than he who stops at the chord,
they who keep alive the inner vision,
the music that lights the world. 

Light in the Woods, 1995 Megabooks 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Halloween - celebration with the dead, ghosts and spirits

Dr Abe V Rotor
Talking with the dead. 

Remember our dead beloved, the unsung, unknown;
     catch up with time for our failed expression,
prayers unsaid, love denied, gesture unrequited -
     day of the souls to amend our infraction.    

Transported to the land of the dead. 
 Treat or threat.
   Whose party? Where have all the people gone?

            Masks or real faces?

   Faces, faces, young and old,
  fair and coy and bold;
masks, masks, masks we are told,
sans feeling and cold. 
Merging of the real and imaginary. 
   The devil comes alive. 
The dead takes center stage. 

Come let's visit Dante's Inferno, and Milton's world,*
     call on Frankenstein,** his monstrous creation;
travel to Transylvania, track the undead Dracula;   
     join the dead, their ghosts in celebration. 

Good and evil for once their boundary open,
     so with that of heaven and hell we implore;
take the backseat apostasy, paganism alive!
     make haste, before Hades closes the door.       

* Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, epic by John Milton
** Frankenstein, novel by Mary Shelley

Saturday, October 20, 2012

World Food Day: Food Security is Green Revolution at the Grassroots: Answer Key to Self-Administered Test (50 Items)

World Food Day: Food Security is Green Revolution at the Grassroots: Answer Key to Self-Administered Test (50 Items)Dr Abe V Rotor

Part 1: True or False

1. Green Revolution is a term that refers to the development of agriculture, tracing it from the time man settled down to raise animals and plants up to the present in which genetically modified organisms (GMO) of plants and animals are being produced.

2. Green revolution does not encompass agro-processing such as the making of brewed coffee beans, patis and bagoong, wine and vinegar, milk, cheese and ham, and the like – because these are beyond the farmer’s capability - financially and technically

A dozen kinds of fruits to welcome Lady Luck for the  New Year

3. Green revolution must fit well into the demands of the market, which means that the raising of crops and animal and all attendant activities must conform to such “market directed” principle

Top, clockwise: pansit in bamboo basket (bilao); pork barbecue; fishball-on-wheels; rice cake in bamboo (tinubong); mango in season; crabs (alimago)

4. We are still nomadic like our primitive ancestors were, in the sense that we still derive much of our food and other needs from the sea, hills and forest. Furthermore, we travel far and wide from our homes and families in search of our basic economic needs – food, clothing, shelter and energy. This neo-nomadic syndrome has been spurred by our modern way of living influenced by overpopulation, industrialization, science and technology.

5. Growing affluence and increasing level of living standard takes us farther and farther away from the basic concept of green revolution, whereby ideally a family lives under one roof guaranteed by the bounty of the land the members cultivate, and historically built within framework of culture and tradition.

6. Based on the previous question, growing affluence and standard of living is the reason why modern China cannot prevent its thousands – nay millions – of young inhabitants to move out of the confines of a once socialistic confine in search of the Good Life that they very much deserve.

7. The least sprayed vegetables – that is, vegetables that do not necessarily require the application of pesticides – are those that grow wild. Thus the ruling is, the more native a vegetable is, the more resistant it is to pest. 

8. Green Revolution started as a movement in the Philippines way back in the fifties with the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement during the time of President Ramon Magsaysay, with the youth at the helm, led by 4-H Clubs, Rural Improvement Clubs (RIC), Boys Scouts and Girls Scouts, public and elementary schoolchildren, and barrio folks.

9. The crowning glory of Philippine Green Revolution was the attainment of self-sufficiency in food and other agricultural products following a food crisis in the early seventies. Through M-99, Maisan 77, and many barangay food production programs, the country even surpassed suffiency level and became a net exporter of rice and other food commodities.

10. When you introduce a new plant in your garden – a plant that has not been tried before – you are sure it is virtually free of pests, firstly because it did not bring with it the pests from its origin, and second, the local pests would take time to develop the taste for it. F

11. The longest stage or phase of Green Revolution was the expansion of horizons during the colonial period whereby land was forcibly taken and consolidated into estates and haciendas by the colonists. One such case is our own haciendas, a number of them still are still existing and operating like President Cory’s family hacienda – Luisita – which was singularly exempted from land reform.

12. The corporate world swallowed up small businesses including small farms in the US, Europe and in fact all over the world, such that the capitalist robbed the entrepreneur of his resources, technology, market, and worst, his potentials and therefore his future. (Economies of scale –is this the nemesis of small business?) 

13. Today’s fast emerging technologies continue to favor the capitalist thus making him grow even bigger (examples: McDonalds, San Miguel, Robina, Nestle’ and Jollibee conglomerate). This is what social scientists call Neo-colonialism, a kind of agriculture reminiscent of the colonial times. (Or is the trend today the opposite - the dinosaur syndrome is killing the beast.) T

14. The most nutritious of all vegetables in terms of protein are those belonging to the legume family. In fact a number of legumes have higher protein content than meat. T

15. If we rank from highest to lowest in protein content these vegetables should be listed as follows: soybean, segidillas or calamismis (pallang), mungo, tomato, malunggay. 

16. It is better to specialize on certain crops in your garden for practical management. If leafy vegetables, plant pechay, lettuce, mustard, alugbati, talinum, and you need the same kind of soil, topography, amount of water, tools, planting schedule and season, and market.

17. Mang Tonio is a simple farmer. He plants rice in his small paddy once a year because this is what other farms are doing, and it is tradition in the area. They say don’t break away sa naka-ugalihan. If you agree with Mang Tonio answer true, if not false.

18. It is possible that a one-hectare farm can produce as much as a four-hectare farm does, even without additional amounts of inputs like fertilizer, pesticide and water. 

19. The idea of cottage agro-industry is to make use of inferior quality products that bring more profit or value-added advantage. Examples: immature and broken peanut into butter, overripe banana and tomato for catsup, fruit fly infested guava and mango for puree; typhoon damaged sugarcane into vinegar, bansot piglet into lechon, unsold fish and shrimps into bagoong and patis, and the like.

20. Samaka is a movement, acronym of Samahan ng Masaganang Kakanin – the united effort of a group to have more plentiful food for their families. It is the precursor of successful food production programs later led by PACD (Presidential Arm in Community Development), RCPCC (Rice and Corn Production Coordinating Program) later to become National Food and Agriculture Council (NFAC) which implemented Masagana 99, Maisan 77, Manukan Barangay, Bakahang Barangay, Wheat Production, Soybean Production, and other production programs then under President Marcos. Unfortunately all these were virtually erased after the Edsa Revolution.

21. Botanically speaking, the parts of these plants we eat are classified as follows: cassava tuber is a root, so with kamote, peanut is a fruit, potato tuber is a stem, onion bulb is a leaf.

22. When buying papaya, the more yellow the fruit appears, the more mature it had been picked from the tree. Avoid buying papaya that appears dominantly green and yellow or orange only at the ridges. 

23. There are five kinds of vegetables according to the parts of the plant (botanical classification). The following are classified under at least two kinds: squash or kalabasa, ampalaya, malunggay, sinkamas, short sitao or paayap.

24. The production capacity of genetically modified crops of corn, potato, and soybean – the most common GMO food we are taking every day - has increased even without increasing the supply of nutrients in the soil. GMOs are the world’s ultimate recourse to feed an ever increasing population now approaching the 6.5 billion mark.

25. Our soil and climate are favorable to many crops. Let us plant our rice fields and corn fields after harvest season with the following crops so that we will not import them and spend precious dollars, and that, it is the Filipino farmer and not the foreign farmer whom we patronize and subsidize. Potato (potato fries), Soybean (soybean oil, TVP, tokwa, toyo, taho), White beans (pork and beans), wheat (pandesal, cake, noodles).


• 1. Let’s make a Lazy Man’s Garden at Home. What are plants considered literally tanim ng tamad, a syndrome many Filipinos fall into, a little bit of every thing (tingi-tingi), ningas kogon, makakalimutin, kulang sa tiyaga, and mapabaya’: papaya, malunggay, siling katuray, ube, patola, kondol, upon, alugbati, talinum, patani, batao, segidillas, kumpitis.

• 2. Ano-ano ang mga halaman na nakakain na hindi itinatanim. (What edible plants simply grow spontaneously)

26. The role of Green Revolution generates in supplying food of a fast growing population is foremost even at the expense of clearing forest, leveling hillsides, reclaiming swamps – and even farming the sea.  

27. Talinum is a small tree that is why it is so easy to grow, and will last for a long time, season after season and you have vegetables throughout the year. Alugbati is tree like malunggay. In fact they usually grow together in some forgotten corner, along dikes and fences, around open well, and does not need care at all practically speaking. Alugbati is best as salad, cooked with mungo, beef stew, sinigang, bulanglang. 

28. Agro-ecology will always clash – there is no compromise. Either you are an ecologist or you are an economist. Take eco-tourism, eco-village, etc.)

29. All these plants are propagated by cutting. All you need to do is cut-and-plant a branch or stem – malunggay, kakawate or madre de cacao, katuray, ipil-ipil, cassava, sugarcane, talinum, alugbati, kamias.

30. Homesite for the Golden Years (HGY) which we launched on PBH last February 14 this year has the features of a integrated garden, enterprise, agro-industry, eco-sanctuary. The key is to supply this Patch of Eden (A Slice of Paradise) with all the amenities of modern living. 

31. The area required for a Homesite for the Golden Years is greatly variable and flexible; it can be as small as 100 square meters to 10 hectares in area. This allows evolution of as many models as one could think of. 

32. The numerous hanging round fruits (tubers) on the stem of ube are the ones we plant, especially on large scale.

33. Acclimatization means helping introduced plants and animals get adapted to their new environment. There are those that succeed but can’t reproduce; while others become better of that their counterparts they left behind.

34. Based on the previous question, there are plants that have not been fully acclimatized even after many years so that extreme attention is given to them like Crucifers – cauliflower, cabbage, wonbok, celery, lettuce, broccoli. T

35. Bagging with ordinary paper and/or plastic bags and sacks is necessary to protect from the dreaded fruit fly the fruits of guava, mango, jackfruit, ampalaya, durian, orange, avocado, mangosteen, guyabano and atis. 

36. Green thumb is a gift of naturalism. Only those who have this genetic gift are chosen caretakers of God’s Garden of Eden. Others have the equivalent gift in taking care of aquariums, house pets, children’s nursery.

37. We have our local pansit: sotanghon comes from rice while bihon comes mungo. We import noodles, miki and lomi made from wheat, while macaroni and spaghetti are made from semolina wheat or pasta. 

38. Value-added, a term in manufacturing gave rise to a new taxation E-VAT. To cope up with the added burden on the part of both entrepreneur and consumer, why not process your product and get instead the benefit of the new law? Example. Don’t just sell your palay harvest, have it milled sold as rice, make flour out of it, make puto and bihon, and others. 

39. Based on the same question above, to get the benefits of VAT, market your own produce; be an entrepreneur, a middleman/trader and of course, a producer. 

40. Start by planting the seeds of the following crops if you go wish into immediate commercial production – because the seeds of these plants are plentiful, you have no problem of supply: chico, guava, orange, mango, rambutan, lanzones, avocado, tiesa, atis, guayabano – as well as others that produce plenty of seeds. That’s how nature intended it to be.

41. Seeds always turn out genetically true to type. Big mango fruits come from seeds of big mango fruits, big guava means big guava, sweet pomelo – sweet pomelo, seedless atis – seedless atis, red pakwan – red pakwan. 

42. Just follow the direction of the sun when you plant by rows and plots – north to south, so that there is less overshadowing of plants. In this case you may increase your harvest by as much as 10 percent.

43. Extend the shelf life of fruits such as mango, avocado, atis, guayabano, nangka, by rubbing salt at the end of the stem, the base of the fruit. 

44. Momordica charantia is the scientific name of ampalaya. Why spend for commercial food supplement in bottle, syrup, tablets, pills or dry herbal preparations as advertised - Momordica or Charantia, or Ampalaya Plus? (Write true for each recipe, if correct)

• All you need is buy a bundle of fresh ampalaya tops made into salad and dipped with bagoong and vinegar. It’s good for the whole family.

• Or add ampalaya leaves to mungo and dried fish or sautéed pork.

• Pinakbet anyone? Native or wild ampalaya cut in half or quarter without severing the cut.

• Ampalaya at delatang sardinas.

50. Ordinary people like anyone of us can secure for ourselves and family enough food and proper nutrition. This is food security in action. It is food security that gives us real peace of mind. The biological basis does not need farther explanation. It is the key to unity and harmony in the living world. Queuing for rice defeats the image of a strong economy. High prices of food do not give a good reflection either. How about ASEA, UN, WHO? ASEAN commitment to regional food security, food aid from the UN or US may simply ease the impact of food shortage or inequity in its distribution, but they are but palliative measures. And having a dreamer Joseph in public food depot is not reliable either. It is green revolution at the grassroots that assures us of not only food but other necessities of life – and self employment. It is that piece of Paradise that has long been lost that resurrect in some corner of your home. Paradise is not lost, if you create one. Do you agree? T

Trivia: Who is Who in the field of agriculture and life science in the Philippines
1. If there is a Luther Burbank, the American plant wizard, who is our own in the Philippines (___________________________, foremost plant breeder of the Philippines)

2. The greatest and most popular authority of medicinal plants in the Philippines (___________________________, Medicinal Plants of the Philippines)

3. Filipino scientist who occupied the highest position in the UN FAO? (________________________, Regional chief of UN-FAO for Asia and the Pacific)
4. Her name is an institution in children health care, founder of Children”s Hospital and inventor of nursery incubation chamber, among other invention (___________________)

5. His discovery of the cause of cadang-cadang disease of coconut lead to effective control of the disease threatening to wipeout the coconut industry in the Philippines (________________________________)

6. First director or International Institute for Rural Reconstruction, author of Alternative Medicine, anti-smoking in public places, school and advertisement. (_____________________________)

7. Man behind food self-sufficiency, M-99 that led the Philippine among the top rice producers in the 70s and 80s. (_______________________, Secretary of agriculture)

8. First Filipino allergologist, discovered a syndrome named after him, internationally adapted in hospitals and medical schools around the world, served as executive secretary of presidents Quezon and Osmeña, discovered orchids also named after him. (___________________________).

9. Founder of the Nursing profession, brought into the profession respectability and dignity, service and selflessness, (_________________________, nationality ________________)

10. The greatest woman who ever lived in our times - epitome of love, compassion, faith, selflessness and dedication, a living saint (though less popular than Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana, In fact there were far less number people who paid their respects to her than Princess Diana who died and was buried at the same time.) _______________________ of ________________.

x x x

ANSWERS: Part 1: 1t 2f 3t 4t 5f 6t 7t 8t 9t 10f 11f 12t 13t 14t 15f 16f 17f 18t 19f 20t 21t 22f 23t 24f 25f 26f 27f 28f 29f 30t 31f 32f 33t 34t 35f 36f 37t 38t 39t 40f 41f 42f 43f 44 to 49 (all true) 50t

Part 2: 1. Nemesio Mendiola 2.Eduardo Quisumbing 3.Dioscorro Umali 4. Fe del Mundo 5. Gerardo Ocfemia 6.Juan Flavier 7. Arturo Tanco Jr 8.Arturo B Rotor 9. Florence Nightingale 10.Mother Teresa of Calcutta 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Fire tree in bloom

Fire tree  (Deloix regia) in bloom, UST Manila 

Like cherry in the tropics bloom,
confetti in summer thrill;
lovers step on the petals strewn
dancing with the breezy chill.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Irreversibility of Domestication - The Case of the Aquarium

The Irreversibility of Domestication - The Case of the Aquarium
Dr Abe V Rotor
Pako fish in home aquarium

Pets, pets, pets. Only humans make pets. It is an expression of rationality, demonstrating custodianship of God's creation, extension of familial instinct, and a means of silencing frayed nerves, and exit of pent up emotion and outburst of energy. Above all pets share the burden of living, provide companionship, and reciprocated love in many ways. But what is the implication of domestication of living things to ecology, and to the living world as a whole?

The Aquarium

The aquarium is a minuscule of a pond; the pond, the minuscule of the lake or ocean.
The home aquarium is a representation of God's vast creation - 78 percent of the surface of the earth covered with water, water interconnecting all oceans and seas from pole to pole, across the equator and meeting the great rivers at the bays and estuaries.

Here is an experiment I conducted at home with a home aquarium. I reared two oscars and two pako fish, a relative of the notorious Piranha, in our long idle aquarium that has volume of some 100 gallons. It is huge for four small fishes. But that's freedom, I thought, thinking of their natural habitat. The freer the fishes are, the more they find food and mate, and easier to adjust to changing conditions.

Aquariums are like a stage where drama is shown - the colors, movements, behaviors of the characters; their interaction within and imagined scenery at the other side of the glass. To us viewers we see but the fish; to the fish they see us and all around us. In fact the whole landscape is part of the fish's dwelling, giving them a false sense of freedom.

Luckier are the fish though than convicts behind bars, or within thick walls with just a peep window. And while the convict is closed in, we wish our fish in the aquarium to "open up" by coming close to the glass wall so that we can communicate with them and they communicate with us.

The oscars died and left the pako to occupy the whole aquarium. Soon they grew big, so big that they had to be transferred to a garden pond. They did not last long. They did not get adapted to open condition. Acid rain, low dissolved oxygen level, among other factors were too much for them to bear.

In another aquarium I placed six paco fingerlings occupied by a lone oscar three times the size of the pako. They grew fast and overtook the lone Oscar. It too, died. And the pako, even if they had apparently adjusted, succumb to the long hot summer. Like birds, fish live in groups. They have their niche, they travel, even migrate, seeking the best conditions favorable to them. Thus the saying, "Birds of the same feather flock together." So with fish, fish of the same kind make a school.

There are of course interactions between and among flocks or schools in the natural environment - but not in an artificial one. In fact, one test of an ecosystem's balance and integrity is when the food web that comprises it has attained self-regulation and control, and what scientists call homeostasis which means dynamic stability for a period of time.

Take the coral reef, for instance. It is a model of symbiotic relationship of different organisms. Coelenterates (corals) and algae live together, so with seaweeds and a host of feeders and symbionts; sea grass and echinoderms (starfish and sea urchin) with benthic (bottom) dwellers, and pelagic (free swimming) fish, among many other organisms, including those unseen by the naked eye - they comprise the coral reef, the most beautiful underwater scenery we attempt to recreate in the laboratory or in our sala through an aquarium.

I know of one built by a former student of mine at UST. It simulates the coral reef. There are even sea anemones that react to light and to touch to the delight of viewers. There are mollusks, both with shells and naked like the octopus. Yes, the octopus, known for being canny we interpret as intelligence, by changing colors and patterns with their environment, their eyes closest in appearance to the eyes of humans in shape and expression(?).

But octopuses are no easy aquarium pets. I can attest to that.

In San Fernando, La Union, where I was assigned in government service for two years, I caught a small octopus which I intended to make as pet. It was a pet all right while you are watching it. Once you turn your back, it creeps out of the aquarium in an attempt to escape. It has indeed a keen sense of smell of the sea - it crept always to the west - the South China Sea where I was living nearby. My octopus deserved freedom. I gave in with a sigh, gaining a lesson in biology, and put it back to sea.

I wonder how many organisms presently under the care of man will not get acclimatized once they are transferred to the wild, which is their native home. This is the irony of domestication.~

Do Fish Ever Sleep?

Dr Abe V Rotor

Fish, pastel drawing by Angelica Mijares, then 9 years old
Summer Art Workshop for Children, SPUQC, circa 2001

Once I wondered if ever fish sleep,
    Unless by sleep they remain still
In some quiet pool, like the cows and sheep,
    After their fill lie on a grassy hill.
Could either, I ask, bring about man’s ease
    And cease his mind to wonder and wander?
And where is that pool or that hill at peace,
   Save Flanders, or some place ever after?   

Friday, June 8, 2012

Time for Verses

Abe V Rotor
 Where land and sea meet, in acrylic, AVR
 Hidden eyes in acrylic, AVR

1. Hush, hush,
suddenly the world became still;
gone is the lark in the sky
and raven on the window sill.

2. The bamboo I cut is not really mine,
this giant grass, a reed sublime;
in the wind it rings a sweet old chime
into a song sans words and rhyme.

3. When the geese take to the air
their leader first breaks the barrier;
on the dovetail trail ride the flock
in synergy, confidence and luck.

4. A wall unseen by the other,
Behind we refuse to be seen,
Of what we are and what had been –
Break it, and be a true brother.

5. Better the Noble Savage lived
Than civilization to Mankind,
In a Garden we long envied,
Sans want, war and its evil kind.

6. Look at the arrow and the bow,
The first machine before the plow;
A hunter’s life that man had ceased,
To found the land of love and peace.
8. Kindness but without honesty -
That is sentimentality;
Honesty but without kindness -
Simply that is plain cruelty;
Peace - that the duo must harness
To bring light to humanity.

9. Judgment isn't just conformity
That binds a class and society;
Not for the rich or any sect –
But of the heart and intellect.

10. If my life's to be lived with love,
Learned and shared not one but many;
Through others it's this way above,
I shall have left a legacy.~

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Cooking fish "tamalis"

Cooking fish "tamalis"
Abe V Rotor 

Organic food? 
  • Use banana leaves instead of aluminum foil. 
  • Don't fry, steam with banana leaves. 
  • Do away with plastics and Styrofoam.  
  • And don't use microwave oven.
  • Use claypot lined with banana leaves. 
  • Wood fuel imparts a natural taste.  
  • Cook with low fire. Don't overcook.  
  • Serve while hot, let your guest unwrap with gusto.     
 The photos below show how fresh fish such as dilis (anchovies), dalangang bukid, and tilapia) are cooked into tamalis.  Wash, add onion, ginger, tomato, and a dash of salt.  Wrap with wilted banana leaves. Arrange in the pot, cover, and cook slowly with firewood or charcoal.

Wrap individually, one serving size.

Wilt banana leaves over fire. Follow one-size rule.

Prepare ingredients, mix well. Frying pan can do, just line it with banana leaves, before putting the individually wrapped fish. Be sure to cover the pan while cooking. This is the principle of steaming.

NOTE: Keep banana plants in your backyard.  Banana has many uses, other than food, mushroom that grows at its base, and coolness it imparts in the surroundings. Leaves are used to polish the floor, as padding when ironing clothes, wrapper to keep vegetables fresh outside - or in the refrigerator. You can't make suman, bibingka, tupig without this biggest (and versatile) leaf in the world.   

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Island of Guimaras - Lost ParadiseIsland of Guimaras - Lost Paradise

Dr Abe V Rotor

Life in Guimaras can be imagined as the Paradise in the Book of Genesis.

Nature reveals her beauty on the green fields that turn yellow and gold at harvest time. The pasture is a carpet green dotted with grazing cattle in roan, black, white and spotted colors, moving slowly, if at all, in docile pace that you think they are boulders in the distance.

The trees, when the wind blows, sing in soft, plaintive, rustling notes, their spreading branches swinging to the music. Towards the end of the year when the cold wind from the north arrives, their leaves turn into autumn colors of red, orange and yellow, falling off and littering the ground around. Now and then gusts of wind take them to the road, and when the sun is up and you happen to step on them barefooted, they crackle and tickle. They send children giggling with delight. And they would rally the leaves floating down the stream as if they were race boats.

It is a similar experience you get when walking on the shores of the Guimaras. White sands swallow you up to the ankle at the water edge, pegging you down. You cannot resist taking a dip or swim in the pristine water, and before you know it you are surrounded by colorful fishes, a school of them, bobbling to the surface as if to greet you and diving around your feet, sometimes playfully nibbling at your toes. They live among the seaweeds and corals that make the forest of the sea.

And speaking of forest, look behind you. Afar the mountains are dark green because they are covered with virgin forests. They catch the clouds and make them fall everyday. The rain makes the trees lush, irrigates the fields, feeds the rivers and lakes and down it meets the sea. It is here where freshwater and sea water meet. It is call estuary.

The estuary is the sanctuary of countless organisms; it is their breeding ground, their nursery. It is in the estuary where mangrove trees, coconut and nipa palms densely grow, binding soil and mud to build a new land, or form a delta. On the sea side they serve as a living wall that buffers the impact of tidal waves or the sudden onslaught of tsunami. They are nature’s fortress to protect the villages, farms and pastures

But these scenarios are a thing of the past. It is a beautiful dream that ended in a nightmare.

On waking up, the people in Guimaras, a small island near Iloilo in the Visayas, came face to face with the biggest catastrophe that changed their lives and their island forever.

Oil spill!

A huge barge carrying millions of liters of fuel oil broke and sunk into the bottom of the sea directly facing the island.

The black liquid oozed for days, and continued for weeks and months from the sunken ill-fated tanker, and because oil is lighter than water, floated and spread over many square kilometers, polluting the once pristine sea and beaches. Soon fishermen abandoned their trade. Tourists no longer came. Because oil is poison to all living things, fish, amphibians, corals, trees and the like, died.

Many people died – and more are dying due to the cumulative and long-term effects of oil, because being a hydrocarbon it destroys the liver, kidneys and nervous system. Many people got sick, mostly children. Schools closed. The streets were empty. There was little to buy in the market. Fumes filled the air and lungs, sending people to live elsewhere. Many of those who chose to remain got sick, several died.

Ka Pepe and Aling Maria lost their only son. He worked too hard cleaning up the black oil that seeped under their house, until he succumbed to the deadly fumes.

“What have we done to deserve this?” The stricken couple asked. “Why are we punished for a sin we did not commit.” It is a wrath of God, someone said. Many were angry with pointing fingers. Nobody could offer any acceptable answer, until someone said, “Forgive your brother who sinned.” Yes, it is Christian to forgive for the love of God. It was consoling. It made people compassionate.

Indeed there were people from different places and of different walks of life who went to Guimaras after the tragedy struck. Fr. Ben said mass. Nuns sang hymns. Petron, the owner of the spilled oil, organized a cleaning team from among the residents and paid them wages. Hairdressers sent a shipment of hair to bind the loose oil, however it did not help much. Others sent old clothing, canned goods, money. Local officials visited places on rugged wheels, places they had not reached before. Doctors and nurses worked into the night. Media documented the tragedy. Residents were interviewed by experts. There were volunteers who would come and go. There was no let up of investigations to pin down the culprits. Soldiers stood guard.

Every morning the curtain unveils this pathetic drama of life, and closes at the end of the day, trying to erase the scene from memory and bury it in the darkness of night. How long will this nightmare continue, one can only guess. Perhaps years. A lifetime. Generations.

There were no laughter, not even from the playing children. The sea did not clap. The waves simply died down, muffled under the sludge of oil. A crow flew above, gave off some sonorous notes – the sound of death.

It is Paradise Lost in our times before our very eyes.

x x x

Workshop Exercises: Self-Analysis and Reflection

Dr Abe V Rotor
Also visit my other Blogs:
[Living with Nature]
[naturalism - the eighth sense] 

The following exercises are used in the teaching of Natural Sciences and Social Sciences by the author at St. Paul University QC, UST, DLSU-D and UPHR. A good number of exercises were presented as part of lectures delivered by the author as resource speaker on different occasions.*

Exercise 1 - Relationships (Family and the World)

Make this tree live again - Using colors (pastel or crayola) and drawing paper, each participant puts life in a dying tree, bringing it back to its prime years. He may imagine himself to be the tree in a manner of reflection, seeing himself at the end, to be enjoying the fullness of life. While the exercise is being done, the resource person will personally play “Violin and Nature” as background music. This consists of violin compositions accompanied by the sounds of birds, waterfalls, wind and running stream. This is a ten-minute exercise, the first half is drawing, and the second is analysis and evaluation. Values derived come from Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy Theory (physiological, safety, love, esteem, self-actualization), and Herzberg’s Theory of Motivation, particularly on sense of achievement and fulfillment), and Concept of Integration-Cooperation. There are ten criteria to evaluate the exercise in an “exchange papers, corrected by” style. This also serves to enhance sharing and good judgement. The drawing must show the following: sun, water, resurrected tree, other trees, landscape, people, other creatures, naturalness of style, artistic quality, full use of space.

Exercise 2 - “Quo vadis?” (Where am I going?)

I am a Sailboat – The participant imagines himself as a Sailboat drifting on the open sea. Using the same coloring materials and a drawing paper, he has five minutes to complete the scenario. Here he expresses himself in relation to what he feels and thinks, and consciously and unconsciously such expression reflects his leadership qualities. Even the drawing itself shows his ability to communicate with the viewer. Does it show self-confidence
and self-motivation? Does it show a particular leadership style and behavior? The second five minutes will be devoted to evaluation in the same manner as in the first exercise. The drawing must show the following: prominent sailboat, other sailboats, destination, people, creatures all, alive sea and sky, artistic quality, full use of space.

Exercise 3 - Dream and Reality

Waterfall – Like the first two, this is also an individual exercise. The participant draws a waterfall from his own experience and imagination. He has five minutes to finish it. The background music is nature’s sound, water flowing and cascading accompanied by songs of birds and other creatures. The theme of this exercise is that in life “somewhere along the way we find a waterfall”. How are we going to deal with it? Some ten minutes will be devoted to analysis and sharing. Criteria lie on the following aspects: fullness of fall, height of fall, natural watershed, clouds, upstream river source, continuity at downstream, power at the fall, presence of life, artistic quality, full use of space.

Exercise 4 – Community Consciousness

Let’s build a house - This is a group exercise with 10 members in a group. Using pentel and easel paper, the members of each group form a queue and complete the drawing within two minutes. Before they do this they have two minutes to confer and plan their house and strategy. A lively music is provided as a background. Like in the other exercises, a set of criteria will be used in evaluating the exercise. The key here is, there are neighbors.

Exercise 5 – How intelligent are you?

The 8 realms of intelligence - All of us are endowed with a wide range of intelligence classified into eight realms or domains. It is not only IQ or EQ or any single sweeping test that tells us how intelligent we are. Here is a simple guide to find out which realms we are superior.

Domain Scale 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 1. Interpersonal (human relations)
2. Intrapersonal (Inner vision, self-
expression, reflection)
3. Kinesthetic (Sports and body
language, dance)
4. Languages or linguistics
5. Logic (dialectics, math)
6. Music (auditory art)
7. Naturalism (relationship with
the natural world, “green thumb”)
8. Spatial (painting, sculpture,
architecture, photography

Analysis takes ten minutes. After completing the table, get the total score and divide it by 8 to get the average. But the average is only secondary to the distribution pattern of his scores. For example there are those who have high scores in 6 and 7, while there are those who got high in say, 3 and 6. During the sharing period, a participant tells his first two or three strong realms from which we can picture his talents. Can we relate the findings with the kind of person he is, his work, likes and dislikes, etc?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Palm Sunday - Nemesis of Palm Trees and Cycads

Palm Sunday - Nemesis of Palm Trees and CycadsAbe V Rotor
Faithful of the Christendom wave young fronds of buri, a threatened species; and oliva or Cycad, a highly endangered species, in observance of Palm Sunday. 
More than ninety percent of the palaspas are made of the buds or immature leaves of palm trees principally buri, anahaw, and coconut. Coconut trees are purposely stripped for palaspas and their heart is made into fresh lumpia.  Otherwise the trees are left to die in the grove.  As a consequence the destructive rhinoceros beetles, and pathogenic fungi breed in them, and build populations that destroy many standing trees.   

Buri, on the other hand is already a threatened species in the Philippines and in most tropical countries. The leaves are woven into mats, bags and other handicrafts. It is the young tree that is harvested for palaspas, ending the tree's potential life span of fifty years. It is not easy to propagate buri because it bears nuts only once it its lifetime - just as it's going to die. 

Survivors of  Palm Sunday takes time to recover.  It takes months to normally recover, and if harvesting of nuts is every two months, the affected trees may yield only half as much.  But then Palm Sunday comes next year, and every year thereafter. Thus we wonder if ever the tree will live a productive life of twenty to thirty years. 

I have a coconut tree at home.  We have been harvesting buko nuts every two months since 1979 when we moved into the subdivision - that's a good thirty three years (plus 5 years earlier). On the average our harvest is twenty nuts per bunch or forty buko nuts per harvest - that's four hundred pesos at 10 pesos each, city price.  Gross value per year is P2,500, based on six harvests. All these come from a single coconut tree.  

Coconut farmers may be getting more, plus the value of midribs for walis tingting, leaves for sinambong basket, woven mat, activated carbon from the shell, coir for cordage, dusts for the garden, and of course, firewood.  We have not mentioned tuba, lambanog, suka, muscovado, pulitiput, as cottge industry products from coconut. Then the ecological importance as windbreak, and companion crop of orchard trees, and a variety of cash crops.  When planted all together we see a farm model envied the world over - storey cropping.  The model is easily a 3-storey cropping to 7-storeys, one for the Book of Guiness. 

It is irony when faith collides with reality, when the spirit and body are separated by blind devotion, when the future is made bleak by one celebration, when the faithful turns into a bandwagon when unity and cooperation is already established, when faith becomes a stumbling block to a better life. 

On the other hand Palm Sunday is key to progress, to the preservation of nature, and healing of our planet. It can be made more more meaningful by planting palm trees instead.  There is good sign here.  In other countries there are churches where the people bring seedlings of palm trees, cycads, and other plant species as well. The seedlings are blessed the same way the palaspas is blessed.  There is one big difference, and this is the key.  The faithful bring back the blessed seedlings in be planted in their homes.  Others join community tree planting in plaza and parks, along roads and highways.  Others organize replanting of destroyed forests, and reclaiming wastelands. Because the seedlings are blessed there's a accompanying   responsibility and concern for their growth. Subsequent Palm Sunday celebrations in one particular feature, are held where Palm Sunday seedlings were previously planted.

The Lord will be very happy of this development.

For the last fifty years I have been campaigning in saving the palms and cycads on Palm Sunday,  starting as a student. Throughout my career as radio instructor, columnist of local magazines, and university professor, I have been consistent with it.  There are more and more people who agree with the idea and have joined the campaign. This is encouraging.  But it has not broken ground yet, as these photos here will bear me out.

Talking with the clergy, I asked apologetically, "Father, is it possible to have only the green and mature palm - not the bud leaves (white), blessed? And not the oliva, too?" The religious ambiance soon engulfed the air and the conversation led into the story of the passion of Christ. ~