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. ~         

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Lam-ang - Ilocano Epic Hero

Dr Abe V Rotor

The theme of the epic revolves around the bravery and courage of the main character portrayed by Lam-ang, who was gifted with speech as early as his day of birth, who embarked on a series of adventures which culminated in his heroic death and subsequent resurrection.

This series of adventures started with his search for his lost father who was murdered by the head-hunting Igorots in the Igorot country. While on his way, he met a certain Sumarang, whose name connotes obstruction, who tried to dissuade him from proceeding and who taunted him into a fight. The fight that ensued proved fatal to Sumarang as he was blown “three kingdoms” away with a spear pierced through his stomach. This encounter led to another when he met a nine-headed serpent who, like Sumarang earlier tried to dissuade him from going any further. The serpent having been ignored challenged him into a fight which cost the serpent its heads.

Lam-ang went on until he found it necessary to rest and take a short nap. While asleep, he dreamed of his father’s head being an object of festivities among the Igorots. He immediately arose and continued his journey until he found the Igorots indeed feasting over his father’s head.

He asked the Igorots why they killed his father, but the Igorots instead advised him to go home if he did not want to suffer the same fate which his father suffered. This was accompanied by a challenge to a fight, despite their obvious numerical superiority. But Lam-ang, armed with supernatural powers, handily defeated them, giving the last surviving Igorot a slow painful death by cutting his hands and his ears and finally carving out his eyes to show his anger for what they had done to his father.

Satisfied with his revenge, he went home. At home, he thought of taking a swim in the Cordan River with the company of Cannoyan and her lady-friends. So he proceeded to Cannoyan’s place in the town of Calanutian, disregarding her mother’s advice to the contrary. On his way, he met a woman and named Saridandan, whose name suggests that she was a woman of ill repute. He resisted her blandishments, for his feeling for Cannoyan was far greater for anyone to take.

When he reached Cannoyan’s house, he found a multitude of suitors futilely vying for her hand. With the help of his pets- the cock and the dog- he was able to catch Cannoyan’s attention. He asked her to go with him to the river along with her lady-friends. She acceded. While washing himself in the river, the river swelled, and the shrimps, fishes and other creatures in the river were agitated for the dirt washed from his body was too much. As they were about to leave the river, Lam-ang noticed a giant crocodile. He dove back into the water and engaged with the creature in a fierce fight until the creature was subdued. He brought it ashore and instructed the ladies to pull its teeth to serve as amulets against danger during journeys.

Back at Cannoyan’s house, he was confronted by her parents with an inquiry as to what his real intention was. He had to set aside his alibi that he went there to ask Cannoyan and her friends to accompany him to the river, and told them, through his spokesman - the cock - that he came to ask for Cannoyan’s hand in marriage. He was told that if he desired to marry Cannoyan, he must first be able to match their wealth, for which he willingly complied. Having satisfied her parents, he went home to his mother and enjoined her and his townspeople to attend his wedding which was to take place in Cannoyan’s town.

The wedding was elaborate, an event that involved practically everyone in town. There were fireworks, musical band, and display of attractive items like the glasses, the mirror, the slippers, clothes and nice food. After the wedding, Lam-ang’s party plus his wife and her town mates went back their town of Nalbuan, where festivities were resumed. The guests expressed a desire to taste a delicacy made of rarang fish.

Lam-ang was obliged to go to the sea and catch the fish. Before going, however, his rooster warned that something unpleasant was bound to happen. This warning proved true, as Lam-ang was swallowed by a big bercacan, or shark-like fish. Cannoyan mourned and for a while she thought there was no way to retrieve her lost husband. But the rooster indicated that if only all the bones could be gathered back, Lam-ang could be brought to life again.

She then enlisted the aid of a certain diver named Marcus, who was ready to come to her aid to look for the bones. When all Lam-ang’s bones were gathered, the rooster crowed and the bones moved. The dog barked, and Lam-ang arose and was finally resurrected. Cannoyan embraced him. For his deep appreciation for the help of his pets - the cock and the dog - and of Marcus the diver, he promised that each other would get his or its due reward. And they lived happily ever after. ~

This synopsis is based on the transcription made by Jose Llanes from a recitation by memory of the poem by an old farmer, one Francisco Magana, from Bangui Ilocos Norte, sometime in 1947. Of the six old versions of the epic which include a Zarzuela (folk stage play) written by Eufemio L. Inofinada, the Llanes version (206 stanzas) and that of Leopoldo Yabes (305 stanzas) are the most popular. Many believe that the author of the epic is Pedro Bucaneg, a blind Ilocano poet who lived during the early part of Spanish colonization. On close examination the farmer’s (Magana) version pre-dates the Bucaneg’s “Hispanized” version, because the farmer clings more closely to ethnical culture, and is richer with indigenous and pagan influences.

Historians believe that Biag ni Lam-ang is an epic drawn out from oral tradition handed down through countless generations in the same way the Greek’s Iliad and Odyssey were handed down through centuries to the modern world. Historians like H. Otley Beyer, Fox, Fay-Cooper Cole and Jose R. Calip believe in the pre- Hispanic origin of the poem. Calip in his doctoral dissertation, University of Santo Tomas, 1957, further stated that “it is not a product of any single mind but as a property of the people- a floating wisdom from the centuries into the generations.” Through a long, slow evolutionary process, it floated from one century to another, and grew into several versions retaining a lucid mirror of the people of the past, reflecting their own values, environment and culture. Reference: Lam-ang in Transition by Kenneth E.Bauzon, Philippine Social Sciences and Humanities Review, Vol XXXVIII, No.3-4.(Dr.A.V.Rotor)

Selected Stanzas from Biag ni Lam-ang
From Franscisco Magana’s Version, Llanes Transcription

These are selected stanzas to savor the richness of the greatest Philippine epic in the context of both its literary and historical values. These are parts of a masterpiece believe to be closest to the original version, coming from the recitation by memory by an unknown farmer. How the poem survived oral tradition through centuries and generations holds a mystery that is shared only by such epics as Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. It is suggested that the reader recite these stanzas in the traditional style of folk storytelling, and must try to create an imagery of the distant past when epic was regarded as the story of a proud race. (AV Rotor)

A. - Lam- ang is conceived
Note the indigenous richness of the natural resources of the Ilocos Region.

(3) Salamagi pay a marabanban
Pana-pana ken maratang-tang
Kinalapan nga udang
Tirem a tinoc-tocan
Pasayan a bogbogyan
Rasa, kippin a rinama-an.

(4) Pocpoclo can pay ken ping-pinggan
Gamet, ar-arosip ken aragan
Abuyo a sinil-loan
Ken ugsa a binatangan
Siec ken ledda-ngan
Ti cano napanna sinarsaramsam.

B. Duel with Sumarang
Note the ritual, glory and savageness of a duel-
And the dignity of dying.

(48) Pagna can la a pagna
Si sumag-lalakin Lam-ang
Nagna yan di cabarrawasan
Ken cabolbolwan inggana’t
Di na nasabat si sumag-lalakin Sumarang.

(49) “Ay sumag-lalakin Lam-ang
Sadinno aya ti papanam?”
“Ay innac cuma makiay-ayam
Sadiay ili a Macayangyang.”

(50) Ti kunana si sumag- lalakin Sumarang
“ Ay sumang-lalakin Lam-ang
Cunac ta agawidcan
No biagmo ti cailalaam,”
Ngem agpagus can la mapan
Si sumag-lalakin Lam-ang

(51) kinuna manen si sumag-lalakin Sumarang
“Ay sumag-lalakin Lam-ang
Into man ngad agsinparaman
Iti dayta igigganam nga igam
Ta ricnaec no mabalinam.”

(52) In wen met si Lam-ang
Ket nagsangda a duan
Ti kinunan sumag-lalakin Sumarang
“Ay sumag-lalakin Lam-ang
Umon- unaca man nga aggibet ita igam
Sacanto met sublatan.”

(53) Ti met insungbat si sumag-lalakin Lam-ang
“Umon- unaca pay lang
Inton inca ket masugatan.”
Impan si sumag-lalakin Sumarang
Ket cas can met la immawat ti gawed a labilaban
Ken bua a garasigasan
Si sumag-lalakin Lam-ang

(54) Ti kinuna si sumag-lalakin Lam-ang
“Ay sumag-lalakin Sumarang
A la met daanam
Ti impaaymo caniac nga igam
Ta biangco met ti agipulang.”
Inpan can si sumag-lalakin Lam-ang
Ket nasalput ti barucong si sumag-lalakin Sumarang.

(55) Ti dinawat si sumag-lalakin Sumarang
“Ay sumag-lalakin Lam-ang
Sukitennac cad nga yadayo iti dalan
Ta ditoy ti yan ti pagpagnaan
Dagiti gasacdo a babbalasang.”
Sinukit si sumag-lalakin Lam-ang
Ket napan iti maicatlo a pagarrian.

C. Lam-ang is resurrected and re-unite
Immortality is a universal attribute to legendary heroes

(202) Nagtaraoc si carrurayan
Namanpag si cawitan
Ket naggunay metdagiti tulang
Nagtaguob di aso a burburan
Sana kinarucayan
Bimmangon mettensi Lam-ang

(203)” Ay nagirut man ti turog itan
Ay asawac a Cannoyan.”
Ti insungbat si Cannoyan
“iyawatmo man dagita imam
ta agaracupta man
ket kasta unay ti iliwco kencan.”

(206) Daytoy ti nagtungpalan
Ti cabibiag si Lam-ang
Ket rebbengyo a di lipatan
Ti pacasaritaan
Ti apoyo ti tumeng ken dapan.

x x x