Thursday, January 30, 2014

Cockroach - Filthiest Creature

Dr Abe V Rotor
Life cycle of the American cockroach - egg, nymph, adult. Acknowledgment:
This excellent photograph is courtesy of University of Lincoln-Nebraska Dept. of Entomology


And, cockroaches eat on anything - almost.

Being omnivorous, cockroaches voraciously consume all kinds of materials that are rich in carbohydrates, proteins, fats and oils. But when these are not available they turn to unlikely food source like soap, photographic film, clothes, wood and drugs. In fact they even turn into predators, devouring other insects, and sometimes biting people in their sleep. Their bite often gets swollen and infected. Cockroaches are found in all places where humans live and conduct his trade, commerce and industry. Only rats can be compared with the tenacity of the cockroach.

The cockroach has very powerful digestive enzymes: proteases digest protein, invertase breaks complex sugar, and amylase breaks starches. Its saliva contains powerful enzymes coming from the gastric caeca, while the Malphigian tubules secrete an enzyme that is equally disgusting. It is no wonder that just a single frass (feces) can spoil a whole pot of rice by its obnoxious smell. By the way there are three most common species that we encounter in the home and public places. These are the American cockroach or Periplaneta americana (large, rust red with a yellow band across its thorax), the German cockroach or Blatta germanica (pale yellow, only one-third the size of the American species) and the oriental cockroach or Blatta orientalis (dark brown to black, the biggest and filthiest of all cockroaches.)

Meticulous sanitation is the best way to get rid of cockroaches. To keep their population down, sprinkle carbamate (Sevin) on the kitchen floor, pathways and possible hideout of the pest, preferably before retiring at night. Keep doors and screens properly closed to prevent entry of the insect.~

Living with Folk Wisdom, AVR-UST

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Fish Therapy

Dr Abe V Rotor
 Albino Oscars display unique design with a colorful background.  At home, QC.

      Pisces in the constellation
 swim among the stars; 
 fish in a home aquarium
  soothe the day's scars. ~

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

"Death, thou art mean"

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (People's School-on-Air) with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 evening class Monday to Friday (www.pbs.gov.ph)

Death of palm trees - millions of them on one Palm Sunday throughout Christendom,
exacerbating poverty and destroying the balance of the environment
Death of land productivity: Spent soil caked by drought and continuous cropping.  
San Ildefonso, Ilocos Sur
Death of a seashore: Illegal squatting on the seashore in the guise of tourism
 Matabungcay, Batangas

Death of consciousness: Mallard Duck gleaning on a pond - a tetrapack! 
San Mateo, Rizal
Death of wildlife: Orangutan perched on a ledge - no escape.

Death of simple devotion: Excessive candle offerings result in pollution, 
fire hazard, and emission of toxic fumes, waste of energy notwithstanding.
Manaoag, Pangasinan
Death of an agoho tree killed by unscrupulous pruning is
now crowned with ferns and mushrooms
 - symbol of death.
Death of cleanliness and orderliness: Trapped rainwater breeds dengue-carrying mosquitoes.
Death in the guise of technology: Transmission towers emit radiation 
deleterious to health and environment in heavily populated areas 
in Metro Manila.
Death of a camphor tree - aftermath of
Typhoon Ondoy in 2009. UST Manila

Death, thou art mean;
you come with Diogenes,
a lamp in the daylight
amid quest of greatness,

when light is seen only
in the glitter of gold
and in the genius of man,   
then creep surreptitiously 
late in the night. ~

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Culinary with banana blossom (puso ng saging)

Dr Abe V Rotor

                                      Most popular puso ng saging comes from saba variety.

Banana blossom is a favorite culinary ingredient of many recipes distinctly Filipino. Here is a short list.

1. It is a must in kari-kari (ox tail) - fresh or dried.
2. Try ginatang puso ng saging, best with dried fish (pindang Ilk).
3. Pickled - select the succulent and cartilaginous inner part.
4. Fresh - get the heartmost part.
5. Bulanglang or diningding, best with saluyot and hipon (small shrimp) or broiled bangus or tilapia.
6. Pata or pork adobo with dried puso ng saging.
7. Hamburger extender. Shred and mash in fresh water to reduce acridity (pakla). Mix with ground beef and flour at desired proportion.
8. Torta with egg.
9. Pesang dalag, with puso ng saging in chunk.
10. Salad, succulent part in natural vinegar, dash of salt, and bell pepper.

NOTE: Puso ng saging is grown commercially with the botolan (balayang Ilk) or seeded variety. The whole bunch is harvested upon emergence without allowing the fruits to form, whereas the heart of saba variety is harvested after the fruit bunch has gained desired size. Early harvesting of the heart results in undersized fingers. The heart of cavendish (bongolan or tumok Ilk) variety is not edible. Watch out for unscrupulous vendors. Other varieties yield smaller hearts but nonetheless edible. ~

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Priorities & Choices in Life

Priorities & Choices in Life
Dr Abe V Rotor 

Helen Keller, deaf-blind since infancy became a role model for millions of people. She wrote a moving essay that challenges us who have the power of vision on how we would value “Three Days to See” if we were blind like Helen Keller blind since infancy. (The Story of My Life)

Try this exercise. If you were given Three Days To See just as Helen Keller told in her essay, how would you prioritize these? (Please indicate the day after each item; or it is not applicable.) Please refer to the answers below

1. Lives of people everyday
2. Theatre – concert, performing art
3. Transformation of night to day
4. Views from top of a high building
5. Loved ones and friends
6. Nature - landscape and garden
7. Museum of arts and natural history
8. Historical records of man & society
9. Things at home, favorite books, etc
10. Comedy, the lighter side of life.

After checking your work with the answers guide below, compare it with the priorities of Helen Keller.
1st Day - Loved ones, Favorite Things, Nature
2nd Day - Natural History, History, Humanities,
3rd Day - The Business of life. (NOTE: The lighter side of life closes the episode.)

Three Days to See challenges us to look into our priorities and choices in Life • City or countryside life
• Aesthetics or materialism
• Permanence and transience
• Love and Friendship
• Spirituality and faith
• Computer graphics or fine arts
• Perception or sensitivity
• Affection or companionship
• Vice or hobby
• Knowledge or Wiisdom
________________________________________________________
Answer Guide Lives of people everyday - 3rd day
1. Theatre – concert, performing art –end of 2nd day
2. Transformation of night to day –opening of 2nd day
3. Views from top of a high building – 3rd day
4. Loved ones and friends – 1st day, immediately.
5. Nature - landscape & garden – 1st day pm to sunset
6. Museum of arts and natural history – 2nd day
7. Historical records of man & society – 2nd day
8. Things at home, favorite books, etc – 1st day
9. Comedy stage play - End of 3rd day
_________________________________________________________


From this exercise we can better appreciate Helen Keller’s philosophy of life.

Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn whatever state I am, therein to be content.”

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen and even touched. They must be felt within the heart.” ~

Unspoiled environment is key to happy life to those with Infirmities

Dr Abe V Rotor


Good bye,” said the fox to the Little Prince, “And here is my secret.”

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
(The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery)

It’s rightly so. Take it from Water Lily or Nymphaea (photo), which is among the last paintings of French impressionist, Claude Monet (1840-1926) before he became totally blind. The scenery draws deeper meaning from the accompanying verse from Auguries of Innocence, William Blake’s late prophetic poem – fearless and free.

How perfect is the combination of these two masterpieces - made by artists who “saw” the world differently from that of ours – we who are unaffected of sight or any sense, we who are not infirmed in life. Nymphaea represents our natural world, undisturbed and unspoiled by human hands, while Auguries of Innocence speaks of the purity of mankind, reverent and subservient to a Higher Principle, and sensitive to the world.

To see the World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven a Wild Flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
                                              - William Blake, Auguries of Innocence

Edgar Degas also suffered from very poor eyesight towards the end of his life. Surprising it is in this twilight zone that artists made their masterpieces.

Here are other famous people with sight problems
• Andrea Bocelli - opera singer
• Loiuse Braille - inventor of braille
• Ray Charles - American singer and composer
• Helen Keller - American author, philanthropist
• John Milton - English poet
• Horatio Nelson - British admiral
• Rembrandt – Dutch painter
• Stevie Wonder – American singer
• St. Paul - Apostle
• Homer - Greek poet
• Samson - Biblical hero

Here are biblical, religious and fiction characters, too, that are popular to many of us.
• Tiresias - mythological, Greek seer
• Odin - Norse god
• Horus - Egyptian god
• Oedipus - mythological Greek King
• Cupid/Eros - Greek/Roman god of love

We have local Blind Musicians in our midst performing in malls, fiestas, and in various occasion. A live band of five to as many as twenty plays instruments and sings as other famous bands do. In spite of being blind these musicians find joy in entertaining people. They pursue a happy life and live normal like other people do.

Quite often we hear people invariably asking this question on who is fit to live? Who of us best deserve life? How do we earn our worthiness to live? It’s a casual question, yet it is perhaps the most difficult to answer, because the art of living is the most difficult of all the arts. Perhaps we can draw some thoughts from John Milton’s works, the most famous is Paradise Lost. 

God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts: who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best.
His state is kingly.
Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait.”

                                              - John Milton, When I Consider How My Light Is Spent, 1652 

Many people have various versions of how live is well lived with nature. In Living with Nature in Our Times, a book I wrote in 2006, I tried to make a capsule that tries to capture my own definition, greatly influenced by my associates in the field and academe. To wit:

Nature shares her bounty in many ways:
He who works or he who prays,
Who patiently waits or gleefully plays;
He is worthy of the same grace."
                                              - A V Rotor, Living with Nature in Our Times

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Postmodernism - living tomorrow today

Postmodernism - living tomorrow today
Dr Abe V Rotor

"Postmodernism claims that modernity which began with 'the Enlightenment', industrialism, Darwin and Marx, has collapsed.  We now live in an endlessly contemporary culture full of contested meanings.  The resulting postmodern culture embodies parody, pastiche and cultural cross-over.  It is a virtual world of hyperreality containing such strange phenomena as post-Holocaust amnesia, Disneyland, cyberspace and Fukuyama's proclaimed 'end of history'..." - Authors of Introducing Postmodernism


Postmodernism is a late-20th-century movement in the arts, architecture, and criticism that was a departure from modernism. Postmodernism includes skeptical interpretations of culture, literature, art, philosophy, history, economics, architecture, fiction, and literary criticism. It is often associated with deconstruction and post-structuralism because its usage as a term gained significant popularity at the same time as twentieth-century post-structural thought. Criticisms of postmodernism are intellectually diverse, including the assertions that postmodernism is meaningless and promotes obscurantism (the practice of deliberately preventing the facts or full details of something from becoming known).

To a layman postmodernism is 
  • living in a home twenty years or so to pay; 
  • driving a car likewise acquired through down payment and installment;
  • selling the potential harvest of a wheat field even before the planting season (future marketing);
  • melting clocks of Salvado Dali, surrealism; 
  • supplying the missing arms of Venus de Milo, and at the end deciding not to. 
  • carrying smartphone or tablet all the time, and updating its features with new models; 
  • model of [de]FORM[mation] in Picasso's art, like Les Demoiselles d'Avignon; 
  • credit cards, advantage cards, discount cards, VIP cards in a wallet; 
  • wearing oversized or undersized RTWs, fashion or for whatever reason;
  • couple Elton John and David Furnish, gay marriage;
  • wearing coat-and-tie, short pants and rubber shoes; 
  • drive-in funeral parlor (e-libing);   
  • e-learning, e-library, e-mail, e-commerce;
  • man-induced calamities creating never heard havoc;  
  • bitcoin, software currency;  
  • rise of nones, people who move away from organized religions;  Lady Gaga
  • globalization, homogenization, global village, terms about our "shrinking" world;
  • from Einstein's E=mc2, comes the discovery of now Higg's Boson that gives mass to matter, known as God's Particle; 
  • Human Genome Map tells a person's genetic makeup - reference for health, job, career, marriage, etc.
  • longevity increasing, more and more centenarians all over the world;
  • music revival of classics and oldies, on the other, avant-garde music on the rise;                                          Drone
  • unmanned war machines - drones (e-warplanes)

Friday, January 10, 2014



Violin and Nature is an experimental approach to music
Dr Abe V Rotor

Music must be elevated from the level of entertainment and expression of skills to one that brings the listener to a state of catharsis, relieving him of the stresses and tensions of daily living. Music therapy is now recognized as part of alternative medicine. There are musical compositions that bring about the so-called Mozart Effect, named after Amadeus Mozart whose compositions are acclaimed by scientists to be the most therapeutic of all musical compositions, even among his contemporaries in the classical and romantic schools.

This article is the result of a research conducted by the author with his class at the UST Graduate School as respondents to the hypothesis that the combination of Violin and Nature sounds has therapeutic effects to the listener. And if so, how? What aspects of our body physiology, mind, psyche, and spirit are affected? In what ways, and how do we measure such effects?
Cover of tape, later copied into CD. Shorter versions are available: Violin and Birds, Violin and Waves
Can auditory art be developed by converting word to music, and re-create the sound of nature to accompany it? The idea is to find a compatible blend of science - the prosaic and formal, with humanities - the entertaining, cultural, and the sounds of nature, definitely a rare experience that takes place in the inner vision of the mind. Violin and Nature is a CD recording or 32 extemporaneous popular and semi-classical compositions played on the violin by the author with accompaniment of birds, insects, wind, waterfall and running stream.

People say, “ Relaks lang” or “just do it” as part of daily conversation. Either it is taken as advice or compliment, the message is clear: life today is growing tenser. “ Take it easy” has a reassuring note that everybody must learn to live in a stressful world.

Both the poor and rich are subject to different forms of stress, so with the city and village dweller. Ironically, stress does not spare growing affluence. In fact, it persists invariably throughout life, virtually from womb to tomb.

The idea of dealing with tension or stress is how one is able to reduce it effectively so as to enjoy life and get rid of its complications from headaches to various psychosomatic symptoms- and eventual health problems, if it is not checked on time.

One proposal is the use of therapeutic effects of music and nature, thus the rationale of this experiment that employs the combined soothing sound of the violin, and the harmony of nature.

Music is well known to reduce tension. Pipe-in music increases work efficiency in corporate offices, takes out boredom in otherwise monotonous assignments, and fosters proper attitude and disposition, when correctly applied. In fact, scientists have established the biological basis of music by being able to increase the production efficiency in poultry and livestock with the use of background music. The key is the reduction of stress in the animal. The same result has yet to be established in plants.

A stressful life builds tension in the body. Headache, wakefulness, palpitation, indigestion, trembling and many other symptoms, which wear away the life force, accompany tension. Tired nerves need rest and quiet, as nature needs time to recuperate her exhausted energies.

What is tension? It is the effort that is manifested in the shortening of muscle fibers. Physiologists compare muscle tension with “neuromuscular relaxation” to differentiate popular interpretation of relaxation as amusement, recreation, or hobbies. To be relaxed is the direct physiology opposite of being excited or disturbed.

Neurosis and psychoneurosis are at the same time physiological disturbance, for they are forms of tension disorders. Therefore, the key to treatment lies in relaxation.

Who are victims of tension? Everybody is a candidate. These are models of tensed individuals: the “burnt out” housewife, the tagasalo in the family, the gifted child, the dominant lola, the authoritative patriarch. These persons themselves are not only victims of tension; they spread tension among people around them.

Multitudes long for a better life, but they lack courage and resolution to break away from the power of habit. On the other hand, many escape from the harsh realities of life by taking alcohol and drugs.

Hypothesis
The whole idea of relaxation is in disciplining the body to budget life’s energies, and to immerse oneself to relaxing moods. Music and nature are a great inexhaustible source. Plato and Confucius looked at music as a department of ethics. They saw the correspondence between character of man and music. Great music, they believed, is in harmony with the universe, restoring order to the physical world. Aristotle on the other hand, the greatest naturalist of the ancient world supported the platonic view, which through the Renaissance to the present dominate the concept of great composition. Great music has always been associated with God’s creation.

Nature on the other hand, produces calming effects to the nerve. Sightseeing, picnic and camping are a good break to prosaic city life. Different from ordinary amusements in the park or theater, the countryside is one arena of peace and quiet. Features on TV and print media provide but an alternative scenario. Today “canned” Nature is being introduced in many forms such as traveling planetarium, CD-ROM Nature Series, Ecology Village, and the like, to illustrate the growing concern of people to experience the positive effects of Nature in an urban setting characterized by a stressful modern life.

This experiment is based on the premise that the combined effects of music and Nature help reduce tension in daily living, particularly among working students in the city.

Conceptual Framework
A- Tension tends to dominate the body to relax, resulting in tension build-up in the muscles;
B- Music (violin solos) and Nature’s sounds( birds, running stream etc.) make a composition which provides a rare listening experience in varying intensity; and
C- The experience enhances relaxation, reduces tension and its physiologic effects in the individual.


Methodology
The Violin and Nature recorded in compact disc (CD) was then presented for evaluation to students in Research Methodology at the UST Graduate School on two aspects, namely, the content of the tape and the perception of the respondents. Physiologic response was determined by measuring the pulse rate before and after listening to eight sample compositions from the tape for thirty minutes.

These are as follows:

1. Serenade by Toselli (semi- classical)
2. Meditation, from the Thais by Massenet (classical)
3. Lara’s Theme (sound track of the movie, Dr. Zhivago)
4. Beyond the Sunset (ballad)
5. Paper Roses (popular)
6. A Certain Smile (popular)
7. Fascination (popular dance music)
8. Home on the Range (country song)

Respondents Profile

This is the profile of the 42 respondents, which made up one class in research methodology. They are predominantly female students (81%), employed (86%), with ages from 21 to 29 years old (76%).

Content Analysis
The respondents counted eight tunes or pieces, of which 5 are familiar to them. They identified three non-living sounds (running stream, wind, and waterfall, aside from the violin), and two living sounds (mainly birds).

Physiologic Response
The average pulse rates before and after listening to the tape are 79.47 and 73.29 per minute, respectively, or a difference of 6.18. Statistically, the difference is significant, thus confirming the relaxing effects to the respondents after listening to the CD.

Perception
The ten criteria used in rating the perception of the respondents are ranked as follows, adopting the Likert Scale. Note: A scale of 1 to 5 was used, where 1 is very poor, 2 poor, 3 fair, 4 good, and 5 very good.

Criteria Rating Rank
1. One has the feeling of being
transported to a Nature/Wildlife scene. 4.48 1

2. Listening to the tape creates an aura
of peace and serenity. 4.39 2

3. The composition is soothing to hear,
Has calming effect on the nerves. 4.24 3

4. The composition creates a meditative
mood. 3.95 4

5. It brings reminiscence to the
listener of a past experience. 3.64 5

6. It helps one in trying to
forget his problems. 3.59 6

7. One has the felling of being
transported heavenward, to Cloud 9. 3.55 7

8. There is tendency to sleep while
listening to the composition. 3.52 8

9. It brings about a nostalgic feeling. 3.19 9

10. The composition makes one
sad and melancholic. 2.55 10


Analysis and Interpretation
The means the first three criteria fall between good and very good, while the others, except the 10th, are between fair and good. This finding supports the positive relaxing effects of Violin and Nature.

Conclusion and Recommendation
Listening to Violin and Nature slows down pulse rate significantly, thus reducing tension, and brings the listener closer to a state of relaxation. The effects are measured as based on ten criteria. Topping the scores which are classified Very Good are:

1. One has the feeling of being transported to a Nature /Wildlife Scene;
2. Listening to the tape creates an aura of peace and serenity; and
3. The composition is soothing to hear, and has calming effect on the nerves.

There are six other parameters that support the hypothesis that the CD is relaxing. This is different from its effect of bringing nostalgia, sadness and melancholy that received the lowest scores and rankings.

However, there is need to improve the quality of the compositions, and their recording. It is also recommended that similar evaluation be conducted on other age groups and people of different walks of life who are similarly subject to stressful life and environment. ~

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Garden - Microcosm of the Living World

Dr Abe V Rotor
This article is dedicated to Dr Romualdo M del Rosario
Supervising scientist of the botanical garden, and professor at the Graduate School

Nature keeps a dynamic order where unity resides in diversity. We will never understand this mysterious order. Perhaps it is better not to probe it at all - for it is our deep faith in the Maker of that garden that we earn our place there to live in harmony with all creatures.


A view of the UST main building from the botanical garden
framed by a deciduous narra tree and climbing Phylodendron.

Century old dita (Alstonia scholaris) dominates the UST Botanical
Garden. It towers over the surrounding buidings on the campus.



“To see a world in a grain of sand,
And heaven in a wild flower;
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And Eternity in an hour.”

- William Blake, Auguries of Innocence

This verse captures the essence of the title of this article. It condenses the universe into its elemental symbols from which we take a full view of the world we live in. It reduces the complexities and vastness of both non- living and the living world into a microcosm that is complete in itself- a plantilla of creation all contained in the hand and experienced within a lifetime.

Lucky is the person who realizes this singular gift. Through this microcosm he can traverse the breadth of time and space, live with the myriad of life forms, and most important, he is blessed by the Great Maker to be part of the wonders and mysteries of creation.

So deep is the faith of the poet, William Blake, who wrote this verse more than two hundred years ago. Then, there were no computers, no television, no spacecraft and satellites. Could it be that in the absence of these modern tools that the mind could penetrate deeper, imagination soar higher, and faith stronger?

A fine arts student finds solace and subject at the UST Botanical Garden.

A. Garden as a Microcosm

The garden could have been the place where Newton formulated the laws of gravity and magnetism when an apple fell on his head, where Darwin developed his theory of evolution through natural selection, where Henry Fabre discovered organization intelligence among insects over and above mere instinctive behavior. It was in a garden where Claude Monet painted his masterpieces, capturing the essence of the natural beauty of wild flowers, such as the Nymphaea and the lotus.

We may not expect inventions and discoveries, and master’s arts, to creep into the mind of whoever spends time in a garden, or any similar microcosm of nature for that matter. But we are most certain that he finds enlightenment through the knowledge and experience he gains, and with these he develops in himself the discipline to discover new things, and to acquire values that help him live at peace with nature and himself. It is in keeping close to nature that we better understand the ways of the world in which we live.

When I conducted a lecture- demonstration at the UST Botanical Garden before my students, I was in effect simulating the scenario. Here I showed them the different parts of the Garden, starting with the basics such as, “ What makes a Garden?” I explained the composition of a typical rainforest ecosystem. The garden is precisely a pocket representation of this ecosystem, and, by dissecting it, we were in effect looking at its profile.
B. Deciduous Nature of Trees in Tropical Rainforest
Deciduous umbrella tree or talisay (Terminalia catappa) displays the color of autumn.
I gathered my students under a narra tree- Pterocarpus indicus. Trees belonging to the Dipterocrap group of family Legumonosae dominate the canopy of the tropical rainforest. Their leaves fall off completely at certain season so that the trees are bare for some time, thus allowing sunlight to penetrate and nourish the understory trees, ground plants, lianas and epiphytes.

The floor becomes covered with litter that nourishes insect, earthworms, fungi and bacteria. These decompose the leaves into humus that ultimately becomes soil while supplying nutrients to different plants in the forest. Because of the high precipitation throughout the year, the forest becomes lush and dense. The multi- story nature of the tropical rainforest makes it the richest biome in both diversity of species and number of inhabitants.
C. Gymnosperms and Angiosperms
These are cone-bearing and lowering plants, respectively. Gymnosperms are exemplified by pine cypress, and arios. I allowed my student to touch and examine these plants. Then they turned to examine the angiosperms that predominate the campus. Phylogeny shows that flowering plants are more “ modern “, which means that through evolution, the gymnosperms are older, and later gave way to the evolving angiosperms. Except in colder countries and in the taiga biome, the natural vegetation of forests is composed of flowering  plants. The pine, cypress and cycad are the most common representatives of the cone-bearing plants in tropical gardens.

The oldest living organisms belong to gymnosperm - the Redwoods of California. And the Bristle Cone which is believed to be even older. Many of these trees were already bearing cones during the time of Christ. I have seen one in central Taiwan, estimated to have been two thousand years old, before it was struck by lightning. It still attracts many tourists who wonder at its massive size. One would associate it with legend or cartoon if he hadn't gone to the place. massive it is even after death. It takes
D. False flowers
Nature’s sweet lies have a purpose. The brightly colored leaves of poinsettia and bougainvillea attract insect pollinators and enhance fertilization and subsequent fruit and setting and seed formation, thus ensuring the perpetuation species how many plants are benefited by this special make-up.

The truth is that most flowering plant has designed attraction mechanisms. In general, flowers are made attractive, although the attraction that we know may not be the same as how insects perceive it. We know red as red, yellow as yellow, and so forth. But insect have different perception of colors. Nonetheless, the basic purpose is what counts - and is almost always achieved. Other means that guarantee pollination-fertilization are sometimes needed. For example insect are attracted by the obnoxious odor of Lantana camara, pollinating it in effect.

Pongapong flower is pollinated by flies

This is also in the cases of pongapong (Amorphophallus 
campanolatus), kalumpang or bangar tree - and, of course, the Rafflesia, the world largest flower that emits putrefying odor. They have one thing in common: they attract flies to pollinate their flowers.

E. Flowering Bamboo- Prophet of Doom
The old folks used to tell us, “Beware when the bamboo flowers.”

What is the connection of a flowering bamboo to a force majeure, such as drought? Old folks use it as a barometer of El Niño. Climatologists around the globe predict the coming of this phenomenon by observing plants, among them the flowering of bamboos. The cycle is ten years or closer. El Niño is accompanied by poor harvest, forest fires, death of livestock, spread of certain diseases that effect man, animals and plants.

Biologically, organisms subjected to stress tend to reach the reproductive stage earlier than usual. In fact, certain insects even skip molting just to be able to metamorphose into an adult and carry out reproduction while the environment allows. It is nature’s way of insuring the perpetuation of the species at the expense of the organism, so to speak.

So, when a bamboo flowers it ultimately dies. This is why the panda, which derives its food mainly on bamboo suffers. There are bamboo species that flower after fifty years or so, then die.

There are other plants that signal the coming of drought. One is kapok. A fruit-laden kapok  tree means poor against harvest ahead. Even the sturdy kamagong or mabolo is stressed by drought. While it stops producing new leaves, the crown remains intact. This could be the reason why this tree produces the hardest wood. In the case of the narra, and mango, they show no apparent stress signal. It is because they have sturdy, long taproots that penetrate deep into the ground and into the bedrock. Old folks, however, warn us that no plant is spared from the worst kind of drought.

E. Trees are Sound and Wind Barriers
Have you noticed how the sound of traffic dies down in the dense vegetation of trees? Loud voice is muffled, blarring sound reduced to tolerable decibels, and music is more soothing to the ear. The trees at UST and in the Sunken Garden of UP Diliman are definitely for this purpose, in addition to being buffers against strong wind.
Windbreaks help reduce wind pressure. I saw a 10- row windbreak of different species of trees along the highway to the Beijing airport. Another windbreak made of agoho (Casuarina equisitifolia) is found along the coastline of Kaohsiung in Southern Taiwan which similarly serves to buffer winter wind. Woodland hedges along field boundaries in Europe serve the same purpose. The Indian tree is an effective sound breaker because of its thick, cone- shaped crown. It has also another advantage, that is, it grows tall and straight so that several trees can be planted close to each other.These man-made forests are a source of many valuable products and serve as a natural habitat of wildlife. It is no wonder why the Hanging Garden of Babylon was one of the wonders of the ancient World.

F. Hantik Ants - Biological Control Agents

Nest of hantik ants (Oecephalla smaragdina)

My students studied the nests of the giant green tree ants or hantik. The older nests were built on the upper branches of alagao, while a newly built nest was on a smaller tree Ficus pseudopalma. It is not easy to trace which nest an individual ant belongs to, but each colony has a specific chemical signal called pheromone. This prevents members from fighting, and allows the colonies to co-exist with defined territories assigned to each colony. Scientist calls this territory as niche.


Hantik ants are notorious killers of other insects. This could be the reason I have not seen any need to spray chemicals. Hantik ants feed on grubs, caterpillars, aphids, scale insects, and many others. They carry off morsels to their nest to feed their larvae. They scare organisms several times bigger than themselves. In fact, one who happens to get close to their domain is likely to get a bite or two, which is warning enough. But they do not hesitate to attack once they are threatened or disturbed.

I demonstrated the ferocity of the hantik by crushing a member of that colony. Sooner than  I expected other members came to the rescue and pheromone was immediately put to use in the coordination and division of work, and in the strategy of war.

G. Common Medicinal Plants

A botanical garden is not complete without a good collection of medicinal plants. Here I showed to my students examples of medicinal plants with their uses. UST Botanical Garden was once the pharmaceutical garden of the university founded by Fr. Rodriguez a century ago. It is one of the oldest phamaceotical gardens in the world.

Here are typical examples of medicinal plants found in backyard and home gardens.

1. Lagundi - fever and flu
2. Pandakaki- minor wound or cuts
3. Oregano - sore throat and cough
4. Ikmo - mouth wash
5. Mountain tea - health drink
6. Guava - body odor and skin diseases
7. Pandan - beverage and food additive
8. Alagao - fever and cold
9. Avocado - diarrhea
10. Banana - kidney ailment

H. Poisonous Plants

showed my students poisonous plants growing in the garden. But why do we have poisonous plants around?

There are plants which produce poisonous substances that are valuable as pesticide. Examples are neem tree, derris and makabuhay. These have been proved to be effective in controlling certain pests and disease of plants.

Botanical pesticides are generally safer than chemical pesticides. Studies have shown that neem (Azideracta asiatica), a native of India, has long been used as insecticide. It is widely used on field crops and against domestic pest like cockroaches, mosquitoes and bedbugs in many countries including the Philippines.

Makabuhay (Tinospora rhumpiana) is effective against a wide range of rice pests and the application is very simple. Fresh stems and leaves are finely chopped and directly broadcast in lowland ricefields. The active principle is also very effective on golden kohol, a major pest of rice of the Philippines.

Derris is the source of commercial rotenone insecticide. The concentration of its poison is in its enlarged roots.

Two poisonous plants grow in the garden. In fact they grow wild and have been persistent for a number of years now. Castor bean contains a poisonous substance - ricinin - for which reason castor oil is no longer prescribed as laxative. The other plant is Jatorpha curcas or tubang bakod. A few years ago a group of students from a Quezon City High School ate the seeds which taste like peanut. They were taken to the hospital for treatment.
Bangbangsit (Lantana camara) , insect repellant
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A garden harbors the inquisitive mind, the seeking heart, the longing spirit. It is a place of peace and quiet. Here the seasons of the year are  best observed. As an miniature ecosystem it defines basic relationships between and among living things, including man. Never is a garden idle, nothing is waste, and time is never prodding yet never dull.
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I. Conclusion
The microcosm is far from complete. But it is the framework that is important, like building replica of a dinosaur from pieces of recovered fossil. Knowledge is like that. It starts with principles, but, before that, one must be inspired and motivated to learn. There is no true learning unless one labors for it to some degree. Even frustration that may threaten learning itself, could be, at the end, a motivating factor, a challenge and test of what one is really made of. The Great Maker just gave us the Plantilla from which we follow the way to learning and understanding. ~

Bust of the founder of the former UST Pharmacy Garden, Fr. Rodriguez.

Symbols of the UST Pharmacy Garden. Both
monuments grace the garden's central area.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Swarms of bees, locusts, gnats and other organisms fill the imagination with awe and fear. Is the swarming gene also inherent in humans?

Dr Abe V Rotor 

 Biologically swarming is essentially a social act enabling members of a colony to share genes with others belonging to the same species but different colonies. Nature has so timed swarming to occur simultaneously in order to enhance gene sharing which is vital to the survival of the species, otherwise in-breeding within the colony is perpetuated like brothers, sisters, marrying each other.
Anti-pork barrel scam rally at the Rizal Park.  People are drawn together for a common cause - the key to social reform.
 Annual migration of monarch butterflies down Mexico and Central America to escape winter in the north.  Ants on the run in search for food, reminiscent of the biblical story.  
 A kind of swarming is also observed among coelenterates (corals). At a given precise time, eggs and sperms are released into the water in countless numbers, and there fertilization takes place, the resulting zygotes becoming minute hydras that will soon attach themselves to become new corals. In certain islands in the Pacific ghost crabs crowd the shorelines and beaches during a particular period of the year at a certain phase of the moon, and there mating takes place in a kind of orgy. The gravid females then shake off their eggs in the water where they will soon hatch and initially become zooplanktons. Very few of these survive to maturity. 

Swarming among winged termites (simut-simut Ilk.) is perhaps the most romantic, in fact it is called nuptial flight because in the sweltering night air lovers meet, and then they descend and seal their vows. The couple seeks a suitable place where they will establish a colony. 
Swarm of migratory locust
Swarms of gamu-gamu (gnats and midges) become nuisance to communities in sheer number, swarms of locust destroy fields of standing crops overnight, swarms of bees, especially the African bees, may send a whole community to abandon homes and belongings. In the bible King Solomon halted his troop to let an army of ants pass by. This could be the kind of ants we know that invade homes and schools, and there are killer ants that destroy everything on their path. 
Old folks attribute swarming to several reasons which science has tried to explain scientifically. 
Jellyfish swarming along beaches is disastrous to the fishing industry and tourism. 
Swarming is a seasonal occurrence dictated by a biological clock, and therefore timed with the life cycle of the species. (e.g. termites and ants). This kind of swarming occurs regularly to a particular species. 

• Certain organisms such as locusts - Locusta migratoria manilensis -  (photo) are driven by necessity to gather into a swarm. Small groups first congregate where food is available and then coalesce into huge numbers, mating and reproducing along the way, before turning into migratory swarms. This kind of swarming though unpredictable has historical records in a place. It often jibes with the occurrence of widespread drought or with the El Niño phenomenon.

Ecological imbalance may lead to swarming such as the case of gamu-gamu swarming on Laguna Bay in the sixties. Over fishing in the lake triggered a population explosion of gnats which constitute the main food of fish. Thus swarming is an indicator of the conditions happening in an ecosystem. 

Much of what we know about the subject can’t sufficiently explain pathological conditions where bacteria suddenly burst in numbers, or how fungi all of a sudden grow over an entire forest floor. Why do people move to cities? Why did the Israelites turn to the golden calf, a symbol of fertility, after their deliverance from Egypt? Do we harbor the genes for swarming called orgy?
Is urbanization a kind of swarming? (Acknowledgement: Internet photos, Wikipedia)