Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Naturalist-Philosopher Omar Khayyam's signature: The RUBAIYAT

Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám
“ My tomb shall be on a spot where the north wind may scatter roses over it." 
...Years after, when I chanced to revisit Naishapur, I went to his final resting-place, and lo! It was just outside a garden, and trees laden with fruits stretched their boughs over the garden wall, and dropped their flowers upon his tomb, so that the stone was hidden under them.” (From a pupil of Omar Khayyam)

Dr Abe V Rotor
Omar Khayyam (1048 - ca. 1132)
Astrologer-Poet of Persia (Iran)

have a friend, Dr Anselmo S Cabigan, who is an ardent disciple of the great Persian naturalist-philosopher-astrologer-poet – Omar Khayyam.  On lighter occasions in school where we taught, he would run from memory several quatrains from Rubaiyat, keeping faithful to their rhyme-rhythm-meter, and emoting the imagined feeling of the master. It is a rare experience today to hear one reciting from memory an ancient masterpiece, which, had it not been for providence, history may have missed conserving such great work.

How distinct Khayyam’s style is, compared with modern poets, who like in painting, hide behind the curtain of abstractionism – vague and hollow, and often wanting of refinement and naturalness. Rubaiyat, of course has some abstract forms, but intellectual and cultural.

Omar Khayyam enjoyed popularity, but his works showed more of the inner man - his life must have been truly well-spent, not only in the sciences and the arts, but in the fulfillment of life itself in his country though tumultuous in his time, was nonetheless obstacle to leading a romantic and scholarly life, as gleamed from the writings of one of his pupils. (The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, rendered into English Verse by Edward Fitzgerald.) To wit:

“I often used to hold conversations with my teacher, Omar Khayyam, in a garden; and one day he said to me, “My tomb shall be in a spot where the north wind may scatter roses over it.’ I wondered at the words he spake, but I knew that his were not idle words. Years after, when I chanced to revisit Naishapur, I went to his final resting-place, and lo! It was just outside a garden, and trees laden with fruits stretched their boughs over the garden wall, and dropped their flowers upon his tomb, so that the stone was hidden under them.”

Here are the first 15 stanzas or quatrains of Omar Khayyam’s masterpiece, Rubaiyat, a priceless contribution to the richness of world literature, and to think that Rubaiyat was written prior to the golden era of the Renaissance. The quatrain used has four equal lines, though varied, sometimes all rhyming, but more often as shown here, the third line does not. It is somewhat like the Greek Alcaic, where the penultimate line seems to lift and suspend the Wave that falls over the last. The Rubaiyat has an Oriental flair, and distinctly musical so that it is important to read it aloud, preferably with an audience.

I. Awake for Morning is the bowl of Night
Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight:
And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught
The sultan's Turret in a Noose of Light.

II. Dreaming when Dawn's Left Hand was in the sky

I heard a Voice within the Tavern cry,
"Awake, my Little ones, and fill the Cup
Before Life's Liquor in its Cup be dry."

III And, as the Cock crew, those who stood before

The tavern shouted - "Open then the Door.
You know how little while we have to stay,
And, once departed, may return no more."

IV. Now the New Year reviving old Desires,

The Thoughtful Soul to Solitude retires,
Where the White Hand of Moses on the Bough
Puts out, and Jesus from the Ground auspires.

V. Iram indeed is gone with all its Rose,

And Jamshyd's Sev'n-ring'd Cup where no one knows;
But still the vine her ancient Ruby yields,
And still a Garden by the Water blows.

VI. And David's Lips are lock't, but in divine

High piping Pelevi, with"Wine! Wine! Wine!
Red Wine!" - the Nightingale cries to the Rose
That yellow Cheek of hers to'incarnadine.

VII. Come. fill the Cup, and in the Fire of Spring

The Winter Garment of Repentance fling;
The Bird of Time has but a little way
To fly - and Lo! the Bird is on the Wing.

VIII. And look - a thousand Blossoms with the Day

Woke - and a thousand scatter'd intop Cl;ay:
And this first Summer Month that brings the Rose
Shall take Jamshtd and Kaikobad away.

IX. But come with old Khayyam, and leave the Lot

Of Kaikobad and Kaikhosru forgot:
Let Rustum lay about him as he will,
or Hatim Tai cry supper - heed them not.

X. With me along some strip of Herbage strown

That just divides the desert from the sown,
Where name of Slave and Sultan scare is known,
And pity Sultan Mahmud on his Throne.

XI. Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,

A flask of Wine, a Book of Verse - and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness -
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.

XII. "How sweet is mortal Sovranty!" - think some:

Others - "How blest the Paradise to come!"
Ah, take the Cash in hand and waive the Rest;
Oh, the brave Music of a distant Drum.

XIII. Look to the Rose about us - "Lo,

Laughing," she says, unto the World I blow:
At once the silken Tassel of my Purse
Tear, and its Treasure on the Garden throw."

XIV. The Worldly Hope men set their Hearts upon

Turns Ashes - or it prospers; and anon,
Like Snow upon the Desert's dusty Face
Lighting a little Hour or two - is gone.

XV. And those who husbanded the Golden Grain,

And those who flung it to the Winds like Rain,
Alike to no such aureate Earth are turn'd
As, buried once, Men want dug up again.

NOTE: Quatrain XI has a universal theme. This is the key to knowing Omar Khayyam's personality and life's philosophy - doubtless, Dr Cabigan and I agree.
"... and Thou beside me singing in the Wilderness - 
and Wilderness is Paradise enow."

About Omar Khayyam: The Persian astronomer, mathematician, and poet Omar Khayyam (1048-ca. 1132) made important contributions to mathematics, but his chief claim to fame, at least in the last 100 years, has been as the author of a collection of quatrains, the "Rubaiyat."

Omar Khayyam was born in Nishapur in May 1048. His father, Ibrahim, may have been a tentmaker (Khayyam means tentmaker). Omar obtained a thorough education in philosophy and mathematics, and at an early age he attained great fame in the latter field. The Seljuk sultan Jalal-al-Din Malik Shah invited him to collaborate in devising a new calendar, the Jalali or Maliki. Omar spent much of his life teaching philosophy and mathematics, and legends ascribe to him some proficiency in medicine. He died in Nishapur. (Acknowledgment: Thanks to Encyclopedia of World Biography; and to Internet for the photos)

Take heed of your biological clock

"Living organisms take heed of their biological clock - except humans, in many cases." avr
Dr Abe V. Rotor


“There is a time for all things.”
- William Shakespeare

Each one of us is governed by a built-in clock within us. Everything we do is “timed;” it has a schedule. And this living clock controls our actions and 

Time out. UST Manila 2010

behaviors. It is the key to survival; a tool in evolution so that it is ingrained in our genes. If that is so, are our biological clocks
then synchronized?

Generally, yes. And that is why we all respond to common rules that society has set for us. We respond to the seasons of the year, each characterized by events we celebrate. We have standard working hours, and curfew. Weekends are set aside for rest and leisure. Summer means vacation. We observe three meals a day, coffee breaks, siestas, and the like.

Menstrual cycle, estrus periods, stages in growth and development – all these are controlled by inner rhythms dictated by that biological clock. So patterned are our laws and rules that we know well the best season to plant or to hunt, to plan weddings and inaugurations, to travel, to go to school, to have a date, to meditate, to be merry.

There is a saying, 
There’s time for everything.”

To every thing there is a season, and a time to
every purpose under the heaven.
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant,
and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to
break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to
mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to
gather stones together; a time to embrace,
and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep,
and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep
silence, and time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war,
and a time of peace.

- Ecclesiastes

Yes, we are governed by inner rhythms which are classified into the following:

Ultradian - Less than a heartbeat
Fluctuation of energy
Attention span
Brain waves

Circadian (daily) day
Blood pressure level
Sleep wake cycle
Cell division

Circaseptan (weekly ) about a week
Rejection of kidney, heart, and pancreas transplants

Circatrigintan (monthly) about a month
Menstrual Cycle

Circannual (annual) about a year
Seasonal depression
Susceptibility to some diseases

Living organisms take heed of their biological clock - except humans, in many cases. ~

Photography: Trees in Silhouette

Dr Abe V Rotor
Narra trees (Pterocarpus indicus), UST Central Library
Talisay or Umbrella Tree
Kapok or Cotton Tree (Ceiba pentandra)
Talisay (Terminalia catappa) with new leaves
Kalumpang  or Bangar Tree (Sterculia foetida)
Cotton Tree (Kapok), Ceiba pentandraQC
Narra (Pterocarpus indicus), deciduous
stage, with climbing Phylodendron. 
UST Botanical Garden.
Anahaw Palm, Livistonia rotondifolia,
UST Botanical Garden

Bathed in sunset and neon lights,
weaving silhouettes in the dark -
I wonder if trees ever go to sleep 
with some poor souls in the park? 

Canon EOS 350D, and Sony Cybershot, edited with Adobe Photoshop


Pomposity of colors - Nature's tool for survival

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Pocket Tropical Rainforest in the City

Dr Abe V Rotor
What really makes a beautiful garden may draw to school of thought- Romanticism and functionalism. The University of Santo Tomas botanical garden does not take side in the issue; it portrays both in an integrated, harmonious design patterned after the richest and the most enviable biome on earth- the tropical rain forest.

Trees in acrylic by the author  

The new face of the garden is striking. Let us begin with the cascading 6- foot waterfall and trace its flow on a meandering rocky stream that ducks under a footbridge before plunging into the depth of a pond, its bottom murky and cool and rich in detritus. Here calms and snails, and other bottom dwellers, mostly decomposers, reside, shy from the sun and remain ensconced in the very food source that settles down. Such in the 
niche of these sessile, benthic organisms.

Bryophyte Garden

Along the “river”, the water keeps the environment fresh and cool, lapping at the rock, sending spray on its banks. Through time, on the walls of the waterfall and on any rocks that lies across the path of water, grow countless kinds of algae and mosses that build layer after layer until a carpet is formed, thus giving rise to another niche- the domain of bryophytes in Lilliputian imagery, or one depicted in the movie, “ Honey, I shrunk the kids”.

Bryophytes are among the earliest plants and are, therefore, primitive. It is as if we are turning the hands of time some two billion years ago or so, when these prototypes began to fill the atmosphere with oxygen, which later favored the growth of more, advanced vegetation. Perhaps their most outstanding contribution is in oil building, breaking up rocks exfoliating them, virtually skinning them with their acidic foothold, and, together with their biomass, making a mass we call soil.

Micro- Climate Effect

The ultimate source of water is the sky, from the clouds that gather and grow atop the forest. Transpiration and evaporation combine to attract the clouds, which come down as a shower or a downpour at any time of the day or night. It is for this phenomenon that this biome got its to simulate this condition, the waterfall and running streams, together with a large fountain and a series of ponds near by, maintain high humidity in the area that is the key to the formation of a multi- story vegetation and myriad of resident organisms.

It will take time for the UST botanical garden to reach the status of a true typical rainforest. Years shall pass, and in the process students and visitors shall witness here, the transformation of one sere after, until a climax community is formed. It is not only for the scientific and aesthetic aspect that count; it is for something more - that which presents itself in the realm of ethico- morals that governs man in his role in God’s creation- the transformation of man himself as a true and faithful steward.

Evolving Ecosystem 


The UST botanical garden is being transformed as a deliberate expression of an evolving ecosystem. It is Nature’s laboratory and a playing field of biological diversity.

Misty morning at the UST Botanical Garden, on-the-spot painting by the author.   


As a field laboratory the garden demonstrates ecological cycles- invasion, colonization, competition, and emergence of dominant species as well as seasonal and long term succession patterns. We may not have the four distinct seasons, but there are tropical trees that demonstrate some characteristics they carry in their ancestral genes, such as deciduousness in narra ( Ptercarpus inducus), our national tree.


The garden is a living manifestation of dynamic balance in a changing environment with the organisms constantly adjusting to the demands of the latter, but in the process slowly affecting the environment itself. Such transformational stages, called seres, always lead towards homeostasis, and the result is a climax ecological system.

As a showcase of natural habitats, the garden adjusts to the development of niches and diversity indices. The garden never sleeps, to speak. It is a living arena and the drama of life goes on and on.

When we look at a life, we look at it in physics and chemistry- the flow of energy through the food chain, food web and their heirarchic order, the food pyramid. The light energy of the sun is transformed into chemical energy in plants, and is passed on to various organisms, one after another through the links of a chain. The remaining energy is used by the decomposers that transform organic substances into inorganic forms for the use of the next generation organisms- and the cycle goes on and on. We can witness this phenomenon among the residents in the pond, and among insects, arachnids, birds, and reptiles that reside nearby.

The garden is a laboratory for sociobiology, in the words of the founder of this field, E.O. Wilson. Animal behavior is demonstrated both by instinct and condition learning, and, to an extent, incipient intelligence. The ingenious building of a spider’s web, the predatory, awes student’s techniques of the preying mantis and the green tree ant. But this study may go into the physiologic responses in plants - tropism or reactions to light, touch, and the other elements. Plants, to sociobiologists, are not insensitive and incapable of communicating with one another. As members of a community, they, too, respond, singly and collectively, through some kind of communication medium.

There are biological indicators of the state of the environment. The garden has a host of these indicators, such as lichens and fireflies, the presence of which attests to the fact that the environment is tolerably favorable to them in spite of air pollution, and that the garden has become their home. The garden itself is also a barometer of climatic adversity life El Niño. The flowering of the bamboo is an antecedent of its episode.

I believe that, in spite of the crowded environment of high rise buildings around the UST, the Botanical Garden is not without natural populations of species, such as butterflies. Having the kinds of plants they feed on and rear they young, the garden is their natural abode. The ponds are a sanctuary of dragonflies as well, and their waters teem with both phytoplankton and zooplankton, seen only under the microscope. These in turn key up the food web, linking one organism to another in an amazing network of interrelationship.

"As a gene bank, the garden is a depository of biological diversity, providing access to genetic studies, propagation and exchange with other institutions," says Dr. Anselmo S. Cabigan a well known biologist and ecologist. For many years the UST Botanical Garden was under the supervision of Dr. Romualdo M del Rosario.~ 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Landscaping and philosophy

Dr Abe V Rotor 

I observed a gardener arrange a piece of landscape at UST.  I was on my way to meet my class in the graduate school, but this time this kind gardener became my mentor. 

A layer of stones around the base of a tree and at the blind corner of a building makes a neat and clean appearance.   It transformed a taken-for-granted area into something Japanese and American and Filipino combined.  

It made me wonder if there is a purist version of a landscape, say strictly Italian, or French, or Chinese. None as I know, except that certain emphasis expresses a nationality.  For example, the Japanese garden is basically made of rocks and stone and sand.  An American garden is perhaps the closest to nature - it runs its course like a flowing stream or a climbing liana. What amazes me is the fine taste of artisans, who we think are not sensitive to "fine arts."  On the contrary they do - some better than us.

So the fellow - Jun, sir he said when I asked his name - demonstrated the steps.  He laid down a mat of used plastic with holes he added with a pick.  So that water with not accumulate, he explained, and stones and soil are separated. The plastic will asphyxiate weeds that grow from below. I supplied the term from his vernacular term. 

To break the monotony of the stones he planted peanut grass on the periphery, and covered the drainage cover with stones - camouflage was what he meant.  And how about emphasis? Just a boulder he couldn't take away from view. It's there and it's part of it.  Jun is a philosopher, too. 

I received more than knowledge itself.  I learned a lesson in life from a simple man who simply love his work, and willing to share it. Which led me to ask, What really is a professor?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Eyes of Nature

"Many eyes are looking at me
here with Nature,
by day and night 
beneath and atop a tree." - avr

Painting and Poem by Dr Abe V Rotor


Also visit my other Blogs:
[avrotor.blogspot.com]
[Living with Nature School on Blog]
 Eyes in the Forest, acrylic painting on canvas (60" x 44"), by AVR, May 2012
Details: Young adventurers in full gear prepare to penetrate the forest; emergent tree rises to a hundred feet surpassing the canopy layer. A nest is perched on the top, with a mother hawk attending to her young. A pair of deer, a coiled boa, and many more hidden and camouflaged. Trees are real giants of the living world. The Dipterocarp is tallest tree in the Tropical Rain Forest. 

The Eyes of Nature


Many eyes are looking at me here with Nature;
By day and night, beneath and atop a tree.
They're scary, they're mean, they're sleepy, 
And how do I look to them seeing me?

Wink and they wink, close and they do, too.
Quick the flashlight, and they disappear;
Can eyes exist alone, like stars in the sky?
I wonder if these eyes are like stars to cheer.  

Yes, the fireflies have lamps that flicker,
The moth and butterfly have wing spots
Like monstrous eyes to stave off predator,
And cave dwellers glow in rows and knots. 

The fish in the stream is silver in the moonlight,
As bubbles rise to the surface and sparkle,
The owl rarely blinks, no creature dare around,
Its infrared vision indeed a marvel.

Raindrops falling make a thousand eyes
Life they bring to the rainbow, borrowing
its colors glow, and sparkle as they drop,
reborn with the light of the river flowing. 

Mushrooms are phosphorescent, they glow,
while others absorb light for future use; 
Ah, boast the snake, I can freeze you to fall,
An eagle swoops, there's no excuse.

Petals attract a pollinator in the night
Crickets shine when won by a song,
Seeds pop out to meet the rising sun,
And the sun shines happily all along. 

Eyes, eyes, eyes, - for us to see the world, 
And all eyes the world is bound;
In our sleep, in the deep forest and ocean,
Eyes make the world go round. ~

"Dirty ice cream" is the tastiest ice cream in the world.

Dr Abe V Rotor
Mang Tomas' ice cream is patronized by the UST community.     

Dirty ice cream - but why the clamor, the demand?
Capitalism's war on tradition, triumph of the brand.  

Maligned in misnomer, yet lives in one's childhood;

what's in a name for the tastiest ice cream in the world?

Home made it started, then rode on a fancy push cart,

Indigenous and personalized, brand of Filipino art. 

It is a link of tradition and modern, the old and young;

though endangered for now, it has a promise beyond?   

Foreign ingredients and technology, why not our own?

from farm to home, all native from ice cream to cone.

Dirty ice cream – to redeem its name by no one but us,
take it from the old, innovation, and Mang Tomas. ~

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Biological fertilizer is friendly to farmers and environment

Dr Abe V Rotor

 Dr Precila C Delima (second from right) poses with members of her panel of examiners after defending successfully her dissertation, The effects of seed treatment, nitrogen fertilization and herbicide application on the efficacy of Bio-N on corn growth and productivity,  earning her  a doctorate degree in biological science from the University of Santo Tomas. In the photo are (left to right): Dr Thomas Edison dela Cruz, Dr Gina Rio Dedeles, Dr Cristina Ramos, Dr Romualdo del Rosario, Dr Grecebio Jonathan Alejandro (chairman), Dr Delima and Dr Abercio Rotor (adviser).
Dr Delima pays courtesy to Dean Lilian Sison of the Graduate School.  
Findings:

Biological Nitrogen (Bio-N bacteria) and mycorrhizal innoculum in combination with half or three-fourth of the recommended inorganic fertilizer is sufficient to supply the nutrient requirements of corn, hence can offer considerable benefits in terms of growth and yield.  Bio-N and AMF are potential substitute to fertilizers and biocides.

However Bio-N or Mykovam as single inoculant is insufficient for crop growth.

High amount of N has a negative impact on the AMF resulting to low yield.

Bio-N, and combination with inorganic fertilizers with biofertilizers without herbicide were found to be profitable and pitential substitutes to the commercial inorganic fertilizers.   

Recommendations:
Promote the utilization of environmentally sound inoculant fertilizers among farmers to reduce their fertilizer input and consequently help mitigate global warming.

Biofertilizers should be used in combination with optimun amount of inorganic fertilizers (50% to 75%) to maintain sustainability in crop growth and productivity.

Further study is recommended to establish guidelines in applying the findings of this research, namely: 
  • location-specific (within and outside Cagayan Valley)
  • season-specific based on the sub-climate of the area.  
  • variety-specific (white, other corn varieties, and different cultivars of yellow corn)
  • residual effect of the two biofertlizers
  • application of low input systems such as organic farming on biofertlizers



Background

1. Corn (Zea mays), one of the three most important cereals in the world, beats its counterparts - rice in the tropical region and wheat in the temperate region -  for the fact that it can grow on a wide range of latitude and altitude, practically growing along side either or both crops -  or alone owing to its high adaptability to soil and climatic conditions, resistance to force majeure including drought, pests and diseases.   


Talahib (Saccharum spontaneum), source of free living nitrogen-fixing bacteria (Azospirillum complex)



2. Corn is versatile in its usage: as forage, silage and roughage for livestock at any stage of the plant, human food in a hundred-and-one recipes from popcorn to corn-on-cob, tacos to corn chips, and as animal feeds which constitute 80 percent of most feed formulation for poultry, hogs and livestock; and with the fuel crisis on the rise, corn is  the main source of biofuel - ethanol and oil - as substitute to conventional fossil fuel. 

3. Corn cultivation ranges from small tenanted farms to corporate farms, with the latter employing the latest in technology and management, such as on large scale farming in southern United States, South America, and now Africa, expanding the world's corn belt, with increasing population and affluence; yet much of the small farms mainly in Asia and island countries remain marginal and subsistent.

4. Corn, the heavy feeder of Nitrogen it makes into protein and oil and countless other products, leaves the soil spent and unproductive through repeated cropping, thereby requiring fallowing (a time for the land to rest), more so replenishment through fertilization and rotation planting with legumes known for their N-fixing capacity.

5. Corn, the high yielder that for every kilo of Nitrogen applied produces ten to twenty times yield increase no other cereal could match, on the other hand induces heavy chemical fertilization on the part of the farmer to force yield levels to reach 7 to 10 tons per hectare (up to 15 tons); resulting in the long run acidity buildup and depletion of soil nutrients both major and minor elements.   

6. Corn in the Philippines, second most important to rice, is planted to some 2.5 million hectares generally once a year, under poor agronomy and lack of policy direction, resulting in very low average yield (less than 1 MT/ha, lower that the world's average); yet the hybrid varieties can produce three to four times higher but occupies only 10 percent of cornfield. Because of low yield - and high cost -  the country would rather import corn for its animal feeds requirement. 

7. Corn, an upland crop is dependent on residual soil moisture after rice crop and occasional precipitation, otherwise flush irrigation is required to complete its productive cycle  in about 90 days, including postharvest operations - detasselling, harvesting,  shelling, drying and storage. 

8. Corn usually gets its supply of Nitrogen and other elements from chemical fertilizers mainly Urea and complete fertilizer (12-12-12 or 10-10-10) which are  very costly and not readily available, not to mention the harmful effect of chemicals to the soil and environment. 

9. Corn - if it can be cultivated organically with the use of biological Nitrogen fertilizers (Bio-N) will tremendously reduce if not substitute chemical fertilizers, and help stabilize pH, improve tilth,  and cut down pollution from the by-products of chemicals, and at the very source of manufacture.  

10. Corn, being a member of the grass family (Graminae, now Poaceae) may benefit from microorganisms in the soil that aid in the conversion of N2 into NO3 called nitrification, like in the case of talahib (Saccharum spontaneum) which harbors a nitrogen fixing bacterium - a factor that explains its adaptability in almost desert condition.  

11. Corn and the major food crops mostly non-leguminous to become as naturally Nitrogen-fixing, and therefor become self-sufficient has been the Utopia of science. Thus the continued search for nitrogen-fixing microorganisms, some  like Mycorrhiza fungus in the roots of forest trees, Rhizobium in legumes, Nostoc and Anabaena (BGA) in lowland rice, among many other beneficial organisms which  have been isolated, cultured and  developed as inoculants for field use. d.   

12. Corn research is overwhelming in kind and number, corn being one of the most researched and experimented crops, resulting in the production of hybrid varieties, and  the BtCorn or Bacillus thuringienis-Corn, produced by splicing a gene part of the bacterium into the corn's DNA,  the first commercial Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) now  planted extensively in the US and other parts of the world including the Philippines. 

13. Corn production currently faces serious problems: first, economic viability and    sustainable productivity; second, dynamic adaptability to changing climatic conditions; and thirdly, shifting use from staple to animal feed, and now, a growing shift from food to biofuel and other industrial uses. Calorie value is lost tremendously when converted from grain to meat (conversion ratio:  1/5 in poultry, 1/8  in pork, 1/16 in beef); whereas conversion into biofuel results in net  loss, instead of gain in energy. 

14. Corn by-products range from thatched roofing to particle board, its flower silk is medically approved as diuretic tea, now marketed in sachets and dispensers,  its cob ground into powder used in the formulation of face and baby powder, and being organic is safer to health and environment. Corn meal after extracting oil is supplies many culinary preparation, and the sludge sediment in alcogas fermentation is excellent organic matter and soil conditioner  

15. Corn fertilization with biological Nitrogen (vesicular-arbuscular-mycorrhiza  or VAMF, a fungus; and BIO-N composed of bacteria complex - Azospirillum spp)  promises high hopes to reduce dependence on chemical fertilizer while maintaining high yield on long term advantage, and that it could be a key to combining agriculture and ecology as partners, instead of strange bedfellows.   

It's Amihan Season: A critique on the poems of Sister Macarius Lacuesta, SPC

“Fly on my little kite
Do not let fear daunt you,
For the hand that holds the strings
Knows best and watches over you.”
Dr Abe V Rotor
Detail of mural by AVRotor
If imagery is more vivid than vision, take it from Sr. Macarius – religious, scholar and poetess.

Fly on my little kite
Ride on the wings of the wind…
Over plains and dales,
Reach on to the heights,
Hear the whispers of the treetops,
And the secrets of the clouds.”

- Fly on My Little Kite


She samples us with the timelessness, and the vastness of imagery that transcends to all ages – the young and the old, the past and present – and beyond. It unleashes the searching mind to freedom, liberating the soul with the confidence of a hand that holds the string of that kite.

For who would not like to fly on that kite in order to see the world, or at least to be taller from where he stands, or to turn the hands of time and be a child again even only for a while? That child in all of us, it must live forever. It lives in a dragonfly many years ago we captured for fun.

“Ah, you bring me back to my yesteryears
When I would run to catch you…
The sound your wings did make was music to me…
And then the childish whim satisfied, I set you free.”

- You Naughty Dragonfly

Adventure, simple as it may, carries us to the open field, and its pleasant memories make us feel reborn. Sister Macarius’ unique imagery comes at the heels of virtual reality as one reflects on her poems. Yet, on the other side of the poetess’ nature, she is real, she is here and now, “through open fields she walked… tired and weary, she slumped on the stump of an acacia tree.” From here she journeyed to the deep recesses of the roots of the sturdy tree. How forceful, how keen are her thoughts, true to being a devout religious.

“For their roots journey to the deep earth 
Was a determined search for water,
Unmindful of the encounter with darkness,
Where cold and heat would not reach.”


- Journey to the Deep.


Faith is as deep as the roots of a sturdy tree. Such analogy refines the moral of the poem. It is a parable in itself. The poetess paused. In prayer she said in the last part of the poem, poignant yet firm and believing in the fullness of thrust and confidence of a Supreme Being.

“Lord, sink my roots into the depths of unwavering faith in You;
Help me believe that in my encounter
With darkness, hope may be borne
And my life will manifest all
The goodness, the beauty that is You.”
- Journey to the Deep

While poems do not drive a lesson like hitting a nail on the head, so to speak, they provide a mellowing effect, especially to us adults, to accept lessons in life. Such is the commonality of the poems of Sister Macarius, Sister Mamerta Rocero and Sister Paat, who are respected literary figures of the local SPC congregation. Their poems have a deep message to the reader in the ways of respecting and loving God. They often begin with reverence for life.

“All you peoples, clap your hands and sing,
The God of Creation has done wonderful deeds
And the earth is full of His handiworks
All for you and me.”

We picture God as detached, way above the level of man. Great writers in the likes of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, Alexander Dumas and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow can attest to that. More so with Michaelangelo as shown in his mural, Creation. And yet we believe that man is the image of God. The anthropocentric view is that man was created in the likeness of God, and that he is the custodian of His creation. How lucky is man indeed to be the center of God’s attention! In Sr. Macarius Child of the Kingdom, she starts with a question, “Are you a child of the Kingdom? Then she proceeded to answer the question herself.

“Even with a sense of wonder
Holding a cup full of surprises,
Reading out to share with others
The joy of His abiding presence
Nurturing within your being 
The hope of eternal life.”


We may not know the places and boundaries of eternity and kingdom. They are too far out there for us to grasp and believe, much more to understand. Yet we have learned to accept them, grew up with them, abstract as they are, in the name of faith and doctrine. They are there laid upon the path we all travel. At its end lies our salvation, which is as abstract as eternity and kingdom.

Our modern world has become skeptical about abstract things. It is moving away from rituals of faith to rituals of entertainment. Action demands reason. Imagination cannot be left unquestioning. Even science remote from technology is theory. Religions too, continue to evolve, breaking away from the moorings of tradition and dogma. Mystery and faith are no longer the perfect partners as they did for centuries. And the world has become more vigilant against conquerors using religion for their greed, sharing the bounties of conquest with it. And religion that keeps the colonial master in power, sitting beside the throne.

Just like Christianity replaced the long revered Aztec sun god, and the gods and goddesses of Mt. Olympus that survived Roman rule but vanishing with its fall, we ask ourselves today, “Will Vatican finally lose its global power and vast wealth? Will cultism create an exodus away from the church?” And now come the cybergods, riding on satellites and the internet and entering our living rooms at any time without knocking on our doors. And here is a hydra of corporate cultures, a kind of religion itself.

Sr. Macarius’ poems do not deal with issues about faith, eternity, salvation, kingdom, and the like, endorsing them to debate. She does not act like a doctor of the church even if she carries a doctorate degree in philosophy. Yet in her own gentle way she invites the reader to the fold, riding on that little kite, running in the open field after a dragonfly.

For what is eternity but to be “a child forever,” (A thing of beauty is a joy forever – Joyce Kilmer). What is kingdom but the realm we once lived before we became grownups, in the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupery’ in The Little Prince? And salvation? Oh, it is in innocence when the conscience is not bothered. (The Brothers Grimm)

“Naughty dragonfly…I am born once again to a child –
alive and free.”

“Catch the sight of a tree… and rest for a while.”
- Under the Fig Tree

“Speak to me in the loveliness of a rose
Fresh and sparkling with the morning dew.”
- A World Full of You

“You sing to me in the chirping of love birds,
Greeting each other at the break of day.”
- A World Full of You

“Listen to the story of that grand mountain
Like a faithful sentinel standing there.”
- Fly on My Little Kite.”

“How blest and gifted I am to be one
With a beautiful world.”
- A World Full of You

“Lord, help me become the child of Your Kingdom.”
- Child of the Kingdom

It was a bright morning some two years ago when Sister Macarius visited me at the SPCQ Museum. She showed me these poems. “I have not written poems for a long, long time,” she said and that started a couple of hours of pleasant discussion about poetry today and its significance. She exuded a lovely smile as she recited her poems. “Beautiful,” I said, amazed at what a septuagenarian lady can make of poetry which usually blooms in youth. That was the last time I saw Sister Macarius.

The amihan wind had just arrived. I saw a tarat bird perched on the nearby caimito tree singing. Up in the sky a kite was flying. I remembered Sister Macarius.

“Fly on my little kite
Do not let fear daunt you,
For the hand that holds the strings
Knows best and watches over you.”

x x x

Friday, September 12, 2014

Nature is our best teacher. Here are vital signs to watch.

Rain is coming, take heed!  Hovering dragonflies, aggressive biting of mosquitoes, ants on the move carrying their young and provisions. 

Dr Abe V Rotor

Let's recognize Nature as our best teacher.

Read Nature. You will enjoy life, live healthier and longer. You'll gain more friends and respect from people.

Monsoon rains may last for 18 consecutive days, hence the term
siyam-siyam, from which Masagana 99 rice program wa
s coined.

Above all, you will be at peace with yourself and with your environment.

Here are some biological signs to watch. They are Nature's barometer, so to speak; Nature's clock, Nature's way of communicating with the living world.

1. Mad dog – Its tail is tucked underneath; animal restless biting at anything within its reach; froth coming from its mouth; stealthily moves about without any apparent direction; dreads the presence of water (hydrophobia); 

Dogs must be vaccinated with anti-rabies and not allowed to go in the street. (Nikko, our pet at 15 before he died of old age.)
  usually occurs during hot days particularly in summer. Be keen; keep distance; notify others of danger; get help.

2. Drought – Occurs in summer; landscape scorched; dry river beds and ponds; brush fires occurs; lake water recedes; crack on earth, especially areas under water in monsoon; worst scenario - flowering of bamboo usually during El Nino, a phenomenon that happens every 7 to 10 years.

Leaves oft talisay (Terminalia catappa) turn orange to red before falling to the ground, a sign that the Amihan (cold season) has arrived.  

3. Earthquake – Farm animals restless; horses kick and neigh; pigs snort; fowls abandon usual roost; turkey cackle; cattle seek exit from corral; dogs howl; and the like. Wild animals abandon abode – snakes come out into the open; reptile keep out of the water; elephants defy their master’s command; birds abandon nest, other emigrate.

4. Typhoon – Doldrums-like calm; uneasiness to both humans and animals as barometer reading drops which means atmospheric pressure goes down; arthritis and hypertension 

symptoms are felt by sensitive persons. As typhoon approaches, sea becomes rough; sky overcast; clouds move fast to one direction; gusts of cold and warm wind, thunderstorms.

A restless cockroach in the evening 
heralds the coming of bad weather.  

5. Influenza – Precipitated by alternate cold and hot weather, thunderstorms, abrupt change in season. Influenza season is usually at the onset of amihan as the habagat comes to an end. Practical signs: people coughing in church and other gatherings; sale of cold tablets and antibiotics is up; hospitals full. Epidemic starts in the family, neighborhood, local community; also, in schools, malls and markets, and may spread to cover a city or district or province. Modern transportation has made spread of flu easier and wider.

6. Pristine Environment – Abundance of lichens on trunks and branches of trees, rocks, and soil. There are three types: crustose (crust), foliose (leaf-like) and fruticose (fruiting type). They are biological indicators of clean air. The ultimate test is the abundance of the fruticose type.

7. Inclement Weather – Halo around moon; gray and red sunset; a storm may be coming depending upon the intensity of these signs.

This field cricket, nature's violinist, is most 
active during warm summer night.
  
8. Rain - Dragonflies hovering; aggressive biting of mosquitoes; ants move to another place carrying their young and provisions. The latter predicts heavy continuous rainfall or siyam-siyam or nep-nep. Herons on the move heralds the monsoon.

9. Monsoon – Frogs croak; insects (termite, ants) swarm; lightning and thunder get frequent; first heavy rain in May vegetates the landscape, thus turning from brown to green. It comes early or late, but usually in later part of May. Global warming has brought unpredictable signs indicating that our climate is changing.

10. Ripening of Fruits – Generally from green to yellow to orange (banana, orange, apple, etc. Determined by smell: guava, jackfruit, durian, melon, etc); shiny rind (caimito, siniguelas). Dull skin (chico), enlarged ridges and furrows (atis, guayabano, anonas)


When earthworms crawl out of their holes and search for higher grounds, it is a sign that a flood is coming. 

Can you read other signs?
1. Sweetness/sourness of fruit
2. Maturity and succulence of vegetables (okra, cucumber)
3. Tenderness of nut (buko, macapuno)
4. Sweetness and maturity of fruit (watermelon)
5. Time to harvest singkamas, onions, garlic, sugar beet
6. Presence of jellyfish
7. Red tide season
8. Coming flood (earthworm abandon their burrows.)
9. Time to harvest palay, corn, wheat.
10. Slippery walkway (presence of algae and scum)
11. Depth of water (by color, sound of oar, current, clarity)
12. Cloud reading of weather.
13. Glassy eyes (deep feelings like hatred, or “wala sa sarili”)
14. Wrinkles at the corner of eyes (happy disposition)
15. Furrows on forehead (problematic)
16. Rough hand (worker, also athlete)
17. Brilliant and attentive eyes (intelligence)
18. Clumsiness, strumming (nervous, uncertain)
19. Heavy feet (angry, lazy)
20. Tight jaw (angry, restlessly active)

Open Forum:
1. How reliable is “gut feel
2. How about ESP?
3. What is “aura?” How does it apply to relationships?
4. What is Biological Clock? Name how it affects your life.
5. Life starts at 40 – how do you interpret this?
6. What are prophets to you? Are there people who can see the future? Do you believe in Nostrodamus?
7. Are dreams hidden motives, indirect messages, prophesies?
8. How superstitious are you? Do you practice superstition?
9. Do you think you were once living on earth in another being or living thing, in another time and place? Do you believe re-incarnation?
10. How fatalistic are you – you are predestined even before you were born?

Please share us your knowledge and experiences. Learn more from Nature - she is our best teacher.

x x x