Saturday, November 29, 2014

Gulliver's World

Dr Abe V Rotor
Photos by Matthew Marlo R Rotor, Puerto Sunken Pier, San Ildefonso, Ilocos Sur Canon EOS 350
I’m Gulliver, my world’s Lilliput;
Bushes crowd by the riverbank,
Where other creatures too are small.
I’m dreaming or they have shrunk.
Now I’m in the land of the dwarfs.
The grass is tall, big is the fern,
For the giant in me is no more;
Kindness I beg for what I didn’t earn. ~

The way to beat Invasive Species is to eat them

Dr Abe V Rotor

What is the best way to beat invasive species? Well, if humans managed to eat field rats, mole crickets, snails, pythons, alligators - and other "pests", why can't these undesirable organisms be part of his culinary taste and art?

Golden Kuhol (Pomacea caniculata).

1. Pets turned wild - knife fish and janitor fish.  Once fancy pets in aquarium, they found their way to Laguna Lake and Taal Lake. They can be cooked like any fish.  

2. Food to pest - Golden Kuhol (Pomacea caniculata).  Imported in the seventies as food  like the popular French escargot, it has spread to rice fields, where they have developed in a major pest of rice. Cook it with tanglad and luya, better still with gata.

3. Migratory swarms - Locust (Locusta migratoria) moves in swarms, thousands upon  thousands riding on wind current, invading fields and forests many kilometers away. They settle down as solitary grasshoppers, remaining in the place, mate and multiply, until the next migratory season. Have you tasted sauteed mole cricket  June beetle, gamu-gamu (winged termite)?  It tastes the same. 

4. Biological Warfare in peace time - Giant African Snail (Achatina fulica) introduce by the Japanese during World War II, now a common garden pests. One time a recipe was prepared on the request of a school head, and all his teachers tasted it - with delight. 

5. Fugitive to invader - Asian carp in Illinois, Missouri and Mississippi river. It is similar to our tilapia - Tilapia nilotica and T. mosambica.  American will learn to love the carp like we Asians. Just like how we first accepted it when it was introduced in the fifties by Dr Deogracia Villadolid, a prominent fisheries expert. Today tilapia is an important part of the Filipino diet,   

6. Breakout from cage - Black spiny-tailed Iguana has invaded Florida.  It eats about anything, including birds. When made into adobo, its meat tastes like that of monitor lizard.

7. Trans-oceanic invasion - Lion fish has venomous spines and dangerous to aquatic and human life alike. Origin Pacific and Indian oceans to the Caribbean. It's cooked like any marine fish.

8. Adaptive mechanism of survival - Nutria a rodent originated in South America and has invaded the Gulf Coast, destroying valuable wetlands, and make bore tunnels through levees.  In the Philippines the Rattus rattus norvigicus was accidentally introduced and have adapted to city life. 

9. Wildlife gone wilder - Armadillo, a gentle and peaceful armored animal of Central and South America is upsetting the balance of food webs, eating just anything, even stealing eggs of threatened sea turtles.  They say it's good meat. The closest animal to the Armadillo in the Philippines is the Scaly Anteater which is a threatened species.    

10. Biological Control agent gone wild - Toad (Bufo marinus) introduced in Australia to control sugarcane pest, now overruns even homes and highways. This is poisonous, even animals have learned to avoid it.  It is for this reason, itspopulation increased rapidly in Australia.  

Except for No 10, these invasive species have found their way to the dining table. Man's  gustatory delight is indeed the best way in dealing with undesirable creatures. ~ 

Movies on Parade at UST

Movies Fill Our Lives
Dr Abe V Rotor
Of pirates and witches...

Fantasy comes down to earth alive
in flesh walking: ghosts, fairies,
creatures of sea and land they thrive
in human laughter and tears

that fill empty lives e’en just a while
and give the world a break
in the idleness of time passing by
cares and worries at stake  

where friends and foes hold hands,
monsters tame and meek;
stories sad and happy cater to fans,
all for freedom they seek

from doctrinaire and conventions;
for it’s imagination that rules
and dictates all human institutions
with technology its tools;

movies – books visual, by audition,
in make believe and reality,
man’s gift to himself, his own  invention,   
his passport to liberty. ~

Wizard of Oz and fairytales
Of forest deities and kingdoms 
Finding Nemo, the friendly fish

Of old cultures and postmodern

And adventure with the imagination …

The Talking Bird

Dr Abe V Rotor
Baby Mackie and a Talking Myna, Tagaytay March 24 2013

What does a baby make up for the fun -
with the foolishness of bird and man? 

A raucous gang of teenagers came by
and made the bird squawk and fly;

Glamorous ladies in their older years;
their greetings turned into cheers;

A debonair paused and expected
a praise, the opposite he got instead;

A man in full suit said, "Hello there!"
repeated the bird with blank stare;

Boys are boys, they made some clown;
Good words, bad words flew around;

Friend to all - waiters, guests as well,
In random words and phrases swell.

All but imitation of whatever call,
in make believe to fill the empty hall.

In decibels unkind to any ear
yet everyone just wishes to hear.

What does a baby make up for the fun -
with the foolishness of bird and man?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Return of the Balloon Frog Tukak Bat'og

What changed the thinking of the world - a revolution in our concept of survival - is that all livings are interconnected and that the world is one systemic order, that the survival of one spells the survival of all creatures and the preservation of the integrity of the biosphere and therefore of Planet Earth, and that there is no living thing that is too small to be insignificant or useless.
Dr Abe V Rotor

The first time I saw tukak bat’og was when I was a young farmhand. Its name is familiar because bat’og, battog or battobattog, in Ilocano means pot bellied. At that time anyone who exhibited a bulging waistline was associated with this amphibian. But there were very few of this kind then. The war had just ended and people had to work hard.

Hardship tightens the belt automatically, but peacetime and the Good Life opens a new war - the “battle of the bulge.” Today two out of five Americans are obese and Europeans are not far behind. Asians are following the same trend, as more and more people have changed to the Western lifestyle that accompanies overweight condition, whether one is male or female.

But actually Bat’og is all air. It’s like balloon short of taking off. But once it wedges itself in its tight abode not even bird or snake can dislodge it. Not only that. It feigns dead and its attacker would simply walk away to find a live and kicking prey.

Nature’s sweet lies are tools of survival. When it faces danger Bat’og engulfs air and becomes pressurized and distended, reducing the size of its head and appendages to appear like mere rudiments. And with its coloration that blends with the surroundings, and its body spots becoming monstrous eyes, who would dare to attack this master of camouflage.

Not enough to drive away its foe, Bat’og uses another strategy by producing deep booming sounds coming from its hollow body as resonator. I remember the story of Monico and the Giant by Camilo Osias when I was in the grades. The cruel giant got scared and rushed out of his dark hiding when Monico boomed like Bat’og . Actually it was the unique design of the cave’s chamber that created the special sound effect and ventriloquism. The vaults of old churches were similarly designed this way so that the faithful can clearly hear the sermon.

The exhausted Bat’og deflates and returns to its chores, feeding, roaming around and calling for mate – and rain, so old folks say. Well, frogs become noisy when it rains. Biologically, egg laying is induced by rain. Eggs are fertilized in water and hatched into tadpoles that live in water until they become frogs. Bat’og has relatives that live in trees and their tadpoles inhabit trapped water in the axils of bromeliads, bananas and palms. Or it could be a pool inside the hollow of a tree.

After I left the farm for my studies in Manila, I never saw any Tukak Bat’og again. Only a trace of that childhood memory was left of this enigmatic creature.

Then one day, in my disbelief Bat’og resurrected! For a long time it has long been in the requiem list of species, ironically even before it was accorded scientific details of its existence. Well, there are living things that may not even reach the first rung of the research ladder, either they are insignificant or new to science. Who would take a look at Bat’og?

I believe a lot of people now do. People have become environment-conscious after the publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, the emergence of Greenpeace movement, and birth of "heroes for the environment". Who is not aware now of global warming, especially after viewing Al Gore's documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth? Who have not experienced calamities brought about by our changing climate?

What changed the thinking of the world - a revolution in our concept of survival - is that all livings are interconnected and that the world is one systemic order, that the survival of one spells the survival of all creatures and the preservation of the integrity of the biosphere and therefore of Planet Earth, and that there is no living thing that is too small to be insignificant or useless.

Of all places I found Bat’og one early morning in my residence in Quezon City. I would say it instead found me. There in my backyard, ensconced in a gaping crack in the soil covered with a thick layer of dead leaves lay my long lost friend - very much alive.

Hello! And it looked at me motionless with steady eyes. It was aestivating, a state of turpor, which is a biological phenomenon for survival in dry and hot summer, the counterpart of hibernation when organisms sleep in winter and wait for the coming of spring. My friend was waiting nature's clock to signal the Habagat to bring rain from across the Pacific come June to September, a condition necessary for its amphibious life.

Slowly I lifted my friend and cradled it of sort on my palm. And we rolled time back fifty years ago. And before any question was asked, it was already answered. It is like that when two old friends meet after a long time. I remember when journalist Stanley found the great explorer Dr. David Livingstone in the heart of Africa in the 19th century, Stanley simply greeted, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" and the old man lifted his hat and gave Stanley a firm handshake. This became one of the most famous meetings in the world.

You see an event earns a place in history, or in the heart, when it permeates into the primordial reason of existence, which is Reverence of Life.

Reverence – this is the principal bond between man and nature. It is more than friendship. It is the also the bonds of the trilogies of human society – equality, fraternity and liberty. It is the  bridge of all relationships in the complex web and pyramid of life. It towers over equations and formulas in science. It links earth and heaven, in fact the whole universe – and finally, the bridge of understanding between creature and Creator.

Bat’og is back. How easy it is to understand a creature however small it is, if it is your friend. Yet how difficult it is to define the role of a friend. The fox in Antoine de Saint-Exupery’ novel, The Little Prince, warned the little prince, “If you tame me you are responsible to me.” The little prince simply touched the wild beast.

Taming is the ultimate submission to humility. And the greater a person who humbles himself, the truer a friend he is.

How do we relate this principle to our being the only rational creature? The dominant species over millions of species? The God-anointed guardian of the Earth? The custodian of creation?

Allow me to have some time with my long lost friend. Either one of us is the Prodigal Son, but  that does not matter now. Let me join Darwin and Linnaeus and Deogracias Villadolid et al.

Dr Deogracias Villadolid, foremost Filipino biologist. Professor and adviser of the author.

 That was a long time ago by the pond that had dried in summer. As a kid on the farm I have known the ways of my friend. Bat’og would stake its prey - termites, ants, beetles and other insects. Like all frogs – and toads – the adults and tadpoles are important in controlling pests and diseases.

One of its relatives belonging to genus Kaloula was found to subsist mainly on hoppers and beetles that destroy rice, including leafhoppers that transmit tungro, a viral disease of rice that may lead to total crop failure. Such insectivorous habit though is universal to amphibians, reptiles, birds and other organisms. If only we can protect these Nature’s biological agents we would not be using chemicals on the farm and home, chemicals that pollutes the environment and destroys wildlife.

Bat'og and its kind protect man from hunger and disease. They are an important link in the food chain. No pond or ricefield or forest or grassland is without frogs. There would be no herons and snakes and hawks and eagles. No biological laboratory is without the frog as a blue print of human anatomy. And The Frog and the Princess would certainly vanish in the imagination of children.

Bat’og is a survivor of chemical genocide. It is the timely age of enlightenment of people returning to natural food and the spread of environmental consciousness on all walks of life and ages that came to its rescue in the last minute. So with many threatened species.

Who does not rejoice at finding again native kuhol, martiniko, ulang and gurami in the rice field? Oriole, pandangeratarat and pipit in the trees? Tarsier, mouse deer and pangolin in the wild? And the return of ipil-ipil, kamagong and narra in the forest? And of course, Haribon the symbol of Philippine wildlife and biodiversity.

It is indeed a challenge for us to practice being the Good Shepherd, but this time it is not only a lost lamb that we have to save, it’s the whole flock.

Tukak Bat’og symbolizes the victory of Nature. But Nature’s victory does not mean man’s defeat; rather it is man’s submission and obedience to Nature’s laws and rules and therefore, the restoration of order on Planet Earth - our only spaceship on which we journey into the vastness of the universe and the unknown. x x x

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Native American Art in Postmodern Times

Verses by Dr Abe V Rotor
 Indian dance to pop music,
its rhyme and rhythm lost;
what music lacks costume fills,
but by pseudo fashion cost  
 A single tree in a lake of snow;
orphaned from the woods I know;
the prairies where once they roamed 
these horses are all but doomed.   
Which run faster, feet or stream?
coherent words or scream?
witness the houses and flowers,
the idleness  before the showers.  
 A world of fantasy in Exupery's The Little Prince
save for a fox untamed and a stairway to the sky,  
amid night butterflies and day roses sans thorns - 
a potpourri of events in a setting dull and wry.   

Fireworks, but whose and for whom -
doesn't matter, if at the bidding end, 
such spectacle by man genius is open,
more to the poor and the children. 
If Jack and the Beanstalk is still alive,
here is a scene to ponder and compare, 
to dream of the goose that lays the golden egg,
with thousands at their bidding simply stare.  

Do you still believe in Santa Claus?
If you believe, then you do not know;
and if you know, then you don't believe.
Just listen to the soft falling snow. ~

Nature Paintings and Poems

Paintings and Verses by Dr Abe V Rotor
Rock well in acrylic by AVR

A world in a world their own
deep in the deep unknown;
domain of the bold and mean,
lovely, yet lonely, unseen.

Pinsal Fall, Sta. Maria. Ilocos Sur  

Rage, rage and fall free
as you seek liberty;
surrender to gravity,  
flow, flow out to sea

Light in the Forest, acrylic AVR

Be benevolent, lose your crown, 
let the sun in, 
 nourish those in your shade.
'til they turn green.

Sweet Sense of Abandon

Painting and Poem by Abe V Rotor
A Naturalist's World

Oh, sweet sense of abandon away from the concrete jungle,
Far from the neon lights that blind the stars and the moon,
The roar of the avenues, cars cruising in lightning speed,
Out of the bowl of smog, of high rise arches;
Incommunicado by modern tools, missing.

Oh, sweet sense of abandon, derelict from cares of the world,
Fugitive from civilization - that which humans are bound,
And captive, outcast he who takes Henry Thoreau's stand,
Who follows the trail where footprints are few and seldom new;
Lost - one is called who has found his freedom.

Oh, sweet sense of abandon, and here bare and naked,
The amenities of the Good Life, a hut for a condominium;
A pond for a swimming pool, dugout for a car or train;
Doors and windows open to let the fresh air in,
The breeze through the trees, the silence of peace.

Oh, sweet sense of abandon, is this they call progress?
Where is unity and harmony in isolation?
Thousands, nay millions, leave the throng to escape
Daily grind, morals and rules they fear to break -
Is this exodus to simple living?

Oh, sweet sense of abandon, you may be true but deceiving,
When the world is dying on land, water and sky,
Culture engulfed by material wealth controlled by few,
Bombs ticking in poverty and war and technology,
And in some corner of Eden, too. ~

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Mutation Gone Wild Through Genetic Engineering

What good is science that creates a Frankenstein
monster deprived of love, home and family, 
a rebel against humanity?
Glass paintings and Poem by Dr Abe V Rotor
 Crustacean mutants
 Turkey fish Siamese twin
Deformed Groupers

        Evolution through fusion: Sargassum fish 

Who is your father, who is your mother?
your sister, your brother?
You look like no one; 
where did you come from?

Who is your guardian, who is your maker?
your ancestor, your kin?
You look like alien; 
where did you come from?

Who is your friend, who is your neighbor?
your mate, your children?
You are an outcast; 
where did you come from?

Why do you have blood other than your own?
Tissue and cells enlarged?
chromosomes paired, unpaired
DNA snipped, spliced? 

Why do you have to be a giant among the small?
Or Lilliputian to be smart?
shaped like barrel or grass,
armed with less or more?

Why do you have to eat more than you should?
ravage all - big and small
to grow too large heeding not
the fate of the dinosaur?

Why do you have to veer away from your origin?
evade the dictates of nature?
live like vagabond 
sans company, sans home?

What good is science destined to nowhere?
 thriving on trial and error?
and having no control 
of good and evil? 

What good  is science sans conscience clear?
though genius its master
at the border of insanity
for fame and glory? 

What good is science that creates a Frankenstein
monster deprived of love,
home and family, 
rebel against humanity?

What good is science that destroys what it builds?  
like mad destroying the Pieta
for not seeing true beauty
in  simplicity and piety?

x x x 

* Spontaneous thoughts of the author while painting these images of an unnatural world.  

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Ruins of a Sunken Pier

Idleness and uselessness are a duo in the art of waste.
Dr Abe V Rotor

Puerto, Sto Domingo, Ilocos Sur (Megabooks)

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Make your own "walis tingting" (coconut midrib broom)

Dr Abe V Rotor 

Coconut trees are thinned every harvest.  The over mature leaves are harvested for fuel, basket for bag (bayong) and mat (banig).  The leaf is also used in making sinambong (rice cake enclosed with woven coconut leaf). It is the midrib that is the subject of this lesson. 
The midrib is picked directly from from the frond, first by separating it from the lamina (leaf), then pulled out by hand. The crude midrib is cleaned with knife, air dried and bundled.   

Broom makers proudly display their freshly made walis tingting which will dry up and ready for use in a few days. A broom may cost from P20 to P50 depending  on the size of the bundle and market. 

 Parade participants from Tahanan Walang Hagdanan, a center for the disabled in Cainta, Rizal, with their coconut midrib brooms, “Walis Tingting” (Internet).