Monday, March 30, 2015

Carnation- Most Celebrated Flower

Dr Abe V Rotor
A Bouquet of Carnation painting in acrylic, AVR 2015

Perhaps no flower can match you, oh carnation; 
 your colors each a message to convey:
fortune, prayer, celebration, a wish come true;
in garland and lei, shower and bouquet;
  never a wreath, for you are not symbol of death; 
re-incarnation that we your faithful pray.  

Carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus has a long history as a cultivated flower dating back more than 2,000 years, it is rich with symbolism, mythology and even debate. The name comes from the word corone (flower garlands) or coronation since the Greeks used it as ceremonial crowns. Its Latin derivative however is carnis (flesh) referring to the flower's original pinkish-hued color or incarnacyon (incarnation), referring to the incarnation of God-made flesh. Wikipedia

Today, carnations can be found in a wide range of colors, and while in general they express love, fascination and distinction, virtually every color carries a unique and rich association. 

  • White carnations suggest pure love and good luck, 
  • Light red symbolizes admiration, 
  • Dark red represents deep love and affection, 
  • Purple carnations imply capriciousness,
  • Pink carnations carry the greatest significance, beginning with the belief that they first appeared on earth from the Virgin Mary’s tears – making them the symbol of a mother's undying love.
Carnation is worn on
  •  Mother's Day, 
  • Teacher's Day, 
  • St. Patrick's Day (March 17, 2015), 
  • Wedding ceremonies,
Carnation is 1st wedding anniversary flower.
January birth month flower 

Are you the repentant prodigal son, or his proud brother?

“This world, which appears to be a great workshop in which knowledge is developed by man – which appears as progress and civilization, as a modern system of communication, as a structure of democratic freedom without any limitations – this world is not capable of making man happy."
- Pope John Paul II, On the Threshold of Hope

Dr Abe V Rotor
The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt van Rijk 
I am a modern day Prodigal Son. I spent fifty long years searching and searching for a place I may call my own in the whole wide world. Yes, fifty long years of my youth and in old age – twice longer the fiction character Rip van Winkle did sleep – and now I am back to the portals of my hometown, to the waiting arms of my father.

The proverbial Lamp I still hold flickers, but it is but a beacon in embers now, for it had spent its luminance in the darkness of human weakness and failures, it beamed across the ocean of ignorance and lost hope, it trailed the path of many adventures and discoveries, and it kept vigil in the night while I slept.

And what would my father say? He meets me, embraces me, and calls everyone. “Kill the fattest calf! Let us rejoice.”

San Vicente is my home. It is the bastion of my hopes and ideals. At the far end on entering the old church is written on the altar, faded by the elements of time and pleading hands of devotees, Ur-urayenka Anakko – I am waiting for you my child. 

When the world is being ripped by conflicts or pampered with material progress, when mankind shudders at the splitting of the atom or the breaking of the code of life, when the future is viewed with high rise edifices or clouded by greenhouse gases – my town becomes more than ever relevant to the cause for which it has stood through the centuries - the sanctuary of idealism in a troubled world, home of hundreds of professionals in many fields of human endeavor.

“Kill the fattest calf,” I hear my father shout with joy. It is celebration. It is a symbol of achievement more than I deserve. But my feelings is that I am standing on behalf of my colleagues for I am but an emissary. Out there in peace and trials, in villages and metropolises, in all endeavors and walks of life, many “Vincentians” made their marks, either recognized on the stage or remembered on stone on which their names are carved. I must say, it is an honor and privilege that I am here in humility to represent them that I may convey their unending faith and trust to our beloved hometown.

The world has changed tremendously, vastly, since I passed under the town arch to meet the world some fifty years ago. I have met wise men who asked the famous question “Quo vadis?” -where are you going? I can only give a glimpse from the eye of a teacher, far for the probing mind of Alvin Toffler in Future Shock, or those of Naisbitt and Aburdane, renowned modern prophets. Teachers as I know, and having been trained as one, see the world as it is lived; they make careful inferences, and take a bird’s eyeview cautiously. They are conveyors of knowledge, and even with modern teaching tools and communication technology, cannot even qualify as chroniclers, nay less of forecasters. I have always strived to master the art of foretelling the future, but frankly I can only see it from atop a misty mountain. How I wish too, that I can fully witness the fruits of the seed of knowledge a teacher has sown in the mind of the young.

Limited my experience may be, allow me to speak my mind about progress and developments in the fifty years I was away from home, but on the other side of midnight, so to speak.

1. The monster that Frankenstein made lurks in nuclear stockpiles, chides with scientists tinkering with life, begging to give him a name and a home.

2. Our blue planet has an ugly shade of murk and crimson – fire consuming the forests, erosion eating out the land, polar ice shrinking, rising sea flooding the shorelines, and gas emission   boring a hole in its jacket.

3. One race one nation equals globalization. How we have taken over evolution in our hands. We are playing God, is Paradise Lost Part 2 in the offing?

4. The world is wired, it travels fast on two feet – communication and transportation. The world has shrunk into a village. Homogenization is the death sentence amid a bed of roses for mankind.

5. Man-induced phenomena are too difficult to separate from those of nature. We take the latter as an excuse of our follies, a rationalization that runs counter to be rational. Only the human species has both the capability to build or destroy – and yet we love to destroy what we build.

6. The dangerous game of numbers is a favorite game, and our spaceship is getting overloaded. Man’s needs, more so man’s want, become burgeoning load of Mother Earth, now sick and aging. Will Pied Piper ever come back and take our beloved young ones away from us, as it did in Hamlyn many years ago?

7. Conscience, conscience, where is spirituality that nourishes it. Where have all the religious teachings gone? Governance – where is the family, the home? Peace and order – Iraq, Afghanistan – another Korea, another Vietnam, only in another place, in another time. And now social unrest is sweeping over North Africa and the Middle East.

8. Janus is progress, and progress is Janus. It is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It is The Prince and the Pauper. Capitalism has happy and sad faces – the latter painted in pain and sadness on millions all over the world. It is inequity that makes the world poor; we have more than enough food, clothing, shelter, and energy for everybody. What ideology can save the world other than capitalism?

As I grew older I did not only learn to adjust with the realities of life as I encountered it but to grasp its meaning from the points of view of famous philosophers and writers. I studied it with the famous lines from William Blake’s famous poem, Auguries of Innocence.

To wit.

“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

If ever I have ventured into becoming a redeemer of sort, armed with a pen in hand, I too, have learned from Blake’s verse of the way man should view the world in all its magnanimity yet in simplicity. If ever I have set foot to reach the corners of the Earth, and failed, I am consoled by the humble representation of “a grain of sand” that speaks of universal truth and values.

And beauty? If I have not found it in a garden of roses, I dare not step on a flowering weed. And posterity and eternity? They are all ensconced in periodicity, a divine accident of existence – to say that each and every one of us is here in this world by chance – an unimaginable chance – at “a certain time and place” which - and I believe - has a purpose in whatever and however one lives his life. But I would say that a lifetime is all it takes “to see the world” and be part of it. It is a lifetime that we realize the true meaning of beauty, experience “infinity and eternity”. Lifetime is a daily calendar of victories and defeats.

While the world goes around and around . . .

The world like in Aristotle’s time continue to struggle with the preservation of values; the species will continue to evolve as postulated by Darwin; culture will express itself more fully since the first painting of early man dwelling in the caves of Lasceaux in France.

Trade and commerce will continue to progress, reaches a plateau and declines - a normal curve that goes with the rise and fall of civilizations. Yet leaders do not see it that way. Not even the Utopia of conquerors like Alexander the Great whose global economic vision two thousand five hundred years ago is basically the same as the great powers of today - United States, European Union, ASEAN.

The great religions will continue to bring man to his knees and look into heavens amidst knowledge revolution and growing complexity of living, Man’s infinitesimal mind continues to probe the universe. Never has man been so busy, so bothered, so confused, yet so determined than ever before, trying to fill up God’s Seventh Day.

As I go on reflecting I came across the book of Pope John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, 1994. He warns us succinctly.

“This world, which appears to be a great workshop in which knowledge is developed by man – which appears as progress and civilization, as a modern system of communication, as a structure of democratic freedom without any limitations – this world is not capable of making man happy."

- Pope John Paul II, On the Threshold of Hope

Now I am home, my father,in my hometown. I do only wish for comfort. I just want to thank you for you have taught me and instilled in me the spirit of virtue and fortitude. Thank you for making me a Vincentian.

Let me sleep now in your arms. ~

Remembering Our Suffering Mother Nature this Lenten Season 1: Nature Crucified

"I am Nature crucified, hungry, thirsty, imprisoned, naked, abandoned – wishing some souls to stop, look and listen. " AVR
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 []

                                                            Silhouette of a tree skeleton, Manila

I am Nature crucified, Paradise lost to my own guardian
whom my Creator assigned custodian of the living earth;

I am Nature crucified by loggers, my kin and neighbors
annihilated, forever removed from their place of birth;
I am Nature crucified by slash-and-burn farming dreaded
- once lush forests now bare, desertification their fate;

I am Nature crucified, greedy men with giant machines
take hours to destroy what I built for thousands of years;

I am Nature crucified in the name of progress, countries
vying for wealth and power, fighting among themselves;

I am Nature crucified, rivers are dammed, lakes dried up,
swamps drained, estuaries blocked, waterways silted;

I am Nature crucified, the landscape littered with wastes,
gases into the air form acid rain, and thin the ozone layer;

I am Nature crucified, flora and fauna losing their natural
gene pools by selective breeding and genetic engineering;

I am Nature crucified, the earth is in fever steadily rising,
ice caps and glaciers melting, raising the level of the sea;

I am Nature crucified, privacy and rest becoming a luxury
in a runaway population living on fast lanes, and rat race.

I am Nature crucified, inequitable distribution of wealth
the source of conflict, greed and poverty, unhappiness;

I am Nature crucified by the promise of heaven in afterlife,
the faithful restrained to regain Paradise while on earth.

I am Nature crucified by scholars of never ending debates,
on the goodness of the human race in fraternal praises;

I am Nature crucified by the many denominations of faith,
pitting God against one another in endless proselytizing;
I am Nature crucified by licenses of freedom in extremism,
human rights and democracy - tools of inaction and abuse;

I am Nature crucified by mad scientists splitting the atom,
building cities, tearing the earth, probing ocean and space;

I am Nature crucified by capitalism, consumerism its tool
to stir economy worldwide, wastefulness it consequence;

I am Nature crucified by the unending pursuit of progress,
the goal and measure of superiority, nation against nation;

I am Nature crucified by man’s folly to become immortal:
cryonics, cloning, robotics - triumvirates for singularity.

I am Nature crucified, hungry, thirsty, imprisoned, naked,
abandoned – wishing some souls to stop, look and listen. ~

Remembering Our Suffering Mother Nature this Lenten Season 2: A Dirge of the Pasig River

"Mother, let me die, there's no more sense of living, for I do not belong to humans anymore, I swear; I'm no longer a part of creation, I'm but a stranger..."

Dr Abe V Rotor
Death of an estero (tributary), the result of unabated pollution and siltation
Pasig River, Pasay City MM. Photo by Mary Kathleen Manalastas

I am dying, Mother, my mother whose womb was
as virgin as the day I was born a rivulet to stream,
estero to a tributary that feeds the mighty sea,
as virgin as the Paradise of Milton's dream.

Mother, let me die - or let me sleep then forever,
for neither can I flow out to sea nor keep in the sun;
let me die with garbage and silently sink in the murk,
with foul gases, on thickening sludge, silt and sand.

I hear no songs anymore, Abelardo is long dead;
I see no living garlands, not a bird building nest
among lilies and floating kiapo, among the nilad,
pride of a race, woven into mats for lovely rest.

Ahoy there! Two children are staring at my water;
but they can't see what is inside me, I am as black,
as a dark night, but oh, how my heart longs for them!
I have lost all things good - even as a mirror I lack.

Mother, let me die, there's no more sense of living,
for I do not belong to humans anymore, I swear;
I'm no longer a part of creation, I'm but a stranger;
but my mother doesn't answer;
my mother doesn't answer.~

Lenten Season Offering: Face of Christ Appears in a Painting

Dr Abe V Rotor

Dr Anselmo S Cabigan stands before the miraculous painting at a former university museum where hundreds of pilgrims and other visitors for the last fifteen years saw and pondered on it. It is said that the image remains obscure, and appears only to keen observers. The photos here have been edited to enhance the image.
I received queries if the painting has any message at all. I heard comments to relate the painting with the growing problems of the world, notably the recent earthquake in Japan that sent tsunami inland and radiation from broken nuclear plants into the atmosphere. Simultaneously the Arab world is engulfed with social unrest heretofore unimagined, other grave problems like global warming and global recession, notwithstanding. I am therefore reprinting this article earlier posted in this blog in response to our audience's request. Please enter your comments at the end of the article. Thank you.

Into Your Light

Lead me to where I should lead them,
The little ones to my care You'll send;
That they may solve this awesome maze
And burst out bright into Your Light." 

Anselmo S Cabigan, 1995

Did you see the face of Christ?”


"On a painting.”

"What is this they are talking about, " I asked Sel.

We went to the Audio-Visual Room, spent a moment of silence as we searched for the Face on the 36" x 24" landscape painting. It was painted and a month ago, and presented in a seminar-workshop at then St. Paul College QC. The theme signifies unity and cooperation among faculty and staff members.

"Can you see it?” I asked.

Sel traced the outline, his finger touching the rough canvas.

"Can you see it?” He threw back the question.

"I see a different one,” I countered and traced the figure differently.

Silence fell again. We exchanged notes and soon enough we were looking at the same face.

Were we seeing The Thing, or only imagining it?

I recalled a story, Images of Illusion. A man was viewing an antique painting and saw himself as one of the torturers of Christ.

“Impossible,” he raged. How could it be possible for the painter to have composed a scenery combining a biblical event and a future character? He demanded the art gallery an explanation.

What is illusion?

In metaphysics, the workings of the human mind have been the subject of research and discourse from the time of Plato who coined psyche or mind or soul, to Kant whose theory of Existentialism remains as the binding force of man and his Creator which is a fundamental doctrine of major religions. Lately, Jung's primary idea of a person as a whole, and not as assemblage of parts, gave rise to the modern concept of holistic personality. Jung’s work as a psychoanalyst was to recover the lost wholeness of personality, and to strengthen the psyche through the process of psychoanalysis and psycho synthesis.

What Jung was saying is that the mind is made up of three levels: the consciousness, the only part of the mind that is known directly by the individual; the personal unconscious which is the level of the mind that adjoins the ego: and the collective unconscious which he inherited from his ancestral past. All three levels are always in a dynamic state. They are never static like a rock or a tree.

When one is afraid of the dark he is expressing the collective unconscious. If he is afraid a the dark because he may be kidnapped, he is expressing the personal unconscious level, an experience which may have been created by distraught thoughts or brought about by personal conflict or raised a moral issue before. In the dark he may be "seeing” a would-be kidnapper at the slightest suggestion.

Now where does the first level come in? His conscious awareness is put to test in such a situation. He then makes to fullest use his four mental functions, which Jung called thinking, feeling, sensing and intuiting. Depending on the development of these faculties from the time of his birth to his present age, the individual tries to overcome - or enhance - the other two levels of the mind which at that moment has caused in him fear.

What I am saying is that a mental image may arise from the interplay of the three levels of the mind. First, there is the “model” or an archetype from which the consciousness makes something out of it. This, in turn, is pictured or deleted in the mind through consciousness.

When Sel and I stood before the painting searching we had different archetypes in our mind. But people who have been raised in the same environment and had undergone similar training have many common archetypes from which images can be similarly patterned.

Suppose one does not readily take from the mind's bank a suitable archetype?

“I don't see anything.”

“Face of Christ, you said?”

"What are you talking about? I can only see trees and a stream flowing through them.”

"I still cannot figure it out.”

These observers, based on Jungian psychology, did not have the archetype at the moment to suit the picture they are looking for.

Quite often discussions may ensue while viewing the piece with someone taking the role of a teacher, or one insisting of seeing another thing.

Again, according to Jung, archetypes can be enlarged or reinforced so that they can surface with the help of the consciousness. However, this may not always work.

“I can see it now.”

“Yes, there it is. There is a bigger one beside it. No, actually there are three faces.”

“There is Blessed Virgin Mary at the center.”

“But it looks like a resurrected Christ.”

“See the trunk at the right? Scourging at the pillar.”

"My God! There's a devil clinging on Christ's nose.”

Now, now, the painting is getting overloaded,

As the painter I wanted to put it back to its real and down-to-earth perspective. It is a forest landscape, all right. The trees are the symbol of strength and unity; the flowing stream is life; the rocks are the obstacles we encounter in life; the light rays penetrating through the forest is hope and guidance; the forest itself characterizes the present world we live in; and the central perspective of the painting leads us to the attainment of a common vision and goal.

As I was about to leave, a very young boy came along with his mother. His eyes were bright and his face radiated the innocence of a child.

"Do you see the little cross, mama?” He was pointing at a orange figure, an empty cross laid upon a rock. Then he scanned the whole piece and quickly pointed at things none of us had earlier seen.

“Here is the Holy Family. Here is baby Jesus. There you see angels. You can count them, 1, 2 3, 4, 5, 6..."

“There are thirty-three trees, I was told," interrupted his mother.

"Those are children playing, mama - there under the trees and on the rocks."

I stood beside, speechless. I realized I only read Plato, Kant and Jung. l did not consult the Greatest of them all. ~

Light in the Woods became the title of the painting, and a book of the same title was published by Megabooks Manila in 1995. The book was presented by the late Jaime Cardinal Sin to Pope John Paul II on his visit to the Philippines in 1995. The book is now a collectors' item.

Dr Cabigan and the author were classmates and co-workers in the government, and co-professors. They have known each other for the last 50 years. The painting was made after a poem composed by Dr Cabigan, Into Your Light (above). The original painting has been transferred to a secured place where it can be viewed on special arrangement. Photos of the painting are found in Light from the Old Arch, by AVR, UST Publishing House 2000; Nymphaea: Beauty in the Morning, AVR, Giraffe Books 1996;Light in the Woods, AVR, Megabooks, 1995, and Light from the Old Arch 2000, UST-AVR Publishing House.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Landscape Therapy

"… when the curtain is lifted and the horizon rolls on with life passing this way but once, yet it’s more than destiny, more than eternity."
Painting and Poem by Dr Abe V Rotor

Landscape Therapy in acrylic, AVR 2014, showing details.
 Landscape therapy is gaining back clarity and focus, though slowly from strained vision of light and shadow, of passing cars and blinking screens;  

Landscape therapy is getting the frayed nerves back to function in reflexes governed by the conscious and unconscious mind in peace and harmony;

Landscape therapy is when primary colors once more come as true colors, secondary colors and tertiary ones as sweet progeny of color combination;   

Landscape therapy is when the forests appear once more lush green, the mountains in the distance blue, and the sky azure as the deep sea;

Landscape therapy is when the consciousness once more map the migrating birds in the sky, the fish in the stream, a drop of pond water teeming with life;

Landscape therapy is when the biological clock is readjusted with the passing of seasons, understanding the reason behind Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring;

Landscape therapy is when - in the midst danger, courage is being afraid but doing brave thing, for the landscape of life is often perceived in duality;

Landscape therapy is when the swamp dries up to become a grassland, to become a woodland, in a magic sere that spawns rich life’s diversity;

Landscape therapy is finding once more a niche, bridging the past and present, tradition and modern, the living and the non-living world in Rousseau’s scenery;       

Landscape therapy is when raucous urchins sound in lilting joy; thunder a Beethoven’s bass drum, chirping a language in music – all in thanksgiving;

Landscape therapy is when a person like a prisoner in Plato’s Allegory frees himself to discover the realities of the world, which is the aim of education;   

Landscape therapy is when life is viewed with the power of the imagination – romantic or real or abstract - yet find meaning in reverence to the Creator;

Landscape therapy is when the curtain is lifted and the horizon rolls on with life passing this way but once, yet it’s more than destiny, more than eternity. ~

Abercio V Rotor, Ph.D. is the award-winning author of Living with Nature Handbook (Gintong Aklat Award 203), Living with Nature in Our Times (National Book Award 2006), and radio instructor of People’s School on Air (Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid, Gawad Oscar Florentino Award for Development Communication on radio). He is also author of other books in essays and poetry, and textbooks in Humanities and Literature. Dr Rotor is a professor at UST, a former director of NFA and consultant of the Philippine Senate. He is married to Cecilia A Rojas, CPA, MBA, CESO3, with whom they have three children: Matthew Marlo, Anna Christina, and Leo Carlo.  The family hails from San Vicente, Ilocos Sur.   

Nature Murals on the Wall

"Where man makes a living, a garden by his hands he makes,
At the foot of a hill, on the tip of a pen, on rivers and lakes..."  

Dr Abe V Rotor

Under the Sea Cavern. Simulating stalactites and stalagmites in caves, the artist simulated the same conditions on some coral reef ledges where the sun could hardly penetrate. Mystery lies inside the cavern which only the imagination can fathom. A predator waits for its prey, small fishes group together for safety, shell fish cling lazily on rocks, while seaweeds sway freely like a curtain. It is a stage of sort where drama of life in the deep takes place everyday. (Wall mural, SPUQC, AVR). 

I have wondered many times if fish ever sleep
or they just lie down very still
in some quiet deep, like a flock of sheep
after their fill lie on a grassy hill.
Other creatures gain this way their ease
and man by the power of his will
takes the long and winding road to peace 
searching for that quiet pool or hill. 

Tropical Rainforest. A composite painting of a running stream through the woods, apparently near human habitation as shown by the presence of promenaders and fishing enthusiasts enjoying themselves as in a park. Also, the stream empties into a pond of Nymphaea and lotus on the foreground giving the impression that the scene is at the edge of a clearing. Nonetheless the whole scene speaks of an undisturbed ecosystem. The presence of wildlife shows that this is their natural habitat. SPUQC, AVR

Gather the clouds into fog and mist,
rain and stream;
Gather the fish, the birds and the beasts
to a peaceful reign.

Light in the Woods. Are there images on the painting? How many trees are there. Can you see a face? Whose face is it? The inverted "V" perspective creates a panoramic effect leading the eye toward the center and background. SPUQC AVR

It inspired a soul to write a book*
that touches the eye and heart;
This little light in a nook shines 
where good and evil part.

* Light the the Woods, by AVR, Megabooks 1995

Ruins of Colonialism. Keenness in history leads the hand to re-create events in composite order. The sky and landscape blend well and create a peaceful ambiance in contrast with that of the ruins on the foreground. Infinity can be felt towards the background where boundaries of land and sky dissolve in mist and cloud. SPUQC AVR

Ruins, your silence disturbs at this time of tempest,
When dawn breaks like any dawn sans rays of noble past;
The day shall come to put people again to the test,
Like spring, rise again from their state of outcast.

Composite Landscape. There are three scenic parts arranged vertically to suit the design of the sala of a private residence. Upon entering one is led to look up and down the painting. Thus the elongated design has a foreshortening effect. There was originally a rainbow, but it was toned down so as not to steal the show, so to speak. It's suggestiveness however, has a strong effect from the balcony eye level. (DasmariƱas Village, Makati MM)

Where man makes a living, a garden by his hands he makes,
At the foot of a hill, on the tip of a pen, on rivers and lakes,
He contends - even only a piece of that Paradise lost -, he regains;
From knowledge and disobedience, the whole world gains.

Doves Flying at Dawn. There is a feeling of ascendancy in this painting. The diagonal perspective enhances such movement, while splashes of light heightens daybreak. The rough sea and dark foreground give contrast to the painting. The hideous presence of large reptiles creates enigma as to what the artist wanted to imply. Mystery in art is an important element. (Wall Mural SPU-QC)

Take me from this world a moment
to be with You in this holy event;
From your seat to down below I see
my friends, my enemies - and me.

Watershed. Unlike the first painting the perspective is normal "V" which explains the title - a funnel shaped valley to catch and store rainfall and in the process make a natural garden with the colors of spring, summer and    autumn, thus exuding a fairyland effect. The landscape speaks clearly of a pristine environment far and free from humans. (Wall mural SPU-QC)

Ask Ceres or the mightiest God of all -
if Nature keeps herself better if we depart;
With her housekeeping and her art - 
was Paradise redeemed after the Fall? ~ 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Bromeliads form a unique aerial ecosystem

Only the pineapple (Ananas comosus) is the edible species in the large Family Bromeliaceae.
Dr Abe V Rotor
Brightly colored false petals of bromeliad attract insects and other organisms to fertilize its shy, short-live flowers. The bright pseudo flowers serve as markers in the dense and vast forest high up in the trees. Here bromeliads form colonies with connecting rhizomes, and with other epiphytes - ferns, orchids and lianas - make a unique aerial ecosystem. 

Domesticated bromeliads are popular ornamental plants in gardens and around homes. One disadvantages though is that it becomes a breeding place of mosquitoes and other vermin. It is because we have detached them from their natural habitat where they are part of a complex food web. Here mosquito wrigglers are preyed upon by naiads of Odonatans (dragonflies and damselflies), while the adults are trapped in spider webs. Tree frogs have their fill of flies and other insects.  Fish live in the axil ponds and can even transfer to nearby bromeliads and even to the water below to hunt and to mate.  While reptiles occupy the top of the food pyramid, hawks and eagles come to prey on them. Like a chain, just one link broken, and the system fails. 

Bromeliads, which includes the pineapple (the only edible member in the family), are nature's reservoir of miniature ponds that provide abode to many organisms from insects to fish. The central receptacle collects water from dew and rain which spills over to the adjoining leaf axils, making a contiguous pond. The sequence, like a series of terraces, makes water collection and retention efficient, giving chance for the various resident organisms to complete - and repeat - their life cycles. And for transient organisms to have their regular visit.

In this pond system, detritus accumulates and fertilizes the bromeliad as well as other plants around and below it, including its host tree, in exchange for its foothold and other benefits. And being epiphytic and colonial in growing habit on trunks and limbs of trees, bromeliads  form a unique aerial ecosystem with other epiphytes, and the surrounding trees.~    

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Rainbow - A Study in Photography

Where I end is where I begin, seven colors of life I send.
Dr Abe V Rotor

A rainbow spans a continuous spectrum of colors in sequence - red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet (ROYGBIV). Rainbows can be caused by other forms of water than rain, including mist, spray, and dew. Photos by Matthew Marlo R Rotor. Canon EOS 350. Bamban, Tarlac. Canon EOS 350.

Rainbow, rainbow, tell me where your end lies
        that I may meet the Leprechaun;
Rainbow, rainbow, lead me to the pot of gold
        you keep season after season. 

My child, my child, where I end is where I begin,
        seven colors of life I send;
My child, my child, I will lead you to my treasure,
        if you dream and strive to the end. ~

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Living Wheels of Plankton

Dr Abe V Rotor
 Living Wheels of Plankton, in acrylic, AVR 2014. Author's concept of association and cooperation among the sea's plankton communities cum associates that form food webs at sea and lakes.  Sub-colonies in gyrating motion allows independence as well as convergence, always in dynamic balance.  This original concept is a tool for survival, following the principle of cellular organization into tissues, into organs and ultimately, into systems. Taken collectively, plankton form ecological systems that have common as well as distinct individual characteristics.   

Plankton, the biggest and most diverse group of organisms form interacting sub-colonies of millions of members living at the lighted zone of seas and lakes some 10 to 50 meters deep; 

Plankton, they are organized into food chains, to food webs and pyramids, through which the sun's energy flows through the living system these organisms make;

Plankton, the autotrophs (photo-synthesizers) capture solar energy, the heterotrophs (consumers), feed of the former, in turn are food of other bigger organisms, including man;

Plankton, without them the seas, oceans, and lakes would be barren like desert; they form the earth's largest pasture, the number one producers of biomass and Oxygen that supply the living world;    

Plankton, they are the least understood in composition and ecology, yet they are the oldest organisms, many barely changed through evolution some one billion years ago;  

Plankton, the least subject of art and literature, imagined more as fantasy rather than science, and nil in understanding social biology that links them with the human species;   

Plankton, they must have evolved from somewhere else other the primeval earth, perhaps they rode on asteroids, rose separately, but later merged into the family tree of life. ~ 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

A Tribute to the Pioneers in Biology in the Philippines

Dr Abe V Rotor

Dr Anselmo S Cabigan (right) and author examine a rare plant specimen atop Tagaytay Ridge. Both are retired biology professors, and directors of the National Food Authority. They are disciples of the "old school" of Eduardo Quisumbing, Nemesio Mendiola, Juan Aquino, Leopoldo Karganilla, Fernando de Peralta, Deogreacias Villadolid, Jose Capinpin, Santiago Cruz et al - vanguards of  science in the Philippines.   

Author's Note: The final draft of the human genome - the “book of life” has been completed.  In 2000 the first draft of the Human Genome Project was made public by the US-UK Human Genome Project’s head, Francis Collins, and J. Craig Venter of Celera Genomics, a private company.  They led the celebration of the most important discovery equaled only by the splitting of the atom in the last century. The breakthrough revolutionizes medicine and biology, and has deep ethical and moral implications, as the discovery could lead to the cure of killer diseases through what scientists call gene therapy, and the broadening of genetic engineering possibilities that may lead to the “creation” of life itself.
       While the world celebrates the greatest discovery of the new millenium - the cracking of the genetic code - let us turn our thoughts to our own biologists and dedicate this article to them.  May their pioneering spirit in the development of biology in the Philippines be brought closer to our youth for them to look into the great potentials of biology as a career.

     One of the early biologists was Eduardo Quisumbing the author of Medicinal Plants of the Philippines. Although it was written in the fifties the book is still the most popular reference in pharmacology. It is used in agronomy and horticulture. If you want to know what a certain plant can cure, how it is prepared and administered to the patient, flip the pages his book. It gives the botanical description of the  plant so that it can be identifies. It is dubbed as the “bible of medicinal plants,” which anyone can use -  in the school, barangay and in the  home.


Nemesio Mendiola (1890-1983) is the country's counterpart of the American "plant wizzard," Luther Burbank. He was responsible in breeding high yielding rice, corn, sugar cane, and a host of horticultural crops, including fancy plants. Have you seen kamote (sweet potato) varieties with yellow, violet and blue tubers? He bred the spineless kenaf from the wild thorny native variety and became the source of fiber for commercial jute sacks.


People’s Health and Welfare

       Earlier, Leon Ma. Guerrero (1853-1935), the father of botany in the Philippines and one of the first Filipino pharmacists, formulated medicine and drugs from 174 plants in place of synthetic drugs which were not available then. When President Emilio Aguinaldo ran out of ammunition, he formulated an explosive derived from plants.  It proved to be a good substitute to gunpowder. It was later named Guerrero Powder. One of the ingredients the author discovered is the hard seed coat of cashew (Canarium luzonicum).

     “Necessity,” it is said, “is the mother of invention.” Life went through difficult times even after gaining our independence from Spain and the US and later from the Japanese. It is in these times that great minds were challenged.

     Take the case of Maria Y Orosa (1893- 1945). Her discoveries in food preservation and innovations in salting, marinating, and picklingmade home economics and food technology household terms. So simple are her techniques that they can be adopted at the grassroots.  They are also friendly to health and the environment.

     A significant contribution to the improvement of health came from  Hilarion Lara (1994-1987), an epidiomologist who advocated environmental sanitation in the control of cholera, typhoid, measles, dysentery and diphtheria.  For this he did not only earn the title of National Scientist, but his fame gained international acclaim.

Beri-beri and Allergy

     It was Manuel Ma. Guerrero (1877-1919) who succeeded in controlling infantile beri-beri.  Dr. Juan Salcedo (1904-1988) who was then chairman of the National Science Development Board came up with a special vitamin against beri-beri for all ages, a feat which became internationally famous. Thanks to Dr. Guerrero and Dr. Salcedo this scourge of millions of children all over the world can be now controlled down to the village level.  These great Filipino scientists are dubbed the “nemesis of beri-beri”.

     More discoveries that improved health were made. Alfredo Santos (1900-1979), one of the founders of the National Academy of Science discovered paheantharine from plants as a treatment of high blood pressure.  For this he earned the honor of National Scientist.

     Candido M. Africa (1895-1945) succeeded in determining the causes of heart failure and how it can be prevented. In the field of allergy, Arturo B. Rotor (1908-1993), who was also Executive Secretary of President Manuel L. Quezon, and later President Sergio Osmena, developed a technique in detecting and controlling allergy.  It was later named Rotor Syndrome, and is now a standard procedure used by medical schools and hospitals here and abroad. Dr. Rotor also wrote a column, “Confidentially Yours, Doctor,” written in simple and plain English for people to understand the doctor’s lingo. A number of orchids he discovered were named after him.

      Antonio Ejercito spearheaded malaria control, while Dr. Sixto A. Francisco (1890-1959) fought tuberculosis with a method he developed with the use of BCG vaccine. Anastacia Giron Tupas (1890-1972) upgraded the nursing profession.  She is our own Florence Nightingale, the founder of the nursing profession.  Fe del Mundo (1907-  ) institutionalized the treatment of children by putting up of hospitals for children. These hospitals are among the best-managed hospitals today. Among her inventions are an incubator for babies, and a devise in relieving jaundice. Her name is an institution in the field of pediatrics medicine.

Biology and Agriculture

     The author had the privilege to study genetics under Nemesio Mendiola (1890-1983). Dr. Mendiola is the country’s counterpart of the American “plant wizzard,” Luther Burbank. He was responsible in breeding high yielding rice, corn, sugar cane, and a host of horticultural crops, including fancy plants. Have you seen kamote (sweet potato) varieties with yellow, violet and blue tubers? If you happen to see a dwarf gumamela (Hibiscus rosasinensis) with bright long-lived flowers, it is also the work of Dr. Mendiola. He bred the spineless kenaf from the wild thorny native variety and became the source of fiber for commercial jute sacks.

     Another great mind biology is Deogracias Villadolid. He was  professor in zoology and served as critic of the author’s masteral thesis in freshwater ecology. Dr. Deogracias Villadolid, a marine and fresh water biologist, is best remembered for introducing tilapia (Tilapia monzambica and T. nilotica) into the Philippines in the fifties. The fish became adapted to local conditions that today it is the most popular fish, surpassing bangus, our national fish.

     Here is a list of other Filipino biologists and their significant contributions:

  1. Julian A. Banzon (1908-1988) developed alternative fuel from coconut and sugarcane. Ironically while millions of cars run on alcogas in other countries, we have not tapped Dr. Banzon’s formula for our local cars.
  1. Felix D. Maramba Sr (1898- 1990?) harnessed biogas from animal waste. His project, Maya Farms in Rizal, is the most popular model in the country for small and medium size biogas generator. Like LPG, the gas collected and processed from piggery waste is used for the kitchen and in generating electricity. It  became a world’s model for its kind.
  1. Angel S. Arguelles (1888-1988?) developed fertilizers and pesticides to increase plant yield.  These alternative farm inputs can save the country of precious dollars that is otherwise spent on imported farm chemicals, which by the way, are deleterious to health and the environment. His formulations set the foundation of  organic farming.
  1. Gregorio Velasquez is the father of phycology, the study of algae, which include the seaweeds. Today the culture of certain seaweeds, like Eucheuma and Gracillaria and Caulerpa,  constitute a multi-million industry.  Seaweeds are used as food and raw materials in medicine and industries. Micro-algae like Spirulina and Chlorella are among today’s growing health food.
  1. Gerardo Ocfemia, the father of plant pathology in the Philippines.  He is best known for discovering the cause of cadang-cadang, a pandemic viral disease of coconut. He was responsible in the identification and control of many other plant diseases in the Philippines.
  1. Dioscoro L. Umali (1922-1992) The author had the privilege of consulting Dr. Umali for his advice in the drafting of the Magna Carta for Small Farmers. A former dean of then UP College of Agriculture, he assumed one of the highest posts occupied by a Filipino in the UN as regional head of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for Asia and Pacific. His works in plant breeding, education and research won him the National Scientist award.
      These scientists also excelled in their fields: Salvador M. Africa (chemist, made glass from sugarcane bagasse), and Anacleto del Rosario (discovered natural mineral water).
     Of course, we recognize the greatest Filipino who ever lived, the hero of our race, Dr. Jose P. Rizal.  Dr. Rizal was a biologist, agriculturist and wildlife conservationist,  even while he was in exile at Dapitan. Among his discoveries is a winged tree lizard, which was later named after him, Draco rizali.

Old Masters of the Life Sciences

     The author treasures happy memories through his privileged association as a student and professor in the company of the following masters during the fifties and sixties. They constitute the so-called “old school of biology.”

·         Fernando de Peralta – Botany
·         Fortunato T. Basilio – Animal Science
·         Juan P. Torres - Agriculture
·         Santiago R. Cruz – Agriculture
·         Jose Capinpin - Agriculture
·         Gerardo Ocfemia – Plant Pathology
·         Juan Aquino – Soil Science
·         Domingo B. Paguirigan - Agriculture
·         Fortunato T. Basilio – Animal Science
·         Romeo Rejesus – Entomology
·         Ricardo P. Sevilla – Veterinary Medicine
·         Eulalio P. Baltazar - Agronomy
·         Romeo Alicbusan – Mycology
·         Francisco Fronda – Animal Science
·         Martin S. Celino – Agronomy
·         Francisco B. Claridad – Genetics
·         Romeo Rejesus – Entomology
·         Alfredo D. Dean – Entomology
·         Vito F. Del Fierro, Jr – Animal Science
·         Leopoldo T. Karganilla - Entomology
·         Emiliano Roldan – Plant Pathology
·         Rufino Gapuz – Animal Science 
·         Emil Javier – Genetics
·         Clare Baltazar - Entomology
·         Ramon Valmayor – Agriculture

     The author also expresses his admiration to these contemporary Filipino scientists whom he had the chance to study and work with in the academe, in research institutions and in the field. Together with other scientists, they belong to the “contemporary school of biology.” Among them are Reynaldo A. Tabbada (botany), Paciente Cordero (marine biology), Romualdo M. del Rosario (Botany), Ruben Umaly (Genetics), Crisanto EscaƱo (agriculture), Carmen Kanapi (Genetics), Sister Mamerta R. Rocero (ethnobotany), Alice Claustro (Botany), Anselmo S. Cabigan (Biology), Irineo Dogma (Microbiology) and  Lydia Joson (microbiology). The author likewise expresses recognition to scientists in the other fields of natural science, particularly in chemistry and physics.

      The author also acknowledges his former students who became practicing biologists - researchers, teachers, community workers, and the like. They are among those who constitute today’s “workforce in biology.”

New Fields of Biology- A Challenge to the youth

     These ten major biological research areas pose a challenge to the youth of today who may take interest in becoming biologists.
  1. Biotechnology
  2. Marine biology
  3. Climatology
  4. Human longevity
  5. Effects of pollution
  6. Endangered ecosystems and species
  7. Exobiology and Space biology
  8. Natural food and medicine
  9. Pandemic human diseases
  10. Gene therapy
      Now that the genetic code has been broken, we are embarking into new fields of science and technology heretofore unknown to man - and into the mystery of life itself, a subject that has long defied man’s knowledge. 

     The mapping of the 46 chromosomes of the human species and the 50,000 or so genes that they hold may have taken us a leap forward into knowing the key to life. But even if we shall have finally identified the specific role of each gene in relation to health, behavior and intrinsic qualities, we would still be in quandary whether this discovery will make life any better, happier and well-lived.

     As we look back, our pioneer biologists may not have cracked the gene, but definitely they have in their own quiet and humble ways brought honors to their race and profession.  Most important of all, they have improved the lives of millions of not only Filipinos but other people around the world through their genius, efforts, dedication – and selflessness.

      May this article serve as a simple expression of our respect and gratitude to these scientists and many other great Filipinos. ~