Friday, July 31, 2015

Pomposity of colors - Nature's tool for survival

Dr Abe V Rotor 
Butterfly plant, what a coincidence 
in form and structure, and color;
I'd rather say,  a case of mimicry,
mutual protection, a favor of both.   
Angel's trumpet, flimsy sinister, heralding 
not of victory but defeat;
Narcotics its essence, abuse its courtship,
to the unwary on a dark street.   
Balibago - white in the morning pink after;
your secret of a short lived;
you must court the sun and bee without delay,
in the act of make believe.
Mickey mouse the male, Minnie mouse the female,
both flowers born on one plant;
If ever Disney got the idea from this plant, he's right,
mystery is what people want.  
Begonia, frail and dainty, and easy to wilt
must shout its color to the butterfly and bee,
else its flowers like spinsters just fade away
sad and lonely though colorful and free. 

Caladium - but you are not a flower and far from one;
yet you are an apple to the eye of the beholder;
whatever perceptions you create to your pollinators, 
count me as one, your ardent gardener. ~

Vanishing Paradise Kiribati - A Case of Ecomigration :

Dr Abe V Rotor

 Kiribati main island is formerly Atoll Christmas, named by Captain Cook when he arrived on Christmas Eve in 1777. The island, like most islands in the region, faces irreversible submergence and sea water intrusion as a result of rising sea level brought about by global warming. The island was used as nuclear testing ground by the United States in the fifties and sixties.

Aerial view of the Kiribati group of islands. Rising sea level is forcing inhabitants to leave permanently their home islands, a classical example of modern day exodus - ecomigration. Displaced inhabitants are being settled mainly in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.

The sea has practically swallowed up a whole atoll, with narrow fringes the only remaining habitable portion, at least up to now.

Kiribati Parliament House is threatened by receding shoreline (background) and rising lagoon (foreground).
Kiribati (pronounced /ˈkɪrɨbæs/ ( listen) KIRR-i-bas;[4] Gilbertese: [ˈkiɾibas]), composed of 32 atolls and one raised coral island, dispersed over 3.5 million square kilometres, (1,351,000 square miles) straddling the equator, and bordering the International Date Line at its easternmost point. Kiribati is the only country in the world located on both hemispheres and lying on both sides of the 180th meridian.

The groups of islands are:

* Banaba: an isolated island between Nauru and the Gilbert Islands
* Gilbert Islands: 16 atolls located some 930 miles (1,500 km) north of Fiji
* Phoenix Islands: 8 atolls and coral islands located some 1,100 miles (1,800 km) southeast of the Gilberts
* Line Islands: 8 atolls and one reef, located about 2,050 miles (3,300 km) east of the Gilberts.
Caroline Atoll channel between west side of Long Island and Nake Island.

Used for nuclear testing in the 1950s and 1960s, the island is now valued for its marine and wildlife resources. It is particularly important as a seabird nesting site—with an estimated 6 million birds using or breeding on the island, including several million Sooty Terns.

According to the South Pacific Regional Environment Program, two small uninhabited Kiribati islets, Tebua Tarawa and Abanuea, disappeared underwater in 1999. The islet of Tepuka Savilivili no longer has any coconut trees due to salination. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that sea levels will rise by about half a metre (20 in) by 2100 due to global warming and a further rise would be inevitable. It is thus likely that within a century the nation's arable land will become subject to increased soil salination and will be largely submerged.

Rising level level is also being felt in many countries, particularly island-countries like the Philippines. ~

Acknowledgment: Wikipedia, Google

Adda Kadi Pay Bambanti? (Are there still scarecrows?)

Abe V Rotor

Scarecrow in the rice field  (Siquijor) from Travelpod, thanks
The Scarecrow is an art in the countryside.
Maysa nga arte ti away ti bambanti. Nakamattider iti tengnga ti kataltalonan a mangbutbuteng kadagiti billit babaen dagiti nakadeppa nga imana ken ti datdatlag a rupana a nalingdan iti payabyab. Bantayanna dagiti nakadawan a pagay tapno awan ti agkaan a billit-tuleng (Lonchura malacca jagori ken L. m. formosana) wenno maya iti Tagalog.
Adda dagiti billit-tuleng iti agarup sibubukel nga Asia ken iti Pasipiko. Ad-adda a dawa ti pagay ti pagbiagda, ken bukbukel dagiti ruot. Makadanonda pay kadagiti mandala wenno sarusar a pagtuktokan iti irik. Maris-daga wenno kayumanggi dagitoy a billit ken nagsinan-trianggulo ti sippitda nga umisu unay iti panagsippit ken panagukisda iti bukbukel wenno dawa. Sangapangen no agdissoda iti kapagayan.
Isu nga adda dagitoy bambanti nga agbantay. Iramanda pay nga abogen dagiti billit-tsina, ken dadduma pay a billit nga agkaan iti dawa. Nareppet a garami a nangsinan-T daytoy bambanti. Sa mabaduan iti daan a kamiseta wenno bado nga atiddog ti mangngasna ken payabyab. Daytay aglanglanga a kasla mannalon tapno kabuteng dagiti billit.
Adda ketdi parikutna daytoy. Kas iti nasursuruan nga aso ni Pavlov (ti prinsipio ti nakondision a pannakasursuro), maamiris met dagiti billit-tuleng a saan met gayam a pudpudno a mannalon dagitoy bambanti. Ket sakbay a maammuan ni mannalon daytoy, nagum-uman dagiti billit-tuleng kadagiti dandanin maani a pagayna. Amangan ta adda pay dagiti agbatay a billit-tuleng iti mismo nga abaga wenno ulo ti bambanti.
Kadagitoy a tiempo, matmatayen nga arte ti bambanti. Kas sukatna, mangibanteng dagiti mannalon iti tali iti kapagayan a pakaisab-itan dagiti namamaris a plastik bag. Adda met dagiti mangibanteng iti “tali” ti daan a cassette tape wenno video tape— no agangin, aguni dagitoy a mangabog kadagiti billit. Adda payen dagiti agusar iti ‘pellet gun’.
Naminsan, nakakitakami iti maymaysa a bambanti iti tengnga ti kataltalonan. Idi maasitganmi, naduktalanmi a maysa gayam a manekin ken nabaduan a kunam la no adda iti maysa a mall. Nalagipmi la ket ngarud ti ubing a nakaduktal iti estatua ni Venus de Milo iti maysa a pasto iti Gresia.
Iti sabali pay a gundaway, nakakitakami kadagiti lobo (balloon) ken styropore balls a nakabitin kadagiti pinagayan a namarkaan kadagiti rupa da Jollibee, Power Puff Girls, Batman, Popeye, Mr. Bean, ken sumagmamano a karakter iti pelikula ken cartoon. Ket nadlawmi nga awan a pulos ti billit iti aglawlaw!
Idi nadakamatmi iti maysa a gayyemi a maysa nga entomologist, nga epektibo daytoy baro a bersion ti bambanti, kinunana nga aglinglingaling: “Mabalin nga awanen dagiti billit.”
Nalagipmi la ket ngaruden ti Silent Spring, ti premiado a libro ni Rachel Carson. Dagiti billit iti dayta a panagrurusing (spring), natayda gapu iti pannakasamalda iti pestisidio.—O
The scarecrow is found in many parts of the world in different versions according to culture of the place. It has one universal design though - a T-frame dressed like a human.

Love that scarecrow (banbanti Ilk.). It is folk art on the farm. In the middle of the field it feigns scary to birds, what with those outstretched arms and that mysterious face hidden beneath a wide brim hat. There it stands tall amid maturing grains, keeping finches or maya birds (Lonchura Malacca jagori and L. m. formosana) at bay. Finches are widely distributed in Asia and the Pacific feeding on rice grains, and alternately on weed seeds, but now and then they also steal from the haystack (mandala) and poultry houses. They are recognized for their chestnut colored compact bodies, and sturdy triangular beak designed for grain picking and husking. The scarecrow also guards against the house sparrow, mayan costa (billit China Ilk.), including the lovable turtle dove or bato-bato (Streptopelia bitorquata dursummieri), all grain feeders.

A scarecrow is usually made of rice hay shaped like a human body wrapped around a T-frame. It is simply dressed up with old shirt and hat. The idea is to make it look like the farmer that the birds fear. There is one problem though. Birds, like the experimental dog of Pavlov (principle of conditional learning), soon discover the hoax and before the farmer knows it a whole flock of maya is feasting on his ready-to-harvest ricefield. It is not uncommon to see maya birds bantering around – and even roasting on the scarecrow itself!

Today the scarecrow is an endangered art. In its place farmers hang plastic bags, or tie old cassette and video tape along dikes and across the fields. These create rustling or hissing sound as the wind blows, scaring the birds. Others use firecrackers and pellet guns.

At one time I saw a lone scarecrow in the middle of a field. On examining it closely, I found out that it was made of a mannequin dressed the way the fashion world does. It reminded me of the boy who discovered the statue of Venus de Milo in a remote pasture in Greece. On another occasion I saw balloons and styropore balls hanging in poultry and piggery houses, bearing the faces of Jollibee, Power Puff Girls, Batman, Popeye, Mr. Bean and a host of movie and cartoon characters. Interestingly I noticed that the birds were nowhere to be found.

When I told my friend, an entomologist, that these new versions of the scarecrow seem to be effective, he wryly replied, “Maybe there are no more birds left.” Suddenly I remembered Silent Spring, a prize winning book by Rachel Carson. The birds that herald spring had died of pesticide poisoning.
Our dear followers and readers: Please write something about the scarecrow and let's help preserve this endangered art. (AVR)

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A Tropical Rainforest Lives on a Wall Mural

A Tropical Rainforest Wall Mural (3.5 ft x 15 ft) in acrylic by Dr Abe V Rotor at his residence in Lagro, Block 61 61, Lot 55 (corner Kudyapi St and Lam-ang St)  2015.  The mural is an integral part (3rd panel) of a larger mural (7 ft x 30 ft).   

The mural is made up of  three sections as shown in the above photos: 
  • Emergent trees and their tenants (top);
  • Exploring a forest stream (middle),
  • Food web and energy flow (lowermost)


Among the countless creatures of the tropical rainforest that comprise its rich biodversity are: a rat, giant among its kind in the lowland, lives in a hollow of a tree; boa constrictor adapted to arboreal life, transient gulls adapted to both sea and forest life; tree iguana that branched out of marine igunas, and those that live in dry conditions; chamelion the master of camouflage and mimicry; sloth, mother and young, clinging on a tree motionless and sleeping most of its life.  
My grandson, Marchus Andrei, 6 months old and his nanny - guardians of this rainforest wall mural. ~

The blackbird is back - so with other threatened animals

 Dr Abe V Rotor
Blackbird (Martines), Drynaria fern and towering acacia tree make
 an ecological sanctuary, together with a host of other organisms 
that depend on them. Tagudin, Ilocos Sur.
In less than a human lifetime, dozens of wildlife species have rebounded from the brink of extinction - and are establishing their territory in suburbs.  Here are twenty (20) animals that have made a remarkable comeback.
  1. Kiyoaw or Oriole (a family of 4 to 6 members frequent our backyard trees, just outside the La Mesa Reservoir watershed)
  2. Reticulated python or sawa (a one-meter baby sawa was ensconced in a burnay or earthen pot.) 
  3. Fireflies (They can be observed on empty lots adjacent to the Sacred Heart seminary, Novaliches QC
  4. Pipit (popularized ina song of the same title, local counterpart of the huming bird)
  5. Tuka'k Ba-ung (bellied frog, long thought to have succumbed to pesticides.  See separate article in this blog) 
  6. Skink or alibut Ilk (Twice in ten years I spotted this shiny ground lizard at home near the La Mesa watershed.
  7. Gecko Lizard (Tuko or tekka Ilk., hunted for its alleged aphrodisiac value)
  8. Atlas moth (biggest of all insects by wing span, threatened by the gradual disappearance of native santol being replaced by the Bangkok variety)
  9. Black Bear (Prowler in the kitchen and on garbage when hungry)  
  10. Canada Goose (Remember Fly Away Home ?)
  11. Alligator (relative of the crocodile, we don't have alligators, instead crocodiles - they are coming back, too)
  12. Gray Wolf (found in wastelands and open areas)
  13. Deer (rebounded in no-hunting forests and grasslands) 
  14. Wild Turkey (particularly in the US and Canada)  
  15. Cougar (relative of the wolf in the US)
  16. Beaver (natural dam builder of forest streams in temperate countries) 
  17. Raccoon (common in North America)
  18. Wild Pig (baboy ramo, alingo Ilk, one of the most popular game animals; it is a pest of nearby farms, feeding on root crops and succulents, Our native pigs are the progeny of a cross indigenous and wild genes.)
  19. Rhinoceros beetle (appears like Triceratops, with three horns, apparently the male; the female has shorter horns)
  20. Wildcat (In China the civet cat, counterpart of our musang, is invading homes.  One reason for its comeback is that it eats fresh coffee bean and defecate the seed which is then ground into a special blend that commands a lucrative price.)  
Garden Skink; Wild Pig (baboy ramo)

This is one for the biologist and ecologist. I say, it's one for the Book of Guinness record.

Up high in a dozen centuries old acacia trees, reaching up to 10 storeys high, their boughs and branches clothed with epiphytic ferns, I found the long lost blackbirds, we callmartines in Ilocano.

I was then in the grade school in San Vicente (Ilocos Sur) when I saw the last martines bird. But here on a Black Friday on top of these towering trees, there is the lost bird, in fact several of them in pairs and families. It is like the Coelacanth, a primitive fish thought to have long been extinct, suddenly rising from the depth of the craggy Madagascar sea. Its fossil in rock tells us it is 40 million years old. And here it is - alive and has not changed! The fossil fish is alive! So with the Martines!

The blackbirds have made the towering acacia trees their home and natural habitat, building their nests on the Drynaria fern. The fern grows on the branches, reaching the peak of its growth during the rainy season when the host tree sheds its leaves, in effect allowing sunlight to nurture the fern.

The fern has dimorphic leaves. The primary ones are long and shaped like stag horn and bear sori or spore sacs, while the other kind is shaped and arranged like shingles, enclosing the fern's rhizome. Like all ferns, Drynaria undergoes alternation of generations - the spore-forming phase and gamete-forming phase. It is the sporophytic or asexual generation that the fern plant is familiar to us. It is typically made of roots, stems and leaves - but never flowers and fruits. It is for this that ferns are classified separately from seed-forming and flowering plants. They belong to Division Pterophyta.

In the dry season, the fern becomes dormant, appearing dry and lifeless from the outside, but shielded by the shingles the fleshy rhizome waits for the rain and sunlight - and the shedding of the host tree. Then almost at an instant the fern springs to life, carpeting entire boughs and branches.

Now it's the tree's turn. In summer, while the fern is dormant, it builds a new crown, and together with those of the adjoining trees form a huge canopy that makes a perfect shade. This could be one reason the friars in the 15th century thought of introducing the acacia (Samanea saman) from Mexico to be planted around churches and convents.

Not only that the acacia is the biggest legume in the world; it is self-fertilizing and self supporting, and sharing its resources to countless organisms from earthworm to humans. How is this possible?

The acacia harbors in its roots symbionts - Rhizobium bacteria that convert the element Nitrogen (N) into Nitrate (NO3). Only then can N that comprises 78 percent of the air we breathe can be used by plants to manufacture food by photosynthesis.

And with the deciduous character of the tree, dead leaves form a litter on the ground that makes a good mulch and later becomes compost - a natural fertilizer for the tree, surrounding plants, microorganisms and animals. Then as the pods of the tree ripen and drop to the ground, animals like goats come around to feed on them and in effect enrich the ground. The tree's efficient physiology and symbiotic potential with other organisms make it not only one of the most self-reliant trees in the world, but a miniature ecosystem in itself.

We see today very old acacia trees in these places, just like those around the old St Agustine church in Tagudin built in the 16th century where I found the blackbirds among the Drynaria ferns at their tops. Tagudin is the southernmost town of Ilocos Sur, some 330  kilometers north of Manila - a good five-hour drive. It continues to attract northbound tourists to have a stopover and see this spectacle, among other attractions of this old town, such as its native handicrafts, pristine seashore and progressive upland agriculture.

Going back to the blackbirds, why do we give much importance to them? Well, the blackbirds protect both tree and fern from insects and other pests, and fertilize them with their droppings. They too, are gleaners and help keep the environment clean. Unlike the house sparrow, ground fowls and the crow, they are not nuisance to the place; their presence is barely felt except for their occasional calls which sound quite sonorous but nonetheless pleasant, and their display during flight of a queer pair of white spots on their wings. I developed the liking to watch them for hours - their gentle movement, familial ways, although they do not as gregarious as pigeons, and their glossy black bodies distinct from the surrounding and against the sky. They make a good specimen for bird watching and photography.

Beyond the aesthetics about the bird, I learned from my good friend Dr. Anselmo Set Cabigan, a fellow biologist and science professor, that the martines was introduced from Guam on instruction of a Spanish Governor General to control locust infestation in the Philippines. This is the first case of applying the principle of biological control in the Philippines - and perhaps elsewhere - which was then too advance in its time. Today, biological control is practiced worldwide as part of Integrated Pest Management (IPM), a holistic approach in dealing with all kinds of pests which include pathogens.

Locust (Locusta migratoria manilensis) is a scourge to agriculture in many countries since prehistoric times. I have witnessed how a swarm of locust devour complete fields of rice and corn, and other crops overnight. During swarming the sky darkens as sheer numbers of these flying insects block the sky. And as they ride on the wind they produce a deafening hissing sound that adds terror to farmers and inhabitants.

And why was the matines bird the chosen nemesis of the locust? It clearly shows the efficiency of this predator. Actually predation is most effective when the locust is still in its non-migratory phase, specifically during the congegans - more so when it is in the solitaria phase. The bird immediately checks the pest before it develops into enormous population - and reach its swarming stage.

I believe that the triad formed by the acacia tree, Drynaria fern and the blackbirds is the beginning of an emerging ecosystem where wildlife and human settlement meet in cooperation and harmony. It is a zone where Nature re-builds spent environments and creates intermediate types, in which the role of man is basically to let nature's laws and rules to prevail. For example, doves and pigeons in public squares and plazas in many parts of the world are learning to trust people, and many people are just too happy to share their homes and other resources with them. They are planting trees and setting up more and wider parks for the wildlife.

For one, Japan now requires the greening of rooftops of buildings through gardening dubbed aeroponics, and by putting up ecological sanctuaries to attract wildlife to settle in them. In Europe on the other hand, miles and miles of hedges have evolved into a unique ecosystem, that one can no longer differentiate a well-established hedge from a natural vegetation. Also in Europe, woodlands which are actually broad strips that serve as boundaries of fields and pastures, are gaining through time higher biodiversity levels, and moving towards dynamic stability, called in ecology as homeostasis.

The Philippines is not behind. We have multi-storey orchards in Cavite, Batangas and Laguna that simulate the structure of a tropical rain forest long before the term ecology was coined. And many basins of ricefields and sumps of irrigation systems have become natural ponds.

The 38th parallel dividing the whole length of warring North Korea and South Korea – a strip of no man’s land, twenty kilometers at its widest – has developed, since the armistice in 1958, into a natural wildlife sanctuary. Today it has a very high level of biodiversity and distinct from any reservation on either side of this highly restricted boundary.

These neo-ecological zones are sprouting from backyards, parks, submerged coastlines, denuded mountains, and the like. Even contiguous idle lots – and abandoned fishponds, farms and settlements - are slowly but steadily becoming bastions of wildlife.

Truly, the case of the centuries old acacia trees where the Drynaria and the martinesbirds, and man living with them in peace and in harmony - is a manifestation of Nature's triumph. It is triumph to us and the living world. ~

Grotesque looking acacia tree clothed with Drynaria fern
over church and convent in Tagudin, Ilocos Sur.

Photographs taken with an SLR Digital Camera with 300 mm telephoto lens.
Reference Time, December 9, 2013

Big Bang - Origin of Life

Dr Abe V Rotor
Big Bang (19" x 23") painting by the author 2012 

Once upon a distant past, a proto mass 
     of converging gases, too huge 
to hold on in space exploded -
     the Big Bang like a centrifuge.  

Born the universe and galaxies
     in countless numbers expanding,
countless more, orphans in space,
     our known world but a sibling.

Were this true - life so little do we know
     today from its very spawn; 
move over Oparin, move over Darwin, 
     theories past and our own  ~

The Uplands

Paintings by Dr Abe V Rotor
Living Fire in Trees in acrylic 2012

Tree of Childhood, wall mural author's residence, circa 2005

The uplands, happy they bloom fire to summer's end,
 sigh with some dying waterfall;
hues of brown and green, earth and sky they blend,
waiting for the first rain to fall,
 to wake the crickets and cicada, their songs to send
into the air nature's happy call. ~    

Friday, July 24, 2015

Reflections on Guimaras Island

Dr Abe V Rotor

To see the world in a grain of sand,
      And a heaven in a wild flower;
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand ,
      And eternity in an hour.
- William Blake (Auguries of Innocence)

Where birds and fish meet, sky and river;
when the world is at peace and not a stir;
when the heart throbs not of fear and pain,
but tenderness of a flower grown by rain.

Living on the ledge is a curious thing,
From one world to another world; 
Where freedom is honor and pride,
And finding but the edge of a sword,
That rules the Great Divide.

Would you like to live behind bars of saplings and bushes?
where the pond creates a thousand images, 
where deep down breathes life, life of the pond and the trees,
where thoughts live or die as you wish?
It looks like a monster facing the sea,
all clothed in verdant green;
it holds back the wind, wave and tide,
the evil spirit unseen. 

How long will I wait and greet you a pleasant day?
But the shy creature is fast asleep in its burrow;
It can't understand your language, only that of the sea,
And kind notes and gestures more than humans know.  

A nursery of mangrove starts to wean
the young plants early for the open sea;
when man by contrast would not dare
but spoils his child from being free.   

And the sapling walks alone into the open,
on stakes anchored in the mud;
hello, it greets the world, and many guests,
to its shadow, confident and proud.

What is a swamp with its unkind, unpleasant name,
this forgotten domain between land and sea,
where monsters lurk, where death reigns, and life
is but an accident, where time is an enemy?

Swamp of sadness, swamp of despair, where 
legends and tales are on the dark side;
yet the riches of the world from the ancient sun
here grew, the fossils coming out alive.   

Pristine by the mirror of the sky,
the trees aligned on the shore;
the air in the stillness of peace,
the water emerald and pure.    

Thoughts run faster than vision, often reaching no destination;
While a boatload of souls patiently waits at sea with the wind 
To take them to where they are bound in work or pleasure;
Having also thoughts of their own, but aimed at their mission.   

Kugtong - giant lapulapu - feared in the bottom of the sea,
its kingdom secured by its fierce look and size;
who would believe Captain Nemo of Jules Verne's book?
Oh, unless you've seen it with your own eyes.

Bridges tell us of war and peace,
bridge across a river or waterfall; 
pontoon bridge in the battlefield - 
memories the longest bridge of all.

Either the rock is rising or sinking, I can only surmise,
A cave on the outside, a cavern deep down below;
Wish I were a witness, or that I might be -
To the creation of a world, its transformation, too,
But I would lose the essence of awe. I wish I won't be.    


To each his or her reflection, yet collectively the same and one:
the beauty of nature in a piece of rock floating,
Guimaras - a corner of Eden saved from Sodom and the Flood,  
where man is led back to his happy beginning.    

This post is dedicated to the participants to the 20th Annual Conference of the Philippine Society for Educational Research and Evaluation, May 10 and 11, 2012. I was given the  honor and privilege to be one of them in the group.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Making of a Plastic Continent

Dr Abe V Rotor
The main Plastic Vortex as big as the state of texas - and growing - lies north of Hawaii off the coast of Canada and the US. "Islands" of plastics coalese into the vortex. Dutch scientists propose to convert the floating debris into a livable environment.  Satellite photo below shows ocean currents and gyres responsible in creating the vortex.   Canada is directly affected as indicated in the North Pacific Gyre. 
 Another gyre in the North Atlantic is poised to form another Plastic Vortex along the east coast of the US and Canada. If this happens we might expect a graver consequence as plastic merges with seaweeds that comprise the huge Sargasso Sea. (See lowermost photos, from the Internet) 

NOTE: There are other gyres three in the south hemisphere, all potential spawning grounds of floating garbage.

Relate these events with the following: 
1. Pope Francis Laudato Si (Praise Be), a call to save the Earth
2. Canada exporting trash to the Philippines
3. Earth Summits - review and prospects
4. Culture of Consumerism
5. Waste management models 
6. Personal concern and action
7. Global Leadership challenge
8. Autotoxicity - myth of fact?

Study the following photos (Internet).