Thursday, December 22, 2016

Images of Nature in Mural

 Little did I realize that the order of Nature is not merely determined by natural laws applied as ecological tenets, but as a divine law which determines its arrangement, the subordination of the means to the end, and  the assimilation of the parts to the whole.
Dr Abe V Rotor

Wall mural (8 ft x 16 ft) St Paul University Quezon City by the author, 2000



      Nature represents the idea of the entire universe in a state of perfection.  Nature is one: it unites heaven and earth, connecting human beings with the stars and bringing them all together into a single family.  Nature is beautiful; it is ordered.  A divine law determines its arrangement, namely the subordination of the means to the end, and the parts to the whole.

      After putting down my brush, I took a view of the mural from a distance.  The scene – unspoiled nature – one spared from the hands of man and typified by the tropical rainforest, flowed out from a wall that was previously white and empty.

      In the course of painting the mural, which took all of seven days and in the days following its unveiling, I took notice of the reactions of viewers. It must be the stillness of the scene, freshness of its atmosphere, and its apparent eccentricity that attract passersby as if in search of something therapeutic. It seems to slow down busy feet, soothing tired nerves. There is something I thought was mysterious beyond the levels of aesthetics. For the huge scene is a drama of life completely different from city living.  It is respite.  It is transformation from concrete to greenery, from cityscape to landscape.

      Yet, I found it difficult to give it a title and an explanation that captures both its essence and message. This time many ideas crowded my mind. At the start of my painting labors, the challenge was how and where to start painting. Now that it is completed, what else is there to say after one has “said” it all in colors and lines, hues and shadows, perspective and design? What more is there to declare for after the last page of a book?  For a painting, it is the same.

      Relaxation did not come easy for me after many hours of concentrating on my subject, dealing with a fast-drying medium of acrylic.  What made it more challenging was the unending attempt to capture those fleeting impressions and recollections that pervaded my mind as I painted. I then took a pen and slowly wrote my thoughts. From the mural, I saw the scenery of my childhood on the farm, views of my travels here and abroad, imagery from my readings, and views drawn out like a thread from the mass of a golf ball. It was imagery and memory working jointly.

                                     Tropical Rainforest Model


     I chose the tropical rainforest scenery since it is the richest of all ecosystems in the world.  The Philippines, being one of the countries endowed with this natural wealth is a treasure, indeed. For this reason, I believe that, the tropical rainforest closely resembles the description of the biblical paradise. It is not only a living bank of biological diversity; it is the most important sanctuary of living matters on earth.

      To paint such a big wall is no easy task. It is not unusual to face a blank wall, literally speaking, and not knowing what to do first even with all the colors and tools on hand – and a predetermined topic in mind.  Shall I start at the center and move outward, or from both sides slowly progressing inward?  Or do I divide the wall into parts, working on them one by one, then unifying them at the end?  

                                 

…and Heaven and Nature Sing

      Christmas was already in the air and the Siberian winds were bringing in the chills. Carol music was now being played in malls, schools and homes. I was engrossed in my work when some students, watching me paint, sang a familiar song. On this particular occasion, something about the song chimed inside me, directing me towards the central theme of my mural.
  
“…and heaven and nature sing,
and heaven and nature sing,
and heaven, and heaven and nature sing.”
                                                                 - Joy to the World

     What does this mean? Is it the idea of nature representing the entire universe in a state of perfection?  Or is it nature as one?  Does it unite heaven and earth?  Does it connect human beings and the galaxies as one family?

      Little did I know of my ecology.  As a subject I teach in college and in the graduate school I depend much on formulas and equations, principles and case studies. My knowledge about the environment is structured and formal. I use module maps or course syllabi based on accepted teaching techniques and references.  My approach was comparative analysis. I was a judge of the beautiful and ugly, the do’s and don’ts.  At times I am a Utopian; at others, conformist.

      Little did I realize that the order of Nature is not merely determined by natural laws applied as ecological tenets, but as a divine law which determines its arrangement, the subordination of the means to the end, and  the assimilation of the parts to the whole. Many of us are ignorant of this law, or if we know it, seem to forget or disregard it as we relentlessly work to exploit the earth.

      In our apparent failure to preserve nature, perhaps it is time to look at ecology with the essence of this popular Christmas song – a song that makes everyday of the year, Christmas. Ecology is “heaven and nature singing together.” Only then can we truly understand the term, balance of nature – a kind of dynamic equilibrium that leads to homeostasis where there is stability among interdependent groups that characterize natural processes, and the period in which they take place.  The ultimate conclusion is always a balanced system.  We have to look beyond books to understand biological diversity, and its application in nature, to find the common phrase: In diversity there is unity. The general rule is that the wider the diversity is in terms of number of living species, and in terms of the number of natural species and their habitats, the more closely knit the biosphere becomes, resulting in a richer, more stable environment. Undoubtedly, all this is part of a grand design inspired divinely.

                                        A Hole in the Sky

      Looking at the mural from a distance one notices a darkened part of the sky, apparently a hole (though this is not the ozone layer pierced by CFC pollution). It gives one a feeling that it is a tunnel to infinity as if to link both earth and heaven.  Through this hole, one envisions a Higher Principle. From the foreground, which is the placid stream of a downward meandering river, its tributaries and banks lined with trees and thickets, the eye soon reaches the forested hills and mountains shrouded by clouds.

      But it does not end there. Here the cloud is a curtain laden with the radiance of the sun, and the life-giving provenance of rain, useless each without the other for life on earth to exist. This is the crossroad.  The cloud opens with a backdrop of infinity.  The universe, whose limit is unknown, bursts open a foreground that reveals a whole drama of life on earth.  After that, the eye repeats the journey.  In the process, the viewer becomes sensitive to the details of the painting. He searches for things familiar, or situations that later become a new experience.

Creatures in the Forest

      Creatures in general are not as visible as they appear in books and on the screen.  They blend with their surroundings mainly for predatory anticipation and protective camouflage.  But there are other reasons too, that are not well understood.  Take the case of the butterflies. Their beauty is extravagant for their basic function as pollinators.  Fish jump for mere pleasure, dragonflies have wings that split light into prisms. Birds stay in the sky longer for the sheer joy of flying, and not just to cruise in search of a prey. 

     Among the animals suggested to me while painting the mural are flying lemur, Philippine monkey, heron, monitor lizard, boa constrictor and hornbill. I painted these - and many more, the way I imagined them in their natural habitat. I put a touch of Noah’s Ark, painting them in pairs.  For the rodents, ducks and doves I made them in amiable groupings that exude a familial atmosphere.

      Whenever I see viewers seriously searching for these creatures with walking fingers, I am tempted to add to the collection of creatures, making them even more difficult to find. But that might change the ambiance to fun and puzzle solving, rather than of meditation and recollection.

                                          People in the Mural

      The trees and the massiveness of the scenery dwarf the characters in the mural. They appear mindless of events and time. They care not for the chores of the day. Those who are engrossed fishing with a simple hook-and-line do not show excitement even as they land their catch.  Others patiently wait for a bite.  There is a sense of tranquility and peace to all characters, whether they are promenading or just passing the time away. Their faces show only the slightest hint of anger or sadness.

      I noticed viewers trying to identify themselves with the characters of the mural.  Some construction workers envision themselves fishing. High school students are drawn by the promenades. But there are those who simply imagine themselves part of the scene.  “This place is familiar to me,” one would say, apparently recalling provincial life. “We have flying lemurs in Davao,” says another. 

      Where does the water flow, and what does the mural mean to us? Water is everywhere.  It is free to flow.  Tributaries abound as if there were no limit. Trees are everywhere and far into the backdrop is a vast virgin forest. There is no sign of man’s destructive hand. At the foreground is a placid pond where Nymphaea and lotus grow.  It is in contrast to the lively pulse of the river. This is a corner where life is peaceful and serene. It is here that we draw strength in facing the river and beyond.

What really is the message of the mural?

      Quite often, images of nature enrapture us.  These are reminiscences of childhood, a re-creation of a favorite spot we may have visited or seen, or products of the imagination greatly influenced by the society we live in.

      These images reflect a deep-seated biological longing to be part of nature.  Putting it in the biblical sense, it is a natural searching for the lost paradise.  They are a refuge from city living, a respite, and an escape from the daily grind.

      But these images do not only tell us of what we are missing.  Rather, it reminds us what we are going to miss, perhaps forever, if we do not heed nature’s signal towards a fast declining ecosystem.  If we do not change our way of life from too much dependence on consumerism, to one more closely linked to conservation of nature, we may end up building memories and future archives of a lost world.

      The warning is clear.  The painting challenges everyone to do his part to save Mother Earth so that her beauty is not only kept in the form of images, but a scenery of real life enjoyed by us and future generations.


                                       x                x                x      

Therapeutic Effects of Violin and Nature

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conceptual Framework
A- Tension tends to dominate the body to relax, resulting in tension build-up in the muscles;
B- Music (violin solos) and Nature’s sounds( birds, running stream etc.) make a composition which provides a rare listening experience in varying intensity; and
C- The experience enhances relaxation, reduces tension and its physiologic effects in the individual.
Methodology
The Violin and Nature recorded in compact disc (CD) was then presented for evaluation to students in Research Methodology at the UST Graduate School on two aspects, namely, the content of the tape and the perception of the respondents. Physiologic response was determined by measuring the pulse rate before and after listening to eight sample compositions from the tape for thirty minutes.

These are as follows:

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

Respondents Profile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. The composition creates a meditative
mood. 3.95 4

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

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

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

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

9. It brings about a nostalgic feeling. 3.19 9

10. The composition makes one
sad and melancholic. 2.55 10
Analysis and Interpretation
The means the first three criteria fall between good and very good, while the others, except the 10th, are between fair and good. This finding supports the positive relaxing effects of Violin and Nature.

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

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

Author's children play in a "home concert."

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

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

UST CHRISTMAS CONCERT GALA ON ITS 10th YEAR

Dr Abe V Rotor 
Professor UST Graduate School 

"Christmas time is the wonderful time of the year when our hearts are specially filled with love and gratitude" and it is in this spirit that the University of Santo Tomas holds its annual Christmas Concert. The Christmas Concert is the University’s gift to its benefactors, friends and to the Thomasian community. 


The concert features world-class Thomasian talents such as the UST Singers (Grand Prize Winner in the 4th Florence International Choir Festival 2015 in Florence, Italy), Coro Tomasino, Liturgikon and the UST Symphony Orchestra with Prof. Herminigildo Ranera as conductor among others. Guest musician for the 2016 Christmas Concert is composer and conductor, Mr. Ryan Cayabyab. Venue for the concert is the UST Chapel. Internet (Watch out for replay on TV)
UST Christmas Concert gala Dec. 1 2016
Lighting of the UST Christmas 
The UST Symphony Orchestra




Scenes from the 2013 UST Concert for Yolanda typhoon victims
 
Guest performers include Dulce (photo) one of the country’s formidable belters and international competition winner who will do a rendition of J. Peterson’s “Night of Miracles” (A Christmas Cantata) and a duet with her son, David Cruz of A. Adam’s “O Holy Night.”

Two-time Choir of the World Champion; UST Singers (photo) under the baton of Prof. Fidel Calalang, Jr. and the first Children’s Choir of the World Champion, Hail Mary the Queen Children’s Choir (photo) conducted by Theresa V. Roldan will interpret popular choral pieces and Christmas classics.

Completing the roster of performers are students and alumni from the Conservatory of Music to be joined by the UST Symphony Orchestra, Liturgikon Vocal Ensemble and Coro Tomasino. (Photo below)
The traditional community singing will feature all-time favorites “Silent Night,” “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and “Joy to the World.”
 
Maiden performance was held at six in the evening on December 5, 2013 at the UST Chapel.

From Press release, UST
Since its inception, the Christmas Concert has always been held at the UST Chapel, recreating the European tradition of holding grand concerts in magnificent churches and cathedrals. This is also UST’s way of giving thanks to its numerous friends and benefactors for the past years.


All star cast and traditional community singing  of all time favorites 
“Silent Night,”  “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and “Joy to the World.”
Photos of presentation taken by Dr Abe V Rotor, December 5, 2013.  


Sunday, October 23, 2016

Bahay Kubo is an enduring symbol of food self-sufficiency, indigenous biodiversity, simplicity and quaintness of living and natural beauty.

Bahay Kubo is an enduring symbol of food self-sufficiency, indigenous biodiversity, simplicity and quaintness of living and natural beauty.
Dr Abe V Rotor 


 
Different versions of the Bahay Kubo 

Bahay Kubo (My Nipa Hut) is one of the most loved traditional songs. All kids in my generation learned it by heart in the elementary.  Not so many kids today are familiar with it.  It is good to rediscover the beauty and lesson of the song.   

Bahay kubo, hahit munti, ang halaman doon ay sari-sari. Singkamas at talong, sigidillas at mani, sitao, batao, patani. Kondol, patola, upo, kalabasa, at sa ka mayroon pa, labanos, mustasa.  Sibuyas, kamatis, bawang at luya, at ang paligidligid ay linga.

These are main features of the song.   
·         There are eighteen (18) plants, which are indigenous, mostly native varieties. (biodiversity)
·         Many of the plants have medicinal values and are effective home remedies for common ailments (luya, sibuyas, bawang).
·         The four kinds of vegetables are represented: leafy (mustasa), fruit (kamatis, talong, kalabasa), root (labanos, singkamas), seed (linga, patani, mani).
·         Spices and condiments are included in the list (linga, luya, bawang)
·         The plants have different planting and harvesting schedules, thus enhancing whole year round supply of vegetables, and the use of resources and family labor.
·         The plants have different growing types or habits which means they occupy specific places and have space allocations. (viny, herb, bush).
·         Nutrition-wise they provide the basic requirements for growing up and good health.
·         The ambiance projected by the scene is green, tranquil, clean, shady and cool (environment-friendly).
·         The garden exudes a feeling of self-sufficiency and offers a potential for livelihood.
·         Simplicity is the key to a contented life (with least energy consumption, and amenities).
·         Such a scene expands the imagination to include a backyard fishpond, chicken coop, orchard trees and ornamental plants, among others – all of these contribute to the enrichment of the Bahay Kubo, without modifying its basic concept and structure. 

Folk wisdom tells us how good it is to live simply and naturally, eat properly, stay young, healthy and active, save and earn money, depend less on energy and imported goods, and enjoy being at home with the family. Bahay Kubo takes us closer to nature, to appreciate our culture, and leads us to the inner calling for peace, quiet and joy. 

Trivia: Ants on the move means that a strong rain, if not a typhoon, is coming. Cockroaches come out of their abode and seek for shelter outside.
The biological clock of these creatures responds to invisible signals, which comprise decreased atmospheric pressure, high relative humidity and air temperature. Their sensitive antennae and tactile hairs covering their body pick these up these changes of the environment. Thus we find ants in exodus, they move as a colony carrying their eggs and young indoors. Cockroaches become unusually active, flying about in frenzy, in search for a new place. There is a common message, that is, to escape to safer ground, an archetype engrained in their genes passed on to them by their ancestors through evolution.



Dogs, two worlds apart


 

Dr Abe V Rotor

The  genes of the wolf come alive
where the ultimate game is to survive;
the species born in the wild
must in anywhere thrive.
Pity these dogs if they are man's best friend,
Else man is dogs' worst fiend.  




Test the rational side of man
the way he puts a stand
on behalf of his best friend
all the way to the end. 

Who is sad, who is happy?
To be or not to be;
the drama of life to unfold
between man and dog. 

What a loss if help did come late;
innocence to both is no excuse.   
Remembering the rescuer, White Bulldog; 
and the children have found another world;
their language no longer whims and bark
nor friendly pat and leisure in the park.  

Friday, October 21, 2016

From cigarette to pipe smoking – then I stopped. A personal saga

This article is dedicated to smokers trapped in the vice like me many years ago - until one day I found my true self and a happy world.  I'm now in my mid seventies, active and hale and fulfilled. 
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
 I did not only smoke cigarettes, I graduated to pipe tobacco smoking.

When you have tasted Half-and-Half or Captain Black, believe me Marlboro and Philip Morris taste flat. That’s how one gets addicted to more and stronger nicotine. And having a pipe on a Monday, and a dozen more to fit each day or occasion, and dress code, makes 
A pipe a day, for an occasion, for a particular wear. Remaining part of my collections for years.
you stand out of the crowd, so to speak. Wow! Sikat! And you feel a special person. For in the seventies, up to now, pipe smoking people have either the British or American accent. I even tried Australian but settled poorly with Ilocano, my native tongue. Now compare pipe tobacco with pinadis (hand rolled cigar) tobacco, exaggeratedly foot-long. I almost forgot my origin.

So you see smoking is air, it is high society, it is macho, it is advertising something you do not really have, or have to. I wore coat and tie once in a while with Sherlock Holmes’ “S” pipe, or wore khaki jacket and denim pants and had MacArthur corn cob pipe. I also had pipes with the bowl covered with genuine leather from camel, kangaroo and anaconda, and made people believe I have gone all over the world including the Amazon. Which actually I hadn’t except a stopover once in Europe which introduced me to the idea of shifting to pipe smoking.

And I had a friend, Sel, who shared the same idea. So after finishing our doctorate, we started scouting for the best pipe in town. Definitely it should be briar wood because it’s the only wood that does not burn, and its nesting weight on the palm of the hand is assuring. I suspect that it’s being a briar is not the species but the age of the wood, perhaps as old as the Redwood or the Bristle Cone, estimated two to three thousand years old. Imagine holding a piece of time as early as BC. And history! Just like what the great English poet William Blake said, “Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, and eternity in an hour.” You hold too, time and space. Pipe smoking leads you to hallucination.

I tell you what the substance is – the filler tobacco - that rouses the olfactory more than grandma's pie? It must come from a combination of selected tobacco varieties, cured with the best liqueur, and hermetically sealed to greet the user as fresh as it was blended. In Europe a blend is highly personalized, like wine. This is top secret of connoisseurs. For us here, I for one settled for two brands, American and European pipe tobacco in can, then the only available ones. Believe me the difference between the two is indistinguishable. It’s still Nicotiana tabacum, the same tobacco of Fidel Ramos, Deng Hsiao Ping, Fidel Castro, et al.

More about the art of pipe smoking. I lit my pipe with a special lighter whose flame goes downward into the bowl, and witnessed in the process of huff-and puff a Krakatoa in the making. I peered into the glowing crater. Then I would savor the maiden smoke as fresh as morning air, blowing it in a series of “O’s” which takes skill to perfect it. You don’t inhale, unlike cigarette. The smoke runs through the oral to the nasal cavity and out through the nostril, gently fuming a cloud of smoke that surrounds the face, with your eyes half close in dreamy relaxation. It was really thrilling, exhilarating. What on a Sunday morning with brewed black coffee and newspaper and elevated feet?. Ah, and ahs….

Some high-chin and easy-chair years passed. I was in my middle thirties, still a bachelor. I wondered if pipe smoking attracted women of my liking. Or did I drive them to safe distance? On the mirror I didn’t change, not a bit American or European. Not even with sparse mustache which I jokingly tell my barber it is insured like that of Clark Gable. My lips were a little deformed now, and being right handed the pipe tended to settle rightward, with some teeth bearing the weight giving up. My lips lost their natural curve and color, and my teeth permanently stained no toothpaste would dare clean it in advertisement. My fingers could be mistaken for pellagra. If only they had the Midas touch!

I reeked tobacco. People avoided me, but how did I know, if I couldn't even smell myself? It’s true. Smokers are immune to the smell of tobacco, and it is stale odor – breath, sweat, clothes, books, bed, and the like - so whom would they trust to tell them so? And my skin became dull and dry, and episodes of feeling down became frequent – so with refilling and caressing my pipe. In short I was already addicted to the nicotine and the pipe is now only secondary to it.

Nicotine is a poison, a very strong one. The extract of one stick of cigarette when directly injected into the blood stream will immediately kill the person. So why don’t we die with packs and packs of cigarette or can after can of mixed tobacco?

Doctors tell us that it’s not the nicotine per se that kills, it’s tar its carrier and a dozen other poisonous substances. The tar deposits into the alveoli, the countless air sacs in the lungs, constricts blood vessels, and stains teeth and clothes. The alkaloids pile up in the kidneys and liver, and restrict natural elimination of other toxins. Elevated heart and pulse rate is our body’s coping mechanism, but like a car running uphill it loses steam fast and soon, until it conks out. Eyesight blurs, sense of taste deadens, so with sensation to touch, pain and pleasure. Alertness slows down, sex urge decreases and staying power shortens.

And it is not the tobacco plant itself that's the enemy; it is how it is grown. The plant picks up the arsenic dusted or sprayed, the lead and mercury in contaminated soil, so with cadmium from batteries today. Systemic pesticides that kill insects, nematodes and mites ensconced in the plant body, unreached by ordinary spraying, persist as residue of high dosage.

By the way, there’s something in the tobacco that changed biology on the concept of what really makes a thing living?. It is the tobacco mosaic virus, Marmor tabaci. The rod shape virus infects tobacco on the field just by rubbing or mere touch of a diseased to healthy plants. And it infects as well all members of the tobacco family - Solanaceae , to which Irish potato, pepper, eggplant, tomato belong. The virus remains dormant for as long as twenty years in the cigarette or filler. And when you touch any of the host plant, the virus resurrects and spreads out in the whole plant and onto neighboring plants. Luckily, scientists assures us the virus has no effect on humans.
But with millions all over the world dying from smoking and its many complications, I believe the virus has mutated - even if biologically it is not considered a true organism. Mutation is still governed by error in DNA replication. And the virus basically has the DNA structure like all things considered as living.
My favorite twin pipes. Note worn out mouthpieces. 
Really there’s nothing good about smoking, contrary to advertisements. I wonder how one can go a mile for a Camel when he is already exhausted at the start. Didn’t the cowboy in Marlboro retire too soon? Salem doesn’t make a beautiful landscape. Fortune isn’t something one expects. Fighter did not make us in our time as brave as Buccaneer.

Take the economic side. Our DOH says the government spends every year some P235 billion a year to treat illnesses caused or related to smoking like heart diseases, stroke, emphysema and lung cancer. And what does the government get in return from the tobacco industry? Only P23 billion, a measly 10 percent of the cost. PDI’s editorial The Puff that Kills, June 1, 2011, reported smoking kills 10 Filipinos every hour, or 243 a day. That’s 87,600 a year – and that’s a conservative estimate. Here is a case of an “old” goose laying the golden eggs, not worth it.
 
One day I was diagnosed of ulcer in the mouth, a wound that doesn't heal. If you can’t eat, imagine the rapid decline in body weight and the various ailments you fall to. My clothes became oversized. I likened myself to a POW in a concentration camp in WWII.

“If you don’t stop smoking, you will die,” my doctor warned. “And soon!” he admonished.

Period. My pipes became museum pieces. A beautiful girl came along. We got married, and have three children. We are now living happily.

Smoking changed my life – when I stopped it completely. ~


The author with his students in the UST Graduate School; playing "monkey on my back" at Avilon Zoo, Rizal.  

This article is a tribute to the late Senator Juan Flavier and former health secretary for his dedication in anti-smoking campaign. "Yosi Kadiri" was hailed to be a very effective slogan. June is anti-smoking month 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Young Markus Meets the Dawn of Discovery

Young Markus Meets the Dawn of Discovery 
Great discoveries and inventions have their roots in childhood.
Dr Abe V Rotor

Christopher Columbus as a child played by the seaside looking far into the horizon with a toy boat at his feet. Florence Nightingale’s treated her first patient when she was a little girl, a wounded dog she brought back to health. Brahms composed the world’s most popular lullaby as a kid babysitter who could barely reach the keys of the piano. 

The snowmobile, earmuff, trampoline, popsicle, were all invented by kids. It was a kid who accidentally discovered (serendipity) one of the earliest human fossils. Whoever discovered the creepiest creature like the jumping spider, and the brightest supernova thought to be a UFO, could not have been an adult, but a curious and sensitive child.  


Kids can see more stars in the sky, listen to the whale’s call as music, see grass actually growing, build sandcastles.  They are discoverers and inventors in the making.  They need role models in their search and aspirations in making a better  world and tomorrow.   They are the likes of Einstein, Edison, Mozart, Da Vinci, Bell, Linnaeus, Darwin, et al. when they were young.               

 
Young Markus and Yaya at home in QC

Greet the morning on a flower hanging,
with dewdrops like gems shining;
Where have the gems gone at the end of day?
Come back with the sun we pray.

A wall mural and a tree trunk at home QC 

A wall mural, bats emerging as darkness falls;
a tree beside, moss and lichen astride,
here reality and imagery the essence of art. 
so in life, together lie side by side.  


Lobster's Claw (Heliconia) and coconut tree at home QC 


By semblance, a lobster is a flower;
to a child, they are the same, 
big and small by the same Creator 
keeps them play the same game.  ~