Wednesday, January 27, 2016

"Once upon a time, nature was pristine..."

 A fairy tale come true
Paintings and verses by Dr Abe V Rotor

"Once upon a time, nature was pristine, undefiled and unspoiled. We used to live in a dreamworld of tropical virgin forest, and pure hidden springs, calm ponds, and serene lakes, with majestic purple mountains, crowned with canopied trees. That was when people took only what they needed, caught only what they ate, and lived only in constant touch with a provident earth.

In this age of environmental degradation , resource depletion and unparalleled human population explosion, how can man live and find meaning in his life with nature?" (Dr AS Cabigan - an excerpt from the introduction of The Living with Nature Handbook, by AVR  2003)

Born from the elements of nature, to the elements of art,
in imagery and fantasy;
what takes eons to shape and form, is but a season's part,
an archive out of reality.
Oh, let them be, let them be, school can wait
but not childhood;
they catch not the fish, but adventure and faith 
as they grow old.  
Community -  what concept have we today from that of yesterday
when things we needed were almost free,
and worked less, and spend more time with others and our family,
and thank the Creator for such bounty? 
This hidden valley, not for exclusion or seclusion,
but survival from the lust of man,
whose concept of beauty, its very own destruction,
'til everything he created is gone.  
And what prevails at the end, we may ask?
Not monuments, relics or any kind,
for through time nature takes over the task 
of rebuilding in her own design. ~

A quiz on allergy: Identify if fact or myth.

Milk, soy, wheat, egg, peanut, fish and meat comprise the most common food allergies.
Dr Abe V Rotor

1. Children who grow up on the farm are at much lower risk to allergy than children in the city.
Uncontrolled sneezing, a common symptom of allergy, may cause embarrassment and even accident . 

2. Infants on the farm have fewer allergies than those who grow up in sterile environments. 

3. Children who grow up with a cat in the house are less likely to develop allergies or asthma. 

4. Very few pet owners are allergic to the animals they love.

5. Children who have been breastfed are less likely to have allergies. 

6. Milk, soy, wheat, egg, peanut, fish and meat comprise the most common food allergies.

7. Most reactions to food are not allergic in nature, but rather intolerance, that is, there is no allergic antibody involved.

8. Babies exposed late to cereal grains have higher risk to cereal allergy, especially wheat.

9. Regular use of “foreign” materials (e.g. nail polish remover, contact lens, metals) can eventually cause sensitivity and reaction to the products.

10. Allergy can induce strong and unwelcome mental and emotional reactions, such as altered perception or inappropriate changes of mood.

NOTE: These above statements are all based on facts.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Friendly Monster

Dr Abe V Rotor 
Living with Nature - School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio 
738 KHz DZRB AM Band, 8-9 evening class, Monday to Friday

You hide in the dark and deep,
     Then come out into the open;
You sail the seas along with ships;
     Or stay lurking at the bend.

Seemingly you're tame and kind,
     As you roam free in the wild,
Your music from pipe and lyre,
     Tempting, lovely and mild.

Sometimes you come to our call
     To scare naughty children,
To temper them brave and tall,
     In finding you their friend. ~

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Avoid artificial food coloring: it can cause cancer and behavioral problems in children

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

Why food coloring?

Food coloring, or color additive, is any dye, pigment or substance that imparts color when it is added to food or drink. They come in many forms consisting of liquids, powders, gels and pastes.

People associate certain colors with certain flavors, and the color of food can influence the perceived flavor in anything from candy to wine. Color additives are used in foods for many reasons including:

Food dyes are like artist's colors. Primary colors come up with various secondary and tertiary colors, including designs, saturation, hues and accents. Beware of colored candies, birthday cakes, and drinks. They are linked to cancer and behavioral problem in children.

Offset color loss due to exposure to light, air, temperature extremes, moisture and storage conditions  

  • correct natural variations in color
  • enhance colors that occur naturally
  • provide color to colorless and "fun" foods
 Sometimes the aim is to simulate a color that is perceived by the consumer as natural.

The case of shoe dye in tamarind sweet - a personal experience

All of a sudden when answering the call of nature, I was alarmed to see the color of my urine bright red. I cried, Blood!

I tried to compose myself to be able to reach the hospital in the earliest possible time. But what surprised me at the same time was that my fingers were also stained red. I examined the “tamarind sweet” I had just eaten. I found the culprit - jubos, the dye used on shoes!

There are products made to appear like cocoa, coffee, orange, strawberry, grapes and the like, when in fact the ingredients are mainly sugar, artificial flavors and food dyes.

How many food preparations are artificially colored for better presentation? Since that time on I have become more careful with colored foods. Ube cake, anyone?

One test to know if a food color is artificial is that it is detected in the urine. Natural colors, on the other hand, are either degraded by our excretory system or absorbed as a useful nutrient, as in the case of the yellow pigment of corn which is carotene. Carotene brightens the skin, deepens the yellow color of egg yolk, and lends freshness in meat. Carotene and xanthophyll from carrots and squash, lycopene in tomato are useful to our body. They make us glow, so to speak, improve our vision, and fight off cancer.

There are some things to consider about food dyes, specially if you suspect a food or drink to be colored artificially.

Be familiar with the natural colors of fruits and other food products. There are rare ones though. For example, purple rice cake (puto) comes from a variety pirurutong or purple rice. Ordinary rice flour and ube flour produce the same color. This can be imitated with the use of purple dye.

Fruit juices carry dyes to enhance their natural colors. Example, calamansi juice is made to appear like lemon or orange. Softdrinks would look dull and unattractive without artificial colors. Dyes mask natural variations in color and enhances naturally occurring colors. The sparkle and crystalline color of wine may be the result of judicious color blending.
A typical food cart in Manila  Processed foods like smoked fish and ham are colored, usually golden yellow, or deep brown to make them look attractive. I once observed in a factory the practice of spraying a solution of yellow pigment on smoked fish to make it look newly processed and the body fat visible.

Other uses of artificial color or dye are in medicine to protect flavors, and minerals and vitamins from damage by light. Thus multivitamins are usually colored usually with bright yellow which appears in urine. Colored coatings of medicines and drugs are used to monitor prescribed doses in patients.

Cloudifier to make vinegar look like Sukang Paumbong or sasa, or something natural, is actually adding a few drops of milk to a dilute solution of acetic acid. This overnight formulation is popular in the market, because it is cheap, but the truth is that glacial acetic acid is not good to health.

Easter eggs
Cakes and other bakery products may deceive the eye and even the palate. Nothing beats the icing of birthday and wedding cakes. Bakers as artists use colors perhaps more than the full spectrum of the rainbow. I am amazed at how they express their art with the colors of Marc Chagall's stained glass, Pablo Picasso's fresh abstracts, and Rembrandt's sunset and midnight hues. With red, yellow and blue - the primary colors - plus white, there are artists who can create all the colors they need in their masterpieces.

But we cannot mix food with art using artificial colors.

Fortunately we are among the riches countries when it comes to natural food colors and dyes - orange, red to purple from oranges, grapes and strawberry; green from the leaves of pandan (Pandanus odoratissimus) and green paddy rice (pinipig); dark red to black from the fruits of duhat and bignay; purple color from ube (Dioscorea alata); and golden yellow from mango, pineapple, and tumeric (Corcuma longa).

The list is virtually endless, if we iunclude colors from muscovado sugar, coffee, cacao, banana, mangosteen, avocado, nangka, and the like.

By the way, what is the most common source of natural color and dye?

It is achuete or anatto (Bixa orellana). See photo. Achuete is a small to medium size tree introduced from Mexico (achuete is an Aztec word) during the Spanish times. Today it is used to impart or improve the color and flavor of cheese, butter, yogurt, noodles, pasta, macaroni, and cakes and many confectionery products.

I cannot imagine if there is no achuete in batchoy, apretada, azucena, caldereta, paella, kare-kare, arroz valenciana, lechon, and many other dishes.

Let us avoid artificial food coloring. Here is a toast of red Basi wine. 

Allow me to post this news item on food dye published by Philippine Daily Inquirer on the Internet. 
 Artificial colors impart attractive presentation of processed food like bagoong. 

FDA warns vs cancer-causing food dye in candy, ‘gulaman’ ‘bagoong’
By Tina G Santos
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned the public about processed food products found positive for rhodamine-B, a cancer-causing substance found in coloring dye.

In an advisory posted on its website last week, the FDA said three of 34 food product samples it tested for nonpermissible colorants (NPC) were found positive for rhodamine-B.

According to the FDA, the samples it tested were taken from ambulant vendors, public markets, groceries and supermarkets in the National Capital Region and Central Visayas.

“Most of the samples were unregistered and noncompliant with food product labeling standards,” said FDA acting director general Kenneth Hartigan Go in the advisory.

Some of the products were icing candy from Cebu Crown Grocery, red gulaman from the Carbon Public Market and shrimp paste (labeled 7C’s) from Robinson’s Grocery in Talisay, Cebu.

“The food processors of the three products are in violation of the FDA Act of 2009 (Republic Act No. 9711) and the Consumer Act of the Philippines (RA 7394) on the adulteration of processed food,” said Go.

Go said the FDA Act of 2009 requires all locally manufactured and imported processed food products to be registered with the Food and Drug Administration.

“This requirement is in addition to the permits issued by the local government units (LGUs) and other government agencies,” he said.

Meanwhile, five other products that the FDA tested needed further confirmatory tests for the presence of NPC Sudan.

Rhodamine-B is a fluorescent dye used as a tracer in water and air flow studies, and in molecular and cell biology studies. It presents as a red to violet powder. It has been shown to be carcinogenic in mammalian models.

On the other hand, industrial grade Sudan dye is not permitted for use in food because it is toxic, carcinogenic and likely contains metals like mercury and arsenic. Sudan dyes are used in shoe and floor polish, solvents, oils, waxes and petrol.

The FDA advised consumers to buy processed food products from legitimate food establishments and outlets.

He urged consumers to report food processors using suspect food coloring additives.

NOTE: In another article researchers say there may be a link between artificial food dyes and behavioral problems in children with certain medical conditions.

Acknowledgement: Wikipedia, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Sea Vegetables: Farming the Sea

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
Reference: Philippine Seaweeds by Dr Gavino Trono Jr and E.T. Ganzon-Fortes; acknowledgement: UST Faculty of Pharmacy  

Students in phycology from UST explore seabed for different species of seaweeds, Bacnotan LU.  

Food of the gods.” This is what the ancient Greeks call a special kind of seaweed which the Chinese and Japanese call “food of the emperor.” And only members of the royalty have the exclusive right to partake of this food. It is Porphyra – nori to the Japanese, laver to the Europeans, and gamet to Ilocanos.

Thus elevating the status of some 30 species of edible seaweeds to a premium class of food - sea vegetables. The fact is seaweeds have a wide range of importance from food and medicine, to the manufacture of many industrial products. In nature, seaweeds together with corals and sea grasses, constitute the pasture and forest of the sea, a vast ecosystem, unique in its kind because it is the sanctuary of both marine and terrestrial life, and in the estuaries.

Lately however, we have intruded into this horizon, pushing agriculture beyond land towards the sea. We build fishponds, fish pens and cages, resorts, and we introduce poison from our wasteful living.

And yet we have barely discovered the many uses of seaweeds. Ironically we are indiscriminately and unwittingly destroying the very production base of this valuable resource before we have discovered its full potential – in the same way we are destroying the forest even if we have studied barely 10 percent of the potential value of its composition.
 Seaweed specimen: a continuous belt of Chaetomorpha crassa: 
A happy note however, may be found in our success in cultivating seaweeds even before naturally occurring species and stands become exhausted. Seaweed farming has been established in coves and sheltered coral reefs such as in Danajon Reef between Cebu and Bohol, on flat coral beds in Calatagan in Batangas, Zamboanga and Tawi-tawi, to mention the most important plantations. Eucheuma, the source of carageenan is the main crop, followed by Gracillaria, Gellidiella and other species as source of algin and agar.

These seaweeds built a multi-million dollar industry locally. Their extracts have revolutionized the food industry, mainly as conditioners in food manufacture. More and more products are derived from them for our everyday use, which other than in food, are used in the manufacture of medicine and drugs, cosmetics, fabrics, paints, films, to mention a few.
Kulot (Gellidiella) is prepared for sun drying. Dried Kulot is added to bulanglang or diningding.

 Close-up of Gellidiella.

Seaweeds, botanically speaking, are not true plants, but rather algae – giants among their counterpart in the micro-world such as the Chlorella and Spirogyra. Biologists have assigned seaweeds into classes based on their color or dominant pigment, hence green (Chlorophyta), brown (Phaeophyta) and red (Rhodophyta). In terms of niche, these three groupings grow naturally at varying depths - in increasing depth in this order. This is ecologically advantageous and definitely a tool in their evolutionary success.
Unlike land plants, no seaweed has been found to be poisonous or pathologic. On the contrary seaweeds are rich in minerals and vitamins, which make them elixir of health. Only one species so far is known to cause dizziness when taken in excess - lato or Caulerpa. A substance responsible to this effect is caulerpin, which may be explored of its potential value in medicine as natural tranquilizer.

Food Value of Seaweeds
Fishes that feed on seaweeds contain high levels of Vitamins A and D in their liver, apparently absorbed from the seaweeds. Algae also synthesize appreciable amounts of Vitamins B12, C and K. Another advantage they have over land plants is their rich content of iodine, bromine, potassium, and other chemicals that have been discovered recently, many of which have potential value to medicine and industry.

It is no wonder why people who take seaweeds as regular part of their diet are sturdier and healthier and seldom get sick of anemia, goiter and scurvy. It is an observation that the Ilocanos who are the country’s top consumers of seaweeds generally enjoy good health and long life.

The cultivation of other edible seaweeds now include Enteromorpha, Monostroma, Laminaria, Porphyra and Undaria. The importance of seaweed culture is fast expanding this century, principally for food. This is to show the food value of seaweeds using kelp as a model.

Kelp (Laminaria japonica) contains the following nutrients based on a 100-gram sample: Carotene,  0.57 mg;
  • Thiamine, 0.09 mg;
  • Riboflavin, 0.36 mg;
  • Niacin, 1.60 mg;
  • Protein 8.20 g;
  • Fats, 0.10 g;
  • Carbohydrates, 57 g;
  • Coarse fiber (roughage), 9.80 g;
  • Inorganic salts, 12.90 g;
  • Calcium, 1.18 g;
  • Iron, 0.15 g; and
  • Phosphorus, 0.22g.
Philippine seaweeds which approximate the food value of Laminaria are Eucheuma, Gracillaria and Gellidiella. On the other hand, gamet or Porphyra has the following food value. (Based on a 100-gram sample)
  • Protein, 35.6 g;
  • Fat, 0.7 g;
  • Carbohydrates, 44.3 g;
  • Provitamin, 44,500 IU; V
  • Vitamin C, 20 mg;
  • Vitamin B1, 0.25 mg;
  • Vitamin B2, 1.24 mg; and
  • Niacin, 10 mg.
Seaweeds Sold in the Market
These seaweeds are commercially sold in Metro Manila, mainly in public markets and in talipapa.
Pokpoklo, Codium edule 
1. Lato or Arusip [Caulerpa racemosa)(Forsk)L Agard], Chlorophyta
2. Guso (Eucheuma sp.), Rhodophyta
3. Gulaman (Gracillaria verrucosa), Rhodophyta
4. Kelp (Laminaria sp.), Phaeophyta
5. Gamet (Porphyra crispata Kjellman ), Rhodophyta
6. Kulot [Gelidiella acerosa (Forsk) Feldman ]

Lato or Caulerpa is of two commercial species, C. racemosa which is cultured in estuaries and fishponds and and C. lentillifera which is usually found growing in the wild. It is the racemosa type that predominates the market. Because of frequent harvesting of this species by local residents lentillifera it is no longer popular in the market. Besides, the cultured Caulerpa is cleaner and more uniform. It has lesser damage and is less pungent than its wild counterpart.

Guso or Eucheuma cotonii is cartilaginous and firm as compared with Caulerpa and because it is very much branched air can circulate better in between the fronds, which explains why its self life may extend up to 3 days. Guso is eaten in fresh state mixed with vegetables or cooked in water and sugar to make into sweets.
Author examine a red seaweed, Halymenia durvillaei (Puerto, Sto Domingo IS)

Gracillaria verrucosa and G. coronipifolia are the two common species of gulaman. The thallus is bushy with a firm fleshy texture. It is cylindrical and repeatedly divided into subdichotomous branches with numerous lateral proliferation. Gulaman grows up to 25 cm long and has a disclike base. It is found growing in protected, shallow waters.

Gamet or Pophyra crispata Kjellman has a deep red thallus which is flat and membranous with soft gelatinous fronds. Three to nine blades usually form clusters which grow from a very small adhesive disc which has tiny rhizoids attached to the rocky substratum. Gamet grows on rock promontories and rocks exposed directly to the action of waves and wind. This can be observed along the coast of Burgos, Ilocos Norte, which is the major producer of gamet. To date we have not succeeded in culturing gamet in spite of our knowledge on how nori, a species of Porphyrasimilar to our own gamet, is raised on marine farms in Japan and other parts of the world. The most authentic reason is because the natural habitat of Porphyra is temperate.

Why gamet grows along the northern most tip of Luzon is because the cold Kuroshu Current coming down from Japan reaches this point during the months of December to February. The current probably carries also the reproductive parts of the organisms, which explains the similarity of the Japanese and Philippine species.

Gamet is sold in dried form, compressed in mat, either circular with a diater of 20 to 30 cm, or rectangular in shape measuring some 50cm x 100 cm. Gamet is blanched with boiling water and allowed to cool before salad garnishings are added. It is also added to soup or diningding.

Kulot or Gelidiella acerosa (Forsk) Feldmann and Hamel has tough and wiry thalli, greenish black to dull purple in color. They lie low and creeping on rocks and corals along the intertidal zone. It is very much branched when mature with secondary branches cylindrical at the base and flattened towards the tip and beset on both sides with irregular, pinnately short branches. The fertile branchlets have conspicuous swollen tips.

Kelp or Laminaria is also found in the market. This is popular seaweed growing only in temperate seas. The main supplier is China. Kelp grows to several feet long and is usually thick and broad. It is sold in dried form or cut into strips and soaked in water and rehydrated.

As a source of nutrition and natural medicine, seaweeds are important in commerce and industry and as direct source of food of the people. On the point of ecology, protection of seaweeds in the wild, as well as their cultivation on reefs, farms and estuaries should be integrated under a sound management program of our coastal areas. Thus preserving God’s Eden under the Sea.
 Seaweeds swept by wave on the shoreline comprise mainly of Sargassum, the most abundant seaweed in the tropics.  Author (right) leads students in this field trip in Bacnotan, La Union   
 Two brown seaweed species belonging to Phaeophyta - Acantophora speciferea and 
Hormophysa triquetra, a source of antibiotics
Caulerpa taxifolia is one of the renegade  species  of Caulerpa ( another is C sertulariodes).  These wild species have spread extensively over the seafloor of the Mediterranean causing a lot of damage to the ecosystem. Caulepa contains caulerpin which when taken in excessive amounts may be toxic to many organisms. Its effect on man is known to be mild tranquilizer.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Invitation to a forest mural

Dr Abe V Rotor 
Wall mural by the author and his children - Marlo, Anna and Leo Carlo. St Paul University QC 2002

Come into the forest and leave all your things behind 
       and discover a world once your own, 
ancestral home of your forebears through evolution
       where the first seed of mankind was sown.

Come into the forest of murmuring trees primeval, 
       cradle of  creatures big and small,
where in diversity, sages say, there's harmony,
       home to the transients and tenants all. 

Come to the forest that was, and had been, Milton's best,
       Rousseau's scenery and Tarzan's lair.
Where the famed Paradise was lost and never regained,
       so with the gods and the deities fair.  

Come to a make-believe forest, masterpiece of man,
        whose art combines the truth with the tale,  
a wall transformed into landscape in a city jungle, 
        the thin red line we cross should we all fail. ~

The eucalyptus bears the proverbial gold leaves!

The eucalyptus bears the proverbial  gold leaves - pure gold particles one-fifth the diameter of human hair  embedded in the leaf veins! 
Dr Abe V Rotor

Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus), relative of the macopa (Eugenia jambalana) and duhat (Syzigium cumini) under Family Myrtaceae,Lagro QC

This towering eucalyptus Eucalyptus globulus dwarfs the adjacent barangay hall, covered court, and high school buildings, yet she is unassuming. Her lanky nature with dull green foliage with a tinge of blue flimsily hanging like the weeping willow (Salix sp), does not stir much attention of passersby, not even residents around.  

No, she does not exude the regal pose of the narra (Dipterocarpus indicus), the Philippine national tree; the shady crown of the acacia (Samanea saman), the biggest legume in the world; and the coconut (Cocos nucifera), the miracle tree.  Paradoxically all these trees occupy the same compound, the center of barangay activities.

Even as the wind blows the eucalyptus has little confetti to throw, few notes to whistle, little shade to draw on the ground. Yet she is a living Panacea, the Greek goddess of universal remedy from insect bite to asthma to alleviation of mental and physical fatigue.  Her leaves have virtual cure-all power: antiviral, antibacterial, anti-fungal, and they exude volatile oil into the air and even as they lay on the ground. She keeps at bay vermin from mosquitoes, flies, cockroaches, flea,ticks, to rodents.  Yet, unlike other pesticides, the volatile oil of eucalyptus is refreshing, soothing to the lungs, increasing oxygenation and blood circulation. 

Why, Indisposed feelings are gone! That pep is back! Where have all the flies gone? 
If there is a tree that is a must in the neighborhood, better on the backyard, it is this goddess tree Panacea.   

But wait, there is a hidden treasure in the leaves of eucalyptus, the proverbial "gold leaves," as shown by this photomicrograph.   Gold vein! Microdeposits of pure gold.  This new discovery is more important in gold prospecting where eucalyptus grows, indicating deep beneath the earth lies a "pot of gold."  Asked if it's worth collecting the leaves for gold - Australian scientists wryly said no.  The amount is too little to be worth the effort. Well, gold is gold.

Every time I look at a eucalyptus tree I see Panacea holding a gold leaf.   ~

Red or brown sugar is better than white or refined sugar.

Dr Abe V Rotor 

Rural folks would rather eat panocha or muscovado, which is likened to whole grain with the bran intact (e.g. pinawa rice and whole wheat flour).  When sugar is refined, the very vitamins and minerals needed by our body’s metabolism are removed, going with the molasses which we usually use as feeds for animals. 

Sugar consumed in its natural state (like fruits and grains) are broken down and slowly released into the bloodstream, in a manner our body can program its assimilation.  But refined sugar raises the blood sugar rapidly.  This rush is followed by an equally rapid crash that often leaves us feeling tired, irritable or depressed.  As energy falls, our response is to reach for more sugar to perk us up.

The sudden rise and fall of our blood sugar causes emotional instability, confusion, dizziness, and headache.  Over-consumption of sugar can trigger a craving similar to the physiological dependence produced by drugs. These symptoms, along with drowsiness, forgetfulness, or general “spaced-out” feeling are typical symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Adrenaline is released during the body’s chemical chain reaction triggered by eating excess refined sugar, creating a stress throughout our body and mind. Sugar also depresses the activity of our white blood cells, lowering our resistance to infection. It may lead to the development of diabetes. For this reason many oriental nutritionists call refined sugar a “white poison.”

Kamote Tops Beauty

Dr Abe V Rotor
(Model: Miss Gelyn S Gabao, 19 Filipina)
Kamote (Ipomea batatas) tops contain more minerals and vitamins than any other vegetables, or its equivalent weight in meat and poultry. It is a glow food that enhances natural beauty and health, and gives that gait, poise and stride that many beauties display. It is the secret to acquiring and maintaining natural immunity and high resistance against diseases and other ailments. It contains substances that sharpen the brain and quicken responses to situations and the environment. 

It is a vegetable all year round. In summer kamote is grown in the fields and gardens for its enlarged roots or tubers which are rich in carbohydrates (go food) and rich in protein (grow food). In the habagat, it grows wild and luxuriant on hilltops, on levees and dikes, on the uplands, covering wide areas, keeping weeds down and protecting the soil from erosion. 

Kamote tops make an excellent dish with mungo and pork, bulanglang with shrimp or fish, and mushroom, or cooked in other recipes, or served as salad, blanched with red, ripe tomatoes and sliced onions, with a dash of salt, or a dip of fish sauce - bagoong or patis. Or cooked in tinola in place of pepper leaves, and green papaya. Why not blanch the tops on rice in its final stage of cooking? Add bagoong squeezed with calamansi or lemon. 

Kamote tops, maligned for being a poor man's food, rise to the apex of the food pyramid, top the list health programs, and doctors' prescription. Kamote tops occupies the rank of malunggay, alugbati, talinum, and spinach, relegating lettuce and other crucifers - cabbage and cauliflower and pechay - to the backseat.

Kamote tops are safe to health and the environment because they don't carry residues of pesticides applied on the field on many crops, and also those of toxic metals like lead, mercury and cadmium. Damaged parts are simply discarded, harvesting only the succulent and healthy leaves for further safety and better presentation.

Kamote tops come in green and purple, characteristic of the plant varieties, but in both cases, the same nutritive values are derived, with some advantage from the purple variety which contains xanthophyll in addition to chlorophyl. Both are recommended for anemic persons for their high iron content, and to those suffering from poor bone development, poor eyesight, and poor metabolism.

Beauties come naturally with good food, simple and active lifestyle, in the rural areas where sunshine, clean air and surrounding, make a perfect combination from which spring the true beauty of man and woman, as compared to the makeup beauty from cosmetics, expensive salons, and by the so-called wonders of science and technology like liposuction and surgery. Why can't we simply eat kamote tops more often?~

Queer Looking Trees from Another World

Photos and Poem by Dr Abe V Rotor
 Bearded Eucalyptus Tree, Angels' Hill, Tagaytay City. Clinging moss 
is actually lichens of the fruiticose or hanging type.

I love trees friendly or queer,
they whistle with the breeze;
they sigh in summer air, 
and make me feel at ease.

I love trees real or fancy,
tall, small, and spreading;
lining the shore, or foothill,
atop a mountain like king.

I love trees in all seasons,
even with their grotesque crown;
buds in spring fullest in summer;
and in autumn red and brown. 

I love trees, their make-believe faces,
dare to imagine in the evening, 
the legendary white lady;
or beauteous Maria Makiling.  

I love trees they are like people,
senses, language of their own
are universal to all creatures,
even before man was born.  

I love trees because I see myself
in them today as it was before;
and if i think trees are really queer,
I think I should love them more. ~

Balete (Ficus benjamina) strangles own host (acacia - 
Samanea saman), hence called Strangler's Fig, UST Manila

Ghost singers under a huge banyan tree, Sacred Heart Novitiate, QC 
(Photo taken after a wedding reception, unedited photo.) 
Ichabod Crane Tree, SPUQC (Fiction character in a 
short story  of the same title by Washington Irving)
Who is knocking on my window sill? (kalachuchi - 
Plumera acuminata), Sacred Heart Novitiate, QC
Tree casts its own shadow of death before its early 
demise following Ondoy flood in 2010 , UST Manila
Python Tree, an overhanging limb of acacia covered
 with epiphytes, Ateneo de Manila University, QC
Haunting Fig Tree (Gmelina), Church of the Ascension Parish Church, 
Lagro QC. Its broad prop roots produce a dull gong sound when struck.  

Leaning Pisa tree (Fire tree - Delonix regia) leans 45 degrees 
over busy Regalado Avenue, QC. NOTE: the tree was cut down 
to clear power lines, and eliminate possible accident. 
Elephant Tree, Kaohsiung, Taiwan

A wild orchid growing at home - Cymbidium Finlaysonianum

Dr Abe V Rotor 

 Inflorescence of C Finlaysonianum; close-up of  flower.  

Growth habit of the indigenous epiphytic orchid, and pods

It is a native orchid. I found it clinging on a fallen branch of a big tree in Mt. Makiling forest. Being an epiphyte I tied it on the trunk of a talisay (Terminalia catappa) at home in Quezon City. It was not difficult for the new transplant to find a new home - in our home. It is because just across the wall at the back of our house is the sprawling La Mesa Watershed. It must be the "forest climate" that approximates that of Mt. Makiling in Laguna, that this native orchid got acclimatized easily.

Among the five Cymbidium species, C. Finlaysonianum is the most widely distributed throughout the Malaysian area, It was collected by Finlayson in Chin-China in the ninetieth century. It was dedicated to him by Lindley, who originally described the plant in 1832. There is also a close relative, Cymbidium atropurpureum, its name taken from its dark purple flowers. Because of its closeness to C. Finlaysonianum in all morphological aspects, botanists consider it to be a variety of the latter.

The leaves of this species are leathery and coarse, 35 to 40 inches long and 1.5 to 2.5 inches wide. The raceme is pendulous, about two to four feet long and many-flowered. The flowers are two inches in diameter, sepals and petals rather narrow, long, and colored dull tawny yellow with a reddish-brown median line. The labellum is three-lobed, the center lobe being whitish with a yellow disk and purple-crimson apical spot.

Unlike most domesticated and hybrid orchids that bloom any time and for long periods, I observed that this wild orchid is sensitive to photoperiodism. It blooms usually in summer - in March and April - and the flowers last about two weeks. I like the characteristic mild fragrance especially in early morning.

Orchids are among the easiest plants to propagate, vegetatively that is, either by tillers (shoots), or by tissue culture, a specialized laboratory procedure. This compensates for the extreme difficulty in propagation by seeds. The seeds of orchids are the most difficult to germinate. Even if they do, survival rate is very nil. It is because the viability of orchid seeds is very short and difficult to monitor.

I have yet to succeed in germinating the seeds of C Finlaysonianum. Even if I fail, I am delighted to have a wild orchid luxuriantly growing in my home - its home. ~~

Reference:  Philippine Orchids by Reg S Davis and Mona Lisa Steiner

Monday, January 11, 2016

Flow gently, sweet little stream

Painting and poem by Abe V Rotor

                                                Flow gently, sweet little stream in acrylic (2' x 4') by AVR 2012
Flow gently, sweet little stream,
     and I will sing you a praise;
Flow gently down the little valley,
     and I will go with your ease.

Flow gently sweet little stream,
     for you have time to tarry;
Flow gently around rocks and hills,
     meander and be merry.

Flow gently, sweet little stream,
     and do not grow up too soon;
Flow gently with the watershed,
     catching the rains in monsoon.

Flow gently, sweet little stream,
     living link of sky and sea;
Flow gently among the creatures
     in your care, play and be free. 

Flow gently, sweet little stream,
     away from the hands of men;
Flow gently in this hidden den,
     this lovely patch of Eden. ~

"Bring home the rainbow, Papa."

Dr Abe V Rotor
Kulit plays with the rainbow at home.
A piece of rainbow spills on the floor like magic carpet.
Prism splits light into seven colors - the rainbow's secret.

I am no Atlas or Hercules,
neither have one another's wit,
nor Thor who sends the rain
or a storm in his fit.

To bring home the rainbow
for my children's sake,
by lens or words to escape,
would be sin if I fake.

Once I brought home a firefly.
Here is a a star, I said;
and through the night it watched
over them in their bed.

Once I brought home the sun
in a bouquet of sunflower;
And the moon in yellow melon,
the sea, in a queer puffer.

Bring home the rainbow, Papa.
That was a long time ago,
a promise I have not fulfilled -
what now at sunset's glow? 

Suddenly the sun came through
a prism by its magic drew
a cathedral in the sky I knew.
Papa, you brought home the rainbow!
 Rainbow over Bamban, Tarlac
 Fantasy rainbow in cartoons and fairy stories
A double rainbow, not an unusual phenomenon