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.  ~

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Taming the Giant Alovera

Who would suspect this octopus-like plant growing in the wild to be of great importance to health and grooming? Thanks to the revival of traditional and natural medicine. Various formulations - from lotion to juice drink have suddenly emerged in the market. 
Dr Abe V Rotor 

Miss Jules Rojas Sta. Maria holds a huge potted  Alovera (=Aloe barbadensis) at home in QC; cross section of leaf showing gel-filled parenchyma cells. Food, medicine, cosmetics products etc are prepared from the aloe vera gel.

It looks menacing, octopus in many ways - fleshy with radiating arms lined with spines, spotted all over, and wrestling with other plants. Formerly growing wild, it is now cultured for its many uses, reviving its importance in ancient Egypt, Greece, China, and other regions. 

My dad used alovera to treat minor burns. He would pick a leaf,  split it after removing the spines along the edges, and make a poultice over the affected skin. When I became a father myself I did the same thing to my kids.  Alovera imparts immediate relief and prevents infection. And healing takes place faster than any natural means I know. 

I used to joke my friends whose hair is vanishing (the HIVs). "Mag alovera kayo," an advice to apply crushed alovera to grow back thinning hair. And they would laugh like we were in a beer garden, then throw back the challenge at us who were then well into our middle age. 

Just as alovera is hair rejuvenating, it is also effective in skin care and protection. No wonder alovera has been in use as gel pack even before someone introduced mud pack, an invention inspired in the animal kingdom. Old folk say, the gel is moisturizing, and as it dries slowly binds the skin cells from sagging. Take it from a scientific explanation.   
Researches discovered in alovera the presence of keratin, the primary protein of hair, consists of amino acids, oxygen, carbon, and small amounts of hydrogen, nitrogen, and sulphur. Alovera has a chemical make up similar to that of keratin and it rejuvenates the hair with its own nutrients, giving it more elasticity and preventing breakage. 
There is much more to this report to support alovera's rejuvenating properties. This translucent gel is made up of around 96 percent water, a type of protein made up of 18 of the 20 amino acids found in the body.  And it contains Vitamin A, B, C and E which important to the body. 

Native Aloe vera is grown by garden enthusiasts for its neat radial symmetry and modest inflorescence.

The selling point that made alovera build a multi million industry is its claimed anti-ageing qualities - from cosmetic products, medicine, to food and beverages.

One thing more is that alovera gel is a complex carbohydrate known as acemannan. It allows nutrients to reach the cells, nourish them and at the same time relieve them of toxins. 
Early records of Aloe vera use appear in the Ebers Papyrus from the 16th century BC, and in Dioscorides' De Materia Medica and Pliny the Elder's Natural History – both written in the mid-first century AD. It is also written of in the Juliana Anicia Codex of 512 AD. The plant is used widely in the traditional herbal medicine of many countries.
Make your own Aloe drink. Scoop the gel leaving behind the skin and any discolored part.  Simply add to your favorite prepared juice drink. Or make your own mix of water, sugar, and flavor. One leaf extract makes a liter of aloe drink.  Your product can compare  - if not better than commercial products - because it is fresh and there is no preservative added. Besides you used glass container - not plastic or alum can.  

Caution: Doctors caution taking internally during pregnancy, menstruation, having hemorrhoid problem, and degenerative liver and gall bladder condition. Oral ingestion may cause abdominal cramps and diarrhea, which in turn can decrease the absorption of drugs. Non-decolorized liquid aloe vera is carcinogenic in test animals. 
Use of topical aloe vera is not associated with significant side effects. ~ 

Acknowledgement: Internet, Wikipedia, Living with Nature Series by AVR

Friday, October 14, 2016

Creative Photography - New Field of Humanities

Creative Photography - New Field of Humanities 
Photography has been relegated to the machine. This is not true.  In fact ity has created a new field in humanities - Creative Photography, which is aligned to visual arts and Performing arts. 
Dr Abe V Rotor

Gulliver the giant, Gulliver the pygmy in Jonathan Swift's novels,
two friends acting, each in either role;
for in life, you are at one time a giant, at another you are a dwarf, 
and seeing others the same, wise or fool.

Years apart through three generations make no difference;  
looking back when the old were once children;
and children wishing  for the future within their grasp;
in between the beauty of life is a moving train. 

Image of Mother and Child - Holy Book's symbol of piety;
Holy Trinity too, with a Father God - the greatest mystery;
Prodigal Son and father - the mother Rembrandt sought.
 And Joseph?  Brave soldiers who died in wars they fought?
Community stage play of a subject and theme by local talents;
move over cinema, mall, computer and television;
we have had enough of  robots and cyberspace pseudo heroes;
life's real, we've each a role with common vision.     

Trophies, the greatest is invisible - 
you reward yourself unknown,
the one no other else can own. ,    

Don't cut the trees, don't!
Make a stairway across;
Save the clouds that fill the fount,
We have had enough, the Cross.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Where have all the salmon gone? We might as well ask now.

Genetically Modified salmon could escape from farms and irreversibly destroy wild salmon populations and ultimately the ecosystem. 

A First for Fish: Genetically Modified Salmon 
Reprint by Catherine Zuckerman
National Geographic, January 2015

Love them or hate them, genetically modified foods are making their way into grocery stores. 

Soybeans and corn have been for sale in the US since the 1990s.  Now if the FDA gives the green light, the first GM animal, a farmed fish known as AquAdvantage salmon, could one day join the ranks.

Developed by Canadian scientists, the fish (photo) is an Atlantic salmon with two tweaks  of its DNA: a growth-hormone gene from the large king salmon and genetic material from the eel-like ocean pout, to keep that growth hormone activated.  The fish which is female and sterile, should reach maximum size quickly in the land-based tanks where it could be raised. 

To keep feed a hungry planet, the GM technology could be used in other species, says spokesman Dave Conley: "Many of the benefits have been downplayed or ignored."

Still, the company was fined for environmental violations, and critics worry the fish could escape into the wild and create new problems.  The FDA has yet to approve it for human consumption.  If allowed, says Ocean Conservancy chief scientist George H Leonard, "it's imperative to be labelled, so consumers can vote with their wallet." 

AquaBounty salmon is the first genetically modified food animal to be approved for sale in Canada. (AquaBounty)

I mourn for the inevitable fate of the beloved wild salmon

 Dr Abe V Rotor
David and Goliath, native and GM types in the wild, won't end up with the biblical ending; the smaller salmon won't stand any chance in competing for food, territory and mate, in fact in all aspects of competition in nature. 

Sockeyed salmon on the run to spawn upstream.

GM salmons will consume more - preys and other food sources - to mature earlier and bigger, armed with planned voraciousness, unwittingly limiting supply for their native counterparts, thinning the latter's population.

It is not just simple one-on-one competition; it is overall and interconnected displacement of members in the food chain, cutting links; worse, the food web is disrupted as chains are disturbed, destroying the integrity of the food web, and may collapse pulling down the local ecosystem.

Why the change in feeding habits? GM salmon carries genetic materials of two unrelated species of fish with different eating habits rolled into one - a heretofore salmon feeding, eating almost anything, small and big, live or dead, freely or covertly or savagely, often in quantities more than it needs called luxury feeding, a laboratory induced characteristic to gain Goliath size in a short time.

GM salmon invade and dominate, native salmon population narrows down, soon the overall biological diversity of streams and rivers and lakes, in fact even the ocean since salmons travel far and wide into the open sea before returning to their place of birth - exacerbated by unabated pollution, infrastructures like dam impeding free movement, over and illegal fishing notwithstanding.

Why GM salmon in the first place? Short term economic advantage to feed an exploding human population and meet virtually endless affluent living. Corporate dominance, cartel in the supply GM stock and methodology of production, making GM salmon growers down the line, captive of the "package" they themselves cannot provide except to grow the fish commercially.

Through corporate linkage with the exclusive supplier can GM producers operate, in the like of Bt Corn which is unprofitable to plant the F2 harvest in the hands of the farmer; the GM female salmon is made sterile, in the same way hybrid seeds carry suicide gene, and that hybrid vigor declines in the succeeding generations, an ethico-moral issue worldwide, 
on patenting life and depriving the small man of his right and need. 

Fishing as sport loses its essence, it is like fishing in a fishpond. The thrill dies with the GM salmon et al. In the first place, has the GM salmon lost its homing instinct? Would it rather join its half-brother eel fish living freely in the ocean? Or would the GM salmon rather stay put in its borrowed spawning ground - rivers and lakes? How about the GM-contaminated wild type, now a GM-native hybrid. Has it lost its homing instinct, or its adventurous lifestyle?

How fast will GM contamination spoil natural salmon gene pools; the answer is disturbing as egg fertilization occurs in open water, where the GM sperm fertilizes the native salmon egg, by the millions, nay billions, and here the GM female produces only sterile eggs; which means a single GM salmon male can spoil a whole stream in a short time of GM2 degenerate salmon, like BtCorn polluting whole fields of corn sans its intended resistance - both cases sowing fear, in reality and uncertainty, as to the consequences on humans and the environment.  

It might be the Waterloo of the natural salmon - symbol of pride, culture and values, barometer of pristine environment, doyen of Ichthyology, iconic specimen of natural history; I fear and lament, it might be gone forever, because genetic pollution is permanent, and that it spreads out indefinitely to contaminate the last member of the genetically related species. 

Community fishing, a favorite Canadian sport; lodging house for guests in Lac Du Bonnet where the author spent weekends fishing. 

Many a weekend I spent fishing in Lac Du Bonnet, Winnipeg River and Red River in pre-GMO era, when the adventure of youth was free of threats of modern technology, but today, in postmodern era, I can only go back to cherish sweet memories in archive - and holding hope for the brighter side of Homo sapiens to examine sustainability for the sake of future generations and our living world. ~  

Salmon farming in floating cages and fish pens.  

Acknowledgement: Internet photos