Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Spinning Top (Trumpo) - Endangered Native Toy

Spinning Top (Trumpo) -  Endangered Native Toy
Dr Abe V Rotor

 Traditional spinning top

 Modern versions of the spinning top

Anyone who grew up in the province in our time is familiar with the original spinning top. If not, imagine an oversize chicken egg, of that of the guinea fowl or bengala, its small end sharply tapering into a shank made of nail, one to two inches long. The tip is pointed to reduce friction for longer and more stable spinning. But we always made it sharp ready to nip or puncture the tops of our opponents in tournaments.

Because our town is famous for furniture making, we have lathe machine (pagturnuan Ilk) to make the best tops in town. Everyone could easily recognize a spinning top made in San Vicente, three kilometers west of Vigan, the capital. There were spinning top tournaments held on certain occasions and we would send our best players to the capital. To be a good player, first you must be accurate at marked target. But there is another kind of tournament - you should be able to immobilize your opponent’s top, by puncturing or chopping it out of shape. This is why the wood used in making tops is molave, better still kamagong, which is claimed to be the hardest wood in the world.

Exhibitions are part of the tournament. For example whose top makes the loudest humming sound? How balanced and stable is the spinning of your top? How long will it keep on spinning? Then there is the skill to “capture” a spinning top and have it continue spinning on your palm.

But how do you make a top without lathe machine? I still can recall my experience in making one. Cut a branch of molave, or any locally available wood such as guava or isis or Ficus ulmifolia, the tree that produces sandpaper-like leaves. Choose a branch at least three inches in diameter. With a sharp bolo, shape one end into a round peg, and drive through it a 3-inch nail, leaving half as the shank. Smoothen the wood with boy scout knife and sandpaper, making it even and balanced. Shape and cut off the upper part of the top with a saw or sharp knife.

An immature wood when it dries up has a tendency to crack. That’s why you have to look for a seasoned branch. The harder it is, the better - and the more durable is your top. For the rope or string to spin the top, get a pure cotton thread, numero ocho, that is 1/8 of an inch, and a meter long. Sometimes we would twist two thinner threads to make the standard spinning rope. To learn the technique of playing spinning tops, ask older boys - or us who were experts in our days.

Why don't you try making your own spinning top? It's a real test of craftsmanship, by how well it performs and chance to win in a tournament.

 Photos acknowledgment: Google, Wikipedia 

Native Games and Sports with Animals

Dr Abe V Rotor

Carabao race – Here is a joke in puzzle, “What is the first car race?” The children of my age then would think of Ford or Chevrolet. Sirit? “It’s car-abao race.” It’s a corny joke, more so today. But if you haven’t seen one, go to Paombong, Bulacan during the fiesta of San Isidro Labrador, patron saint of farmers. It is like horse race, with the “jockey” riding without harness. So there’s a lot of skill needed to stir the animal to the finish line, galloping the carabao way.

Carabaos are known to be very docile. They say, you won’t be able to reach your destination on time with a carabao even if you use a horse whip. And don’t ever force the animal cruelly. In Thailand a carabao in the middle of a race broke away and attacked the spectators hurting dozens of them. An animal is still an animal however tame it is. The biological instinct is unpredictable.

Catching piglets (bi-ik) in mud. It takes a day or two to prepare the arena or pen, some 5 by 5 meters square, or bigger in area, and secured with interlink wire or wooden fence. To make the game exciting the ground is puddled like a rice field ready for planting. A smaller pen is made next to the big pen. The piglets – some ten are released per batch of contestants. It is a game of two or more contending groups. It could be a one-on-one contest in the final stage. The rule may be that he who catches the piglet either gets a prize or takes the animal home – like in the movie, Babe, a story of a piglet won from a fair by an elderly farmer who reared it to become a “sheepdog” and earned its place on the farm.

It’s a messy game; it is full of wit and skill. It is in catching the piglets and putting them into the adjoining pen within the prescribed time frame that determine the winner. Imagine the winner standing on stage receiving his prize – or piglet. Can you recognize him? ~

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Ode to my Favorite Writers

Ode to my Favorite Writers
Dr Abe V Rotor
Dr Jose P Rizal, author of Noli me Tangere and 
El Filibusterismo; Philippine national hero
Teodoro "Doroy" Valencia center, newspaper 
columnist (Over a Cup of Coffee), dean of 
Philippine journalism
Author of science fiction novels: Twenty Thousand
Leagues under the Sea, Journey to the Center of the 
Earth, Around the World in Eighty Days 

1. Jose Rizal
Your enemies tried to silence you,
and curtailed your freedom;
the lamp flickers its last rays at dawn
to seal your martyrdom.

2. Aesop
Ah! Animals talk louder than men
though in screech, crow and bleat;
yet by moral and sanity, speak
not the language on the street.

3. Ernest Hemingway
You seemed as brave as the old man
in your great masterpiece;
the soldier, the hunter, the dreamer -
yet wanting a life of peace.

4. Charles Darwin
You did not give up to your critics,
who only prayed and preached;
around the world you witnessed,
change by random and fit.

5. Lola Basiang (Severino Reyes)
You touched a million-and-one lives,
around campfires in their prime;
like Grimm and Anderson and Homer,
storytellers of all time. ~

6. Boris Pasternak

Zhivago, to the end walked away alone,
from  love neither in winter nor fallow;
what romance away from the war zone,  
wrapped in doubt to sorrow's end.

7. Mark Twain   
I am a boy forever, Tom or Huck,
down the Mississippi loafing
and let the world go by sans care
what grownups are missing.  

8. Robert Louis Stevenson 
"Kidnapped" made a boy into a man
too soon to faced a cruel world;
learning the art of war and peace, 
deceit and conceit,  gun and sword.

9. Oscar Wilde
You're a creator of characters and events,
in novels, stories, and plays 
children and adults alike on the armchair
live in your mind, time and place. 

10. Arthur Conan Doyle
Sherlock Holmes lives to this day,
idol of any detective;
The Lost World - remnant of the past,
is back in our midst to live. 

11. Jules Verne 
Ideas in your minds, truth in our time,
across generations to mine; 
fiction to science the world to gain       
your genius beyond our sane.   

12. Doroy Valencia
Over a cup of coffee, more than a brew,
wider and deeper than just a view,
stirred a wasp nest, and a reptile's too  
as the art and science of writing grew. 
 Author of the most controversial book, On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection, which sparked the greatest world debate which remains unresolved to the present.  Darwin is considered the father of evolution to which his name is attached - Darwinism.
Aesop, ancient Greek storyteller is considered as the father of Fables, stories of animals that can "think and talk," critiquing on human behavior.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Vinegar from Fruits

Dr Abe V Rotor


You can put up a vinegar generator in your kitchen and you will have a continuous supply of natural vinegar. Protect yourself and your family from glacial acetic vinegar. Convert those surplus fruits that would otherwise go to waste. You can also produce vinegar for your friends and community.

I am simplifying the procedure as a practical guide in vinegar making for the rural as well as the urban areas.

1. Clean two wide-mouthed, gallon size glass containers. (Ordinary glass gallons will do. Do not use plastic containers.)

2. Peel and clean around two kilos of overripe (but not rotten) fruit of any kind (pineapple, chico, banana, etc. You may combine two fruits, like chico and guava, or pineapple and mango. (Do not use kamias. Kamias contains oxalic acid which weakens the bones.)

3. Mash the fruit with two kilos of sugar. Be sure the sugar is well imbedded into the tissues of the fruit pulp. Divide the substrate equally for the two glass jars

4. Add tap water to four-fifth of the container. Shake or stir.

5. Add one tablespoonful of commercial yeast (baker’s yeast) onto each jar, then stir.

6. Cover the setup with sinamay or kulambo textile. The reason for this is to allow air to enter, while letting the fermenting gas C02 to escape. Do not plug or seal. Pressure builds up and is likely to break the container.

7. Do not be bothered when you see Drosoplila flies hovering around because they are attracted to the fermenting odor. They carry with them beneficial fermenters. Just allow them to settle down near and around the setup. Their presence hastens acetification. What must be avoided are houseflies and other vermin. To do this, design a nylon screen frame, which is good to cover four gallons. Be sure only the Drosophila flies can pass through.

8. During the first two to five hours, froth will rise. Stir to calm the substrate. Stir once daily for the first week. Allow the setup to stand for three to four weeks until the solids have settled at the bottom. Keep it in a shaded corner of the house or kitchen.

9. Decant the filtrate and transfer to another gallon or large bottles. Plug with cotton to allow air circulation. This is the ageing phase. The longer you keep it this way, the better the quality becomes. This takes around two to three months. There will be sediments that form at the bottom. Nata (nata de coco) may also grow at the surface of the liquid. This is proof of natural vinegar.

10. This is the time for you to harvest your vinegar. Use a small siphon to decant and leave the nata and sediments behind. Heat the filtrate (harvested vinegar) to 60 - 70 degrees  Celsius for 10 minutes.  This is actually Pasteurization - to eliminate unwanted microorganisms and to stabilize the product.  Cap the bottles airtight.

An alternative is to expose the newly bottled vinegar to direct sunlight for at least three hours. The color of your product is now golden to reddish from above, or crystal clear against the light. Label with a trademark of your choice. Write on the label the following information. Fruit used; place and dates of fermentation; ageing and bottling. And of course, your name.

Entrepreneurial Prospect

Vinegar making can be made into a lucrative enterprise due to its authenticity as natural vinegar. Many brands bear the name natural but are actually overnight formulations of diluted glacial acetic acid, no different from the acetic acid used for industrial purposes like in photography and textiles manufacturing.

People are becoming more and more health conscious making them very judicious in their choices of health-enhancing food and food preparations. This is your best selling point. People are willing to pay a premium of a guaranteed natural product.

On the aspect of manufacturing, experience has it that vinegar making alone does not maximize business opportunity and benefits. The two steps – fermentation and oxidation – can be treated as two separate processes, hence two lines of products can be developed in one enterprise. In fact, a third step is nata de coco production, which immediately follows vinegar production. This is shown by this formula.

CH3COOH --------> Nata de Coco (coco jelly) or Nata de PiƱa
               Leuconostoc mesenteroides

The making of nata de coco developed in the second half of the 1990s when nata was in great demand for export, principally to Japan.The product is used as food and also as component in the electronics industry. Local demand as sweetened gel remains high in spite of the abrupt decline of the Japanese market.

Here is the business concept for holistic and integrated, hence, viable operations:

1. If you are a small sugarcane farmer, have control over the making of red (raw) sugar. Native or brown sugar not being refined is natural food. There is a big demand for this kind of sugar where the molasses have not been separated.

2. Ferment table wine (Basi in the Ilocos region) from sugarcane. There is a big demand of this native wine by Ilocano balikbayan. Similarly with fruits, there is now a trend to take table wine either for health purposes, in lieu of liquor. The fruit industry may look into this field of endeavor. It offers definitely a value-added advantage to fruit growers, and there are thousands of families that grow fruit trees at the backyard.

3. Make vinegar out of the inferior sugar cane, specially during a poor crop year.
Typhoon and drought damaged cane can made into sukang Iloko. Fruits in season, and fruits that cannot pass market standard can be made into fruit vinegar. This is advantageous to orchard growers and contractors.

4. Nata de coco can be made out of the local vinegar products with local sugar as raw materials. Nata in many colors and flavors is an innovation of the traditional product. A progressive idea proved that nata can be made into laminate as substitute to leather, sheepskin and material for bags and belt. The biological laboratory of St. Paul University QC succeeded in making has made preliminary products.

Vin egar is wine gone sour. It may not be man’s elixir, but it bridges an intricate process of nature, benefiting  man with other products of great importance.x x x