Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Seven “Rs” in Pollution Management

Dr Abe V Rotor 
“Thirty (30) percent of world population is producing 85 percent of global pollution. Today’s pollution is 1000 percent times higher than in 1946.”  AVR

The seven “Rs” in Pollution Management are: 

1. Reduce,
2. Replace,
3. Regulate,
4. Recycle,
5. Replenish,
6. Reserve, and
7. Revere

1. Reduce 
Air pollution comes mainly from vehicles, and is heavy in big cities like Metro Manila
Pollution management should start at the very source. Thus, the key to managing pollution should be the reduction of potential waste materials. Before buying anything, the main question you ask yourself is: “Is it necessary?” Many of us are enticed by the aesthetics of goods, which merely attracts us into buying. One strategy which manufacturers and sellers employ is “over packaging.” A great part of the money we pay for a commodity goes to its packaging. 

Take for example, canned drinks. Two-third of the value of canned cola goes to the can and advertisement. It is packaging, which amounts to a large percentage of waste on one hand, and causes the depletion of the supply of raw materials, on the other. In a study in the United States, 46 percent of the recycled thrash is packaging materials. In both cases, it is Mother Nature that bears the brunt of pollution and depletion. 

                                                                       2. Replace 
As a rule, biodegradable materials – those that disintegrate and decompose under natural conditions - are environment-friendly, on condition that they are properly disposed. As much as possible the manufacture and use of non-biodegradable materials, such as plastics and related products like nylon, styropore and rayon, must be limited. Some plastic materials may have a life span that extends up to millions of years. This means these materials will virtually remain the same – or until our sun has expanded on its way to becoming a supernova. 

“Pollution is the excrement of technology.” - The Living with Nature Handbook

Lichen - biological indicator of clean air
Environmentalists in the US and Europe have launched a campaign to promote products that have the least impact on the environment. In these regions, citizens boycott establishments like fast-food outlets that use styro and plastics.

Fortunately we are currently witnessing the slow return of waxed paper and paper cups. More and more people are using natural packaging materials such as banana leaves, rice hay, seaweeds, rice hull, wood shavings.
“Lead, cadmium, selenium, toxic heavy metals arsenic, chloro-hydrocarbons polychlorinated diphenyls cause behavioral symptoms, and loss of appetite, among other effects. Lead is a highly potent nerve poison. Although lead exists naturally at low concentration, it is has increased to 30 times the normal level.” 
                                                            3. Regulate 
This refers to the need of an effective governance system for waste management. This case in point is the limited capacity of Metro Manila Development Authority in handling the gargantuan task of pollution management next to impossible. 
The outstanding amount of trash generated by Metro Manila, a city with 10 million inhabitants, and the peculiar geophysical, socioeconomic, and its peculiar political setup, make the task even more formidable. 

Fishing on a polluted river
All over the world, there is need for effective governance in environmental management. Time and consequence are of the essence as more and more people are dying or getting sick, and piles of garbage are building up. Five international conferences on environment have been called, the first of which was in 1972 at Stockholm, followed by similar summits in Vancouver, Rio de Janeiro and Kyoto, and lately in Mexico. All failed to establish a global body that can regulate man’s abuse on nature and therefore guarantee the health of our planet and that of future generations. 
                                                                4. Recycle. 
Recycling refers to the process of using a material again and again, either in its original state or in another form – and perhaps for a different function. 

Durable materials that can be recycled include wood, glass, metal, concrete, and the like. Bottles, for one, can be used up to three times over. Concrete is recycled in construction sites, so with steel bars. Broken furniture can be renovated, so with many home decor. Appliances are being repaired rather being disposed for new ones. The age of second hands is here. We find more and more garage sales. Ukay-ukay (UK), anyone? Kitchen refuse and farm residues are now converted into organic fertilizer. The late Filipino inventor, Abraham Tadeja was one of the pioneers in organic manufacturing at the Payatas dump site.

“Some kinds of plastics have a life of 10,000 million years – when the sun shall have engulfed the earth.” 
These days, research has discovered modern ways of recycling more complex products. Old tires, for example, are deep-frozen and pulverized, instead of being burned or melted. Broken glass and asphalt are now made into glasphalt – an excellent material for road overlay. 

Crude and aging technology 
At present, Germany is the world’s leader in garbage recycling. Germans have developed a technology for recycling aluminum more times than conventional recycling does. This translates into fewer demands for bauxite, the ore of aluminum.

But the downside is that the Germans have been producing more waste lately, giving the world the impression that waste recycling must be a good business, now actually an industry in Germany, instead of just a recourse in solving environmental problems.
                                                            5. Replenish. 
 There is a saying in ecology, there is no such thing as “free lunch.” There is always a cost of everything we get from nature.. When we cut down a tree, we “harvest” the soil nutrients that made the wood, take away its cooling effect on its surroundings, the oxygen it gives off in the air, and deprive a multitude of organisms that depend on it. Pollution should be understood on the basis of such an equation. 
“Industrialized countries spend at least 2 percent of their GNP to clean up their mess – an expense rather than investment.” 
Cutting down a tree is therefore, indirect pollution. When we destroy a tree, we contribute to the buildup of CO2 by reducing the amount of O2 generated by that tree. This ultimately contributes to global warming. 

We destroy the symbionts of the tree, such as earthworms and termites that convert waste materials into stable forms – forms that are recycled for the use of the next generation of organisms.
                                                                6. Reserve 

The US is reserving its oil while there is oil available in the world market. Japan is not cutting its forest trees. It imports logs from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. More and more areas are declared parks and reservations before they are claimed for agriculture, industry and settlements. 

To reserve is to postpone the consumption of a resource, and when there is no intention for that purpose but keep it in its natural state, to reserve means to preserve.

Sometimes controversy rises over such logic. For example, we have not resolved the issue of total ban on logging versus selective logging. The economists say that mature trees when left unharvested deprive the country of potential gain. Ecologists say, there is more to gain ultimately from an undisturbed ecosystem. Again, this merely shows the importance of effective environmental governance, particularly where issues like this remain unresolved. Meantime forests are left unprotected, and become subject to various abuses. Before we know it this natural resource is gone. It is this attitude that is predisposing many countries to lose their chance to preserve the environment.
                                                                      7. Revere 

Sun blocked by gases spewed from cars and factories.
Reverence for life. This is the founding philosophy of both natural and social science, and the guiding spirit of great men and women such as Charles Darwin, Albert Schweitzer, David Livingstone, Jean Fabre, Louis Pasteur, Jane Goodall, Rachel Carson, and King Solomon, to name a few. These people succeeded in their mission to make this world a better place to live in, through their examples and discoveries that lead towards loving and caring the earth. Let us love the Earth, our only spaceship that gives us all the things we need to be alive and happy. Let’s give our share, even just to help in Nature’s housekeeping. x x x

Monday, February 25, 2013

San Vicente IS Series: Integrated Production of Table Wine and Vinegar - - Basi and Sukang Iloko

Dr. Abe V Rotor

Living with Nature School on Blog []
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Mely C Tenorio, 738 DZRB AM, 8 to 9 Evening Class, Monday to Friday (Phase II 2006 to present)

     The idea of reviving this sunset industry holds potentials in creating livelihood opportunities, and in integrating agriculture and industry in the classical concept of agribusiness that is rural- and people-based. The industry offers natural products that protect people’s health, and are friendly to the environment.  Lastly it revives the spirit of nationalism, culture and tradition.

Historical Background

     The manufacture of Ilocos  wine (Basi) and vinegar (Sukang Iloko) predates Spanish colonization of the islands. Although the two products were already a part of vigorous trading among the islands and with neighboring countries, basi in particular reached prominence when it became one of the island’s exports for nearly two centuries via the Galleon Trade to Europe by way of Acapulco, Mexico.

     Because of the significance of the industry, the Spaniards declared government monopoly on the industry stirring an uprising by the brewers and natives known as the Basi Revolt of 1807.   

     The Commonwealth era further saw the decline in the production of  basi and sukang Iloko as imported products flooded the market, and suffered seriously during the second World War. The industry never recovered since then. Today’s generation has a vague idea of this fine, traditional industry, which was once the pride of our ancestors.

General Features of the Enterprise
1.      It revives a once flourishing industry, making use of indigenous tools and materials. Thus, it also relives a rich history of a people and culture.

2.      As a cottage- and rural-based family business, it is dependent on family and local manpower, but nonetheless requires innovations in both technology and management.

3.      Its products are made from natural materials and by a natural process, hence health-safe and environment-friendly. 

4.      It makes use of local researches and indigenous skills, but will benefit from institutional researches. It therefore, links the research system and enterprise system, and the field with the laboratory.

5.      It is viable as a short- or medium-scale enterprise, but it can be expanded on long term basis, thus it is compatible with different business organizations, most especially family enterprise and cooperative.

6.      It supports the philosophy on which NACIDA and KALAKALAN 20 were founded.  It is in line with the government’s program on small and medium enterprises, led by DTI, UP Institute of Small and Medium Enterprises, other governmental organizations and NGOs.

7.      As a dollar earner (and saver), it takes pride in a modest sense in this contribution, propagating a Filipino product that meets international standard for European table wines, in the likes of sherry and mass wine. 

Its universal formula lends to expansion of product lines within the same framework of technology and business organization.  Table wine can be produced from local fruits such as chico, pineapple, mango, guava, and the like, using the same formula of making basi.  This is true with vinegar made from these fruits particularly during their peak season.
The Products

     Basi is table wine (12 proof or 6 % alcohol), a product of  fermentation of sugarcane.  The chemical reaction is shown in this general formula.

C6 H 12 O6   à  Zymase à  2 C2H5OH  + 2CO2
                   Sugarcane juice         Yeast                Ethanol

      It contains local botanical ingredients, mainly
  • Glutinous rice – Oryza sativa 
  • Bubud or Yeast Complex - Saccharomyces spp.
  • Duhat –Syzygium cumini 
  • Kamachile – Pithecolobium dulce
  • Samat – Macaranga tenarius
Raw Materials

     The principal raw materials are as follows:
1. Upland Sugar - The main ingredient is cooked sugarcane juice, with no adulteration. Baume reading should not be lower that 15 degrees depending on sucrose content and variety of the cane.

2. Glutinous Rice - Glutinous rice increases concentration since starch is polysaccharide.  Through hydrolysis, it is broken into simple sugars.

3. Bubod or Yeast Complex -  This is prepared from pure culture in the laboratory consisting of several strains of yeast.

4. Distilled or Spring Water -  The jars are thoroughly cleaned and sterilized. Distilled or spring is used. For vinegar, tap water can be used.
Sukang Iloko
     Sukang Iloko, sour basi.  Vin egar means sour wine. This means that basi, like any wine, spontaneously turns into vinegar when oxidized with the aid of fermenting microorganism. Thus, the equation will lead to oxidation or acetification (vinegar formation).

C2H5OH  +  O2   Acetobacter ---> CH3COOH  +  2H2O                                                                Ethanol                                                Sukang Iloko

     As shown in the two equations above, the two products – wine and vinegar - are integrated. The dual process can be extended to the production of Nata de Coco as a third product.

      The formula is applicable in the production of other wine and vinegar products from fruits, grains and root crops. Thus wine and vinegar making has good potential as an enterprise.

 Manufacture of Basi

1.      Cleaning and Sterilization -   The jars are thoroughly cleaned.  This takes three weeks, with the water changed three times, once every week.  Sterilization is by the use of boiling water followed by direct sunlight exposure.

2.      Brewing - Cooked sugarcane juice is poured into the sterilized jars including the botanical ingredients, bubud (yeast complex) and glutinous rice. Fermentation takes place immediately and increases in rate until the eight day.  Thereafter brewing declines. The sediments are removed and the jars are closed, and are ready for ageing.

3.      Ageing - The jars are hermetically closed and sealed with termite earth, an innovation of the author.. They must be kept in a dark cool place away from insects and any kind of disturbance. Ageing mellows the wine giving it the desired aroma, bouquet or body, color, taste, and other qualities. The wine matures in 10 to 12 months.

4.      Bottling and Packaging - Long-necked glass bottles with 750 ml content are obtained from suppliers of recycled bottles.  The bottles are thoroughly cleaned and sterilized.  The bottles are directly filled up with the harvested wine after undergoing laboratory test (percent alcohol and acidity) and organoleptic test (taste, color, bouquet, etc.).They are capped, sealed, and labeled. They are covered with yellow to orange cellophane to reduce ultraviolet radiation, and placed in individual brown bags and in carton boxes of 12 bottles per box.

Manufacture of Sukang Iloko

1. Cleaning and Sterilization - The procedure is the same as that in the preparation of jars in basi making.
 2. Brewing- Oxidation - Cooked sugarcane juice together with the botanical ingredients, yeast complex and mother liquor (inoculant) are poured into the sterilized jars. Vinegar formation or acetification accompanies the formation of ethanol.  It means that the wine is oxidized to form acetic acid. This dual process takes place spontaneously and simultaneously in the presence of natural fermenters, such as the fruit fly, Drosophila, that carries a beneficial bacterium,  Acetobacter aceti.  The filtrate is then separated from the sediments, and place in another jar in which it then undergoes tempering and ageing.
3. Ageing  - Vinegar matures in 4 to 6 months, shorter than that in ageing  wine. During the process, residual sugar undergoes secondary fermentation and acetification.  This is why natural vinegar improves with time.  (Artificial vinegar, on the other hand, loses acidity after prolonged exposure.) Ageing makes the product mellow, improves color, taste and other qualities.
4. Bottling and Packaging - The same procedure in basi is followed, except that the label is simpler or as specified by the buyer. For both products, laboratory tests are conducted in order to maintain quality standard. For vinegar, microbial count, acetic acid, and residual sugar are measured.

Production-Marketing Setup

     San Vicente, Ilocos Sur, is three kilometers from Vigan, the provincial capital, 408 km from Manila.  This town is the center of the once flourishing basi and vinegar making industry before and during the Spanish times.  It is also the site of the Basi Revolt of 1807.  Revival of the industry carries the imprimatur of history and the original basi.  For the local needs of the area,  both products are packaged and retailed to meet the local demand in Vigan and Laoag, two tourist spots, while the bulk of the products is shipped to  Manila.  Among the principal buyers is the  Ilocano balikbayan.  

Facilities, Equipment and Materials

1. Cellar and Working Area - The ground floor of an old brick house in San Vicente, Ilocos Sur, serves as cellar, office and working area.   It houses a small office and laboratory.  It is readily accessible to the sources of raw materials, buyers and transport facilities.

2. Jars (Fifteen-liter capacity) -  Burnay or earthen jars are made in Vigan.  The net content of each jar can fill up 50 long necked bottles of 750 ml, the standard packaging of both products.  Old jars can be procured from former brewers in the locality.

3. Laboratory equipment - The principal tools are high resolution compound microscope, sugar meter, pH meter, and accessories such as weighing scale, beakers and test tubes. Analyses and experiments involving sophisticated equipment like chromatograph and distilling apparatus are conducted in cooperation with research institutions like the Food Development Center and DOST.  Similar linkages with local institutions in Manila  and Vigan can be arranged. 
Quality Control
     Quality control starts with the choice of variety of sugarcane, its cultivation, maturity and crop stand.  Too much nitrogen fertilizer is not advisable.  Upland sugarcane is desirable.  Thus, in cultivating the crop, recommended agronomic requirements must be followed. Only the best sugarcane should be used for basi while inferior canes, such as those affected by drought or typhoon are used for vinegar making.
     The key to product quality is in the three stages of manufacture: formulation, brewing and ageing.  The entrepreneur must have a good knowledge acquired through training to augment basic chemistry and microbiology. It is in this stage that laboratory analysis is regularly conducted to generate these data.

  • ·         Percent sugar (15 %)
  • ·         Acidity of must or fermenting material (6 to 6.5 pH).
  • ·         Activity and cell count of the yeast (fast acting and multi-strain/complex type)
  • ·         Fermentation time (8 to 12 days)       
Final Products
     The ultimate control is in this stage which is composed of bottling, capping and sealing, labeling and packing.  Consistency of product quality is of utmost consideration, not only for the whole shipment, but also in all sales in the future.  This is to establish patronage (suki). The entrepreneur must always have in mind to meet international standards.  Food Development Center, which is authorized by the USFDA, determines the quality of products exported to the US and its territories.  Basi was confirmed by FDC to have passed the standard for sherry and port. 
Business Viability
     The direct cost in making a jar of basi which is equivalent to 50 bottles (750 ml) is P2500. This means that the production cost per bottle is P50. Fifty bottles is the net yield per jar.  This volume allows margin for breakage, leaching, and spoilage, including taste test and samples. 

     Premium sugarcane juice makes up 26.3 percent of the direct cost. Packaging materials which include bottles, labels, caps, seals and boxes, comprise the biggest cost which is 40.4 percent. Depreciation cost of jars, infrastructure, facilities and equipment like  pH and Baume meters, and sealer, makes up 15.8 percent, while marketing and direct labor cost make up 20 percent.

     The gestation period of basi is from 10 to 12 months, which means that brewing and ageing time takes almost a year. It is in the second and third year that regular sale takes place, peaking in summer and Christmas season. Computed wholesale selling price is P150 per bottle, thus the net income is P100.  For an economic volume of 5000 bottles, the total net income is P500,000 per year.

     For vinegar, the direct cost is P1000 per jar or P20 per bottle of 750 ml.  The biggest cost is spent on packaging (glass bottles, caps and seals) which is 37.5 percent.  Cane sugar is 31.5 percent, while marketing and direct labor make up 25 percent. If the selling price is P30, the net income is P10 per bottle, or 50 % ROI. The economic volume is at least 5000 bottles a year. A successful entrepreneur supplied these figures. Like any business the prospect of improving profitability is based on carefully studied economics of scale.

     With the current business climate in the Philippines there are many risks entrepreneurs face - from the crunching effect of currency devaluation to open competition brought about by the world’s order on trade liberalization since the passage of WTO-GATT whose inequitable workings are a disadvantage to Third World countries.

     How a fledgling industry survives, more so as it rises from the ashes of a colonial past, which with it had virtually died, is beyond imagination of a businessman who is looking at any bright prospect. But business has many challenges, beyond time, money, and the many opportunities to get rich. Would not an enterprise consider values, beyond economic parameters, such as reviving a rich culture, reliving history, touching fervors of faith and pride in a people? ~
 Author’s Note: This project proposal won the Business Idea and Development Award (BIDA 2001), sponsored by the  Department of Science and Technology, Department of Trade and Industry, Republic Planters Bank, and the Small and Medium Industry Council. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

10 Superstitious Beliefs - which ones are true?

Dr Abe V Rotor   

Living with Nature School on Blog []
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Mely C Tenorio, 738 DZRB AM, 8 to 9 Evening Class, Monday to Friday (Phase II 2006 to present)

1. Avoid laughing when planting kamote otherwise the roots will become liplike.
One who has incomplete teeth (bungal) should keep his mouth closed when planting corn otherwise the cobs will not be filled properly, or become empty.

Do you have a third eye?
 What do you see in this painting?

These are purely superstitious beliefs.  But maybe we look at it this way. One who is not serious in his work is likely to commit mistakes. What happens if the planting materials are not well placed in the soil?  Stray chickens may come after the uncovered corn.  If the distancing of the cuttings is irregular, naturally crop stand will be poor.  Too much fun leaves a lot of work poorly done or unfinished.

2. Bathing the cat will bring rain.
Then farmers will be a happy lot. And there is no need of cloud seeding, and procession for the intercession of San Isidro.

3. Bats swoop on unwary people. Old folks warn us not to go out at dusk or at night - and never alone.
Bats, the only true flying mammals are perhaps the most misunderstood creatures because of their ugly looks and enigmatic life embellished with superstitious beliefs and associated with fiction such as the story of Dracula, a bloodthirsty count-vampire in the world of the undead. Movies, cartoons, and children’s stories have projected a bad image of bats, giving us the impression they are enemies of mankind.   

The truth is that bats are harmless, except for three known species called vampire bats that feed on the blood of animals. Seventy percent of the one thousand species of bats live on insects as their daily diet. One bat can devour 1000 mosquitoes in one hour. The bigger species eat on fruits (fruit bats). Insectivorous bats swoop down on flying insects in the dark which they detect by means of echolocation (natural radar) making it appear that they are attacking people when they get too close to them.

Bats are nature’s biological agents in controlling destructive insects.  They pollinate plants that bloom only in the night, and they are very efficient in disseminating seeds of many plants. By carrying out these functions bats are crucial in maintaining the ecological balance of fragile ecosystems like the desert and chaparral.  Their droppings accumulated for years in their cave dwellings make the best and safest organic fertilizer (guano).  Let us protect the bats instead; they are indeed man’s valuable friends.    

4. Bite your finger after you have pointed at somebody or something.
Pointing particularly at people is indeed bad manners. In aristocratic societies, the act of pointing is reserved only to the royalty that goes with its authority over the people.  Old folks tell us never point at holy objects, the unseen and in the dark. And never point at the sun and moon. Your fingers will get hurt. Pointing at the sun is a grave offense among ancient cultures like the Aztecs, Incas and Mayans, because the sun is their god. The act of biting the pointing finger is engrained self discipline from the old folks.

By the way, when you point with one finger, the other fingers are pointing at you - something that reminds us that before we blame somebody let us first examine ourselves.   

5. Black ants in lansones means the fruit is sweet.
Lansones (Lansium domesticum) from Paete has a singular reputation that it is the sweetest lansones. But if you can’t find the Paete variety, you can settle for other sweet varieties.  If there are black ants crawling on the fruit, it must be sweet.

Not really.  The black ants feed on the sugary secretion of mealy bugs and scale insects clinging on the bunch of fruits. Actually they are parasitic, feeding on plant sap. Some unscrupulous fruits vendors sprinkle sugar solution which attracts red ants instead.      

6. Bringing salt under a sour fruit-bearing tree will cause the fruits to fall.
Naturally.  What goes better than a pinch of salt when eating juvenile sampaloc, kamias, kasoy or green mango? 

7. Cat grooming at the doorway tells of visitors coming.
Cats are fastidious clean creatures.  Like birds at rest preening, cats lick their paws and fur clean especially after eating. But what has this to do with their alleged ability to forecast? Well, let’s look at it this way.  It is customary in the province to cook something especially for our guests.  And fond that we are with cats, we let them have their fill while we are cooking.  
8. Conceiving mother who gets near a fruiting tree causes its fruits to fall prematurely.
There is no scientific evidence to link a conceiving mother with the premature dropping of fruits, but let us look at it this way.  Craving for certain food, such as those rich in Vitamin C - green mango, young sampaloc, kamias, guava and the like - is generally observed among conceiving mothers. It is not unusual to see them in the orchard, holding a bamboo pole or some pieces of stone. Such craving for special foods is a physiologic function of the body, but it may be psychological, too.  Old folks interpret it as maternal impression (pinaglihi-an), which is of course an unfounded belief.

9. Eating shark influences human character with the animal’s behavior.
For a long time people would just let the sharks live alone.  In fact they were feared and revered creatures until someone discovered that shark fins taste good and its liver has curative power.  The shark since then became the prey, and no longer the predator.

What is mysterious about the shark? The shark does not only live very long, it is a living fossil, which means it has not changed for the last 100 million years or so.  What could be its secret?

The US National Institute of Health discovered a previously unknown molecule in the liver of the dogfish shark.  Called squalamine, the natural steroid fights cancer by cutting off blood flow to tumors. Now we are saying, “Eat shark and be as healthy as the shark.”

10.  Food offering (atang) on special occasions is homage to the spirits.
The explanation is similar to that above.  The practice includes offering a plate of food and drink the host has prepared for the occasion.  It is placed on the family altar, or any place the souls and spirits are deemed to be around. Respect (pag-galang) is true Filipino and Oriental tradition to the living, the dead and the unseen. It strengthens camaraderie, keeps memories of loved ones alive, and adds quaintness to village life.

Monday, February 18, 2013

How accurate are folk measurements?

Dr Abe V Rotor

Old folks would tell a child that the total length of the outstretched arms fingertip to fingertip is equivalent to the height of the person. This is based on the drawing of Leonardo da Vinci. Is this true? What don’t you try it on yourself? They also say that the least shadow you make, the closer it is to noontime. This is of course without reference to the declination of the sun, and the season of the year.

How do you count seconds and minutes without a timepiece? When counting seconds, it is more precise to count, “one-hundred-one, one-hundred-two, one-hundred-three, and so on.” This traditional technique is used today in photography (light exposure, shutter speed), games (swimming and track race), and during emergency (CPR, measuring body temperature, pulse rate). It may be useful in our daily routine (cooking, exercise).

There is no assurance of accuracy in these means of measurement. Take for instance when one says “isang sigarilyo lang ang layo” (it takes a stick of cigarette to reach the place), and the guide has yet to light his cigarette and you have gone a long way. Or somebody says, “It is only at the other side of the mountain.” Which mountain and how many are there?

When is a child ready for school?

In earlier times when there were no nurseries, kindergartens, and preparatory schools, this is the simple way to know when children are ready for Grade 1.

The potential enrollee stands straight before the principal or teacher. He is asked to stretch his right hand across the top his head in order to touch his left ear without tilting his head. He must do the same with his left hand to touch his right ear. If he passes this test without difficulty he is ready for schooling. At this stage the child is around seven years old, the age of reason. He is now in pre-adolescence.~

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Lamp of Knowledge

Dr Abe V Rotor

Socrates, father of Philosophy, on his deathbed. He was condemned to die by drinking hemlock, a  poison, for corrupting the minds of the youth. 

Teaching is an art. It is an art of the masters - Aristotle, Plato, Christ, and many great teachers of the Renaissance that brought the world out of the Dark Ages. While we have developed modern techniques in teaching, it is important to look back into the past.

It is looking back at the lamp that enabled our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, to write his last masterpiece, the lamp Florence Nightingale held over her patients at the warfront, the lamp that made Scheherazade’s “one thousand and one nights” stories, the lamp a Greek philosopher held high at daylight “searching for an honest man.” Or the lamp fireflies make and glow with the spirit of joy and adventure to a child.

But why do we look back and ponder on a tiny light when the world basks in the sunshine of progress and development, of huge networks of learning, of high technologies in practically all fields of endeavor? I’ll tell you why – and why we teachers must.

But first let me tell a story of a computer enthusiast, who like the modern student today relies greatly on this electronic gadget, doing his school work so conveniently like downloading data for his assignment. So one day he worked on his assigned topic – love.

He printed the word and set the computer to define for him L-O-V-E. Pronto the computer came up with a hundred definitions and in different languages. Remembering his teacher’s instruction to ask, “How does it feel to be in love?” again he set the computer to respond. And you know what?

After several attempts, the computer printed on its screen in big letters, “I can not feel.”

Where is that main ingredient of human relations – feeling – today?

• Where is the true feeling between teacher and student?
• Where is the feeling of joy at the end of a teaching day, in spite of how hard the day had been?
• Where is that tingling feeling of the student for having recited well in class?
• Where is that feeling in singing the National Anthem, the school hymn?
• Where is that feeling Rizal felt when a moth circled the lamp in his prison cell while he wrote, Mi Ultimo Adios?
• Where is that burning desire that drove Michaelangelo to finish single-handedly the huge murals of the Sistine Chapel?
• That drove Vincent Van Gogh to madness – madness the world learned a new movement in the art – expressionism - years after?
• That kept Florence Nightingale, the founder of the nursing profession, make her rounds in the hospital in the wee hours of the morning?
• The lamp that strengthened Plato’s resolve to change the way people should think in the light of truth and justice.

Feeling. There is a song Feelin, and the lyrics ask a lot of questions about human nature changing with the times. I do not think human nature has changed. It is as stable as Nature herself and the natural laws that govern the universe.

What we are saying is that our ways are changing. The conformity of our actions is more with the rules we set rather than the philosophies on which they are founded. It is our quest for want above our needs that has blinded us and benumbed our feelings, that has taken us to the so-called fast lane so that we no longer see objects as they are, but abstracts, that has made us half-humans in the sense that we spend half of our lives dealing with machines – who have no feelings.

What then is modern man? I am afraid we have to review some of our references on the Janus-like character of man, like -

• Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
• The Prince and the Pauper
• The Princess and the Frog
• The movies - Mask, Superman, Batman, Spiderman
• Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter
• Cartoons and animated movies

The doubling of characters in man has led him away from permanence. Today, the biggest crisis in man is his impermanence. Impermanence in his domicile, nay, his nationality, political party. Affiliation in business and social organizations, and most disturbingly, with his marriage and family.

When was the last time we said to ourselves – or experienced - the following.

• It’s a weekday for my family and nothing else.
• How I wish I can help my child of his math assignment.
• I’ll teach only this year and will find a more rewarding job after.
• I think it’s time to settle down.
• I want to go to a concert and enjoy the fine art of music.
• Can’t I put all my ideas in a book?
• It’s always meeting – can’t we just talk?
• This dizziness, it must be the pressure of my work.
• Maybe I can concentrate on my thesis this time.
• I have not finished reading “Da Vinci Code”.
• This summer I’ll be with my parents.

Here are ways by which we can brighten up our lamp amidst the factors that test our dedication of our profession as teachers.

1. Be yourself. Be natural.
2. Keep on learning
3. Be a model of your family and community
4. Relax
5. Use you faculties fully and wisely

Be Natural

Naturalness is a key to teaching. I saw a film, Natural with then young award-winning Robert Redford as the principal actor. It is a story of a baseball player who became famous. The central theme of his success is his naturalness. Naturalness in pitching, batting - in the sport itself, above all, in his relationship with his team and fans.

Our students can easily sense our sincerity. They shun from us if we are not. They cannot fully express themselves, unless we show our genuine love and care for them. Develop that aura that attracts them, that keeps relationship easy to adapt or adjust.

“Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.”
- John Cotton Dana
Be a Model

Florence Nightingale  Lady with the Lamp - founder of the nursing profession 

A teacher must have more time for himself and for his family. Teaching is an extension of family life. And this is the primordial stimulus that makes your family a model family and you as a model teacher – because you cause the light of the lamp to radiate to others. And it is not only the school that you bring in the light. It is the community because you are also lighting the lamp of others, including the tiny glow in your young students. When they get home, when they interact with their community in whatever capacity they can, even only among their playmates, relatives and neighbors, they are in effect sharing that light which is also the light of understanding and unity.


Great achievements are usually products of relaxed minds. Relaxation allows the incubation of thoughts and ideas. Churchill found time to paint during the Second World War. In his relaxed mind he made great decisions that saved Great Britain and countless lives. Or take Einstein for instance. His formula which explains the relationship of energy and matter in E=mc2 was drawn out from casually observing moving objects - train, heavenly bodies, marbles. Galileo watched a huge chandelier in a church sway with the breeze and later came up with the principles of pendulum movement.

Darwin studied biology around the world as if he were on a leisure cruise, and summed up his findings that founded the most controversial Theory of Evolution by means of natural selection. An apple fell on Newton’s head when everything was still. Examine closely the parables of Christ. How relaxed the Great Teacher was in telling these stories to the faithful. The lamp shines the brightest when there is no wind. When held high with steady hands and given time to examine things around, views become clearer, and the more certain we are along our way.

Use Your Faculties Fully and Wisely

Our brain is made up of the left hemisphere, the thinking and reasoning part, and the right hemisphere, the seat of creativity and imagination. Together they reveal an enormous capacity of intelligence, which are pictured in eight realms. These are

1. Logic
2. Languages
3. Music
4. Spatial
5. Interpersonal
6. Intrapersonal
7. Kinesthetics
8. Naturalism

From these realms the teacher draws out his best qualities. He explores, decides, adapts, entertains, leads, and stands courageously to lead the young.

Here he sows the seed of knowledge. And in the young the seed grows, and grows, which the educator Henry Adams expresses in this line.

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”