Saturday, November 30, 2013

Banana leaves - best food wrapper

Dr Abe V Rotor
Banana plant (Musa sapientum L) Cavendish variety; leaves and blossom sold in the market.

Banana leaves make the best food wrapper. It is practical, multipurpose, aromatic and environment-friendly.

Imagine if there were no banana leaves to make these favorite delicacies: suman, tupig, bucayo, bibingka, patupat, puto, tinubong, biko-biko, and the like. We would be missing their characteristic flavor and aroma, and their indigenous trade mark. So with a lot of recipes like paksiw na isda, lechon, tamales and rice cooked with banana leaves lining. Banana leaves have natural wax coating which aid in keeping the taste and aroma of food, while protecting it from harmful microbes.

 Preparing leaf for tamales, first by wilting it over fire, wrapping fish (dilis) with spice and salt, finally steaming.

In the elementary, we used banana leaves as floor polish. The wax coating makes wooden floors as shiny as any commercial floor wax sans the smell of turpentine. Banana leaves when wilted under fire exude a pleasant smell. When ironing clothes use banana leaves on the iron tray. It makes ironing cleaner and smoother, and it imparts a pleasant, clean smell to clothes and fabric.

This is how to prepare banana leaf wrapper.

1. Select the tall saba variety or other varieties.

2. Get the newly mature leaves. Leave half of the leaf to allow plant to recover. Regulate the harvesting of young leaves as this will affect the productivity of the plant.

3. Wilt the gathered leaves by passing them quickly over fire or live charcoal until they are limp and oily. Avoid smoky flame as this will discolor the leaves and impart a smoky smell (napanu-os).

4. Wipe both sides of the leaves with clean soft cloth until they are glossy and clean.

5. Cut wilted leaves with desired size, shape and design. Arrange to enhance presentation and native ambiance.

Keep in your backyard at least a hill of banana (mother plant cum tillers), preferably saba variety, and you will have all the things that the banana provides - ripe fruits, green fruits for flour and pesang dalag, trunk for ties, rope and padding, puso or heart for kare-kare.

And most important, the leaves - they make the best food wrapper. ~

Other leaf-wrappers
  • Gabi (Laing)
  • Mango leaves (tamales)
  • Woven coconut leaves (sinambong)
  • Buri palm (suman)
  • Pandan (kanin, arroz valenciana)
References: Wikipedia, Living with Folk Wisdom, AV Rotor

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Entomology: Twelve reasons I love insects

Dr Abe V Rotor
Cottony moth

                                                      Coconut or rhinoceros beetle; enigmatic firefly

1. I love insects for their honey, the sweetest sugar in the world, elixir, energy-packed, aphrodisiac, therapeutic, the culinary and confectionery arts it makes;
2. I love insects for their silk no human fabric can equal - cool in summer, warm in winter, velvety to the touch, flowing and free, friendly to the wind and sun, lovely in the night, royal on the throne, smooth to the skin, hypoallergenic, dynamic to fashion and casual wear;

3. I love insects for their shellac, the best varnish that lasts for years, unequaled by synthetic substitutes; their wax, the best lubricant and natural polish that makes the dancing floor alive and schoolrooms happy.

4. I love insects for the resin they produce with certain plants which is used in worships, to bring the faithful to their knees, similarly to calm down fowls on their roost, drive vermin or keep them at bay, pacify and make peace with the unseen spirits;

5. I love insects for the amber, transparent rock originally from resin, which forever entrapped fossils of insects and other organisms, complete with their genes and attendant evidences of natural history, enabling us to read the past, turning back the hands of time in visual imagery;
  Green beetle; leaf insect
6. I love insects for their crimson dye produced by certain scale insects that made the robes of kings and emperors, and only they were privileged to wear; likewise for their phosphorescence like the wing scales of butterflies that make the most beautiful and expensive paint for cars today;

7. I love insects for their medicinal substances they produce - antibiotics from fly maggot and soldier ants, cantharidin from blister beetle, formic acid for weak heart, bee sting for rheumatism;

8. I love insects as food, high in protein and minerals, elixir and stimulant, not only in times of famine but as exotic food in class restaurants, and on occasions that bring closer bonding among members of communities and cultures;

9. I love insects for all the fruits and vegetables, the multiplication of plants, geographically and seasonally, through their being the world's greatest pollinators; and in effect make the ecosystems wholesome, complete and alive;

10. I love insects for disposing garbage, of bringing back to nature organic compounds into elemental forms ready to be used again by the succeeding generations of living things.

11. I love insects for play, and for lessons in life - how they jump and fly, carry tremendous load which I wish I could, how they practice frugality, patience, fraternity, and how they circle a candle one lonely night and singed into its flame that inspires heroism and martyrdom;
Leaf insects resemble the leaves of their host plant
12. I love insects for whatever nature designed them to be, their role in health and sickness, , sorrow and joy, ugliness and beauty, deprivation and abundance, even in life and death, for I have learned that without insects, we humans - so with many other organisms - would not be here on earth.~

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

UST GS: Devolution - Reverse Evolution of Living Things

“Man has reversed the natural process of evolution and has put into his hands the pattern and trends as he wishes, playing the role of his Creator.” - AVRDr Abe V Rotor
The Earth is shrinking, orphaned like this Rock Pool. Painting by author

All living things, past and present, are progeny of evolution and are interconnected in one way or the other. And each one has a place in the phylogeny, the chart of evolution.

Imagine the organisms in countless numbers assigned in distinct groupings scientists call as “kingdoms,” with the ancient ones occupying the bottom, and the complex ones at the top. And each kingdom is divided into sub-groups arranged in the same pattern – from simple to complex members.

1. From the first Green Revolution – the transformation of man from hunter to farmer some 10,000 years ago – man has narrowed down the diversity of crops and animals according to his needs.

2. The loss of ecosystems all over the world as population and settlements continue to expand has not only predisposed species to extinction but caused permanent damage of these natural habitats, that it is virtually impossible to rebuild them back into their original states.

3. Life on earth is threatened by Global Warming which is causing sea level to rise and flood low lying area. On the hand polar ice and ice caps are melting. Global warming stirs climate change which is causing climatic disturbances. There is a increasing rate and intensity of typhoons, hurricanes, tornado, flooding, drought, and the like.

4. Pollution on land, water and air, in increasing levels brought about by industrialization, growing population and affluence of living, has triggered man-induced phenomena that threaten species and life itself.

5. Rapid population increase, industrialization and affluent living all lead to changing chemistry of the land, water and air. We do not only mix natural elements and compounds; we synthesize them into products foreign to nature. Plastics for example do not decompose, gases from car react to form acid rain, toxic metal run through the food chain and food web, and natural waterways are open sewers. These do not only disturb life; they maim, kill, annihilate; they turn productive areas into wastelands.

6. Man intrudes into the wildlife which continues to shrink. Gone is 80 percent of the rainforests of the world. Ninety percent of the coral reefs have been destroyed by over fishing and by reckless means. The grasslands are shrinking to give way to farming. The sea is being farmed. Islands are now owned by private persons and organizations.

7. Genetic engineering has broken down the barriers that separate species by directly combining genes of different organisms, thereby destroying the identity and integrity of species, and therefore change their behavior and interrelationships.

8. Evolution it seems is no longer a natural process, but one dictated by human intelligence that continues to build from the indulgence on the fruits of the “Tree of Knowledge that makes man as powerful as God,” the very thing that vanished his first ancestors from the biblical Garden of Eden.

Where have all the rice varieties gone?

There are more than 50,000 cultivars of rice presently stored in the Gene Bank of the International Rice Research Institute at UP Los BaƱos, Laguna. According to IRRI scientists this number represents but a fraction of the possibly rices (the plural of rice to denote distinct genetic variations) of the world since agriculture began some 5000 years ago or so.

Similarly at the Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento del Maiz y Trigo (CIMMYT) in Mexico the gene bank for wheat and corn faces the same problem as in rice, and if this is the case, it is logical that many varieties and cultivars of field crops we know today are but the selected few that man, the farmer, has intentionally preserved. In short, what these banks as well as those conserved by other organizations, are but the remnant of the world’s naturally occurring genetic pool on the one hand, and those genetically modified by man.

A cursory examination of rice sold in the market makes a short list of about a dozen misleading varieties as sinandomeng, wigwag, intan, which are pseudonyms to attract customers for the likeness of quality with those they have been named after.

To validate this observation through field survey one is likely to find even a simpler classification as upland and lowland rice, or aromatic, glutinous, red rice and the like. This is the same observation in the former prairies of North America, now the biggest cereal granary of the world extending across the Canadian border covering the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, there are only 10 major wheat varieties planted on the vast plains. For corn, the indigenous varieties are rare to find on the farm. Hybrid corn – a cross of two or more purified varieties – makes up the bulk of corn produced. Hybrids are unstable genetically. In the succeeding generations the lose hold on the genetic vigor of their parents, resulting in drastic decline in yield.

What is the implication of narrowing down the choice of varieties to be planted commercially?

First, it will result in indirect elimination of varieties in the bottom of the list, by displacement by the preferred ones and by neglect on the [art of the farmer in maintaining them.

Second, fewer varieties planted is food security risk. Severe damage to even only one major variety is likely to result in economic disaster.

Third, the narrowing down of genetic diversity disturbs the ecosystem, laying much on man’s care the survival not only of the cultivated crops but other living things in the area as well, thus leading to the further decrease in diversity and population. The loss of diversity in cereal lands applies as well in other areas as evidenced by the following:

• Vegetables sold in the market are limited to those that are salable, leaving out those that are not, and the so-called “wild vegetables” represented by such vegetables as bagbagkong, papait, sabawil, sword bean, and alukong or himbaba-o.
• The kinds of fruits may be counted by the fingers, and like vegetables, only those that are acceptable dominate the fruit stands. Today it is rare to find such indigenous fruits as tampoy, sapote, batocanag, anonang and the native counterparts of guapple and ponderosa.

• Industrial crops are also suffering of the same fate. Take the following:

1. Dipterocarp species of forest trees (narra family) are now endangered. These include apitong , yakal, tanguili, and guijo.

2. Fiber plants such as maguey (Agave family), ramie, kenaf, jute, abaca, have bee vastly neglected since the introduction of synthetics fibers.

3. Today bamboo groves occupy the fringes of wastelands and certain watershed areas. Traditional bamboo areas, like the Dipterocarp forests, are vanishing, so with many of the species and variety of this so-called giant grass.

4. The increasing demand for firewood has decimated many indigenous sources, what with the open exploitation for day-to-day gathering of firewood in marginal communities. These include madre de cacao, ipil-ipil, acacia, and aroma.
5. Even plants of medicinal value are being exploited severely such as quinine for malaria, banaba for kidney trouble, derris for insect control.

6. Seaweeds suffer the same fate as more resorts are put up, aquaculture selective only to those species of major importance are raised, deleterious effects of pollution, notwithstanding.

Agriculture, the Nemesis of Biodiversity Conservation

Whenever a land is cleared for agriculture five consequences are likely to happen. These are

• Direct elimination of plants and animals which interferes and does not constitute or conform with farming practices.

• Breaking up of the food chain and therefore, the disruption of the food web leads to the disorganization of the ecosystem. For example, a swamp converted into riceland will necessarily lose its natural biological and ecological properties. Loss of habitats results in migration or death of affected species.

• Modern agriculture, with the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, is destructive to the ecosystem.

Mismanagement leads not only to loss in productivity, as shown in this formula.

Carrying Capacity/Productivity = Biotic Potential divided by Environmental Resistance

The Carrying Capacity of an ecosystem is dependent upon favorable biological factors (biotic potential), which in turn is affected by the presence of factors that negate them (environmental resistance), among which are lack of water, poor soil condition, and destructive activities of man.

Decreasing productivity therefore, means decreasing biodiversity – which point to devolution of life as a biological phenomenon. x x x

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Trees, Trees, Trees

Dr Abe V Rotor
Towering trees on Mt Makiling, Laguna 
Clearing in a forest - a patch of the sky, slice of trail  (Mt Makiling, Laguna)
Towering dita (Alstonia scholaris); balete (Ficus benjamina)
Narra in bloom 

Note: Article in progress

Monday, November 11, 2013

Lost on the Desert - A Short Story

Lost on the Desert - A Short Story
Dr Abe V Rotor

He has been there for some time now filling up a well he made in the sand with water from the sea.

“What are you doing?” I asked nonchalantly, knowing what a silly thing he was doing. I acted like a teacher with the critical nature of one showing up.

Sandcastle, photo by the author

“You know, you can’t really fill your well, or empty the sea either.” I said with an aura of authority and a tinge of sarcasm.

He looked up at me and beamed a smile in the sun as he continued pouring water into his well. 

Fish were not biting that morning so I folded up my fishing rod and passed by the boy's well again.

Why it was an oasis model he made! Complete with a sandcastle, a pathway, a retaining wall and waterhole. The boy was no longer there.

That was a long time ago when I had the luxury of spending a whole day or two fishing, when weekend is a day of leisure and unwinding from pressure of work.

Who cares about one boy out of millions of boys building oases and sandcastles. What is the boy’s name? Oh, the only thing that lingers in my head under graying hair is his lovely innocent face and charming smile.

Years later, in my last year in government service I was sent to Israel to attend a Food and Agriculture Organization sponsored conference. What a luck! A pilgrimage to the Holy Land!

Tourists in general, love to take side trips, and I am no exemption. After touring Israel “tracing the footsteps of Christ,” I decided to continue on to Egypt where the Holy Family, according to the bible visited. So I joined a tour from Tel-Aviv to Cairo via the Sinai Peninsula, crossing the Suez Canal.

In the middle of the desert, we the passengers were told to register somewhere at the border of Israel and Egypt, before reaching the Gaza Strip. We left our bus and proceeded to an isolated police headquarters. The inspector looked at my passport and started questioning me in Arabic. I didn’t understand a word. He presented me to the officer-in-charge who spoke a little English. He said they are on a lookout for terrorists who attacked a tourist bus. After examining my papers which included those about the conference I had just attended, he sort of apologized and let me go.

Outside I met a blinding sandstorm. I lost my way to my bus. When I saw it, it was already far and moving way. I ran after it shouting until I was exhausted. Was it a mirage?

When the sandstorm subsided I found myself alone. “Where is the station, the road?” I was talking to myself, feeling abandoned.

In the desert the reference for direction is the sun, and at night the moon and stars. I remember the pilot lost in the desert in The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery. And Coleridge’s Water, Water Everywhere about a mariner lost at sea.

The sun was now going down. I reckoned, “If you go west, you will reach the Mediterranean.” So I walked toward the sun. Sand trapped in my shoes made my feet sore. “Surely there are buses, cars and people around,” I said, always keeping an eye on the horizon.

But there was none. I remembered what the tourist guide said, “Vehicles travel on the Sinai in convoy. You can’t travel alone on the long stretch of sand.” What if my bus was in the last convoy for that day?

I had never felt so hungry and thirsty in my life, and now fear was creeping in. I was empty handed; I left everything in the bus. “Now where is my hand-carry bag? My medicine? My camera? I had left them, too. Why did my bus leave without me? They should have made a roll call, at least a headcount.” I was in soliloquy. I was like the old man in Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea talking to himself in the middle of the sea. “But he had a boat. I have none.”

I used to tell tall stories, “You know, I was assigned in very dangerous places,” referring to Cordilleras and Samar island, bailiwick of bandits and rebels. But here the enemy is different - it is emptiness. And I would continue, “You know, I was twice taken hostage by dissidents and never gave in to their demands.” What if they tagged me an Arab terrorist! Here courage just turn into bravado, a kind of bahala na stance. I began to despair.

Sitting on top of a dune I imagined Alexander the Great searching for the Oracle at the Oasis of Siwa near Cairo. According to history he got lost, but how can a man destined to conquer the world get lost? That’s legend, and legends are for great people. And here I'm but a lost soul.

Oasis! That’s a bright idea. I could almost hear the melody of the song, The Desert is Hiding a Well. Yes, if I find date palms and olive trees, there must be an oasis nearby.” And perhaps people living there, and travelers passing by.

Climbing on to the crest of a taller dune reminded me of Golgotha. How insignificant I felt and unworthy of my cause. By sheer determination I whispered, "I would rather die on top of a sand dune than to be buried under it." So I stayed there straining my sight to where an oasis might lie. Again I remembered the Little Prince, not the story but what he symbolized – inner vision, unending hope. I needed any kind of encouragement now. I was desperate.

Suddenly, something reflected at the foot of a crescent dune, hidden by another. Water?

Eureka! Eureka!

And down the dune I ran, sliding and tumbling, and in a record time reached a greenery of date palms and olives, a waterfall pouring into a small lake, its water shimmering with the rays of sunset. I cupped the precious liquid with my hands and immediately quenched my thirst. And slept.

I saw a boy repeatedly filling up a well he made in the sand with water from the sea.

“What are you doing?” I asked. “You can’t succeed filling your well, or emptying the sea either.” He looked at me, his face beamed in the sun, and continued with his craft.

When I returned I found a beautiful landscape - an oasis!

When I woke up I was in a clinic, in the same headquarters I was earlier interrogated. A search team found me unconscious of dehydration and delirious with high fever.

“What is the name of that beautiful oasis?” I asked. The attendants just looked at each other. One of them wearing a stethoscope said, “You need more rest. Tomorrow we will take you to Cairo”

Today, I care about that boy, and millions of boys making oases and sandcastles.

What is the boy’s name? It does not matter. For the best thing that lingers in my head under graying hair is his lovely innocent face and charming smile, and a lovely masterpiece he made. ~

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Song for the Birds

                                               Song for the Birds in acrylic on canvas by A V Rotor 2011

                                     Song for the Birds
           Painting and Poem by Prof Abercio V Rotor, PhD*
                   For Rev Msgr Benjamin F Advincula, PC
Make me an artist to capture this ephemeral sight,
The colors of the rainbow fading into the sunset;
From where you came, to this little stream I imagine,
This bastion of your feathered kind from what it had been.

Make me a teacher that I may understand your language,
Your cheerful songs from your cries, that I may gauge
The difference of knowledge from school, and that of life,
Joy and sorrow, love and care, leisure and strife.

Make me a man, the forgotten child many years ago,
Long lost searching for the truth, from what I know,
That I may be worthy of my role in passing review,
To come down from Mount Olympus to your rescue.   

AVR as conference speaker, Archdiocesan Gathering of Priests in honor of Saint  John Mary
Vianney, patron of all priests, Archdiocese of Capiz, Roxas City, August 4, 2011

Energy shift from fossil fuel to renewable energy - today's global revolution

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

Giant wind turbine in Bangui, Ilocos Norte, at your finger tips. 

1. Solar or sunlight is the most plentiful energy source; virtually no place on earth is without sufficient supply throughout the day in all seasons of the year. Sunlight has many applications, from domestic (eg laundry) to agriculture (eg drying grain and fish). Here is a short list of utilizing solar energy
  • General drying
  • cooking
  • sterilization 
  • disease control
  • heating of homes
  • natural lighting 
  • desalination (saltwater to potable water)
  • solar battery (computer)
  • solar car 
  • electricity generation
  • arts, photography
2. Wind power has been the fastest growing energy source in the world since 1990 (Time). In the US wind power supplies 1.4 of total energy needs - from almost 0% of the total in 1973. What boost wind power is the government's large subsidy of $5 billion in 2010. Wind power is among the first to be used in industry.  Holland is among the countries that use it in driving mills, irrigation and manufacturing. The wind mill is romanticized by Miguel de Cervantes in his novel, Don Quixote.
  • sailing
  • ship mast
  • farm windmill
  • home ventilation 
  • wind tunnel
  • winnowing
  • kite flying, gliding
  • land surfing
  • electricity generation
3. Biofuel.  This includes ethanol from corn, sugarcane and cassava. Biogas from farm waste (piggery, ranch, poultry, organic wastes ( domestic) constitute 4.5 percent of the total energy production in the US, up from 2 percent in 1973. The US subsidy for biofuel is $6.6 billion in 2010.

  • alcogas 
  • ethanol
  • methane gas 
  • gasoline substitute
  • lubricant
  • drug, medicine
  • sludge (organic fertilizer)
  • bio fertilizer (Azolla, Nostoc, Anabaena)
4. Dendrothermal energy comes from wood. Firewood is still the num,ber one kitchen fuel in the world.
Burning rice hay is waste of energy and potential fertilizer and forage
  • firewood (gathering) 
  • firewood (farmed) 
  • crop waste (bagasse, rice hull, corn stover, hay) 
  • sawdust 
  • particleboard 
5. Hydrothermal energy cromes from natural hotsprings and fumarols. It is volcanic in origin. Hydrothermal circulation in its most general sense is the circulation of hot water; 'hydros' in the Greek meaning water and 'thermos' meaning heat. 
  • steam power
  • electricity generation
  • bath, resort
  • manufacturing, industry 
6. Hydroelectric generation works of gravitational force of flowing water which drives turbines to produce electricity. Other than this moving water produces tremendous energy which can be harnessed.
  • SWIP (Small water impounding project) irrigation and electricity
  • water transport
  • submersible turbine (electricity)
  • water impounding
  • rain harvesting 
7. Other renewable sources of energy
  • tide (high-low cycle)
  • wave action 
  • labor-saving devices (pendulum principle)

Dry twin waterfalls Patapat, Pagudpud (IN) - result 
of watershed destruction. Photo taken in December 2011