Friday, January 31, 2014

Introducing Baby Food

Dr Abe V Rotor

Weaning - time to get baby to the dining table,
and move away from the bottle;
to learn taste, aroma, to chew and to nourish
food, and get ready for life's battle; 
a stage to rejoice, to find relief and joy, a baby
becoming a baby no longer;
in the art of nutrition and culinary, the baby
deserves the best we can offer. ~ 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Guimaras – John Milton's Paradise

Paradise Lost in Postmodern Times
Dr Abe V. Rotor
(Written in 2006, dedicated to the victims of the oil spill tragedy, and to those who rose to their finest hour to help.)
NOTE: Recently another oil spill incident hit the island.  Although on a lesser scale, the damage is likewise irreparable. This article is dedicated to the inhabitants whose beautiful place has become an unwilling victim of economic and technological progress. It is also dedicated to the brave workers many of them are volunteers, whose effort brought hope and light in the hour of need. From these the world can see the goodness and evil of today's modern living.  It is man's firm belief however, that goodness shall always prevail.    

Guimaras Island on the map

Irreversible loss of natural habitats covering thousands of hectares of mangrove, estuaries, coral reefs and sea grasses.  Fishing virtually came to a halt; other livelihoods closed down.

Guimaras can be imagined to be the Paradise in the Book of Genesis.

The big difference however is that 
on Guimaras Island Paradise was destroyed by man, whereas in the Bible man was banished from Paradise as punishment for his sin, and Paradise was preserved.

Nature reveals her beauty on the green fields that turn yellow and gold at harvest time. The pasture is a carpet green dotted with grazing cattle in roan, black, white and spotted colors, moving slowly, if at all, in docile pace that you think they are strewn boulders in the distance.

The trees, when the wind blows, sing in soft, plaintive, rustling notes, their branching swinging to the music. Towards the end of the year when the cold wind from the north arrives, their leaves turn into autumn colors of red, orange and yellow, falling off and littering the ground around. Now and then a gust of wind takes them to the road, and when the sun is up and you happen to step on them barefooted, they crackle and tickle. They send children giggling with delight. And they would rally the leaves floating down the whistling stream as if they were racing boats.

It is a similar experience you get when walking on the shores of Guimaras. White sands swallow you up to the ankle at the water edge, pegging you down. You cannot resist taking a dip or swim in the pristine water, and before you know it you are joined by colorful fishes, a school of them, bobbling to the surface to greet you and diving around your feet, sometimes playfully nibbling your toes. They live among the seaweeds and corals that make the forest of the sea.

And speaking of forest, look behind you. Afar the mountains are dark green because they are covered with virgin forests. They catch the clouds and make them fall everyday. The rain makes the trees lush, irrigates the fields, feeds the rivers and lakes and down it meets the sea. It is here where freshwater and sea water meet. It is call estuary.

The estuary is the sanctuary of countless organisms; it is their breeding ground, their nursery. It is in the estuary where mangrove trees, coconut and nipa palms densely grow, binding soil and mud to build a new land, or form a delta. On the sea side they serve as a living wall that buffers the impact of tidal waves or the sudden onslaught of 
tsunami. They are nature’s fortress to protect the villages, farms and pastures.

But these scenarios are a thing of the past. It is a beautiful dream that ended in a nightmare.

On waking up, the gentle people in Guimaras, a small island near Iloilo in the Visayas, came face to face with the biggest catastrophe that changed their lives and their island forever.

Oil spill!

A huge barge carrying millions of liters of fuel oil broke and sunk into the bottom of the sea directly facing the island.

The black liquid oozed for days, and continued for weeks and months from the sunken ill-fated tanker, and because oil is lighter than water, it floated and spread over many square kilometers, polluting the once pristine sea and beaches. Soon fishermen abandoned their trade. Tourists no longer came. Because oil is poison to all living things – fish, amphibians, corals, trees and the like – died. And under the shearing heat of the sun, spontaneous combustion finishes off the dying trees and palms.

Many people died – and more are dying due to the cumulative and long-term effects of oil, because being a hydrocarbon it destroys the liver, kidneys and nervous system. Many people got sick, mostly children. Schools closed. The streets were empty. There was little to buy in the market. Fumes filled the air, and into the lungs sending people to live elsewhere. Many of those who chose to remain got sick and died.

Ka Pepe and Aling Maria lost their only son. He worked too hard cleaning up the black oil that seeped under their house, until he succumbed to the deadly fumes.

“What have we done to deserve this?” The stricken couple asked. “Why are we punished for a sin we did not commit.”

"It is a wrath of God," a religious said with firmness in her voice, "because we have sinned." Many were angry with pointing fingers. Nobody could offer any other acceptable answer, until one said, “Forgive your brother who sinned.” Yes, it is Christian to forgive for the love of God. It was consoling. It made people feel calm compassionate.

Indeed there were many people who went to Guimaras after the tragedy struck. Fr. Ben said mass. Nuns sang hymns. Petron, the owner of the spilled oil, paid residents to clean their own homes and environs. Hairdressers sent shipments of hair to bind the floating oil, but this only compounded the problem of disposal because hair does not readily decompose and burning it further creates another problem - another pollution.

Others sent old clothing, canned goods, some money. Local officials visited places on rugged wheels, places they had missed in their itenerary before. Doctors and nurses worked into the   night. Media documented the tragedy. Victims were interviewed. There were volunteers who would come and go. There was no let up of investigations trying to pin down the culprits. Soldiers stood guard.

Every morning the curtain unveils this pathetic drama of life, and closes it at the end of the day, trying to erase it from memory and in the darkness of night. How long will this nightmare continue, one would only guess. Perhaps years. Perhaps a generation or longer. And future generations will never know what happened.

There were no laughters, not even from the children playing. The sea did not clap. The waves simply died on the shore, muffled under sludge of oil. A crow flew above, gave off some sonorous notes – the sound of death.

It is Paradise Lost in our times before our very eyes. ~

Photos Courtesy of Francis Allan Angelo, The GUARDIAN Newspaper; Wikipedia;  Acknowledgment: Iloilo City Boy
Field Trip to Guimaras:
 A Living School Beauty, Bounty and Wisdom 
Photos by the author

Field trip - on-site and hands-on learning. Participants to the Philippine Society for Educational Research and Evaluation (PSERE), representing 26 colleges and universities from different parts of the Philippines, visited the JBLFMU Ecological Park, listened to field lecture and demonstration, and experienced social immersion with the members of the community. Cruising by motorboat to reach Guimaras Island from Iloilo, and to the Southeast Asia Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) marine station, is adventure - a learning process seldom encountered by teachers and students in the city.

Scenes on Guimaras: Professors all, academicians, educators. The world is exploding with knowledge, the world is traveling on two feet (communication and transportation).  Tradition is left behind if not being waylaid, generations are losing their connections by culture, exposure, distance. We must keep abreast, we have to be computer literate, we go back to school, attend continuing education training, get ourselves involved in social immersion. This is PSERE's thrust in research, but research that looks not only to discoveries and inventions, but to ascertain the continuity, contiguity, and sustainability of progress, of proven techniques and formulas, of working models, of every research that contributes to the efficiency of  a system.     

Who qualifies as tour guide?  Field instructor? Like in the field of sports, he is a player himself - and somebody who has won medals and trophies.  So in science and technology, in marine biology, in explaining the mangrove, the flying foxes (giant fruit bats), in predicting a coming storm, the spawning of dulong and other species, sudden swarming of jellyfish. Why the deer is no longer around.  Are there still crocodiles in the swamp? Pick a leaf and he will tell you the plant, its scientific name and family, too. Why do starfishes stay on sea grasses, how are they harmful to shellfish like clams and oysters (because they have five arms alternately prying the bivalve which ultimately loses its muscle grip to keep close).  We smile for new knowledge, and at people who bring it to us in their simplicity and sincerity and friendliness.  
Meet Jun a marine technician of SEAFDEC (in blue green) an expert by virtue of long, rich experience and domicile by the sea since birth.  Ask about the giant lapulapu (kugtong), mother bangus, mullet (ludong), mayamaya, matangbaka, and the like, and he will recite their natural history at fingertip.  If he were in music he is a musico de oido (by ear), and if there is a blue thumb, counterpart of green thumb in farming, he is surely one in fishing. He is indeed a naturalist. 

Nature posters express concern on the environment by students who spend time in the Eco Park, making it an extension of the classroom and laboratory. Here they forget for the time being the TV, the computer, and other amenities of life.  It is communion with nature. ~

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Dog virus is deadly to tigers

Dr Abe V Rotor
Common virus that causes distemper in dogs and other canines is infecting tigers and other big cats. Tigers, among other game animals, are endangered by poaching and shrinking of natural habitats, now exacerbated by this newly discovered disorder. While vaccination is the practical approach in curtailing the spread of the virus, the procedure is extremely difficult to apply under wildlife condition. (Acknowledgement: PDI Jan 14, 2014)

Friday, January 17, 2014

Homemade vinegar from local 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.)
Chico and mango make excellent fruit wine and vinegar, Manaoag Pangasinan 
2. Peel and clean around two kilos of overripe 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 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. Cap the bottles airtight. Expose them 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 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 in 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.
Premium vinegar is made from pineapple, such as Del Monte vinegar 
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)/Nata de Pina  
Leuconostoc mesenteroides

The experience of making 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 for industrial raw material. 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 a 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 balikbayans. 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 cane, specially during a poor crop year.
Typhoon and drought damaged cane can be salvaged into previous natural wine. Fruits in season, and fruits that cannot pass for the market 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 College QC 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

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Grow Pechay without Soil

Dr Abe V Rotor 
Among Filipinos, perhaps the most popular leafy vegetable next to kangkong is pechay (Brassica chinensis).  No beef or pork stew (nilagang baka or baboy) is without pechay, so with “kari-kari,” a specialty originally made from ox tail topped with bagoong alamang (shrimp paste). Pesang dalag (mudfish stew) is without pechay.  Fried meat with pechay is common in carinderia. Pechay salad, anyone?  

     What do we get out of pechay?  What nutritional value does it have which contributes to health?

     According to nutritionists, pechay is rich in vitamins, iron, phosphorous and calcium. Vitamins and minerals constitute the so-called “glow” food group, which together with “go” food (carbohydrates) and “grow” or protein-rich food, completes the balanced diet pyramid.  Vitamins and mineral are keepers of good grooming, and protect the body from the attack of harmful bacteria and fungi.  They also make our bones and muscles strong, and make us active and attractive, adding zest to life.
Laboratory Analysis Report

     Nutrient analysis was conducted on pechay grown on two mediums by the Central Analytical Services Laboratory of the National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (BIOTECH) of UPLB.  Organically grown pechay (cultured in conventional plots fertilized with organic matter such as compost), was compared with pechay grown on hydroponics solution (soiless medium). Here is the result of the comparative analysis.

Table 1 – Food Nutrients
Medium Used    % Ash   %Crude Protein   % Crude Fiber   % Crude Fat

1. Org Fertilizer    1.06                 1.19                   0.38             0.09
2. Hydroponics     1.23                 1.32                   0.51             0.11

     Other than minerals and vitamins, we get from pechay digestible fiber which helps in the elimination of wastes and toxins from the body.  Regular elimination of toxins protects us from diseases such as colon cancer, kidney and liver ailments. It makes us more active and resistant. Although low in crude protein and crude fat, the amount is nonetheless important in supplementing poor diet.
     The advantage of hydroponics grown pechay over organic fertilizer grown pechay is in the amount of calcium, while the difference in iron is not significantly different as shown in this table.

Table 2 – Mineral Nutrients

Medium Used            Total P (ppm)  Total Ca (ppm)  Total Fe (ppm)

1. Org Fertilizer                 381.33                 918                   25.81
2. Hydroponics                  322.33               1400                   28.17

     Higher calcium content in hydroponically grown pechay is traced to the volcanic cinder used as substrate to keep the plant upright and its roots well spread in the solution. 

     These findings were derived from a group thesis conducted by   Anthony Pantaleon, Ian Sampelo, and Jason Javier, entitled Comparative Nutritive Value of Pechay Grown Organically and in Hydroponics in Tagaytay.  It is a collaborative work between this research group from the College of Pharmacy of the University of Santo Tomas and the University of the Philippines at Los Banos.  The samples were procured from commercial farms in Tagaytay that grow vegetables using both mediums. The increasing popularity of organically grown food on one hand, and the commercialization of hydroponics grown vegetables in the Philippines, on the other, has opened a new interest on the subject of nutrition.
Mineral Nutrients

     Iron (Fe) aids in the oxygenation of the body through the lungs and blood.  Since oxygen is essential to life, people who lack iron are anemic, docile and sickly.  The most practical source of iron is leafy vegetables.  Aside from pechay and other members of Family Brassicaceae (formerly Cruciferae), sweet potato or kamote tops (Ipomea batatas) is an excellent source of iron.

     Phosphorous (P) is important in the proper functioning of the brain and nerves, for which it is also referred, “brain element”. Iodine and phosphorous are very important in brain development of young people. Adequate phosphorous is also derived from other vegetables, meat and fish, grains, seeds and nuts. 
     Calcium (Ca) is important to long life because it does not only build but rebuild tissues in the bones and muscles - and all cells of the body for that matter.  Since women deplete calcium faster than men, higher calcium intake is recommended specially toward the menopausal stage. Other sources of calcium are milk, other vegetables, specially onion, cereals, poultry and fish. Calcium maintains balanced pH (acidity-alkalinity level) in our body, and promotes the production of hormones.

     People who are well provided with calcium have large and heavy bones. They are active workers and athletes and are sexually active.


     Hydroponics is not new in the country.  Way back in the 1950’s, the former Araneta Institute of Agriculture (now De La Salle University (Araneta) had been growing tomatoes and other vegetables in soilless medium or hydroponics. I had a chance to study and work on  hydroponics in its modern greenhouses. The professors of the institute were some of the country’s foremost scientists like Dr. Nemesio Mendiola, Dr. Eduardo Quisumbing, Dr. Deogracias Villadolid, Dr. Juan Aquino and Dr. Fernando de Peralta, who were then professors in this first private agricultural college in the country.

     These scientists saw the need for a scientific approach in agriculture even as Mindanao then was newly opened to agriculture.  It was the first time I realized that if we want to have food that is nutritious and safe, we must be able to control both the physiology of the plant and the environment in which it is cultivated.  These scientists were talking of agriculture very much ahead of their time.  

     Today the best tomatoes are grown in hydroponics.  In Japan I saw large-scale hydroponics in sprawling greenhouses covering several hectares of floor area.  Plants grow on continuously flowing solution without soil, systematic and fully computerized.

     In Taiwan, off-season melons are grown in hydroponics in greenhouses. They command premium price locally and abroad.  In Israel,  hydroponics is practiced virtually in the middle of the desert, a modern version of the biblical saying, “the land flowing with milk and honey.” 

     To give an idea what the solution contains, the formula is one that is based on specific nutrient requirement of a particular crop in its various stages of growth and development. Dr. Fernando de Peralta based his formula on University of Nebraska hydroponics and modified it according to local conditions for common crops, like tomato.

      For a hydroponics project, here is the procedure and the materials required.

1.         With 20 liters water, mix potassium nitrate, 20.1 gm; calcium nitrate, 6.7 gm; double superphosphate, 5 gm; and magnesium sulfate, 5.0 gm. 
2.         Separately mix in 1 liter the following: iron sulfate, 26 gm; manganese sulfate, 2.0 gm; basic lead, 1.6; zinc sulfate, 0.8; copper sulfate, 0.5. 
3.         After pre-mixing each group, add the second solution to the first and measure at least 18 liters. Together with tap water the remaining balance will be used to replace evaporation as may be needed. 
4.         Start with seedlings, of say, tomato.  Be sure they are sturdy and uninjured.  Keep them in place with string and mesh wire, care being undertaken to keep the roots undisturbed while the shoot is held upright towards the source of light.  

     Organic farming on the other hand follows the conventional method of cultivating crops on plots.  The big difference is to use organic fertilizer prepared from compost and farm residues, instead of chemical fertilizer.  Generally, organically grown plants are healthier and sturdier than those applied with chemicals. Chicken droppings are effective in controlling soil pest like nematodes, crickets, grubs, damping-off fungi and bacterial wilt.  Because of this there is little need to protect the plants by spraying chemicals.  If spraying cannot be avoided, use botanical pesticides such as nicotine, garlic extract, derris, and the like, which are safe to health and the environment. 

     Here is an insecticide solution against common pest of pechay.  In 5 liters of water, mix garlic extract from a whole bulb, and a little  Perla soap. (This brand uses coconut oil in saponification, most commercial brands used fossil-based oil.) Filter and use this solution as spray, or with the use of sprinkler. It is best to apply after watering the plants, so that the pesticide effect remains longer or until the next watering. Repeat application until the plants are two weeks old.   

     Repellants like garlic, lantana, chrysanthemum, ginger, and the like, have been found to keep off many insect pests, thus eliminating the need to spray with chemicals. Do not hesitate to consult your local agriculturist.

     The Hydro Garden, Talisay City, Cebu, of Ms Ulyssa Marie. Practical hydroponic gardening - passion and hobby. 

Grow Pechay  at Home
First, sow the seeds in seed trays made from discarded carton egg trays, one to two seeds per “hole” or socket.  At transplanting time, scoop each seedling from the tray without damaging the roots, and transfer it to a one-liter plastic pot filled with soil and compost.  This substrate is prepared by scraping the topsoil of a garbage pile.  Include the ash.  Sieve to remove other materials. 

     Old tires can be used in place of pots.  It can accommodate up to twenty plants.  In 30 days you can start harvesting pechay, leaving the smaller ones to allow them to grow further.  You may harvest only the mature leaves so that you can have a continuous supply of this vegetable until it flowers and produces seeds, in which case you can start a seed nursery for a second or third crop. 

     Why buy pechay when you can raise it at home, either through organic farming, or hydroponics -  or by simply growing them in pots or old tires.  Think of both economics and ecology: nutritious food, good health, outdoor exercise, source of income, and a beautiful and clean surrounding.

Organic Pechay: Corazon showing her organically-grown pechay
500 model farmers will be trained on organic farming to increase their production at the same time mitigate climate change. They will establish model farms and teach the technologies to other farmers.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Therapeutic Effects of Violin and Nature

Therapeutic Effects of Violin and Nature
Dr Abe V Rotor
Violin and Nature is an experimental approach to music

Music must be elevated from the level of entertainment and expression of skills to one that brings the listener to a state of catharsis, relieving him of the stresses and tensions of daily living. Music therapy is now recognized as part of alternative medicine. There are musical compositions that bring about the so-called Mozart Effect, named after Amadeus Mozart whose compositions are acclaimed by scientists to be the most therapeutic of all musical compositions, even among his contemporaries in the classical and romantic schools.

This article is the result of a research conducted by the author with his class at the UST Graduate School as respondents to the hypothesis that the combination of Violin and Nature sounds has therapeutic effects to the listener. And if so, how? What aspects of our body physiology, mind, psyche, and spirit are affected? In what ways, and how do we measure such effects?
Cover of tape, later copied into CD. Shorter versions are available: Violin and Birds, Violin and Waves
Can auditory art be developed by converting word to music, and re-create the sound of nature to accompany it? The idea is to find a compatible blend of science - the prosaic and formal, with humanities - the entertaining, cultural, and the sounds of nature, definitely a rare experience that takes place in the inner vision of the mind. Violin and Nature is a CD recording or 32 extemporaneous popular and semi-classical compositions played on the violin by the author with accompaniment of birds, insects, wind, waterfall and running stream.

People say, “ Relaks lang” or “just do it” as part of daily conversation. Either it is taken as advice or compliment, the message is clear: life today is growing tenser. “ Take it easy” has a reassuring note that everybody must learn to live in a stressful world.

Both the poor and rich are subject to different forms of stress, so with the city and village dweller. Ironically, stress does not spare growing affluence. In fact, it persists invariably throughout life, virtually from womb to tomb.

The idea of dealing with tension or stress is how one is able to reduce it effectively so as to enjoy life and get rid of its complications from headaches to various psychosomatic symptoms- and eventual health problems, if it is not checked on time.

One proposal is the use of therapeutic effects of music and nature, thus the rationale of this experiment that employs the combined soothing sound of the violin, and the harmony of nature.

Music is well known to reduce tension. Pipe-in music increases work efficiency in corporate offices, takes out boredom in otherwise monotonous assignments, and fosters proper attitude and disposition, when correctly applied. In fact, scientists have established the biological basis of music by being able to increase the production efficiency in poultry and livestock with the use of background music. The key is the reduction of stress in the animal. The same result has yet to be established in plants.

A stressful life builds tension in the body. Headache, wakefulness, palpitation, indigestion, trembling and many other symptoms, which wear away the life force, accompany tension. Tired nerves need rest and quiet, as nature needs time to recuperate her exhausted energies.

What is tension? It is the effort that is manifested in the shortening of muscle fibers. Physiologists compare muscle tension with “neuromuscular relaxation” to differentiate popular interpretation of relaxation as amusement, recreation, or hobbies. To be relaxed is the direct physiology opposite of being excited or disturbed.

Neurosis and psychoneurosis are at the same time physiological disturbance, for they are forms of tension disorders. Therefore, the key to treatment lies in relaxation.

Who are victims of tension? Everybody is a candidate. These are models of tensed individuals: the “burnt out” housewife, the tagasalo in the family, the gifted child, the dominant lola, the authoritative patriarch. These persons themselves are not only victims of tension; they spread tension among people around them.

Multitudes long for a better life, but they lack courage and resolution to break away from the power of habit. On the other hand, many escape from the harsh realities of life by taking alcohol and drugs.

The whole idea of relaxation is in disciplining the body to budget life’s energies, and to immerse oneself to relaxing moods. Music and nature are a great inexhaustible source. Plato and Confucius looked at music as a department of ethics. They saw the correspondence between character of man and music. Great music, they believed, is in harmony with the universe, restoring order to the physical world. Aristotle on the other hand, the greatest naturalist of the ancient world supported the platonic view, which through the Renaissance to the present dominate the concept of great composition. Great music has always been associated with God’s creation.

Nature on the other hand, produces calming effects to the nerve. Sightseeing, picnic and camping are a good break to prosaic city life. Different from ordinary amusements in the park or theater, the countryside is one arena of peace and quiet. Features on TV and print media provide but an alternative scenario. Today “canned” Nature is being introduced in many forms such as traveling planetarium, CD-ROM Nature Series, Ecology Village, and the like, to illustrate the growing concern of people to experience the positive effects of Nature in an urban setting characterized by a stressful modern life.

This experiment is based on the premise that the combined effects of music and Nature help reduce tension in daily living, particularly among working students in the city.

Conceptual Framework
A- Tension tends to dominate the body to relax, resulting in tension build-up in the muscles;
B- Music (violin solos) and Nature’s sounds( birds, running stream etc.) make a composition which provides a rare listening experience in varying intensity; and
C- The experience enhances relaxation, reduces tension and its physiologic effects in the individual.

The Violin and Nature recorded in compact disc (CD) was then presented for evaluation to students in Research Methodology at the UST Graduate School on two aspects, namely, the content of the tape and the perception of the respondents. Physiologic response was determined by measuring the pulse rate before and after listening to eight sample compositions from the tape for thirty minutes.

These are as follows:

1. Serenade by Toselli (semi- classical)
2. Meditation, from the Thais by Massenet (classical)
3. Lara’s Theme (sound track of the movie, Dr. Zhivago)
4. Beyond the Sunset (ballad)
5. Paper Roses (popular)
6. A Certain Smile (popular)
7. Fascination (popular dance music)
8. Home on the Range (country song)

Respondents Profile

This is the profile of the 42 respondents, which made up one class in research methodology. They are predominantly female students (81%), employed (86%), with ages from 21 to 29 years old (76%).

Content Analysis
The respondents counted eight tunes or pieces, of which 5 are familiar to them. They identified three non-living sounds (running stream, wind, and waterfall, aside from the violin), and two living sounds (mainly birds).

Physiologic Response
The average pulse rates before and after listening to the tape are 79.47 and 73.29 per minute, respectively, or a difference of 6.18. Statistically, the difference is significant, thus confirming the relaxing effects to the respondents after listening to the CD.

The ten criteria used in rating the perception of the respondents are ranked as follows, adopting the Likert Scale. Note: A scale of 1 to 5 was used, where 1 is very poor, 2 poor, 3 fair, 4 good, and 5 very good.

Criteria Rating Rank
1. One has the feeling of being
transported to a Nature/Wildlife scene. 4.48 1

2. Listening to the tape creates an aura
of peace and serenity. 4.39 2

3. The composition is soothing to hear,
Has calming effect on the nerves. 4.24 3

4. The composition creates a meditative
mood. 3.95 4

5. It brings reminiscence to the
listener of a past experience. 3.64 5

6. It helps one in trying to
forget his problems. 3.59 6

7. One has the felling of being
transported heavenward, to Cloud 9. 3.55 7

8. There is tendency to sleep while
listening to the composition. 3.52 8

9. It brings about a nostalgic feeling. 3.19 9

10. The composition makes one
sad and melancholic. 2.55 10

Analysis and Interpretation
The means the first three criteria fall between good and very good, while the others, except the 10th, are between fair and good. This finding supports the positive relaxing effects of Violin and Nature.

Conclusion and Recommendation
Listening to Violin and Nature slows down pulse rate significantly, thus reducing tension, and brings the listener closer to a state of relaxation. The effects are measured as based on ten criteria. Topping the scores which are classified Very Good are:

1. One has the feeling of being transported to a Nature /Wildlife Scene;
2. Listening to the tape creates an aura of peace and serenity; and
3. The composition is soothing to hear, and has calming effect on the nerves.

There are six other parameters that support the hypothesis that the CD is relaxing. This is different from its effect of bringing nostalgia, sadness and melancholy that received the lowest scores and rankings.

However, there is need to improve the quality of the compositions, and their recording. It is also recommended that similar evaluation be conducted on other age groups and people of different walks of life who are similarly subject to stressful life and environment. ~

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Takong - the Nest-Building Sow

Dr. Abe V. Rotor

Crossbred offspring shows traces of its native parent - the domesticated wild pig

When I was a farmhand I watched Takong – mother pig, build a nest. She gathered dry banana stalks, rice straw, leaves, and if there were clothes or blanket on a sagging clothesline, they would likely end up as nesting materials.

Takong was a native pig and carried much of the features of baboy damo or wild pig. Her fangs were long, protruding and curved outward, resembling amulets. Her snout was long, her skin dark gray and loose, her hair wiry. She was seldom without caked mud over her body because she loved to wallow. She strayed on the farm, subsisting on rice bran, fruits and vegetables, or whatever leftovers there were after threshing or milling.

“Our sow is ready to give birth,” my dad announced. Takong had been in her nest and if it were not for her gray color, heaving and grunting, you would dismiss her nest as a mere pile of rubbish. That night I heard grunting and squeaking. Our sow was giving birth. The piglets came out at intervals.

As the first rays of the sun peep through the den, I cautiously searched how many piglets our sow had delivered. There were ten piglets in all! But none was wholly black like the mother. They had shades of white and gray, their snouts were shorter and upturned. Their father was of a foreign breed, stocky and bigger than Takong with snub nose and flappy ears. Takong laid on one side and obediently nursed her litter, each taking possession of a teat. "Just don't get too close." my father warned.

Father knows that even if animals have been domesticated, they still carry the evolutionary gene designed to protect their young against any enemy they perceive - which may include their own masters. Animals are most dangerous at nesting time and after giving birth until the young are ready to be weaned. Another warning my dad emphasized is that never touch the young, more so to take them away from the nest or litter.

We can't resist picking up newly born animals, like kittens and puppies, because they are lovable. Their mother can easily sense our intrusion. She may abandon the poor cute thing, or even kill or eat it. Or she takes the whole litter away to a safe place.

In the wild, animals can sense danger that may threaten the whole litter, if not the whole herd. According to sociobiology as proposed by Dr EO Wilson, altruism and sacrifice are actually part of behavioral instinct which is important to the survival of the species, to the extent of sacrificing its individual members. Murder and cannibalism among animals may be explained with this theory. So with sudden attacks on people by pets, by animals in zoo and circus.

Takong's offspring soon reached weaning time. Dad sold them as growers, leaving one to become our next sow. It bore less features of the mother than the father. " It got more blood from her father," said Anding, our caretaker. I named our future sow Turik, meaning multiple spots. We built a pen for Turik to protect her from the sun and rain, and from other animals. Feeding and watering troughs were made for easier work. Twice the local veterinarian came to give Turik immunization.

I missed Takong, I never saw a sow build a nest again.~


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Fishing for Peace of Mind

Dr Abe V Rotor

"Through years of fishing I have counted the blessing of this sport by good health and peace of mind - my biggest catch ever." AVR

Saturday 4:00 am
A hurried coffee anticipates your thoughts in the anchored boat. The shore wakes up very early with returning night fishermen. You receive “Lucky fishing” more casually than “Bon Voyage.”

5:00 am
You anchor at 10 to 30 fathoms, your companion calculates by sixth sense. Your other companion: absolute silence. By now the fish stirs to dawn and appetite. Cast your line.

5:30 am
The fish bites. The line jerks and grows taut. Tug to drive the hook in and pull but give a little line if he goes for a wild run. Ready the scoop net, and land him in. Probably your heart jumped with a seven-pound bite, a five-pound pull, but you get only a two-pound grouper or sea trout.

6:00 am
Your second or third catch, your partner’s fourth or twelfth. And he is not unusually excited. The sea is creaseless now except for ripples of small fishes chased by larger species. Occasionally a game fish stirs or a tortoise, which feeds of drifting weeds, pops its head out and lets a heavy sigh. Flying fishes playfully glide and splash in kaleidoscope colors. You squint at the early sun.

8:00 am
You try trawling. Your partner checks bearing for distance and location and idles the engine. Your line dangles far and you hold it firm as your boat makes the rounds. You feel a tug, give an arm’s length or two of line to allow the fish to take a big bite. When the fight begins, your companion instinctively pulls the boat to a stop and you continue pulling. Play with wit. It’s dorado, carelessly strong and fast. Tire him first for easier landing.

10:00 am
The sun beats on your Mexican-rim hat and old long sleeve. You reach for cold drinks and sandwich. You see boats, perhaps a dozen, each to its own. Fishing is a highly individual sport.

11;00 am
You return and dock in. Tie your catch through the gill. Feel the weight of the bunch at your heart’s content. Somewhere around the corner men talk about the big fish that got away.

It is time to cook your catch. Broiled fish and sinigang are best for a family picnic on a weekend.

It is unthinkable that a fisherman dares to be alone at sea, aware that his life is being dependent on a defenseless frail craft. Yet freedom and love for adventure dominate all dangers, as if by going to sea he satisfies an ancient craving.

Here he seeks contemplation to break a prosaic life style. Or escape heavy social demands. The fishing line, like a communication wire, carries messages outside of convention and even rational matters. It connects two worlds – the deep and modern man. The game is primitive but it is played with fair rules.

Ernest Hemingway’s character in The Old Man and the Sea dramatizes the ritual. To wit.

“He felt neither strain nor weight, and he held the line tightly. Then it came again. This time it was a tentative pull, neither solid nor heavy, and he knew exactly what it was. One hundred fathoms – down a marlin was eating the sardine that covered the point and the shank of the hook. He was happy, feeling the gentle pulling, and then, he felt something, hard and unbelievably heavy. It was the weight of the fish and he let the line slip down, down, down, unrolling off the first of the two reserve coils. As it went down, slipping lightly through the old man’s fingers, he still could feel the great weight, though the pressure of his thumb and finger were already almost imperceptible…”

Much is said of great men who were fishermen in leisure, or in deep thoughts. Darwin and Newton changed the history of the world with their discoveries. The greatest Teacher who ever lived was a fisherman. Ideas are the greatest catch.

Through the years of fishing, or casting, and occasional big time fishing, I have counted the blessing of the sport not by my average or biggest catch, but by good health, better insight of personal values, and brighter outlook in life.

I believe that our faculties are sharpened by meditative moments through which we subconsciously sooner or later, find ourselves with more resolve to the assigned task of daily living. Incubation of ideas is like building a structure. It takes place during contemplative moments. Why many decisions are put off until after well-spent weekend?

Fishing reminds us of humility. I was boasting of my first catch. Later, I realized it cannot even qualify for an amateur’s record. Didn’t I laugh at a fisherman who hauled a chunk of coral he believed to be a big fish? The day after that, I came home empty handed and nearly lost my life at sea and he was so sorry to hear about the incident.

Millions over the world enjoy this lifetime sport. “Once a fisherman, a fisherman forever,” so goes the saying.

When the rivers and brooks run with fresh upstream water, the ponds full, and where freshwater meets the sea, or after a tempest, or during new moon, go find your fish.

Although luck plays a good part, yet experience and knowledge are no substitute. Nobody though, becomes perfect at fishing there is always something new to learn, and often it is the sixth sense that works better.

Harmony with Nature, the key to peace of mind and happiness, is probably the ultimate in fishing. Isaac Walton, father of this sport, lives with his song:

In these flowery mead would be,
These crystal streams would solace me;
To whose harmonious bubbling noise,
I with my angle would rejoice.” ~

The author's long time fishing companion, the late Melecio Martinez, proudly shows a rich catch to a curious boy - who, too, may find someday fishing a meditative sport.