Thursday, March 27, 2014

Flow gently, sweet little stream

Painting and poem by Abe V Rotor

Flow gently, sweet little stream in acrylic (2' x 4') by AVR 2012
Flow gently, sweet little stream,
     and I will sing you a praise;
Flow gently down the little valley,
     and I will go with your ease.

Flow gently sweet little stream,
     for you have time to tarry;
Flow gently around rocks and hills,
     meander and be merry.

Flow gently, sweet little stream,
     and do not grow up too soon;
Flow gently with the watershed,
     catching the rains in monsoon.

Flow gently, sweet little stream,
     living link of sky and sea;
Flow gently among the creatures
     in your care, play and be free. 

Flow gently, sweet little stream,
     away from the hands of men;
Flow gently in this hidden den,
     this lovely patch of Eden. ~

Bryophytes: Link of Protists and True Plants

Bryophytes:  Link of Protists and True Plants
Dr Abe V Rotor
Moss (Musci)
Liverwort (Marchantia) 
 Hornwort (Anthoceros)

Bryophytes are the intermediate forms of life between the Algae (Kingdom Protista) and the Tracheophytes (Vascular) or true plants. Bryophytes bridge the evolution of life in the Plant Kingdom.

Anyone who has seen “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids," or the second travel of Gulliver in Brodningnag, could easily place himself into imagery where small things are very big.

A blade of grass becomes a perfect slide, an ant becomes a pony for going places, a raindrop can knock one down hard.

Now imagine the lowly moss to be as large as a tree. A liverwort becomes a large green carpet shaped like a liver. A hornwort has pinnacles in Gothic style. When you are microscopic in size, everything you see around you becomes large.

Bryophytes are the link between the two kingdoms of the protists, and the true (or vascular) plants. They are early forms of plants, which botanists believe to have stopped evolving. Thus, they are today what they were millions of years ago. They are, indeed, living fossils.

Observe a piece of rock covered with bryophytes. It appears like a miniature forest under the magnifying glass. It is dense and every space is occupied by structures that look like trunks and leaves. On closer look, however, these structures are not true organs, because they lack vascular tissues, which are found in higher plants. The tissues are needed for water and food to flow to keep the plant alive.

Alternation of Generations

The moss has a unique two-in-one life cycle. Botanists describe the gametophyte as either male or female plant, while the sporophyte is one containing the total number of chromosomes. The former carries only half the number of chromosomes (haploid). When the sporophyte plant matures, it produces spores, which will germinate and develop into gametophytes. When the gametophytes mature, they form both eggs and sperms that fuse together to form a zygote. The zygote grows into another sporophyte that will carry the next generation. This alternation of generation is the key to the survival of bryophytes even under harsh conditions.

Bryophytes are Nature’s Soil Builder

When the plants are uprooted, one will find soil underneath. This means that bryophytes grow on rock by digesting it first with acid. The softened rock yields to the roots and releases elements needed for growth and development. As the plants die, their organic debris is mixed in with the rock particles and form into soil.

Since bryophytes are short-lived and seasonal, the soil deposit becomes thicker by each generation, with the plant borders extending to form new frontiers. Soon entire walls and rocks become covered like a green carpet. As the bryophyte community expands to reach its peak and climax, more and more organisms become dependent on it. Millipedes find it an ideal place for a home, while providing their nutrition. Insects frequent the place as a hunting ground for their prey. Frogs, however, stay near the byrophytes to stalk the insects.

Bryophytes Create a Microclimate

A carpet of mosses on the wall or rock feels soft to the touch. It is thick and spongy. When it rains, the carpet absorbs and stores the water. At night and early in the morning, dew precipitates and is absorbed by the moss, creating a microclimate in the surrounding area that is favorable to other plants.

With the passage of time, new plants grow out from the middle of the carpet. This is the beginning of the second part of plant invasion, courtesy of the ferns. The plants are large and diverse, the forerunners of vascular plants which once dominated the Carboniferous forest, even before the dinosaurs roamed the earth.

Ferns actually form a canopy above the moss carpet, and as they do, they block the sun, wrest for space and compete for water. Fern roots wedge the open cracks in the rock, sending boulders down together with their tenants. While it is catastrophe to the pioneering plants, it is advantage to others. Nature works its way following a formula aimed at dynamic balance or homeostasis.

Soon the bryophytes do not only lose their dominance to the ferns, they have lost the place. Their job is over because the rock is gone.

“What good is rock when it loses the essence from which life rises?”

So thus the fern continue to change the landscape. When nature writes “finis” to the lowly moss, larger plants, like trees, come around, and soon the place becomes a forest. And life goes on.
Phylogeny of the Bryophytes 
Land plants





"Protracheophytes", such as Horneophyton or Aglaophyton

Tracheophytes or Vascular plants

Acknowledgement: Photos Wikipedia

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

THE AGONY OF THE GARDEN - A Reaction to St. Paul and the Groaning of Creation

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 
Saul falls from his horse on Damascus Road and was blinded. He heard a voice, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" It was Saul's conversion into one of the greatest apostles, St Paul of Tarsus. (Mural by AVR, 8ft x 8ft, former Museum of St Paul U, Quezon City) 

You can hear the earth breath, old folks used to tell us kids. We believed in them. It was part of our belief and culture on the farm. In some unspoiled landscape. On a patch of Eden, in romantic parlance. Being keen and observant about nature’s ways is as natural as being a farmhand, taking the carabao to the pasture – and back after school before sunset.

Or flying kites at harvest time. We would stay late after the Angelus keeping company with the harvesters building haystacks (mandala) or gleaning some panicles strewn on the field. Then we would go home keeping our cadence with the breathing earth. A skink dashes here, the bamboo grove creaks in the slightest breeze, a gecko lizard makes a sonorous call. The crickets are happiest in summer. The fowls roost on their favorite tree, synchronized by the drooping of Acacia leaves. Soon fireflies become visible. They light our path inside our pocket. It is picturesque of the Gleaners of Millet or Wheatfield of Van Gogh. The rustic paintings of rural life by our national artist, Fernando Amorsolo.

When we were kids the “sound of creation” was a beautiful one. It was a sound of sigh, of relief, of contentment. It goes with kind words, meekness, and joy. Sometimes it breaks into laughter and peals of thunder. After harvest the earth takes a break. The bounty we get becomes “Santa Gracia” of the family.  Like the body, the field takes a rest we call fallowing. Energy is recharged at the end of a cycle in order to prepare for the next one.

Summer wears off easily. The rain comes. And we kids would run into the rain, sans fear, sans anything. It was pure joy. Soon the earth is green once more. And this is the way our world goes round and around, ad infinitum.

You can hear the earth under your feet. But it’s a different sound now. It is groaning. It is the sound of pain, of distress, of agony. It is a different scenario. It’s the opposite.

This is the scenario presented in Sister Bernardita Dianzon’s paper and pictured in the CBCP’s report. It would be painful for one who had lived with the art of Amorsolo or the naturalism of Darwin to see eroded mountains, bald hills, silted waterways, and dried up river beds. And to live with polluted air, accumulating doses of pesticide, mutated pathogens, genetically engineering food we call Frankenfood. To live in the confines of a world of computers. And rigid institutions. Yet lose our sense of permanence. Where is home? What is the essence of who we are and why we are here?.

Who are we? The paper asks. Where is the humane in human, the kindness in humankind? Being in human being? Humanus in Humanity?

This is the groaning of creation, a sound that disturbs our sleep. That calls, Don’t go gentle into that good night. Which takes us to the letter of Paul which in part says, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now.” (Rom 8:22)

Paul was the best authority in his time to raise such issue, having traveled far and wide on three continents – Europe, Asia and Africa – practically the whole world then. He must have traced some routes of Alexander the Great in his conquest from Macedonia to India and back 500 years earlier. He knew well the Persian Empire – the biggest empire the world had seen, bigger than the Roman Empire in the height of its power. He must have known the uniqueness of different cultures – including the barbaric tribes - the Vikings, Ostrogoths Visigoth, the Saxons, Angles, and even the dominance of the Khans of China and Mongolia. He knew the strengths and weaknesses of leaders like Xerxes, Darius, Hannibal.

Mural, Arrival of the first St Paul of Chartres missionary sisters in the Philippines, SPCQC, by the author and his family 

And the declining power of Rome then. It was when the northern provinces including England were ceding from the centralized authority – All roads lead to Rome. Rome had grown too big, the Dinosaur Syndrome was creeping in. Paul knew when to strike with “a book and a sword.” The message is clear and firm: To spread Christianity and defend it. He was a general, and a general again in the name of Christianity.

Creation to Paul is a holistic one – the biological and physical world, the forest and valley, the rivers and the seas, the land on which humanity was born and being nurtured. The society man built and continues to build. The culture that shares his society. The commonalities and differences of people - their achievements, goals and aspirations.
Paul was a realist, with supreme military background. Thus he was also a strategist, fearless, adventurous.

Yet the inner man – the Little Prince in him, to recall Saint-Exupery’s famous novel of the same title – is a gentle kind, hopeful and patient. Which makes him an paragon of change - persuasive, sincere, and selfless.

I can imagine Paul’s concept and description of creation. First he referred to “a creation associated with labor pain.” The giving forth of new life. The birth of a baby. The germination of a seed. The metamorphosis of a butterfly. The rise of a new island. The formation of a valley. The growth of a mountain. Of a new river or a delta.

The sun is born everyday. Buds are born in spring. The desert suddenly bloom after an occasional rain. The fields ripens in summer. Even a volcano erupts and enriches the soil in its surroundings. And there are creatures born with some difficulty. But it is a groan of joy. It is a groan of self fulfillment and victory. It is a groan of happiness which at the end is shared by many.

But why did Paul express frustration in the same subject of creation?

Paul expressed frustration as a result of man’s disobedience. “Cursed in the ground because of you.” He said and pointed at man with a warning of Armageddon, “ … you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

But Paul also saw renewal in man’s sinful ways. He too, was once sinful. But on one dark night on the road to Damascus he changed, a 360-degree turn. His enemies became not only his friends – he became their protector. And helped preserve and nurture their new faith, increased their numbers even through extreme danger and sacrifice. He was leading them to a new Paradise. The Paradise of Salvation.

We have to understand that, on the viewpoint of both faith and history. The “loss of Paradise” comes in three phases in the short history of humankind. The first was when man left the confines of a lush greenery described as a rainforest where he had practically everything for his biological needs and comfort, but it was the dawning of his intellect. Scientists and historians compare the Africa before and the Africa of today – the shifting of that great forest cover to a grassland where game animals roamed, and finally becoming into a dry land – the great Sahara desert – shaping man as Homo sapiens and hunter-gatherer, a life he followed through many generations, and until now for some cultures. Until the second loss of that Paradise came once more.

Again the groaning of creation.

As man formed societies, so with different cultures shaped by each. Cultures united and cultures clashed because of the conflict of interests, of trade and commerce, of thoughts and ideas. Leading to deeper conflict, this times in politics and religion. This is the scenario in which Paul founded his mission. The renewal of a paradise of unity and harmony by embracing a common faith – Christianity. It is Paradise Regained later epitomized by John Milton - the same author of Paradise Lost which he wrote before he lost his eyesight.

Religious wars fallowed after Paul had done his mission. More people were killed in those religious wars between Christians and non-Christian than all the other wars of history combined. For more than 1000 years the world remained in a state of torpor. The Dark Ages or Middle Ages was a long period of constant fighting, the Roman Empire fell and dissolved into fiefs and small kingdoms fantasized in love stories, fairy tales and children’s books.

Again the groaning of creation.

Paul must have dreamt of the Renaissance though distant it would happen. And it did in the 15th century. The Renaissance was the crowing glory of the church. The Renaissance is the story of the Church. It was Paradise Regained Part 2. West met East, but it was not on mutual terms. Europe invaded and conquered the East, the Orient. A new era was born – colonization. The ideology of conquest and colonization is clearly biased on the part of the invader and master. The conquered were made to appear as barbarians and were doomed unless they submit to a foreign master and a foreign god. Rizal’s books clearly pictured the lives of Filipinos under Spain. Hawaii, a novel by James Micheners projects a worse scenario. The colonizers were self anointed masters of the world and of god.

For us in the Philippines as in most colonized countries, we remained subjects of Spain for 400 years. India was colonized by England, Indonesia by the Dutch, Indo-China by the French, and so on down the line. Practically all countries in Africa and South America. Asia and the Pacific became colonies and the natives were “living in hell,” as some historians recall, the slavery of mostly Negroes in the US, notwithstanding. It was Paradise Lost to these countries ruled by the so-called “civilized” masters.

Again the groaning of creation.

Colonialism ended towards the end of the 19th century and in the early part of the 20th century. A new Paradise was born once again – the Age of Nationalism. Liberty, Equality, Fraternity – the trilogy of the French Revolution became the universal cry for Democracy now led by the United States of America. Peace was short-lived. Two world wars shook mankind in disbelief. And when the last major conflict ended a new order came out – the Cold War, the polarization of the whole world into two warring camps – democracy and socialism. If there is a Dark Age here is a Cold War. Though the latter lasted for 50 years, in both cases, the quality of life was drawn down to a level whereby we ask ourselves, What is rationality?

Again the groaning of Creation.

If rationality – the power of reason to know what is good and bad, and even know the best and the worst of situations – is the singular gift of God to man, and to no other else among the millions of living organisms on earth, how come man destroys what he builds? Destroys that very thing he calls beautiful?  Destroys other living things, their habitats and the environment itself that he shares with?

Why should man wreck his only spaceship, the Planet Earth? And finally, why should man destroy himself, his race, his entire species? It is a shame to our Creator that we, humans are the only species that is destroying its own kind.

What is this rationality that scholars talk about? What is the meaning of faith? Prayer? Research? Teaching? Progress? Values? How can this thing rationality make us true guardians of God’s creation?

Creation groans. It protests. This time against man. Man is the enemy of the earth.

I presume that this is the “restlessness” of creation the paper discussed, and it could be that restlessness Paul described as the sin-story of Genesis 3. It is restlessness in man in seeking more and more of what he wishes to have – his want over his need. The quest for the highest building, the fastest car, the state-of- the art of entertainment and pleasure and comfort. Quest for a Utopia built from the wealth of the earth. And the restlessness to have more of these even at the expense of others. And at the expense of Mother Earth.

All in the name of civilization.

“The ultimate test of any civilization
Is not in its inventions and deeds;
But the endurance of Mother Nature
In keeping up with man’s endless needs.”

AVR, Light in the Woods.

But what is civilization? Can’t civilization hear and heed the groaning of creation?

It is civilization that wiped out the American Indian from the Great Plains. It is civilization that plundered the Aztecs and Mayas Empires. It is civilization that brought
the Spanish Armada’s to its final defeat. It was civilization that killed 6 million Jews during the second world war. It was civilization that built the atomic bomb – and dropped it in two cities to defeat a defeated enemy. It is civilization that made a clone animal, Dolly the Sheep. It is civilization that threatens the whale and the Philippine Eagle. It is civilization that is causing global warming and the many consequences destroying lives and properties. It is civilization that is causing today’s fuel crisis and food shortage. Drastic inflation and loss of currency value, the recession of America and consequently the world, ad infinitum.

All these constitute the groaning of creation. Creation gone wild and free. Creation without boundary. Creation on a global scale.

Man needs a model. Man needs conversion.

Paul is an embodiment of great men. We find in him the influence of Aristotle, the naturalist-philosopher-teacher, one of the greatest teachers of the world – the teacher of Alexander the Great; Plato of his concept of a Utopian Republic, the asceticism of Stephen the first Christian saint he witnessed while being stoned to death.

A touch of Paul is in Gandhi philosophy of attaining peace through non-violence, in Mother Teresa’s passion to help the poorest among the poor, in Lincoln’s heroic struggle in abolishing slavery, in Maximillan Kolby’s sacrifice by exchanging place with a doomed fellow prisoner, a father of young children, in a Nazi concentration camp.

Paul must have inspired Kenya’s Wangari in planting 40 million trees to reforest denuded and eroded watershed, and the advocacy of Fr, Nery Satur who was killed while protecting the forests of Bukidnon.

There is Paul in the online lessons in ecology, Paul in the syllabus in Philosophy of Man, in the books and manual about caring for the sick. Other than the pages of bible, more than a half of which he wrote or caused to be written, Paul is among the most read saints of the church of all times, indeed truly a doctor and a general of the faith. Paul is in the temples of worship, Christian or non-Christian. Paul is in every Paulinian sister or teacher and student.

Paul set a new horizon of sainthood, he an apostle – in fact, the greatest of them all, yet he was not one of the original apostles – because he never saw Christ, never walked with Him, never talked to Him. Yet Christ was his way, his constant companion. Christ was always in his heart and mind and spirit – and in fact, he gave himself and his life to Him.

Which challenges the church and us today. Around 10,000 saints - 30,000 to 50,000 including the lesser saints and the blessed ones - are venerated as soldiers of Christ and keepers of the faith. The concept of  sainthood took a new turn with the case of Kolby - that of sainthood for charity. Along this line are candidates like Mother Teresa.

But we have yet to have a saint for Nature the expression of God on earth, the environment. Indeed there are heroes for Mother Earth featured by Time and cited by governments, private organizations and civil society. Among them, Rachel Carson, Jane Goodall, EC Schumacher, including present leaders like Al Gore and Michael Gorbachev among dozens more.

But looking back to Paul, the investiture for sainthood is only by Heaven and it is for the glory of God. If that glory is the preservation of His creation, the protection of His face on earth, if that glory means relief from groaning arising from pain, loneliness, hunger, sickness, thirst, imprisonment, then that person who, like Paul, deserves the honor. He could be the first saint for the cause of the environment.

The earth actual breathes, the old folks used to tell us kids. I still believe it.

x x x

Evolution of Faith

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   

                                         Neo-Gothic church, ParaƱaque

Move over Baroque, once bastion of the ancient
world, evolved from the underground and grassy hut,
into mighty fort for war and worship - a kingdom,
until Gothic took its place - ah, freedom!

Soaring into Heaven, scaled not by walls or stairs
but by spires rising like swords piercing the blue sky -
until smog hid its view, and took away its purity,
no longer a rod to fear, pointing at eternity.

High rise buried Baroque and Gothic, with billboards
around; Gregorian chant turned to rock and pop,
in time passing, not by the clock but by the car,
and space a catacomb of concrete and steel bar.

Make way for the Messiah, make haste, we are told;
but who would he or she be? Of what race and tongue?
manger we no longer find, find the star by the Google chart;
does faith make any difference in science and art?

The world did not really change, but we - we did.
Creation, we're but a part - never the Creator, forbid. ~

Perspective - a crucial element of the art of painting

Paintings by Dr Abe V Rotor

Composite perspective shows collective grouping,
process, stages, and other forms of interrelationship.

Dichotomy and phylogeny perspectives are typical in
the living world and 
evolutionary patterns.

Lighting adds zest and freshness, tells time of the
day and good weather.

Concentric view has a spherical or tunnel effect such
as the setting sun, yolk of an egg, bonfire and the like.

V-perspective shows distance, infinity, fullness
and details of a scenery.

Vertical perspective shows height; it is heightened
by "foreshortening effects" - a technique found in
El Greco paintings.

Diagonal perspective gives a feeling of ascending

movement and flow; it also shows movement in
the opposite direction, nonetheless equally active
and forceful.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

UST GS: Earthworm, the Secret of Green Thumb

Dr Abe V Rotor
 Amynthas sp., a common Asian earthworm often cosmopolitan and introduced around the world.  UST Botanical Garden,  Manila 

Piles of earthworm casting, fresh in early morning, dries up and often gathered for garden soil.  UST Manila 

A lazy farmer I’m, lazy is the word,
When every one is busy in this world.

Among them a degenerate annelid,
That does nothing all day but dig.

In the night gleans the lawn of waste
And grinds it into organic paste.

That nourishes all that lives around
And me always on the run.

With no time to farm, yet a farmer;
I’m Rip Van Winkle’s brother.

For I rely on the lightning and rain
That make the field green and golden.

Seasons to fallow the fields in summer
Then wake them up from slumber.

The bees that make flowers into fruits,
The Rhizobium feeding the roots.

The yeast that makes the finest brew
The rainbow’s promise in its view.

The sun the source of light and life
That unburdens a farmer’s strife.

And the earthworm, my farmhand
Takes over below the ground.

A lazy farmer I’m, lazy is the word,
When every one is busy in this world.

And if my freinds call me a Green Thumb
It’s the earthworm, true and dumb. ~

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Research Triangle: Hydrangea, Caterpillar and Me

Research Triangle: Hydrangea, Caterpillar and Me   
Dr Abe V Rotor 

Mophead or Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) produces blue and pink flowers, and various combinations and hues, that many people think these are varieties or cultivars.  The fact is, the same plant may produce these varying flowers.  

What determines the color of the Hydrangea flower  is aluminum in the soil. Most soils have aluminum but if the soil is alkaline or basic - 6.0 to 6.5 pH (power of Hydrogen) - the plant cannot absorb the aluminum and therefore its flower becomes pink. If the soil is acidic - 5 to 5.5 pH - the plant can absorb the aluminum and its flower becomes blue. A mix of colors is obtained when the pH is between these ranges. This is the secret of gardeners producing Hydrangea of different hues and shades, other that deep blue or old rose pink.  There are other horticultural variations like density of the flower head, height of the plant, branching, variegation, and the like, that make Hydrangea an interesting garden plant. And this leads to another phenomenon of nature - dimorphism which is another challenging research. As the name implies a plant or any organism may exhibit  dual characteristics, like two patterns of leaves, or distinct variations termed as chimaera. In Greek Mythology the Chimaera had three heads - lion, goat, and snake. Its body was also mixed having the front part of a lion, middle of a goat, and snake for a tail. 

Came a banded caterpillar heretofore unknown,
shielded by the plant like its own shell,
and when the flower cluster one morning opened 
raced this hairy convict from its cell.

It fed on the leaves, not on the beautiful crown, 
for whatever reason beauty it spared,
and my inquisitive mind found another enigma, 
why the flower, neither black nor red.

and whoever this emissary of doom its name,
family and evolution, deserves study,
what these two creatures mean to each other, 
to me, and the whole of humanity. ~  

Armageddon Ticking: Defaced Earth from the Air

Dr Abe V Rotor
School project: Write the appropriate caption of each of these 13 photos. Make a Pictorial Essay from these photos. Next time you travel on air, take the seat by the window and photograph Mother Nature from the air. These photos were taken with a palm-size ordinary digital camera set on its maximum ISO.

Here is a series of aerial photographs taken on my travel to Roxas City from Manila and back on August 3 to 5, 2011, showing the different ways and stages on how the Earth is being defaced by man's activities.
  1. Expanding settlements 
  2. Rise of urban centers 
  3. Coastal runoff and siltation 
  4. Water pollution 
  5. Marginal communities 
  6. Vanishing shorelines 
  7. Pirated rivers 
  8. Clogged waterways 
  9. Super infrastructures 
  10. Deforestation 
  11. Desertification 
  12. Siltation 
  13. Illegal constructions 
  14. Heavy industrialization 
  15. Eroded hills and mountains 
  16. Submerged islands 
  17. Reclaimed coastlines and coral reefs 
  18. Garbage dump and incineration 
  19. Inversion layer and smog 
  20. Changing geography 

Armageddon Ticking

Armageddon in human hands released,
piece by piece ticking with the clock;
innocence denied, sanity defied
to the final shock.

Time capsules all into infinity:
pleasure and pain, evil and goodness -
all that is on planet earth,
into emptiness.

It's Sodom revived, so with the Flood
and Vesuvius a thousand times;
and in war none but the innocent
is the price.

And the god in man and man in God
in futile struggle comes to end
the earth shall be no longer,
so with a heaven.

Fabled paradise shall be no more,
lost and regained, and finally gone;
then a new world shall rise - perhaps
without man. ~


Photos were taken by the author on an airplane, Manila-Iloilo, with Sony Cybershot, and edited with Adobe Photoshop program.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

It's sineguelas (Spondias purpurea L) time!

It's sineguelas (Spondias purpurea L) time!
Dr Abe V Rotor

We kids in our time couldn't imagine summer without sineguelas.  It is a very inviting fruit tree growing in the wild or on some backyard. If you have a bamboo pole - which also serves as fishing pole - you will be able to fill your pockets with its fruits that stain skin and clothes when crushed. We would rather climb the tree and settle at the fork formed by its limbs like a hammock, and there we had our fill of fruits, stories and laughter.     

It is likely that those who did not grow up in the province may have seen sineguelas only in the market - but not all markets for that matter. Because it is not a popular fruit.  Beside it is seasonal. 

Here are some interesting facts about sineguelas.    

Sineguelas (Spondias purpurea Linn), or ciruela, plum in Spanish, hence called Spanish ciruela, was introduced into the Philippines during the Spanish regime most likely from Mexico.  The tree is large and squat, with fleshy trunk and branches.  Its wood is soft and not ideal for lumber and construction.

It is dehiscent in summer giving way to numerous fruits arising from the branches singly or in group. The fruit is eaten raw on reaching maturity indicated by the change in color from green to purple, hence purpurea. A decoction of the bark is an efficacious, astringent, antidysenteric and also in cases of infantile tympanites, often characterized by gas buildup.    
The mineral content and food value of fresh sineguelas in percent are: Phosphorus (P2O4) 0.11, Calcium (CaO) 0.01, Iron (Fe2O3)0.003, Proteins 0.63, Fats 0.09, Carbohydrates
21.16, and Crude Fiber 0.62.

Sineguelas is a relative of Hevi (Spongias cytherea) and Libas (Spongias opinnata) Family Anacardiaceae which produce edible fruits which are eaten fresh, made into preserves,or  cooked in stew.

This summer is a chance for kids to see - if not climb on - a fruiting sineguelas tree. And have their fill as we did in our time. 

If you wish to bring home the tree itself, just get a mature cutting from it a meter long or so, then plant it in your backyard (like malunggay).  It begins bearing fruits in three to five years. The tree has a lifespan of more than fifty years if grown from seed, half that long if it came from cutting. ~

Organic Farming - Today's Green Revolution for Health and Environment

Dr Abe V Rotor
Senior citizens attend to the barangay garden where most of the vegetables are organically grown.  Lagro QC
Above all concerns about organic farming, you gain peace of mind in eating products that are friendly to your health and the environment. Your fears of toxic metals like cadmium, lead and mercury are eliminated. So with residual toxicity from pesticides and chemical fertilizers. There are no antibiotic residues, induced hormones, engineered genes from bacteria and other organisms. You keep fields and waterways free from harmful runoff of chemical substances. Biologically, you keep down chances of pest and disease organisms to mutate and develop resistance.
Eat more fruits and vegetables, those grown organically – without chemical fertilizers and pesticides, antibiotics, and the like, and above all – not genetically modified. You will live a healthier and longer life - and kind to Nature, too.

It is true. The whole world is going green and organic. It is the current Green Revolution that provides the foundation of sustainable agriculture, balanced ecology, and healthier and longer life.

Here is a basic comparison between conventional farming and organic farming:

Conventional farmers vs Organic farmers

• Apply chemical fertilizers to promote plant growth. /Apply natural fertilizers, such as manure or compost, to feed soil and plants.

• Spray insecticides to reduce pests and disease. /Use beneficial insects and birds, mating disruption or traps to reduce pests and disease.

• Use chemical herbicides to manage weeds. /Rotate crops, till, hand weed or mulch to manage weeds.

• Give animals antibiotics, growth hormones and medications to prevent disease and spur growth. /Give animals organic feed and allow them access to the outdoors. Use preventive measures — such as rotational grazing, a balanced diet and clean housing — to help minimize disease.

As one who grew up in a farm and practitioner of organic farming, here are other features of organic farming, which I would like to contribute.

1. Minimized wastage. Example: gleaning of grains is done by chicken.

2. Milling of grains practically leaves no waste, even the hull is ground with bran to serve as natural fiber and roughage for animals and fish.

3. Less mess and odor on the farm through efficient recycling. Farm wastes – crop residues and animal waste - immediately go to composting.

4. Organic farming is key to tri-commodity farming – crops, animals and fish farming.

5. Agribusiness is highly profitable through organic farming. Farm produce is immediately processed like natural fruit puree, natural vinegar, natural fish sauce, and the like.


Mushroom is a health food, it has anti-cancer properties. It is the only vegetable that grows in total absence of sunlight.  

6. Freshness of farm harvest and products is enhanced, hence requires no preservatives.

7. Community-based farming is ideal with organic farming.

8. Direct marketing linkage with outlets and endusers.

9. lesser risk to human health.


Avoid giving commercial formulated food to babies. Prepare it yourself from fresh fruits, squash, sweet potato and other native plants. It is safer and cheaper.  

10. More environment friendly. It enhances ecology, that is, it promotes welfare of the ecosystem.

11. Less dependent on fossil fuel, favors tapping alternative and renewable energy sources.

12. Integrated with farm life, managed by family or by small and medium enterprise.

13. Aesthetics and quaintness of farm life through organic farming.

14. Farm becomes a tourist attraction as model in agriculture, ecology and sanctuary of wildlife.

15. Low technology, affordable and practical, thus less expensive.

Organic food has higher nutritional value and better taste.

 There is no substitute to buko (young coconut) as food and drink. The roots of coconut sieve toxic metals and other harmful substances from getting into the plant system.   

Results from Quality Low Food Input (QLIF), a 5-year integrated study funded by the European Commission, confirmed that the quality of crops and livestock products from organic and conventional farming systems differs considerably. Specifically, results from a QLIF project studying the effects of organic and low-input farming on crop and livestock nutritional quality "showed that organic food production methods resulted in:

(a) Higher levels of nutritionally desirable compounds (e.g., vitamins/antioxidants and poly-unsaturated fatty acids such as omega-3);

(b) Lower levels of nutritionally undesirable compounds such as heavy metals, mycotoxins, pesticide residues and glyco-alkaloids in a range of crops and/or milk;

(c) A lower risk of fecal Salmonella shedding in pigs.

Regarding taste, a 2001 study concluded that organic apples were sweeter by blind taste test. Firmness of the apples was also rated higher than those grown conventionally. In the market, organically grown fruits and vegetables look fresher and more solid.

Organic food may also have potentially higher amounts of natural biotoxins like solanine potatoes, as to compensate for the lack of externally applied fungicides and herbicides.

Organic farming favors community farms where the produce is geographically closer to the consumer. Local food is seen as a way to get fresher food and invest in one's own community.

Facts and statistics about Worldwide Green and Organic Movement.

• While organic food accounts for 1–2% of total food sales worldwide, the organic food market is growing rapidly, far ahead of the rest of the food industry, in both developed and developing nations.

• World organic food sales jumped from US $23 billion in 2002 to $52 billion in 2008.

• The world organic market has been growing by 20% a year since the early 1990s, with future growth estimates ranging from 10%–50% annually depending on the country.

• Organic food is the fastest growing sector of the American Food market. Organic food sales have grown by 17 to 20 percent a year for the past few years while sales of conventional food have grown at only about 2 to 3 percent a year.

• In Canada, organic food sales surpassed $1 billion in 2006, accounting for 0.9% of food sales in Canada. Organic food sales by grocery stores were 28% higher in 2006 than in 2005.

• In the European Union 3.9% of the total utilized agricultural area is used for organic production. The countries with the highest proportion of organic land are Austria (11%) and Italy (8.4), followed by Czech Republic and Greece (both 7.2%). The lowest figures are shown for Malta (0.1%), Poland (0.6%) and Ireland (0.8%)

• In Austria 11.6% of all farmers produced organically in 2007. The government has created incentives to increase the figure to 20% by 2010. Some 4.9% of all food products sold in Austrian supermarkets (including discount stores) in 2006 were organic. There were 8000 different organic products available in the same year.

• In Italy, since 2005 all school lunches must be organic by law.

• In Poland, in 2005 168,000 ha of land were under organic management. 7 percent of Polish consumers buy food that was produced according to the EU-Eco-regulation. The value of the organic market is estimated at 50 million Euros (2006).

• In UK, organic food sales increased from just over £100 million in 1993/94 to £1.21 billion in 2004 (an 11% increase on 2003).

• In Cuba, after the collapse of the USSR in 1990, agricultural inputs that had previously been purchased from Eastern Bloc countries were no longer available in Cuba, and many Cuban farms converted to organic methods out of necessity. Consequently, organic agriculture is a mainstream practice in Cuba, while it remains an alternative practice in most other countries. Cuba exports organic citrus and citrus juices to EU markets. Cuba's forced conversion to organic methods may position the country to be a global supplier of organic products.

Organics Olympiad 2007 awarded gold, silver and bronze medals to countries based on twelve measures of organic leadership. The gold medal winners were:

• Australia with 11.8 million organic hectares.

• Mexico with 83,174 organic farms.

• Romania with 15.9 million certified wild organic hectares.

• China with 135 thousand MT of organic wild harvest produce; and with an increase of 1,998,705 organic hectares.

• Denmark with 1805 organic research publications recorded.

• Germany with 69 members of. International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), the worldwide umbrella organization for organic agriculture movement, uniting more than 750 member organizations in 108 countries.

• Liechtenstein with 27.9% of its agricultural land certified organic.

• Mali with an 8488% annual increase in its organic hectares, and with a 10.9% 4-yearly increment of the organic share of its total agriculture.

• Latvia with an annual 3.01% increase in its organic share of agricultural land.

• Switzerland with a per capita annual spend on organic produce of 103 Euros.

Eating the right food enhances happiness, peace of mind, good health and long and active life - and the quality of your environment. This is a primordial Human Right. It is also the best you can contribute in saving the earth. Enjoy the quaintness of Farming with Nature.

References: Living with Nature in Our Times, Food and Fertilizer Technology Center publications, Internet.