Thursday, May 29, 2014

Freshwater Farming: Business and Hobby

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday

Plapla, all-male tilapia through sex hormone treatment.

There are three ways freshwater fish can be cultured as pastime or business.

1. Family fishpond
2. Palay-isdaan (rice-fish culture)
3. Cage culture

Part 1 - Family Fishpond

A family fishpond is an enlarged version of a home aquarium. The requirements in taking care of the fish are basically the same – clean water, good aeration, sufficient feeds, suitable temperature range, absence of pollution – and above all, TLC (tender, love and care).

No wonder the aquarium is a source of joy to adults and children alike. And the ambiance it lends to the environment is therapeutic, especially for one who comes home after a hard day’s work. It brings the whole family together on weekends.

I missed my outdoor sports as a fisherman-enthusiast when I moved to the city some years back. To compensate for it I built a garden pond with a dimension, 4 meters long, 2 meters wide and one meter deep, and stocked it with some two dozen juvenile catfish for fattening. Three months after and the fish were ready for harvesting, I would gather the family into a backyard picnic, and how we all enjoyed inihaw na hito.

If you are living in the province, the conditions there are better. These are the things you can do.

1. You can enlarge the size of the pond so that you can raise fish for the family and the neighborhood. You can have separate ponds for tilapia, hito, gurami – or bangus, if you are living within the estuary.

2. Make use of the natural topography of the land using the lowest part (basin) as the pond. Be sure you have sufficient running water. If not, have a deep well ready to augment water supply. To reduce loss of water through leaching, compact the bottom with clay. There are now plastic sheets used as fishpond lining.

3. Stock your fishpond with fish of the same kind and size so that they will grow evenly. When  raising tilapia, avoid overcrowding. Tilapia reproduces very fast. Stocking with all male tilapia is important in obtaining even and fast growth.

4. It is cheaper to formulate your own feeds than to depend on expensive commercial feeds, especially where rice bran and fishmeal are readily available. Kitchen scraps, such as fish and  poultry entrails, are a good feed supplement. Avoid excess feed as this is likely to accumulate and decompose.

5. A pond has good natural food supply if it is rich in plankton. The color of the water is usually bright green. Plankton organisms are microscopic and highly diverse. Phytoplankton (mostly green algae) are photosynthetic, and together with the zooplankton (microscopic animals called protists), form the base of a complex food web, on which the fish ultimately obtain their nourishment. To increase plankton population fish farmers use appreciable amounts of nitrogenous and complete (NPK) fertilizer.

Care should be observed not to induce overproduction of plankton because this causes algal bloom. Plankton decomposition, exacerbated by over feeding, increases produces hydrogen sulfide and methane gas, increases carbon dioxide level, and reduces dissolved oxygen. Foul odor forewarns of disaster. Replace the foul water immediately with fresh water.

6. A fence made of nylon net is recommended during the flood season, especially in low-lying areas. This will also serve as a rail guard for the safety of children and pets.

7. For intermittent ponds, harvesting is done when water supply is low. This allows the fishpond to dry up, ready for the next season. In farming we call this fallowing or resting the land. This is true also with fishponds. For fishponds with sufficient water throughout the year, harvesting is done with lift net, selecting only the big ones, and allowing the small ones to grow. For Nile tilapia (T. nilotica), three pieces make a kilo is ideal, for hito, four pieces.

Part 2: Palay-isdaan (Rice-Fish Farming)

This technology is indigenous. What we call palay-isdaan is an innovation of a traditional way of raising fish and other freshwater organisms while the rice plant is growing in the field during the rainy season.

Many wildlife species are found in ricefields as their natural habitat. These are commonly freshwater fish like hito, dalag, gurami, martiniko, and lately, since the fifties, tilapia. Then we have ulang (freshwater lobsters), shrimps, kuhol, suso’, and tulya. Strong rains release these organisms from their hibernation, usually in carabao wallows, ponds, and river basins – or in mud where they were ensconced during summer.

The ricefields become one huge lake at the peak of the rainy season, and as the water subsides, these organisms are trapped in the paddies. Farmers pick them up for food, which is indeed a good source of protein for his family. Many find it a sport hunting them, while others find ways of protecting them until they reach maturity. The latter is the basis of palay-isdaan technology, which has these features.

1. The dike (pilapil) must be strong and high enough to prevent the fish to escape. To do this, trenches are dug around the rice field like a moat, two meter wide and one-half meter deep. The soil material is used to rebuild the dike.

2. Another model is to build a wide trench, 3 to 4 meters wide and one-half meter deep, running through the center of the rice paddy. This is usually done in low-lying areas where the water stays much longer. The trench serves as a natural trap for the fish as the surrounding water subsides.

3. A third model is recommended for irrigated areas where the rice field is managed like a fishpond. Here the farmer selects the fish he wants to grow, provides them with supplemental feeds, and gives attention more than what the other two models require. A commercial model would mean converting 30 percent of the total area into trenches.
Palay-isdaan is a revival of a virtually lost art and indigenous industry. Since the late fifties, the introduction pesticides and chemical fertilizers and their rampant use decimated wildlife in ricefields. As a rule therefore, unless the ricefields are free of these poisons, palay-isdaan will never succeed.
4. Because it takes time for the fish to grow to maturity it is advisable to plant traditional rice varieties which mature in 110 to 130 days. But this is feasible only where the rainy season is long and water supply is readily available. Traditional varieties generally do not need chemical spraying and fertilization - hence, safe to the fish.

Well-managed rice-fish farms in Central Luzon and other parts of the country can yield as much as 200 kg of tilapia per hectare. At P70 per kilo at source, the gross value is P14,000. While this gives 13 percent additional income, the farmer should consider a reduction in rice yield by at least 5 percent. Still palay-isdaan gives more income than rice monoculture.

Irrigated areas can have two fish crops a year, but this is not advisable because of the high cost of irrigation. Besides, it is virtually impossible to grow palagad rice (summer crop) without heavy dependence on chemical pesticides and fertilizers.

Whatever is our reason to engage in fishing, hobby or business, there is something more that we derive out of it. Let me count the ways. Fresh fish, added income, aesthetic value, clean air, sunshine, good exercise, peace of mind, companionship with nature, good health – and the thought that we are close to the Greatest Fisherman who ever lived. x X x

A Critique on the Lost Eden

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday
Light in the Woods, acrylic, AVR 1994

Forest Fire, Acrylic, AVR 1995
A long list of vanished and vanishing species - even those that have not been discovered and named – haunts the human species, Homo sapiens, the most intelligent of all creatures. If this is not an evidence of the original sin which he continues to commit since his early ancestors were driven from Paradise, then we are merely being led to believe in something bound by deep faith, and in something supernatural.

Every time we destroy a forest, a coral reef, or grassland, we are repeating the fault of our ancestors. The biblical story is fiction if we fail to grasp its essence. True, exile comes in many ways. But definitely, if an ecosystem is destroyed, if it loses its capacity to provide the basic needs of its inhabitants, starvation, death, and other forms of deprivation follow. Does this not trigger exile – or exodus, which is the ultimate recourse for survival?

Here is a poem I wrote upon reaching Tagum in Davao. It is about the destruction of a forest I related in an earlier article.

The Lost Forest

Staccato of chirping meets the breeze and sunrise,
Waking the butterflies, unveiled by the rising mist;
Rush the stream where fish play with the sunbeam
And the rainforest opens, a stage no one could miss,
With every creature in a role to play without cease.

John Milton wrote his masterpiece of Paradise,
While Beethoven composed sonata with ecstasy,
Jean Fabre and Edwin Teale with lens in hand
Discovered a world Jules Verne didn’t see,
But found Aldo Leopold’s ecosystem unity.

For how long to satiate man’s greed can nature sustain?
It was not long time ago since progress became a game,
Taking the streets, marching uphill to the mountain,
Where giant machines roar, ugly men at the helm -
Folly, ignorance and greed are one and same.

AVR, 2001

In 1960 Philippine Dipterocarp Forests occupied almost 14 million hectares. What is left today is only three and one-half million hectares. The average rate of decline is over 2 percent annually. What is more alarming is the decline in the volume of trees in the forest which around 6 percent in the last 30 years. All over the world, annual deforestation represents an area as large as Luxemburg. This means every tick of the clock is a hectare of rainforest permanently erased from the globe.~

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Yearn for Organic Foods

Dr Abe V. Rotor

Good health and good food go together, doctors tell us. Our schoolchildren learn the importance of proper nutrition, balanced diet, and even the advantage of food fortified with vitamins and minerals. Nutritionists advise us to take high protein food and inquire whether or not we are taking adequate calories. Lately, such terms, beta-carotene, and good cholesterol have permeated our conversations.

Here is a new term to remember, probiotics. This substance keeps our body always alert to fend off stress due to overwork and disease. Dr. Domingo Tapiador, a retired Filipino scientist of the United Nations introduced into the Philippines Spirulina, a type of algae developed from Cyanobacterla (or blue green algae). This is a revolutionary idea in food and agriculture, yet Spirulina is an ancient organism, one of the earliest kinds of living things that first appeared on earth three billion years ago. Some people think that probiotics and antibiotics (substances that directly kill germs), when working together in our bodies will help us enjoy healthier and longer lives.

Ailments From the Food We Take

There are many reported ailments and abnormalities that are traced to the food we take. Cancer for instance, is often related to carcinogenic substances. High uric acid leads to kidney trouble. High choles¬terol and high sugar levels are associated with high blood pressure and diabetes. Aftatoxin causes cirrhosis of the liver. Ulcers are food-related, as are many allergies. It is not enough that we produce sufficient food. We must also produce foods that ensure good health, reduce risks to diseases and ailments, and prolong life.

Here are seven suggestions to challenge present day agriculture. The Green Revolution during the 1960s that ushered in production gains from improved varieties and techniques. This was followed by agricultural concepts in the succeeding decades which were responsible for opening the fields to mariculture (farming the sea), and conversion of wastelands into farmlands. We soon realized that there is need “to go back to basics.” Thus, ecological farming was born, a kind of farming with a cause: That cause is the enhancement of the quality life through good health and longevity on one hand, and the maintenance of an ecologically-balance environment, on the other.

1. The rule of thumb is: It is always better to eat foods grown under natural conditions than those developed with the use of chemicals. This statement can be captured with one term "natural food". All over the world this is a label found in food grown without chemicals. People are afraid of becoming ill because of chemicals introduced into the food. They know that chemical fertilizers and pesticides enter with the crops and are passed on to the body.

2. People are avoiding harmful residues and artificial additives in food. Under the rules of the US Food and Drug Administration, any trace of certain farm chemicals is enough to condemn a whole shipment. One kind of residue that people are avoiding is antibiotics. Poultry and hog farms contain high levels of antibiotic to safeguard the animals from diseases, however, the antibiotics are passed on to the consumers. Unless we are ill, the body does not need antibiotics. But every time we eat eggs, chicken1 pork chop, steak, and the like, we are cumulatively taking in antibiotics. This roles our immune systems punishing organs like the kidney and liver. To others, antibiotics only causes allergic reactions.

Another culprit is radiation. Even a trace of radiation can be hazardous. That is why many countries immediately took preventive measures to avoid fallout contamination from the Chernobyl nuclear plant accident recently. Consider the deleterious effects of toxic metals (such as mercury and lead emitted by factories and from vehicles), and additives in food used for coloring, preservative, on just fillers.

3. People are becoming more conscious of the nutritional value of food rather than its packaging and presentation. More and more people now recognize junk foods for what they are, despite their attractive packaging. Soft drinks have taken the backseat, courtesy of fruit juices and mineral water. People have even learned that different plant varieties have different levels of food value. Beans grown on naturally fertile soil have higher calorie and protein content. This is also true for animals.

4. Freshness is the primordial rule in choosing a perishable food. There is no substitute for freshness. While freshness is a function of efficient handling and marketing, the farmer, himself, must enhance farm-to-market freshness. By keeping his standing plants healthy, his produce will stay longer on the shelf life. Products that are free from pest and diseases also stay fresher and longer. Too much water or fertilizer reduces shelf life of the commodity.

5. Food processing must be efficient and safe. Food processing such as drying, milling and manufacturing is key to higher profits. Whenever feasible, food must reach the table fresh. But processing is designed to lengthen the shelf-life of perishable commodities. There are products that require processing before they are used. These food items include vanilla, coffee, cacao, vinegar and flour. Profits generated through processing are value-added to production.

6. Food must be free from pest and diseases. By all means, food must be free from insects and pathogens. There are cases of food poisoning as a result of food deterioration, or contamination.

7. Food preservation must ensure quality, and above all, safety. Be aware of the fish that is stiff, yet looks fresh. It is easy to detect the odor of formalin. Salitre is harmful, so with vetsin or MSG (Monosodium glutamate). Too much salt (sodium) is not good to the body. Some puto makers add lye or sodium hydroxide to help in the coagulation of the starch. Sampaloc candies are made with bright red with shoe dye. The same diluted dye is used with ube manufacture to make it look like real violet-colored plant. ~

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Goodbye, Leaning Firetree, Goodbye

Dr Abe V Rotor
Firetree (Delonix regia) in bloom leaning precariously 
45 degrees towards Regalado Ave., Fairview, QC 2010 
An arch and a crown you make
for all passersby
to greet and honor them; 

your trunk and limbs reach out 
in friendly handshake
and embrace;
you send confetti year round,
green in monsoon,
fire red in summer; 
you comfort the tired and weary
under your shade;

you filter the air of gas and dust,
heat and sound;
mark the passing of seasons,
the turn of the clock;
you are home and inn of creatures:

birds and their young,
fern and moss clinging,
to bees and butterflies;
you stir imagination into the arts,
in song and poetry;
rise up and point to heaven
to enliven the spirit;
with arms outstretched for so long,
you have been calling, pleading,

for a passerby to stop and to look up. ~
NOTE: The last time I passed by the tree it was no longer there. On its stump cut by a chainsaw sat a road worker resting in the noon sun, his gaze expressionless and far.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Ecology and Field Biology Examination

MULTIPLE CHOICE: Copy the letter of the correct answer in each set.
Dr. A.V. Rotor
Fish cages on Lake Tikob, Tiang, Quezon

A. In the preparation of wine and vinegar from local fruits, the following steps are involved:
A. Inoculation of yeast B. preparation of the must C. fermentation proper D. aging E. Oxidation

___1. Arrange them according to SOP. A. a-b-d-c-e B.-a-c-d-e b C. b-d-b-c-e D. b-a-e-c-d
___2. The enzyme produced is zymase. 
___3. This consequently transforms ethanol into acetic acid. 
___4. This involves mashing of fruits with table sugar.
___5. Mellowing of taste is the principal objective. 

B. Natural ecosystems are sacrificed by certain socio-economic projects such as the following: A. Building of golf courses B. Urbanized communities C. Industrialization D. Intensive agriculture E. 3-Mile Island nuclear accident.

___6. Displaces pasture land, farmlands and wildlife areas. 
___7. Chemicals are washed into rivers, lakes and sea.
___8. Emits radioactive fallout that affects many countries. 
___9. People become concentrated in a limited area. 
__10. Results in the production of non-biodegradable by-products such plastics and oil spills. 

C. These are dihybrid crosses to show dominant and recessive traits. The parents are shown as follows: A. TTRR (tall round-seeded) x ttrr (short wrinkle-seeded B. Tt Rr x TtRr C. TtRr x tt rr D. ttrr x ttrr E. Not applicable.

__11. The offspring are 1 tall round-seeded, 1 tall wrinkle-seeded, 1 short round seeded and 1 short wrinkle-seeded. 
__12. The phenotype ratio of the F1 is 9:3:3:1 
__13. Offspring of the first filial generation are all tall round-seeded 
__14. The F1 offspring are all short wrinkle seeded. 
__15. The genotype ratio of the F1 is 1:1:1:1 

D. These are acronyms: A. BSE-CJD  B. DNA C. GMC  D. SALT  E. SWIP

__16. Popularly known as Mad Cow Disease which originated in Britain.
__17. Answer to “kaingin” or slash and burn agriculture. 
__18. Known as Code of heredity, the discovery of this millennium. 
__19. Frankenfood, after the horror fiction, Frankenstein. 
__20. A miniature of Pantabangan Dam 

E. Among the major ecological systems or biomes of the world are as follows: A. Savannah B. Tundra C. Grassland D. Alpine E. Tropical Rainforest F. Taiga G. Chaparral

__21. Safari or game of hunting wild animals is the scenery in this biome. 
__22. Coldest of all biomes, only bryophytes at certain times of the year can survive. 
__23. The prairies of North America, inhabited by the early American Indians. 
__24. In terms of diversity and population density this is the richest of all biomes 
__25. Gymnosperms virtually appear to be singularly occupying this biome.

F. Identify the position of the following in the Food Pyramid A. producers B. herbivores C. decomposers D. 2nd order consumers E. 3rd order consumers

__26. Larvae of dragonfly (naiad) 
__27. Oryza sativa 
__28. Chanus chanus philippinensis 
__29. Philippine Tarsier 
__30. Diatoms 

G. Here is a case study whereby fishponds are built on formerly natural ecosystems of mangrove estuaries, a business venture in supplying the market with prawns and bangus. Among the effects are A. Destruction of the ecosystem. B. Endangerment of the local species C. Pre- disposition to erosion and siltation D. Blocking of waterways E. Loss of indigenous industries and livelihood.

__31. The displaced area is no longer a climax community. 
__32. Shifting soil and detritus cannot settle down and stabilize. 
__33. Fisherfolk find riverine transportation becoming difficult.
__34. Firewood, tangal for dye and fermentation, and the like, become unavailable. 
__35. As a breeding place, marine life cannot go through the natural life cycle. 

J. Environmental degradation can be arrested/minimized in our own way with governments, NGO and the citizens working hand on hand. A. Waste segregation scheme Program B. Microbial decomposition C. Use of atmosphere-friendly compounds, in lieu of CFCs. D. Vehicle volume reduction scheme E. Wind mill, alcogas, biogas, geothermal energy
__36. Nature’s way of getting rid of wastes with the aid of unicellular organisms. 
__37. These are so-called alternative energy sources. 
__38. A palliative measure to ease traffic and reduce pollution in Metro Manila. 
__39. Garbage collection is easier and systematic for recycling and disposal.
__40. Give relief to allow nature to cope up with the thinning of the ozone layer. 

I. For five billion years the year has been undergoing change. Life for one has been a long struggle as evidenced by the following developments: A. The unicellular organisms were the first inhabitants on earth. B. Man is among the recently formed species. C. “Only those species which are the fittest will survive.” D. Now and then Nature commits error through mutation. E. All organisms are said to be continuously evolving.

__41. Chromosomal aberration occurs unpredictably. D
__42. Blue-green algae or cyanophytes are still around today, possibly as abundant as before. A
__43. It was Darwin who thought of this as a theory – and now as an acknowledged principle. C
__44. This explains why there are freaks and variants among living things. D
__45 Only change does not change – the world is always undergoing dynamic changes. E
 Copepods or Daphnia under LPO (50x)
A.  1B    2A     3E    4B    5D
B.  6A     7D     8E     9B   10C
C.  11C  12B   13A   14D   15C  
D.  16A  17 D  18 B  19 C  20E
E.   21A   22B   23C  24E   25 F 
F   26D/E  27A  28B   29D/E  30A
G.  31A   32C   33D   34E  35B
H.   36B    37E    38D   39A    40C
I.    41D    42A    43C    44D    45E 

43 - 45 Excellent
40 - 42 Very Good
37 - 39 Good
34 - 36 Fair 
30 - 33 Passed

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Hidden Valley

Painting & Poem by Dr Abe V Rotor

Let time stand still in these lovely huts
By the gentle streams and rivulets;
Let the breeze comb the green slopes,
And sing with the hills and rocky cliffs;

The birds fly over the meandering brook
And come to rest from across the bay;
Let the wild call the language of the free,
And signal the coming of night and day.

Here Beethoven composed a lovely song ,
And Schumann added a poetic flair;
Rustic would be Amorsolo’s version
Of this hidden valley fair.

Here by the pond Henry Thoreau
wrote a treatise, Man and Nature;
Here Schumacher praised the small,
Small, he said, is beautiful.

Here is respite, here is retreat,
Where the sky and hills ever meet;
Here’s life far, far from the busy lane,
A resort for tired souls and feet.

If life has not been lived well enough
And freedom like a genie chained;
Take it from Milton in his blindness,
He saw a Paradise regained.

And here as in our ancestor’s time
Lies an Eden, lofty yet sublime,
Where there is no need of calendar
To mark the passing of time.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

A verse of wisdom from an owl

Dr Abe V Rotor

Owl in a makeshift cage, San Fernando, La Union

Half prison, half freedom, seeing the world beyond  
through a window ripped by neglect and time;
if only the world takes a view the other way around
would man admit and amend for his crime?   

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Organic cooking: fish "tamalis"

Dr Abe V Rotor 

Organic cooking?  
  • Use banana leaves instead of aluminum foil. 
  • Don't fry, steam with banana leaves. 
  • Do away with plastics and Styrofoam.  
  • And don't use microwave oven.
  • Use claypot lined with banana leaves.  
  • Wood fuel imparts a natural taste.   
  • Cook with low fire. Don't overcook.   
  • Serve while hot, let your guest unwrap with gusto.      
 The photos below show how fresh fish such as dilis (anchovies), dalangang bukid, and tilapia) are cooked into tamalis.  Wash, add onion, ginger, tomato, and a dash of salt.  Wrap with wilted banana leaves. Arrange in the pot, cover, and cook slowly with firewood or charcoal.

Wrap individually, one serving size.

Wilt banana leaves over fire. Follow one-size rule.

Prepare ingredients, mix well. Frying pan can do, just line it with banana leaves, before putting the individually wrapped fish. Be sure to cover the pan while cooking. This is the principle of steaming.

NOTE: Keep banana plants in your backyard.  Banana has many uses, other than food, mushroom that grows at its base, and coolness it imparts in the surroundings. Leaves are used to polish the floor, as padding when ironing clothes, wrapper to keep vegetables fresh outside - or in the refrigerator. You can't make suman, bibingka, tupig without this biggest (and versatile) leaf in the world.  

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Folk Story: Myth of the White Carabao

A Folk Story: Myth of the White Carabao
Dr Abe V Rotor
Albino carabao (Bubalus bubalis), Zoobic, Subic Bay Freeport

This is a true story, and how Melecio angered his teacher on his first day in school.

“What is the color of the carabao?”

“White, Ma’am,” promptly came an answer at the back of the classroom.

There stood a small fellow, steely and kayumanggi, typical of a barrio lad. He was in full attention, anticipating a favorable reaction. But his classmates laughed instead. Others suppressed giggling.

“What?” exclaimed the bewildered teacher. “I repeat, what is the color of the carabao?” emphasizing the question, then stealthily eyed at the belligerent kid.

“White, Ma’am,” came a louder answer. The class went into an uproar, but Melecio was not at all daunted, unnerved.

“Go home and plant kamote. And don’t come back until you ‘produce’ your father.”

Can you imagine if you were Melecio?

Since that incident Melecio did not like to go back to school.

Days passed. Melecio would rather join the harvesters in the field, the farmhand that he had always been since he learned to use the rakem, a hand held harvesting knife. He would talk to his carabao, and even imitated his teacher.

“What is the color of the carabao?” This beast of burden simply continued chewing its cud, burping.

Tama!” Melecio looked up. “Mabuti ka pa.

When Melecio’s father learned that his son was not attending school, he confronted his son. You can imagine if you were in a situation between an angry father on one side and an angry teacher, on the other - and you are barely seven.

That evening Melecio told the whole story, and found comfort on his father’s broad shoulder and in the warmth of his mother’s embrace. Trinity smiled on them for the first time as far as he remembered.

Monday came. Father and son went to school to see Mrs. Paning Rosario, the teacher. Mrs. Rosario promptly accompanied them to the principal.

Apologetically the elder Melecio explained to the principal and the teacher about the white carabao - his son’s pet, an albino. It is all white, and the tips of its horns and hooves, are transparent like glass. The retina of the eyes which is supposed to be black is not. A gray spot on the head, gave the carabao’s name, Labang.

Scientists call animals that lack pigments albino, a genetic characteristic among animals like the carabao, rhino, and elephant. In fact this condition also affects human. I had a classmate in the elementary we nicknamed, White. He also had an albino sister, although both their parents are typical Filipinos. Albino humans are often mistaken to belong to the Caucasoid or white race, sometimes igniting debates on their parentage.

“Nature commits mistake, too.” That’s how my genetics professor Dr. Ruben Umaly puts it. The genes that govern dark skin pigment (melanin) are dominant.
Nature sees to it that they are regularly transcended in the gametes of the parents. But there are instances that these dominant genes fail to transcend from any of the parents so that it is the recessive albino gene that is expressed in the offspring, thus resulting to a pigmentless condition.

This renders the individual susceptible to the deleterious effects of heat and radiation. In fact, an albino has difficulty seeing under bright light because the retina also lacks pigment that serves as natural shade. Darwinian law of natural selection can explain the rarity of albinos in the animal world. Albinos have little chance to survive and reach maturity, which is nature’s way of correcting her own mistake.

It is only through man’s intervention that albinos are given a chance to survive, giving them a place in his beliefs and culture. In fact, albino elephants are revered in India and Thailand. In Greek mythology, King Minos was given a white bull by the gods, and for not following the gods’ wishes to have the beast sacrificed, he was punished by having a son half-man and half-bull, called the Minotaur.

A figure of speech was developed from the term, white elephant. For example, a grandiose infrastructure that has not been put to use as planned is metaphorically called white elephant. 

“Have you seen a white carabao, ma’am?” “Sir?”...... “Ma’am?” “Sir?”

There was complete silence.~

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

"Our Living Earth is shrinking, orphaned like a Rock Pool."

Dr Abe V Rotor

"Our living earth is shrinking, orphaned like a Rock Pool."
Acrylic painting by AVR

Dr Abe V Rotor

“Man has reversed the process of evolution and he has put into his hands the pattern and trends as he wishes, playing the role of his Creator.” - AVR

1. The world everywhere, from the tundra down to the rich tropical forests, faces unabated threats to wildlife destruction, as human activities continue to defile nature not only of its flora and fauna but of natural habitats.

2. While the target of conservation is the protection of plants and animals particularly those that are considered to be facing extinction and are being endangered, the greater concern of ecology is the protection of natural habitats and ecological systems.

3. On another front of human activities often characterized by man’s quests for the “good life” through industrialization he believes to be the prime mover of progress and development, the production of unwanted by-products threatens the earth’s dynamic processes, Already the emission of gases from burning fossil oil has resulted to two serious consequences; thinning of the ozone layer and the building up of heat of the atmosphere resulting to global warming.

4. As human population continues to escalate which is going to double the present 6 billion mark by 2025, more and more people now believe that only by heeding the Malthusian prediction that our world may be spared of unimagined scenario of mass starvation and death.

5. On the other hand, quests for new frontiers of science has led us to the fore – unlocking the code of heredity that may soon replace conventional breeding, resulting thus far in the production of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) and Genetically modified Food (GMF).

6. The other frontier is man’s interplanetary travel beyond the distance of the moon, and for such ambitious adventure, man will have to learn to adjust to life in space and in the planets he targets at visiting. Interplanetary travel takes years, many years. Into the unknown man carries the environment of the earth in a capsule or bubble. Space biology studies not only the effect on man but to plants and animals as well – some kind of man-made ecological system in space. We have virtually started a new field, space ecology.

7. If a third world war is to come, what kind of war is it? People are in a quandary, even those who are witness to the last world war and different wars after that. On media, a third world war if really global and the enemy stalks, respecting no boundaries of politics, culture and faith. It will be a war everyone is concerned of – real or psychological, covering the ultimate warfare materiels - nuclear, chemical and biological.

8. On the concept of human habitat, how ideal can planning get close to it has been demonstrated in some models, which is far from the answer of what a human community should be. The crux of the problem is in drawing up a treaty between nature and man. Could this be an alternative to cities and high rise buildings?

9. Terms like ecotourism, ecomigtration, ecozones, etc. are jargons often disguised economic programs, rather than ecological in purpose. As such, projects of this kind must be reviewed in the light of ecology rather than economics.

10. Zero waste management is ideal, it is a utopia of a modern world. But looking at the experiences of industrialized countries like Japan, Germany and Norway waste is just another resource waiting to be tapped. Why not? Isn’t garbage the excess of our wasteful luxurious living? ~

Monday, May 12, 2014

Watch out, you are being watched!

Privacy is dying
Dr Abe V Rotor

“Someone is watching your every move – at the bank, on the Internet, even walking down the street. Our right to be left alone is disappearing bit by bit in Little Brotherly steps,” says Time magazine in a special issue on The Death of Privacy. We are headed for an even wired unregulated, over intrusive privacy-deprived planet. Privacy is dying.

Cellular tower

Our letters are no longer private on e-mail dispatch. IDs are also for time record, entry pass, emergencies, discounts. We carry USP (removable disc) which contains a library of information indistinguishable whether for private or public consumption. And who cares, if you too, get access to the same unsolicited materials?

Don’t forget to lock up your personal computer; even then, be sure no one knows your PIN (personal identification number). One moment everything it contains is copied without your knowing it. For hackers it worst; you can’t keep your own files anymore.

Go to the mall, drop at the Post Office, pick up grocery, visit an ITM. Waiting for a ride, speeding on a highway, practicing in a gym, promenading? Anything you do, even in your rented bedroom, in the hotel, someone is looking at you through the electronic eye, a n-generation of the conventional camera, complete with sounds, and special effects, versatility likened to Hubs telescope or Skylab’s.

In fact your organs are monitored on TV during diagnosis, more so during operation. I saw my kidney bombarded by laser. “Oh, you are awake,” my doctor was surprised. “See, the stone is gone, the fragments are being flushed out.” It’s me I was seeing. I don’t know if I passed out afterward that.

Cell phone. Yes, it’s a magnificent invention. You can be at any place at anytime. And with modern hybrids, you send and receive information to whomever without full control. That is why clever people make a dummy of them and hide their reality. This is your Second Person, your avatar, your clone, but you are soon to be discovered, and little by little your second person becomes your first person – you.

Good if it’s the real you as you would like to put your best foot forward, so to speak. Somebody did some anatomical experiment, putting your face on another body, doing a thing you don’t like in a place you find impossible to be, attired differently, if at all. And your dignity? “Oh, it’s not me,” you deny, but it’s your face people see. And this monster runs on the wire and soon you find yourself an international figure (disfigure). You are lost.

Melly, my partner in Paaralang Bayan (school-on-air), asked me if it’s all right to have a digital ID system. Why not, who does not have one nowadays? Even a kinder child has one around the neck; college students enter the school premises by swiping their ID to show their face and number on the monitor, otherwise you are trapped and questioned. Remember terrorists are also in white.

But the worst and ultimate loss of privacy is in having a Personal Gene Map. Since HGP (Human Genome Project) was launched and published, there will come a time each of us will be wearing a mini disc that contains the map of our chromosomes and their corresponding genes, and each gene carrying a specific trait from the color of your hair to your temperament. In short, genetic cartography reveals all our traits which doctor, insurance companies, prospective employers and spouses are, and likely, to know. “Will the map also show loyalty, infidelity?” asked Melly. I was speechless. I was nodding my head in disbelief. Why not? Hasn’t holism been re-defined by science and technology. Now what chromosome or chromosomes, and what gene or genes can we view the so-called inner self – conscience? God, where is the soul to be found?

How are you spied on?
  • Bank machines – Every time you use an automated teller; the bank records the time, date and location of your transaction.
  • Prescription drugs – If you use your company health insurance to purchase drugs, your employer may have access to the details. Browsing on the web – Many sites tag visitors with magic cookies that record what you’re looking at and when you have been surfing.
  • Cellular telephone – Your calls can be intercepted and your access numbers cribbed by eavesdroppers with police scanners.
  • Credit cards – Everything you charge is in a database that police, among others, can look at.
  • Registering to Vote – Voter registration records are publis and online – if computerized. They typically list your address and birth date.
  • Making a phone call – The phone company does not need a court order to note the number you’re calling – or who is calling you.
  • Supermarket scanners – Many grocery stores let you register for discount coupons that are used to track what you purchase.
  • Sweepstakes – In the US these are bonanzas for marketers. Every time you enter one, you add an electronic brushstroke to your digital portrait.
  • Satellites – Commercial satellites are coming online that are eagle-eyed enough to spot you – and maybe a companion – in a hot tub.
  • Electronic tools – In many places, drivers can pay tolls electronically with passes that tip off your whereabouts.
  • Surveillance cameras – They’re in banks, federal office buildings, 7-elevens, even houses of worship; New Yorkers are on camera up to 20 times a day. How about us in Metro Manila?
  • Mail-order transactions – Many companies, including mail-order houses and publishers, sell lists of their customers. Why do you think you’re getting those catalogs?
  • Sending e-mail – In offices, E-mail is considered part of your work. Your employer is allowed is allowed to read it – and many bosses do.
Protect Yourself

1. Keep you signature, PIN, portrait photo, and other personal identification marks secured. Its only you who should have access to them.

2. Just say no to telemarketers. Say, “I don’t take phone solicitations.”

3. Consider removing your name from many direct-mail and telemarketing lists.

4. Pay cash whenever possible.

5. Be wary about buying mail order.

6. Give your Social Security number only when required by law.

7. Think twice before filling warranty cards or entering sweepstakes.

8. Be careful when using “free blood pressure clinics.”

9. Avoid leaving footprints on the Net.

10. Surf the Web anonymously.

If you can make it, disarm yourself of any electronic device on a weekend, and stay home. Take a vacation away from electronic devices. It could be the best way of restoring a part of your privacy. Set mailbox on, or switch off, your cell phone to enjoy your weekend or vacation.

NOTE: List down other means we preserve or restore personal privacy to enrich this article.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Are you a favorite of mosquitoes?

Dr Abe V Rotor
                                                              Common house mosquito (Culex sp)

Here is a simple assessment. Check if you are one of those preferred by mosquitoes.  
·        They don’t take a bath regularly. 
·        They wear dark clothes, especially black. 
·        Their body temperature is relatively higher.
·        Their rate of breathing is faster.
·        Their skin is relatively thin and tender. 
·        They love to stay in corners and poorly lighted places.
·        They are not protected by clothing, screen or off lotion. 

Of all these, it is the first one that is most crucial.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Photography: Highway Views to Morong, Bataan

 Tail of Summer, April 26 2014      
Dr Abe V Rotor 
Saplings of gmelina scorched by extreme dry and hot summer 
Patches of mahogany, mango and madre de cacao
 make a hillside green.
 Eucalyptus trees stressed by dry and hot air current 
stirred by passing vehicles.  

Bald hills, aftermath of cutting down of trees and swiden 
(kaingin) farming. River bed at left is practically dry. 
Row of native houses patterned after the nipa hut. 
The fields  wait for the coming of rain.
 A green valley - palagad rice crop with the aid of 
pump irrigation.  
 Two opposite views:  newly planted and harvested rice
 fields.  At the background is the Zambales mountain.  
New subdivision lends an urban ambiance to motorists 
driving towards Subic, a former US Naval Base.     

Dead Coral - Microcosm of our Dying World

Photos and text by Dr Abe V Rotor

Dead Brain Coral
Someday these children will understand what "ruined nature" means.     
A broken coral is permanently dead, it cannot serve as foothold of baby 
corals (larvae) to become polyps and grow to maturity, much less to 
form a community. Likewise seaweeds will not survive. In short, the 
ecosystem in which they were once a part is dead.

Dead coral samples, Morong Bataan, April 16, 2014

My kin are dying in mass grave of toxic water spurred by global warming,
acid rain formed by gases and particles rising and mixing with the clouds;

My symbionts - the algae and other protists, monerans, that catch the sun

through the magic of photosynthesis, their products I cannot live without;

My tenants free in my household their abode, living in unity and harmony

in a pool of energy, passing on to others their share through the food web.  

My transient friends that come by to rest along their route to other places,

to find refuge from danger, tide with the season, then resume their journey; 

My colleagues living in vast colonies, growing dutifully over the bedrock 
set by my forebears through the ages that protect the land from the sea;  

My friend octopus ensconced in my crevices lurking in perfect camouflage     

and mimicry, giant lapu-lapu its kingdom within my walls, a fort it made;

My favored guests the whale, dolphin, and sea cow, once land mammals
that turned to sea and never returned, are now orphans without a home;    

My strange bedfellows, at one time lovable at others not, the sea urchin, 
starfish that invade like an army, yet useful in keeping nature's balance; 

My co-host of countless organisms, the seaweeds attached on my back
as thick as a forest, layer after layer, with the biodiversity of an ecosystem; 

My enemies - the mudflat and sand bar - shifting and invading my territory,
and while I choke,  sea grasses will soon grow, to which I gladly withdraw;

My gentle friend the tide that baths me everyday, washing away my dirt,

and keeping me clean and fresh, so with my tenants and visitors alike; 

My adopted children, a nursery I provide them, from early life to weaning,
as they prepare to go out into the open sea, strong, confident, and free;

My next generation of free swimming larvae in sheer numbers seeking
a permanent home to become polyps, and grow into corals like me.

My visitors from the human world,  peering through the glass and lens,
the beauty of my world, no other can compare, now dead - and gone. ~
 Life cycle of a coral 
 An unspoiled coral reef 
A healthy young coral reef, painting by the author
Beauty and a Dead Coral at the former St Paul College QC Museum 

- a false concept of aesthetics and conservation.