Monday, September 22, 2014

Hide-and-seek game

Dr Abe V Rotor 

Oscar, a four-year old aquarium pet at home. QC 
Everyday it is our casual game, 
with Oscar, my pet and friend;
until one day I saw the reeds
cold as iron bars, and I, a fiend.~

Romanticism is alive in a Heliconia

Dr Abe V Rotor
False Bird of Paradise (Heliconia sp) growing wild in an idle lot. 
Don Jose subd., Fairview QC

False Bird of Paradise - what a queer name, 
yet you grow where you rise to fame;
being imprisoned and alone ignites a fire
to bloom and rise across a barb wire. ~  

Home Medicinal Remedies

Dr Abe V Rotor

1. Poultice made of moss heals wounds and relieves pain.
This is a common practice in the highlands where moss is plentiful and luxuriantly growing. Fresh moss is crashed into a pulp and directly applied on a fresh or infected wound, loosely wrapping it with gauze or cloth strip.
Lourdes V. Alvarez in her masteral thesis at the University of Santo Tomas demonstrated the effectiveness of moss (Pogonatum neesi) against Staphylococcus bacteria, the most common cause of infection. Moss extract contains flavonoids, steroids, terpenes and phenols, which are responsible for the antibiotic properties of this lowly, ancient bryophyte.  

2. Olasiman or Piperomia pellucida relieves arthritis.

This annual herb appears waxy and translucent for which it got its name, pellucidus. It is shallow rooted, its stem succulent and bears alternate heart-shaped turgid leaves that are transparent and smooth as candle wax. It grows 20 to 40 cm high, often in groups, and favoring damp and shady places in some nooks in the garden and around the house. It bears tiny dot-like flowers scattered along a stalk which develop into naked and dark seeds loosely attached to it. 

The whole plant is prepared either as fresh or blanched salad, complete with fresh tomato, onion and a dash of salt. The more common preparation is as decoction, with appreciable amount of the plant’s stem and leaves brought to boiling.  A glassful of this preparation taken daily proves effective to people who are suffering of arthritis.     

3. Poultice made of ground termite is effective for wounds and sores.
After digging out an anthill or termite mound, the soldier termites (large headed) are carefully gathered, and ground into a paste which is then directly applied on the wound or skin sore. In some parts of Africa, the United Nations for successfully treating thousands of residents in remote desert communities using the same ethnic remedy hailed a village healer (equivalent to our herbolario). Laboratory tests revealed that termite poultice contains antibiotics more potent than commercial antibiotics.

 4. Kakawate or madre de cacao poultice relieves inflammation and hematoma. 
Old folks simply make a poultice from the leaves of this leguminous tree, Gliricida sepium.   It is applied on the swollen area caused by hematoma, sprain, and infection until the inflammation subsides. This remedy is not popular because of the nauseating odor of kakawate. It is this characteristic odor that makes the plant an effective remedy for skin disorder (galis) in pets caused by licks, lice and flea.    

Half-ripe and unripe guava is good for LBM 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Naturalism - the Eighth Sense Blog notes steady rise in Viewership

Dr Abe V Rotor
1. Viewership profile indicates a steady growth in the number of pageviews. Viewership reached the 2,500 monthly record in 2012, and continued to increase to the present level as shown in the graph below.    

(A pageview is each time a visitor views a page on your website, regardless of how many hits are generated. Pages are comprised of files. Every image in a page is a separate file. When a visitor looks at a page (a pageview), they may see numerous images, graphics, pictures etc. and generate multiple hits.)

Figure 2 - Historical trend of viewership June 2008 to Sept 19, 2014

2. For September 19, 2014 there are 230 pageviews; For the month of August 2014, there were 4,549 pageviews recorded, while the overall total is 76,353 (June 2008 to the present). As shown in the table and graph below.

Table 1 - Current update as of Sept 19, 2014. Figure 1 - Pageviews for the week covering Sept 13 to 20, 2014
3. Here are the top participating countries. Google provides data for the day, current week and month, which can be opened anytime. Overall, the US leads the top ten countries with 23,168 pageviews.  This is followed by The Philippines, the host country, with 18,393. 
The combined share of the US and the Philippines is 55 percent of the total pageviews of 76,353. Ukrtaine, Russia and India occupy the third, fourth and fifth place, respectively. 

France, Germany, UK, China and Turkey rank  comprise the second group (6th to 10th).   The difference in viewership among the members of the second group , from that in the first group is great. Thus, they are more vulnerable to change in ranking taken on daily, weekly, and even monthly basis.
Figure 3 - Top ten countries and their ranking in viewership. 

4. What topics or lessons (posts) are most viewed? Overall (2008 to present), two topics came out first: Guava, the Wonder Tree (a short story) with 1,294 pageviews. This is followed by a feature story about the endangered indigenous games and sports (Spinning top or trumpo), with 870 pageviews. 

Painting Manual (Pangarap Art Workshop Exercises) ranks thrid.  This is a workshop guide consisting of two dozen exercises in drawing and painting for children and adults alike. (523 pageviews)

Reviving the Nipa Hut culture (The Nipa Hut - a Living Memory) ranks fourth, while Books, the Greatest Treasure of Mankind is sixth, followed by Down memory lane we all go (growing old gracefully), and Lost in the Desert, a short story, seventh. The top ten countries vary from time to time and may be accessed from the Blog. 

Figure 3 - Top seven posts and their ranking in viewership. 

NOTE:  This blog is separate from the main Blog - Living with Nature School on Blog  [] - also by the same author, although there are a number of similar articles carried by both. I invite our viewers to visit  the main Blog.  There are more than 3000 articles or posts with 820,000 viewers to date. Thank you. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Twice the moon came down

"The moon sits on a leafless tree
above a loving duo ... 
What brought the moon down into a fountain 
whose water is but an eddy of a spring?" 

Verses and photographs by Dr Abe V Rotor

Bangkok, Thailand 2011

Moon perched on a leafless umbrella tree

The moon sits on a leafless tree

above a loving duo; 
the fruit of their dream come true, 
born many years ago.

Moon atop a fountain.
What brought the moon down into a fountain

whose water is but an eddy of a spring? 
Would it have found instead a high mountain 
far from busy feet and hearts grieving?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

It's Amihan Season: Fly on My Little Kite And Other Poems

A critique on the poems of Sister Macarius Lacuesta, SPC
“Fly on my little kite
Do not let fear daunt you,
For the hand that holds the strings
Knows best and watches over you.”
Dr Abe V Rotor
Detail of mural by AVRotor
If imagery is more vivid than vision, take it from Sr. Macarius – religious, scholar and poetess.

Fly on my little kite
Ride on the wings of the wind…
Over plains and dales,
Reach on to the heights,
Hear the whispers of the treetops,
And the secrets of the clouds.”

- Fly on My Little Kite

She samples us with the timelessness, and the vastness of imagery that transcends to all ages – the young and the old, the past and present – and beyond. It unleashes the searching mind to freedom, liberating the soul with the confidence of a hand that holds the string of that kite.

For who would not like to fly on that kite in order to see the world, or at least to be taller from where he stands, or to turn the hands of time and be a child again even only for a while? That child in all of us, it must live forever. It lives in a dragonfly many years ago we captured for fun.

“Ah, you bring me back to my yesteryears
When I would run to catch you…
The sound your wings did make was music to me…
And then the childish whim satisfied, I set you free.”

- You Naughty Dragonfly

Adventure, simple as it may, carries us to the open field, and its pleasant memories make us feel reborn. Sister Macarius’ unique imagery comes at the heels of virtual reality as one reflects on her poems. Yet, on the other side of the poetess’ nature, she is real, she is here and now, “through open fields she walked… tired and weary, she slumped on the stump of an acacia tree.” From here she journeyed to the deep recesses of the roots of the sturdy tree. How forceful, how keen are her thoughts, true to being a devout religious.

“For their roots journey to the deep earth 
Was a determined search for water,
Unmindful of the encounter with darkness,
Where cold and heat would not reach.”

- Journey to the Deep.

Faith is as deep as the roots of a sturdy tree. Such analogy refines the moral of the poem. It is a parable in itself. The poetess paused. In prayer she said in the last part of the poem, poignant yet firm and believing in the fullness of thrust and confidence of a Supreme Being.

“Lord, sink my roots into the depths of unwavering faith in You;
Help me believe that in my encounter
With darkness, hope may be borne
And my life will manifest all
The goodness, the beauty that is You.”
- Journey to the Deep

While poems do not drive a lesson like hitting a nail on the head, so to speak, they provide a mellowing effect, especially to us adults, to accept lessons in life. Such is the commonality of the poems of Sister Macarius, Sister Mamerta Rocero and Sister Paat, who are respected literary figures of the local SPC congregation. Their poems have a deep message to the reader in the ways of respecting and loving God. They often begin with reverence for life.

“All you peoples, clap your hands and sing,
The God of Creation has done wonderful deeds
And the earth is full of His handiworks
All for you and me.”

We picture God as detached, way above the level of man. Great writers in the likes of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, Alexander Dumas and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow can attest to that. More so with Michaelangelo as shown in his mural, Creation. And yet we believe that man is the image of God. The anthropocentric view is that man was created in the likeness of God, and that he is the custodian of His creation. How lucky is man indeed to be the center of God’s attention! In Sr. Macarius Child of the Kingdom, she starts with a question, “Are you a child of the Kingdom? Then she proceeded to answer the question herself.

“Even with a sense of wonder
Holding a cup full of surprises,
Reading out to share with others
The joy of His abiding presence
Nurturing within your being 
The hope of eternal life.”

We may not know the places and boundaries of eternity and kingdom. They are too far out there for us to grasp and believe, much more to understand. Yet we have learned to accept them, grew up with them, abstract as they are, in the name of faith and doctrine. They are there laid upon the path we all travel. At its end lies our salvation, which is as abstract as eternity and kingdom.

Our modern world has become skeptical about abstract things. It is moving away from rituals of faith to rituals of entertainment. Action demands reason. Imagination cannot be left unquestioning. Even science remote from technology is theory. Religions too, continue to evolve, breaking away from the moorings of tradition and dogma. Mystery and faith are no longer the perfect partners as they did for centuries. And the world has become more vigilant against conquerors using religion for their greed, sharing the bounties of conquest with it. And religion that keeps the colonial master in power, sitting beside the throne.

Just like Christianity replaced the long revered Aztec sun god, and the gods and goddesses of Mt. Olympus that survived Roman rule but vanishing with its fall, we ask ourselves today, “Will Vatican finally lose its global power and vast wealth? Will cultism create an exodus away from the church?” And now come the cybergods, riding on satellites and the internet and entering our living rooms at any time without knocking on our doors. And here is a hydra of corporate cultures, a kind of religion itself.

Sr. Macarius’ poems do not deal with issues about faith, eternity, salvation, kingdom, and the like, endorsing them to debate. She does not act like a doctor of the church even if she carries a doctorate degree in philosophy. Yet in her own gentle way she invites the reader to the fold, riding on that little kite, running in the open field after a dragonfly.

For what is eternity but to be “a child forever,” (A thing of beauty is a joy forever – Joyce Kilmer). What is kingdom but the realm we once lived before we became grownups, in the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupery’ in The Little Prince? And salvation? Oh, it is in innocence when the conscience is not bothered. (The Brothers Grimm)

“Naughty dragonfly…I am born once again to a child –
alive and free.”

“Catch the sight of a tree… and rest for a while.”
- Under the Fig Tree

“Speak to me in the loveliness of a rose
Fresh and sparkling with the morning dew.”
- A World Full of You

“You sing to me in the chirping of love birds,
Greeting each other at the break of day.”
- A World Full of You

“Listen to the story of that grand mountain
Like a faithful sentinel standing there.”
- Fly on My Little Kite.”

“How blest and gifted I am to be one
With a beautiful world.”
- A World Full of You

“Lord, help me become the child of Your Kingdom.”
- Child of the Kingdom

It was a bright morning some two years ago when Sister Macarius visited me at the SPCQ Museum. She showed me these poems. “I have not written poems for a long, long time,” she said and that started a couple of hours of pleasant discussion about poetry today and its significance. She exuded a lovely smile as she recited her poems. “Beautiful,” I said, amazed at what a septuagenarian lady can make of poetry which usually blooms in youth. That was the last time I saw Sister Macarius.

The amihan wind had just arrived. I saw a tarat bird perched on the nearby caimito tree singing. Up in the sky a kite was flying. I remembered Sister Macarius.

“Fly on my little kite
Do not let fear daunt you,
For the hand that holds the strings
Knows best and watches over you.”

x x x

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Anna's Paintings: Two Faces of Flowers

Dr Abe V Rotor

white, delicate, immaculate, pure;
red, flaming, romantic, demure; 

flowing, silky, translucent, queenly;  
fiery, ascendant, stout, kingly. 

endearing, fancy, coy, culpable;
ephemeral, magical, lovable.  

Fossil Hunting - Study and Hobby

Dr Abe V Rotor

Legends are rich in stories of the supernatural when gods do the impossible to the awe and fear of mortals, such as turning man into rock. Or wood into rock. For who would deny the markings of every tissue of the demised tree - its xylem vessels, phloem which carry manufactured food from the leaves, the pith or dead center of the wood? In fact one can count the age of the tree when it died by counting the annular rings. And how long had the tree died. The circumstances of its death, and the events like drought, flood, fire that it had undergone.

Top: Teachers view the Fossil Collection of the Museum of Natural History, UPLB, Laguna; author (left) studies fossil of a Nautillus. Right: fossils of Amonites, and ancient fish fossils.  

Next time you visit a quarry, or landscape supplier, or simply walking along a river bed, or rocky cliff, be keen at the possible presence of petrified wood. If there are more clues to the fossil you can even tell what tree it was. Is it already extinct? Is it the ancestor of modern species? What if the tree has not changed, evidenced by its similarity with its living progeny?

Indeed fossils are nature's geologic timepieces; they take us thousands, if not millions of years back. Didn't Charles Darwin gauge the stages of evolution of plants and animals through paleontology - the science of the study of fossils?

At first I didn't see it, until the tides left it in shallow water. It is a fossil of a very big staghorn coral, its base cut like the anther of a deer after the mating season. So clean did it appear I can count the number of years the coral lived. But that is deceiving because corals grow very slow. It takes fifty long years to grow to the size of a man's head. Each ring therefore, is compounded with other rings, making it difficult to tell the exact age of the fossil. A clear break may be an indication of an extreme condition of the environment that left such mark.

Around the fossil are many fossils of small organisms, other corals and shells. Fossils are known by their total age by combining the age of the fossil itself and the age of the surrounding rock.

How do fossils retain their form and structure even to the detail? Well, calcium carbonate seeps into the cells, and tissues, and in this particular case, into the fine structures like pores of the coral skeleton where the compound solidifies hard - harder than the mold itself. It's a skeleton in a skeleton, so to speak. Through hundreds or thousand of years the mold disintegrates leaving behind the hardened calcium compound. The process is also the same in wood turning into rock - petrified rock.
Here is a fossil of a bivalve - a big Tridachna, as large as the shell of its progeny shown in the lower photo. This shell is a receptacle of holy water at the entrance of Mt. Carmel Church QC. Shells survive adverse conditions of the environment, and as such also retain their original shape and form. Sand and silt become sedimentary rock entombing the shell until it is discovered through erosion and other means.
Fossils are made in a different way such as a hairy caterpillar stuck in oozing latex of rubber tree. The latex solidifies and hardens into rock, the same way an insect is engulfed in oozing resinous substance of pine tree. The resin hardens into a clear transparent material with the doomed insect or any other creature clearly visible. Resin turns into amber. Remember Jurassic Park movie? A mosquito after feeding on blood of a dinosaur was trapped in amber. The DNA of the extinct monster was reconstructed from the mosquito's food blood. Of course this is fiction. But Flash Gordon and Jules Verne proved beyond being just fiction writers.
 Fossil of a bivalve
 Petrified wood is actually rock which bears the exact likeness of the original wood. The species can be traced to present specimens.   

Everyday we encounter fossils and pseudo 
fossils we simply call skeletons, or artifacts if they did not directly come from living things. Fossils are always in the making. There is no ceasing since the appearance of life on earth, and ever expanding with increasing biodiversity of the living world. 

Making of a fossil.  Hairy caterpillar trapped in latex becomes a fossil thousands, millions of years from now. 

They are the remains of living things that survive time and circumstances, and of luck or fate as people put it. The older and better preserved fossils are, the more significant is the discovery - and the more we realize the secrets they reveal. Scientists reconstruct fossils close to their original form and virtual reality, complete with the organism's movements, sounds, habitat, special effects included. Thanks to advanced technology and fine arts.

Toys are then patterned after these reconstructed fossils. I know of children who grew up with collections of dinosaurs, birds, mammals, fish- all reconstructions from fossils. Many of these children grew into scientists and naturalists. I know of other children who were more interested with toy cartoon characters. They took a different career path, less meaningful and fulfilling than that of the latter children.

Geologic time is not constant though it may be contiguum. There are intervening factors we may not and never know. And if this were the case, we say, we have yet to discover the "missing link." Such was the predicament of Darwin in his theory of evolution, the bewilderment of Wallace before him, and the deceiving simplicity of Lamarck theory to decipher correctly the path of evolution. Fossils reveal the web of life as a labyrinth. We can only appreciate the early works of other paleontologists that Cuvier and Huxley who could only make inferences about life in the past and the present. In spite of all these, the world looks at all these men as pioneers and greatest fossil hunters.

Do you like to be a fossil hunter, too? ~

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Angalo - legendary friendly giant of the Ilocos region

Dr Abe V Rotor
The mystical Pinsal Falls in Barangay Babal-lasioan, Sta. Maria (Ilocos Sur) is believed to be the footprint of a legendary giant named Angalo. The footprint shaped pool was formed when Angalo stepped on the top of Pinsal Falls while searching for his missing wife. Acknowledgment: Internet 2012

Imagine how big Angalo, the legendary giant of the Ilocos region is. One foot of his left an imprint on a rock in Pinsal falls in Sta. Maria, and the other has its mark way up north, somewhere in Magsingal, two towns in Ilocos Sur some fifty kilometers apart. He must be a giant indeed surpassing the size of King Kong or Gulliver of Lilliput. I once stood in his huge footprint and what a miniscule I must have looked.

We ponder on Angalo’s power, we kids of our time. He is friendly and helpful in our mind, just as our old folks told us in many stories, wrapping him up into one gentle giant. He would stop flood, hold mountains apart, stood guard against the sea, roll the clouds and bring rain. And we kids would like to be as strong and brave, friendly and helpful just like him. How could we have idolized one whom we never saw, one who exists only in our imagination? It was a child’s gentle way of growing up to be a giant.

Although legends live forever, Angalo and his kind, have been lost in the jungle of characters created on the screen and cyberspace. ~