Friday, October 31, 2014

Lost Civilizations

Dr Abe V Rotor
Ruins of the sunken town of Pantabangan

Man, being the superior organism, has not only won over his rivals - all organisms that constitute the biosphere. He has also assaulted Nature.

Fifteen civilizations, once flourished in Western Sahara, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, the Sinai desert, Mesopotamia, and the deserts of Persia. All of these cultures perished when the people of the area through exploitation, forced nature to react. As a consequence, man was robbed of his only means of sustenance.

History tells us of man’s early abuse of nature in the Fertile Crescent where agriculture began some 3000 years ago. Man-made parallel canals joined the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers to irrigate the thirsty fertile valley. In the process, the balance of Nature was overturned when the natural drainage flow was disturbed. Because the treaty was violated, nature revenged. The canal civilization perished in the swamps that later formed. The sluggish water brought malaria and other diseases causing untold number of deaths and migration to the hinterlands. Among its victims was Alexander the Great.

Carthage had another story. Three wars hit Carthage, known as the Punic Wars. On the third one, the Romans ploughed through the city, ending reign of this erstwhile mercantile power, and removing the threat to the Roman economy. After the conquest, the Romans pumped salt-water inland and flooded the fertile farms. Today, Carthage exists only in history and in imagination of   whoever stands atop a hill overlooking what is now a vast desert.
 Ruins of the City of Troy

Omar Khayyam, if alive today, cannot possibly compose verses as beautiful as the Rubaiyat as written in his own time. His birthplace, Nishapur, which up to the time of Genghis Khan, supported a population of 1.5 million people, can only sustain 15,000 people today. Archeologists have just unearthed the Forest of Guir where Hannibal marched with war elephants. The great unconquerable jungle of India grew from waterlogged lowland formed by unwise irrigation management.

It is hard to believe, but true that in the middle of the Sahara desert, 50 million acres of fossil soil are sleeping under layers of sand awaiting water. Surveyors found an underground stream called the Albienne Nappe that runs close to this deposit. Just as plans were laid to “revive” the dead soil by irrigation, the French tested their first atomic bomb. Due to contamination, it is no longer safe to continue on with the project.

The great Pyramids of Egypt could not have been constructed in the middle of an endless desert. The tributaries of the Nile once surrounded these centers of civilization. Jerusalem appears today as a small city on a barren land. It may have been a city with thick vegetation. This was true of Negev and Baghdad.

The Pyramid at Giza, Egypt, and the Sphinx 

Need of a Conservation Program

For the Philippines, it is high time we lay out a long-range conservation program to insure the future of the country. This plan should protect the fertility of the fields, wealth of the forests and marine resources, in order to bring prosperity to the people. As of now, the country is being ripped apart by erosion and floods due to unscrupulous exploitation by loggers and kaingeros.

It is only through proper management and effective conservation, such as reforestation, pollution control, erosion control, limited logging, and proper land use, that we can insure the continuity of our race. All we have to do is to keep ourselves faithful to the treaty between nature and man. ~

Lost Civilizations - Myth or Real?

1. Atlantis is the most elusive of all the lost civilizations. What we know about this lost world comes from a few passages in the works of Plato. Archeological sightings at the bottom of the ocean continue to build credible evidences. Atlantis projects a Utopian image in the ideals of Plato's Republic - which makes it a myth.

2. Rome is the classical model of the rise and fall of an empire, prominently illustrated by historian Gibbon. Actually Rome had its ups and downs in its long record as the world's greatest empire, particularly after conquering the Greek states and integrating them into the empire. The ultimate fall of Rome was both internal (rise of Christianity, moral decay and weak governance) and external (overrun by barbarians, and cessation of the provinces), until the empire became fragments of fiefs and kingdoms that dominated the Dark Ages.

3. Maya, of ancient Mexico was already in decline when the Spanish conquistador Cortes conquered the city and all its vast territories. The people went back to live in the villages. Today, the Maya is a ghost city. From the top of the Pyramid of the Sun, signs of life around is nil - even as a tourists destination. The Mayans did not live long enough to witness the end of the world as predicted in their calendar - December 21, 2012.

4. Angkor Wat is another great civilization that disappeared mysteriously, leaving a magnificent temple complex comparable only with the world's greatest ancient infrastructures like Borobodor of Indonesia, Parthenon of Greece, and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. There are scientific evidences of ecological decline, natural (erratic climate change) and man-induced (deforestation which led to erosion and siltation.) The city was virtually sitting on water with series of canals, moats and aqueducts.) History tells us that subsequent conquests by neighboring cultures from Siam and other lands wrote finish to Angkor Wat.

5. Easter Island - The Fall of the Moai culture is the result of resource exploitation and destruction on this isolated island. The first westerners who discovered the island wondered how any one could have survived on such a desolate, treeless place. This mystery was solved recently when core samples taken from the crater lakes showed that the island was heavily forested with a giant now-extinct palm and trees during the time the Easter Island culture was active. Which means that the island was a Paradise. The islanders cut down the trees for housing, boats and eventually for the rollers and lever-like devices used to move and erect the moai (stone statues).

As the deforestation continued the moai building competition turned into an obsession. The quarry was producing moai at sizes that probably could never have been moved very far (one unfinished moai in the quarry is 70 feet tall!). With the loss of the forests, the land began to erode. The small amount of topsoil quickly washed into the sea. The crops began to fail and the clans turned on one another in a battle for the scarce resources. The symbols of the islanders' power and success, the moai, were toppled. Violence grew to the point of self annihilation - and even cannibalism.

With no wood left to build boats, all the Rapa Nui people could do was look enviously at the birds that sail effortless through the sky. The Rapa Nui culture and community, which had developed over the past 300 years, collapsed. Only the moai - cold, numb stone statue remain.  If only they could speak!

6. Minoans. They formed a pre classical Greek culture that built fabulous modern cities on the island of Crete, and unlike most ancient cities in the region, they had no city walls. Probably protected by their navy, their civilization thrived for over 1,000 years, from 2700 BC to 1450 BC. Minoan culture is rich in mythology such as the Minotaur (half man, half beast), Daedalus the architect of the Labyrinth, and son Icarus who fell from the sky when he defied his father's warning not to get too close to the sun. Whatever happened the the Minoan culture could be parallel with the decline and fall of other Greek city states.

7. Stonehenge. Megalith built out of giant stones which survive today as proof of a fabulous culture. For thousands of years (4800-1200 BC) people built a variety of structures out of giant stones in western Europe. The purpose of some of these structures was astronomical - tracking  the movement and position of heavenly bodies, and to keep track with the seasons, and time - as an early kind of calender. Stonehenge is the most well known of these sites.

Reference: Doug’s Darkworld
War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World. Acknowledgement: Wikipedia, Internet


Capture the significance of happy moments

Dr Abe V Rotor
Snorkeling: discover the world under the sea.
Field lecture: get out of the classroom. Nature is the best teacher. 
Stage play: whatever is your role - beauty contestant, 
villain, fashion model - it's exciting.
Dual role: guardians keep young to be loved by children. 
Arts: humanities to athletics, discover your talents, hone them.   
Global perspective: experience different cultures in passing.   

    Reflect and meditate, relax,
            Free yourself on weekends, 
       Get involve in your community, 
             Bond with family and friends,
Moments of joy you share,
               Each drop that Nature sends. ~

Lyrics of Rain

Dr Abe V Rotor


Cumulus cloud turning into nimbus or rain cloud

The afternoon becomes cooler and cooler each day
in May - dragonflies hover lower and lower in horde;
distant drums get closer and closer, the winds hiss
as the sky falls in thunderous downpour
like a coming train, pelting the faces of happy children,
laughing, laughing with the birth of streams
that wake the river, the fields from deep slumber,
ending many dreams in a long, hot summer.


(Instrumental solo follows, return to the lyrics.)

Compose a song with the lyrics. Enrich it with cadence and happy notes. Play it on the piano, or sing it with the guitar. Try with flute or violin, too.

Tabon Cave - Cradle of My Race, Part 2

... when my brothers are gone -
would you be the cradle


of my race once more? ~
Dr Abe V Rotor
Tabon Cave, Palawan

More than your name,
you are my father's home,
and his resting ground;
link of darkness and light,
window to the universe,
source of song and verse,
treasured niche in space,
the cradle of my race.

You weaned my forebears
from flint and fire,
bow and arrow to wheel,
to become hunter and farmer,
tame the sea and land,
the air and space,
build megapolises,
explore the mystery
of creation.

Would you outlive my lust,
my progeny gone stray,
the deadly mushroom,
litters of my technology;
would you accept my poor art
of postmodern living,
if I renounce them all
when my brothers are gone -
Would you be the cradle


of my race once more? ~

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Letters to our Children, second of a series

There are many young people who get spoiled because they fall victims to this triad:
  • Too much can lead to over protection, 
  • Over protection stifles the mind, and
  • A mind that is not challenged takes things for granted
Dr Abe V Rotor
We are writing you after your recollection.  What a strange arrangement. Shouldn't parents write or send gifts to their children on the day of celebration?  We can imagine how you sat down there alone while your classmates were reading their parents' letters, or opening the gifts they received.

This fault can be easily dismissed because people who are bound by love and respect easily find forgiveness.  Lest we forget however, that the very things that bind people could be the same things that can break them apart.  

We have known many a pampered child fail in life.  We have read true stories of friendship gone sour.  What an irony that the very things that set progress could be the very cause of destruction.  So with the cause of break up in friendship, in love, brotherhood, peace.

Taking things for granted on the other hand, can generate similar catastrophic results.  Why many an accident happened from taking things for granted.  A conflagration can be traced to a single matchstick.

What we are telling you is a lesson which we want you to reflect upon, on post recollection. There are many young people who get spoiled because they fall victims to this triad of factors:
  • Too much can can lead to over protection, 
  • Over protection stifles the mind, and
  • A mind that is not challenged takes things for granted
You may be brilliant, but you may not be using this gift well. You may be loved, but you may not be aware that you are not reciprocating properly. You may find the world exciting, but not challenging. You may have many friends but friendship may lead you out of your path of success. You may have many things at fingertip command but you may be passive.  
You will realize as you grow up that failure in life is hidden behind too much of the good life. Rich countries, it is true, provide the good life, but look at the new generation pampered by it. And if we think that nobody is poor in a rich country why is it that there are millions of impoverished people in the US.  How can a genius professor turn into a world terrorist?
On the other hand, how can Helen Keller see the world clearer that most of us who are not blnd? How did honest Abe Lincoln pass the bar when he virtually did not attend law school, and became president of the US? Why did Augustine renounce his rich inheritance just to live a monk's life?

In your post recollection, get a whole sheet of paper. Draw a vertical line at the center and list down on the left column people you know who made it in life the hard way. On the right column, list down people you know who did not make it because they became willing victims of the triad syndrome, 


Where do you place yourself?

Think deep and write your resolution. 

Love,
Papa and Mama 

To Anna Christina, 15 
January 24, 1998

Monday, October 27, 2014

Letters to our children, first of a series

Before the computer age parents used to write their children intimately in their own handwriting.  With or without any particular occasion,  parent-children bonding is sealed in letters that express mutual love and respect, bring surprises and reminiscences.  Here is a letter written by parents to their 16-year old son studying in a Manila university. 

Dr Abe V Rotor

When you open and read this letter you shall be in uniform. seated comfortably with your classmates, your teacher giving instructions that you devote some precious minutes of concentration.  It shall be a moment out of 365 days, two-thirds you spend in school, and out of 17 to 25 years of schooling.  May this letter therefore, contribute to the significance of this occasion. 

Communication is vital in keeping the family closely knit .  There is no substitute to letter writing in spite of the popularity of the computer. 

You live in two different worlds.  One world is found in the school, the other outside its walls. The first is the ideal; the other is the real one.  One is kind and patient; the other cruel and demanding. One emphasizes principles and theory; the other practice.

One teaches you never to indulge in vices, the other even advertises vices.  In one you play the music by notes, in the other you play by ear.  In one you keep the trash in the waste bin; in the other, on the street. 

You find a homogeneous, fine company in school; outside is a heterogeneous society.  In one you hear the echo of your voice mixing with other voices in vibrant, happy sound; in the other, it dies in thin air, or in a crowd. Or it mixes with cries and moans.  You have the privilege of education; outside millions of children like you are deprived of this privilege.

For the coming years until you become 21 or so, you will be witnessing the daily drama of these two worlds, and you will realize their great disparity.  Do not allow yourself unprepared, more so to be caught between two rocks, so to speak. We have seen failure in those who waited for the dividing wall to dissolve, failure in those who crossed it too soon, and failure in those who became prisoners behind it.   

You are in your right direction and you pace is just right.  Just trust us to guide you.  Be as obedient as you are.  Be as industrious and sincere.  Be kind always to your sister and brother.  Study hard.  Keep faith in the Almighty and mankind.  Be healthy and strong.  Keep you chin up, even in defeat. 

You must prepare yourself early in life to adapt yourself to the outside world.  Do not be just a witness or spectator, be that actor on the stage of true life. Our responsibility to you, as well as your sister and brother, is not only one of that of a teacher.  As your father and mother, we will strive to help you cross the bridge more that the care of anyone or any institution.  We will strive to fill the gap in whatever way we can to make it less difficult for you to succeed.

May you find this special moment a time of reflection.  Remember to read this letter again when you are not in school, where the world is real.  Reflect on it once again.  Keep the message in you heart and mind as you walk through life's rosy and thorny path. 

You Papa and Mama 

Letter to Matthew Marlo, 16
July 15, 1997

Lake in a Lake



Dr Abe V Rotor
Laguna de Bay, Los BaƱos, Laguna

Once I asked:
why did you secede 
from the womb 
and hands 
that raised you?

As I pondered 
on Daedalus of Crete 
and the prodigal son;
your clear waters 
reflected a face 
no other than my own.

I threw a pebble 
and ripples broke away 
from the question.

Light in the Woods, 1995 Megabooks 

Paper Wasps on the Run!

Dr. Abe V. Rotor


Paper wasp nests, Museum of Natural History, UPLB Laguna
Or was it the other way around?

This happened to me - rather what I did - when I was five or six. I don’t know why I attacked a colony of putakti or alimpipinig (Ilk). It is bravado when you put on courage on something without weighing the consequences, much less in knowing the reason behind.

I was sweeping the yard near a chico tree when I suddenly felt pain above my eye. No one had ever warned me of paper wasps, and I hadn’t been stung before. There hanging on a branch just above my head was a neat clump of paper-like nest the size of a fist. On the guard were a dozen or two of this kind of bees, which is a local version of the hornet bees in other countries. Bees belong Order Hymenoptera, the most advanced order of insects owing to their highly developed social behavior.

I retreated, instinctively got hold of a bikal bamboo and attacked the papery nest, but every time I got close to it I got stung. I don’t know how many times I attacked the enemy, each time with more fury, and more stings I received, until dad saw me. I struggled under his strong arms sobbing with anger and pain.

I was lucky. Kids my size wouldn't be able to take many stings. Fortunately I was not allergic to bee poison. There are cases when the poison paralyzes the heart.

I learned a valuable lesson: Don't allow anger to overcome reason, and don't do anything, how courageous you may think, if it is motivated by revenge. They call this bravado - not courage.

x x x

Trees are Benevolent Hosts

Dr Abe V Rotor

1. The tree laughs, talks, with all the joys of childhood. "A tree is a joy forever." Tandang Sora QC
2. Playing hide-and-seek in a bamboo grove. The spirit of the place gives quaintness to living.Taal, Batangas
3. A fallen mango tree makes a romantic ambiance. (Atimonan, Quezon)
4. Phylodendron gains foothold on Dita tree (Alstonia scholaris) as it reaches for the sun several meters high. UST Botanical Garden
5. Balete (Ficus benjamina) strangles its host to  certain death, hence gaining a notorious name of Strangler's Fig. Mt Makiling, Laguna
6. Fruticose lichen clings on bark of tree. Lichens are communities of algae and fungi. They aid in food production and recycling of organic matter, as well as help conserve water. Caliraya Lake, Laguna
7. Drynaria fern as ephipyte helps conserve water, attract wildlife that protects trees from pests anddiseases.  It is not unusual that a branch gives way to the weight of the tenant fern. Tagudin, Ilocos Sur
8. Roots are exposed by slow erosion reveal tenacity of this tree. The tree allows growth of plants and animals like millipede and land snails, as well as micrororganims, many are symbionts to the tree. Mt Makiling Botanical Garden, UPLB 
9. Interlacing roots, principle of inarching, riprap slopes and banks, provide abode to many organisms. Mt. Makiling, Laguna.
10. Algae and mosses live on the spongy bark of acacia, providing nutrients to the tree, and creating a favorable microclimate. UP Diliman, QC
11. Crustose lichen coats trunk of young tree. Lichens are important to the tree; they also indicate pristine condition of the environment. Caliraya Lake, Laguna
12. Even after death the tree remains a host to red mushroom, termites, other saprophytes and decomposers, giving off its entire energy to serve the living world. ~

3 Ways to Live Naturally

  • Go for Fresh, Natural, and Locally Produced Food
  • Natural Farming Models
  • Live Naturally in your Home
Dr Abe V Rotor
Part 1: Go for Fresh, Natural, and Locally Produced Food
It's not enough that we produce food. We must produce food that ensure good health, reduce risks to diseases and ailments, and prolong life. We must produce food that also insures the health of our environment and the stability of the ecological system.
Typical fruit stand, UP Diliman QC
While science and technology continue to explore new ways to increase food supply with genetic engineering, people are yearning for organic food – or naturally grown food.

Here are issues raised by the proponents of organic farming.

1. Many ailments and abnormalities are traced to the food we take. Cancer for instance, is often related to carcinogenic substances. High uric acid leads to kidney trouble. High cholesterol and high sugar levels are associated with high blood pressure and diabetes. Aftatoxin causes cirrhosis of the liver. Ulcers are food-related, so with many allergies.

2. Proper nutrition and balanced diet can be attained by eating the right kind and amount of natural food without fortification with vitamins and minerals, and other forms of altering food value. Thus there is no need to process food unless it is really necessary. Fresh foods – vegetables, fish, and the like – are still the best. And why modify the genetic composition of crops and animals? Leave that to nature. Nature knows best.

3. Taking excess foods rich in animal fat and protein, and foods high in calories foods has predisposed many people to overweight conditions. Gaining unnecessary weight leads obesity now an epidemic sweeping many countries today particularly in cities where there is a proliferation of fast foods and junk foods. Or simply there is too much of the “good life” – excess in food and pleasure. In the US today one out of five Americans is an obese, two are overweight.

4. There are natural substances that keep our body always alert to fend off stress due to overwork and diseases. They are known as probiotics. We get probiotics from fruits and vegetables. We also get them from seaweeds, mushrooms, yoghurt, algae such as Chlorella, and Cyanobacteria such as Spirulina. And there are many more sources that occur in nature. We are beginning to realize that eating foods rich in probiotics and antibiotics (substances that directly kill germs) makes us healthier and live longer.

These are the rules set by the advocates of organic farming.
 
Best for health: fresh fruits and vegetables 

1. 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. There are banned pesticides still in used such as methyl parathion, endosulfan, DDT, BHC, among others. These are also harmful to all living organisms and to the environment.

2. People are avoiding harmful residues of antibiotics and pesticides.
Poultry, hogs and cattle are given high levels of antibiotics to safeguard the animals from diseases. As a result, the antibiotics are passed on to the consumers. Unless we are ill, the body does not need supplemental antibiotics. We have adequate natural sources. Every time we eat commercial eggs, chicken, pork chop, steak, and the like, we are taking in antibiotics which accumulate in our body, shutting off our immune systems, punishing our kidney and liver. To many people, antibiotics cause allergic reactions.

3. People are getting scared of food contaminated by radiation. Nuclear reactors are being built in many countries as a fallback to fossil fuel.
With the recent nuclear plant meltdown in Fukoshima, Japan, the Chernobyl nuclear incident in Russia, and that of the Three-Miles Island nuclear plant in the US, people have become wary about the consequences of fallout. A trace of radiation can be absorbed by grass in the pasture, finds its way to milk, then to infants. Radiation can remain active for hundreds of years. People are still dying today in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, more than sixty years since the bombing of the two cities with the first atomic bomb.

4. People are becoming aware of the deleterious effects of toxic metals, such as lead, mercury and cadmium.These find their way through the food chain and ultimately reach humans. They escape to the air and enter our lungs, as in the case of dusts from old paints. Since they are in soluble compounds, they are easily absorbed by plants and animals. Kangkong (Ipomea reptans) for example absorbs lead. Tuna has high mercury in its tissues and liver. Cadmium from batteries is absorbed by crops.

5. People are becoming more conscious of the nutritional value of food rather than its packaging and presentation.
More and more people are shunning away from junk foods, in spite of 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 than those grown on poor soil, or with chemical fertilizers. This is also true with animals. Animals raised with proper nutrition give meat, milk and eggs with higher protein, minerals notwithstanding.

6. Freshness is the primordial rule in choosing a perishable food.
There is no substitute to freshness. While freshness is a function of efficient handling and marketing, the farmer 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.
Buko is a complete food 
7. 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 extend the shelf life of perishable commodities. There are products that require processing before they are used. These food items include vanilla, coffee, cacao, wine and vinegar, soya, fish sauce and the like. Profits generated through processing are value-added to production.

8. 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. Take salmonella and E. coli. Khapra beetle in grains may even cause death to animals. Weevils hasten the deterioration of the food.

9. 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 aid coagulation of the starch. We wary of sampaloc candies enticingly made red with shoe dye. The same diluted dye is used with ube manufacture to make it look like the real violet-colored tuber.

10. Beware of GMOs.
Many countries warn of the potential dangers of genetically modified food and food products, popularly called Frankenfood, after the novel Frankenstein, a mad scientist who created a monster. This move is not only to safeguard health, but also the environment. Genetically modified plants and animals – as well as bacteria, protists and even viruses – are now a threat to the natural gene pool, giving rise to a new kind of pollution - genetic pollution. Once a gene pool of a certain species is contaminated with a GMO genetic material, the genic pollutant cannot be eliminated, even in subsequent generations. Thus, it also disturbs natural evolution.
No GMO, please, for the sake of the children. 
Next time you go to market, remember these guidelines. Why not convert that idle lot to raise food that is safe to your health and the environment? That little corner could be the start of a new green revolution.

Part 2: Natural Farming Models

The other name of natural farming is organic farming. In the United States and Europe, the trend now is for people to reach for organically grown food. In malls and large groceries, we find rice labeled "organically grown."

Mere substitution of fertilizer from chemical to organic is not enough. The organic fertilizer must be free from pathogens, toxic waste and metals.

The crops and animals must not be products of genetic engineering, meaning they should come from natural gene pools.

Natural farming also requires the absence of chemical spraying. If it cannot be avoided, the spray must be biodegradable, using botanical derivatives like derris, neem and chrysanthemum.

Here are scenarios of natural farming in the country.

1. Payatak method (Samar) - This is a local version of zero tillage. No plowing, no harrowing is done. A herd of carabaos trample over the soil until it turns into puddle, then the one-month old rice seedlings are transplanted. There are no sprays or fertilizers. This is natural farming in the marginal sense, a carryover of age-old tradition.

2. Mixed orchard (Zambales) – This is a stand of several kinds of trees, where orchard, firewood trees and forest trees grow together. These trees follow a natural pattern of arrangement. They have no common pest and need soil fertility differentially. The trees have their own niche and grow into layers resembling storeys. Management is simple and practical.

3. Multiple cropping model (Sta. Maria. Bulacan) - The farmer engages in the production of three commodities. A two-hectare farm may produce fruits, vegetables and rice, plus several heads of carabao and cattle. A pond supplies irrigation and produces tilapia and hito.

Why three commodities? It is because these commodities are closely integrated. First, the animals produce, other than meat and milk, manure for the plants. The plants produce food for the family and market. Plant residues are made into animal feeds and compost. The pond is source of irrigation. It is a waterhole for wildlife conservation, too. Because of its integrated structure and management the farm becomes a balanced system. This is the key to sustainable agriculture, otherwise known as ecological farming.

4. Sloping agricultural land technology or (SALT in Bohol). Call this natural farming even if the farm is a logged over area. The idea is for the farmer to revert the land to its natural state as much as possible. How does he do it? If one sees the model, the land has a slope of around 20 degrees. The steeper the grade the more difficult it is to apply the system. It does not work for slopes above 30 degrees.

In SALT, the contour of the slope is marked and outlined. The contours are spaced uniformly, and the rows that follow the contour are planted at intervals with annual and permanent crops. The idea is for the permanent crops (like fruit trees and firewood trees) to be sandwiched with annual crops (like peanut, rice, corn, and vegetable). The ipil-ipil herbage is used as organic fertilizer. The Neem tree is used for pesticide, while Lantana (L. camara) is a natural pest repellant, so with Eucalyptus. Legume intercropping and crop rotation replenish the soil of Nitrogen and other elements.

5. Modified models (rice and corn areas). Rice farming can be modified to suit the conditions of natural farming. There are farms today that rely entirely on homemade or commercial organic fertilizers. An equally important aspect of successful farming is cleanliness. This means effective weed removal, trimmed waterways, properly disposed of farm wastes, efficient drainage, well arranged rows, and properly scheduled farming activities. All these activities require low technologies that are also affordable. Together they contribute to good health for both the producer and consumer - and the environment.

As more people go for organically-grown food, agriculture becomes more environment-friendly, which is the essence of ecological farming.

Part 3: Live Naturally in your Home
Home gardening and landscaping take us into the realms of happy living. They take us closer to nature in our waking hours and in our sleep, in our private and solemn moments, as well as moments with our family, and when celebrating an event. This is the place we call home.
Rustic scene of peace, a respite from city life,  
1. Aesthetic beauty – Beauty and function must go hand on hand. There is a saying, “useless each without the other.” In science, morphology (form) enhances physiology (function), and vice versa. Maganda na, napapakinabangan pa. You need the sensitivity of an artist, and the green thumb of a gardener.

2. Food Security – It is having food grown in our garden, and processed in our kitchen. The concept of food security is in our hands, and in anticipation to our needs. All year round you can plan out what to plant and process, as how many times you can raise these products. Consult the planting calendar, practice effective techniques such as crop rotation, intercropping, and storey cropping. Plant those known to be best adapted in the area.

3. Livelihood – What you produce more than yourself and your family, you sell to the community and to the market, if the volume warrantees. These are produced directly from the garden – vegetables, fruits, fish, meat and eggs. Or these are products of cottage processing like salted eggs, patis and bagoong, wine and vinegar, toge, pickles, jam, jelly and the like.

4. Ecological Sanctuary – Offer a home for the homeless - the orphans and the endangered organisms which humans have driven or displaced. Make your home their sanctuary, maybe their last bastion. Your home is an extension of the wildlife, of a ecosystem, or a natural park, so that if the whole community adopts the same concept, we would in effect create a contiguous areas large enough to be considered a prototype ecosystem.

5. Buffer Zone – Keep your home free of dusts and unburnt carbon, and obnoxious gases mainly CO2, CO and S02. Trees and other plants serve as buffer to direct light and ultraviolet rays. They also buffer sound waves, reducing the extreme decibels generated by traffic and electronics.

6. Mini climate – A garden surrounding a home does not only reduce temperature, buy moderates its extremes and sudden changes. They generate of O2 , while absorb CO2 which they need for photosynthesis. Relative humidity is regulated, and deadly rays such as those emitted by communication transmission towers are reduced to a safe level.

7. Sense of Permanence – The home offer a permanent abode, opposite to transience, rootlessness, and impermanence. People tend to move from place to place – a neo-nomadic trend today. We establish our genetic and cultural “roots” not only of one generation but of the next and future – if we have a home we really call home. It reminds me of the beautiful poem and song, Home Sweet Home. I remember my dad who planted seedlings of trees when he was already very old. These trees, he said, will be for you and my grandchildren, his eyes twinkling with a sense of pride. Can you imagine an old, old mango or mabolo tree in your backyard? How many passersby have found comfort under its shade? How many tenants did it  serve – in its roots to its leaves?

8. Recreating a Lost Garden – A recreation of Paradise Lost, the foundation of many faiths, is a key to attain spirituality. It is in the loss of a once beautiful world that challenges us – whatever our religion is – to be able not only to survive without it, but to be inspired and guided to rebuild it. It is yet the greatest prayer we can offer to that Higher Principle.

9. Family Unity – A family that lives together in unity and harmony with Nature stays together. This has a basis found in biology and ecology. Only when the members of a system know their roles and respect each other can we really find peace and unity.

10. Community Involvement – No man is an island. In the city we can live without even knowing our neighbors. Condominiums are but multiple compartments. There is no sense of neighborhood or community. Each to his own. And we do not know if the occupant of one compartment will be the same next week.
 
 American bungalow, most copied home design 
Sketch on a bond, an aerial view of a home garden you have in mind, and if there is one
that already exists, study and analyze which aspects are applicable in your particular situation. Definitely the house and the garden should be contiguous in the sense that, like the concept of the American bungalow, “one step is in the garden while the other is in the house.”



How aptly stated; the imagery needs little explanation. The level of the floor is the level of the garden. Not necessarily. It means, you have but one lifestyle whether you are in the house or in its surroundings. Better said, you are at home whichever part of your home you are in. Of course some people would like their house to be treated apart of the surroundings, but if you adopt the Bahay Kubo concept and adjust it to fit into the basic amenities of living today, then our model is like the American bungalow but Filipino style.~

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Wall of Flowers II

















Dr Abe and Cecille Rotor at a hotel lobby against a  mural painting of flowers.


A Wall of Flowers II
By Dr Abe V Rotor

Wall, if you are a mirror or you are a prison, 
which side is for the living, which one for the dead;
which side is the West, which one the East;
from where I stand I see a garden of flowers painted.

Photography: Skyscape - capture the fleeting images in the sky

Dr Abe V Rotor 
 Horse in the sky   
Sun in the trees  
Turtle in the sky 

Monday, October 20, 2014

You may be living with a Death-Watch Beetle


It’s like an Edgar Allan Poe’s story of death tapping on “a night dark and dreary”, but in this case it is not a raven.
Dr Abe V Rotor
It is the death-watch Beetle (Xestobium rufovillosum) that is alluded to death. It is an insect with a scary habit all right. The name was derived from the tapping sound it produces, which is frequently heard during mating period, usually in April or May.
Death-watch Beetle (Xestobium rufovillosum),
approximately 20 x magnification.
The beetle simply jerks its body forward in rapid succession, and strikes each time with the lower front part of its head against the surface on which it happens to be standing. It gives eight taps in slightly less than a second; and almost before it stops another beetle of its kind that is within hearing distance will respond by tapping back in the same quick manner. In woodwork and furniture that have been attacked by the death-watch Beetle, the worm holes are large and distinguished by the presence of frass and powder around the openings.

The beetles are from one-fourth to one-third of an inch in length, dark brown in color, spotted and banded irregularly with thick patches of short yellow gray hairs. Pairing takes place after the beetles have made their exit from the wood, and they die a few weeks later, the female in the meantime having laid some 70 eggs. The tapping is of the nature a sexual call, and may be repeated over and over for quite a long time. Grating sound may also be heard as the larvae gnaw on wood inside its tunnel. It takes three years to complete the insect’s life cycle.

A more familiar beetle, Anobium punctatum, is called powder post or furniture beetle, named after the dust it scatters at the mouth of its tunnel on furniture.

Well, it's just the death-watch beetle or the powder post beetle; there's nothing to fear about.
But don't wait until your furniture falls apart, or your house falls down. ~

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Edge of the Sea and Childhood

Dr Abe V Rotor 
Palo, Leyte
The fringe of the land, the edge of the sea,
     swells and recedes in calm and in rage,
telling a saga or make-believe story
     of child becoming man page by page. ~

Practical Home Remedies and Tips


Practical Home Remedies and Tips 
Dr Abe V Rotor

 1. Simplest remedy for diarrhea.
Diarrhea claims the lives of 3 million people, with nearly 2 million oif them children under five years old. Yet a simple and inexpensive treatment can prevent many of those deaths. Here is a simple formula for oral rehydration:  fistful of sugar + a pinch of salt + a jug of water.  This old home remedy is now recognized by the World Health Organization which claims that it has saved some 40 million lives, and hopes to demote diarrhea as the second leading cause of death among children. 

2. Do not do heavy work for 40 days after childbirth. 
This is especially true to rural women who do a lot of farm work aside from daily chores. But to urban mothers who are not usually accustomed to heavy physical work, it takes a longer time for them to recover after childbirth. The whole idea is to allow the inner organs to heal and the body physiology to get adjusted with child rearing.  Old folks recommend highly digestible and protein-rich food such as cereals, fruits and honey, which are also important in breast-feeding. Cognizant of the welfare of women, government regulation provides for an official maternity leave of sixty days, before and after child delivery.

In the village it is normal to nurse the baby for a year, but weaning may be started as soon as the child’s diet can be supplemented. Old folks would say,  “Milk doesn’t come out of the milk tree, it comes out of your blood.  Support that flow of blood that is converted into milk for the child.” 

3. Roasted shallot onion is an effective suppository.
Old folks heat shallot onion the size of the index finger until it is limp.  They then coat the bulb with coconut oil and while still sufficiently warm insert it into the anus.  It is a home remedy to reduce extreme fever and to draw out gas that causes kabag. People who have constipation problems resort to this practice.

4. Oxalic acid in kamias weakens the bones.
Sinigang with kamias (Averrhoa balimbi) is a favorite dish no Filipino kitchen is without. But too much intake of kamias is not good for the health because of the oxalic acid it contains which doctors and nutritionists found to be a cause of osteoporosis.  The principle is that, acids react with calcium compounds forming a neutral product – salt. In the process, the bone gets thinner and thinner predisposing it to break especially in old age. Thus, we should caution ourselves from taking too much acidic food, and in particular, kamias and balimbing (A. carambola)  which belong to Family Oxalidaceae

5. Onion and tomato spray kills harmful bacteria.
Spray derived from the extracts of these plants in low dilution proves to be effective against food bacteria. In certain restaurants it is a practice to spray the food with this stuff before it is served.  In others, standing food is sprayed to keep it safe. One problem though is the detection of the characteristic odor of onion, so that it is best to apply the spray on spicy food.