Sunday, November 30, 2014

To reach your destination fast, go slow

Dr Abe V Rotor
A young man was driving a caleza (horse drawn cart) loaded with coconuts on a market day. “I’ll be late and won’t be able to sell all my coconuts,” he said to himself. 

Whereupon he saw an old man on the roadside, stopped and asked, “How I can reach the marketplace the soonest I can, Apo Lakay (old man)?”

A typical caleza, a popular means of transportation during the Spanish period.

The old man glanced at the loaded caleza, smiled and said, “Just go slow anak (child), and you will reach your destination.”

The young man thought he was talking to an ulyanin (a forgetful person). Actually he was asking something he did not have to ask in the first place. 

So he cracked the whip and his horse galloped even if the road was rough and rutted. The nuts kept falling along the way so that he had to stop now and then to pick them up.

The old man is  right after all.

This story is relevant to us living on the fast lane, and in keeping up with the Joneses, for that matter. I can only imagine how the simple folk philosopher would give us the same advice.~

Makahiya - Enigmatic Plant

Dr Abe V Rotor 

Makahiya (Mimosa pudica)

Children wonder with awe on this enigmatic plant,
growing up to Nature's secret with lesser want. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Photography: Sad Faces of the Orang-utan

Author with a friendly primate. Orang-utan means man in the forest.
Acknowledgment: Avilon Zoo, Rizal

Man of the forest, orangutan, left by evolution of man,
which branch you followed but the lower rung;
or left by chance in a billion from a satellite in the sky,
that made a master that can think, walk and fly.

Enigma of the Coral Reef

No ecosystem in the world is more vast, open and free than the coral reef.

Paintings by Abe V Rotor

Don a snorkel and a new world unfolds - the coral reef.

It is a forest under the sea, the counterpart of the forest we know on land. There are also equivalent trees like the giant Sargassum that grows several feet long; shrubs like the branching Gracillaria; cacti like the broad Padina; annuals like spongy Codium. Together with sea grasses, these seaweeds form multi-storey greenery at varying depths the same way forests have the features of mountains, hills, caverns and cliffs.

The animals that live here are more varied and colorful than those on land, mimicking the prism of sunlight in water with all the splendor of the rainbow. There are fishes that are distinctly bright colored, and at night exude phosphorescence like neon lights. They borrow the shape of their surroundings, the corals and seaweeds, for both protection and aggression - all these are adaptations for survival.

On the coral reef food chains have more links, so to speak, and food webs more intricate, as both residents and transient organisms interact. No ecosystem in the world is more vast, open and free than the coral reef. It is also the most lavish. Even beauty itself. Living things and all their ornaments are irresistible to be awed and respected, holding an enigma that expands our imagination to fantasy that lures us to the sea and to love to fish and comb the reefs all day. To write poetry - and to paint.

x x x

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Your unfinished work could be your masterpiece!

Remember those things you thought were "unfinished" could be your greatest treasures, and who knows - people some day will remember you because of them. 
Dr Abe V Rotor
Photos by Anna Christina R Rotor And Leo Carlo R Rotor
Living with Nature - School on Blog
Lesson: Don't discard your unfinished work, say a painting, novel, sculpture. Try to get back to it. It could be your masterpiece. Maybe you were not able to complete it because you gave way to the priorities of living, or finding new interests, challenges, assignments, or simply you lost steam, so to speak. Or you say you've grown too old to complete it.

Take the case of the mysterious unfinished human figures at the University of the Philippines at Diliman, QC. Do they mean anything but abandonment? To me it's not. So with my daughter Anna and son Leo Carlo who took these photographs.

These unfinished life size human figures occupy the “less trodden” front yard of the UP College of Fine Arts in Diliman, QC. The artists may have in mind the portrayal of man more as a Homo faber - man the worker or maker rather than his attribute as the reasoning man (Homo sapiens) - and much less the playing man - Homo ludens. Here the figures appear to be workers of the land. In fact one resembles the Man with a Hoe by Markham. Another appears to be carrying an imaginary heavy load.

What is puzzling however, is the representation of peaceful death. While the living struggle, the dead lies in true rest, cradled by the earth. Which then changes the scenario if all the figures were to be directed to a solemn and sorrowful occasion of burying a departed member in thin ceremonious atmosphere. It now expresses the highest attribute of man - Homo spiritus - the praying man who places completely his fate to a Higher Being. The viewer now turns his thoughts to grief and compassion, and the scene is no longer the farm but a sacred ground. The imagined heavy load is a  burden of the heart, the figures are bent not by the burden of work but by the loss of a loved one.

Art is like that. It is like poetry, the meaning is hidden "between the lines." Like impressions in Impressionism; points in Pointillism. Or masked symbols in Pablo Picasso's plaza mural - Guernica. Unfinished works of masters often become their masterpieces like the Unfinished Symphony of Beethoven, and Mozart's Requiem, his last composition commissioned by a mysterious person. Mozart died before finishing it, and Requiem became his own. Auguste Renoir repeatedly painted his favorite Nymphaea Waterlilies until darkness took over his failing sight - so with the painting's clarity. Though half finished it is Renoir's final signature.

Venus de Milo is more beautiful with her arms missing. And for this, the best artists in the world gave up their attempt to supply her arms.
The mystery of the human figures of UP Diliman emanates from the anonymity of their theme that stands at the crossroad of human imagination searching for the meaning of life, exacerbated by their unfinished, and apparent abandoned state.

So what have you discovered about yourself by going back to those unfinished works? Share with us your experience. Remember those things you abandoned could be your greatest treasures, and who knows - people some day will remember you because of them. ~

Monday, November 24, 2014

Cranefly or Daddy-long-legs

If you can detect a cranefly, you must have a third eye.

Dr Abe V Rotor 
 Crane Fly (Tipula sp), 
Family Tipulidae, Order Diptera 

This is a rare specimen I caught at home. It is a very curious one, although it is quite familiar; it is a relative of the mosquito. It is also rare because its size is much bigger than the ordinary cranefly we often called daddy-long-legs.*

The cranefly undergoes four stages - egg, larva called maggot, pupa and adult. The maggot feeds on crops and pasture grass but it inflicts little damage. The adults emerge and swarm in the evening. They have queer body structure and movement. 

Craneflies are clumsy fliers, mainly because they have only one pair of wings for flying. That is why they are classified Diptera - two wings. The pair of hindwings are reduced into halteres or balancers which look like stubs or knobs.

When at rest, craneflies shake continuously in all directions that they become virtually invisible to their enemies. This unique mechanism has not been fully studied.

Among the Arachnids, members of the Pholcidae family are also called daddy-long-legs spiders. Their presence is known to be worldwide. Here are two species of harvestman spiders. The one at the right appears hazy and blurred as seen when it is in continuous shaking motion. (Acknowledgement: Internet, Wikipedia)  

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Native American Art in Postmodern Times

Verses by Dr Abe V Rotor
 Indian dance to pop music,
its rhyme and rhythm lost;
what music lacks costume fills,
but at pseudo fashion cost  
 A single tree in a lake of snow;
orphaned from the woods I know;
the prairies where once they roamed 
these horses are all but doomed.   
Which run faster, feet or stream?
coherent words or scream?
witness the houses and flowers,
the idleness  before the showers.  
 A world of fantasy in Exupery's The Little Prince
save for a fox untamed and a stairway to the sky,  
amid night butterflies and day roses sans thorns - 
a potpourri of events in a setting false and wry.   

Fireworks, but whose and for whom -
doesn't matter, if at the bidding end, 
such spectacle by man genius is open,
more to the poor and the children. 
If Jack and the Beanstalk is still alive,
here is a scene to ponder and compare, 
to dream of the goose that lays the golden egg,
with thousands at their bidding simply stare.  
 Do you still believe in Santa Claus?
If you believe, then you do not know;
and if you know, then you don't believe.

Just listen to the soft falling snow. ~

Friday, November 21, 2014

Child Scholar

Dr Abe V Rotor
The Child Scholar, Photo by Miss Janine Pascual 

All alone she owns the whole wide world,
 a kingdom she rules in innocence ,
move over do not distract her thoughts,
 wait at the other side of the fence. 

And knowledge she too, owns all alone,
through joy and imagination spawn,
 immeasurable and soaring free;
wait until she explores the unknown. 

And into the world she discovers
More mysteries than what she had known
Like climbing to the top of a hill,
away from the kingdom once her own.  ~

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Cross in the Sky

Dr Abe V Rotor 

Skeleton of an acacia tree, QC

I have lost you forever,
now a silhouette in the sky,
spreading a gospel to remember
for the mindless passerby.

You lived half of your life,
yet fullest at the Throne;
earning it well with strife, 
where every seed is grown.

The birds now a flock, 
the child a man; 
you bid them all the luck,
and now you are gone.

In youth you sheltered me,
a thought I can't be free,
I atone for your brevity, 
with a thousand-and-one tree.~

Sleep paralysis - wiggle your toes, move your fingers – don’t give up!

Dr Abe V Rotor

People who have experienced sleep paralysis mistake it as bangongot. It is because of its very nature as a near death experience and it is indeed very scary. I have experienced it myself in a number of times in at least two ways.
Scare to Nightmare. Halloween at National Food Authority QC 2009

The most common frightening experience is when you are dreaming, say of running but you can’t run, box someone but you can’t raise your arm. Imagine you are being chased by a wild animal and you are glued in your place!

There’s one thing you can do: panic and talk incoherently or shout. You wake up tired, panting, perspiring, trying to decipher whether the experience is true or just a dream. It is so vivid that when you are back to your senses you can relate perhaps the whole story.

The other kind of sleep paralysis is more frightening. It is one that may or may not be preceded by a dream. On waking up, you can’t move. You feel totally paralyzed with perhaps only your brain is functioning. Panic seizes you, as you attempt to move but cannot. Frantically you try to move any part of your body. In my experience the first to respond are the fingers and toes, then the limbs, and as blood begins to circulate perked by adrenaline, you find yourself finally “back to the living.”

Sleep paralysis is nature’s way of protecting us during our unconscious moments. Otherwise we become another Hercules who killed his wife and children in his sleep. This safeguard is not absolutely foul proof though. Take the case of sleepwalking and some cases of violence that occur during sleeping.

Remember the popular novel Heidi by Johanna Spyri? The little orphan girl was mistaken as ghost while walking in her sleep. She was so homesick for her grandfather living on the Alps, far away from the city where she was obliged to reside. Our unconscious behavior during sleep is an expression of repressed feelings, such as fears and frustrations. Often, it is the residue of childhood unpleasant experiences.

Well, whatever way there is to assuage you, sleep paralysis, nightmares - or any similar kind - really scares you to death. Just don’t give up!~

Serendipity and Peace

Peace, like happiness, is a by-product. It is the end result of our common endeavor to put things in their proper order. Fr Rolando de la Rosa, OP

UST Main building (top); Arch of the Centuries and Fountain of Knowledge

Serendipity means accidentally discovering something valuable while looking entirely for something else.

"We are gathered here looking for a way to make peace in a turbulent world. I hope that/we shall learn not only techniques and strategies on how to make peace. I hope we shall discover that peace is not something we make: as in make love, make money, or make believe. A holy man named Augustine once wrote: Peace is the tranquility of order. Tranquilitas ordinis.

Peace, like happiness, is a by-product. It is the end result of our common endeavor to put things in their proper order. We shall never experience peace if there is dis-order in our personal lives, in society, in our churches.

One contemporary apostle of UNITY among peoples, Chiara Lubich once gave us this insight into our contemporary situation: 'What hurts me is mine.' I take those words to mean that peace begins when we realize that all the pain and suffering we endure are of our own making. It is by owning this pain that we develop a sense of belonging to a human family broken by sin and its consequences, and which enable us to dialogue with others in humility and reverence."

Excerpt from the welcome address of Rev Fr Rolando V de la Rosa, OP, rector of the University of Santo Tomas, before the delegates to the 7th General Assembly Asian Conference of Religions for Peace (ARCP) Peacemaking in Asia, October 17 to 21, 2008.

Mutation Gone Wild Through Genetic Engineering

Glass paintings and Poem by Dr Abe V Rotor
 Crustacean mutants
 Turkey fish Siamese twin
Deformed Groupers

        Evolution through fusion: Sargassum fish 

Who is your father, who is your mother?
your sister, your brother?
You look like no one; 
where did you come from?

Who is your guardian, who is your maker?
your ancestor, your kin?
You look like alien; 
where did you come from?

Who is your friend, who is your neighbor?
your mate, your children?
You are an outcast; 
where did you come from?

Why do you have blood other than your own?
Tissue and cells enlarged?
chromosomes paired, unpaired
DNA snipped, spliced? 

Why do you have to be a giant among the small?
Or Lilliputian to be smart?
shaped like barrel or grass,
armed with less or more?

Why do you have to eat more than you should?
ravage all - big and small
to grow too large heeding not
the fate of the dinosaur?

Why do you have to veer away from your origin?
evade the dictates of nature?
live like vagabond 
sans company, sans home?

What good is science destined to nowhere?
 thriving on trial and error?
and having no control 
of good and evil? 

What good  is science sans conscience clear?
though genius its master
at the border of insanity
for fame and glory? 

What good is science that creates a Frankenstein
monster deprived of love,
home and family, 
rebel against humanity?

What good is science that destroys what it builds?  
like mad destroying the Pieta
for not seeing true beauty
in  simplicity and piety?

x x x 

* Spontaneous thoughts of the author while painting these images of an unnatural world.  

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Ilokano Verses: Ullaw (Kite)

Dr Abe V Rotor

Kite flying ahead of the maturity of grains results 
in poor harvest. Detail of mural by the author

Ullaw nasapa,
Ubbing agkakatawa,
Umpes ti dawa.

(Early kite flying and boisterous
urchins predict empty grains.)

Author gathers wild mushroom believed to have
been spawned by thunder and lightning

Kimat, gurruod:
Panagbuteng, panag-raem,
Igges, u’ong.

(Lightning, thunder spawn fear
and respect, vermin and mushroom)

Angin ammianan,
Kannaway agsangpetdan,
Nepnep umayen.

(Wind from the South brings in
herons nd monsoon rains)

'Diay kakawkawayanan,
Angin abagatan.

[The north wind (amihan)
makes the bamboos creak.]

Denggem ti kanta:
Arado nga sumilsilap,
Andidit ken kuriat.

(Listen to the chorus of plowshare,
cicada and crickets, indicating good 
crop year.)

Bangir inaladan,
Sanga marmargu-uyan,
Amin mairaman.

(All shares bounty of a branch
across the fence.)

Nagatud nga nasapa,

(Early pruning retards
growth of the plant.)

Pul-oy iti mumalmalem,
Sirok mangga.

(It’s conducive to take siesta
under the mango tree.)

Agri-ing dagiti bittuen,

(Stars are seen under bare
trees in fall.)

Bulong ti akasia

(It’s time to go home when
the leaves of the acacia tree start to droop.)

Kalgaw nalpasen:
Saan nga masapulan
Lapis ken papel.

(Summer is over - it's hard
to go back to school.)~

Ruins of a Sunken Pier

Idleness and uselessness are a duo in the art of waste.
Dr Abe V Rotor
Puerto, Sto Domingo, Ilocos Sur (Megabooks)

No, it was not the big gun
that brought you down; 
it was old Lamarckian 
who brought in the clown.

When not in use, a thing
degenerates into nothing;
once a rudiment,
it is a useless instrument.

The limbs of a reptile,
the coccyx of the tail,
Intramuros or Great Wall
are of no use at all.

Idleness and uselessness
are a duo in the art of waste;
great indeed is loss in disuse,
the grey matter's no excuse.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Ode to the Talisay - the Autumn Tree in the Tropics

Dr Abe V Rotor 

Talisay (Terminalia catappa)

You bring the autumn where there is none;
     only monsoon have we, wet and dry;
you lose your crown before the rains come;
     and at harvest time, you weep and cry.

Your ancestors left home eons ago 
     as the continents drifted apart; 
divided by the cold and warm sea 
     surviving them here in this part.   

You carry their genes of four seasons,
     deciduous without winter snow;
emerging with new crown in summer,
     and amihan* is your greatest show.~

*Season of cool winds, Siberian High, October to December 

Relevance of Museums Today

Dr Abe V Rotor 
Burning of St Paul building WWII, mural by AVRotor
Seven Sisters, sculpture by Julie Lluch, detail

Life size icons at Museum's entrance greet visitor.

Porcupineendangered indigenous animal

Rare starfish. Spines make a fine wind chime.

Isn’t a museum something concerned with antiques and the things of the past?” A colleague once asked me.

“No, no.” I sounded defensive. Then I began scanning his thoughts. There I saw the image of past civilization and institutions. No wonder he was telling of the Egyptian museum, the Aztecs in the Mexican Museum, the American Indians in the Smithsonian, the Renaissance Gallery, and the dinosaurs in the Chinese Museum in Beijing. All these have long lost their glory and now they are remembered in glass cases and fossils. Then my thoughts turned to SPCQ. Why a museum on its 50th anniversary? My friend flashed a devilish smile.

He played the devil’s advocate; I played the student’s role. He raised the mercury, so with my enthusiasm. I did my assignment. There are museums like the giant Smithsonian Complex and the provincial Manitoba museum in Winnipeg that do not only focus on the past. The space museum projects man’s lofty dreams to conquer space. Hirshorn is a gallery that is both subjective and prospective, veering from the traditional and classic. The Tel-Aviv museum features a documentary of the Iran-Iraq war. The trend of museums today is to link the past and the present, and beat the path for the future. In no other time in history have museums tried to project the fullest breadth of human accomplishments and potentials. They exude a touch of reverence to the Creator, reflecting his faith in the institutions which he built in spite of their imperfections, and man’s glory and admittance of failure – all these point out to one thing: that he is the most special creature that ever lived.

I remember Dr. Dillon Ripley’s words. “ if it is truly active and reflective of its own time, a museum will, like any living thing, change and grow.”

Dynamism lies in keeping abreast with the times - our fast changing modern times, when man in the last two centuries alone, has discovered more things than what all his ancestors probably did.

Humble Beginning of a Museum

In the mind of Dr. Ripley, of course, is one of the magnitude and prestige of the Smithsonian in which he had long been the curator and director. Or those of the internationally known institutions like the Chicago Museum of Natural History, or the Vatican Museum. Then there is Rikj Museum of Holland and the great Louvers of France. Name a country and you will see the finest of her culture in the native land’s museums. But the entire thing has had its early beginning - most probably like how the SPCQ museum got started.

The question is that, “How can a newly born show its worth?” But who does not love a baby? The baby itself is love. He holds the key of idealism in this world of ours. The great promise of God in man is mirrored in his smile and innocence. And he has all the potential that this world would be better to live in with him, as he grows, as he lightens the flame of idealism which in many of us adults had long been extinguished. The SPCQ museum is a baby that rekindles our heart, that tells us that this world will go on despite its imperfection – because we know how to start life again, though the rebirth of faith and hope.

Note: Excerpt from an interview with the author during the inauguration of the SPCQ Museum in 1994

Monday with Saint Paul, the Apostle*

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

Modern campus of St. Paul University QC
One Monday I visited Saint Paul with inquiries I seldom asked before;
Fifteen years I served him, a teacher of his school, keeper of a museum;
Time has changed the world, global is its effect - would St Paul tell me
More of the ways of the world to give life a meaning? So did I assume.

"Tell me where Damascus Road is where you heard God speak;
Tell me how you crossed the Mediterranean in a storm and survive;
Tell me how you carried the Word among unbelievers and Pharisees;
Tell me how you faced death yet kept alive your faith and noble pride.

"Tell me where have the Gentiles you converted and followers gone;
Tell me how you wrote the scriptures that gave the bible a wider view;
Tell me how man can become a saint and a saint to become man;
Tell me how to reach heaven without striving to be a martyr like you."

The sun rose high, sending reflection of gray clouds on giant glass panes;
The pavement is bare, the marble floor a mirage, yet empty as the sea;
High rise the buildings are - towers and spires, proud symbols of power;
In the deep silence, I heard the same words, "Why do you persecute me." ~

Saul on Damascus Road (8ft x 8ft,) painted by the author, the 
first of six murals that graced the former St Paul museum for 
15 years (1995 to 2010). 
*Dedicated to St. Paul on his Conversion, celebrated on January 25, 2014.  Author is a native of San Vicente, Ilocos Sur, now part of Metro Vigan whose patron saint is St Paul the Apostle.    The Conversion of Paul the Apostle, was, according to the New Testament, an event that took place in the life of Paul the Apostle which led him to cease persecuting early Christians and to become a follower of Jesus. It is normally dated by researchers to AD 33–36, which means that the event took place after the crucifixion of Christ.  Paul was not among the original twelve apostles, yet he carried on Christ mission no other apostle or disciple had ever done as much. For which Paul earned this title as "apostle" of Christ, even if they never met in real life. The phrases Pauline conversionDamascene conversion and Damascus Christophany, and road to Damascus allude to this event.