Friday, January 31, 2014

Lichen - Nature's Barometer of Healthy Environment

Lichen - Nature's Barometer of Healthy Environment 
Dr Abe V Rotor
Norfolk Pine in Tagaytay bears on its trunk a carpet of Foliose and Squamous Lichens which are mistaken at first glance as a disease or parasite.  

The fact is, lichens play a symbiotic role with the host tree. 

To some scientists such relationship is called commensalism, a relationship whereby the lichens receive more benefits than the host tree owing to their foothold advantage that enable them to reach out for the sun and to occupy adequate space with least competition with other organisms. One the other hand, the tree is protected from pest and effects of environmental change like drought.   

The lichen in itself is an interesting specimen.  A lichen is actually a group of two distinct genera of different kingdoms in the phylogeny of living organisms - alga (Kingdom Protista) and fungus (Kingdom Mycophyta) - living inseparably, a relationship developed through the long and uncertain process of evolution.  

Instead of each member developing its own adaptation, the two joined forces so to speak, in order for both to survive.  It is a perfect example of evolution through cooperation, instead of competition as in most cases of evolutionary success. 

The alga being photosynthetic manufactures food which it shares with the fungus.  The fungus on the other hand, being saprophytic, converts organic matter back into elemental forms which the alga again uses. Such a relationship consists of an enduring cycle - season in season out, year in year out, covering a span of hundreds if not a thousand years. Such a feat is among the wonders of the living world. If the Redwood or Sequioa is the longest living individual which is estimated to be up to three thousands years, the lichen is the longest living union (mutualism). 

The key to such success through mutualism lies not only in highly efficient nutrient exchange, but gas exchange principally CO2 and O2, as well. More so, for their ability to transform rocks into living mass which they share with other living things in their own time and in the future. They are the precursors of succession in the living world. Which points out to another evolutionary tool - benevolence - the sharing of resources albeit destructive competition. 

More than this general knowledge there is very little we know about lichens.  One thing ecologists are learning about lichens is the fact that they are a natural indicator, a sort of barometer, of environmental conditions.  They thrive best where the air is clean, temperature change is moderate, so with relative humidity, the vegetative cover undisturbed, the rivers and lakes full, etc.  And that lichens thrive best where man's intervention is least - if ever there is. 

Thus it leads us to the simple philosophy of a old man living near the summit of Mt Pulag in Benguet, reminiscent of the American philosopher Henry David Thoreau who lived by a pond (Walden Pond) deep in a woodland far away from town. 

Here on the country's second highest mountain, 'Tang Ben, when asked on how Nature is kept pristine - even without first explaining to him the scientific basis of diversity and balance - simply quipped with confidence and sparkle in his eyes.

"Just leave Nature alone."     

 Close up of fruticose lichen and crustose lichens (upper and lower photos, respectively). There are three general types, in increasing morphological complexity, the crustose being the simplest and the fruticose the most complex, which is often mistaken as moss and liverwort and even plant. Although governed by niches or boundaries, lichens of two kinds, or intermediate types as proposed by recent studies, are observed to be growing together in a state of dynamic balance heretofore barely understood. ~       

Introducing Baby Food

Dr Abe V Rotor

Weaning - time to get baby to the dining table,
and move away from the bottle;
to learn taste, aroma, to chew and to nourish
food, and get ready for life's battle; 
a stage to rejoice, to find relief and joy, a baby
becoming a baby no longer;
in the art of nutrition and culinary, the baby
deserves the best we can offer. ~ 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Ten things to see under a microscope (Basic Microscopy for Kids)

Ten things to see under a microscope (Basic Microscopy for Kids)  
Dr Abe V Rotor

Summer Workshop for kids conducted by the author. Lagro QC 2013]

You can't see what is inside a mega mall, 
     but things for granted and so small;  

You can't see a movie or a telenobela,
     but the living world of minutiae;

You can't see Superman and Godzilla,
     but their minuscule Vorticella;

You can't see the beginning and end of time,
    but in between, a moment divine.

You can't see where all the wealth and money 
     come from, but another story.  

You can't see the winning number of a game,
     but a narrow path to fame.

You can't see the source of love and devotion,
     but the beginning of true union.

You can't see Pasteur, Koch and Fleming,
     but their little disciple striving.    

You can't see miracles and great missions,
     but their humble manifestations. 

You can't see God as you would at the Sistine,  
     but His image in every thing. ~   

Oxygen bubbles cling on filamentous green alga, by-product of photosynthesis.  Oxygen is either dissolved in water for fish, or released into the air for land animals, including man. Chlorophyll (green pigment of plants, algae and some monerans like BGA) catches the light energy of the sun, and with CO2, produces food and oxygen which are important to life.  This process is known as photosynthesis.  

 Yeast cells actively divide in sugar substrate in fermentation resulting in the production of ethanol or wine, and CO2 as byproduct. When used in baking, the CO2 is trapped in the dough and causes it to rise and form leavened bread. Yeast (Saccharomyces) reproduces rapidly by vegetative means - budding.  Note newly formed buds, and young buds still clinging on mother cells. 

 Protozoans are agents of decomposition, and live on organic debris.  In the process they convert it into detritus or organic matter and ultimately to its elemental composition which the next generation of plants and other life forms utilize. Protozoans or protists are one-celled organisms, having organelles which function like organs of higher animals. Protozoans live in colonies and in association with other living things as symbionts, commensals, and for the pathogenic forms, parasites.    

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Entomology: Cockroaches eat on anything - almost.

Cockroaches eat on anything - almost.
Number One Pest in the Home
Dr Abe V Rotor

American cockroach (Periplaneta americana) is most commonly found in the tropics
True. Being omnivorous, cockroaches voraciously consume all kinds of materials that are rich in carbohydrates, proteins, fats and oils. But when these are not available they turn to unlikely food source like soap, photographic film, clothes, wood and drugs. In fact they even turn into predators, devouring other insects, and sometimes biting people in their sleep. Their bite often gets swollen and infected. Cockroaches are found in all places where humans live and conduct his trade, commerce and industry. Only rats can be compared with the tenacity of the cockroach.

The cockroach has very powerful digestive enzymes: proteases digest protein, invertase breaks complex sugar, and amylase breaks starches. Its saliva contains powerful enzymes coming from the gastric caeca, while the Malphigian tubules secrete an enzyme that is equally disgusting. It is no wonder that just a single frass (feces) can spoil a whole pot of rice by its obnoxious smell. By the way there are three most common species that we encounter in the home and public places. These are the American cockroach or Periplaneta americana (large, rust red with a yellow band across its thorax), the German cockroach or Blatta germanica (pale yellow, only one-third the size of the American species) and the oriental cockroach or Blatta orientalis (dark brown to black, the biggest and filthiest of all cockroaches.)

Meticulous sanitation is the best way to get rid of cockroaches. To keep their population down, sprinkle carbamate (Sevin) on the kitchen floor, pathways and possible hideout of the pest, preferably before retiring at night. Keep doors and screens properly closed to prevent entry of the insect. 

 Life cycle of American cockroach (hemimetabola - egg, nymph, adult)
 A community of American cockroach.

                                           Three most common species 

How to minimize cockroaches at home and workplace. (CLIPS)
  • Cleanliness - cockroach is a barometer of housekeeping 
  • Lighting - cockroach is nocturnal. Vigil light keeps them at bay. 
  • Isolation - screen, cabinets and drawers, containers
  • Protection - kill or repel with derris, pandan mabango, chemical (carbamate like Sevin), traps
  • Starvation - get rid of droppings, morsels, leftovers
Acknowledgement: Photos credit: Internet

Monday, January 27, 2014

Guimaras – John Milton's Paradise

Paradise Lost in Postmodern Times
Dr Abe V. Rotor
(Written in 2006, dedicated to the victims of the oil spill tragedy, and to those who rose to their finest hour to help.)
NOTE: Recently another oil spill incident hit the island.  Although on a lesser scale, the damage is likewise irreparable. This article is dedicated to the inhabitants whose beautiful place has become an unwilling victim of economic and technological progress. It is also dedicated to the brave workers many of them are volunteers, whose effort brought hope and light in the hour of need. From these the world can see the goodness and evil of today's modern living.  It is man's firm belief however, that goodness shall always prevail.    

Guimaras Island on the map

Irreversible loss of natural habitats covering thousands of hectares of mangrove, estuaries, coral reefs and sea grasses.  Fishing virtually came to a halt; other livelihoods closed down.

Guimaras can be imagined to be the Paradise in the Book of Genesis.

The big difference however is that 
on Guimaras Island Paradise was destroyed by man, whereas in the Bible man was banished from Paradise as punishment for his sin, and Paradise was preserved.

Nature reveals her beauty on the green fields that turn yellow and gold at harvest time. The pasture is a carpet green dotted with grazing cattle in roan, black, white and spotted colors, moving slowly, if at all, in docile pace that you think they are strewn boulders in the distance.

The trees, when the wind blows, sing in soft, plaintive, rustling notes, their branching swinging to the music. Towards the end of the year when the cold wind from the north arrives, their leaves turn into autumn colors of red, orange and yellow, falling off and littering the ground around. Now and then a gust of wind takes them to the road, and when the sun is up and you happen to step on them barefooted, they crackle and tickle. They send children giggling with delight. And they would rally the leaves floating down the whistling stream as if they were racing boats.

It is a similar experience you get when walking on the shores of Guimaras. White sands swallow you up to the ankle at the water edge, pegging you down. You cannot resist taking a dip or swim in the pristine water, and before you know it you are joined by colorful fishes, a school of them, bobbling to the surface to greet you and diving around your feet, sometimes playfully nibbling your toes. They live among the seaweeds and corals that make the forest of the sea.

And speaking of forest, look behind you. Afar the mountains are dark green because they are covered with virgin forests. They catch the clouds and make them fall everyday. The rain makes the trees lush, irrigates the fields, feeds the rivers and lakes and down it meets the sea. It is here where freshwater and sea water meet. It is call estuary.

The estuary is the sanctuary of countless organisms; it is their breeding ground, their nursery. It is in the estuary where mangrove trees, coconut and nipa palms densely grow, binding soil and mud to build a new land, or form a delta. On the sea side they serve as a living wall that buffers the impact of tidal waves or the sudden onslaught of 
tsunami. They are nature’s fortress to protect the villages, farms and pastures.

But these scenarios are a thing of the past. It is a beautiful dream that ended in a nightmare.

On waking up, the gentle people in Guimaras, a small island near Iloilo in the Visayas, came face to face with the biggest catastrophe that changed their lives and their island forever.

Oil spill!

A huge barge carrying millions of liters of fuel oil broke and sunk into the bottom of the sea directly facing the island.

The black liquid oozed for days, and continued for weeks and months from the sunken ill-fated tanker, and because oil is lighter than water, it floated and spread over many square kilometers, polluting the once pristine sea and beaches. Soon fishermen abandoned their trade. Tourists no longer came. Because oil is poison to all living things – fish, amphibians, corals, trees and the like – died. And under the shearing heat of the sun, spontaneous combustion finishes off the dying trees and palms.

Many people died – and more are dying due to the cumulative and long-term effects of oil, because being a hydrocarbon it destroys the liver, kidneys and nervous system. Many people got sick, mostly children. Schools closed. The streets were empty. There was little to buy in the market. Fumes filled the air, and into the lungs sending people to live elsewhere. Many of those who chose to remain got sick and died.

Ka Pepe and Aling Maria lost their only son. He worked too hard cleaning up the black oil that seeped under their house, until he succumbed to the deadly fumes.

“What have we done to deserve this?” The stricken couple asked. “Why are we punished for a sin we did not commit.”

"It is a wrath of God," a religious said with firmness in her voice, "because we have sinned." Many were angry with pointing fingers. Nobody could offer any other acceptable answer, until one said, “Forgive your brother who sinned.” Yes, it is Christian to forgive for the love of God. It was consoling. It made people feel calm compassionate.

Indeed there were many people who went to Guimaras after the tragedy struck. Fr. Ben said mass. Nuns sang hymns. Petron, the owner of the spilled oil, paid residents to clean their own homes and environs. Hairdressers sent shipments of hair to bind the floating oil, but this only compounded the problem of disposal because hair does not readily decompose and burning it further creates another problem - another pollution.

Others sent old clothing, canned goods, some money. Local officials visited places on rugged wheels, places they had missed in their itenerary before. Doctors and nurses worked into the   night. Media documented the tragedy. Victims were interviewed. There were volunteers who would come and go. There was no let up of investigations trying to pin down the culprits. Soldiers stood guard.

Every morning the curtain unveils this pathetic drama of life, and closes it at the end of the day, trying to erase it from memory and in the darkness of night. How long will this nightmare continue, one would only guess. Perhaps years. Perhaps a generation or longer. And future generations will never know what happened.

There were no laughters, not even from the children playing. The sea did not clap. The waves simply died on the shore, muffled under sludge of oil. A crow flew above, gave off some sonorous notes – the sound of death.

It is Paradise Lost in our times before our very eyes. ~

Photos Courtesy of Francis Allan Angelo, The GUARDIAN Newspaper; Wikipedia;  Acknowledgment: Iloilo City Boy
Field Trip to Guimaras:
 A Living School Beauty, Bounty and Wisdom 
Photos by the author

Field trip - on-site and hands-on learning. Participants to the Philippine Society for Educational Research and Evaluation (PSERE), representing 26 colleges and universities from different parts of the Philippines, visited the JBLFMU Ecological Park, listened to field lecture and demonstration, and experienced social immersion with the members of the community. Cruising by motorboat to reach Guimaras Island from Iloilo, and to the Southeast Asia Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) marine station, is adventure - a learning process seldom encountered by teachers and students in the city.

Scenes on Guimaras: Professors all, academicians, educators. The world is exploding with knowledge, the world is traveling on two feet (communication and transportation).  Tradition is left behind if not being waylaid, generations are losing their connections by culture, exposure, distance. We must keep abreast, we have to be computer literate, we go back to school, attend continuing education training, get ourselves involved in social immersion. This is PSERE's thrust in research, but research that looks not only to discoveries and inventions, but to ascertain the continuity, contiguity, and sustainability of progress, of proven techniques and formulas, of working models, of every research that contributes to the efficiency of  a system.     

Who qualifies as tour guide?  Field instructor? Like in the field of sports, he is a player himself - and somebody who has won medals and trophies.  So in science and technology, in marine biology, in explaining the mangrove, the flying foxes (giant fruit bats), in predicting a coming storm, the spawning of dulong and other species, sudden swarming of jellyfish. Why the deer is no longer around.  Are there still crocodiles in the swamp? Pick a leaf and he will tell you the plant, its scientific name and family, too. Why do starfishes stay on sea grasses, how are they harmful to shellfish like clams and oysters (because they have five arms alternately prying the bivalve which ultimately loses its muscle grip to keep close).  We smile for new knowledge, and at people who bring it to us in their simplicity and sincerity and friendliness.  
Meet Jun a marine technician of SEAFDEC (in blue green) an expert by virtue of long, rich experience and domicile by the sea since birth.  Ask about the giant lapulapu (kugtong), mother bangus, mullet (ludong), mayamaya, matangbaka, and the like, and he will recite their natural history at fingertip.  If he were in music he is a musico de oido (by ear), and if there is a blue thumb, counterpart of green thumb in farming, he is surely one in fishing. He is indeed a naturalist. 

Nature posters express concern on the environment by students who spend time in the Eco Park, making it an extension of the classroom and laboratory. Here they forget for the time being the TV, the computer, and other amenities of life.  It is communion with nature. ~

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Emptiness in Amihan

Dr Abe V Rotor

Eerie and quiet atop Antipolo hill 

       When Amihan blows in the cold Siberian wind,
       summer ends with the last footstep of guests, 
    their loneliness preserved in this emptiness, 
     their pain relieved - that, we can only guess.  

Friday, January 24, 2014

A practical Exercise on Admiring People

"Tell me the people you admire and I'll tell you who you are." 
Dr Abe V Rotor

More than the definition given by most dictionaries, there is something deeper when we admire somebody.  It is a way of saying thank you, in silent gratitude.  It is modeling a person whose character has influenced us.  It is bringing back values in deference to ethics and morals, through a person (e.g., Nelson Mandela as an epitome of leadership), or a thing (e.g., Statue of Liberty). Or a significant event like the end of the Cold War. 

Author joins senior faculty members of St Paul University during a retreat at Angels Hill, Tagaytay.  From left, Prof Rey Pedroche, Dr Sel Cabigan, the author, and Dr Manny Martinez.  Admiring people is categorized into four levels, namely: 
  • Admiring is emulating
  • Admiring is sharing,  
  • Admiring is natural and spontaneous  
  • Admiring is formative (it can be improved)  
ədˈmī(ə)r/ verb = regard (an object, quality, or person) with respect or warm approval. Example: "I admire your courage
Synonyms:esteem, approve of, respect, think highly of, rate highly, hold in high regard, applaud, praise, commend, acclaim 
In this exercise we will focus on admiring people. Admiring is perhaps the most positive expression a person can offer.  It may be as simple as a prayer, or candid as a citation. It is emulation; it is inspiration. We live with it everyday the whole of our rational life. When we admire, our thoughts turn positive, our pulse slows down, our face shines a smile that emanates from deep inside. Because admiration comes from the heart and soul. Which is its true proof and measure.

Here is an exercise you can conduct in your class, among your peers, or in an outreach group in your community.  You can start at home. 


With a piece of paper, ask your audience to write the names of ten persons (real), whom they most admire. This will take ten minutes.  Conduct the exercise in complete silence. Because it is an individual exercise conferring should be avoided. You may provide a suitable music background, such as Mozart music; it is therapeutic (Mozart Effect). It is conducive to reflection and analysis.  

Please stop reading this article and work on the exercise. Resume reading when finished.

Can you identify who these persons are? (Answer below) Bonus of one point each.  Add to your score.


There are five levels to which you classify the people you listed.
  • great men and women, living and dead  - 5
  • successful persons in their respective fields  - 4
  • members of the family, other relatives - 3
  • friends and colleagues - 2 
  • personalities, characters, in the entertainment world - 1 
Classify each person accordingly and give his or her due score. Get the total. 

41 - 50   You are intelligent, idealistic, optimistic, success-conscious. Admiring is emulating
31 - 40   You are also success-conscious, friendly, loving and lovable. Admiring is sharing,  
21 - 30   You are OK; you belong to the 60 percent in a population. You can get well in life and with people. Admiring is spontaneous  
20 and below You need to review what you admire in people, and what people admire in you.  Admiring is formative (it can be improved)  
Among the most admired people of the world are Bill Gates (US, Microsoft Chairman), Vladimir Putin (Russia president), and Sachin Tendulkar (India, Cricket Player) Sample of a survey by YouGov from 14,000 people from 13 nations whom they looked up to most. Time January 10, 2014
Nelson Mandela (top)
James Reuter and Albert Einstein (left and right, respectively)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Dog virus is deadly to tigers

Dr Abe V Rotor
Common virus that causes distemper in dogs and other canines is infecting tigers and other big cats. Tigers, among other game animals, are endangered by poaching and shrinking of natural habitats, now exacerbated by this newly discovered disorder. While vaccination is the practical approach in curtailing the spread of the virus, the procedure is extremely difficult to apply under wildlife condition. (Acknowledgement: PDI Jan 14, 2014)

Friday, January 17, 2014

Homemade vinegar from local fruits

Dr Abe V Rotor

 You can put up a vinegar generator in your kitchen and you will have a continuous supply of natural vinegar. Protect yourself and your family from glacial acetic vinegar. Convert those surplus fruits that would otherwise go to waste. You can also produce vinegar for your friends and community.

I am simplifying the procedure as a practical guide in vinegar making for the rural as well as the urban areas.

1. Clean two wide-mouthed, gallon size glass containers. (Ordinary glass gallons will do. Do not use plastic containers.)
Chico and mango make excellent fruit wine and vinegar, Manaoag Pangasinan 
2. Peel and clean around two kilos of overripe fruit of any kind (pineapple, chico, banana, etc. You may combine two fruits, like chico and guava, or pineapple and mango. (Do not use kamias. Kamias contains oxalic acid which weakens the bones.)

3. Mash the fruit with two kilos of sugar. Be sure the sugar is well imbedded into the tissues of the fruit pulp. Divide the substrate equally for the two glass jars

4. Add tap water to four-fifth of the container. Shake or stir.

5. Add one tablespoonful of commercial yeast (baker’s yeast) onto each jar, then stir.

6. Cover the setup with sinamay or kulambo textile. The reason for this is to allow air to enter, while letting the fermenting gas C02 to escape. Do not plug or seal. Pressure builds up and is likely to break the container.

7. Do not be bothered when you see Drosoplila flies hovering around because they are attracted to the fermenting odor. They carry with them beneficial fermenters. Just allow them to settle near and around the setup. Their presence hastens acetification. What must be avoided are houseflies and other vermin. To do this, design a nylon screen frame, which is good to cover four gallons. Be sure only the Drosophila flies can pass through.

8. During the first two to five hours, froth will rise. Stir to calm the substrate. Stir once daily for the first week. Allow the setup to stand for three to four weeks until the solids have settled at the bottom. Keep it in a shaded corner of the house or kitchen.

9. Decant the filtrate and transfer to another gallon or large bottles. Plug with cotton to allow air circulation. This is the ageing phase. The longer you keep it this way, the better the quality becomes. This takes around two to three months. There will be sediments that form at the bottom. Nata (nata de coco) may also grow at the surface of the liquid. This is proof of natural vinegar.

10. This is the time for you to harvest your vinegar. Use a small siphon to decant and leave the nata and sediments behind. Cap the bottles airtight. Expose them to direct sunlight for at least three hours. The color of your product is now golden to reddish from above, or crystal clear against the light. Label with a trademark of your choice. Write the following information. Fruit used; place and dates of fermentation; ageing and bottling. And of course, your name.

Entrepreneurial Prospect

Vinegar making can be made into a lucrative enterprise due to its authenticity as natural vinegar. Many brands bear the name natural but are actually overnight formulations of diluted glacial acetic acid, no different from the acetic acid used for industrial purposes like in photography and in textiles manufacturing.

People are becoming more and more health conscious making them very judicious in their choices of health-enhancing food and food preparations. This is your best selling point. People are willing to pay a premium of a guaranteed natural product.
Premium vinegar is made from pineapple, such as Del Monte vinegar 
On the aspect of manufacturing, experience has it that vinegar making alone does not maximize business opportunity and benefits. The two steps – fermentation and oxidation – can be treated as two separate processes, hence two lines of products can be developed in one enterprise. In fact, a third step is nata de coco production, which immediately follows vinegar production. This is shown by this formula.

CH3COOH  Nata de Coco (coco jelly)/Nata de Pina  
Leuconostoc mesenteroides

The experience of making nata de coco developed in the second half of the 1990s when nata was in great demand for export, principally to Japan.The product is used as food and also for industrial raw material. Local demand as sweetened gel remains high in spite of the abrupt decline of the Japanese market.

Here is the business concept for holistic and integrated, hence, viable operations:

1. If you are a small sugarcane farmer, have a control over the making of red (raw) sugar. Native or brown sugar not being refined is natural food. There is a big demand for this kind of sugar where the molasses have not been separated.

2. Ferment table wine (Basi in the Ilocos region) from sugarcane. There is a big demand of this native wine by Ilocano balikbayans. Similarly with fruits, there is now a trend to take table wine either for health purposes, in lieu of liquor. The fruit industry may look into this field of endeavor. It offers definitely a value-added advantage to fruit growers, and there are thousands of families that grow fruit trees at the backyard.

3. Make vinegar out of the inferior cane, specially during a poor crop year.
Typhoon and drought damaged cane can be salvaged into previous natural wine. Fruits in season, and fruits that cannot pass for the market can be made into fruit vinegar. This is advantageous to orchard growers and contractors.

4. Nata de coco can be made out of the local vinegar products with local sugar as raw materials. Nata in many colors and flavors is an innovation of the traditional product. A progressive idea proved that nata can be made into laminate as substitute to leather, sheepskin and material for bags and belt. The biological laboratory of St. Paul College QC has made preliminary products.

Vin egar is wine gone sour. It may not be man’s elixir, but it bridges an intricate process of nature, benefiting man with other products of great importance.

x x x

We are destroying the Earth - our only ship in space.

Dr Abe V Rotor

1. Changing Environment, influenced by man, breeds a variety of ailments and diseases. Nature-Man Balance, the key to good health is being threatened.

2. What and Where is the so-called Good Life? The Good Life is shifting with the transformation of agricultural to industrial economy.

"The earth is in man's hand."

3. The Good Life is synonymous to Affluence. People want goods and services beyond what they actually need. Want leads to luxury - to waste.

4. The world’s population is 7 billion. Another billion will be added in less than 10 years. Runaway population is the mother of human miseries

5. The proliferation of cities, growth of cities to metropolises and megapolises, each with 10 to 20 million people ensconced in cramped condition. Cities breed Marginal communities

“People, people everywhere, but not a kindred to keep," in condominiums, malls, schools, churches, parks, sharing common lifestyles and socio-economic conditions. They are predisposed to common health problems and vulnerabilities from brownouts to food and fuel shortage, force majeure notwithstanding.

6. Loss of Natural Environment – loss of productivity, loss of farmlands, and wildlife. Destruction of ecosystems - lakes, rivers, forests, coral reefs, grasslands, etc. Destruction of ecosystems is irreversible.

7. Species are threatened, many are now extinct, narrowing down the range of biodiversity. Human health depends largely on a complex interrelationship of the living world. No place on earth is safe from human abuse. Coral Reef – bastion of terrestrial and marine life, is now in distress.

8. Wildlife shares with our homes, backyards and farms, transmitting deadly diseases like SARS, HIV-AIDS, Mad-Cow, FMD, Ebola, and Bird Flu which can now infect humans, allergies notwithstanding.

9. “Good Life” cradles and nurses obesity and other overweight conditions. Millions of people around the world are obese, wih 34% of Americans in the US obese.

10. Global warming stirs climatic disturbance, changes the face of the earth.

11. Globalization packages the major aspects of human activity – trade, commerce, industry, agriculture, the arts, education, science and technology, politics, religion and the like.

12. . Mélange of races - pooling of genes through inter-racial and inter-cultural marriages produces various mixed lines or “mestizos” - Eurasian, Afro-Asian, Afro-American, Amerasian, and the like. Native genes provide resistance to diseases, adverse conditions of the environment. But will this advantage hold on even as the native gene pools are thinned out?

13. Modern medicine is responsible in reducing mortality and increasing longevity. It has also preserved genetically linked abnormalities; it cradles senility related ailments. It made possible the exchange of organs and tissues through transplantation, and soon tissue cloning. It has changed Evolution that is supposed to cull out the unfit and misfits. Man has Darwinism in his hands.

14. The first scientific breakthrough is the splitting of the atom that led to the development of the atomic bomb as the most potent tool of war as evidenced by its destruction at Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and the nuclear reactor which still holds the promise of providing incessant energy to mankind. The second scientific breakthrough – Microchip led to the development of the Internet which “shrunk the world into a village.”

16. The third breakthrough in science, Genetic Engineering, changed our concept of life - and life forms. It has enabled man to tinker with life itself. Revolutionary industries Examples: In vitro fertilization, surrogate motherhood, Human Genome Project (HGP or gene mapping), multiple childbirth, post-menopausal childbirth, DNA mapping, etc. Birth of the prototype human robot – pampered, he lives a very dependent life.

17. Genetic Engineering gave rise to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) and Gene Therapy. It has also primed Biological Warfare into a more terrifying threat to mankind and the environment. On the other hand Gene Therapy aims at preventing gene-link diseases even before they are expressed; it has actuallty revolutionized medicine. More and more countries are banning GMO crops and animals through legislative measures and conservation programs, including protection against “biopiracy”

18. Today’s Green Revolution opened up non-conventional frontiers of production – mariculture, desalination, desert farming, swamp reclamation, aerophonics (rooftop farming), hydroponics, urban farming, organic farming, Green Revolution adapts genetic engineering to produce GMOs and Frankenfoods. We may not be aware, but many of us are eating
genetically modified food (GMF or Frankenfood) everyday – meat, milk, chicken, corn, potato and soya products, and the like mainly from the US. Many food additives and adjuncts are harmful, from salitre in longganiza to pesticide residue in fruits and vegetables, aspartame in fruit juice to MSG in noodles, formalin in fish to dioxin in plastics, bromate in bread to sulfite in sugar, antibiotic residue in meat to radiation in milk.

• Hydroponics or soiless culture makes farming feasible in cramped quarters, and it increases effective area of farming.
. Aeroponics or Multi-storey farming Vertical Farming Farming in the city on high rise buildings 
• Post Harvest Technology. is critical to Food Production. PHT bridges production and consumption, farm and market, thus the proliferation of processed goods, supermarket, fast food chains, food irradiation, ready-to-eat packs, etc.

19. Exploration into the depth of the sea and expanse of the Solar System - and beyond. We probe the hadal depth of the ocean. We build cities in space - the Skylab. Soon we will live outside of the confines of our planet earth. Now we aim at conquering another planet, another Solar System to assure continuity of mankind after the demise of the earth.

View of Earth from the moon, Apollo 8, NASA

20. Regional and International Cooperation is key to global cooperation: EU, ASEAN, APEC, CGIAR, ICRISAT, WTO, WHO, UNEP, WFO, FAO, like fighting pandemic diseases – HIV-AIDS, SARS, Dengue, Hepatitis, Bird Flu, etc.
Acknowledgement: Wikipedia, Time

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Priorities & Choices in Life

Dr Abe V Rotor 

Helen Keller, deaf-blind since infancy became a role model for millions of people. She wrote a moving essay that challenges us who have the power of vision on how we would value “Three Days to See” if we were blind like Helen Keller blind since infancy. (The Story of My Life)

Try this exercise. If you were given Three Days To See just as Helen Keller told in her essay, how would you prioritize these? (Please indicate the day after each item; or it is not applicable.) Please refer to the answers below

1. Lives of people everyday
2. Theatre – concert, performing art
3. Transformation of night to day
4. Views from top of a high building
5. Loved ones and friends
6. Nature - landscape and garden
7. Museum of arts and natural history
8. Historical records of man & society
9. Things at home, favorite books, etc
10. Comedy, the lighter side of life.

After checking your work with the answers guide below, compare it with the priorities of Helen Keller.
1st Day - Loved ones, Favorite Things, Nature
2nd Day - Natural History, History, Humanities,
3rd Day - The Business of life. (NOTE: The lighter side of life closes the episode.)

Three Days to See challenges us to look into our priorities and choices in Life • City or countryside life
• Aesthetics or materialism
• Permanence and transience
• Love and Friendship
• Spirituality and faith
• Computer graphics or fine arts
• Perception or sensitivity
• Affection or companionship
• Vice or hobby
• Knowledge or Wiisdom
Answer Guide Lives of people everyday - 3rd day
1. Theatre – concert, performing art –end of 2nd day
2. Transformation of night to day –opening of 2nd day
3. Views from top of a high building – 3rd day
4. Loved ones and friends – 1st day, immediately.
5. Nature - landscape & garden – 1st day pm to sunset
6. Museum of arts and natural history – 2nd day
7. Historical records of man & society – 2nd day
8. Things at home, favorite books, etc – 1st day
9. Comedy stage play - End of 3rd day

From this exercise we can better appreciate Helen Keller’s philosophy of life.

Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn whatever state I am, therein to be content.”

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen and even touched. They must be felt within the heart.” ~

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Grow Pechay without Soil

Dr Abe V Rotor 
Among Filipinos, perhaps the most popular leafy vegetable next to kangkong is pechay (Brassica chinensis).  No beef or pork stew (nilagang baka or baboy) is without pechay, so with “kari-kari,” a specialty originally made from ox tail topped with bagoong alamang (shrimp paste). Pesang dalag (mudfish stew) is without pechay.  Fried meat with pechay is common in carinderia. Pechay salad, anyone?  

     What do we get out of pechay?  What nutritional value does it have which contributes to health?

     According to nutritionists, pechay is rich in vitamins, iron, phosphorous and calcium. Vitamins and minerals constitute the so-called “glow” food group, which together with “go” food (carbohydrates) and “grow” or protein-rich food, completes the balanced diet pyramid.  Vitamins and mineral are keepers of good grooming, and protect the body from the attack of harmful bacteria and fungi.  They also make our bones and muscles strong, and make us active and attractive, adding zest to life.
Laboratory Analysis Report

     Nutrient analysis was conducted on pechay grown on two mediums by the Central Analytical Services Laboratory of the National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (BIOTECH) of UPLB.  Organically grown pechay (cultured in conventional plots fertilized with organic matter such as compost), was compared with pechay grown on hydroponics solution (soiless medium). Here is the result of the comparative analysis.

Table 1 – Food Nutrients
Medium Used    % Ash   %Crude Protein   % Crude Fiber   % Crude Fat

1. Org Fertilizer    1.06                 1.19                   0.38             0.09
2. Hydroponics     1.23                 1.32                   0.51             0.11

     Other than minerals and vitamins, we get from pechay digestible fiber which helps in the elimination of wastes and toxins from the body.  Regular elimination of toxins protects us from diseases such as colon cancer, kidney and liver ailments. It makes us more active and resistant. Although low in crude protein and crude fat, the amount is nonetheless important in supplementing poor diet.
     The advantage of hydroponics grown pechay over organic fertilizer grown pechay is in the amount of calcium, while the difference in iron is not significantly different as shown in this table.

Table 2 – Mineral Nutrients

Medium Used            Total P (ppm)  Total Ca (ppm)  Total Fe (ppm)

1. Org Fertilizer                 381.33                 918                   25.81
2. Hydroponics                  322.33               1400                   28.17

     Higher calcium content in hydroponically grown pechay is traced to the volcanic cinder used as substrate to keep the plant upright and its roots well spread in the solution. 

     These findings were derived from a group thesis conducted by   Anthony Pantaleon, Ian Sampelo, and Jason Javier, entitled Comparative Nutritive Value of Pechay Grown Organically and in Hydroponics in Tagaytay.  It is a collaborative work between this research group from the College of Pharmacy of the University of Santo Tomas and the University of the Philippines at Los Banos.  The samples were procured from commercial farms in Tagaytay that grow vegetables using both mediums. The increasing popularity of organically grown food on one hand, and the commercialization of hydroponics grown vegetables in the Philippines, on the other, has opened a new interest on the subject of nutrition.
Mineral Nutrients

     Iron (Fe) aids in the oxygenation of the body through the lungs and blood.  Since oxygen is essential to life, people who lack iron are anemic, docile and sickly.  The most practical source of iron is leafy vegetables.  Aside from pechay and other members of Family Brassicaceae (formerly Cruciferae), sweet potato or kamote tops (Ipomea batatas) is an excellent source of iron.

     Phosphorous (P) is important in the proper functioning of the brain and nerves, for which it is also referred, “brain element”. Iodine and phosphorous are very important in brain development of young people. Adequate phosphorous is also derived from other vegetables, meat and fish, grains, seeds and nuts. 
     Calcium (Ca) is important to long life because it does not only build but rebuild tissues in the bones and muscles - and all cells of the body for that matter.  Since women deplete calcium faster than men, higher calcium intake is recommended specially toward the menopausal stage. Other sources of calcium are milk, other vegetables, specially onion, cereals, poultry and fish. Calcium maintains balanced pH (acidity-alkalinity level) in our body, and promotes the production of hormones.

     People who are well provided with calcium have large and heavy bones. They are active workers and athletes and are sexually active.


     Hydroponics is not new in the country.  Way back in the 1950’s, the former Araneta Institute of Agriculture (now De La Salle University (Araneta) had been growing tomatoes and other vegetables in soilless medium or hydroponics. I had a chance to study and work on  hydroponics in its modern greenhouses. The professors of the institute were some of the country’s foremost scientists like Dr. Nemesio Mendiola, Dr. Eduardo Quisumbing, Dr. Deogracias Villadolid, Dr. Juan Aquino and Dr. Fernando de Peralta, who were then professors in this first private agricultural college in the country.

     These scientists saw the need for a scientific approach in agriculture even as Mindanao then was newly opened to agriculture.  It was the first time I realized that if we want to have food that is nutritious and safe, we must be able to control both the physiology of the plant and the environment in which it is cultivated.  These scientists were talking of agriculture very much ahead of their time.  

     Today the best tomatoes are grown in hydroponics.  In Japan I saw large-scale hydroponics in sprawling greenhouses covering several hectares of floor area.  Plants grow on continuously flowing solution without soil, systematic and fully computerized.

     In Taiwan, off-season melons are grown in hydroponics in greenhouses. They command premium price locally and abroad.  In Israel,  hydroponics is practiced virtually in the middle of the desert, a modern version of the biblical saying, “the land flowing with milk and honey.” 

     To give an idea what the solution contains, the formula is one that is based on specific nutrient requirement of a particular crop in its various stages of growth and development. Dr. Fernando de Peralta based his formula on University of Nebraska hydroponics and modified it according to local conditions for common crops, like tomato.

      For a hydroponics project, here is the procedure and the materials required.

1.         With 20 liters water, mix potassium nitrate, 20.1 gm; calcium nitrate, 6.7 gm; double superphosphate, 5 gm; and magnesium sulfate, 5.0 gm. 
2.         Separately mix in 1 liter the following: iron sulfate, 26 gm; manganese sulfate, 2.0 gm; basic lead, 1.6; zinc sulfate, 0.8; copper sulfate, 0.5. 
3.         After pre-mixing each group, add the second solution to the first and measure at least 18 liters. Together with tap water the remaining balance will be used to replace evaporation as may be needed. 
4.         Start with seedlings, of say, tomato.  Be sure they are sturdy and uninjured.  Keep them in place with string and mesh wire, care being undertaken to keep the roots undisturbed while the shoot is held upright towards the source of light.  

     Organic farming on the other hand follows the conventional method of cultivating crops on plots.  The big difference is to use organic fertilizer prepared from compost and farm residues, instead of chemical fertilizer.  Generally, organically grown plants are healthier and sturdier than those applied with chemicals. Chicken droppings are effective in controlling soil pest like nematodes, crickets, grubs, damping-off fungi and bacterial wilt.  Because of this there is little need to protect the plants by spraying chemicals.  If spraying cannot be avoided, use botanical pesticides such as nicotine, garlic extract, derris, and the like, which are safe to health and the environment. 

     Here is an insecticide solution against common pest of pechay.  In 5 liters of water, mix garlic extract from a whole bulb, and a little  Perla soap. (This brand uses coconut oil in saponification, most commercial brands used fossil-based oil.) Filter and use this solution as spray, or with the use of sprinkler. It is best to apply after watering the plants, so that the pesticide effect remains longer or until the next watering. Repeat application until the plants are two weeks old.   

     Repellants like garlic, lantana, chrysanthemum, ginger, and the like, have been found to keep off many insect pests, thus eliminating the need to spray with chemicals. Do not hesitate to consult your local agriculturist.

     The Hydro Garden, Talisay City, Cebu, of Ms Ulyssa Marie. Practical hydroponic gardening - passion and hobby. 

Grow Pechay  at Home
First, sow the seeds in seed trays made from discarded carton egg trays, one to two seeds per “hole” or socket.  At transplanting time, scoop each seedling from the tray without damaging the roots, and transfer it to a one-liter plastic pot filled with soil and compost.  This substrate is prepared by scraping the topsoil of a garbage pile.  Include the ash.  Sieve to remove other materials. 

     Old tires can be used in place of pots.  It can accommodate up to twenty plants.  In 30 days you can start harvesting pechay, leaving the smaller ones to allow them to grow further.  You may harvest only the mature leaves so that you can have a continuous supply of this vegetable until it flowers and produces seeds, in which case you can start a seed nursery for a second or third crop. 

     Why buy pechay when you can raise it at home, either through organic farming, or hydroponics -  or by simply growing them in pots or old tires.  Think of both economics and ecology: nutritious food, good health, outdoor exercise, source of income, and a beautiful and clean surrounding.

Organic Pechay: Corazon showing her organically-grown pechay
500 model farmers will be trained on organic farming to increase their production at the same time mitigate climate change. They will establish model farms and teach the technologies to other farmers.