Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Anecdotes of Abe Lincoln

Lesson on Humor and Wit
Compiled and Edited by Dr Abe V Rotor
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

Abraham Lincoln, 16th US President (1861-1865)

Among the finest anecdotes in the world are those written by, or attributed to, the Father of Anecdotes, Abraham Lincoln. Here are selected anecdotes reflecting the character of this great leader, anecdotes that continue to influence the thinking and temperament of the world.

1. Went around it
Lincoln is reported to have said: “Some men are like the stump the old farmer has in his field – too hard to uproot, too knotty to split, and too wet and soggy to burn.” His neighbors asked him what he did about it. “Well, now, boys,” he answered. “I just plowed around it.” That’s a good thing to do with the obstacles that we encounter. (Thomas H. Warner, Church Management)

2. Presidential Polish
During the Civil War days a foreign minister to the United States was shocked when, on a call to the White House, he found President Lincoln shining his own shoes. He told the President that in his country it was not the custom of gentlemen to polish their own shoes.

With his customary resourcefulness and nimble wit, President Lincoln replied, “Then whose shoes do they polish?” (The Red Barrel)

3. Lincoln’s Enemy
Abraham Lincoln was questioned by one of his advisers as follows: “Mr. President, I cannot understand you. You treat your enemies with such kindness. It would seem to me that you should want to destroy them.”
“My dear fellow,” said the President. “I do destroy my enemy when I make him into a friend.” (Anonymous)

4. Musical President
Throughout his life, music was a solace to Lincoln. “His musical tastes,” says a biographer, “were simple and uncultivated, his choice being old airs, songs and ballads.” On one of his walks through Washington during the war, Lincoln passed a schoolhouse where children were singing. He took off his beaver hat and heard the song through, his face brightening the while. Then he straightened up and walked off with a more elastic step. (Sunday Magazine)

5. Using Words Carefully
If the story of the Creation can be told in 400 words, if the Ten Commandments contain 297 words, if Lincoln’s immortal Gettysburg Address was only 266 words, if an entire concept of freedom was set in the Declaration of Independence in about 1,300 words – it is up to some of us to use fewer words, and thus save the time energy, vitality, and nerves of those who must read or listen (Jerome P Fleishman)

6. Lenient Treatment
Lincoln was often the despair of his generals because of his lenient treatment of cases where soldiers were absent without leave.

“If the good Lord has given a man a cowardly pair of legs,” Lincoln reasoned, “it is hard to keep them from running away with him.”

7. Curiosity
“What made the deepest impression upon you?” inquired a friend one day, of Abraham Lincoln, “when you stood in the presence of the Falls of Niagara, the greatest of natural wonders?”

“The thing that struck me most forcibly when I saw the Falls,” Lincoln responded with characteristic deliberation, “was where in the world did all that water come from?”

8. Simple Abe
Abe Lincoln was a simple man with honest generous impulses. When he was a candidate for the legislature, it was the practice at that date in Illinois for two rival candidates to travel over the district together. The custom led to much good-natured raillery between them.

On one occasion he had driven out from Springfield in company with a political opponent to engage in joint debate. The carriage, it seems, belonged to his opponent. In addressing the gathering of farmers that met them, Lincoln was lavish in praise of the generosity of his friend.
“I am too poor to own a carriage,” he said, “but my friend has generously invited me to ride with him. I want you to vote for me if you will but if not then vote for my opponent, for he is a fine man.”

9. Boys
Roland Diller who was one of Lincoln’s neighbors in Springfield tells the following story:

“I was called to the door one day by the cries of children in the street, and there was Mr. Lincoln, striding by with two of his boys, both of whom were wailing aloud. “Why Mr. Lincoln, what’s the matter with the boys?” I asked. “Just what’s the matter with the whole world,” Lincoln replied.

“I’ve got three walnuts, and each wants two.”~

References: Speaker's Encyclopedia of Humor by Jacob Braude Prentice; Anecdotes of the Great, compiled by J Maurus

Sunday, June 28, 2015

"In onion there's strength - in nutrition and popularity."

Shallot, bulb, leak, spring onion  - the saying "in onion there's strength" is true; it is the most complete and most popular vegetable in the world.  

Dr Abe V Rotor
Shallot (sibuyas Tagalog, lasona Ilk) has a longer shelf life 
under ordinary environment than any other type of onion.
Just hang the bundle in a dry cool place and it will last for three to six months. And if you are cooking with firewood, hang it where smoke can reach it.  Smoke helps keep its freshness, and protects it from insect (onion beetle), and rot due to bacteria and fungi. 

The large bulb onions - yellow (Yellow Granex) and red (Red Creole) on the other hand, last only for a few weeks after harvest; you need cold storage to extend their shelf life.

If you are after "strength" pick the shallot. It's more than twice pungent and flavorful so that you need a few bulbs for your cooking, or spicing "kilawin."  It cannot qualify though, for onion ring recipes.  In which case, get the bulb onions. For fresh salad and garnish get the leak or spring onion.  You may grow in your backyard or in pots just for fresh leaves which you need now and then for scrabbled egg and soup. 

Facts about the Onion 

The onion (Allium cepa) belongs to the Family of lilies - Liliaceae. The onion is native to Southwest Asia, and it must have been known widely since the Egyptians were eating it in ancient times to add flavor to savory foods. 

Red bulb onion and ornamental lily (photo below) belongs to thew same family

The onion is a nutritious vegetable. It contains zinc, potassium, calcium, iron, selenium, dietary fiber, vitamin C and vitamin B6. It contains no cholesterol, sodium or fat. It also contains quercetin, a flavanoid that helps to prevent certain diseases such as cardiovascular diseases and cancer,
There is a warning though, that while onions may be useful to people, they can be unsafe for animals. Cats, dogs, goats and cattle can, among other ailments, become anemic by eating onions. Anemia means they will not have enough red blood cells to be healthy.

Here is a list of Nutrition Facts about the onion in general.
Serving Size 1 cup (160g) Percent Daily Values*

Calories 64, 3%
Total Carbohydrate 14.9 g, 5%
Total Fat 0, 0%
Cholesterol 0, 0%
Dietary Fiber 2.7 g, 11%
Sugars 6.8 g
Protein 4.9 g
Vitamin A 3.2 IU 
Vitamin C 11.8 mg, 20%
Vitamin B6 0.2 mg, 10%
Folate 30.4 mcg, 8%
Calcium 36.8 mg, 4%
Iron .3 mg, 2%
Magnesium 16 mg, 4%
Phosphorus 46.4 mg, 5%
Potassium 234 mg, 7%
Sodium 6.4, 0%
Zinc .2mcg, 1%
Copper 0.1 mg, 3%
Manganese 0.2 mg, 10%
Selenium 0.8 mcg, 1%
Fluoride 1.8 mcg
Alcohol 0.0 g
Water 143 g
Ash 0.6 g
Caffeine 0.0 mg

*Percent (%) Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.
Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Acknowledgement: Wikipedia, Internet 

Wolsey Spider - the friendly house spider

Dr Abe V Rotor

Tegenaria parietina is is sometimes known as the cardinal spider because of the legend that Cardinal Wolsey was terrified by this species at Hampton Court during the reign of Henry VIII. In fact Cardinal Wolsey was once the most trusted man of the king, being highly knowledgeable in managing the affairs of the kingdom, and that he was 20 years older which was ideal as the king's adviser.  But Wolsey got the displeasure of the king for the abuse of his power and was vanished. He died before serving punishment for his crime.

Females grow up to 20 mm, males up to 17 mm. Legs are approximately three times longer, although some specimens have legs as large as 7.5 cm with a span between front and rear legs of 14 cm. They are reddish brown. Females can live for up to eight years, while males die shortly after mating. These spiders live mostly in buildings or walls. They look rather similar to T ferruginea. 

Wolsey Spider is actually harmless, it is not poisonous and does not attack or show aggression.  Which makes it "friendly" to be in the house. When we find a Wolsey spider usually carrying an egg case, we simply catch her with a wide mouth bottle and release her where she does her trade - to kill and eat young cockroaches, flies and other insects. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

A Practical Exercise on Admiring People

"Tell me the people you admire and I'll tell you who you are." 
Dr Abe V Rotor
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 
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 (photo) as an epitome of leadership), or a thing (e.g., Statue of Liberty). Or a significant event like the end of the Cold War. 

But 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. 

Stop reading this article and work on the exercise. 

With a piece of paper, ask and join your audience or class 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.  

Review your work before continuing with this exercise.
Pope Francis - breaking centuries old traditions of the church

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)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

I like Drynaria

Photos and Poem by Dr Abe V Rotor

Drynaria fern covers the limbs of an acacia tree. Tagudin, Ilocos Sur

I like Drynaria for her feathery foliage in the distance like the proud peacock and the turkey trotting to win favors of their flock;

I like Drynaria for her sturdiness in the wind, cooling the summer air and keeping the coolness of the amihan in December;

I like Drynaria for her resiliency, bending with the limbs and branches, turning upside down and up again the next season;

I like Drynaria for sleeping through the dry months while her host takes the show, verdant green, robust and free;

I like Drynaria for resurrecting from a state of torpor  as if she defies death and perpetuates life while others simply die;

I like Drynaria for her economy in sustenance, living on captured dirt and rain, yet discreet of such austere living;

I like Drynaria for touching the clouds with her host taming it to fall as rain and shared by all creatures around;

I like Drynaria for her ability to multiply fast through invisible spores, in one sweep of the wind are sown in far places;

I like Drynaria for its benevolence to many creatures, tenant and transient, keeping their brood in her bosom;

I like Drynaria giving the martines birds a home, where it sings in joy and praise and thanksgiving for a beautiful world;

I like Drynaria for keeping company to passersby, to tired souls in the shadow with her host, in dark and unlikely hours;

I like Drynaria for giving off oxygen and taking in carbon that poisons the earth and living things, among them no less than I;

I like Drynaria, for caring its host and vice versa through symbiosis - a perfect bond that humans have yet to learn someday. ~

Martines birds, long thought to be extinct in many places, find
shelter and company with the Drynaria, and their host acacia tree.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

A Lesson on Ecology Through Art - Put Life in a Dying Tree

Dr Abe V Rotor

AUTHOR’S NOTE: As a background to this article, I was requested by the National Council of Educational Innovators (NCEI) to conduct a teaching demonstration whereby art, specifically drawing/ painting and music, is integrated with the teaching of ecology before the first International Congress of Educators in Manila. Recently I presented the original approach before teachers in a Faculty Development Workshop. 

     Allow me to start with a simple drawing exercise. The exercise is about a dying tree. I invite everyone to complete the scenario, using the attached outline of a tree skeleton. The idea is to bring back the life of the tree, hence, the title of this exercise. This exercise introduces us to understand the basic nature of living things, and the essence of ecology as a subject.

     As a guide let us imagine that solar energy is transformed by plants into chemical energy, which is then shared by different organisms. In nature, organisms interact with each other on one hand, and with their environment on the other. Scientists say, this interrelationship comes so naturally that there is in fact no need of human intervention. On the other hand, it is of the general opinion that man is the custodian of creation.  If this is so what is its role? How can he help maintain the so-called “balance on nature called homeostasis?”

     How much are we aware of this role? We will know it by evaluating the drawing once it is finished using ten (10) criteria scored on the Likert scale (5 is very good, 4 good, 3 fair, 2 poor and 1 very poor). But I suggest that the criteria should be read only after the drawing has been done. It is an individual work that takes around ten minutes.

These are the criteria.

1.     There is the sun in the drawing. The sun is the source of life, the source of energy- solar energy- where is then transformed into chemical energy.

2.     There is water – clouds, rain stream, river, pond, lake, etc illustrating the Water Cycle. The importance of water as an element of life is next to the sun. 

3.     The tree is has leaves, branches, flowers and fruits. The tree is not only a living thing; it is a tree of life, the source of food and oxygen, and other things, aesthetic beauty, notwithstanding.

4.     There are other trees, including those of its kind. There are other plants as well. This illustrates the concept of a family and a  community.

5.     There are animals and other living creatures. This shows relationships such as mutualism or symbiosis, commensalism (e.g. a bird’s nest, ferns and orchids on the tree), and competition (e.g. insects feeding). Certain relationships may be interpreted on a philosophical level such as benevolence, unity, cooperation and altruism.

6.     The tree, as well as other members of the community,  is part of the landscape. The drawing has a perspective of a larger whole; it is an integral part of Nature represented by mountains, valleys, pasture, rivers, fields, etc.

7.     The presence of man is important. The drawing may show a happy family, children playing, man taking care of the tree, or his presence manifested by a drawing of a house or community.

8.     The drawing shows life. It is natural; it exudes a feeling of reality.  The colors are real, so with the subjects. I call this aspect naturalism.

9.     The drawing has good artistic quality. Is the drawing appealing? Does it conform to a good sense of balance, harmony, contrast, and perspective?

10.                        Maximum use of space. This refers to the whole world of the tree. It is the total “view from the window”, the vantage point the participant views his subject and the world. Did the participant use the space wisely? There is no wasteland, so to speak.

The scores of the ten criteria are added. To get the average score, divide the total with 10. A score of, say 3.6 to 4.4 is Good, while 2.5 to 3.4 is fair. College QC is 3.3, or Fair.

I have noticed that high school students and freshmen in college who participated in this exercise did not get high scores. They have limited exposure to the subject.  But this is a good exercise to develop the power of imagination and logical thinking. In a number of cases the drawing shows the influence of cartoons, animae and advertisements. This exercise follows a deductive-retrospective approach, which fits well with the use of art medium.

During the 10-minute exercise I usually provide a background music by playing the violin with popular, native and semi-classical compositions which the accompaniment of re-recorded Nature sounds (e.g. birds singing and running stream). To facilitate the work, I prepared an hour long extemporaneous CD, “Violin and Nature,” which is easier to carry with me on out-of town lectures, otherwise I resort to play the original compositions of the following well-known composers.

·        “Hating Gabi” by Antonio molina
·        “Maalaala Mo Kaya” by Mike Velarde
·        “Meditation,” from the Thais by Massenet
·        “ Serenade” by Tosselli
·        “ On Wing of song” by Felix Mendelson
        What contributions have the arts to the effective teaching of science? I consider the following premises important.

1.     Fuller use of the senses. Art provides other than visual and auditory, an opportunity to use touch and smell, say on the specimens during hands-on and field observation.
2.     Amalgamation of knowledge and imagination, a concept of learning where facts and experiences rise to a level of thought or theory level, yet sets the boundaries of fantasy. Art provides a better means of expression of the imagination.

3.     Search for Formula-Values relationship. I call this concept “ valueing”, that is, answering the question, “For what purpose?” on a higher plane over material or physical. Art discusses Renaissance, the revival of culture and values. Art talks of harmony and unity. Can science adopt art in creating subject appeal?

4.     Left brain-right brain tandem. Logical and creative integration is important, the left brains thinks and reasons, while the right brain images, creates.

5.     Mind-Feeling Duo (Head-Heart). “Science is reason, art is emotion.” It is true. Art appeals to the emotion. One must “feel” a work of art such as the climax of a story, the color of sunset, the graceful movement of a ballet dancer, or Rodin’s melting human figures symbolizing suffering.

6.     Skill is applied knowledge and art is basically skill. Studying art is merely the pathway to its application. Art is an excellent medium of applied science.

After evaluating the exercise, “Put life in a dying tree,” we can try similar exercises in biology and ecology, other disciplines notwithstanding. These were selected from a manual in three volumes which I use in conducting Art Workshop for Children.

1.     Green Valley - this shows the structure of a watershed in relation to a valley. Hoe can one efficiently keep the valley green and productive? How good are we as mangers of the environment?

2.     Waterfalls - the river drops and continues down below the fall, so is life. Hoe wide, how high, is our own waterfall? It is a good lesson in analogy and resolve - the ecology of our life.

3.     Let’s build a house - but where are the neighbors? A lesson of human ecology, the concept of community.

4.     Make this dog happy - this exercise a sharpens our values of kindness and concern. Ecology has a heart.

5.     Road of Life - by tracing our own road of life, we known what we want in life, where we are going and how we get there. Here we plot our future. The human side of ecology is apparent in this exercise.

     The criteria for scoring these exercises can be devised by the teacher or resource person, using the first exercise as a general guide. For specific purposes he can emphasize on certain aspects he deems necessary to arrive at his objectives. The idea why I am presenting these exercises is that a teacher can prepare similar exercises whereby art can be integrated with the subject of science, and “valueing” is incorporated in the lesson.

     But first, let us put life in a dying tree.

                                                          x     x     x

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Bringing Back Biotechnology to the Village and Household

Dr Abe V Rotor
Home-made mineral water - ordinary drinking water treated with malunggay seeds.

Make your own vinegar from fruits - and lumpia and okoy that go with it

Abe V Rotor

1. Make your own “mineral water” with malunggay seeds.

Why spend for mineral water when you can make one right in your home? With all the empty plastic bottles around, you can prepare safe drinking water just by adding crushed seed of malunggay (Moringa oleifera).

This is what you can do. Fill up a liter size bottle (family size softdrink) with water coming from the tap, or if you are in the province, a deep well or spring. Add two malunggay seeds crushed by hand. Allow the setup to settle for two to three hours or until the sediments have settled down. Slowly transfer the filtrate to another bottle for immediate or future use.

Scientists found out that malunggay seeds directly kill bacteria and coagulate suspended particles, slowing down Brownian Movement (constant movement of particulates in liquid medium, colliding with one another and against the walls of the container). Malunggay also impart a refreshing taste to the drinking water. Try it.

2. Pasteurization, the old folks’ way

Farmers immerse and clean the seeds of many field and garden crops in warm water (around 60 degrees Celsius) before planting them. On closer examination, this traditional practice kills harmful bacteria (e.g. Pseudomonas solanacerum) and fungi (e.g. Pythium debaryanum) following the principle of pasteurization, the same as in pasteurizing milk, a discovery made more than two hundred ago by the great French microbiologist, Louis Pasteur, for whom the term was coined.

It is in a small town, San Pablo, at the boundary of Isabela and Cagayan, where fresh milk of carabao is sold early in the morning along the highway. You can actually see the milking of carabao in the field. I used to buy one or two bottles, pint or liter size. The milk is kept in a bucket of warm water (around 50 to 70 degrees Celsius) while it is being sold. In this way the milk does not only reach the customer warm, but actually preserve and make the milk safe through pasteurization. It is pasteurization the old folks’ way!

The application of local pasteurization goes a long way if we analyze the many practices on the farm and home, such as washing of fruits and vegetables in warm water, blanching in the preparation of salad, steaming bottles, and the like.

One application is in rehydrating gamet (Porphyra), a red alga, a delicacy of the Ilocanos. It is similar to the Japanese nori. Wash the dried gamet, then add hot water to a desired amount you wish to have as soup. Observe how it expands into its original colloid state. In the process, the temperature quickly settles down to pasteurization level. Add fresh tomato, onion and a dash of salt and it is ready to serve.

3. Alginate from Sargassum can increase the shelf life of fruits

If you happen to be walking along the beach those dry brown seaweeds washed ashore could bring in a lot of profit, not only as source of algin and alginic acid which are extracted for food conditioner and for industrial use. The researchers, Tumambing K, Santok G, Seares A and V Verzola all from UST, found out that by extracting the alginate substance by ordinary means, the extract is effective in delaying the spoilage of fruits such as mango, papaya and banana. The extract is diluted 5 to 10 percent with water before the ripe or ripening fruits are immersed, then allowed to dry. The alginate compound leaves a coating on the fruit that delays ripening from two to four days, at the same time protects it from microorganisms that cause rotting and spoilage.

4. Home made coconut virgin oil – old folks tell us how to make one.

The price of this “miracle cure” has soared and there is now a proliferation of commercial brands of virgin coconut oil in the market, with many of them unreliable so that people are asking if they can make their own supply.

Why not? Old folks show us the way. I met a kindly old lady, Mrs. Gloria Reyes of Candelaria (Quezon) who makes virgin coconut oil for her family’s use. She explained to me the process step by step.

• Get twenty (20) husked, healthy, and mature nuts. They should not show any sign of spoilage or germination. Shake each nut and listen to the distinct sound of its water splashing. If you can hear it, discard the particular nut.

• Split each nut with a bolo, gathering the water in the process. Discard any nut at the slightest sign of defect, such as those with cracked shell and oily water, discolored meat, presence of a developing endosperm (para). Rely on a keen sense of smell.

• With the use of an electric-driven grating machine, grate the only the white part of the meat. Do not include the dark outer layer of the meat.

• Squeeze the grated meat using muslin cloth or linen to separate the milk (gata) from the meal (sapal). Gather the milk in wide-mouth bottles (liter or gallon size).

• Cover the jars with dry linen and keep them undisturbed for 3 to 5 hours in a dry, dark and cool corner.

• Carefully remove the floating froth, then harvest the layer of oil and place it in a new glass jar. Discard the water at the bottom. It may be used as feed ingredient for chicken and animals.

• Repeat the operation three to four times, until the oil obtained is crystal clear. Now this is the final product – home made virgin coconut oil.

Virgin coconut oil is a product of cold process of oil extraction, as compared with the traditional method of using heat. In the latter coconut milk is brought to boiling, evaporating the water content in the process, and obtaining a crusty by-product called latik. The products of both processes have many uses, from ointment and lubrication to cooking and food additive. There is one difference though, virgin coconut oil is richer with vitamins and enzymes - which are otherwise minimized or lost in the traditional method.

5. Homemade salted eggs, anyone?

Making salted eggs is a very old technology, and most likely originated in China.
Here is an easy-to-follow procedure, the old folks’ way.

• Mix 12 cups of clay and 4 cups of salt, adding water gradually until they are well blended.

• Apply a layer of this mixture at the bottom of a palayok or banga.

• Coat each egg with the mixture.

• Arrange the coated eggs in layers, giving a space of 3 to 5 cm in between them.

• Add the extra mixture of clay and salt on top, cover the container with banana leaves, and keep the setup in a safe and cool place.

• Try one egg after 15 days by cooking below boiling point for 15 minutes. If not salty enough, extend storing period.

• Color the eggs if desired.

Salted eggs plus fresh ripe tomato and onions makes a wholesome viand. It goes well with any meal.

6. Refined salt and how it is made the old way.

Nagtupakan and San Sebastian are two villages (barangay) of San Vicente (Ilocos Sur) famous in making refined salt – salt as fine and white as refined sugar, you can mistake the two. This is how the native folks do it with a very old technology.

First the salt field is “irrigated” during the day by high tide coming directly from the sea, but instead of being drained in the succeeding low tide, the floodgate is closed trapping the seawater which leaves a crust of salt on the salt field. This is repeated to enrich the harvest.

The salt crust is “cultivated” by hand or with bullock using a light harrow to scrape the topsoil which contains the salt crust called ati’. The gathered ati’ is piled on the field or stored in a nearby shack for future use, thus allowing salt making even during the rainy season.

This is the process proper of extracting the salt from the crust. The crust is placed in a trough made of long wooden planks which looks like an oversize coffin. The bottom is lined with a layer of rice hay and a layer of sand on top of it. This serves as filter. Seawater is poured into the trough containing the crust to dissolve the salt. The solution is filtered leaving behind the silt and clay. The filtrate which is a high concentrated salt solution is collected at one end of the trough. This is called inna, from which was derived the terms ag-inna, referring to the process.

The inna or filtrate is “cooked” in the open in large iron kettle under low fire. More filtrate is added as it evaporates to increase the yield. The salt is turned regularly to prevent the formation of crust at the bottom and to hasten cooking. Just like in the final stage in cooking rice, the in salt yield is allowed to dry completely.

The salt product is placed in a large bamboo basket for tempering, allowing the salt to become mellow (like wine). During this stage the salt attains its true fine texture, whiteness, and dryness.

Salt making with this indigenous technology is now a dying industry. Ironically it is in the endangered stage of a craft that earns its place in the list of tourists’ attractions. There are reasons why the industry is dying and these are as follows.

• High cost of production

• Dwindling supply of firewood

• The younger generation would rather go other jobs, or pursue careers

• Product competition – commercial salt, local and imported, has flooded the market.

• Advanced technology such as solar desalination of seawater has replaced traditional processes.

• Water pollution has rendered many salt fields unsuitable for this industry.

• Comparative profitability of other industries like prawn farming, seaweed farming and fish cage culture have replaced the industry.

If you happen to go up north, visit the indigenous salt making villages, seven km west of Vigan, and find out for yourself which is salt and which is sugar just by looking at these two similar products in all their fineness and whiteness.

7. Make patis and bagoong at home

Before these indigenous products became commercialized, rural households had been making their own supply following this simple procedure.

• Wash fish or alamang in clean water.

• For every three cups of fish (e.g. anchovies or munamon), add one cup of salt and mix well.

• Place fish and salt mixture in earthenware (banga or burnay) or glass container.

• Cover container tightly with muslim cloth and banana leaves to keep away flies and other insects.

• Let the setup stand for at least a month; better still after a year to develop its aroma and flavor.

Seasoned bagoong yields a clear golden layer of patis on top. If the patis layer is at the middle or bottom it means the bagoong is not yet mature, or it must have been diluted with water.

8. Mango jam for home and business, too.

When it is peak season for mango, a lot of this farm resource goes to waste. Don’t allow this to happen. Mango makes a perfect jam for snacks and dessert. Try this easy-to-follow procedure.
• Wash mangoes thoroughly in running water.

• Cut into halves, scoop out pulp and pass through a coarse sieve.

• Measure pulp and add sugar.

• For every two cups of mango pulp, add one cup of sugar.

• Cook in a heavy aluminum pan. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until thick enough to be spooned out.

• Pack in warm sterilized jars while hot and seal immediately.

It is a practice to make the inferior fruits into jam. Well, as long as they are well ripe, fresh and clean. A word of caution though - just a single overripe fruit mixed inadvertently is enough to spoil the wholesome taste of the jam. Also, use stainless knife and pan to prevent discoloration of the product.

This formula is applicable to other fruits like pineapple, papaya, chico, tiessa and the like.

9. Rice is the best substitute for wheat flour.

Of all alternative flour products that are potential substitutes for wheat flour, it is rice flour that is acclaimed to be the best for the following reasons:

• Rice has many indigenous uses from suman tbihon (local noodle), aside from its being a staple food of Filipinos and most Asians.

• In making leavened products, rice can be compared with wheat, with today’s leavening agents and techniques.

• Rice is more digestible than wheat. Gluten in wheat is hard to digest and can cause a degenerative disease which is common to Americans and Europeans.

• Rice is affordable and available everywhere, principally on the farm and in households.

Other alternative flour substitutes are those from native crops which are made into various preparations - corn starch (maja), ube (halaya), gabi (binagol), and tugui’ (ginatan), cassava (cassava cake and sago).

Lastly, the local rice industry is the mainstay of our agriculture. Patronizing it is the greatest incentive to production and it saves the country of precious dollar that would otherwise be spent on imported wheat.

10. Banana leaves make the best food wrapper – practical, multipurpose, aromatic and environment-friendly.

Imagine if there were no banana leaves to make these favorite delicacies: suman, tupig, bucayo, bibingka, patupat, puto, tinubong, biko-biko, and the like. We would be missing their characteristic flavor and aroma, and their indigenous trade mark. So with a lot of recipes like paksiw na isda, lechon, and rice cooked with banana leaves lining. Banana leaves have natural wax coating which aid in keeping the taste and aroma of food, while protecting it from harmful microbes.

In the elementary, we used banana leaves as floor polish. The wax coating makes wooden floors as shiny as any commercial floor wax sans the smell of turpentine. Banana leaves when wilted under fire exude a pleasant smell. When ironing clothes use banana leaves on the iron tray. It makes ironing cleaner and smoother, and it imparts a pleasant, clean smell to clothes and fabric.

This is how to prepare banana leaf wrapper.

• Select the wild seeded variety (botolan or balayang Ilk.) and the tall saba variety. Other varieties may also be used.

• Get the newly mature leaves. Leave half of the leaf to allow plant to recover. Regulate the harvesting of young leaves as this will affect the productivity of the plant.

• Wilt the gathered leaves by passing singeing the leaves over fire or live charcoal until they are limp and oily. Avoid smoky flame as this will discolor the leaves and impart a smoky smell (napanu-os).

• Wipe both sides of the leaves with clean soft cloth until they are glossy and clean.

• Cut wilted leaves with desired size, shape and design. Arrange to enhance presentation and native ambiance.

Water remains cool in earthen pot (calamba or caramba) even in hot weather.

Notice that the earthen pot “perspires” because it is porous. Like sweat it keeps the body cool. Cooling is the after effect of evaporation. Fanning increases the rate of evaporation, so with cooling. Algae tend to grow on the moist surface. This adds to the cooling effect, but not until the pores are covered by the algae. In which case it is advisable to clean the earthen pot or jar to keep the pores open and give that clean reddish brick luster.

x x x

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Communion with Nature - Seven Ways

Dr Abe V Rotor
Sunken Pier, Puerto, Sto. Domingo, Ilocos Sur 
Behold! a jellyfish as looking glass
unfolds a third world scene:
half terrestrial, half aquatic,
solid and liquid in between,
third matter in colloidal form -
strange the world is ever seen. 

Baby sitting: Fluppy, angora rabbit at home 

Here is seeing the world in dreams;
half awake, half asleep,
on two planes -  fantasy and reality,
rather than counting sheep,
unload life's burden at the end of day
with a heaven sent li'l rabbit.
Tamboili shells, former St. Paul Museum

I'm standing on the narrowest isthmus,
among archives and fossils of history,
and hold the Pacific and the Atlantic
oceans half the world apart and free; 
I cross the time and distance barrier
with these chroniclers singing to me
the unending roars of the tides,
tides on the street, tides of the sea.  

Rare walking stick insects, Museum of Natural History, UPLB Laguna

Dragons in fairy tales and religious fictions -
they are fierce, enemies of mankind;
in fossils and movies they scare the children;
little do we think friendly and kind,
devouring pests, singing lullaby in dull air;
misjudged, they are rare to find.

Baby orangutan, Avilon Zoo, San Mateo, Rizal

Monkey on my back, that's what people say
when what we say logic we lack;
genes may vary, yet the same to this day,
indeed, a monkey on our back.

Viewing telescope, Mall of Asia, Pasay Metro Manila

Creatures, 'cept man, are getting fewer, farther apart;
the old game now the art of glass and steel;
where you can't get near, you can't touch and feel,
technology comes to fill, yet empty still. 

Parakeets,  Safari World, Thailand

Lovely, friendly -  kindest words ever be,
whereas their kin are wild and free;
lucky in man's judgment these pair may be -
if only we understand their plea
for freedom to the wild, to their ancestry
and away from the artificial tree.