Friday, July 31, 2015

Home Gardening - Green Patch at Home

Dr Abe V Rotor
 Community gardening, QC

By size, my home farm is a Liliputian version of a corporate farm. Intensive cultivation-wise however, it dwarfs the monoculture of a plantation. It is only when your area is small that you can attend to the requirements of an integrated farm with basic features of a garden.

When I moved to the city, I set aside a corner lot equivalent to a space of a two-bedroom bungalow. Here, after two years of experimentation and redesigning a city home garden evolved - a miniature version of tri-commodity farming where I have vegetables and fruits, chicken and hito.

My wife, who is an accountant, estimates that presently, the garden could save up to 20 percent of our family’s expense for food, in exchange for twenty family man-hours every week. Labor makes up to 50 percent of production costs, she says. Since gardening is a hobby in lieu of outdoor games, we agreed not to include labor as cost. This gives a positive sign to the garden’s financial picture.

We do not also consider in the book the aesthetic value of weekends when the garden becomes a family workshop to prove green thumbs, and gainful influence my family has made on the community, such as giving free seeds and seedlings, and know-how tips. When my children celebrate their birthdays, the kids in the neighborhood enjoy harvesting tomatoes, string beans and leafy vegetables - a rare experience for boys and girls in the city.

What makes a garden? Frankly, I have no formula for it. I first learned farming from my father who was a gentleman farmer before I became an agriculturist. But you do not have to go for formal training to be able to farm well. All that one needs is sixth sense or down-to-earth sense, the main ingredient of a green thumb. Here are valuable tips.

1. Get the most sunlight
A maximum of five hours of sunlight should be available - geographically speaking that is. Morning and direct sunlight is ideal for photosynthesis. But you need longer exposure for fruit vegetables, corn and viny plants like, ampalaya. So with crucifers like mustard and pechay because these are long-day plants.

Well, to get more sunlight, I prune the surrounding talisay or umbrella trees at least once a year. I use the branches for trellis and poles. Then, I paint the surrounding walls with white to enhance reflected and diffused light to increase photosynthesis.

Plot the sun’s course and align the rows on an East-West direction. Plants do not directly over-shadow each other this way. This is very important during wet season when days are cloudy and plants grow luxuriantly. Other than maximizing solar radiation you also get rid of soil borne plant diseases. Sunlight that gets in between the plants helps liminate pest and pathogens. And in summer, you can increase your seeding rate, and therefore potential yield. Try planting in triangular formation or quincunx. Outline that part of the garden that receives the longest sunlight exposure. Plant this area with sun-loving plants like okra and ampalaya.

Lastly, remember that plants which grow on trellises and poles “reach out for the sun,” thus require less ground space. Put up trellises at blind corners and train viny plants to climb early and form a canopy. For string beans, use poles on which they climb. You wouldn’t believe it but as long as your rows are aligned with the sun’s movement, and that trellises and poles are used, you can plant more hills in a given area, and you can have dwarf and tall plants growing side by side. Try alternate rows of sitao, tomato and cabbage.

2. Try Mixed Garden or Storey Cropping
What is the composition of an ideal garden? Again, there’s no standard design for it. The most practical type is a mixed garden. A mixed garden is like a multi-storey building. Plants are grouped according to height. That is why you have to analyze their growing habits.

Are they tall or dwarf? Are they seasonal, biennial or permanent? What part of the year do they thrive best? Refer to the planting calendar or consult your nearest agriculturist.

Look for proper cropping combinations through intercropping or crop rotation. Malunggay, papaya, kamias, banana and the like, make good border plants. Just be sure they do not shade smaller plants. Cassava and viny plants trained on trellis are next in height. 

 Our children grew up with a garden at home.

The group of pepper, tomato and eggplant follows, while the shortest in height hierarchy are sweet potato, ginger and other root crops. Imagine how these crops are grouped and built like a tall building. We call this storey cropping.             

A friend commented, “Why streamline your garden the American way?” I agree with him. Plant the Filipino way.         

At any rate there are crops “we plant and forget.” Before the pot starts to shimmer, you realize you need some malunggay leaves, a dozen tops of kamote, a handful of fresh onion leaves, etc. All you need is to dash to the backyard and pick these green ingredients.

3. Practice Organic Farming
Traditional farming is back with modern relevance. Organic farming is waste recycling - not by getting rid of the waste itself but by utilizing it as production input. “This system is an alternative to conventional chemical farming”, says Domingo C. Abadilla in his book, Organic Farming.
Practice organic farming for two reasons. Crops grown without chemical fertilizers and pesticides are safer and more nutritious.

What would you do with poultry droppings and Azolla from the fishpond? Kitchen refuse and weeds? Make valuable compost out of them. For potash, sieve ash from a garbage-dumping site. Just be sure it is not used for industrial waste.

Can we grow crops without insecticides? Generally, no. But there are ways to protect plants in a safe way, such as the following:

Alugbati, tops gathered for diningding and salad

• Use mild detergent, preferably coconut-based soap, to control aphids and other plant lice.
• Plant tomatoes around pest prone plants. They exude repellant odor on a wide variety of pests.
• Keep a vigil light above the garden pond to attract nocturnal insects that may lay eggs on your plants at daytime. Tilapia and hito relish on insects.
• A makeshift greenhouse made of plastic and mosquito net will eliminate most insects.
If you find stubborn insect pest like caterpillars and crickets, make a nicotine solution and spray. Crush one or two sticks of cigarette, irrespective of its brand, dissolve it in a bucket of water. The solution is ready for application with sprinkler or sprayer. But be sure not to use the solution on tomato, pepper and eggplant. It is possible that tobacco mosaic virus can be transmitted to these crops.

A friend who is a heavy smoker, came to visit our garden. When he touched the tomato plants, he was unknowingly inoculating mosaic virus. Tobacco virus can remain dormant in cigars and cigarette for as long as twenty years. Then it springs to life in the living system of the host plant that belongs to Solanaceae or tobacco family.

4. Raise Fish in the Garden Pond

Water from the pond is rich with algae, plant nutrients and detritus. While you water your plants, you are also fertilizing them. The pond should be designed for growing tilapia, hito or dalag, or a combination of these. For tilapia, keep its population low to avoid overcrowding and competition. Stock fingerlings of the same size and age. 

Catfish (hito) fattened in our garden pond have become pets; the biggest measures 2 ft long.  
Try growing hito, native or African. When you buy live hito from the market, separate the small ones (juveniles), which will serve as your growers. They are ready to harvest in 3 to 6 months with 3 pieces making a kilo. Hito is easier to raise than any other freshwater fish. One thing is that you do not change water often because the fish prefers to have a muddy bottom to stay.  

Feed the fish with chicken and fish entrails, vegetable trimmings, dog food, etc. Just avoid accumulation of feed that may decompose and cause foul odor, an indication that Oxygen is being replaced with Carbon Dioxide and Hydrogen Sulfide.

Azolla, a floating fern, is good fish and animal feeds because it contains 20 to 25 percent protein,. It is also an excellent organic fertilizer because it is rich in nitrate, a product of nitrogen fixation by Anabaena, a microscopic blue-green algae living in the fronds of Azolla. Nitrate is important for plant growth. Grow Azolla in a separate pond, or in floating cage, so as to maintain a regular biomass supply.

5. Integrate Backyard Poultry
Raise some broilers and layers in separate cages. Have other cages to rear chicks and growers to replenish your stock. Formulate your feed. If not, mix commercial broiler feed and yellow corn in equal proportion. This is more economical and you may get better results than by using commercial broiler feeds alone.

Construct a fence around the cages and have some turkey on the loose. Similarly you may rear a few native chickens to get rid of feed waste. Clip their wings regularly to prevent them from escaping and destroying your garden. I don’t recommend piggery unless the neighborhood does not object to it.

6. Plant Fruit Trees
Do not forget to have some native fruit bearing trees such as guava, atis, guyabano, kamias, kalamansi and other citrus species. If your area is big you can include coconut, mango, kaimito, bananas. Rambutan? Why not? There are fruit bearing rambutan trees in some residences in Quezon City.

Atis, ripe in the tree

Just like annual plants, adopt the East-West planting method for trees so that you can have seasonal crops in between their rows. Use compost for the fruit trees, just like in vegetables. You can plant orchard trees like mango, guyabano, coconut and cashew along the sidewalk fronting your residence.

7. Make Your Own Compost, and Grow Mushrooms, Too
In one corner, build a compost pile with poles and mesh wire, 1m x 2m, and 2m in height. Dump leaves, kitchen refuse, chicken droppings and allow them to decompose to become valuable organic fertilizer. Turn the pile once a month until it is ready for use.

In another place you can have a mushroom pile made of rice straw, or water hyacinth. After harvesting the mushrooms, the spent material is a good compost material and composting will take a shorter time. To learn more about mushroom growing and composting, refer to the technology tips of DOST-PCARRD, or see your agriculturist in your area.

8. Plant Herbals - Nature’s First Aid
It is good to have the following plants as alternative medicine. Lagundi for flu and fever, guava for skin diseases and body odor, romatic pandan and tanglad for deodorant and air freshener, oregano for cough and sore throat, mayana for boils and mumps, ikmo for toothache, pandakaki for cuts. There are other medicinal plants you can grow in your backyard. Remember, herbals are nature’s first-aid.
 Pansit-pansitan (Piperomia felucida) for arthritis; Oregano for colds and sore throat, also for food flavoring (dinuguan, pizza)
 Pandan mabango for rice flavoring; soro soro for lechon
Coconut provides  the family young (buko) and mature nuts every two months. 
 Tanglad for food flavoring, also as deodorant  
 Saluyot and squash flowers grow with very little attention. 
 Malunggay is a must in every backyard. It grows along fences and in dead corners into a moderate size tree that remains productive up to 20 years or even more. Our malunggay tree at home is around 35 years now. Both leaves and young pods are rich in vitamins and minerals.  

These things and many others are the reasons you should have a home garden. One thing
is sure in the offing: it is a source of safe and fresh vegetables and fruits, fish and meat, and natural medicine. Most important of all, the garden is a re-creation of nature itself, a patch of the lost Eden. •

Cockroaches eat on anything - almost.

Dr Abe V Rotor 

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.    
American cockroach (Periplaneta Americana)

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. 

We are in the midst of Toy Revolution

Dr Abe V Rotor
Making a colorful kite
Are toys important?

Yes. Toys and play are important in growing up and in learning about the world around us. They help us discover our identity, they help our bodies grow strong, and make us learn the cause and effect of what we do and in understanding the environment.

Even adults need toys; they form and strengthen social bonds. They teach and reinforce lessons, exercise the mind and body, and hone skills into use.

Toys decorate our homes, schools and playgrounds. They add aesthetics to our living space. Toys are more than simple amusement; they profoundly influence many aspects of life.

But is this the way we regard toys today?

Toys evolve

• It’s a toy for the big boy - a hybrid of a jeep, rover, buggy and racer. With all its elaboration and sheer size it is not a toy in the strict sense of the word. It is one for Jules Verne and Flash Gordon.

• Life-size dolls, the like of McDonald or Jollibee figurines, come in various shapes one can easily inflate or assemble. Sometimes they are actually mascots. They guard the garden and porch, keep us company, and tell the story of Gulliver, and keep Mardi Gras alive year round.

• Booming sounds and tweeters, percussion, wind and string altogether, make a potpourri of music – or is it noise? Auditory toys, they are called, they abound in passenger jeeps, shops and homes. Just walk through Raon and Evangelista streets, the music center of Manila, .

• It is entertainment for you and the kids to visit a toy center in a mall. Take time out, you were in fantasyland. Toys, toys, toys – for grown ups and kids, you need to come back to see more, from electronic gadgets to make-it-yourself kits.

• Athletics stores today carry toy items as many as real sporting goods, that often you can’t decipher a real gun and a toy gun, a bicycle for racing or for exhibition, a kid’s boxing gloves from the real one. Name a toy and you can find it in a sports center.

• Automotive accessories make your car your traveling home – from cup holder to inflatable bed. From the inside and outside of a loaded car, there are all sorts of decors that take you to US, Germany, Japan, China - in fact around the world.

. Computer games are all over. Children and adults engage for hours everyday in these games robbing them of precious time for work and study, spawning many problems that are destroying the future of young people. Have you heard of computer addiction? Electronics syndrome?

. Sports have evolved into more dangerous games such as bungee jumping, sky skiing, cage-wrestling. Daredevil sports continue to evolve with new technologies, among them free fall gliding.

No Christmas and No Toys

There was a time when toys were outlawed, so to speak. This was during the Second World War when America needed more weapons and not toys. There is a time for every, the president told the world.

When I saw a film about suspending Christmas in America during the First World War, I thought that the idea was good. For how can a nation at war afford to manufacture toys, celebrating Christmas at home when thousands of its citizens are out there in the battlefield? So the campaign was – No Christmas, No Toys. At least temporarily until the war is over. So toy companies went into manufacturing arms and war materiels, people were told to buy bonds, not toys. Logical, isn’t?

Until the president of one of Americas biggest toymakers AC rallied against the campaign, and before the US Congress closed for the Christmas, he convinced the body to re-consider the campaign. So convincing was his approach by showing toy models that the President himself lifted the No Christmas and No Toys Campaign that very Christmas.

What was AC’s selling point? First, he rode on the foundation of American culture that gives importance to important events and celebrations. But the key was his revolutionary concept of toys.  Toy models that stir the mind of the young to associate themselves with issues, to stir imagination and invention. Learning toys.

Today with the changing times that is becoming more and more difficult, what are toys for? We may ask. In the first place, toys are becoming expensive. Even then if the value of the toy commensurates the cost, it would be all right. But it is not always the case.
Toys from scrap materials
Ideal Toys

Consider the following:

1. Toys that help children to learn – learn positively and functionally, meaning, toys that have applied value, toys that can increase functional literacy.

2. Toys that arouse inventive skills. Not toys that merely stimulate curiosity that by so doing, toys are dismantled and eventually destroyed without satisfying curiosity itself – much less added to basic and functional knowledge.

3. What should be the toys of the poor, children in marginal communities? Are there toys that can help them in their plight – at least ultimately, in one way or the other. If there are toys of this kind, what are their special features?

4. How do we differentiate toys from gadget, say a cellphone or computer? Computer games need re-classification. What is entertainment and what is function?

5. Electric devices have taken out the quaintness and challenges of toys. They also rob our children of their time to play, to attend to their hobbies, and to be at the playground or in the countryside with nature.

6. Devise games that teach children values. Games that do not only make us aware of our responsibilities as citizens by at members of the living world – as ecologists or environmentalists.

7. What happen to toys afterward? Are toys for recycling? Are they transformable in the sense that they can be useful again with the lesson they carry? Should toys be permanent or at least lasting.

8. Do toys create a healthy archetype which children will use as tool when they grow up? Can toys be shared in strengthening values, in building skills, etc.?

Art of toy making

. Kite making and kite flying. Why don't you encourage your children to enter into kite competition?
. Spinning top. Making one is a challenge to physics of motion and balance.
. For the inventive young mind, make solar-powered toys, instead of using battery and electricity.
. There are many useful gadgets in school and home. Here toys do not only entertain; they are useful. We can these functional toys. ~

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Scream of Nature

Dr Abe V Rotor

The original German title given to the work by Munch is, Der Schrei der Natur (The Scream of Nature). The Norwegian word skrik usually is translated as scream, but is cognate with the English shriek. Occasionally, the painting also has been called, The Cry.

In his diary in an entry headed, Nice 22 January 1892, Munch described his inspiration for the image:

One evening I was walking along a path, the city was on one side and the fjord below. I felt tired and ill. I stopped and looked out over the fjord—the sun was setting, and the clouds turning blood red. I sensed a scream passing through nature; it seemed to me that I heard the scream. I painted this picture, painted the clouds as actual blood. The color shrieked. This became The Scream.

This memory was later rendered by Munch as a poem, which he hand-painted onto the frame of the 1895 pastel version of the work:
I was walking along the road with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city – my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature. (Wikipedia)

Scream of Nature

I hear nature scream from a lost eagle,
owl hooting, starving on its roost,
playful swallows thinned out of their flock,
watchful crows abandon their post.

I hear nature scream in a dying river,
brooks that laugh with the rain
no more, so with children fishing then,
rivulets in melodious strain.

I hear nature scream from the raging sea,
rising and falling on the coral reef,
the shores exploding, melting in foam,
in muffled cries of pain and grief.

I hear nature scream - oil spill!
too late the fish and birds to flee;
black death blankets the tidal zone;
fire is kind to end their agony.

I hear nature scream to the chainsaw,
trees shrieking as they are felled,
stripped to logs like bodies in Austerlitz
their stumps in Flanders Field.

I hear nature in the church praying
to save trees on Palm Sunday;
to rebuild lost Eden for all creatures,
for a Heaven here to stay. ~

Friday, July 24, 2015

Buena Mano is a happy disposition

Dr Abe V Rotor 
Happy disposition - it's the best buena mano or first deal.

Laugh and the world laughs with you,
     Not last but first for the day;
Frown and you're likely all alone
     Even with the saints to pray.

The world makes it easier to laugh
     Than weep on misfortune;
And much easier too, to pass you by,
     For not counting your fortune.

Equation is the game in life;
     Others have what other's don't,
Yet all that matters in happiness,
     Take the chance, woe if you won't. ~

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Uplands

Paintings by Dr Abe V Rotor
Living Fire in Trees in acrylic 2012

Tree of Childhood, wall mural author's residence, circa 2005

The uplands, happy they bloom fire to summer's end,
 sigh with some dying waterfall;
hues of brown and green, earth and sky they blend,
waiting for the first rain to fall,
 to wake the crickets and cicada, their songs to send
into the air nature's happy call. ~    

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Light in the Coral Reef - A Reflection

Dr Abe V Rotor
Coral Reef wall mural in acrylic, author's residence,
San Vicente, Ilocos Sur, April 2, 2010 (Good Friday)

Do fish ever sleep? I once asked.
It does not matter, but they must.
If only man would forever sleep
And leave alone the coral reef.~

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Making of a Plastic Continent

Dr Abe V Rotor
The main Plastic Vortex as big as the state of texas - and growing - lies north of Hawaii off the coast of Canada and the US. "Islands" of plastics coalese into the vortex. Dutch scientists propose to convert the floating debris into a livable environment.  Satellite photo below shows ocean currents and gyres responsible in creating the vortex.   Canada is directly affected as indicated in the North Pacific Gyre. 
 Another gyre in the North Atlantic is poised to form another Plastic Vortex along the east coast of the US and Canada. If this happens we might expect a graver consequence as plastic merges with seaweeds that comprise the huge Sargasso Sea. (See lowermost photos, from the Internet) 

NOTE: There are other gyres three in the south hemisphere, all potential spawning grounds of floating garbage.

Relate these events with the following: 
1. Pope Francis Laudato Si (Praise Be), a call to save the Earth
2. Canada exporting trash to the Philippines
3. Earth Summits - review and prospects
4. Culture of Consumerism
5. Waste management models 
6. Personal concern and action
7. Global Leadership challenge
8. Autotoxicity - myth of fact?

Study the following photos (Internet).  

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Wanted: Kidney

Wanted: Kidney
Dr Abe V Rotor
National Kidney and Transplant Institute

He stopped schooling after finishing elementary. He was not good in school and his classmates always teased him for being lame. He was born with club foot. So he became the house keeper while his father and mother went to work, and his brother and sister attended school.

“Please take good care of everything, Gido.” It was Nanay Paring’s way of saying goodbye every morning before going to work. “And don’t forget to eat and take your medicine,” Tatay Gorio would add. Pedring and Trining would ask what their youngest brother Gido would like them to bring home before boarding their owner’s jeep.

Left alone at home Gido spent hours watching television and playing computer games. He had no companion except his dog, a mongrel, curled under the sofa and yelping only when hungry. “No, Pido, we are not going to cook. We are only two anyway.” He would open a bag of potato or corn chips, or a can of cheese balls, and a family-size soft drinks, and both of them would while their time away until the whole family is reunited at dinner time.

This was the life of Gido day in and out. And who would complain? People with simple life have very little to complain about. Gido’s father and mother were industrious, they were very kind. Pedring and Trining loved him. They gave him playthings, and played with him after school and on weekends.

Gido’s eyesight began to fade, so he was fitted with a special pair of eyeglasses, with a grade too high for a boy in his early teens. “Oh, it’s because of too much TV and computer games,” he told himself.

One time his mother was talking to Gido, but he seemed not to be listening. “Gido, Gido,” her mother called. Gido was going deaf. The family doctor also found out that he was losing control  of some muscles and nerves. His asthma had gone worse and yet he was fast gaining weight. The doctor prescribed him medicine. “Could it be Parkinson’s disease?” The doctor muttered to himself. It is impossible for a teenager to be a victim. Then the doctor realized his patient had  signs of premature aging!

Months later, Gido complained of persistent back pain and he could barely move. The color of his skin lost its pinkish color. True to the suspicion of the doctors he was diagnosed to be suffering of diseased kidneys. There is only one chance for him to live – kidney transplant!

What really caused Gido’s sad condition?
Kidney transplant opertion

After a long investigation by a university hospital, doctors attributed the boy’s condition to the effects of improper diet and inactive lifestyle. The hospital presented Gido’s case in a forum for medical students. Gido had taken some 5,000 packs potato chips, corn chips, and the like, in a period of three years at the rate of three to four packs per day! How about noodles? If he consumed, say at the rate of two packs daily, he had taken no less than 2000 packs during the same period. Noodles are known to contain MSG or monosodium glutamate which doctors attribute to be the cause of poor development of the brain and muscles. How about carbonated soft drinks? At one family size bottle a day, Gido drank some 1,000 liters during the same period.

What worsened his situation was that Gido did not have enough physical exercise. Cleaning the house was not sufficient. And he was not getting the much needed sunlight. He became overweight and soon he became ashamed of himself, and developed a phobia going out and meeting people. How low was his self esteem!

As a writer I met Gido at the National Kidney Institute where he had weekly dialysis. I saw his name in the list of candidates waiting for donated kidney. The list was very long and there were few donors. He had been visiting NKI regularly with Nanay Paring or Tatay Gorio, or with his brother or sister. Sometimes the whole family was with him.

The family prayed hard every evening, instead of watching their favorite TV programs. They prayed that someone was going to donate a kidney for Gido. A month had passed and there was none.

“I’m going to donate one of my kidneys to Gido,” Pedring announced unexpectedly. The family was surprised. They sought advice of NKI and from many people. They could not decide. Then a certain Dr. Abelardo Imbag who had just completed his specialization in nephrology at John Hopkins University in the US approached the family on knowing the condition of Gido.

“If you allow me, my team and I will do the operation - for free,” he offered. Dr. Imbag grew up on  the same street in Tondo where the Fuentes family lived. He had known them even when he was a little boy. He remembered how Gido’s father helped him when he was accidentally bumped by a tricycle. If it were not for Tatay Goring there would be no Dr. Imbag today.

The day of the operation came. Gido and Pedring were brought into the Operating Room. Dr. Imbag and his team worked for hours. Outside the family waited. Time stood still. Nobody spoke. Only the squeak of the swing door would break the silence now and then. It was a sound that would bring the family to their feet or draw their heads towards the Operating Room.

Suddenly the door swung wide open and Dr. Imbag appeared, his face wore a big, big smile. Everyone rejoiced and embraced each other. Both operations were a success.

Months passed. Gido was no longer the house keeper. His mother had retired from her work and devoted her time to the family, Mang Gorio found another job that required him to report only for half a day, and that he also had the whole weekend to spend with the family. Pedring and Trining loved their youngest brother more than before. For Gido and Pedring in particular, people called them “blood brothers” in the true sense of the word because they shared not only the same blood but organ as well.

When Trining finished nursing he took care of Gido. He was her first and most special patient. Pedring soon went back to school and finished management, and opened a grocery store at the street corner near their residence.

Gido improved from his failing sight and hearing. There were less and less occasions of asthma attacks. After losing some kilos his friends stopped calling him “Tabachoy,” a local term for overweight. They would tell him he looked ten years younger. Gido was regarded a hero of sort in the neighborhood, especially by those of his age. With a scholarship coming from the university where he was operated on, Gido was able to continue his studies in the same university.

Because of Gido’s case, Dr. Imbag campaigned against malnutrition principally caused by excessive consumption of junk food and softdrinks. When Gido finished law and became a lawyer seven years later, he joined Dr. Imbag, and together put up a foundation, Stop Junk Food Research and Training Center. It was dedicated to the millions of young people all over the world who are victims of this serious problem.

One afternoon while I was writing the biography of Gido I happened to pass by a young boy sitting on a bench under a tree. He looked robust and happy. He had a bottle of soft drink and a bag of potato chips. At his feet lay a dog curled asleep. I told him the story of Gido. x x x

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Some religious practices - their impact to health and the environment

 Some religious practices - their impact to health and the environment
There are many religious rituals and practices in various faiths that fall under either of the categories – to help or destroy our health and environment. This is a good assignment in schools and community workshops. It is time to review them in the light of health warnings and  the environmental concerns.

Dr Abe V Rotor

1. On Palm Sunday trees are stripped of their buds, leaves and stems. This is detrimental to the environment especially in summer when plants face tight water regime.(Acknowledgement: Internet photo, Wikipedia)

2. Fasting is cleansing, it helps the body stop the accumulation of unwanted substances such as cholesterol, and allows the body to eliminate toxic materials.

3. Retreat and reflection is therapy, helps the mind and body release tension and do away with the effects of stress.

4. Abstinence conserves animal population especially during the lean months, conserving breeding stocks - like seeds (binhi) – in order to multiply in the next season.

5. To some religions pork is banned. Pork is a carrier of known parasites such as tapeworm, hookworm, and ascaris. 

6. Ancient religions regard certain places and trees sacred, thus enhancing their conservation. Such worship was replaced by later religions, thus losing their protection. 

7. The washing of feet is not only ritual, it is also sanitation, getting rid of germs and preventing them to spread. 

8. Walking on knees, a form of penitence, usually along the aisle to reach the altar, is harmful to the knee joint and cap (patella).

9. Self inflicting of wounds imitating the scorging at the pillar, practiced by flagellants amy lead to loss of blood, serious infection, and even death.

10. Communal holy water may become a breeding place of vermin and germs causing ailments and epidemic diseases.

11. Receive holy communion photo with the palm of your hand to lessen the possibility of disease transmission. (Photos from Internet)

12. Kissing or touching the dead. Diseases like Ebola, SARS, MERS-CoV must be strictly quarantined.~

How do you classify the following 10 practices?
  • Removing shoes and slippers before entering a temple of worship
  • Viewing the bright sky and even the sun - to witness a miracle 
  • Wearing robes and habits of holy persons
  • Wearing veil when attending mass or any ritual inside the church
  • Baptism by immersion in a pool or river
  • Offering flowers at the altar, especially in the month of May
  • Walking barefoot as penitence, usually under the sun on rough road..
  • Actual crucifixion on Good Friday as "ultimate penitence"   
  • Joining a huge religious assembly or procession such as the Black Nazarene. 
  •  Kissing icons for intercession or expression of reverence.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

A Day with the Elephant - Beauty and the Beast

Photos by Dr Abe V Rotor

First, you have to befriend the elephant's master.

Get to know a baby elephant.

Then get to know an adult one.

Before you climb and sit on the saddle and feel like a princess.

Now you can go places - with the beast's master.

Riding an elephant makes two faces. Actually, three.

Young elephant needs company, or vice versa,
under the watchful eye of the mother.

"If you tame me, you are responsible to me. "
(From The Little Prince)
That's the key to friendship.

Befriend the parent, too. The family circle, in fact.

Hurray! Freedom to both of you.
Freedom is
the prize of friendship.

Now you can go places - to the home of the beast, the jungle.

And to your own - the complex human habitation.
At the end, friendship is sealed with a real kiss.
And the memory lives on - and shared with others -
with a touch of fairy tale in a real world.

Acknowledgment: Safari World, Ayutthaya the Ancient City, Thailand.