Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Old Quirino Bridge Across Banaoang Pass

Dr Abe V Rotor 

Old Bridge across Banaoang Pass in acrylic (60" x 41") by the author. 
Painted for Dr Laurence (Rencie) Padernal), April 29. 2012

Past your golden age, three generations have passed, 
Once in your prime, and also was mine; 
The world over the horizon across your span, I sought 
For dreams the sweet goal of time. 

While across your other end leads to home, sweet home, 
For loyal sons and daughters in homage, 
Returning to childhood memories, to peaceful repose, 
Gateway indeed you are to every age. 

And in between, fleeting were the years, but never 
Lost - dream fulfilled, or never was - 
Matters but little in your own world, bright and windy, 
As the sun rises through the Pass. 

And if a lonely soul comes to your world, gazes around 
And high, the strength of the towering 
Rocks, the sharp, gentle slopes of green and golden
In their pristine - they're Nature blessing. 

From the cliff down the ravine, the great divide 
Of the rugged Cordillera, surrenders 
To a mighty river born in a fertile valley, gathers 
Strength as it flows and meanders. 

You are their peacemaker and guardian, oh, bridge - 
And rather than a bridge of sigh, 
You tame the wind; you tame the river, the mountains, 
And every day countless passersby. 

Bearing their weight and their load uncomplaining, 
Their pain and joy of going and returning; 
And seeing yonder farmers and fishers in their work - 
All’s well ‘til the sky sent the river roaring. 

Now it is your time to rest, the wind, river, and mountains 
And I, to bid you goodbye in the setting sun; 
But your ruins rise a monument seen by all and from Above, 
Where once a boy with dreams crossed your span. 

Presentation and unveiling of the painting to the birthday celebrant 

Quirino Bridge is named after President Elpidio Quirino, a great Ilocano leader. It spans across the mighty Abra River passing through Banaoang Pass, and joining the towns of Santa and Bantay both in Ilocos Sur province. The bridge survived a recent strong typhoon but was soon retired and replaced by a new bridge. Its beauty however, cannot be equaled.

Twilight view to the East, source of the mighty Abra River
Sunset view to the West where the river empties to the South China Sea

Cirrus clouds over the Cordillera Range; promontory partly blocking the bridge's view to the West. 

Placid river in summer, fisherman on raft steers for home before dark.

Exuberance of youth meets sunset on the edge of Banaoang Pass, as the Cordillera turns to amber and the Abra River to emerald. ~

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Two Worlds of the House Sparrow

The Two Worlds of the House Sparrow
Dr Abe V Rotor
   House sparrows (Passer domesticus)  frolic in a pool left by rain. 
 Photo Credit: Google, Wikipedia

Gordiun (or Gordion), that's how we call this bird in Ilokano, almost a password for us kids in our time with slingshots worn necklace style, our pockets bulging with carefully picked gravel stones. We were soldiers of fortune when the gordiun is fat at harvestime, and how we relished it grilled in today's term, and how we raided its nest and took its young. 

Passer birds are a product of co-evolution in rice territory - their life cycle jibes with that of rice - the traditional varieties that stay in the field for the whole monsoon season. And then comes October.  By then they number to hundreds, thousands over the horizon. What makes it worse is the gordiun is related to the maya, equally if not more destructive. raiding ricefields about to be harvested, stealing  grains from the mandala and the garung - a giant circular basket to keep threshed palay as buffer stock in today economic term. 

That's why our old folks allowed us to carry this deadly improvised weapon, traced to the history of David, with the enemy a hundred times more than a single Goliath - more elusive, more mean, more intelligent. 

Like its counterpart in the rodent world - the rat - the gordium has likewise learned to live with humans, but never, never allowing itself to be domesticated - unlike the cat and the dog.  Not the gordiun, not the rat as well - two stubborn co-inhabitants in man's dwelling. And the wonder of it all is that they can adjust to modern living, and in fact to today's postmodernism.  They live in cities among high rise and shanties, the rats on garbage, and the gordiun on food waste and pest.  

We were the Mark Twain kids of the fifties - the likes of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer.  Like them we were abandoned by time - shall w say, age - and ambition and industrialization and exodus to the city. We have surrendered our weapons, so with the adventure and fun we were supposed to hand over as heritage to our children and the younger generation of today. 

Pavlov is undoubtedly correct when we talk of the resilience of instinct, its ability to cope with fear, deprivation and aggression for the sake of survival of the species as a whole. That's how the gordiun - and all animals for that matter - succeed in adapting to the changing environment. 

But there is something strange going on, not anticipated by the great psychologist, similarly Darwin did not foresee the impact of modern science and technology: the steady annihilation of species to the point of extinction. In fact hundreds of species of the estimated millions have permanently perished, and more in accelerated pace will follow suit.

I look back as my Gordiun - the one that refused domestication, the one that played the most skillful hide-and-seek game, the most challenging target of our slingshots, the one that lives  up to 20 years among humans - not in the forest though, the one that never migrates in neither habagat or amihan - unlike the migratory birds of the north coming down south and returning after winter. And the one that is the symbol of joy and being carefree, yet the epitome to bonding as family and community. 

I have long dismissed the gordiun's destructiveness , and in fact explained to farmers and housewives, they do more good in housekeeping - picking morsels, ridding the place of vermin.  They are part of the food web and therefore help in maintaining the integrity of the ecosystem. They are insectivorous and predators, and they keep weeds population down that would otherwise compete with our crops, by eating their seeds during the off season. It is for this matter that their dispersal all over the world in all continents except Antarctica was assisted by man because they are excellent biological agents.  In general we have learned to accept them, as they have learned the same.  

A change of human attitude crept in when the gordiun's population has dropped from the flock we used to watch and admire, the chorus of songs though inferior to the canary, and by their very presence alone that keeps us company. This is what is happening all over the world because of pollution, global warming, loss of habitat, pesticides and the like.

I watched a gordiun lost its way and ended up in our sala trapped.  It was raining hard and I said, you can stay here.  Restless, it rammed against the wall and ceiling, then perched nervously on the curtain looking at me long and hard.

Suddenly I became a boy once more - this time without the dreaded slingshot around my neck.  I parted the curtain and out it flew to join its flock. ~  

"I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment, while I was hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance that I should have been by any epaulet* I could have worn."
- Henry David Thoreau

*Mark of distinction worn on the shoulder to show rank in an organization; shoulder strap showing military rank or social standing.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Nature, Ingenuity and Serendipity - Roots of Invention and Discovery

Dr Abe V Rotor
Who were the first inventors?
Nature, Ingenuity and Serendipity - Roots of Invention and Discovery

The otter playfully lies on its back in water, crushes its food shells with stones on its chest. The eagle takes up in the air a piece of bone, aims and drops it accurately hitting a rock in order to break, then comes down and eats the bone marrow. The macaque uses a stick which it probes into a termite nest to gather termites which it eventually eats. Birds do the same in extracting the larvae of tree borers.

Philippine jeepney, the country's signature land transport vehicle

Then there is man, the inventor; his teacher - Nature.

If we look at man's invention there is a semblance of Nature's ways, from the web of spider to become fishing net, the sounds of breeze on trees and waves lapping the shore into sweet sound of music, the flight of the bumblebee into helicopter. But all these were not planned, deliberate and well understood. They came from providential discovery called serendipity. Alexander Fleming did not actually discover antibiotics from his specimen - rather from a contaminant that destroyed it. Macaroni was started from a spilled durum wheat dough in the sun.

Can anyone become an inventor or a discoverer?

If you think you cannot do much, and that the little you can do is of no value, think of these things:

1. A lantern swinging in a tower as the beginning of a pendulum.

2. A shirt waving on the clothesline was the beginning of a balloon, the forerunner of the Graf Zeppelin.

3. A spider web strung across a garden path suggested the suspension bridge.

4. Thomas Edison made thousands upon thousands of trials before he got his celebrated electric light to operate.

5. An apple falling from a tree led to the discovery of the law of gravity. (Newton)

6. Physicist Rene’ Laenvec observed children tapping signals to one another from opposite ends of a hollow log – gave him the idea to invent the stethoscope (wooden tube with an earpiece that transports the sounds from the heart and chest more clearly than any means formerly used)

7. Chester Greenwood 15, dropped out of grammar school invented earmuffs in 1877 at age 19, earned a fortune as he produced millions during WWI.

8. Graham Bell invented the telephone which carries through wire and be heard many miles away. It took years to convince people that this is possible.

9. Joseph Mainer, a French gardener, is credited with inventing steel-reinforced cement after observing a 3-foot straw of wheat was able to hold heavy grains upright in high wind.

10. A tea kettle singing on a stove was the beginning of the steam engine.

And, the first tool of man which is flint stone must have been inspired by natural fragmentation of rocks by heat and cold, and avalanche.

Invention builds on another like the sled developing into something more efficient, into wheel. And yet the Aztecs and Incas, the Inuits and American Indians did not use wheels, but relied on sled instead?

We may not know who first discovered fire, invented the wheel or fish hook, or thought of the idea of a pyramid. We can only wonder on the ingenuity of the inventor of the scissor and the sewing needle.

x x x

Dialogue with the Butterfly

Dr Abe V Rotor 

Exquisite netted venation of a butterfly wing, representing nature's architecture universal in the insect world, flying foxes, leaves of most plants, and blood vessels in human and  other creatures.

 Life cycle of the butterfly -  from egg to caterpillar to pupa to adult - the butterfly.

Fly me to your world, oh butterfly,
where flows the Pierian Spring,
the fountain of youth eternal,
where Sylphids dance and sing.

I'd rather wish to be in your garden    
foe and friend yet we're one,
where the tree of knowledge blooms,
nurtured by rain and sun.

I cannot reach for the rainbow,
neither can I make one,
but you, by your wings and wand,
build the biggest crown.

Your sense of beauty’s not ours,
fleeting and elusive,
ephemeral to your senses all,
before it is perceived.

Just for once, oh butterfly, to leave  
the home of my ancestor,
I shall cease to ask another favor    
nor crave for more. 

        Then I shall fly no more in your garden; 
       the flowers will die with the fountain,
       and all that lives shall crave the same
       with nothing to hope and gain. ~

Thursday, April 21, 2016

For better health and nutrition, take brown sugar instead of refined sugar

 Dr Abe V Rotor
Rural folks would rather eat panocha or muscovado, which is likened to whole grain with the bran intact (e.g. pinawa rice and whole wheat flour).

When sugar is refined, the very vitamins and minerals needed by our body’s metabolism are removed, going with the molasses which we usually use as feeds for animals.

Sugar consumed in its natural state (like fruits and grains) are slowly broken down and released into the bloodstream, in a manner our body can program its assimilation. In comparison refined sugar raises the blood sugar rapidly. This rush is followed by an equally rapid crash that often leaves us feeling tired, irritable or depressed. As energy falls, our response is to reach for more sugar to perk us up.

The sudden rise and fall of our blood sugar causes emotional instability, confusion, dizziness, and headache. Over-consumption of sugar can trigger a craving similar to the physiological dependence produced by drugs. These symptoms, along with drowsiness, forgetfulness, or general “spaced-out” feeling are typical symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). 
Adrenaline is released during the body’s chemical chain reaction triggered by eating excess refined sugar, creating a stress throughout our body and mind. Sugar also depresses the activity of our white blood cells, lowering our resistance to infection. It may lead to the development of diabetes. For this reason many oriental nutritionists call refined sugar a “white poison.”

So, take brown or red sugar, instead of white or refined sugar. And your family will be healthier and happier, too. ~

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A folktale - or does thunder and lightning spawn mushrooms?

 Dr Abe V Rotor

In the province, it is a tradition to go hunting for mushrooms in bamboo groves, on anthills, under rice hay and banana stalks during the monsoon season, specifically after a period of heavy thunder and lightning. And what do we know? Old folks are right as they show you the prize - baskets full of Volvariella (rice hay or banana mushroom), Plerotus (abalone mushroom), Auricularia (tainga ng daga), and a host of other wild mushroom species.

Where did the mushrooms come from?

When lightning strikes, nitrogen, which comprise 78 percent of the air combines with oxygen (21 percent of the air) forming nitrate (NO3). Scientists call this process, nitrogen fixation or nitrification. Nitrate, which is soluble in water, is washed down by rain. Electrical discharge also aids in the fixation of other elements such as sulfur, phosphorus, potassium, calcium and magnesium into soluble compounds.

Edible wild mushroom
Lightning occurs every second in any place of the earth, maintaining the earth’s supply of these and other life-giving compounds. Not only green plants benefit from these natural fertilizers, but also phytoplankton (microscopic one-celled plants) - and the lowly mushroom whose vegetative stage is but some cottony mass of mycelia enmeshed in decomposing media such as plant residues.

Ganoderma or shelf mushroom; Dung mushroom 

 Dead tree attacked by tree mushroom and other fungi; Stinkhorn

Auricularia (Tanga ng daga)

With nitrate and other nutrients now available, coupled with favorable conditions of the environment, the saprophyte transforms into its reproductive phase. This is the mushroom we are familiar with – umbrella-like and fleshy. In all its luxuriance and plenty, it is not unusual to discover clusters or hills of mushrooms in just a single spot. ~

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Philippine Literature - Pride of Filipinos, Mirror of a Noble Culture. IIn celebration of Philippine National Literature Month ( Panitikan)

Literature is the conservatory of language and culture. It is the treasure of every society, a testament to its rich history. It creates for a people a national identity, unites them under one common sentiment, national liberation and statehood.

Dr Abercio V Rotor
Living with Nature - School on Blog [avrotor.blogspot.com]
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Miss Grace Velasco 

738 DZRB AM, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday
Philippine Literature Today invites students to explore the vast history and diversity of Philippine literature. One of the primary aims of the course is to bridge the old and the new literary traditions that knit the fabric of humanity. In doing so, things must be put in context in order to trace the origins and sources of the country's present day literary production:
Philippine Literature Today is a handy book, 8"x 6" in dimension, and has 237 pages. It is provided by a complementary DVD which contains additional learning materials. The book adopts an integrated (multi-disciplinary) approach presented in eight chapters:

  1. Philippine Literature: A Perspective 
  2. Literature Appreciation 
  3. Literature, Culture, and Society 
  4. Popular Literature 
  5. Myths and Legends 
  6. Literature, Nature, and Environment 
  7. Literature and the Humanities 
  8. Current Trends in Literature 

The book meets the requirements of literature courses at the tertiary level as prescribed by the general curriculum.

The four  pillars of Philippine Literature

There are four  pillars of Philippine Literature that will aid students in answering the question: "Quo vadis?" or "To where are we heading for in Philippine literature?" 

These four pillars are considered vanguards of our literature.  The book's cover perfectly illustrates one of the course's primary objectives - a journey in literature with them.  In this journey, each vanguard represents specific areas of interest in literature:  
  • Jose Rizal for the novel and the essay
  • Francisco Batagtas for poetry;
  • Severino Reyes for theater (zarzuela) and children's literature; and 
  • Leona Florentino for literature written in Spanish and the Filipino regional languages
These authors greatly contributed to the development of a distinct kind of literature we proudly call our own today.  A uniquely Filipino literature , that is still linked to a larger realm - the literature of the world. 

Literature captures and enriches human experience.  Instead of talking about people and events, literature tackles various ideas and discourses.  It avoids all forms of obscurantism and strives, as much as possible, to illumine the most complex of concepts. 

Literature is also a builder of leaders - leaders emboldened by the pen and conviction of words.  As in the epilogue of Noli, these writer-leaders are expected to carry the torch and guide the nation "through night 'til dawn."
Co-authors Dr Abercio V Rotor and Dr Kristine Molina-Doria present the first copy of Philippine Literature Today during its soft launching. The two authors also wrote Humanities - An Experiential Approach. Both textbooks were published by C&E Publishing Co., and are now adopted in different schools and universities through the publisher's nationwide network. Both authors are bona fide residents of Lagro.   
Literature is also tested by time and change.  Its relevance is measured by events that shape history.  A lighthouse in a stormy sea, it signals the arrival of a new dawn.

We are being swept by the incessant tides of change.  Consequently, a deluge of information makes the task of separating the grains from the chaff in literature more difficult. This is not to mention the predilection of today's generation of anti-intellectual ideas.  In these trying times, nowhere is the challenge for writers to assert themselves as relevant agents of social change more evident than in literature. 

In the advent of multi-tasking and do-all. hand-held devices (i.e., tablets, smartphones, iPad), the world is as the saying goes, now in our hands.  In the same way, never have we been serious in analyzing William Blake's Auguries of Innocence, which in part reads:

To see the World in a Grain of Sand,
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your Hand,
And Eternity in an hour.

Fortunately, we still trace philosophy back to Socrates, Idealism to Kant, and naturalism to Aristotle.  In the same manner, our literature, despite new and emerging trends, is still rooted in Rizal, Balagtas, Reyes, Florentino, and their disciples. 

The authors pose with the senior staff of C&E Publishing Co. From left to right: Ms Lourdes Lopez, division chief; Dr Doria, Mr Amado Anthony G Mendoza III, Asst Editor; Dr Rotor; and Mr Ruzzel S Valdepeña, layout artist.  

At present, in the advent of rampant capitalism and globalization, our literature is besieged and reified in a free market where profit is the lure and rule,  In this world order structured on free-market principles, literature becomes a commodity; and if it merely holds on to its glorious past, then we may lose its essence and eventually, its value.

The challenge for us now is to find new ways to assert the importance of literature as a human endeavor,  Readers and writers alike must produce works that represent and depict current social and global realities.  To achieve this purpose, we must strive for a literature that has an intellectual moral value; narrates and reveals the marginalized history of our people; and helps unite us under one national identity.  

Philippine Literature - Pride of Filipinos, Mirror of a Noble Culture.

1. Philippine literature takes us back to the domain of the gods and goddesses, to the throne of Bathala, to the times of Malakas at Maganda.

2. Philippine literature brings back the sweet days of childhood when kapres still lived in big trees, dwendes in punso (anthill), and manananggal used to peep through thatched roofs.  

The whole experience is distilled in the form of fantastic tales - a sort of transference, a courageous parting from childhood memories, albeit leaving imprints of the unknown and ineffable aspects of the world - which serve as forms of nostalgia and entertainment during our adult years.

3. Philippine literature unveils the world of the minutiae - honeybee converting nectar into pukyutan (honey), worms weaving the finest sutla (silk), and fireflies emitting the brightest of lights.  

4. Philippine literature has never been dull and prosaic.  It has done away with romanticism and evolved alongside events that shaped the Philippines as a nation .  It blazed paths which remained untrodden, spoke about relevant issues that used to be unspeakable, and utilized modes of expression shunned in the past.

5. Philippine literature "on the other side of the fence," so to speak, portrays the wretched, pitiful, painful, and deplorable conditions of human life; but at the same time, it gives a sense of hope and redemption in the end.  Doing away with the idyllic representation of reality, literature is able to lend its voice to the voiceless, oppressed, and marginalized sectors of the society.

6. Philippine literature was inevitably shaped by a colonial past.  This led a lot of scholars and critics to prolematize and debate the "pureness" of our literature.  However, the point is not to categorize and evaluate our literary tradition and production in terms of its purported originality and provenance, but to trace and identify the historical events, processes, and departures that affected its development.

7. Philippine literature exalts the beauty of the Filipina - the subject of countless stories, poems, and songs - though the Maria Clara image of the Filipina has coalesced with contemporary culture.  Moreover, we can still say that the essence of Filipino womanhood is still present in the modern society.  Proof of this is the abundance of literary texts that feature the important role of women in our society. 

8. Philippine literature not only produced transcendent works, but also showed the world the greatness of the Philippines and its people: Rizal's Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo described the plight of Filipinos during the Spanish colonial period; Bonifacio's Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang Lupa inflamed the Philippine Revolution; Lopez-Jaena's Fray Botod exposed corruption and oppressive rule of the Spanish friars and Balagtas' Florante at Laura, unanimously considered as the masterpiece in Philippine narrative poetry,   

9. We have an extensive and pervasive oral literary tradition.  Most modern and contemporary literary forms trace their roots not only from foreign sources but also from native literary forms like the bugtong, dagli, ambahan, tanaga, dalit, diona, pasingaw, ulahingan, leyenda, awit, korido, duplo, zarzuela, kotkotan, hudhud, patotodon, etc.  This goes to show that our literature, despite the detrimental effects of colonialism and increased Westernization, still suckles from its original literary bosom. 

10. Philippine literature has been instrumental in the preservation of Philippine culture and values like bayanihan (cooperation), lamayan (wake), and the annual pista (fiesta). Through poems and stories that depict the richness and quaintness of Filipino life in the past, people of the present learn to appreciate the practices, values, and beliefs being passed on to them by their parents and forebears.  

11. Philippine literature needs to continuously question and reinvent itself; it needs to "come down to earth" to address relevant societal issues and concerns.  It needs to get out of the academe, its eternal comfort zone, and find new ways to articulate and tackle pressing realities.  "Get out of the house," cried the late national poetess Ophelia A Dimalanta. "Bond with the people, bond with nature," a call for responsive change.  On the other hand, literature should also utilize new mediums like the Internet and multimedia.

12. Lastly, Philippine literature should uphold challenge both the young and the old; lend new light to old beliefs and ideologies and contextualize forthcoming trends; describe and comment on exigent national and global issues; and trace and outline history through the lens of the voiceless, oppressed, and marginalized. ~

Saturday, April 16, 2016

12 Ways to Enhance your Personality

Dedicated to the late Jesus T Tanchanco, former minister and administrator, National Food Authority (1971-1986)

Dr Abe V Rotor

1. Live in the present. Live today. 

2. Forget the mistakes of yesterday. Yesterday has gone forever. 

3. Stop criticizing yourself and stop criticizing others. 

4, Yearn for self-improvement. 

Dr and Mrs Abe V Rotor present a copy of the author's book, Living with Folk Wisdom while exchanging pleasantries with former NFA administrator Jesus T Tanchanco (right) during the last homecoming of former NGA-NFA employees in 2012.  Tanchanco served for almost two decades as the first administrator of the agency, then Natiobnal Grains Authority (NGA), until the eruption of the EDSA Revolution. This occasion marked the final hiomecoming of this great man.    

5. Hold on to your self-respect by appraising yourself honestly. 
6. Learn to listen to others. It helps remove bias from your opinion. 

7. If you have a goal, reach for it. 

8. If you make a mistake, try again. 

9. Don't be timid in conversation. 

10. Exercise your imagination creatively to achieve success. 

11. Do one thing at a time. Shoot for one goal at a time.

12. Believe in the Providence not for luck but blessings.

From my old files I found this article designed for framing, so that it can serve as a daily personal reminder. Spontaneously I thought of my boss for fifteen long years, the admirable and respectable Jesus T Tanchanco, former administrator of the National Food Authority under the regime of President Ferdinand E Marcos.  During his time the Philippines became not only self-sufficient in rice and other major agricultural commodities, but a net exporter as well. The Philippines attained the status as exporter of rice in Tanchanco's time like Thailand and Vietnam today.   I realize that the success of a leader - a government official - depends largely on personality which is the embodiment of all qualities of a person.   

Return of the Native ("Ur-urayenka, Anakko" - I am waiting for you my child)

Dr Abe V Rotor
San Vicente (Ilocos Sur) Parish Church built in the 17th century

I am a modern day Prodigal Son. I spent fifty long years searching and searching for a place I may call my own in the whole wide world. Yes, fifty long years of my youth and in old age – twice longer the fiction character Rip van Winkle did sleep – and now I am back to the portals of my hometown, to the waiting arms of my father.

The proverbial Lamp I still hold flickers, but it is but a beacon in embers now, for it have spent its luminance in the darkness of human weakness and failures, it beamed across the ocean of ignorance and lost hope, it trailed the path of many adventures and discoveries, and it kept vigil in the night while I slept.

And what would my father say? He meets me, embraces me, and calls everyone. “Kill the fattest calf! Let us rejoice.”

San Vicente is my home. It is the bastion of my hopes and ideals. At the far end on entering the old church is written on the altar, faded by the elements of time and rough hands of devotees, Ur-urayenka Anakko – I am waiting for you my child. When the world is being ripped by conflicts or pampered with material progress, when mankind shudders at the splitting of the atom or the breaking of the code of life, when the future is viewed with high rise edifices or clouded by greenhouse gases – my town becomes more than ever relevant to the cause for which it has stood through the centuries - the sanctuary of idealism in a troubled world, home of hundreds of professionals in many fields of human endeavor.

“Kill the fattest calf,” I hear my father shout with joy. It is celebration. It is a symbol of achievement more than I deserve. But my feelings is that I am standing on behalf of my colleagues for I am but an emissary. Out there in peace and trials, in villages and metropolises, in all endeavors and walks of life, many “Vincentians” made their marks, either recognized on the stage or remembered on stone on which their names are carved. I must say, it is an honor and privilege that I am here in humility to represent them that I may convey their unending faith and trust to our beloved hometown.

The world has changed tremendously, vastly, since I passed under the town arch to meet the world some fifty years ago. I have met wise men who asked the famous question “Quo vadis?” -where are you going? I can only give a glimpse from the eye of a teacher, far for the probing mind of Alvin Toffler in Future Shock, or those of Naisbitt and Aburdane, renowned modern prophets. A teacher as I know, and having been trained as one, sees the world as it is lived; he makes careful inferences, and takes a bird’s eye-view cautiously. he is a conveyor of knowledge, and even with modern teaching tools and communication technology, cannot even qualify as chronicler, nay less of a forecaster. I have always strive to master the art of foretelling the future, but frankly I can only see it from atop a misty mountain. How I wish too, that I can fully witness the fruits of the seed of knowledge a teacher has sown in the mind of the young.

Limited my experience may be, allow me to speak my mind about progress and developments in the fifty years I was away from home, but on the other side of midnight, so to speak.

1. The monster that Frankenstein made lurks in nuclear stockpiles, chides with scientists tinkering with life, begging to give him a name and a home.

2. Our blue planet has an ugly shade of murk and crimson – fire consuming the forests, erosion eating out the land, polar ice shrinking, flooding the shorelines, and boring a hole in its jacket.

3. One race-one nation equals globalization. But globalization is not the ultimate goal of mankind, and neither shall build for him a dreamworld of Utopia. The shrinking of the gene pool predisposes man, or any species for that matter, to its doom. Aculturation is leading mankind to early to its demise.
Homogenization is the death sentence amid a bed of roses for mankind. How we have taken the role of God in our hands! It could be the greatest sin of disobedience after the banishment of our ancestors from Paradise because they eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge.

4. Today the whole world is wired, and it travels fast on two feet. Thanks to communication and transportation. The Concord, the first supersonic commercial transport, would take a busy executive around the world and back virtually in three days, sending to the archives Jules Verne's 17th century novel, "Eighty Days Around the World." Space tourism would soon be taking people to the moon and back, like hopping from one continent to another. Video-conference, satellite images, kinect sensor, virtual realities, and the Internet, continue to give us more and more access to the enormous wealth of information, through the magic of communication the world over. And the greatest human invention - The Tablet like Pocket PC and i-Pod will soon become available to the ordinary person, thus making him "citizen of the world" in modern parlance. Despite these, scientists are wary about the "diminution of man role amid his own inventions," which leads us to wonder what our future.

5. Man-induced phenomena are too difficult to separate from those of natural causes. We take the latter as an excuse of our follies, a rationalization that runs counter to be rational. Only the human species has both the capability to build or destroy – and yet we love to destroy what we build.

6. The dangerous game of numbers is a favorite game, and our spaceship is getting overloaded. Man’s needs, more so man’s want, become burgeoning load of Mother Earth, now sick and aging. Will Pied Piper ever come back and take our beloved young ones away from us, as it did in Hamlyn many years ago?

7. Conscience, conscience, where is spirituality that nourishes it. Where have all the religious teachings gone? Governance – where is the family, the home? Peace and order – Iraq, Afghanistan – another Korea, another Vietnam, only in another place, in another time. And now social unrest is sweeping over North Africa and the Middle East.

8. Janus is progress, and progress is Janus. It is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It is The Prince and the Pauper. Capitalism has happy and sad faces – the latter painted in pain and sadness on millions all over the world. It is inequity that makes the world poor; we have more than enough food, clothing, shelter, and energy for everybody. What ideology can save the world other than Capitalism?

As I grew older I did not only learn to adjust with the realities of life as I encountered them, but to grasp its meaning from the points of view of famous philosophers and writers. I studied it with the famous lines from William Blake’s famous poem, Auguries of Innocence.

To wit.

“To see the world in a grain of sand;
And a Heaven a wild flower;
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.”

- William Blake, Auguries of Innocence
If ever I have ventured into becoming a redeemer of sort, armed with a pen in hand, I too, have learned from Blake’s verse of the way man should view the world in all its magnanimity yet in simplicity. If ever I have set foot to reach the corners of the Earth, and failed, I am consoled by the humble representation of “a grain of sand” that speaks of universal truth and values.

And beauty? If I have not found it in a garden of roses, I dare not step on a flowering weed. And posterity and eternity? They are all ensconced in periodicity, a divine accident of existence – to say that each and every one of us is here in this world by chance – an unimaginable chance – at “a certain time and place” which - and I believe - has a purpose in whatever and however one lives his life. But I would say that a lifetime is all it takes “to see the world” and be part of it. It is a lifetime that we realize the true meaning of beauty, experience “infinity and eternity”. Lifetime is a daily calendar of victories and defeats.

While the world goes around and around . . .

The world like in Aristotle’s time continue to struggle with the preservation of values; the species will continue to evolve as postulated by Darwin; culture will express itself more fully since the first painting of early man dwelling in the caves of Lasceaux in France.

Trade and commerce will continue to progress, reaches a plateau and declines - a normal curve that goes with the rise and fall of civilizations. Yet leaders do not see it that way. Not even the Utopia of conquerors like Alexander the Great whose global economic vision two thousand five hundred years ago is basically the same as those of the great powers of today - United States, European Union, ASEAN.

The great religions will continue to bring man to his knees and to look up to heaven amidst knowledge revolution and growing complexity of living. Man’s infinitesimal mind continues to probe the universe. Never has man been so busy, so bothered, so confused, yet so determined than ever before, trying to fill up God’s Seventh Day.

As I go on reflecting I came across the book of Pope John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, 1994. He warns us succinctly.

“This world, which appears to be a great workshop in which knowledge is developed by man – which appears as progress and civilization, as a modern system of communication, as a structure of democratic freedom without any limitations – this world is not capable of making man happy."

- Pope John Paul II, On the Threshold of Hope

Now I am home, my father, my hometown. . Thank you for being a native of this most beautiful place on earth.

Take me into in your arms once more, dear father. ~

Aerial View, circa 1976

San Vicente
(My Hometown)

In my childhood I saw detours of footprints
dividing the East and the West, two warring niches
where the zone of peace was the holy ground,
and beyond was wilderness - and the unknown,
beyond the confines of Subec and the Cordillera,
the memory of Diego Silang, and the Basi Revolt
on old meandering Bantaoay River.
In my youth I saw the sun sitting
on acacia stumps and on the tired landscape,
but rising in dreams and visions on the horizon,
and in the wisdom of my forebears,
the old guards of your fort.
Time has stood still since then.
I come to pay homage in your temple,
and into the arms of my people, my roots;
I see the footpath of yesteryears,
now grown and multiplied, and always fresh,
leading from the East and West,
and the many corners of the earth
converging at your portals in pilgrimage. ~