Thursday, July 28, 2016

Culture and Sustainability: Guiding our children to the Good Life in a changing environment (20 scenarios)

Postmodernism may do more harm than good for our children in a runaway technology and culture. They cannot and will not be able to keep with the pace and direction of change.  Is this true?

Dr Abe V Rotor

Dr Rotor receives certificate of appreciation as Plenary Speaker, from Dr.Teresa R Perez, president of  Philippine Society for Educational Research and Evaluaion during the 20th annual conference of PSERE at JB Lacson Foundation Maritime University. Arevalo,  Iloilo.

1. Our children’s development depends largely on interrelated factors and stages:
              1. genetic (inherited)
              2. fetal (in the womb)
              3. childhood (environment & training)
              4. lifestyle (influence of society)
Like a house these are the 4 posts –pillars of our children’s personality and well-being.
2. Our children are likely to affected by "Your head is in the cloud" syndrome. - Inundated by more information than they can possibly hold in their heads, they’re increasingly handing off the job of remembering to search engines and smart phones.

 Never mind memorizing the multiplication table, or Mendeleev's Periodic Table of Elements. Spelling  of a word, its homonym, antonym? Check it out on  the computer. Assignment? Search, download, print, submit - just don't forget to place your name. Psychologists proposed a new term - transactive memory, a prelude to blending natural and artificial intelligence.

3. Our children are becoming more and more transient in domicile where work may  require, and for personal reasons, and when given the choice and opportunity in a global perspective.
“Citizen of the world” is a person without a specific country.  He is rootless, baseless, transient. Compared,  humans since creation live together under a specific culture.

4. Our children face more frequent, and deeper, forms of stress. People with higher levels of education and in higher status occupations and higher income are experiencing higher levels of stressors. 
Success can make life harder if you are driven, work-devoted that high status persons tend to be. Mental and physical health benefits associated with greater affluence fade away. It is harder to cope with stress when you have reached the top of your career.    
5. Our children face – more than we do today - the consequences of  loss of privacy and secrecy.  “There is no place you can remain with comfortable anonymity.”

Wikileak unveiled classified information about the Iraq and Afghanistan war.  DNA test proves real parental lineage. Bank secrecy laws and safeguards are changing.  Citizens claim their right to access to hidden financial transactions.
6. Our children will face deprivation of natural beauty and bounty with the unabated  shrinking wildlife, conversion of farms and pastures into settlements, and destruction of natural habitats and ecosystems. The challenge to restore nature will be placed in their care.  
  Canned Nature” (delata) – pseudo Nature Centers.  Gubat sa Siyudad, Fantasyland, Ocean Park, Disneyland, Eco Village, zoos, botanical gardens. 

7. Our children are at the frontline and center of people’s revolution spreading worldwide. 
Arab Spring is sweeping North Africa and the Middle East, so with the escalating unrest questioning the present world order. All over US the young are angry at the inability of government and capitalism to narrow down economic inequity. Occupy Wall Street! is the battle cry.  Syria is sitting on  social volcano.  Greece, Italy, Spain, once world powers in their own time are undergoing a similar revolution.  

8. Our children will be part of devolution of power, decentralization of authority, and will be part of a new breed of more dedicated leaders.
Children hold the key to change. It’s the Little Prince that changed and saved the pilot in an ill-fated plane crash in Sahara.

9. Our children face acculturation and inter racial marriages.  Mélange of races is on the rise – Eurasian, Afro-American, Afro-Asian,  etc. – a homogenization process that reduces as consequence, the diversity and vigor, of gene pools. 
The benefits – economic,  cultural and scientific - may not hold in the long run. Homogenization leads to narrowing down of the gene pool, and may threaten races and ultimately the species.  

10. Our children may find themselves in a new norm of living alone. Solitary living is spreading all over the world, the biggest social change that has been long undermined. 
Living solo is highest in Sweden (47%), followed by Britain (37%), Japan, Italy, US, Canada, Russia, South Africa, Kenya, and Brazil (10%). Living alone may help people pursue modern values - individual freedom, and self realization – but detrimental to health and happiness, and in the long run, to the  community and nation. It could lead to more, and deeper, gender problems mainly on homosexuality.
11. Our children may find themselves among the increasing rank of the Nones - people who have no religious affiliation, rejecting organized religion as being rigid and dogmatic -  hoping to eventually find the right religious home.
It is a kind of freedom to feel more devoted to God, of moving away from the problems of the church, and money-making religions. However, this could lead to deeper consequences since such loss may include loss of faith in other institutions. 

12. Recycling the Suburbs. Environmentalists will celebrate the demise of sprawling suburbs, which left nations addicted to cars. Infrastructures will be converted in favor of "green", town centers, public libraries, museums, sports centers, parks.

More and more countries are imposing regulation to green the cities, from sidewalks to rooftops. Hanging Gardens of Babylon, anyone? If this was one of the wonders of the ancient world, why certainly we can make a replicate - perhaps a bigger one - given all our modern technology and enormous available capital.

13. Our children face the age of singularity  whereby human and artificial intelligence are integrated.  Robotics robs human of his rights and freedom – new realm of curtailment and suppression. (2045 – The Year Man Becomes Immortal – Time Magazine). This is falsehood!

14. Our children will continue looking for the missing links of science, history, religion, astronomy etc., among them the source of life itself and its link with the physical world.
Linking of disciplines, narrowing down the gaps of specializations, is vital in the making of a new culture. 
15. Our children will witness in their time the beginning of a post-capitalism order, environmental revolution, rise of growth centers and shift in economic dominance and order, more green technologies, and space exploration.
Success of China, Singapore, Malaysia, Germany, Vietnam, has opened other post-capitalism models. 

16. Our children, as they grow old,  will be living in an aging society, and learn to age gracefully themselves.  They will find , and become part of the Aging Niche.
Longevity is increasing all over the world: the average age of a Japanese is 78 years,  the American 75 or 76 years. We are quite close to China with at least 70 years.¨Niche communities are where people as they advance in age opt to grow old alongside others who share a specific interest.
17. Our children will carry on a lifestyle "Handprints, not Footprints“. They will carry on this way of caring the Earth which we started.

They will reduce the impact of living against the environment - less CO2, less CFC, less non-biodegradables and other synthetics, less pesticides, etc. On the other side of the equation would be the number of trees they planttheir savings on electricity and water. Lesser pollutants, if not arresting pollution itself - and the like. Our children will clean the land, water and air we the generation before littered.  They will heal the earth we defaced, damaged. 

18. Our children will fit into any society where racism and apartheid had once divided people because of the  color of their skin and region of origin.

Today colored athletes dominate many sports, many are great leaders of states and movements. Kopi Annan, an African, served the UN for many years, Kenyan Wangari planted millions of trees.  Both are Nobel Prize recipients. President Obama of the US, and the living hero of South Africa, Nelson Mandela are the world’s most popular leaders today. Man is created equal beneath their skin, and in fact, by circumstance, the colored races have proved superiority over the non-colored: in schools, scientific discoveries, business, technology - name it and you have a colored standing out.

19. Our children will realize and enjoy the benefits that  jobs are assets. A sampling of fast-growing occupations - Actuaries, financial analyst, computer programmer, fitness trainer, biophysicists, translators, manicurists, marriage counselors, radiologists.

Need a design for your product? Give it to an IT graduate with a background in design. Need a kind of product or service not found in the mall or supermarket, search the Internet. Entrepreneurs have taken over much of the functions of big business. 

20. Finally, postmodernism may do more harm than good for our children in a runaway technology and culture. They cannot and will not be able to keep with the pace and direction of change.   

This is not true. “I am the master of my fate, I’s the captain of my soul.”  And this is what we  want our children to become – but only when they are CHILDREN OF NATURE. ~

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

My Rosary: the Song and Prayer

Dr Abe V Rotor

It is an old song, religious, meditative, calming. On piano the notes are easy to play by schoolchildren, and grand parents, too. On the violin, with or without piano accompaniment  the melody is plaintive, serene, with ascendant feeling of joy and reverence. Sing it and you will value it more.  The lyrics make a deep prayer. It's a favorite of great singers like Mario Lanza and Perry Como, and our own the late Diomedes Maturan.  Why don't you play My Rosary during invocation, either as background music, better still, as a song.    
A rosary hangs by a rear window of a car

The hours I spent with thee, dear heart
Or as a string of pearls to me
I count them over, every one apart
My rosary, my rosary

Each hour a pearl, each pearl a prayer
To still a heart in absence wrung
I tell each bead unto the end
And there a cross is hung

O memories that bless and burn
O barren gain and bitter loss
I kiss each bead and strive at last to learn
To kiss the cross, sweet heart
To kiss the cross. ~

Note: punctuation marks not indicated to give singer flexibility and freedom of expression and style.

“To Heaven and Back" - Auntie Doting's Story

Dr Abe V Rotor 

This is a true story - the story of Auntie Dorotea who went to heaven and returned for a second life.  

This is not an unusual story.  Many people I am close with have a story to tell about close encounter with death.

Towards the Light, painting by the author. Concept of the way to Heaven based on Christian teaching

How close is this encounter? It is leaving the world of the living and going to the world of the spirits, of the saints and angels for those who led a life worthy of a place in heaven. In the process the traveler encounters a mysterious scenery, a realm strangely beautiful.  The spirits are simply suspended in place, they appear weightless, and have no mass at all.  Angelic notes pipe through the calm and fades out into the din. There are no boundaries, Nothing moves except the travelers, in slow animated pace, all toward the source of light. They are all in white, flowing white. They seem not to know each other as they traveled on the long, long road. 

Finally Auntie Doting reached the source of light.   It is a kingdom different from any kingdom. She saw her son who died when he was a young boy. She saw uncle, her husband.  She recognized others, relatives, friends, neighbors. But they simply look at each other. And nothing more.

"Did you see my mom?" I ventured to asked.  To which she readily answered, yes. I felt happy mom is in heaven, even if I knew by religious belief.  

I allowed her to enumerate all acquaintances she saw in her sojourn. I was expecting a very important name. My father’s.
She paused and thought deeply. "No, I can't recall," she said. She was drawing in the air  with her imaginary map.

"Try to remember, Auntie," I pleaded. 


Auntie Doting and my dad were partners in business for years in Ilocos. When I went to college in Manila Dad entrusted me under her guidance, together with my two cousins who were then high school teachers. Had it not been for them I would not have made it to what I am today. I was a wartime baby, and mom died when I was two. Dad never recovered his health although he lived to a ripe age. 

As a farmhand I used to tell dad, "I can't leave you alone, I can help you manage the farm."  Dad would just remain silent. Dad graduated from De Paul University in Chicago during the Great Depression. He was among the bona fide balikbayan.  He returned and put up a mechanized furniture shop and bought some land.  Then the war broke, my mom died, so with my baby sister.  Slowly dad manage to put back what was left in his business which enabled us his three children to go through with our studies.  

Although I was the youngest I insisted to stay put on the farm.  Dad finally confronted me, "Is that  all you aspire in life?" Finishing a college degree was far from my dream. That was the time he sought help from Auntie Doting.   

Remembering the good old days and thanking people for all the good things they did, is perhaps the best offering one can give to someone who had "died, and came back."  It is a special way of expressing how grateful I am to my Auntie Doting. 

Days passed, Auntie's condition was fast deteriorating. At her deathbed she held my hand and whispered, "I saw your dad." ~

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Silence of the Pond

Dr Abe V Rotor
Silence of the Pond, AVR Circa 1989

Here true silence lies,
not eerie, not deafening,
for silence is communion
of self and surrounding.

Here true silence lies:
leaves quiver in the breeze,
ripples gently rise and fade,
buzz the honey bees.

Here true silence lies,
in the rhythm of the sky,
the rainbow a huge harp,
music all that sing or cry.

Here true silence lies:
the sound of the pond,
not in its depth or breadth;
the trees on their bund.

Here true silence lies,
beyond the audible,
in magic waves in the air,
and the perceptible.

Here true silence lies,
giving in is acceptance,
the root of humility,
courage at any instance.

Here true silence lies,
when the heart longs, yet sings;
thoughts not to reason but flies
from the confines of living.

Here true silence lies,
sweet memories an art
in the silence of a pond,
throbbing in the heart. ~

GM Papaya - Treat or Threat

 Dr Abe V Rotor 


 Papaya Ringspot Virus, signs and symptoms: electron microscope image of the PRV 

 The development of Genetically Modified Papaya appear to have succeeded in controlling the pandemic virus (Papaya Ringspot Virus) Two popular GM Papaya SunUp and Rainbow contain in their genes the foreign PRV DNA - permanently spliced, and therefore capable of transmitting the virus gene in the succeeding generations ad infinitum  on undiminished level, spreading out with the wind and insects - and man, the culprit agent of genetic pollution. 

It was claimed that in 2010, 80 % of Hawaiian papaya are produced from GM papaya. The success may be short- lived as more virulent PRV continue to mutate - at a very fast rate typical of any virus, overcoming ultimately the resistance of the passive GM papaya. This phenomenon - a race of Nature and technology - is a continuing and endless process. Nature, through biological specialization, will always find ways to preserve her own species, overcoming all obstacles natural or man-made. And Nature cannot be bias on man's demand, in fact, it may be the opposite. How far reaching can a GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) be? 

The biggest threat is the consequence of genetically modified food to human life in the long run which we may not be able to monitor immediately or even in our generation, and therefore we leave the consequential fear to our children and children's children. 

Now hear this, GMOs are orphans of Natyure.  They arte no longer part of the natural gene pool,  They have changed poisions in the food web, and maybe eliminated in the food chain with man taking them out of the natural state and habitat. Orphans can never be self supporting in in the long run in the game of evolution.  Darwinian evolution applies to GMO even if thje great scientist had not idea that some day man will break the Code of Life - that is short cutting evolution on the molecular level.  The principal actors of evolution will remain for a long time, perhaps thousands or millions of years after the demise of Homo sapiens  to Homo faber to Homo tecnicus,  the technological man. 

Many people are staying out of GM product - at least to as far as they are aware of.  No Bt Corn.  No Golden Rice. No BT soya, No to SavrFlavr tomato, and No, GM papaya.

Thanks, we still have our native solo papaya - so far. It is tender, sweet, juicy, and it came from our bacyard.  The green fruit gives us the most healthful food of the world - Chicken Soup (tinola) - food for the convalescent.  The tree lives for a number of years outliving any known foreign variety. And it bears fruits year round - in succession. It is like picking the green for tinola, or the manibalang for pickles, or the ripe ones direct from the tree.  It is still the sweetest of all papaya in the world. Our native papaya may not earn us dollars but it makes us and our children happy and healthy. ~

Yes, you can bring down the rainbow - and touch it, too.

Dr Abe V Rotor

Morning rainbow across the hills and river in Bamban, Tarlac

Children in the neighborhood delight in making a rainbow through an aquarium as prism.  You can make one, too, in your home.  
Rainbow - a kaleidoscope of colors in a pattern of seven - red, orange, yellow, green blue, indigo and violet - that guide man's art in endless combinations.

Rainbow - it builds slowly before our eyes; it comes as twin, or breaks out suddenly  perking up life in its low ebb, and taking out the boredom of living.   

Rainbow - gauge of  weather, reference for travel and trade, source of inspiration of lovers,  bards and writers, subject of the arts, icon of faith and devotion. 

Rainbow - the make-believe subject in children's stories of fairies and spirits; the most sought treasure of grownups -  the proverbial pot of gold. 

Rainbow - ephemeral for which its beauty in heightened, like a rose in the morning, 
first rain in May, the passing of day and night, and the march of seasons.  

Rainbow - likened to the cycle of life - its birth and death, glory and fall, its simplicity grandeur, its independence and attachment to all things, visible and invisible.   

Rainbow - now you see it, now you don't, a puzzle to the old and young in all walks of life, yet seeing it best with a clear mind, pure heart and spirit.

Rainbow - it conquers gloom, sows hope, builds the biggest, the most beautiful and magnificent arch of the world that bestows honor to everyone.  

Rainbow - the cathedral in the sky that brings the faithful of all beliefs together in awe and respect to the Creator, the unifying grace of all mankind.  

Rainbow - too high, too far, too abstract, yet to the children it is near, it is real and true; rainbow the symbol of beauty and hope, it comes when the sky is gloomy and dark. ~

Rainbow comes down to earth in many ways - in flowers in spring, leaves in autumn, mountains at sunrise, reflection of lakes, spray of running streams, mirage in deserts, feathers of fowls, and the like.  The rainbow is commonly imitated in man-made structures and designs, and many items of trade and commerce.

Living things like this rainbow fish have captured through evolution the colors and pattern of the rainbow, assuring them of their place in the living world.      

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Garden: Heart of Humanity

The garden could have been the place
  • where Newton formulated the laws of gravity and motion when an apple fell on his head;
  • where John Milton composed Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, the greatest romantic epic ever written;
  • where Darwin developed his theory of evolution of Survival of the Fittest through Natural Selection;
  • where Henry Fabre discovered organizational intelligence among insects over and above instinctive behavior;
A "kitchen garden"

It was in a garden
  • where Claude Monet painted his masterpieces, capturing the essence of the natural beauty of wild flowers, such as the Nymphaea and the lotus;
  • where Gregor Mendel formulated the Laws of Heredity, the foundation of modern genetics;
  • where Father Blanco, a great Filipino botanist, made the first comprehensive Philippine Herbarium; and
  • where Christ, in the Garden of Gethsemane, offered Himself to the Father before facing martyrdom for the sake of mankind.

  • Dr Abe V Rotor

  • A view of the UST main building from the botanical garden framed by a deciduous narra tree and climbing Phylodendron.

    Century old dita (Alstonia scholaris) dominates the UST Botanical
    Garden. It towers over the surrounding buidings on the campus.
    This verse captures the essence of the title of this article. It condenses the universe into its elemental symbols from which we take a full view of the world we live in. It reduces the complexities and vastness of both non- living and the living world into a microcosm that is complete in itself- a plantilla of creation all contained in the hand and experienced within a lifetime.

    Lucky is the person who realizes this singular gift. Through this microcosm he can traverse the breadth of time and space, live with the myriad of life forms, and most important, he is blessed by the Great Maker to be part of the wonders and mysteries of creation.

    So deep is the faith of the poet, William Blake, who wrote this verse more than two hundred years ago. Then, there were no computers, no television, no spacecraft and satellites. Could it be that in the absence of these modern tools that the mind could penetrate deeper, imagination soar higher, and faith stronger?
    A fine arts student finds solace and subject at the UST Botanical Garden.
    A. Garden as a Microcosm
    The garden could have been the place where Newton formulated the laws of gravity and magnetism when an apple fell on his head, where Darwin developed his theory of evolution through natural selection, where Henry Fabre discovered organization intelligence among insects over and above mere instinctive behavior. It was in a garden where Claude Monet painted his masterpieces, capturing the essence of the natural beauty of wild flowers, such as the Nymphaea and the lotus.

    We may not expect inventions and discoveries, and master’s arts, to creep into the mind of whoever spends time in a garden, or any similar microcosm of nature for that matter. But we are most certain that he finds enlightenment through the knowledge and experience he gains, and with these he develops in himself the discipline to discover new things, and to acquire values that help him live at peace with nature and himself. It is in keeping close to nature that we better understand the ways of the world in which we live.

    When I conducted a lecture- demonstration at the UST Botanical Garden before my students, I was in effect simulating the scenario. Here I showed them the different parts of the Garden, starting with the basics such as, “ What makes a Garden?” I explained the composition of a typical rainforest ecosystem. The garden is precisely a pocket representation of this ecosystem, and, by dissecting it, we were in effect looking at its profile.

    B. Deciduous Nature of Trees in Tropical Rainforest

    Deciduous umbrella tree or talisay (Terminalia catappa) displays the color of autumn.
    Nature keeps a dynamic order where unity resides in diversity. We will never understand this mysterious order. Perhaps it is better not to probe it at all - for it is our deep faith in the Maker of that garden that we earn our place there to live in harmony with all creatures.
    I gathered my students under a narra tree- Pterocarpus indicus. Trees belonging to the Dipterocrap group of family Legumonosae dominate the canopy of the tropical rainforest. Their leaves fall off completely at certain season so that the trees are bare for some time, thus allowing sunlight to penetrate and nourish the understory trees, ground plants, lianas and epiphytes.
    La Union Botanical Garden, on-the-spot painting by AVR 2000The floor becomes covered with litter that nourishes insect, earthworms, fungi and bacteria. These decompose the leaves into humus that ultimately becomes soil while supplying nutrients to different plants in the forest. Because of the high precipitation throughout the year, the forest becomes lush and dense. The multi- story nature of the tropical rainforest makes it the richest biome in both diversity of species and number of inhabitants.
    C. Gymnosperms and Angiosperms
    These are cone-bearing and lowering plants, respectively. Gymnosperms are exemplified by pine cypress, and arios. I allowed my student to touch and examine these plants. Then they turned to examine the angiosperms that predominate the campus. Phylogeny shows that flowering plants are more “ modern “, which means that through evolution, the gymnosperms are older, and later gave way to the evolving angiosperms. Except in colder countries and in the taiga biome, the natural vegetation of forests is composed of flowering  plants. The pine, cypress and cycad are the most common representatives of the cone-bearing plants in tropical gardens.

    “To see a world in a grain of sand,
    And heaven in a wild flower;
    Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
    And Eternity in an hour.
    - William Blake, Auguries of Innocence

    The oldest living organisms belong to gymnosperm - the Redwoods of California. And the Bristle Cone which is believed to be even older. Many of these trees were already bearing cones during the time of Christ. I have seen one in central Taiwan, estimated to have been two thousand years old, before it was struck by lightning. It still attracts many tourists who wonder at its massive size. One would associate it with legend or cartoon if he hadn't gone to the place. massive it is, even after death. 
    D. False flowers
    Nature’s sweet lies have a purpose. The brightly colored leaves of poinsettia and bougainvillea attract insect pollinators and enhance fertilization and subsequent fruit and setting and seed formation, thus ensuring the perpetuation species how many plants are benefited by this special make-up.

    The truth is that most flowering plant has designed attraction mechanisms. In general, flowers are made attractive, although the attraction that we know may not be the same as how insects perceive it. We know red as red, yellow as yellow, and so forth. But insect have different perception of colors. Nonetheless, the basic purpose is what counts - and is almost always achieved. Other means that guarantee pollination-fertilization are sometimes needed. For example insect are attracted by the obnoxious odor of Lantana camara, pollinating it in effect.
    Pongapong flower is pollinated by flies

    This is also in the cases of pongapong (Amorphophallus campanolatus), kalumpang or bangar tree - and, of course, the Rafflesia, the world largest flower that emits putrefying odor. They have one thing in common: they attract flies to pollinate their flowers.

    E. Flowering Bamboo- Prophet of Doom
    The old folks used to tell us, “Beware when the bamboo flowers.”

    What is the connection of a flowering bamboo to a force majeure, such as drought? Old folks use it as a barometer of El Niño. Climatologists around the globe predict the coming of this phenomenon by observing plants, among them the flowering of bamboos. The cycle is ten years or closer. El Niño is accompanied by poor harvest, forest fires, death of livestock, spread of certain diseases that effect man, animals and plants.

    Biologically, organisms subjected to stress tend to reach the reproductive stage earlier than usual. In fact, certain insects even skip molting just to be able to metamorphose into an adult and carry out reproduction while the environment allows. It is nature’s way of insuring the perpetuation of the species at the expense of the organism, so to speak.

    So, when a bamboo flowers it ultimately dies. This is why the panda, which derives its food mainly on bamboo suffers. There are bamboo species that flower after fifty years or so, then die.

    There are other plants that signal the coming of drought. One is kapok. A fruit-laden kapok  tree means poor against harvest ahead. Even the sturdy kamagong or mabolo is stressed by drought. While it stops producing new leaves, the crown remains intact. This could be the reason why this tree produces the hardest wood. In the case of the narra, and mango, they show no apparent stress signal. It is because they have sturdy, long taproots that penetrate deep into the ground and into the bedrock. Old folks, however, warn us that no plant is spared from the worst kind of drought.
    E. Trees are Sound and Wind Barriers
    Have you noticed how the sound of traffic dies down in the dense vegetation of trees? Loud voice is muffled, blarring sound reduced to tolerable decibels, and music is more soothing to the ear. The trees at UST and in the Sunken Garden of UP Diliman are definitely for this purpose, in addition to being buffers against strong wind.
    Windbreaks help reduce wind pressure. I saw a 10- row windbreak of different species of trees along the highway to the Beijing airport. Another windbreak made of agoho (Casuarina equisitifolia) is found along the coastline of Kaohsiung in Southern Taiwan which similarly serves to buffer winter wind. Woodland hedges along field boundaries in Europe serve the same purpose. The Indian tree is an effective sound breaker because of its thick, cone- shaped crown. It has also another advantage, that is, it grows tall and straight so that several trees can be planted close to each other.These man-made forests are a source of many valuable products and serve as a natural habitat of wildlife. It is no wonder why the Hanging Garden of Babylon was one of the wonders of the ancient World.

    F. Hantik Ants - Biological Control Agents
    Nest of hantik ants (Oecephalla smaragdina)

    My students studied the nests of the giant green tree ants or hantik. The older nests were built on the upper branches of alagao, while a newly built nest was on a smaller tree Ficus pseudopalma. It is not easy to trace which nest an individual ant belongs to, but each colony has a specific chemical signal called pheromone. This prevents members from fighting, and allows the colonies to co-exist with defined territories assigned to each colony. Scientist calls this territory as niche.

    Hantik ants are notorious killers of other insects. This could be the reason I have not seen any need to spray chemicals. Hantik ants feed on grubs, caterpillars, aphids, scale insects, and many others. They carry off morsels to their nest to feed their larvae. They scare organisms several times bigger than themselves. In fact, one who happens to get close to their domain is likely to get a bite or two, which is warning enough. But they do not hesitate to attack once they are threatened or disturbed.

    I demonstrated the ferocity of the hantik by crushing a member of that colony. Sooner than  I expected other members came to the rescue and pheromone was immediately put to use in the coordination and division of work, and in the strategy of war.
    Author at the UST Botanical Garden 
    G. Common Medicinal Plants
    A botanical garden is not complete without a good collection of medicinal plants. Here I showed to my students examples of medicinal plants with their uses. UST Botanical Garden was once the pharmaceutical garden of the university founded by Fr. Rodriguez a century ago. It is one of the oldest phamaceotical gardens in the world.

    Here are typical examples of medicinal plants found in backyard and home gardens.

    1. Lagundi - fever and flu
    2. Pandakaki- minor wound or cuts
    3. Oregano - sore throat and cough
    4. Ikmo - mouth wash
    5. Mountain tea - health drink
    6. Guava - body odor and skin diseases
    7. Pandan - beverage and food additive
    8. Alagao - fever and cold
    9. Avocado - diarrhea
    10. Banana - kidney ailment

    H. Poisonous Plants
    showed my students poisonous plants growing in the garden. But why do we have poisonous plants around?

    There are plants which produce poisonous substances that are valuable as pesticide. Examples are neem tree, derris and makabuhay. These have been proved to be effective in controlling certain pests and disease of plants.

    Botanical pesticides are generally safer than chemical pesticides. Studies have shown that neem (Azideracta asiatica), a native of India, has long been used as insecticide. It is widely used on field crops and against domestic pest like cockroaches, mosquitoes and bedbugs in many countries including the Philippines.

    Makabuhay (Tinospora rhumpiana) is effective against a wide range of rice pests and the application is very simple. Fresh stems and leaves are finely chopped and directly broadcast in lowland ricefields. The active principle is also very effective on golden kohol, a major pest of rice of the Philippines.

    Derris is the source of commercial rotenone insecticide. The concentration of its poison is in its enlarged roots.

    Two poisonous plants grow in the garden. In fact they grow wild and have been persistent for a number of years now. Castor bean contains a poisonous substance - ricinin - for which reason castor oil is no longer prescribed as laxative. The other plant is Jatorpha curcas or tubang bakod. A few years ago a group of students from a Quezon City High School ate the seeds which taste like peanut. They were taken to the hospital for treatment.
    Bangbangsit (Lantana camara) , insect repellant
    A garden harbors the inquisitive mind, the seeking heart, the longing spirit. It is a place of peace and quiet. Here the seasons of the year are  best observed. As an miniature ecosystem it defines basic relationships between and among living things, including man. Never is a garden idle, nothing is waste, and time is never prodding yet never dull.
    I. Conclusion
    he microcosm is far from complete. But it is the framework that is important, like building replica of a dinosaur from pieces of recovered fossil. Knowledge is like that. It starts with principles, but, before that, one must be inspired and motivated to learn. There is no true learning unless one labors for it to some degree. Even frustration that may threaten learning itself, could be, at the end, a motivating factor, a challenge and test of what one is really made of. The Great Maker just gave us the Plantilla from which we follow the way to   learning and understanding. ~

    The founder of the former UST Pharmacy Garden, Fr. Rodriguez. 
    Symbols of the UST Pharmacy Garden. Both monuments grace the UST garden's central area.