Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Case of the Empty Chicken Eggs

Dr Abe V Rotor 

Soon as I was big enough to climb the baqui (brooding nest) hanging under the house and trees.  I found out that if I leave as decoy one or two eggs in the basket, the more eggs you gather in the afternoon. Then a new idea came. With a needle, I punctured the egg and sucked the content dry. It tasted good and I made some to substitute the natural eggs for decoy.

Dad, a balikbayan after finishing BS in Commercial Science at De Paul University in Chicago, called us on the table one evening. "First thing tomorrow morning we will find that hen that lays empty eggs.”

It was a family tradition that every Sunday we had tinola - chicken cooked with papaya and pepper (sili) leaves. Dad would point at a cull (the unproductive and least promising member of the flock) and I would set the trap, a baqui with a trap door and some corn for bait. My brother Eugene would slash the neck of the helpless fowl while my sister Veny and I would be holding it. The blood is mixed with glutinous rice (diket), which is cooked ahead of the vegetables.

That evening I could not sleep. What if dad’s choice is one of our pet chicken?  We even call our chickens by name. The empty eggs were the  cause of it all, so I thought.

In the morning after the mass I told dad my secret. He laughed and laughed. I didn't know why. I laughed, too. I was relieved with a tinge of victorious feeling. Thus the case of the empty eggs was laid to rest. It was my first “successful” experiment.

In the years to come I realized you just can’t fool anybody. And by the way, there are times we ask ourselves, “Who is fooling who?”

I can “cure” a person who is naan-annungan.

  Dr Abe V Rotor

An-annung is the Ilocano of nasapi-an. Spirits cast spell on a person, the old folks say. The victim may suffer of stomachache or headache  accompanied by cold sweat, body weakness or feeling of exhaustion.

Well, take this case.  It was dusk when a tenant of ours insisted of climbing a betel, Areca catechu to gather its nuts (nga-nga). My dad objected to it, but somehow the young man prevailed. 

The stubborn young man was profusely sweating and was obviously in pain, pressing his stomach against the tree trunk. Dad called for me. I examined my “patient” and assured him he will be all right. And like a passing ill wind, the spell was cast away. Dad and the people around believed I had supernatural power.

There had been a number of cases I “succeeded” in healing the naan-annungan But I could also induce – unknowingly - the same effect on some one else.  That too, my dad and old folks believed.  They would sought for my “power” to cast the spell away from - this time – no other than my “victim”.  What a paradox!   When I grew older and finished by studies, I began to understand that having an out-of-this-world power is a myth.

I read something about Alexander the Great consulting the Oracle at Siwa to find out if indeed he is a god-sent son. “The Pharoah will bow to you, ” the priestess told him.  And it did happen - the pharaoh kissed Alexander’s feet.  The great warrior died before he was 33.


Growing up with Basi Wine Dr Abe V Rotor

Dr Abe V Rotor 

Basi Table Wine - Pride of the Ilocos Region

grew up with an old local industry – basi wine making. Today there are still 18th century jars, which I use in the way my ancestors made the wine for generations.

I remember Lolo Celing (Marcelino) made basi in the cellar, the ground floor of our house made of thick brick wall. In dad's time we had around 500 jars. He was one of the biggest brewers in town in post Commonwealth era, and probably after the infamous Basi Revolt in 1807 when the Ilocanos took arms but lost to the Spaniards who took monopoly over the industry. Many were killed in that short-lived revolt along the Bantaoay River, a river where my brother Eugene and I used to fish purong (mullet) in summer.

Getting drunk at an early age

I was already a farmhand before I was of school age, but dad always warned me not to be an aliwegweg (curious at doing things), the experimenter that I was. One morning as dad went on his routine, first to hear mass in our parish church just across our residential farm, I went down to the cellar with a sumpit (small bamboo tube) to take a sip of the sweet day-old fermenting sugarcane juice. I didn't know that with a sip too many one can get drunk. And that was precisely what made me feel sick, but 1 did not tell dad. He called a doctor to find out what was the matter with me. When the doctor arrived he found me normal. What with the distance from Vigan to San Vicente - on a caleza (horse-drawn carriage)? . But the doctor was whispering something to dad.

Then it happened. Dad had left for the church, so I thought. I went to the cellar and as soon as I probed the sumpit into a newly fermenting jar and took a sip, someone tapped my shoulder in the dark. It was dad!

Imagine the expression of his face (and mine, too) in the dark. I sobbed with embarrassment while he took a deep sigh of relief. Since then the doctor never came again. And I promised dad never to taste my “beverage" again.

Sunset and revival of the basi industry

Years passed. I left home for my studies in Manila, so with my brother and sister. Dad continued the industry until he became very old. By then the demand for the local drink declined as beer and all kinds of wine and liquor, local and imported, began flooding the market. It was requiem to a sunset industry. In 1981, dad died, so with our home industry.

Even after finishing agriculture I did not go back to the farm. So with my brother who also became an agriculturist. Not when you are young and thinking of adventure and opportunities. I pursued advanced studies in biological science. Eugene went back to the farm later, so with our sister, Veny, who joined the Divine Word College of Vigan faculty. But the thought of reviving basi was never in our mind.

For how can a local product sell in a highly competitive market? Foreign products have been flooding the market under the import liberalization program of the government. Other questions propped up, but all boiled down to one possible solution - business viability.

As a researcher I studied the indigenous process of basi making. After I had sufficient materials about the subject I made it into a paper which I read in an ASEAN-New Zealand symposium upon the recommendation of Dr. Romualdo del Rosario, a fellow professor at the UST Graduate School. But the native product needed improvement. It was at first a losing proposition, and I realized I was blazing a lost path. But I did not give up.

Rotor Basi won the Business Incentive Development Award (BIDA 1998). 
Author (center) with former National Food Authority administrator 
Jesus Tanchanco and Mrs Tanchanco.

When I opted for an early retirement from government service in 1989 I found more time with my experiments. The improved product was analyzed by the Food Development Center, a government agency that collaborates with the US Food and Drug Administration. Surprisingly the new basi product passed the European standard for champagne, sherry and port.

But it was no guarantee that it is acceptable in the market. It means that if the product is really that good, it can command a premium price. I began to standardize the product. Soon I was able to establish a consistent level of strength (proof), desired range of acidity, and crystal clear color and clarity. There was improvement in aroma, bouquet, sweetness, aftertaste, among other criteria, which constitute international standards for wine. All these were done in various experiments, often in trial and error method, in others through intricate laboratory procedures. Still in others, only after a yearlong aging of the wine.
Product diversification to fruit wine and natural vinegar 

Lastly, I began working on product presentation. The labels I developed are a series of color photographs of historical places of the Ilocos Region, and the story of the Basi Revolt of 1807.

A breakthrough came after receiving the Business Idea for Development and Achievement (BIDA) Award, and a favorable product endorsement by the Department of Agriculture (MARID). Other than the Ilocano balikbayan, the market expanded to include tourist shops, wine connoisseurs, and even church groups.

I am sure Dad must be smiling up there. Here is a toast for you, Dad. ~

Sunrise on the Farm - Anecdotes of my Childhood

Dr Abe V Rotor 

Farm Life Mural, painted from childhood memories by the author 

Staying put on the farm -  is that all you aspire for?

“Buy me a tractor,” I asked by dad,  “And I will not look for a job. I’d stay on the farm.”

 “Is that all you aspire for?”  My father replied. It was the turning point of my life.  I left the farm and went on to pursue my studies, later joining the government service, and after early retirement, becoming a university professor.

Dad is now long gone and only my sister is overseeing the farm.  One time while visiting the farm, I asked my eldest son, Marlo, “Do you like to stay here and manage the farm?”  He fell silent and I did not utter another word.

I stopped schooling to be with my dad.

I stopped schooling in Manila, so I went home to San Vicente, arriving there on a Sunday at dawn.  Instead of directly proceeding to our house, I dropped at the church through the main door.  In the distance a man was standing, stooping, his nape showing the marks of old age.  I wondered who the man was, and to my surprise I found out he was my dad.  I did not know he had grown that old.  I said my prayers, and left with a heavy heart. 

It was at home that my dad and I met after the mass. He knew it was not yet school vacation, but he was very happy to see me.   I did not tell I saw him in the church that morning. Later I told my plan not to continue my studies anymore because I wanted to be with him.  He just felt silent.

The following morning he prepared our two bikes.  “We are going to Banaoang,” he said in an aura of confidence.  Banaoang is a mountain pass through which the mighty Abra River flows, where bamboo from the hills are sold in quantity. We were going to build a flue-curing barn.

The going was easy at first, but the distance and the uphill part were exhausting.  Dad gave up before we reached our destination.  “Get a rope and pull my bike.  Let’s go back home.” He sat down in the shade of a mango tree. When we were rested we slowly pedaled back home. Both of us were silent the rest of the day. 

I stayed with my dad until the end of summer working in the tobacco barn we put up. I went back to Manila the following schoolyear to continue my studies. I always pass the highway dad and I once took, and there under  an old mango tree, I would be seeing a man resting in its shade, stooping, wrinkles in his nape showing old age.    

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Naturalist-Philosopher: Omar Khayyam

The Rubaiyat, Omar Khayyam's signature
Dr Abe V Rotor
Omar Khayyam (1048 - ca. 1132)
Astrologer-Poet of Persia (Iran)

have a friend, Dr Anselmo S Cabigan, who is an ardent disciple of the great Persian naturalist-philosopher-astrologer-poet – Omar Khayyam.  On lighter occasions in school where we taught, he would run from memory several quatrains from Rubaiyat, keeping faithful to their rhyme-rhythm-meter, and emoting the imagined feeling of the master. It is a rare experience today to hear one reciting from memory an ancient masterpiece, which, had it not been for providence, history may have missed conserving such great work.

How distinct Khayyam’s style is, compared with modern poets, who like in painting, hide behind the curtain of abstractionism – vague and hollow, and often wanting of refinement and naturalness. Rubaiyat, of course has some abstract forms, but intellectual and cultural.

Omar Khayyam enjoyed popularity, but his works showed more of the inner man - his life must have been truly well-spent, not only in the sciences and the arts, but in the fulfillment of life itself in his country though tumultuous in his time, was nonetheless obstacle to leading a romantic and scholarly life, as gleamed from the writings of one of his pupils. (The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, rendered into English Verse by Edward Fitzgerald.) To wit:

“I often used to hold conversations with my teacher, Omar Khayyam, in a garden; and one day he said to me, “My tomb shall be in a spot where the north wind may scatter roses over it.’ I wondered at the words he spake, but I knew that his were not idle words. Years after, when I chanced to revisit Naishapur, I went to his final resting-place, and lo! It was just outside a garden, and trees laden with fruits stretched their boughs over the garden wall, and dropped their flowers upon his tomb, so that the stone was hidden under them.”

Here are the first 15 stanzas or quatrains of Omar Khayyam’s masterpiece, Rubaiyat, a priceless contribution to the richness of world literature, and to think that Rubaiyat was written prior to the golden era of the Renaissance. The quatrain used has four equal lines, though varied, sometimes all rhyming, but more often as shown here, the third line does not. It is somewhat like the Greek Alcaic, where the penultimate line seems to lift and suspend the Wave that falls over the last. The Rubaiyat has an Oriental flair, and distinctly musical so that it is important to read it aloud, preferably with an audience.

I. Awake for Morning is the bowl of Night
Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight:
And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught
The sultan's Turret in a Noose of Light.

II. Dreaming when Dawn's Left Hand was in the sky

I heard a Voice within the Tavern cry,
"Awake, my Little ones, and fill the Cup
Before Life's Liquor in its Cup be dry."

III And, as the Cock crew, those who stood before

The tavern shouted - "Open then the Door.
You know how little while we have to stay,
And, once departed, may return no more."

IV. Now the New Year reviving old Desires,

The Thoughtful Soul to Solitude retires,
Where the White Hand of Moses on the Bough
Puts out, and Jesus from the Ground auspires.

V. Iram indeed is gone with all its Rose,

And Jamshyd's Sev'n-ring'd Cup where no one knows;
But still the vine her ancient Ruby yields,
And still a Garden by the Water blows.

VI. And David's Lips are lock't, but in divine

High piping Pelevi, with"Wine! Wine! Wine!
Red Wine!" - the Nightingale cries to the Rose
That yellow Cheek of hers to'incarnadine.

VII. Come. fill the Cup, and in the Fire of Spring

The Winter Garment of Repentance fling;
The Bird of Time has but a little way
To fly - and Lo! the Bird is on the Wing.

VIII. And look - a thousand Blossoms with the Day

Woke - and a thousand scatter'd intop Cl;ay:
And this first Summer Month that brings the Rose
Shall take Jamshtd and Kaikobad away.

IX. But come with old Khayya, and leave the Lot

Of Kaikobad and Kaikhosru forgot:
Let Rustum lay about him as he will,
or Hatim Tai cry supper - heed them not.

X. With me along some strip of Herbage strown

That just divides the desert from the sown,
Where name of Slave and Sultan scare is known,
And pity Sultan Mahmud on his Throne.

XI. Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,

A flask of Wine, a Book of Verse - and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness -
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.

XII. "How sweet is mortal Sovranty!" - think some:

Others - "How blest the Paradise to come!"
Ah, take the Cash in hand and waive the Rest;
Oh, the brave Music of a distant Drum.

XIII. Look to the Rose about us - "Lo,

Laughing," she says, unto the World I blow:
At once the silken Tassel of my Purse
Tear, and its Treasure on the Garden throw."

XIV. The Worldly Hope men set their Hearts upon

Turns Ashes - or it prospers; and anon,
Like Snow upon the Desert's dusty Face
Lighting a little Hour or two - is gone.

XV. And those who husbanded the Golden Grain,

And those who flung it to the Winds like Rain,
Alike to no such aureate Earth are turn'd
As, buried once, Men want dug up again.

NOTE: Quatrain XI has a universal theme. This is the key to knowing Omar Khayyam's personality and life's philosophy - doubtless, Dr Cabigan and I agree.
"... and Thou beside me singing in the Wilderness - 
and Wilderness is Paradise enow."

About Omar Khayyam: The Persian astronomer, mathematician, and poet Omar Khayyam (1048-ca. 1132) made important contributions to mathematics, but his chief claim to fame, at least in the last 100 years, has been as the author of a collection of quatrains, the "Rubaiyat."

Omar Khayyam was born in Nishapur in May 1048. His father, Ibrahim, may have been a tentmaker (Khayyam means tentmaker). Omar obtained a thorough education in philosophy and mathematics, and at an early age he attained great fame in the latter field. The Seljuk sultan Jalal-al-Din Malik Shah invited him to collaborate in devising a new calendar, the Jalali or Maliki. Omar spent much of his life teaching philosophy and mathematics, and legends ascribe to him some proficiency in medicine. He died in Nishapur. (Acknowledgment: Thanks to Encyclopedia of World Biography; and to Internet for the photos)

The Animal World on Wall Murals

Dr Abe V Rotor
 Owl - Night Sentinel (Nocturnal) wall mural by Anna Rotor 2000 SPU-QC
Doves - Early Risers:  Wall mural by Anna Rotor, St Paul University QC 2000
Rodents at their burrow's entrance at dusk: Wall mural by Anna Rotor SPU-QC 2000
Red and blue parrots on their perch: Wall mural by Marlo Rotor SPU-QC 2000

Note: These murals have seriously deteriorated due to exposure of the elements, neglect notwithstanding.

Wildlife shrinking fast in the hands of man,
creatures orphaned, man looks up high;
forever gone are their home under the sun,
save some walls of art to remember by.       

The Dog That Found A Home

Dr Abe V Rotor

Jemille and Ten-ten-ten

It was a quiet afternoon and guess who was knocking at the gate?
A starving dog, a mongrel, and what is there in him to gain?  
Could you spare me a morsel? His eyes moist and sad, begging,
And food we gave, closed the gate, everything was quiet again.  

The sun was setting down, we saw a shadow seeping through the gate,
He is still there, I told the children, and he was knocking again, 
Could you spare me a place for the night? His moaning told us so,
Who are you, who is your master? Silence. I felt a little pain.   

We took him in.  It was a special date on the calendar that comes
But once, and never again, not in a lifetime or generation.
Tenth day, of the tenth month, of the first decade of the millennium,   
And we named this lost dog Ten-ten-ten. What a celebration!  

Home he found and a happy company with us and the neighborhood,
Call his name, you wish luck and fortune, how easy to remember! 
And children tired from school come knocking to play with their friend,
Can we play with Ten-ten(-ten)? Heaven sent a dog to love and share.  ~

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Landscape Paintings and Poetry

 Landscape Paintings and Poetry
Dr Abe V Rotor

All in a day's work and play, AVR

Going home at the end of day the sweetest hour;
all creatures heed to Nature's call;
Humblest indeed our prayer of thanksgiving
as the curtain begins to fall.    
A valley of peace and bounty,  AVR

Not a valley of lament, of sorrowful state,
and never to surrender to death;
it all depends who makes life to such fate,
believing to his last breath. 
Rivulets to streams comb the hills, AVR

 The beginning of the great Nile lies somewhere
on the glaciers of Mount Kilimanjaro;
Hemingway wrote in the like of an idea untold, 
 emerging, converging, to be true.
Downstream, AVR 

I was lost in the middle of a forest 
hidden by fog to its crest;
trees blocked my path, my sight;
t'was a stream I owe my life.

Cliff, AVR

A watchtower of my ancestors I revisited; 
once green and sacred,
now bare and empty, I found it instead,
a history of the dead.  

Angling and loafing, AVR

The fish I caught may be small and few,  
 but I am happiest though;
more than the flowing stream that I knew
many great ideas grew. 
Sitting Boat AVR

Wonder the fisherman at sundown,
his boat  by the bay sits;
to sea the whole night he's bound,  
while the world sleeps
Rainforest sentinel AVR

Stately and colorful like a king,
the cockatoo is lord of the realm;
greet and he will echo your call,
and will follow to the screen.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Creative Photography: 7 selected photographs to ponder

How good are you in photography? 
Dr Abe V Rotor
Reference for Communications Art (UST Faculty of Arts and Letters) 

1. Halo effect enhances religious ambiance of the stone icons atop UST's main building in modified silhouette through selective photo editing, without erasing the colonial features of the building. Photo by Miss Alyssa Beltran.
2. Chandelier, stained glass and lantern. Without tripod this night scene can be captured with high resolution camera, within the range of 5 to 8 megapixels. Editing is needed to enhance contrast and colors.  
3. Combining field photo and still life of the same subject gives a complete picture of the specimen - rambutan.  The composite photo shows botanical characteristics of  the fruiting tree and morphological features of the fruit showing the rind and edible pulp.  This technique is recommended for technical photography. AVR

4. Macro and micro photography.  Stone covered with green algae (lumot); microscopic structure of Lyngbya crosbyanum, a common green freshwater alga, magnified 50x under the Low Power Objective (LPO) of a compound microscope. AVR
 5. The enduring beauty of Black &  White photography will stay in spite of the breakthrough in digital photography and wireless technology. The tunnel effect towards the source of light gives the needed hope for these children in war-torn Europe during the second World War. (Time-Life)

6. Nature is perhaps the most popular application of photography, surpassing human portraits and events.  Here the details of shy creatures like the land snail, (African snail), and hatchlings soft-shelled turtle are revealed for biological study. 

 7. Skyscape is classified as landscape. The rainbow is perhaps the most photographed skyscape, followed by the many figures created by clouds. These views were photographed on the highway in Batangas at around five o'clock in the afternoon on September 21, 2012, which happens to be Autumnal Equinox. 

10 Healthy Food Rules - be health and happy with the food you eat

Dr Abe V Rotor

Ukoy na kalabasa, with egg and small shrimp.  
It is served in patties, or rolled like lumpia 
Bulanglang or diningding: young pod of bataomalungay pod, soup 
thickened with kamote or sweet potato, topped with sea weed (Gracillaria). 
Fresh seaweeds as salad: Gracillaria and Codium (pokpoklo)

Sweet potato paste (suman) 
Tamales, fish with onion, tomato black pepper, salt and ginger,
 wrapped with banana leaves - steamed. 
Sinkamas or yam with natural vinegar and salt.

Buko - direct from the young nut 

Health Food Rules

Rule 1 - There is no substitute to freshness. Perishable food must be prepared and served without delay: newly caught fish (better if alive), animals and fowls direct from the slaughter house (better if butchered or dressed at home), newly picked fruits and vegetables (fully mature when harvested).  

Rule 2 - The less processed your food is, the better.  Reduce if not avoid eating processed food (canned, preserves, dairy, etc), heavily spiced, overcooked, over decorated, culinary loaded - they are unhealthy,  They burden body physiology from digestion to circulation to excretion. Besides they are very expensive and unfriendly to the environment. 

Rule 3 - Food residues are harmful, if not  poisonous. Antibiotics residues in meat and poultry, eggs and dairy; sodium in salted products, instant noodles, sauce; chemical residues in fruits and vegetables from insecticide, herbicide, fungicide, nematocide; and hydrocarbon from fossil fuel and smoke emissions. The miracle insecticide against malaria  mosquito - DDT (Dichloro-diphenyl-tetrachloro-ethane) remains banned because it is not  degraded even as it passes from one organism to another in the food chain. Thus it accumulates in predators -  among them humans.  DDT poisoning builds even after years from ingestion. 

Rule 4 - Metal poisoning causes permanent impairment, or results to death.  Lead is the most common toxic metal around from, china wares to car batteries. It damages the central nervous system and internal organs.  Mercury poisoning is more severe. Cadmium is a recent introduction with cell phones and other electronic devices. Other than direct contamination, these metals are absorbed by plants and animals and find their way on the dining table. Kitchen wares made of aluminum, tin, nickel, antimony are being phased out.  

Rule 5 - Avoid particulates in food, water and air
. Car and factory emissions scatter particulates in the environment which we can only observe in the form of smog, sediments and dusts. Tar from cigarette and asphalt, asbestos from car brakes, unburnt carbon from tires, and old and faulty engines, metal particles in factories, silica from cereal mills.  

Rule 6 - Avoid synthetic food and additives, they are harmful, and affect mainly the nervous system and senses. 
 The Number One food additive to avoid is Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) or Vetsin. It is the cause of Chinese Food Syndrome. A friend of mine died of vetsin overdose. It is also used in dognapping by simply throwing a piece of bread saturated with vetsin. Avoid sweeteners - NutraSweet, saccharin, aspartame and other concealed brand names. Another is Olestra - fatless fat.  The fat molecules are so large the villi cannot absorb them. So the unbroken fat simply leaks and causes discomfort - and quite often, embarrassment. Go natural, like brewed rather that decaffeinated coffee.

Rule 7 - Beware of the invisible poison: radiation.   The worst kind of radiation is from fallout following a nuclear explosion (Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 1945), and nuclear plant meltdown (Three-Mile Island in the US, Chernobyl in Russia in the seventies, and Fukoshima Japan following a massive tsunami in 2011).  Radioactive decay slowly takes hundreds of years, thus it can cause harm to the members of the food chain. (grass to cow to milk to baby, back to the same or similar cycle). Radiation from high voltage lines, transmission towers, electronic gadgets may get into the food we eat. So with hospital waste containing radioisotopes. The innocent looking microwave oven is now being phased out in many countries. 

Rule 8 - Beware of Frankenfood from Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO). Frankenfood is named after the creator of the monster in Mary Shelley's novel – Frankenstein. Examples are Bacillus thuringiensis Corn (Bt Corn), GM potato, GM soybean, SavrFlavr tomato, and golden rice which contains the yellow pigment gene of daffodil. Pharmed food has built-in medicine or drug. An increasing number of food grown in the laboratory includes in vitro stem cell burger which is dubbed lab meat.  

Rule 9 - Drink natural instead of distilled water. Manufacturers call bottled water as mineral water because the process did not take away the naturally occurring minerals which are removed through distillation. But why buy mineral water when you can make your own at home with seeds of malunggay (Moringa oleifera), and through simple water treatment?

Rule 10 - Don't overeat, and eat the right food with the proper nutritional value.  Eat more fruits and vegetables and less of meat and meat products. It is best to grow or procure your food, cook at home and serve it yourself to your family. The family that eats together stays together happy and healthy. Food indeed is santa gracia. ~