Friday, October 21, 2016

We are destroying the Earth - our only ship in space.

Dr Abe V Rotor

A view of the Earth from the moon 
   Two views from Antipolo of  Marikina Valley, a dying ecosystem  

1. Changing Environment, influenced by man, breeds a variety of ailments and diseases. Nature-Man Balance, the key to good health is being threatened.

2. What and Where is the so-called Good Life? The Good Life is shifting with the transformation of agricultural to industrial economy.

3. The Good Life is synonymous to Affluence. People want goods and services beyond what they actually need. Want leads to luxury - to waste.

What is the Good Life when religion becomes an enemy of the environment? 
Millions of trees and palms are sacrificed every Palm Sunday. Potential loss in coconut alone is immeasurably high, affecting farmers and the industry.

4. The world’s population is 7 billion. Another billion will be added in less than 10 years. Runaway population is the mother of human miseries

5. The proliferation of cities, growth of cities to metropolises and megapolises, each with 10 to 20 million people ensconced in cramped condition. Cities breed Marginal communities

“People, people everywhere, but not a kindred to keep," in condominiums, malls, schools, churches, parks, sharing common lifestyles and socio-economic conditions. They are predisposed to common health problems and vulnerabilities from brownouts to food and fuel shortage, force majeure notwithstanding.

6. Loss of Natural Environment – loss of productivity, loss of farmlands, and wildlife. Destruction of ecosystems - lakes, rivers, forests, coral reefs, grasslands, etc. Destruction of ecosystems is irreversible.

7. Species are threatened, many are now extinct, narrowing down the range of biodiversity. Human health depends largely on a complex interrelationship of the living world. No place on earth is safe from human abuse. Coral Reef – bastion of terrestrial and marine life, is now in distress.

Reflection of deer in a fountain, UST Manila 

8. Wildlife shares with our homes, backyards and farms, transmitting deadly diseases like SARS, HIV-AIDS, Mad-Cow, FMD, Ebola, and Bird Flu which can now infect humans, allergies notwithstanding.

9. “Good Life” cradles and nurses obesity and other overweight conditions. Millions of people around the world are obese, wih 34% of Americans in the US obese.

10. Global warming stirs climatic disturbance, changes the face of the earth.

11. Globalization packages the major aspects of human activity – trade, commerce, industry, agriculture, the arts, education, science and technology, politics, religion and the like.

12. . Mélange of races - pooling of genes through inter-racial and inter-cultural marriages produces various mixed lines or “mestizos” - Eurasian, Afro-Asian, Afro-American, Amerasian, and the like. Native genes provide resistance to diseases, adverse conditions of the environment. But will this advantage hold on even as the native gene pools are thinned out?

13. Modern medicine is responsible in reducing mortality and increasing longevity. It has also preserved genetically linked abnormalities; it cradles senility related ailments. It made possible the exchange of organs and tissues through transplantation, and soon tissue cloning. It has changed Evolution that is supposed to cull out the unfit and misfits. Man has Darwinism in his hands.

14. The first scientific breakthrough is the splitting of the atom that led to the development of the atomic bomb as the most potent tool of war as evidenced by its destruction at Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and the nuclear reactor which still holds the promise of providing incessant energy to mankind. The second scientific breakthrough – Microchip led to the development of the Internet which “shrunk the world into a village.”

16. The third breakthrough in science, Genetic Engineering, changed our concept of life - and life forms. It has enabled man to tinker with life itself. Revolutionary industries Examples: In vitro fertilization, surrogate motherhood, Human Genome Project (HGP or gene mapping), multiple childbirth, post-menopausal childbirth, DNA mapping, etc. Birth of the prototype human robot – pampered, he lives a very dependent life.

17. Genetic Engineering gave rise to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) and Gene Therapy. It has also primed Biological Warfare into a more terrifying threat to mankind and the environment. On the other hand Gene Therapy aims at preventing gene-link diseases even before they are expressed; it has actuallty revolutionized medicine. More and more countries are banning GMO crops and animals through legislative measures and conservation programs, including protection against “biopiracy”

No to Genetically Modified Organisms Campaign all over the world

18. Today’s Green Revolution opened up non-conventional frontiers of production – mariculture, desalination, desert farming, swamp reclamation, aerophonics (rooftop farming), hydroponics, urban farming, organic farming, Green Revolution adapts genetic engineering to produce GMOs and Frankenfoods. We may not be aware, but many of us are eating
genetically modified food (GMF or Frankenfood) everyday – meat, milk, chicken, corn, potato and soya products, and the like mainly from the US. Many food additives and adjuncts are harmful, from salitre in longganiza to pesticide residue in fruits and vegetables, aspartame in fruit juice to MSG in noodles, formalin in fish to dioxin in plastics, bromate in bread to sulfite in sugar, antibiotic residue in meat to radiation in milk.

• Hydroponics or soiless culture makes farming feasible in cramped quarters, and it increases effective area of farming.
. Aeroponics or Multi-storey farming Vertical Farming Farming in the city on high rise buildings 
• Post Harvest Technology. is critical to Food Production. PHT bridges production and consumption, farm and market, thus the proliferation of processed goods, supermarket, fast food chains, food irradiation, ready-to-eat packs, etc.

19. Exploration into the depth of the sea and expanse of the Solar System - and beyond. We probe the hadal depth of the ocean. We build cities in space - the Skylab. Soon we will live outside of the confines of our planet earth. Now we aim at conquering another planet, another Solar System to assure continuity of mankind after the demise of the earth.

20. Regional and International Cooperation is key to global cooperation: EU, ASEAN, APEC, CGIAR, ICRISAT, WTO, WHO, UNEP, WFO, FAO, like fighting pandemic diseases – HIV-AIDS, SARS, Dengue, Hepatitis, Bird Flu, etc.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Chicken Soup is Best for Convalescent; If Dust Gets into Your Eyes, Blow Your Nose

“Living with Nature in Our Times cautions us while walking on the busy lane of change. It reminds us to retrain our senses and to hone our sensitivity to better appreciate the best life can offer. Only when we are close to nature are we able to truly appreciate its exquisitiveness; only when we heed the old folks’ good advice can we truly appreciate the beauty and bounty of nature.”
Abercio V. Rotor, Ph.D.
Author, Living with Nature in Our Times
Response Book Launching
August 30, 2007

      Some time ago a good old friend asked me, Abe  how can you go back to nature? Are you going back to the farm.  Don’t you like to live anymore in the city? Are you selling your car.
 Author was presented the first copy of his book from UST Secretary General and Vice Rector.  
     Yes, I answered.  No not my car, that’s my only car. Yes, I can live with nature. Oo nga naman.  We talked and talked, until we were back in our childhood – I mean, childhood.  This was when my father got sick.  And this is how I came to learn that chicken soup is good for one who is convalescing, yon’ galing sa sakit - nagpapagaling
     True. Totoo. Chicken soup is good for the convalescent. However, there are specifications of the kind of chicken to be served. First, it must be native chicken. Karurayan is the term in Ilocos for a pure white native chicken which does not bear any trace of color on its feathers. It is preferably a female, dumalaga or fryer, meaning it has not yet reached reproductive stage. It is neither fat nor thin. Usually the herbolario chooses one from recommended specimens. He then instructs and supervises the household in the way the karurayan is dressed, cut, cooked into tinola (stew) and served to the convalescent. He does not ask for any fee for his services, but then he takes home one or two of the specimens that did not pass the specifications. (The more affluent the patient is, the more chicken the herbolario takes.) 

     Chicken soup as a convalescent food is recognized in many parts of the world. Because of its popularity, chicken soup has become associated with healing, not only of the body – but the soul as well. In fact there is a series of books under the common title Chicken Soup -  for the Woman’s Soul, Surviving Soul, Mother’s Soul, Unsinkable Soul, Writer’s Soul, etc. Of course, this is exaggeration, but nonetheless it strengthens our faith that this lowly descendant of the dinosaurs that once walked the earth of its panacean magic. 

     Try chicken soup to perk you up in these trying times - with all the rush, tension, various ailments, and expensive medication. Ika nga, bawal ang magkasakit.   
    But first, be sure your chicken does not carry antibiotic residues, and should not be one that is genetically engineered (GMO). By the way, I was a participant in the rituals made by this good herbolario.  I was then a farmhand and I was tasked to get the karurayan.  Our flock failed the test, but I found two dumalaga with few colored feathers. I plucked out the colored feathers and presented the birds to Ka Pepito.  They passed the criteria. Three days after I asked my convalescing dad how he was doing. “I’m fine, I’m fine, now.” He assured me with a big smile. 

    Writing a book such as this needs advice.  This time I needed one outside of the farm, and away from the village.  There’s no one else to my mind but someone in the academe. I went to Dr. Lilian Sison, dean of the Graduate School of UST. Dean Sison went over the manuscript and after a few days, I went to see her again. In the message for the book she said the most beautiful things that encouraged me a lot to continue writing about Nature. She said, and I quote.

Living with Nature in Our Times can be lumped up into one word - awareness.  For today’s trend in progress and development, spurred by science and technology, and spun by globalization cannot undermine the need to answer a basic question, “Quo vadis?” (Where are you going?) To where are we headed as a civilization?”

Dean Sison continued, “Living with Nature in Our Times gives us practical knowledge that elevates our awareness on three levels: that of our perception of the things around us by our senses, that of our perception of the inner stimuli that affect not only our physical being but our psyche and emotion, and the third which occupies the highest level of awareness – that which is beyond mere perception because it requires us to imagine, plan and anticipate the future.

“Living with Nature in Our Times cautions us while walking on the busy lane of change.  It reminds us to retrain our senses and to hone our sensitivity to better appreciate the best life can offer.  Only when we are close to nature are we able to truly appreciate its exquisitiveness; only when we heed the old folks’ good advice can we truly appreciate the beauty and bounty of nature.”

I could say no more, overwhelmed by Dean Sison’s message.  Then I realized.  Mataas nga ang expectation ng reader sa libro ko!  Did I write enough?  Am I understood as much as the listeners to my radio program, Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid do? Baka naman hindi ako maintindihan ni Ka Pepe at si Aling Maria.

 Dr Rotor and family: wife Cecille, Leo Carlo, Mac and Anna.

It was a weekend and it was the tail end the monsoon – the best time to be on the farm.   I did the final editing of the book here – the farm where I grew up, where I got my stories, experiences I still remember, in a small town where I used to listen to old folks.  This time I am one of them.

 This same old good friend I told you earlier came to visit me. I took him out into the fields.  It was harvest time and a time of festivities of sort in the fields. The maya birds came by hordes, A gust of wind blew and my friend winked, apparently napuwing.  And he started rubbing his eyes.  Huwag, I said. Just blow you nose.  He laughed. 

“Just do it.” I said. He did once, twice, each for each nose, covering the other. Harder. He looked amazed.  The puwing is gone!  Success!  (You can try it later.)

My friend who grew up in the city complained again. “My tooth aches,” It’s  lunchtime.  Sayang.  We were going to have lunch, picnic style beside a farm pond we call alug.

Sumasakit din ang aking ngipin,” I said, … “na hindi ko matikman lahat nito,” savoring the aroma of the food being cooked.  It’s like the proverbial grandmother’s pie.

“Hindi ako nagbibiro,” He said. 

 “Okay press the base of your jaw, like this,” and demonstrated how.  Open your mouth and feel the attachment of the jaw, it’s the hollow part. Press it long enough until the pain subsides.  He did it and held it there.

 “Okay ka na?”

 “Masakit pa rin.” 

 “Saan ba ang sumasakit?” Para akong dentista.

 “Doktor, nga si Dr. Rotor,” I heard a kindly old woman nearby.

 “Dito sa left.”  My friend opened his jaw. “Mali ang pinipisil mo, eh. Ang pinipisil mo as ang kanan mong jaw.”

A whole banana leaf was laid before us. We sat on the grass.  A tabo of water was passed on to each of us to wash his fingers before eating.  Then, like the old faithful Genie had arrived, we were partaking in a banquet no five-star hotel could match.

 There were hito, martiniko, broiled medium rare on uling, pesang dalag (mudfish stewed with green saba and a lot of tomato and onion, and kuhol with tanglad. Rice is newly harvested upland Milagrosa!  Miracle talaga sa bango at sarap. Everyone was quiet.  How could you with your mouth full? Now and then a dog would come from behind begging, licking.      

“How you eat this kuhol, my friend asked.  Ganito  lips-to-lips,” Matunog.  It tells your host you like the food very much. “Ayaw, eh” Pukpukin mo muna ang puit.”  Paano? Kumain ka lang. Then we had  ulang  (river crayfish). Hindi ba masakit kumagat yan?  He whispered. 

Hindi naman alimango yan, eh. At patay na.  Sigue kumain ka lang.”  

With or without toothache, we had our fill.

Masakit pa ba ?

Ow.. Ouch.. Ow..  This time tiyan naman niya ang sumasakit.

Oo nga naman.  Pag meron kang kaibigan na katulad nito. Either you want to live long or … forget him. 

Living with nature is fun, live life best – it’s more than The Good Life. It is Renaissance Part 2. It is Postmodern Renaissance. It is Living with Nature in Our Times.
x     x     x

Winner of the Gintong Aklat Award 2003 by the Book Publishers Association of the Philippines. The book has 30 chapters (189 pp),divided into four parts, a practical guide on how one can get closer to nature, the key to a healthy and happy life. Second printing, 2008.

"Once upon a time, nature was pristine, undefiled, and unspoiled. We used to live in a dreamlike world of tropical virgin forests, and purer hidden springs, calm ponds, and serene lakes with majestic purple mountains, crowned with canopied trees. That was when people took only what they needed, caught only what they ate, and lived only in constant touch with a provident earth." (excerpt from the Introduction by Dr Anselmo Set Cabigan, professor, St Paul University QC and former director of the National Food Authority)

A Sequel to the Living with Nature Handbook (312 pp), it was launched at the Philippine International Book Fair. It won the 2006 National Book Award by the National Book Development Board jointly with The Manila Book Circle and the National Commission for the Culture and the Arts. Published by UST Publishing House, the book has 35 chapters divided into four parts. The book can be aptly described in this verse.

"Nature shares her bounty in many ways:
He who works or he who prays,
Who patiently waits or gleefully plays;
He's worthy of the same grace."

Don’t Cut the Trees, Don’t is a collection of ecology poems and paintings of nature. The tree is taken to represent the environment. Each poem and each painting is like a leaf of a tree each revealing a little of the many marvels of this unique creation. Each poem and each painting is a plea on behalf of this new vision and of this new ethics. Concealed behind each poem and each painting is the spirit of the author, Dr. Abercio V. Rotor, a man whose love and passion for the environment is well-known. (Armando F. De Jesus, Ph.D., Dean, UST Faculty of Arts and Letters)

It is a substantial collection, departing from the usual stale air of solitariness and narcissism which permeates most poetry today. It is therefore a welcome contribution to Philippine poetry in Engish, livened by visuals that add color to the poetic images.

The oeuvre is not only pleasurable because of this. The poetic ability of the poet himself enriches the whole exciting poetic experience, a blurring of the line separating man from the rest of the living creatures outside. Every poem indeed becomes “flowers in disguise” using the poet’s own words. (Ophelia A. Dimalanta, Ph.D. Director, Center for Creative Writing and Studies, UST)

Living with Folk Wisdom. Published by University of Santo Tomas, launched 2008 in the Manila International Book Fair, SMX Mall of Asia, 220 pp. "The book is a compendium of indigenous technical knowledge complemented with modern scientific thinking. The narratives offer an exploration into the world of ethno-science covering a wide range of practical interest from climate to agriculture; medicine to food and nutrition..: (Excerpt of Foreword by Dr Lilian J Sison, dean UST Graduate School).

Living with Nature in Our Times is a sequel to The Living with Nature Handbook published by the UST Publishing House in 2003. 
There are 35 chapters in this new volume grouped into four sections. Enjoying Nature’s Bounty has eleven chapters, which deal with such hobbies as Home Gardening, Landscaping and Hydroponics. The second section, Understanding Nature’s Ways, has nine chapters. Mystery of the Fig Wasp is a recent research, while The Mosquito is an update about this deadliest creature on earth. The third section, Conserving Our Natural Resources has seven chapters which include The 7Rs in Pollution Management, and Farming Peat Soil, a frontier of agriculture in the Philippines. The fourth and last section, Harmonious Living with Nature, has eight chapters which remind us of the importance of maintaining good relationship of man and nature.  Topics include Health and Values and Walking with Nature. 
Many of the articles in this book were taken from the lessons presented on Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (People’s School-on-the-Air). This is in response to listeners requesting copies of the lessons. Like in the first book, Living with Nature in Our Times is distributed  by the publisher through popular outlets.
I would like to thank ad Veritatem, Ating Alamin Gazette and Women’s Journal,  as well as the research journals of St. Paul University QC, De La Salle University Dasmariñas, and University of Perpetual Help of Rizal for publishing my lectures and researches.  I have also included a number of these articles, written in layman’s language. 
Lastly, I wish to thank the following institutions and persons who helped me in coming up with this new volume. 
University of Santo Tomas, University of Perpetual Help of Rizal, De La Salle University Dasmariñas, St. Paul University Quezon City, Lyceum of the Philippines University, Philippine Broadcasting Service-Radyo ng Bayan (PBS-DZRB), National Food Authority; and UST Publishing House and staff;
To my  family Cecilia R Rotor, wife of the author and their children: Matthew Marlo, Anna Christina and Leo Carlo, sister Veneranda, and cousins Acela, Julita, Fe and Luz, and other relatives.

      And to all those who in one way or the other made the publication of this book possible. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Creative Photography - New Field of Humanities

Photography has been relegated to the machine. This is not true.  In fact ity has created a new field in humanities - Creative Photography, which is aligned to visual arts and Performing arts. 
Dr Abe V Rotor

Gulliver the giant, Gulliver the pygmy in Jonathan Swift's novels,
two friends acting, each in either role;
for in life, you are at one time a giant, at another you are a dwarf, 
and seeing others the same, wise or fool.

Years apart through three generations make no difference;  
looking back when the old were once children;
and children wishing  for the future within their grasp;
in between the beauty of life is a moving train. 

Image of Mother and Child - Holy Book's symbol of piety;
Holy Trinity too, with a Father God - the greatest mystery;
Prodigal Son and father - the mother Rembrandt sought.
 And Joseph?  Brave soldiers who died in wars they fought?
Community stage play of a subject and theme by local talents;
move over cinema, mall, computer and television;
we have had enough of  robots and cyberspace pseudo heroes;
life's real, we've each a role with common vision.     

Trophies, the greatest is invisible - 
you reward yourself unknown,
the one no other else can own. ,    

Don't cut the trees, don't!
Make a stairway across;
Save the clouds that fill the fount,
We have had enough, the Cross.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Where have the spirits of the old St Paul museum gone?.

Spirits to me are guiding signals that sometimes take the form of humans. They carry messages that lead us to the theme of our art such as in these particular cases. The denominator is goodness – they help us seek goodness, and goodness leads us to truth – truth that is built by strong faith other than reason.

Dr Abe V Rotor
Former curator
St Paul University Museum QC

World War II Memorial
At a corner inside the former St Paul University Museum in Quezon City, where once stood an altar many years ago when the Japanese invaders converted the campus into a concentration camp, a small group of visitors bowed in deep thoughts and prayers. This marked the beginning of the museum as a pilgrimage site.

It was turning back the hands of time into the Second World War. Now there is peace. There was hatred, but that too, has given way to forgiveness. Despair, and now hope, pride into humility. These contrasting scenarios provide very valuable lessons of man. For man is tempered by war and mellowed by the peace that follows it. All these took place for half a century or so.

The museum stands as a witness of the history that shaped the school. The events are the lifeblood of the museum - its walls originally the immaculate walls once stained with blood speak of peace, its pillars the original pillars that withstood the atrocities of war and the tests of the elements and time attest to endurance and posterity.

The museum is not only a repository of history; it is the abode of history. It is like Fort Santiago or the Paco Cemetery. Or the great Pyramids of Egypt, the City of the Dead of the Aztecs, Jerusalem and Rome. These museums have one thing in common: they are part of history. They are living relics that chronicle past events, stirring nationalism while promoting brotherhood in men. They strengthen universal values and rekindle the spirit. They bring the relationship of man with his Creator closer and harmonious.

Since its opening in late 1994, many pilgrims, old and young, parents and students, city and rural folk, have brought significance to the museum. Other than being an educational institution, it has somehow earned respect for pilgrimage.

School in Ruins (8 ft x 8 ft, AVR)
The building is a early American architecture bearing the basic designs of Greco-Roman style – high ceiling, prominent, bare and square pillars, solid walls with small grilled windows. The entrance is unassuming, yet there is an aura of dignity that engulfs one on opening the door. For a panoramic view meets the eye, with virtually all four corners optically converging. The scene is accentuated by the massive murals depicting some chapters of the life of St. Paul, and widened by the transparency of the glass cabinets allowing the eye to roam freely.

All these no doubt contribute to the pilgrimage atmosphere. But what is revealing is the gathered information of the place coming from no less than the sisters, many of them in their seniors and living at the nearby Vigil House then. Some of the informants have already died, but the memory of the place lives. .

The senior sisters recall the place as a prayer house. “There was an altar which was slightly located towards the left corner of the room adjacent to the backdoor.” And they would point out the place in the museum. The backdoor leads to the basement, which was used as clinic during the Japanese occupation. The wounded and the sick were led to the prayer house and to spend time meditating, praying, or just to let time pass by. On several occasions the dead were brought for the wake.

Imagine that for a period of four years, SPUQ then a novitiate and a school for elementary and high school, was made into a garrison and concentration camp, the same way the Japanese did to UST during the same period. And also to De La Salle University in Pasay. We do not know how many died but many Filipino, American and Japanese soldiers died. There were residents, foreigners, women and children who also died.

My students would ask me whenever I tell them the story if there are ghosts on the campus – or spirits of the dead. “Have you seen or felt their presence?” I would counter. And the conversation lengthens, creating a world of the supernatural in the process.

Anyone would believe in spirits that may make their presence felt in one way too many, depending on who is telling the story and who are listening. I for one sensed their presence on a number of occasions. The question with believing in the supernatural though is that the mind cannot decipher reality from imagination. But it is this aspect from which we build our stories and beliefs. Take this experience as an example.

In 1994 I was painting Saul on Damascus Road into the night alone. The museum was dead silent. What a conducive time to paint! Then suddenly the arm of Saul “moved” an inch or two downward. My brush missed the outline. I made the necessary correction but this time the arm had moved upward and now I have two errors to correct. I told myself I was too tired, and left the museum for home. That night I dreamt of Saul holding a red robe, which he was to use to clothe the dying Christ. Early that morning I went to the museum and continued painting the arm. I fixed Saul’s right hand and put on the red robe on it. Where did the idea of the red robe come? Was it a dream or a message I got? What made his arm move? Or was it a way of getting a message across?

Saul on Damascus Road (8ft x 8ft, AVR)

I remember at one time in the early part of the painting I received visitors while I was painting the sky on makeshift scaffolding. Causally they would come and take a look at my work. Sometimes they would ask me a question or two and I would obligingly give an answer without breaking my concentration. One evening a kind sister visited the museum. She stood for sometime looking at what I was doing on the scaffolding. Anyone at the top could not see well the person below. And not know when she came and had gone. What I remember was her large hat, but that crossed my mind only days later. Who was she? Where did she come from at 9 in the evening?

At one time I was painting Paradise After Rome. This time I did it at home at our front yard. It took me till dusk. A silhouette figure kept passing at the corner of my eye. I would have dismissed it but it came twice, thrice, not saying a word and not pausing. But there is semblance of the figure I was painting with the silhouette – a bearded man, tall and heavily built, clothed in flowing robes. The big difference though is that the man I was painting was about to be beheaded while the silhouette was roaming free, with an air of dignity and command.

The following day I changed the man on my painting. Yes, death, I realized is resurrection. So I painted Paul, the resurrected, on the day of his execution when Rome was beimg razed by Nero’s torch.
Death of St. Paul and the Burning of Rome (10ft x 4ft, AVR)

Spirits to me are guiding signals that sometimes take the form of humans. They carry messages that lead us to the theme of our art such as in these particular cases. The denominator is goodness – they help us seek goodness, and goodness leads us to truth – truth that is built by strong faith other than reason.

Can we decipher messages the same way we receive communications in daily life? I say no, not always. For the message with deep meaning are not readily evident. One has to labor in order to understand it, and capture the essence of that message.

For example on the painting, The School in Ruins, which I entitled in an accompanying verse, Grow and Bloom, Grow and Bloom, an outline of a young devil cast a shadow on the burnt building. This was discovered while I was working on the dying smoke emanating from the fresh ruins. Someone almost shouted at me, Stop, stop! and then he explained. He was seeing a devil in outstretched hand hovering over the ruins. I preserved the outline. Anyone who comes to the museum today experiences the same thing the discoverer made twelve years ago. Yes, the war, the killing, the burning, the looting are works of the devil. His imprint makes us aware not to submit ourselves to evil, but rather fight it at all cost.

A pilgrim took notice of Saul talking with Christ on Damascus road. Did Christ really appear to him? But look again at the painting. That is why those who come to the museum stay longer than to visit. They pray. They wish.

Students facing the trials of defending their thesis come to the museum. They come from UST, Pamantasan ng Maynila and other schools. Students seeking entry in medicine proper, reviewers in bar and board exams – they come and wish. There are those who came back, others have not. Well, in the story of the ten lepers, not all came back to thank. There are many ways to thank, of course, such as doing good for others.

Oh, Centennial, Oh Centennial (8ft x 8 ft, AVR)
The community takes pride in having a museum accredited by the National Commission for the Culture and the Arts (NCCA), and the museum curator sits in one of the Commission’s sub-committees. The SPUQ Museum is also a member of the Association of Museums in the Philippines. Because of these, the school has the opportunity to take part in various national programs in health, environment, historical events, food and nutrition, and community development, to name the major events. In return, the museum is recognized for its effort. It is one of the very few school museums given such distinction.

Face of Christ in the Woods (AVR)
Our own students, faculty and the whole community recognize that here in a not far, far land is a little Smithsonian, a little Gethsemane, a little Lourdes, and a little Sistine. And the same Goodness we find there is also found here – here at the SPUQ Museum. ~

Author’s Note: Prominent pilgrims to the SPCQ Museum include high government officials, leaders in the business, university professors, journalists, personalities in the entertainment world, Filipino balikbayan and their families. The Mother Superior of SPC visited the museum on her visit to the Philippines. Officials from the United Nations, ASEAN and EU on their mission to the Philippines included in their itenerary a visit to the museum. The identities of many of them are kept to give due respect to their person and privacy. The museum celebrated its 15th year in 2010 - its last year as conceived and made fifteen years ago (1995 to 2010).

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Poison in Food

Dr Abe V Rotor
Ethnic Biology

There are poisonous plants and animals found in nature. But there are those, which ethnic societies learned to deal with the poison they contain, and having removed it, eat them without any apparent harm. One example is nami (Dioscorea hispida) (photo) a relative of ubi and tugui'. Hispidine is the poisonous principle that can be extracted by means of repeated washing. Like doubtful mushrooms, natives use dogs to test the safety of the product.

The field of ethnobotany and ethnozoology covers interesting studies on how the natives deal with poisonous plants and animals as food, from snakes and puffer fish to wild gabi and cassava. I learned in Ilocos for example, the way cassava is cooked in order to minimize its cyanide content. The tuber is cleaned and cut into pieces, then boiled with the pot cover removed to allow the deadly cyanogas to escape with the steam. By the way storing cassava tuber should be avoided because the cyanide that is concentrated in the bark spreads into the tuber. This is noticeable by the yellowish spots on the tuber. However, this is difficult to notice in the case of the yellow or glutinous varieties of cassava.

The blood of the tangingi is first drained before it is cut and cooked. There are people who are allergic to this kind of fish. The case of my youngest son, Leo Carlo 11, is a classical example of acute allergy to seafood. In the summer of 1998 while my family was vacationing in our hometown, Carlo ate a lot of Talakitok eggs. By midnight, four hours after eating, we had to rush him to the hospital. He could hardly breathe, his eyes were virtually shut, and his body was covered with reddish spots. He was immediately given an antihistamine injection. It took him one week to fully recover.

Symptoms of food poisoning from natural toxins appear to have similar patterns, but mortality rates vary depending on the kind and amount of poison. When Red Tide first appeared in the early eighties in Maqueda Bay in Western Samar, there was very little knowledge about PSP (Paralytic Shellfish Poison). This poison accumulates in tahong or green mussel and talaba or oyster without apparent harming them. There were reported deaths due to eating tahong during the red tide season. The affect is on the nerves and muscles, and probably the brain.

Farm Chemicals

The other kind of food poisons is man-made or man-induced. The most prevalent is farm chemicals. Modern pest­icides are designed to cope up with the increasing resistance of insects and pathogens. As a result their residues on food and in the environment have likewise increased tremendously. This is even worst in the case of systemic pesticides that penetrate into the innermost part of the plant as they are absorbed and carried throughout the plant's body via its sap. Any insect that feeds on the sap is killed. This property is also present in some phosphatic pesticides and chlorinated hydrocarbons.

Among the first chlorinated hydrocarbon is DDT that was introduced in the forties as the final answer to the malaria problem, controlling mosquitoes, which spread the disease. It is true that DDT is highly effective not only against mosquitoes but other insects as well that its inventor received the Nobel Prize. It was however, discovered years later that it has a residue that is both persistent and cumulative, and transferred through the food chain. Thus, from the mosquito, the DDT is passed on to the fish, to animals that feed on the fish, and ultimately to man. In spite of the fact that it has long been banned there are still traces of DDT residues found in many places, showing either its persistence, or its illegal manufacture and distribution.

Food Poisoning

There was a case of cheesedog poisoning in Rizal lately. Scores of children, teenagers and adults attending a party were rushed to the nearest clinics and hospitals. Fortunately all of the victims fully recovered.

Cases of typhoid, hepatitis and gastrointestinal diseases have been on the rise because of unsafe water. In Tokyo and nearby cities Escherichia coli, a common gastrointestinal pathogen spread into an epidemic level. It was controlled after banning the suspected source - hamburger.

There is always a cardinal rule in observing food safety, and that is sanitation. Cleanliness speaks of an establishment's image, and has become an important basis in issuing government permits in the operation of food manufacturing plants, hotels and restaurants.

But how clean is clean? The scientist Lister discovered the prin­ciple of aseptic cleanliness. Listerine, a mouthwash brand was named after him. Florence Nightingale, the founder of the nursing profession applied Lister's principle in hospital manage­ment. But we often exaggerate cleanliness. We use a variety of clean­ing agents such as detergents, pesticides, deodorants, air fresh­eners, and cosmetics. My father used to warn us in the family, "We are unwittingly introducing into our bodies materials which may be more harmful than the germs we are trying to control." Rub-on mosquito repellant is carcinogenic. So with Chlorine, which is added to drinking water and swimming pool. Greenpeace, a vocal environment vanguard organization once raised a "Chlorine Kills" campaign against the excessive use of the chemical. Sodium fluoride mistaken for baking powder or wheat flour is extremely harmful, yet fluoride used in small amount in toothpaste helps keep our teeth strong and healthy.

I remember a story of a boy whose anemic condition had for so long remained a puzzle, until one morning his doctor dropped by, and while having coffee with the family, exclaimed, "Why, I know now why your son is sick!" He observed that the gold lining of the coffee cup was being worn out. The boy, or whoever was using the cup, was slowly being poisoned. The fine gold rim was actually painted with lead as paint medium.

How many of our utensils at home contain harmful metals? Do not cook food with vinegar in aluminum pots. Do not use Antimony- or Cadmium-plated utensils. Remember that plastic containers react with food, specially the acidic ones. The microwave oven is not as safe as the conventional oven. There are scientists who believe that microwave triggers radiation, which may be harmful to the body in the long run. In spite of this warning the use of microwave, because of its convenience, has increased.


Radiation is an invisible risk. We do not know when, where, and what level we are getting - and when it becomes harmful to the body. In the early eighties the Chernobyl nuclear plant incident in Russia that is located not far from Western Europe, caused worldwide concern and protests. After the meltdown incident, Birch Tree milk from Holland tainted with the fallout found its way to the Philippines. The government upon finding its level of radiation to be higher than the limit set by DOH issued a ban against its use, especially to children. But where did whole shipment go? Pulvoron, anyone?

Food Adulteration

Here is an outline of other food contaminants and additives, which are reported to be the cause of many ailments and death cases.

1. Seeds of ipil-ipil ground with coffee cause falling hair. It is also a growth retardant due to its mimosin content.

2. Seeds of papaya when dried can pass for black pepper. Papaya fruit contains healthful papain. I do not know the effects of the seed content to the body.

3. Vetsin or mono-sodium glutamate retards mental and skeletal growth specially in children. Vetsin may cause drowsiness after eating. To some people the effect is palpitation and irritability. Burglars silence dogs with pandesal containing vetsin. An overdose may lead to death.

4. Formalin is used to extend the shelf life of fish. The malpractice is to inject it in large fishes, or mixed it with the ice water for small ones. Formalin is a strong poison. It is used in embalming. Formalin was detected in buko juice, which led to the decline of the once flourishing local industry.

5. Cyanide in vegetables was first detected in Benguet when the farmers discovered that the water coming from mine tailings had insecticide property. It was later traced to cyanide compounds used in the mining industry. Cyanide is a very strong poison. It is used in gas chamber in the US.

6. Nitrate or salitre is the chief preservative and food color used. in tocino, longaniza and corned beef. One can easily detect in the urine by analysis and smell. Salitre is known to be carcinogenic.

7. Food dyes make food colorful, but be careful. One time I was shocked to discover my urine crimson red. As I prepared to go to the hospital I examined all the food that I had taken that morning. There, innocently wrapped in cellophane, kneaded into balls, as we know sampaloc (tamarind) candy is made, was the culprit. I took one candy ball and immersed it in a glass of water and stirred. Like ink the glassful of water turned red like the Nile. Jubos - shoe dye, was used as food dye!

8. Aspartame has taken the place of saccharine, the original diet sugar. There has been a decline in the intake of diet soft drinks in the US due to unexplained side effects, ranging from high blood pressure to allergic reactions. Why is decaffeinated coffee no longer as popular as before? Will fatless fat ever get FDA's nod? This is a kind of fat that will not make us fat.

Modern living indeed has many drawbacks. Artificial food, additives and preservatives are common in our food, which we take everyday. Those tempting preparations may be dyed. The cheap kind of vinegar is diluted glacial acetic acid, the same kind of acid used in photography and other industrial processing. Cancer-causing aflatoxin is high in peanut butter. It is just being practical to sell the good seeds as whole peanut, while those of inferior quality are ground into butter. And why is cirrhosis of the liver higher in the south than in the rice-eating regions? It is because corn is more predisposed to the aflatoxin fungus than other cereals. ~

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Your unfinished work could be your masterpiece!

 Your unfinished work could be your masterpiece!
Remember those things you thought were "unfinished" could be your greatest treasures, and who knows - people some day will remember you because of them. 
Dr Abe V Rotor
Photos by Anna Christina R Rotor And Leo Carlo R Rotor
Living with Nature - School on Blog

Don't discard your unfinished work, say a painting, novel, sculpture. Try to get back to it. It could be your masterpiece. Maybe you were not able to complete it because you gave way to the priorities of living, or finding new interests, challenges, assignments, or simply you lost steam, so to speak. Or you say you've grown too old to complete it.

Take the case of the mysterious unfinished human figures at the University of the Philippines at Diliman, QC. Do they mean anything but abandonment? To me it's not. So with my daughter Anna and son Leo Carlo who took these photographs.

These unfinished life size human figures occupy the “less trodden” front yard of the UP College of Fine Arts in Diliman, QC. The artists may have in mind the portrayal of man more as a Homo faber - man the worker or maker rather than his attribute as the reasoning man (Homo sapiens) - and much less the playing man - Homo ludens. Here the figures appear to be workers of the land. In fact one resembles the Man with a Hoe by Markham. Another appears to be carrying an imaginary heavy load.

What is puzzling however, is the representation of peaceful death. While the living struggle, the dead lies in true rest, cradled by the earth. Which then changes the scenario if all the figures were to be directed to a solemn and sorrowful occasion of burying a departed member in thin ceremonious atmosphere. It now expresses the highest attribute of man - Homo spiritus - the praying man who places completely his fate to a Higher Being. The viewer now turns his thoughts to grief and compassion, and the scene is no longer the farm but a sacred ground. The imagined heavy load is a  burden of the heart, the figures are bent not by the burden of work but by the loss of a loved one.

Art is like that. It is like poetry, the meaning is hidden "between the lines." Like impressions in Impressionism; points in Pointillism. Or masked symbols in Pablo Picasso's plaza mural - Guernica. Unfinished works of masters often become their masterpieces like the Unfinished Symphony of Beethoven, and Mozart's Requiem, his last composition commissioned by a mysterious person. Mozart died before finishing it, and Requiem became his own. Auguste Renoir repeatedly painted his favorite Nymphaea Waterlilies until darkness took over his failing sight - so with the painting's clarity. Though half finished it is Renoir's final signature.

Venus de Milo is more beautiful with her arms missing. And for this, the best artists in the world gave up their attempt to supply her arms.

The mystery of the human figures of UP Diliman emanates from the anonymity of their theme that stands at the crossroad of human imagination searching for the meaning of life, exacerbated by their unfinished, and apparent abandoned state.

So what have you discovered about yourself by going back to those unfinished works? Share with us your experience. Remember those things you abandoned could be your greatest treasures, and who knows - people some day will remember you because of them. ~

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

In Search of Happiness. Have you heard of Gross National Happiness (GNH) Index?

Dr Abe V Rotor

Gross National Happiness (GNH) Index has recently gained a place in measuring the level of development of a country by inputing an elusive parameter which is happiness.  GNH Index can be downsized for local application, individually or by group or community that is closely knit.
  Relationship is the Number One source of happiness
However, the standard development index remains: Gross National Product (GNP) Index, the annual total value of goods and services generated by a country within and outside its shores, as differentiated from Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which is the total value generated within the country only.

This was modified to include Human Development (HD) Index, in order to determine how a country's wealth and earnings are used for the  welfare of its citizens in terms of health, education, housing, and the like.

Parameters of Happiness of GNH Index:

1. Psychological Well-Being
2. Health
3. Time Use
4. Education
5. Cultural Diversity
6. Good Governance
7. Community Vitality
8. Ecological Diversity and Resilience
9. Living Standards
10. Family
11. Spirituality
12. Sense of Achievement

 Preserving native language and culture

Upon reading Time's feature story on The Pursuit of Happiness (October 22, 2012 issue), what came to my mind was to rank the nine parameters, and add three to the list, namely, Family, Spirituality and Sense of Accomplishment or Achievement.  

Individual perception of course, varies, so that it is suggested that a kind of self-evaluation be conducted using the Likert Scale: 1 Very Poor, 2 Poor, 3 Fair, 4 Good, and 5 Very Good. 

Compute the average by adding the values of all the parameter, and divide it sum with 12.  This is the general perception of happiness of the person concerned. What is equally - if not more important - is in being able to find out the main source of happiness, at the same time, the least. This exercise therefore, is aimed at re-affirming our sense of values in the pursuit of happiness. So does a community or country.
Family outing to Patapat, I Norte  
We say we are happy, or a little happy. Or unhappy. Or sad. But how can we quantify happiness like in a grading system?

Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (People's School-on-Air) found a good reference. It came from the works of the founding father of happiness research, Dr Happiness himself - Dr Edward Diener of the University of Illinois.* He calls this technique The Satisfaction with Life Scale.

In the radio program Ka Melly and I used this technique to impart a lesson about Happiness. We find that Dr Diener's test can be used in the classroom, in meetings and conferences, or just for the sake of bonding with friends and associates.  Reference: The New Science of Happiness, Claudia Wallis, Time February 28, 2005

Get a piece of paper and rate yourself in each of the following items. Use a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 is not true at all, 4 is moderately true and 7 absolutely true. The scale allows you to approximate closer to your self-judgment.

Here are the criteria:

1. In most ways my life is close to my ideal.
2. The conditions of my life are excellent.
3. I am satisfied with my life.
4. So far I have gotten the important things I want in life.
5. If I could live my life over, I would change almost nothing.

Compute for the total score by adding all values from the five questions.

·         Here is the interpretation of your score.
·         If you got 31 to 35, you are extremely satisfied with your life. Kudos!
·         If you got 26 to 30, you are very satisfied with your life. My co-host Melly Tenorio got 28; I got 27. Three program participants got Very Satisfied scores, too.
·         If you scored 21 to 25, you are slightly satisfied. Two participants got scores on this level.

Those who scored 15 to 19 (slightly dissatisfied) will have to perk up and unload some reasons. Get to the neutral point which is 20, and thence move up the happiness ladder.

It's not hopeless if you got low. The idea of this exercise is to create awareness that there are avenues of happiness, and that there are basic levels of happiness that one can cling to, and say, "Oh well, that's life." And still manage to laugh. And the world laughs with you.

Here is Wilcox's masterpiece which projected her to world fame as author and poetess.

                                 The Way of the World

Laugh, and the world laughs with you,
Weep, and you weep alone;
For the brave old earth must borrow its mirth,
But has trouble enough of its own.

Sing and the hills will answer,
Sigh, it is lost on the air;
The echoes rebound to a joyful sound
And shrink from voicing care.

Rejoice, and men will seek you,
Grieve, and they turn to go;
They want full measure of your pleasure,
But they do not want your woe.

Be glad, and your friends are many,
Be sad, and you lose them all;
There is none to decline your nectared wine,
But alone you must drink life’s gall.

Feast, and your halls are crowded,
Fast, and the world goes by.
Forget and forgive – it helps you to live,
But no man can help you to die;

There’s room in the halls of pleasure
For a long and lordly train,
But one by one, we must all march on
Through the narrow isle of pain.

Psalm of Life is the perhaps the most important poem written by America's darling poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

The poem is among the world's most quoted and recited pieces of literature; in fact, it is a prayer by and in itself. It speaks of universal values, feelings and compassion, of valor and sacrifice, and of victory over ones own battle.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)
Longfellow himself, a victim of a family tragedy, rose to further fame and dignity. After the death of his wife in an accidental fire he went on raising his young children, and teaching in the university, experimenting with new forms and styles of poetry, producing Hiawatha and Evangeline that revolutionized poetry.

I found a very old publication, Longfellow's Evangeline (copyright 1883)with the author's biographical sketch. In describing Longfellow's trial in life, allow me to quote, "More than a score of years remained with the poet, and he had the love of his children and the comfort of his work, but the grief was so deep and lasting that he could not trust himself to speak the beloved name of his wife."

From sorrow rises a great triumph, and this is the testimony to greatness - to share not how the world should end, but how it must begin again. Not how one closes himself in, but opens himself to others. Not to "Go Gentle into the Night", but stand sentry to the "Light of Dawn".

Psalm of Life is dedicated to victims of calamities - force majeure and man-induced, circumstances beyond control, and all those who find life difficult to bear. May they find comfort, hope, and new meaning of life in Psalm of Life. ~

Psalm of Life

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us further than today.

Art is long, and time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle,
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no future, how'ver pleasant!
Let the dead past bury its dead!
Act - act in the living present!
Heart within, and Good o'erhead.

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait. ~

                             “Yes, I have a successful married life.”

 - On getting married and your friends are around, and you tell to the whole world, “Here is the person I will always love.”

- On having your first child and see the image of both of you and your spouse? (“Look he got my eyes, and chin of his dad.”)

- On having a third child and the economy has not recovered? (“I haven’t any increase in pay since last year.”)
Author and wife visit a museum
- On driving the kids to school, then attend to chores you say, “It’s like a storm had left all the things out of their places.”

- On having your in-laws around and other relatives coming for weekends, then you realize you have an extended family.

- On having a home of your own, and say, “What I paid for rent, I now pay for amortization.” And it is investment.

- On having family disagreements now and then and you say, “Well, if everything is yes, you are sure only one is thinking.”

- On leaving your present job (or his) and start anew, even when you start again at square one, and say, “Tighten your belts.” Even so, you think you are happier now, so with my family.

- On winning an award, and say, “I owe this thing to all of you, especially to my family.”

- On going to other places and call up, “I’ll be home on Christmas.” It is only spring though.

- On experiencing a tragedy in the family, and find a strong shoulder to cry on, “He was meant to be with us only for sometime. He is our angel now.”

- On discovering a life threatening illness and you realize how each day passes with greater meaning and resolve. (“Each day is a bonus - my life is not mine anymore.”)

- On surviving and your hair is now gray, and the children have learned to adapt to life, the way you wish them to be.

- On receiving an award your children earned, and this time a sweet voice says, “This is you.” A drop of tear rolls on your wrinkled face. Words are not enough.

- On being alone; the children had left home and your spouse (bless his soul) had left something for you to live the rest of your life.

- On having grandchildren. “You naughty one you got my nose, and your chin is your grandfather’s.”

Success in married life - yes, it is the greatest success a man or woman can achieve. It is success that makes the world go round. It is the very foundation of a family and therefore of human society.

- It is a kind of success no one is denied to aspire for, irrespective of race, creed, education, or culture. Yet it is one many people failed to achieve in spite of their wealth and power.

- Success in family life is primordial. Between career and family, many people have chosen the latter, and say with a sigh, “Well, you cannot have the best of two worlds.” And they chose family.

- Success is not always equated with money or power. But it is always associated with happiness. A philosopher once said, “Happiness is the only commodity, which if you divide it, will multiply.” Try this formula, and it will tell us, “A happy family is successful.”

- Family life to be successful does not depend on one formula though. It thrives on new frontiers. There are always new things to discover. It is the discovery itself that is important, that makes it original and unique. And it must be always mutual. Joy to one is joy to the other.

- Success cannot be kept in a treasure box and locked. They say, “You cannot rest on your laurels.” Trophies are symbols; they are not an end. In Greek mythology Jason, after his adventure with Hercules in search of the Golden Fleece, spent the rest of his life beside his ship, the Argon, which fell into pieces with age killing the great warrior.

- Success in married life is neither abstract, nor merely spiritual. It is real. It is to be shared. It must be contagious. Let it be expressed with the children. It must be felt and celebrated in one way or the other minus the pomposity of the Romans. It must be exemplified. It must strive to be a model.  It should be able to pass as a paradigm of not only what life really is – but what it should be. “Life,” according to Reader’s Digest, “is the most difficult art, yet it is the finest.”

- Asked what the great British Prime Minister and hero, Winston Churchill wanted if he were born again. He said with twinkle in his eyes looking at Mrs. Churchill. “I’d like to be Mrs. Churchill’s next husband.” Success in married life has an imprimatur. It leaves a mark. That mark even glows on the dead man’s face, and on the shine of his epitaph, and flowers that grace it.

- Trials are not enough to weather success. Yes, to a courageous person, who when asked, “Were you not afraid?” He simply said, “I was afraid, but I did the brave thing.” He picked up the pieces together and his family is once more solid and whole.

When I was invited to talk on this topic before faculty members and students, I said to myself. “Gush, I should know I am successful in my married life.” For whatever I have done so far – through thick and thin - I know my family has always been with me – on the stage, on camping trips, painting exhibits, on visitation of the tombs of our departed, in the church, on my sickbed, lectures, at the mall, workshop, at the farm, on rosary hour. Seldom do I encounter the four “Ws” and one “H” – the very things that make our life complex and uncertain – without my family helping me answer these questions. Life is truly worth living for.

As we switch on the vigil light and retire in the night, we are one happy family looking forward for the next day. For indeed, success must be lived with day after day, season after season, year after year.
At the end, we come to submit our credentials to the One who made us all, who gave us that star that guides our life, who welcomes us at His throne when we shall then have reached it. ~

“The greatest gift that we can give to our children and children’s children is Happiness. Happiness is one commodity, which when you divide it, will multiply.” AVR