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.

SUPERWEEDS! Epidemic of Croplands - Spawned by Genetic Engineering

"Superweeds" spawned by genetic engineering threatens plantations of corn, soybeans, cotton in the US (and elsewhere) where these GMO crops are openly grown. 
Dr Abe V Rotor 

The controversial idea of developing resistance against weeds and other pests through direct gene splicing, say Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) into corn (Bt corn), has utterly failed. In nature, all organisms undergo  biological specialization, an adaptive 

mechanism in adjusting to changing conditions, thus the most important tool in evolutionary success. No man-induced resistance will ever overtake this continuing process. Bt Corn, thought to be caterpillar-resistant, is losing the race. So with Bt soybean et al.  And this holds true to all GMOs - plants, animals, protists and monerans. The worst consequence other than crop failure is the growing fear of consumers against eating GMO products. Ultimately, it is the danger of polluting natural gene pools - a living bomb that impairs the genetic order of the living world. 

Acknowledgement: Philippine Daily Inquirer, The World, January 14, 2014, Internet, Wikipedia, Scientific American, Time   

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Genetic Engineering: Genie Master

Dr Abe V Rotor

Dismembered Nature in acrylic (20.5” x 22.5”) AVR 2015

Chicken anyone - all drum stick, nothing more;
        bangos all belly sans its bony flesh; 
fruits and veggies from the island of Brobdingnag,
        ask GM - Genie Master, be his guest. 

Pharmed lettuce, food and medicine combined;
       lab cultured burger from stem cells
of animals or human, not knowing them apart.   
       Can't anyone hear the tolling of the bells? ~

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).

Riddle of the Sphinx: Where Does Modern Life Lead Us?

What is it that walks on four in the morning, two at noon, and three in the afternoon? If your answer is correct, then you can safely pass. If not, the Sphinx will not let you.

Dr Abe V Rotor
Sphinx at Giza, Egypt

In Shelly’s celebrated fiction novel, Frankenstein - wasn’t the monster Dr. Frankenstein created, a product of modern science of the time? It is not different today. Wittingly, or otherwise, we are creating a modern Frankenstein monster in our quest for power and wealth - a monster which first appears as an obliging genie, but at the end refuses to go back into the bottle.

Let us look into the monster modern man has created.

1. By splitting the atom man has unleashed the most explosive force the world has ever known. This tremendous power can plunge the world into Armageddon. Today’s nuclear stockpile threatens the globe with obliteration of humankind three times over. This means a thermo nuclear war can instantly kill a population of 18 billion people, notwithstanding the gross destruction of other organisms, and obliteration of the environment as we know it.

The proliferation of nuclear weapons – atomic, hydrogen and cobalt bombs - reached its peak during the Cold War. With the dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or USSR, in 1987, the accountability of nuclear stockpiles became a big question among its former satellites. It is not impossible to smuggle a nuclear warhead which is only about the size of an attaché case, or produce radioactive material for making a nuclear bomb in the guise of nuclear power generation. We know that nuclear weapons technology is no longer the monopoly of the West and highly industrialized countries. The latest additions to the list of countries capable of making nuclear weapons are reportedly North Korea and Iraq.

2. Unrestricted massive expansion of frontiers of production and settlements has resulted in loss of natural habitats, in fact, whole ecosystems as evidenced by the death of rivers, lakes and coral reefs, and destruction of forests and wildlife. It is a fact that if man can tame the earth, so can he destroy it.

3. Growing affluence continues to accelerate man’s conquest of nature through industrialization. Practically every country in the world is on a race towards industrialization in order to meet capitalistic parameters for economic growth and development. But Gross National Product (GNP) merely sums up a country’s output. Very little focus is given to Human Development Index (HDI), the guarantee of equitable distribution of benefits that elevates quality of life in a country. In certain societies such us ours, socio-economic inequity can be aptly summarized as having 10 percent of the population controlling 90 percent of the nation’s resources, and that 50 to 60 percent of the population are trapped in a cycle of poverty.

Industrialization has widened the division between the affluent and the poor, stunting migration patterns that have caused massive urban growth, while siphoning off the resources of the countryside. This, in turn, has created a world order dominated by multinational companies and self-proclaimed global leaders now questioned by the free world, and challenged by civil initiatives and terrorism.

4. The recent scientific breakthrough, the breaking of the code of heredity - DNA (Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid), the Rosetta Stone of genetics, has opened up an entirely new concept of the origin and development of life - genetic engineering.

But more amazing and frightening is the new power of man to tinker with life itself – playing God’s role in the creation of new life forms, extending human life to nearly twice its present longevity, and in eliminating diseases even before their symptoms are manifested. Cloning suddenly became a fearful word as applied to humans, following the success with “Dolly, the sheep”. Even this early we are warned of food products manufactured from Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO), dubbed as Frankenfood. 

One by one, countries are coming out against crops with engineered genes – and there may be more to the skepticism over GM crops. Genetic modification can be a strategy to bring agriculture under the dominance of foreign corporations. An the grassroots level farmers doubt if GM crops can be grown side-by-side with non-GMO plants and not being affected negatively since open pollination knows no boundaries.

The biggest scare that can be spawned by genetic engineering is Genetically Modified Man (GMM) - a being different from the original man described in Genesis, who is God-fearing, loving, sociable, intelligent, and with a sense of values.
A transformation of our technology and values could make it possible to build a society that will stand the test of time.
Time, A Culture of Permanence
5. It was unprecedented that the world has traveled far and wide on two feet – communications and transportation – with the West discovering the East, and subsequently resulting in intermarriages of the races, in trade and commerce, education and culture, politics and government, religion and philosophy. With the advances of science and technology the world has shrunk further into the size of a village now wired with fiber optics. But such union cannot be merely characterized as gross merging of characteristics. Here the rule of compatibility may bring diverging directional paths, especially when we force the union of dynamic processes, such as the liberalism of the West and traditionalism of the East. Through time and with continuing “intermarriage”, perhaps a global society will form and accelerate towards homogeneity. We rejoice in meeting friends from across the globe, at getting international news live, and in finding commonalities of interests, and in being part of a genetic pool.

Remember the universal soldier? The Renaissance man? But this new kind of man - will he be superior over say, man in the times of the Greeks and Romans? This superman may yet represent the fittest of the survivors in accordance with the standard of Charles Darwin; or the righteousness of the Human Being in the pursuit of the precepts of the church. Is this true?~
The demise of a single species can produce a cascade of extinctions and threaten an entire ecosystem.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Where have all the salmon gone? We might as well ask now.

Genetically Modified salmon could escape from farms and irreversibly destroy wild salmon populations and ultimately the ecosystem. 

A First for Fish: Genetically Modified Salmon 
Reprint by Catherine Zuckerman
National Geographic, January 2015

Love them or hate them, genetically modified foods are making their way into grocery stores. 

Soybeans and corn have been for sale in the US since the 1990s.  Now if the FDA gives the green light, the first GM animal, a farmed fish known as AquAdvantage salmon, could one day join the ranks.

Developed by Canadian scientists, the fish (photo) is an Atlantic salmon with two tweaks  of its DNA: a growth-hormone gene from the large king salmon and genetic material from the eel-like ocean pout, to keep that growth hormone activated.  The fish which is female and sterile, should reach maximum size quickly in the land-based tanks where it could be raised. 

To keep feed a hungry planet, the GM technology could be used in other species, says spokesman Dave Conley: "Many of the benefits have been downplayed or ignored."

Still, the company was fined for environmental violations, and critics worry the fish could escape into the wild and create new problems.  The FDA has yet to approve it for human consumption.  If allowed, says Ocean Conservancy chief scientist George H Leonard, "it's imperative to be labelled, so consumers can vote with their wallet." 

AquaBounty salmon is the first genetically modified food animal to be approved for sale in Canada. (AquaBounty)

I mourn for the inevitable fate of the beloved wild salmon

 Dr Abe V Rotor
David and Goliath, native and GM types in the wild, won't end up with the biblical ending; the smaller salmon won't stand any chance in competing for food, territory and mate, in fact in all aspects of competition in nature. 

Sockeyed salmon on the run to spawn upstream.

GM salmons will consume more - preys and other food sources - to mature earlier and bigger, armed with planned voraciousness, unwittingly limiting supply for their native counterparts, thinning the latter's population.

It is not just simple one-on-one competition; it is overall and interconnected displacement of members in the food chain, cutting links; worse, the food web is disrupted as chains are disturbed, destroying the integrity of the food web, and may collapse pulling down the local ecosystem.

Why the change in feeding habits? GM salmon carries genetic materials of two unrelated species of fish with different eating habits rolled into one - a heretofore salmon feeding, eating almost anything, small and big, live or dead, freely or covertly or savagely, often in quantities more than it needs called luxury feeding, a laboratory induced characteristic to gain Goliath size in a short time.

GM salmon invade and dominate, native salmon population narrows down, soon the overall biological diversity of streams and rivers and lakes, in fact even the ocean since salmons travel far and wide into the open sea before returning to their place of birth - exacerbated by unabated pollution, infrastructures like dam impeding free movement, over and illegal fishing notwithstanding.

Why GM salmon in the first place? Short term economic advantage to feed an exploding human population and meet virtually endless affluent living. Corporate dominance, cartel in the supply GM stock and methodology of production, making GM salmon growers down the line, captive of the "package" they themselves cannot provide except to grow the fish commercially.

Through corporate linkage with the exclusive supplier can GM producers operate, in the like of Bt Corn which is unprofitable to plant the F2 harvest in the hands of the farmer; the GM female salmon is made sterile, in the same way hybrid seeds carry suicide gene, and that hybrid vigor declines in the succeeding generations, an ethico-moral issue worldwide,
on patenting life and depriving the small man of his right and need. 

Fishing as sport loses its essence, it is like fishing in a fishpond. The thrill dies with the GM salmon et al. In the first place, has the GM salmon lost its homing instinct? Would it rather join its half-brother eel fish living freely in the ocean? Or would the GM salmon rather stay put in its borrowed spawning ground - rivers and lakes? How about the GM-contaminated wild type, now a GM-native hybrid. Has it lost its homing instinct, or its adventurous lifestyle?

How fast will GM contamination spoil natural salmon gene pools; the answer is disturbing as egg fertilization occurs in open water, where the GM sperm fertilizes the native salmon egg, by the millions, nay billions, and here the GM female produces only sterile eggs; which means a single GM salmon male can spoil a whole stream in a short time of GM2 degenerate salmon, like BtCorn polluting whole fields of corn sans its intended resistance - both cases sowing fear, in reality and uncertainty, as to the consequences on humans and the environment.  

It might be the Waterloo of the natural salmon - symbol of pride, culture and values, barometer of pristine environment, doyen of Ichthyology, iconic specimen of natural history; I fear and lament, it might be gone forever, because genetic pollution is permanent, and that it spreads out indefinitely to contaminate the last member of the genetically related species. 

Community fishing, a favorite Canadian sport; lodging house for guests in Lac Du Bonnet where the author spent weekends fishing. 

Many a weekend I spent fishing in Lac Du Bonnet, Winnipeg River and Red River in pre-GMO era, when the adventure of youth was free of threats of modern technology, but today, in postmodern era, I can only go back to cherish sweet memories in archive - and holding hope for the brighter side of Homo sapiens to examine sustainability for the sake of future generations and our living world. ~  

Salmon farming in floating cages and fish pens.  

Acknowledgement: Internet photos