Wednesday, July 26, 2017


Dr Abe V Rotor

                                                     Mayon Volcano, Albay.   

Tranquility reigns on her face,
      rage in her breast,
If beauty exudes best
      from a spring of force,
I do not wonder at the shyness
      of a crest,
And the power of a single rose.

Wouldn’t a temper make up
     for its want?
That white is whiter
     beside an ugly stain?
Beauty, oh beauty, I am thy 
     willing servant,
With mine eyes, thoughts,
     fears, sans sane. ~

Living Earth in my Palm (Lesson on Imagery in Literature)

 Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog 

                                                                                 Guimaras in my palm

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

                            - William Blake (Auguries of Innocence)

I have just finished a manuscript, a sequel to Living with Nature series.  I have chosen for its title, Living Earth in my Palm, because the palm is the seat of human thought, emotion, and spirituality. It is the seat of truth when we take an oath, seat of execution after a decision. In this particular case, it is in the palm where an idea comes as a snap, where creativity is born and nurtured.  Where dreams can be realized, we are known, and finally, we are received by God.  

One can surmise the depth of Rodin’s Thinker in the palm of a clenched fist, more than his pensive mood. I can imagine Helen Keller, born blind, cup the face of a person to express love, or to photograph the person in her mind. We gauge cleanliness by the palm; we appraise the value of articles, examining their details and hidden secrets.

What could be a higher level of expression of respect to the flag than a palm placed on the breast, and an open palm to pledge loyalty?   And is there a deeper sense of contrition than cupping both hands and drawing them close to a bowed head? The faithful raise their hands with open palms in praise and exultation, building a spiritual bridge that unites humanity and God, the world and the Creator.   

And among the grassroots, the farmer gathers a handful of grain in the field, examines it to know if it is ready for harvest - and not so much for its bounty, expresses thanksgiving to Mother Earth. It is also in the palm of the Man with a Hoe, made rough by hard work, that the soil is known of its readiness and suitability to a crop he is going to plant.  The young Lincoln would brush dirt and wipe his palm as if to release some burdens of the day’s work, while looking far into the railroad he was building.

We extend our arms of welcome and reconciliation with open palms. Genuine handshake is felt by the palm. Cold and sweaty palm is a barometer of our emotion.  The warmth of our palm has a deep source in the core of our being. It is a thermometer of our anger or calmness.  And to believers, the map of our lives and fate.

On my palm is a living earth, the microcosm of nature and culture. It is in the palm that we ponder over Rodin’s sculpture, feel Helen Keller’s love and kindness, hear a schoolchild sing before the flag, the faithful whisper a prayer, feel the soil, know the grain when it has turned golden.  Of the young worker brush dirt and look into the horizon.  It is in the palm that we can hold the world, live a life of eternity, find heaven in simple beauty, and infinity in our short sojourn on this earth. ~                  

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Nylon Butterflies

Dr Abe V Rotor

Nylon butterflies, decor of a resort in Pansol, Laguna 

Paper roses, nylon butterflies,
glass bottom gems,
plastic beads, wax figurines,,
lovers and friends.

Nylon butterflies, decor of a resort in Pansol Laguna 

Paper roses, nylon butterflies,
glass bottom gems,
plastic beads, wax figurines,
lovers and friends.

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Lamp of Knowledge

Dr Abe V Rotor

Socrates, father of Philosophy, on his deathbed. He was condemned to die by drinking hemlock, a  poison, for corrupting the minds of the youth. The Lamp of Knowledge

Teaching is an art. It is an art of the masters - Aristotle, Plato, Christ, and many great teachers of the Renaissance that brought the world out of the Dark Ages. While we have developed modern techniques in teaching, it is important to look back into the past.

It is looking back at the lamp that enabled our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, to write his last masterpiece, the lamp Florence Nightingale held over her patients at the warfront, the lamp that made Scheherazade’s “one thousand and one nights” stories, the lamp a Greek philosopher held high at daylight “searching for an honest man.” Or the lamp fireflies make and glow with the spirit of joy and adventure to a child. 

But why do we look back and ponder on a tiny light when the world basks in the sunshine of progress and development, of huge networks of learning, of high technologies in practically all fields of endeavor? I’ll tell you why – and why we teachers must.

But first let me tell a story of a computer enthusiast, who like the modern student today relies greatly on this electronic gadget, doing his school work so conveniently like downloading data for his assignment. So one day he worked on his assigned topic – love. 

He printed the word and set the computer to define for him L-O-V-E. Pronto the computer came up with a hundred definitions and in different languages. Remembering his teacher’s instruction to ask, “How does it feel to be in love?” again he set the computer to respond. And you know what?

After several attempts, the computer printed on its screen in big letters, “I can not feel.”

Where is that main ingredient of human relations – feeling – today?

• Where is the true feeling between teacher and student?
• Where is the feeling of joy at the end of a teaching day, in spite of how hard the day had been?
• Where is that tingling feeling of the student for having recited well in class? 
• Where is that feeling in singing the National Anthem, the school hymn?
• Where is that feeling Rizal felt when a moth circled the lamp in his prison cell while he wrote, Mi Ultimo Adios? 
• Where is that burning desire that drove Michaelangelo to finish single-handedly the huge murals of the Sistine Chapel?
• That drove Vincent Van Gogh to madness – madness the world learned a new movement in the art – expressionism - years after?
• That kept Florence Nightingale, the founder of the nursing profession, make her rounds in the hospital in the wee hours of the morning?
• The lamp that strengthened Plato’s resolve to change the way people should think in the light of truth and justice.

Feeling. There is a song Feelin, and the lyrics ask a lot of questions about human nature changing with the times. I do not think human nature has changed. It is as stable as Nature herself and the natural laws that govern the universe. 

What we are saying is that our ways are changing. The conformity of our actions is more with the rules we set rather than the philosophies on which they are founded. It is our quest for want above our needs that has blinded us and benumbed our feelings, that has taken us to the so-called fast lane so that we no longer see objects as they are, but abstracts, that has made us half-humans in the sense that we spend half of our lives dealing with machines – who have no feelings. 

What then is modern man? I am afraid we have to review some of our references on the Janus-like character of man, like - 

• Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
• The Prince and the Pauper
• The Princess and the Frog
• The movies - Mask, Superman, Batman, Spiderman 
• Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter
• Cartoons and animated movies 

The doubling of characters in man has led him away from permanence. Today, the biggest crisis in man is his impermanence. Impermanence in his domicile, nay, his nationality, political party. Affiliation in business and social organizations, and most disturbingly, with his marriage and family.

When was the last time we said to ourselves – or experienced - the following. 

• It’s a weekday for my family and nothing else.
• How I wish I can help my child of his math assignment.
• I’ll teach only this year and will find a more rewarding job after.
• I think it’s time to settle down.
• I want to go to a concert and enjoy the fine art of music.
• Can’t I put all my ideas in a book?
• It’s always meeting – can’t we just talk?
• This dizziness, it must be the pressure of my work.
• Maybe I can concentrate on my thesis this time.
• I have not finished reading “Da Vinci Code”. 
• This summer I’ll be with my parents.

Here are ways by which we can brighten up our lamp amidst the factors that test our dedication of our profession as teachers. 

1. Be yourself. Be natural. 
2. Keep on learning 
3. Be a model of your family and community
4. Relax
5. Use you faculties fully and wisely 

Be Natural

Naturalness is a key to teaching. I saw a film, Natural with then young award-winning Robert Redford as the principal actor. It is a story of a baseball player who became famous. The central theme of his success is his naturalness. Naturalness in pitching, batting - in the sport itself, above all, in his relationship with his team and fans. 

Our students can easily sense our sincerity. They shun from us if we are not. They cannot fully express themselves, unless we show our genuine love and care for them. Develop that aura that attracts them, that keeps relationship easy to adapt or adjust.

“Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.”
- John Cotton Dana 
Be a Model

Florence Nightingale  Lady with the Lamp - founder of the nursing profession 

A teacher must have more time for himself and for his family. Teaching is an extension of family life. And this is the primordial stimulus that makes your family a model family and you as a model teacher – because you cause the light of the lamp to radiate to others. And it is not only the school that you bring in the light. It is the community because you are also lighting the lamp of others, including the tiny glow in your young students. When they get home, when they interact with their community in whatever capacity they can, even only among their playmates, relatives and neighbors, they are in effect sharing that light which is also the light of understanding and unity. 


Great achievements are usually products of relaxed minds. Relaxation allows the incubation of thoughts and ideas. Churchill found time to paint during the Second World War. In his relaxed mind he made great decisions that saved Great Britain and countless lives. Or take Einstein for instance. His formula which explains the relationship of energy and matter in E=mc2 was drawn out from casually observing moving objects - train, heavenly bodies, marbles. Galileo watched a huge chandelier in a church sway with the breeze and later came up with the principles of pendulum movement. 

Darwin studied biology around the world as if he were on a leisure cruise, and summed up his findings that founded the most controversial Theory of Evolution by means of natural selection. An apple fell on Newton’s head when everything was still. Examine closely the parables of Christ. How relaxed the Great Teacher was in telling these stories to the faithful. The lamp shines the brightest when there is no wind. When held high with steady hands and given time to examine things around, views become clearer, and the more certain we are along our way. 

Use Your Faculties Fully and Wisely

Our brain is made up of the left hemisphere, the thinking and reasoning part, and the right hemisphere, the seat of creativity and imagination. Together they reveal an enormous capacity of intelligence, which are pictured in eight realms. These are 

1. Logic 
2. Languages
3. Music 
4. Spatial
5. Interpersonal
6. Intrapersonal 
7. Kinesthetics 
8. Naturalism 

From these realms the teacher draws out his best qualities. He explores, decides, adapts, entertains, leads, and stands courageously to lead the young. 

Here he sows the seed of knowledge. And in the young the seed grows, and grows, which the educator Henry Adams expresses in this line.

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”

Color of Hydrangea flower indicates acidity or alkalinity of soil

Dr Abe V Rotor 

Hydrangea macrophylla.  The color of the flower indicates the relative acidity of the soil. An acidic soil (pH below 6) produces flower color closer to blue (top photo), whereas an alkaline soil (pH above 6) will produce flowers more pink (middle photo). This is caused by a color change of the flower pigment in the presence of  aluminum ions accumulated in the plants. Lowermost photo indicates slightly alkaline soil, and possibly of another cultivar.  

Sunday, July 23, 2017

A Shade of Venice

 Flooded streets in Manila caused by intensified monsoon, 2012 
                                         (Photo Credit: Mariam San Andres)

Venice - classical, ugly, beautiful,
 romantic, home of poet, fool. 

Photography: Journalism and Creative Art

Matthew Marlo R Rotor
Living with Nature - School on Blog

A night owl is hidden among the leaves of a narra tree. It is motionless, but it is aware of the movement of its prey, small mouse playing on the ground below. The photographer had just set up his special infrared camera with automatic electronic flash. He himself is hidden in camouflage. The owl stirs, then swoops down on its victim, its powerful claws clamped in a deadly squeeze. The shutter releases: one. two, three shots in succession. The flask makes detail images of the bird's plumage and watchful eyes, and the victim's writhing in hopeless struggle. You could almost hear the piteous cry of the prey. Result: these three photographs are among the final entries in a national photo art contest on nature.

A photographer suspects four men who entered a bank one afternoon to be robbers. Using a telephoto, he trains the lens at the scene. Just as he had made a good position where he cannot be seen, the photographer waits for action. The robbers move. There is pandemonium, shots ring, people run for their lives. Policemen arrive and exchange fire. The photographer gathers courage. Result: six photographs documented the daring bank robbery. These photos were published in the newspapers, and helped the police apprehend the culprits.

These are two dramatic cases whereby photography is used to capture and present subjects and events which are of special human interest. The events however, are contrasting in emotional appeal and theme, even if the common subject is conflict. Here conflict is shown as biological and social phenomena. One spells survival, the other depicts irrational social struggle.

Setting aside the philosophical aspects of these two sets of photographs, I wish to convey the message that photography is a tool, one for the arts, and the other, for documentation. Photography is used to express the creativity of a person behind the lens. Creativity is the very essence of art. The night owl photos are an expression of that creativity. On the other hand the bank robbery photos are documents, and they have no direct value as work of art in spite of their significant and practical importance.

What then make photography an art? Like a painting, a photograph may be considered an art if it possesses the following attributes:

1. Subject - What is it about? What particular topic does it show? Convey? This leads us to the theme.

2. Theme - What does the photo mean? What is its underlying meaning? What is the interpretation of the viewer? In short, what is the message.

3. Message - With the subject and theme provided, what does the artist wish to convey? Does it tell a story, or just present a situation or scene? Is the message concrete or is it abstract?

4. Perspective - The eye moves and searches. Where is the focal point? Where do the lines converge? Is the vantage point at the foreground or background? Is the perspective
diagonal, inverted V-shape, X-shape, parallel? To fully appreciate the perspective, take note of contrast - light and shadow, and contrast among colors.

5. Contrast - Here light and shadow show contrast. So with cool and warm colors. If the lines are bold the figures appear distinct. Are the lines parallel and repetitious? Or, do they cross? What time of the day was the photo taken?

6. Colors - The use of colors in today's photography is important. Seldom is black-and-white used now. As a rule, the clearer and distinct the colors are, the better is the photograph. But there should be harmony.

7. Harmony - This means unity of parts. Every part is integral to the whole photo. As a result the photo exudes - like music - a fine tune of colors and lines, shade and light, and finally, balance.

8. Balance - Be sure the photo is not heavy or light at any side. The eye is not trained at a particular part. Symmetry is the key. Even asymmetrical subjects can show balance. Imagine an enlarged amoeba, a shapeless one-celled creature.

Photography sessions under an expert are a must for those who engage in photography as a hobby. Workshop with modern photography tools and equipment are likewise a must. It taps talent and hones it with the touch of art. In the process he becomes trained as an artist-photographer - and subsequently, and artist himself.

Art lies in the person behind the camera - not the camera per se even how modern and sophisticated it may be. State-of-the-art in photography still lies on the person.

Today, film cameras are very seldom used. They have been replaced by digital cameras. And the uses of the camera have tremendously expanded from micro-photography for microorganisms, scanning electron microscopy, nano photography, to satellite imaging, heat-sensitive imaging. Telezoom cameras are a thousand times more sensitive than they were a decade before. Hidden cameras are everywhere. And anyone today can operate a camera. Just point-and-shoot, then edit the photo with the computer. And the computer is equipped with scanner, enlarger, and transmitter to any desired destination through the Internet.

In spite of all these developments, the basic rules of creative photography remain the same. ~

Love the "talipapa".

Biking through, like drive in buying. 

Love the talipapa 

Market's birthplace,
the primordial concept of commerce,
beginning of exchange of goods by barter, 
where barter evolved into trade; 
flea market, local version, unique,
beautiful, distinctly Filipino; 
a place for thrifty spending, 
classless marketing; 
it's people's economics, 
family enterprise, 
where business is unlimited - 
outlet of farm surplus 
so with home made crafts; 
where transaction is by bargaining, 
the suki system as an institution; 
it's the "nerve center" of daily activities,
growth center of social and economic life
on the grassroots, 
fallback of the economy in crisis,
where the ordinary vendor, 
like the unknown soldier

is a hero. ~

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Freshwater Ecology: Ponds and Mudflats (Placenta of Terrestrial Life)

Dr Abe V. Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog 

  Hut by a Pond 
A pond is a transient environment. Unlike a stream, river, or lake, it has feeble currents or none at all. It is surrounded by thick vegetation which, advances towards the pond as it grows older. As the pond fills up with sediments and muck, and its bottom gradually drains, higher plants become progressively abundant.

In a shallow pond the forces of wind and convection keep the whole volume of water in circulation so that at any depth the temperature is fairly uniform and the amount of gases, notably oxygen and carbon dioxide is equally distributed.

The relatively large ratio of surface to volume of ponds make them most susceptible to weather and climatic changes than large bodies of water. Because of their small size they are also susceptible to changes in physiographic conditions like erosion and deposition.

Like any community a pond grows, passes a relatively stable mature phase, and ultimately dies. This basic ecological cycle is a result of interplay between organisms and their environment. Organisms live in an environment where they are adapted, and remain in the most stable area or niche which spells out their success as population and members of an interacting ecosystem.

The physical nature of the environment consequently determines what types of organisms can settle successfully. Temperature, rainfall, altitude, soil conditions and other environmental factors decisively influence the kinds of plants that survive in a given place. Vegetation in turn, as well as the animals, has selected effects on the kind of biotic community in that region. Organisms gradually alter the local conditions. Raw materials are withdrawn from the environment in large quantities, and metabolic wastes are returned together with dead organisms, but of another form and in different place, thus resulting to re-distribution and alteration of vast quantities of substances.
mudflat picturesThis means that later generations of the original organisms may find the altered local environment no longer suitable for themselves so that the members of the community must resettle elsewhere or die out. Later a new community of different plants and animals arrive and settle down. Again this new community will alter the area according to its own specialization. Hence, it is said that the living and non-living parts of the environment are vitally interlinked, that changed in one produces change to the other.

As a typical ecosystem, a pond relates a classical story. Most ponds must have originated during the last ice age when the moving glaciers scraped out giant sinks. Others have been known to originate from a portion of a bay or lake that was isolated by a sandbar by the action of waves and wind. Pirated rivers may also form into ponds. Most of the newly formed ponds may be wiped out days, months or years later, by storm or silt deposition. But a better-protected pond survives the drastic geologic fate. It must somehow face the slow process of ecological succession through which continuous dynamic processes take place that will ultimately lead to the accumulation of organic matter and silt.

On the functional aspect of ecological succession, like in any transient communities, the progressive increase of organic matter which fills up the pond will lead into a heterotrophic conditions which means that the dependent organisms (heterotrophs) will increase in proportion to the increase of the producers (autotrophs). These favor aquatic and semi-terrestrial organisms, and therefore, biological diversity.

The living bed of terrestrial life is the fertile bottom of the pond - the mudflat, which intermittently comes out to dry, a cycle that incubates eggs of many organisms, allows spores and seeds to germinate, and dormant organisms to become active.

The mudflats are exposed and submerged at intervals depending upon the amount of water that enters the pond from the tributaries upstream and from the surrounding watershed. As the remaining aquatic zone further shrinks and the water flow meanders along the bottom, wider mudflats are formed.

No zone in the pond is richer in variety and in number of living things, and no types of interrelationships could be more complex, if not deceiving or unknown, than the aquatic zone where life continues on in some most amazing and mystic ways. There are evidences that these dynamic changes shall go on until the pond has completely transformed into a terrestrial ecosystem, despite such threat of pollution which may have already marked the face of the pond.

But nature proves flexible with change. Normal changes would simply be dismissed by Nature’s own way of adjusting the role of its own creatures. Changes shape the conditions of the environment; that in turn, determine the organisms that fit better into it.

The bottom of the pond is directly affected by the amount of water and by water flow. It is the recipient of silt and other sediments from plant residues from the surrounding watersheds and from the immediate shoulders of the pond. The decreasing area occupied by water may indicate the age of the pond, and the changes which, undoubtedly lead towards an irreversible transition from aquatic to terrestrial state.

Typical of old ponds and lakes, the aquatic zone considerably decreases with the lack of water supply and by the steady deposition of silt and decomposing plant remains- not to mention the garbage and other wastes thrown into the pond by unscrupulous residents in the area. The black, spongy and fertile are an envy of many plant species and consequently of the dependent animal organisms. From time to time pioneer plants venture for a try to settle every time terrestrial conditions begin to prevail. But in many parts of the old exposed bottom left by the receding water, terrestrial plants can not settle down because time and again the water immediately submerges the previously baked flats to become once more a slosh of mud that readily shallows a wader to his knees. And so the outcome of the battle turns to the advantage of the aquatic plants- Eichhhornia (water hyacinth), Alternanthera, Jussiaea, Nymphaea and Pistia (kiapo) and of course to the ever-present thick scums of blue-greens and green algae with their co-dependents. Ipomea,(kangkong), the adventuresome Brachiaria (para grass) and other grasses on the other hand are pushed back to safer limits where they wait for conditions to favor another invasion, that is when the mudflats shall come out to the sun again.

The story of competition between the two groups continues indefinitely and all the while the sluggish water meanders against the shoulders of the pond and etches the old bottom. But all along, sediments pile on the bottom until small isolated “islands” are formed in the middle of the water zone. The isolation of these islands can not be for long, so their barrenness, for the dormant seeds under the warm rich soil suddenly come to life and together with air borne seeds and spores, and the stranded shoots and tillers, which make these islands “small worlds” themselves.

No place in the aquatic zone is absolutely for a particular species. However the dominance of a species can be noted from one place to another. For example, the pseudo-islands in the middle of the aquatic zone may be dominated by Brachiaria, while the lower part of the pond where water is usually deeper, harbors the remnants of the once dominant Eichhornia. At the headend, the old bottom may be covered up with grass, except in places that may be occupied by Jussiaea repens, a succulent broad-leaf and a water-loving species.

Any decrease in area of the true aquatic zone a corresponding increase of the immediate zone. Terrestrial plant species continuously pursue the reclaimed flats. Ipomea and Alternanthera species appear at the front line of the invasion while the grasses stand by. The logic is that the former can better withstand the conditions of the waterline. Their roots bind the particles of silt and humus, which are suspended in the water, and when the plants die, organic matter is added, thus favoring the terrestrial species take over. It is as if these benefactors are robbed at the end by their own beneficiaries.

The aquatic and shore zones are more or less homogenous as far as their principal plant species are concerned. This could be explained by the fact that the newly established zone (aquatic zone invaded by plants) is but an extension of the shore zone, and was it not that the shore zone a part of the aquatic zone?

Hence, the close relationship of the two zones can be readily noted, although they can be divided by alterne. This demarcation is not steady as shore vegetation spreads out into the water zone.

The phytoplanktons composed of countless green algae, flagellates, diatoms, desmids and a multitude of bacteria are the precursors of the food pyramid. They form the broad base of a pyramid structure. Simplified, the phytoplanktons make up the larger group, on which the zooplanktons depend. Insects and other arthropods lead the third group of organisms, while amphibians fish and reptiles make up the fourth. The farthest link is made up of the decomposers, which ultimately produce organic matter and humus upon which phytoplanktons and plants depend live on. The food chain web is characterized by mutualism, parasitism, predatism, saprophytism, commensalism, and decomposition – all of which link all organisms into a greater whole, the ecosystem.

In the pond, the rooted as well as the floating plants and the phytoplanktons are the “producers”. They support the herbivores (insects and fishes), and they add organic matter when parts or the whole of their bodies die. Zooplanktons generally feed upon the phytoplanktons, although some are dependent upon organic matter and humus. Small fishes, crustaceans and insects eat the zooplanktons in turn,, and these will be eventually eaten by carnivores. If not eaten, every plant and animal eventually die and decompose, its protoplasm reduced to the basic materials that green plants needed for growth.

The shores progressively widen following the drying of the mudflats. This area is usually dominated by grass, followed by crawling and viny plants, such as those belonging to the morning glory family (Convulvolaceae). Shrubs on the farther edge of the pond join annuals. During the rainy season the shores are waterlogged. The soil is black and it emits methane and ammonia gases, which show that anaerobic decomposition is taking, place. Muck is the product of this slow process. The soil is rather acidic but many plants tolerate it. High ferrous content can also be noted as rusty coloration, a characteristic of waterlogged soil.

Towards the end the shore becomes dry. Vegetation changes follow a dynamic pattern, the grass producing numerous secondary stalks, which become thick and bushy. The broad-loaf species tend to grow in clumps or masses. Some plants in the slope zones descend to join some plants in the shore zone, some are forced into prostate growth. Along the water line the grass is tall and verdant green. Meantime the trees close in. The tree line advances to the edge of the pond a soon the pond will die.~

Friday, July 21, 2017

Little Prince and the Owl

Dr Abe V Rotor 
Little Prince and the Owl. Mural background by the author 2016 

Wonder why missed the owl in the novel,
The Little Prince by Saint-Exupery,
wiser than the fox and the snake;  
and wonder too, why missed the eagle. ~

Kite and Rainbow in a Duo

Dr Abe V Rotor
Little Mackie and Teacher Joy take time out to pose with the ambiance 
of a Nature painting at Joyful Beginnings tutorial center, Lagro QC

They rule the sky one day,
rainbow and kite a duo;
up they go into the blue;
Over trees and hills, too.

Clicking sonorous song
of a loving hornbills pair
fill the air, echoes afar
return in the still air.

Murmur the stream over
rocks, hissing, meandering
on its way to the fields, 
and some ponds waiting.
Wonder a child in awe
and sweet innocence, 
while grownups know
the limits of their senses. 
Ephemeral are the two,
the rainbow brings rain,
the kite brings the sun 
in happy, peaceful reign. ~

Composite nature painting by the author. Living with Nature won the 
Best Blog on Nature and Environment, Philippine Blogging Award 2015

Thursday, July 20, 2017

10 Superstitious Beliefs - which ones are true?

Food offering (atang) on special occasions is homage to the spirits.
Dr Abe V Rotor   

1. Avoid laughing when planting kamote otherwise the roots will become liplike.
One who has incomplete teeth (bungal) should keep his mouth closed when planting corn otherwise the cobs will not be filled properly, or become empty.

Do you have a third eye?
 What do you see in this painting?

These are purely superstitious beliefs.  But maybe we look at it this way. One who is not serious in his work is likely to commit mistakes. What happens if the planting materials are not well placed in the soil?  Stray chickens may come after the uncovered corn.  If the distancing of the cuttings is irregular, naturally crop stand will be poor.  Too much fun leaves a lot of work poorly done or unfinished.

2. Bathing the cat will bring rain.
Then farmers will be a happy lot. And there is no need of cloud seeding, and procession for the intercession of San Isidro.

3. Bats swoop on unwary people. Old folks warn us not to go out at dusk or at night - and never alone.
Bats, the only true flying mammals are perhaps the most misunderstood creatures because of their ugly looks and enigmatic life embellished with superstitious beliefs and associated with fiction such as the story of Dracula, a bloodthirsty count-vampire in the world of the undead. Movies, cartoons, and children’s stories have projected a bad image of bats, giving us the impression they are enemies of mankind.   

The truth is that bats are harmless, except for three known species called vampire bats that feed on the blood of animals. Seventy percent of the one thousand species of bats live on insects as their daily diet. One bat can devour 1000 mosquitoes in one hour. The bigger species eat on fruits (fruit bats). Insectivorous bats swoop down on flying insects in the dark which they detect by means of echolocation (natural radar) making it appear that they are attacking people when they get too close to them.

Bats are nature’s biological agents in controlling destructive insects.  They pollinate plants that bloom only in the night, and they are very efficient in disseminating seeds of many plants. By carrying out these functions bats are crucial in maintaining the ecological balance of fragile ecosystems like the desert and chaparral.  Their droppings accumulated for years in their cave dwellings make the best and safest organic fertilizer (guano).  Let us protect the bats instead; they are indeed man’s valuable friends.    

4. Bite your finger after you have pointed at somebody or something.
Pointing particularly at people is indeed bad manners. In aristocratic societies, the act of pointing is reserved only to the royalty that goes with its authority over the people.  Old folks tell us never point at holy objects, the unseen and in the dark. And never point at the sun and moon. Your fingers will get hurt. Pointing at the sun is a grave offense among ancient cultures like the Aztecs, Incas and Mayans, because the sun is their god. The act of biting the pointing finger is engrained self discipline from the old folks.

By the way, when you point with one finger, the other fingers are pointing at you - something that reminds us that before we blame somebody let us first examine ourselves.   

5. Black ants in lansones means the fruit is sweet.
Lansones (Lansium domesticum) from Paete has a singular reputation that it is the sweetest lansones. But if you can’t find the Paete variety, you can settle for other sweet varieties.  If there are black ants crawling on the fruit, it must be sweet.

Not really.  The black ants feed on the sugary secretion of mealy bugs and scale insects clinging on the bunch of fruits. Actually they are parasitic, feeding on plant sap. Some unscrupulous fruits vendors sprinkle sugar solution which attracts red ants instead.      

6. Bringing salt under a sour fruit-bearing tree will cause the fruits to fall.
Naturally.  What goes better than a pinch of salt when eating juvenile sampaloc, kamiaskasoy or green mango? 

7. Cat grooming at the doorway tells of visitors coming.
Cats are fastidious clean creatures.  Like birds at rest preening, cats lick their paws and fur clean especially after eating. But what has this to do with their alleged ability to forecast? Well, let’s look at it this way.  It is customary in the province to cook something especially for our guests.  And fond that we are with cats, we let them have their fill while we are cooking.  
8. Conceiving mother who gets near a fruiting tree causes its fruits to fall prematurely.
There is no scientific evidence to link a conceiving mother with the premature dropping of fruits, but let us look at it this way.  Craving for certain food, such as those rich in Vitamin C - green mango, young sampalockamias, guava and the like - is generally observed among conceiving mothers. It is not unusual to see them in the orchard, holding a bamboo pole or some pieces of stone. Such craving for special foods is a physiologic function of the body, but it may be psychological, too.  Old folks interpret it as maternal impression (pinaglihi-an), which is of course an unfounded belief.

9. Eating shark influences human character with the animal’s behavior.
For a long time people would just let the sharks live alone.  In fact they were feared and revered creatures until someone discovered that shark fins taste good and its liver has curative power.  The shark since then became the prey, and no longer the predator.

What is mysterious about the shark? The shark does not only live very long, it is a living fossil, which means it has not changed for the last 100 million years or so.  What could be its secret?

The US National Institute of Health discovered a previously unknown molecule in the liver of the dogfish shark.  Called squalamine, the natural steroid fights cancer by cutting off blood flow to tumors. Now we are saying, “Eat shark and be as healthy as the shark.”

10.  Food offering (atang) on special occasions is homage to the spirits.
The explanation is similar to that above.  The practice includes offering a plate of food and drink the host has prepared for the occasion.  It is placed on the family altar, or any place the souls and spirits are deemed to be around. Respect (pag-galang) is true Filipino and Oriental tradition to the living, the dead and the unseen. It strengthens camaraderie, keeps memories of loved ones alive, and adds quaintness to village life.


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

We are breathing bad air!

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog 
 Smoke belching vehicles - unstoppable
 Dump site - breeding place of disease, poisonous and obnoxious gases

Bad air days (BAD)
Bad air accumulates and moves, such as the case over Hongkong. Bad air moves in two directions - to Bombay, India; and to neighboring Guangzhou where pollution meets and mixes over the Pearl River and forms a shroud as it meets the sea. Similar cases occur over Beijing, Tokyo and San Francisco. The stale air hangs as an inversion layer practically choking the city.

Rapid economic growth has led to record levels of pollution, producing filthy air rising and spreading over highly industrial centers and densely populated cities. Here power plants, factories and vehicles release pollutants into the air, and as the sun heats up the ground, the polluted air rises. But polluted air cools quickly over water and sinks to the surface and disperses. Without strong wind to clear it away, the pollution mix can build up over time, leading to BAD (bad air days).

What is in the polluted air?

Sulfur Dioxide is produced by coal-burning power plants and heavy industry. Effects: reduces lung function, exacerbates wheezing and shortness of breath. Builds acid rain with other gases.

Nitrogen Dioxide comes from emissions of vehicles and power plants. Effects: helps form smug, exacerbates asthma and increases chances of respiratory infections.

Respirable suspended particulates. These tiny particles are created chiefly by diesel exhaust and coal-burning power plants. Effects: can penetrate deep into lungs and aggravate serious respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.

Ozone is formed by the reaction in sunlight of volatile organic compounds and CFC's that primarily come from cars, and household byproducts. Effects: causes chest pain and coughing, aggravates asthma.

Hydrogen sulfide, ammonia gas, elevated CO2 from piggeries and ranches, swamps and polluted rivers and lakes. Algal bloom contributes significant amounts of these gases.

Suspended dusts as what happens during sandstorms and volcanic eruptions, such as what happened during the Pinatubo eruption, and recently, in Iceland and Brazil. Remember the Dust Bowl of the Dakotas in the thirties when the air became was loaded with dusts which lasted for weeks.

Dioxin, the most poisonous substance ever formulated by man is in the air since plastic was discovered. Plastics are the most popular material used in the household, industry and agriculture. Dioxin is produced by burning plastics. With increasing use of pesticides, the air is getting thicker with chlorinated hydrocarbons, organo-phosphates, and other harmful residues.

Radiation is the result of fallout from nuclear accidents like what happened in Fukushima, Japan, in March this year, and in Chernobyl in Kiev (photo)  twenty years ago, not to mention the Three-Mile nuclear incident in the US in the eighties.

Pathogens - Spores of disease-causing organisms that infect not only humans but animals and plants as well, ride on air current, and on particulates suspended in air. Thus the hypothesis that epidemic diseases move on air has strong scientific evidences.

Are we safe inside our schools and houses?

Bad air builds up surreptitiously in air-conditioned halls and rooms. Don't be deceived by the comfort of coolness lulling you to sleep. Defective and leaking air-con units virtually make the room a gas chamber. There are cases of death due to poisonous gases from leaking air con.

Defective exhaust or overload results in buildup of Carbon Dioxide and its more poisonous cousin, Carbon Monoxide (CO).

When students become inattentive and drowsy, yawning, complaining of headache, nausea, and the like, suspect the air conditioning unit as the culprit - and the classroom heavy with bad air.

As a teacher, when confronted with this situation, immediately institute these measures.
  • Give the class a break. A recess outside the classroom is preferred.
  • Open all windows and doors
  • Check the air-con, the exhaust fan with the aircon technician
  • Inform management.
  • Give sufficient break during brownout
Bad air inside rural Asian homes kills hundreds of thousands a year. The most poisonous atmosphere in the Asian region is found not only in rapidly modernizing cities like New Delhi or Beijing but inside the kitchens. Millions of families heat their abodes and cook in open fires that belch CO and other noxious fumes at levels up to 5000 times the international safety. Families and children spend hours each day in poorly ventilated homes and kitchens. Although this is as old as humankind, living in tight quarters and poverty have aggravated the situation.

Solution: improved stove, more efficient with least pollution. Improved stoves are subsidized by governments such as in China and India, which also back us the campaign by proper education, and strict pollution control laws.

And lastly, have trees and plants around the house, on backyards and sidewalks, on idle lots and parks to increase Oxygen level and cool the surroundings. But never keep plants inside your house, and never in your bedroom. At night plants give off CO2 as they, like other organisms, respire. In our knowledge of photosynthesis, the dark phase of this biological process takes place at night. ~

 Smog over high rise buildings; smog over factories.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Philippine Legends: “Dama De Noche”, “Philippines Creation”, and “Balete Drive”.

Dr Abe V Rotor
Co-author, Philippine Literature Today
C and E Publishing Co. Inc.

Philippine Literature Today: A Travelogue Approach (co-authors Kristine Molina-Doria and Abercio V Rotor, C and E Publishing Co.) aims at guiding 

The Philippines is a small country located in the Southeast side of Asia, having a really nice tropical weather, and having one of the richest areas of biodiversity, but also it’s one of the richest in culture and stories in the whole world.

Philippine legends may vary according to nature and some supernatural forces that inhibit the country, and there is a story behind all of that. Most of our legends talks about the creation of this world and how it affects our society from before until now. We will discuss the legends of “Dama De Noche”, “Philippines Creation”, and “Balete Drive”.

Philippines are famous for its folklore. There are many stories and tales that are recounted by locals. Here are some example of the most famous Philippine legends:

Dama De Noche

Cestrum nocturnum, or night blooming jasmine, is a plant from the family solanaceae. It's other names are Lady of the Night, Dama de Noche or Galan de Noche.The legend of Dama de Noche says that a beautiful princess used to live a long time ago. Since she was a baby, she could connect with people's emotions. If someone was happy in the house, she would laugh, if there was a sad person, and then she would cry.

This beautiful baby was named Dama (in the dialect, mean "Feel", making reference to her gift of feels other people's feelings).

Also, Dama loved perfumes, when she was a teenager, she would play with different flowers to create various perfumes, and the legend says that Dama even had her own fresh smell, especially at night, which made her have lots of suitors.

One day, Dama got really sick, as days went by, her health was deteriorating, and not even the best medics of the Barangay could do something, finally dying. Her funeral was full of garlands of flowers, and her body bathed in perfume, being buried on her vast garden.

The legend says that one night a unique flower started to grow from Dama's grave that had a really sweet fragrance at night. People started to say that the flower was Dama's paying a visit to them, as time went by, the flower was known as Dama De Noche (Dama of the Night).

The Philippines Creation 

The Philippines’ creation myth, says that at the beginning of time, the first three deities that lived on the universe were Bathala, Amihan better known as the North wind and Aman Sinaya, the Goddess of sea and sky.

The three gods divided the universe, so all three could rule over it, Bathala took the sky, Sea was taken by Aman Sinaya and the realm between was given to Amihan. But differences started to grow between Bathala and Aman Sinaya.

Due to these differences, Bathala and Aman Sinaya always tried to win over each other, Aman Sinaya sending typhoons to the sky while Bathala used his bolts. But when Aman Sinaya sent a big storm to the sky, Bathala tried to stop her sending boulders of mountains to stop her, creating lots of islands.

Amihan was very sad for all of these fights, so in an attempt to stop them, she turned herself into a golden bird and started to fly between the sky and sea going back and forth. With this, both started to get close to each other, until finally they met. With this action, both Bathala and Aman Sinaya decided not to fight anymore and became friends.

Balete Drive (White Lady) 
Balete Drive legends have well known in our legends. This is a long street that connects E. Rodriguez and N. Domingo Avenues in the city of New Manila, Quezon City. The corner of Balete Drive and E. Rodriguez is a bustling area that has fast food restaurants and other establishments.
Note white lady behind big tree.
The ghost’s stories and legends were traced back in the 1950's, being the most popular the "White Lady" that haunts the avenue, and it seems to haunt cab drivers in particular.

The story begins with a beautiful woman who lives in a house that is close to the balete tree. She loves to play with children; and her neighbor’s thinks that the woman is a witch so they don’t let their child to play with her.

The woman is engaged to a handsome guy that everyone loves in town, but he has issues with alcohol. And when he’s drunk he beats his fiancée until she bleeds. One night the woman goes home from the market, she saw her fiancée with his friends in the streets. The guy and his friends were drunk so they raped the poor woman on the street.

The woman died from exhaustion and shame, and when her spirit rose. She avenges her death by killing his husband’s friends one by one. The man was so scared that he hired lots of guards to protect him. But it came to a point where the spirit found him and the she killed him avenging her death.

And after that, the girl wandered the streets of E. Rodriguez to haunt all the men that ventures in her territory, the balete drive. ~ 

Acknowledgement: Internet photos