Saturday, June 17, 2017

Humanities: Nature in Paintings (Part 1 - Scenes)

Paintings by Dr Abe V Rotor 
Idyllic Farm Life, acryllic (36" x 60") 1996

Morning in the Woods, acrylic 2009

Fertile Valley, acrylic (36"x48") 1992

A Walk on Sacred Heart Novitiate Grounds, QC
On-the-spot painting, 2000

Flying Kite, acrylic (36" x 48") 1998

Old Boat Sitting on Reef, acrylic, 1990Tabon Cave by the Sea, Quezon, Palawan.
(11"x14") On-the-spot painting in oil 1986
Rock Pool, acrylic (11"x14")

Waterfalls in acrylic (36"x60") 1990

Friday, June 16, 2017

Commencement Address: Together we move towards a progressive tomorrow

Neither can we stop time by “holding the hands of the clock, nor conquer space by confining ourselves within walls.” Without exception we “pass this way but once.” - avr
Sabay-sabay na Hakbang Tungo sa Maunlad na Kinabukasan

By Dr. Abercio V. Rotor, Ph.D.
 Guest of Honor and Speaker
   Grade 6 Graduation Ceremonies, April 7, 2017
San Vicente Integrated School, San Vicente Ilocos Sur

San Vicente Integrated School today as it was during my time some sixty four years ago - same building, same playground. Where has education changed and gone? One can only surmise what lies ahead of these school children. It is the duty of us, we who have spent the formative years of our lives in this school, to guide our younger brothers and sisters, our children, and grand children.
Many years ago I was sitting where you are right now – proud, hopeful, and filled with joy and inspiration. In my time, it was also graduation in this school, then San Vicente Central Elementary School. That was in 1953. How many years would that be since then?

While you are counting the number of years, let me tell you a story. It’s about Juan Tamad in Philippine folklore when he was young - probably of your age. One day a kindly gentleman, a balikbayan, found Juan loafing under a mango tree. After a friendly introduction the gentleman gave Juan an unsolicited piece of advice.

 “You see Johnny, when you go to school and finish your studies, you will meet  people and visit places here and abroad. You will find a good job.  And you will free yourself from the cares and worries of life.” The gentleman paused, waiting for a response.  But there was none.

So he continued “You will simply enjoy the leisure of life.” The balikbayan flashed a friendly smile, thinking he had driven well his point.

The simpleton momentarily stopped scratching the ground, looked at this new mentor and casually spoke. “And what do you think I’m doing now, Sir?"
Whatever happened to Juan Tamad is well known to us Filipinos for we have accepted him as a comic character, but in real life Juan Tamad and his kind ended up a failure.

The story has similarities with a story, Rip van Winkle, written by Washington Irving in the late 17th century.

Rip van Winkle was a very lazy person, a henpeck husband who left home and went up the mountain alone on a leisurely hunting adventure.  He did not return until twenty years later. He fell asleep for twenty long years!

When he found his way back to his village nobody recognized him. He was now very old and looked very strange with his old clothes and long beard.  He mentioned names they could not recall. Finally he asked the villagers, “Who am I?” as if he was still dreaming.  

Everything had changed, it was a new era. America was now an independent nation. Madam Winkle had long been gone. When he finally reached his old home that was virtually falling apart, he saw a young man idly scratching the ground with a stick.

“I am Rip Van Winkle!” The old man introduced himself.  Exasperated he cried “Can’t anyone recognize me?” He paused and took a closer at the young man, examining him from head to foot. He looked familiar. "Who are you?" he asked.

“I am Rip van Winkle,” came a wry answer. He was Rip van Winkle Junior.
Now let me continue my message to you.

Between 1953 and 2017 – that’s 64 long years -  the world has vastly and irreversibly changed, and in fact, in this span of time which included the second  part of the twentieth century considered as the industrial and modern age, and the beginning of this new millennium –  our world has been moving on a course different and momentum faster than at any time in history.  This is the kind of world you are going to set foot as you study further, and as you prepare for your career and future.

This is the challenge of the theme of your graduation: Sabay-sabay na Hakbang Tungo sa Maunlad na Kinabukasan. (Let’s move together towards a progressive tomorrow.)

But what is graduation really?

Graduation is springtime.  It is metamorphosis. For you who are graduating today, it is the beginning of a voyage into a world that is uncertain and as rough as the sea itself.  

For me on my part, it is coming home from that world that you are going to seek. In Pilipino, “Patungo pa lang kayo, ako’y nakabalik na.” Like the biblical Prodigal Son I am back home to the arms of my father, our venerable patron saint, San Vicente Ferrer. There at the altar of his church is written, Ur-urayenka Anakko. (I am waiting for you my child.) Yes, I have come back to his longing and loving embrace.  

What have I to tell you about that world believed to be full of promises of fame, riches and pleasure? What’s really in store in that world I saw, and a part of it, for sixty-four long years?    

Let me tell you, it is not a comfortable one.  In fact it is a very serious world; it is on the other side of fantasyland in comics and movies. It is the real life and there is no other choice. It is not the kind of world associated with the folkloric  character, Juan Tamad, or the world of Rip van Winkle who woke up after twenty long years, a stranger to his home, neighbors, and even his own son.  

It is a postmodern world – a world of the future we seem to be living today.  Everything  is changing very fast, and we are adrift without defined direction and goal.  We seem to be living in extremes. In our search for true happiness we experience deep sorrow. Glorious victory and devastating defeat.  You will realize the value of time to move forward, and a time to retreat. A time to be with others and a time to be alone – to meditate and reflect before moving ahead again. Uncertainties lie at every crossroad, and you cannot simply stop at the middle. You must decide and move on. 

Neither can we stop time by “holding the hands of the clock, nor conquer space by confining ourselves within walls.” Without exception we “pass this way but once.”

In life, we pass this way in a hurry; we live on fast food, crave for instant products, instant relationships, and ride on fast transport moving from one place to another, yet always looking for freedom and a destiny. There is always that sense of urgency as if we are in a race, a race without a name. 

Which leads me to tell another story.

A young man was driving a caleza loaded with coconut (buko). “I’ll be late and I won’t be able to sell my coconuts,” he said to himself.  Whereupon he saw an old man on the roadside. He stopped and asked. “How can I reach the marketplace the soonest, Apo Lakay (old man)?”

The old man glanced at the fully loaded caleza, smiled and said, “Just go slow, Anak.”

“Crazy,” the young man muttered and cracked the whip sending his horse to gallop not minding the rough and rutted road  The nuts kept falling along the way so that he had to stop now and then to pick them up.

The old man was right after all.

Graduation just doesn’t send you off, much less if you think you are unprepared.  You have yet another phase of study ahead. Just don’t indulge in wistful thinking and careless haste. Stop worrying, look ahead and listen to your calling. Examine yourself not what people think of you, but what you can see in you - your potentials.  And remember there is always something you can be at your best, something over and above that of others. You have your forte. It is a gift the benevolent Creator has given you – even if you did not ask for it.

I refer you to the eight realms of Multiple Intelligence. It means the intelligence of a person is spread out in eight areas. No one is grossly judged or denied when it comes to mental faculty. As you grow up you will realize how gifted you are in certain realms that compensate for other realms you may not be as gifted. You will realize the interconnections of realms that compose your talents. In other words, talents are a combination of related realms.  And what is most surprising is that talent is not the sum or total contribution of such realms, but of their synergistic effect. Synergy is a mystery. To illustrate, if your right hand can carry fifty kilos and your left can carry another fifty kilos, you think your maximum carrying capacity is one hundred kilos?

Wrong. You can carry much more – with will and determination.  That is synergy which emanates from the human spirit.

Now what are these realms of intelligence?  As I enumerate them, rate yourselves - each one of you – accordingly to assess your own potentials.  Graduation is a time to assess your capabilities and know yourself before you pass through the gate of your school and face the realities of life.

Not in this order or sequence, the realms are: interpersonal (intelligence of human relationship), intrapersonal (intelligence of spirituality), kinesthetics (athletic intelligence), linguistics (intelligence of languages), dialectics or logic (intelligence of philosophy and mathematics), music (intelligence in auditory art), spatial  (intelligence in visual arts), and naturalism (intelligence of good relationship with the natural world).

Please always bear this in mind, there’s no normal person who is flatly denied of intelligence. “Walang tao na bobo,” pardon the word. “Meron lang mga bagay na mahina siya. “ On the other hand, there are areas he can excel. This is the law of compensation.  Build of this strength and strengthen those you are weak. And remember there are early bloomers and late bloomers. You may be closer on either side or in between these extremes.  And remember, there is nothing late as long as you live, as long as the sun rises and sets.  

Dr Jose Rizal, our national hero, is the epitome of multiple intelligence. He was prodigiously gifted. But the ultimate expression of such gifts was his deep commitment to a cause – a noble cause - for the good of his country and his people. Greatness is in dedicating our gift of intelligence to such purpose, not only for our own good, but more for the betterment of others. They call this virtue selflessness.  It is selflessness that we can best offer our prayer of thanksgiving to our benevolent Creator.

Allow me to tell a final story.  It’s about three workers. 

Three workers were engrossed doing their assigned tasks when Rajah Soliman, then king of Manila during the pre-Hispanic era, arrived at the construction site. He was so casual in attire that no one recognized him as the king. While inspecting the progress of his project he came upon three workers. After observing them for some time, he asked each one of them what he was doing.

The first worker said, “I am making a perfect block of stone to make a solid and strong wall.” The king nodded with a smile and commended the worker.

Then it was the turn of the second worker. “This is my source of living to support my family so we can live decently.” The king nodded and commended the worker.

Finally, it was the turn of the third worker. The king asked him the same question.

“I am building a fort.” he said with a sense of pride. The king nodded and smiled.

At the end of the day the king called for the third worker who answered, “I’m building a fort.” The king made him overseer of the whole project.

Guess what happened to the first and second worker?

The king called for them, too. He made the first worker architect of the project, and the second, head of the king’s household.

And they all live happily ever after. ~

Congratulations to you the graduates, your parents and teachers, and to all those who contributed to your success, and the success of this occasion. Last but not the least, congratulations Principal Beatriz Riotoc and staff of San Vicente Integrated School, my alma mater I will always love.

Books, the Greatest Treasure of Mankind

A Tribute to the late "Ka Mao" Chanco, veteran journalist, publisher and environmentalist.
Dr Abe V Rotor
 Author inspects piles of books ready for storage, selected ones will be 
donated to reading centers, while others will be simply discarded as scrap.

Books, once the privilege of a few in pre-printing machine era, each page painstakingly handwritten, each book a well-kept treasure. 

Books, the authority, the final say, unquestioned, un-refuted, else any one rising contrary faces punishment, including death or damnation. 

Books, the diary, the ledger, the document of conquest and discovery, of battles fought, often in favor of the writer and party.   

Books, the novels that carry the greatest stories of all times are called classics, for which they are regarded timeless for their universal values.

Books, the epics of Homer, stories of the Grimm Brothers distilled from oral literature passed through generations to the present. 

Books, written ahead of their time - Galileo's astronomy, Darwin's evolution, Martin Luther's Protestantism ignited dis-pleasured of the Church.

Books, bedtime stories, baby's introduction to the world, legends and fantasies that take young ones to the land of make believe. 

Books, the record of ultimate scholarship, are the epitome of the greatest minds in thesis and dissertation, theories and principles. 

Books, the precursor of the Internet, the framework of the i-Pod, Tablet, Galaxy, and other gadgets that man becomes a walking encyclopedia. 

Books, the progeny of the earliest forms of writing like the cuneiform, hieroglyphics, caves drawings, etchings, scrolls of the Dead Sea.     

Books, that gave the idea and structure of the Wonders of the Ancient World, and the significance and belief for which they were built. 

Books, that grew with knowledge, brought new schools and movements in arts and philosophy, in unending search for truth. 

Books, the most widely read, the Bible; the shortest, Albert Einstein’s e=mc2, and book-to-cinema versions of Spielberg, Lucas, Cecile de Mills et al. 

Books, the greatest treasure of mankind, its collective attributes as humanity, the very stimulus of man's rationality to rise above other creatures - and himself.

Books, that brought about man's disobedience to his creator, playing god, and questioning if god made man, or that man made god.  

Books that enlighten man to care for the environment, guide the young and future generations to a better future, and lead man to save his own species from extinction. ~

Letters to our children, first of a series

Before the computer age parents used to write their children intimately in their own handwriting.  With or without any particular occasion,  parent-children bonding is sealed in letters that express mutual love and respect, bring surprises and reminiscences.  Here is a letter written by parents to their 16-year old son studying in a Manila university. 

Dr Abe V Rotor

When you open and read this letter you shall be in uniform. seated comfortably with your classmates, your teacher giving instructions that you devote some precious minutes of concentration.  It shall be a moment out of 365 days, two-thirds you spend in school, and out of 17 to 25 years of schooling.  May this letter therefore, contribute to the significance of this occasion. 

Communication is vital in keeping the family closely knit .  There is no substitute to letter writing in spite of the popularity of the computer. 

You live in two different worlds.  One world is found in the school, the other outside its walls. The first is the ideal; the other is the real one.  One is kind and patient; the other cruel and demanding. One emphasizes principles and theory; the other practice.

One teaches you never to indulge in vices, the other even advertises vices.  In one you play the music by notes, in the other you play by ear.  In one you keep the trash in the waste bin; in the other, on the street. 

You find a homogeneous, fine company in school; outside is a heterogeneous society.  In one you hear the echo of your voice mixing with other voices in vibrant, happy sound; in the other, it dies in thin air, or in a crowd. Or it mixes with cries and moans.  You have the privilege of education; outside millions of children like you are deprived of this privilege.

For the coming years until you become 21 or so, you will be witnessing the daily drama of these two worlds, and you will realize their great disparity.  Do not allow yourself unprepared, more so to be caught between two rocks, so to speak. We have seen failure in those who waited for the dividing wall to dissolve, failure in those who crossed it too soon, and failure in those who became prisoners behind it.   

You are in your right direction and you pace is just right.  Just trust us to guide you.  Be as obedient as you are.  Be as industrious and sincere.  Be kind always to your sister and brother.  Study hard.  Keep faith in the Almighty and mankind.  Be healthy and strong.  Keep you chin up, even in defeat. 

You must prepare yourself early in life to adapt yourself to the outside world.  Do not be just a witness or spectator, be that actor on the stage of true life. Our responsibility to you, as well as your sister and brother, is not only one of that of a teacher.  As your father and mother, we will strive to help you cross the bridge more that the care of anyone or any institution.  We will strive to fill the gap in whatever way we can to make it less difficult for you to succeed.

May you find this special moment a time of reflection.  Remember to read this letter again when you are not in school, where the world is real.  Reflect on it once again.  Keep the message in you heart and mind as you walk through life's rosy and thorny path. 

You Papa and Mama 

Letter to Matthew Marlo, 16
July 15, 1997

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Softly the breeze came blowing...

Dr Abe V Rotor 

Trees by a stream in acrylic by the author

Softly the breeze came blowing, cool and free, 

picking leaf after leaf from every tree; 
each an event of the woods' history, 
and the youth in me, 
in sweet memory.

Note: Try this verse as lyrics of a ballad with guitar accompaniment. 
Or into Acapella for the violin or piano.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Romanticism; Undying Art Movement

Dr Abe V Rotor 

Serene, its perspective far and deep,
houses by the seashore asleep,  
red and roan fading into the distance; 
in harmony and balance.

Jean-François Millet - Gleaners - Google Art Project 2.jpg
The Gleaners painting by Jean Francois Millet 

Three women at sunset gleaning 
 at harvest's bidding, 
so with life before the end of day
   gleaning as we pray.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Fine Edge of Awareness

The Fine Edge of Awareness
Dr Abe V Rotor

Consciousness is biological and instinct, then the fine edge of awareness follows, and the young is introduced into the world of grownups. What lies ahead is a long journey through which life is lived, distinctly yet collectively, linking generations, and intertwined as one beautiful tapestry of humanity.
Taking time out on a holiday or vacation invigorates the body, tempers the mind and heart, nourishes the soul. Bonding keeps the family closely knit, yet it opens opportunities to grow with the community and the institutions.    
Nature and nurture are like horse-and-carriage in child development.  They are the  greatest teachers that make the difference as children become adults.  

bangkal tree serves as extension of a nearby church where the faithful participate in the holy mass.  

Awareness is like the light of dawn, emerging from the darkness of night, and little by little opens the curtain for the day's drama, revealing the characters who are none other but us. 

Awareness comes early and ends with the last breath, a womb-to-tomb phenomenon of life, taking no exception, unless by circumstance consciousness takes the wrong turn.

Awareness to a child is innocence imbibing the stimuli that the five senses perceive, whether these be desirable or not, for which reason the role of guardians is most vital.

Awareness builds knowledge, hones sensitivity and creates a sense of awe and wonder at creation, in order to know more about the world, and to accept those that cannot be explained. 

Awareness builds love in its countless expressions, from self to neighbor, family to community, ultimately to humanity and God - love that brings peace and unity in the world. 

Awareness is building lines of communication of understanding among people, and among creatures, the environment, the universe, through the power of the mind and sincerity of intention. 

Awareness is knowing the limits of man in his pursuit of happiness, power and glory, through his technology, more so in recognizing the impact - good or evil - of his pursuits.

Awareness is keeping the environment clean and orderly, preserving its pristine and balance state, by following the laws and rules of nature in whatever human activity.

Awareness is giving and share equitably, for "having too much means others have so little", greed the greatest sin, the root cause of war, the biggest denial to fellowmen and to God.          

Awareness is lending a hand unconditionally, taking the road less trodden and being a  Samaritan in one's own way, reaching out for the hungry, thirsty, naked, imprisoned, and lonely. ~

A Valley of Life and Death

Nature garden drawing and decor
  Mural and Poem by Dr Abe V Rotor

A valley of death, so stories go,
     for the old and the young, too;
and who would dare this fateful
     place but a lonely soul?

A valley of tears with barren shed,
     evil on nature its final bed, 
with a sprig of promised peace
     and temporary ease.

A valley of life of verdant green,
     once a full blooming scene;
life of the river down the sea,
     a world of wonder and free.  

A valley of promise, heed its call,
     words in the pulpit and hall,        
and in make believe by painting, 
     not at all worth praising.

A valley of suffering takes its toll;
     blind and deaf, the prayerful
waits for the angels to be sent   
     to this valley of death. ~   

Original title, "Dirge over a Watershed Mural." The wall mural is found at St Paul University Quezon City along Aurora Blvd.  It needs restoration.

Tabon Cave - Cradle of My Race

Photo and verse by
Dr Abe V Rotor

More than your name
You are my father's
And his resting ground;
Link of darkness and
Window to the universe,
Source of song and
Treasured niche in
The cradle of my race.

Quezon, Palawan
Light in the Woods, Megabooks

Friday, June 9, 2017

Palm Trees at UST Botanical Garden

 Dr Romulado M Del Rosario and Dr Abe V Rotor

LICUALA (lik-oo-AH-lah). This is the Latinized form of the native Moluccan name for this plant.
Botanical name: Licuala grandis H. Wendl.
Common name: Ruffled Fan Palm
Family: Arecaceae (palm family)
Origin: New Guinea
Features: L. grandis (GRAN-dis) is a small attractive slow-growing palm to 3 m tall with slim solitary trunk, topped by individual bright green almost circular fronds, toothed along the margin. The petiole is rather long and thorny. The specific epithet grandis means large and thorny.   

LIVISTONA (li-vi-STON-a ). The genus name is in honor of Patrick Murray, Baron of Livistong.
Botanical name: Livistona chinensis (Jacq.) R. Br. ex Mart.
Common names: Chinese Fan Palm
Family: Arecaceae (palm family)
Origin: Southern Japan, southern Taiwan.
Features: L chinensis (chin-EN-sis) is a common fan palm species to 4 m tall with somewhat rough and chunky trunk. The species is grown for their 60 cm. wide and 60 cm long, glossy green fan-shaped leaves that are deeply cut into many drooping fragments. In the wild, the species develop into tall trees. The lower part of the leafstalk is armed with hard brown spines. The fruits produced in large numbers are blue. The epithet chinensis denotes that the species is from China, which is not correct, because it is actually native to Japan's Rhukyu Islands and Volcano Islands.

NEODYPSIS (nee-yo-DEEP-sis)

Botanical name: Neodypsis decaryi Jumelle
Common names: Triangular Palm; False Blue Palm
Family: Arecaceae (palm family)
Origin: Madagascar
Features. M decaryi ( de-KAHR-ee-eye) is a well- proportioned ornamental palm, easily distinguished by bulging leaf or frond bases that grow to form a distinct 3-sided triangle shape that has & striking blue-gray color (hence its name -Triangular Palm). The leaves (fronds) are tall, feather-shaped, up to 4 m long. The leaflets are stiff, sharp-pointed, arranged in V-shaped along the rachis. The inflorescence appears among the lower leaves. The male and female flowers are pale yellow green in separate clusters on the same branch.. The epithet decaryi is named for Raymond Decary, 20th century plant collect

PHOENIX (FEE—niks ).
From the Greek name of the date palm from Phoenicia.

The Phoenicians introduced the date to the Greeks.
Botanical name: Phoenix dactylifera L.
Common name: Date Palm
Family: Arecaceae (palm family

RAPHIS (RA-pis), Raphis is derived from the Greek, rhapis, a needle referring to the slender leaf segments.
Botanical name: Raphis excelsa (Thumb.) A. Henry
Common names: LADY PALM, RAPIS
Family: Arecaceae (palm family)
Origin: Southern China

PTYCHOSPERMA (tik-oh-SPER-muh). From the Greek ptyche (fold) and sperma (seed).

Botanical name: Ptychosperma macarthurii (H. Wendl.) Nichols
Common name: McArthur palm
Family: Arecaceae
Origin: Northeastern Australia and New Guinea
Features: P. macarthurii (mak-ar-TUR-raay) is a popular multi-trunked palm in the tropics. The leaves are pinnate in dense cluster, dark green and measure about 1-1.75 m long. The fruits are bright red, 2.5

ROYSTONEA (roi-STON-ee). The genus name Roystonea commemorates General Roy Stone, an American engineer who worked in Puerto Rico in the 1900s. 
Botanical name: Roystonea regia (HBK) O. F. Cook.
Common names: Royal Palm; Cuban Royal Palm
Family: Arecaceae (palm family)
Origin: Cuba, Honduras 

Features: R. regia (REE-gee-a) is a quick growing solitary palm palm used in avenue plantings. It grows up to 20 meters high with a very solid trunk. The feather fronds are large growing from the top of a smooth bright green crownshaft. The symmetrical trunk is fairly smooth, whitish and somewhat swollen at the base and the top, a most unusual feature in palms. Small three-petaled cup-shaped flowers bloom just below the crown anytime of the year. The words that describe this palm are: stately, formal, elegant and regal (royal or kingly) 

SABAL (SAY-bal). This is probably a Native American name or may have derived from the Latin for palmetto. No one knows for sure the origin of the name Sabal. 

Botanical name: Sabal palmetto (Walter) Lodd ex Schultes
Common name: Sabal palm, cabbage palmetto
Family: Arecaceae (palm family)
Origin: Native to SE United States, also to Cuba and Bahamas.
Features: S. palmetto (pahl-MET-oh) is a large robust solitary fan-leaved with a single unbranched trunk. It grows to 25 m tall in its habitat but smaller in cultivation. Its outstanding characteristic is the twisting of the large fan leaves on their sturdy stems. The leaves are split on the tips and old leaf bases are persistent on the often broad bases. Properties: Saw palmetto is an herbal medicine used to treat an enlarged prostate gland in men. It may also be used to treat prostate cancer and acne. 

VEITCHA ( VEET-chee-eye). The name commemorates James Veitch, an English nurseryman.
Botanical name: Veitchia merrillii (Becc.) H. E. Moore
Synonym: Adanidia merrillii Becc.
Common names: Manila Palm; Bunga de China; Bunga de Jolo
Family: Arecaceae (palm family)
: Origin Endemic to the Philippines..
Features: V. merrillii (mer-IL-ee-eye) is an attractive, slender-trunked, palm with a broad crown of stiff feathery leaves. It grows 20-25 feet tall. The bright red fruits, borne in clusters are
 highly ornamental. The species was named in honor of Dr. E. D. Merrill, an American botanist famous for his studies of Philippine plants.

The Big Bang

Big Bang – the Origin of Life

Dr Abe V Rotor
Big Bang (19" x 23") painting by the author 2012

Once upon a distant past, a proto mass 
     of converging gases, too huge 
to hold on in space exploded -
     the Big Bang like a centrifuge.  

Born the universe and galaxies
     in countless numbers expanding,
countless more, orphans in space,
     our known world but a sibling.

Were this true - life so little do we know
     today from its very spawn; 
move over Oparin, move over Darwin, 
     theories past and our own. ~

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Nature's Earlt Warning

Dr. Abe V. Rotor

Animals can predict earthquake

Horses, reptiles, fowls and other animals perceive the minute tremors preceding a major shock. In explaining the principle of a tectonic earthquake, imagine a stick bent slowly to form an arch. As pressure continues to build up, minute fibers and strands begin to snap (tremors) until the stick suddenly breaks into two (shock). Our senses are not as sensitive as those of animals in perceiving such initial signal.

Dragonflies hover before a rain.

High relative humidity accompanies warm weather. Small insects are disturbed in their natural habitats and feeding. With their sensitive antennae they pick up the signal, which tells them to pack up and leave. Rain is usually preceded with high humidity and air temperature. This steamy condition progressively builds up into rain, and as the process continues, the ancient gene in these insects begins to work, as it has always been with their ancestors thousands, if not millions of years ago. Thus midges, hoppers, gnats, flies, and other insects flee to safer grounds on the instruction of this gene. It is during this mass evacuation that hordes of low flying dragonflies have their fill, snatching the helpless preys in mid-air.

Fruit laden kapok means poor harvest

When you see plenty of dangling pods of cotton tree or kapok (Ceiba pentandra L), expect poor rice harvest. Kapok is sensitive to water stress. It does not have deep penetrating roots. Instead it has large spreading roots that depend largely on shallow water source. To compensate for lack of water in summer, the tree stores a lot water in its fleshy trunk and branches like how cactus does while water supply lasts. When the stored water is not sufficient to tide up with the long, hot summer months, a triggering mechanism controlled by hormone stimulates the tree’s physiology. The plant bears flowers and ultimately fruits and seeds, a trait universal to any organism facing stress. This is the key to the perpetuation of the species. In short, Nature has provided a means with which an organism’s ultimate biological function to reproduce is carried on. And the more progeny it produces the more is the chance of the species to continue on.

Stress stimulates reproduction. Wounding (cutting the bark, staggered and at close intervals with bolo) the trunk of a mango that refuses to bear fruits, stimulates it to flower. This is true with other orchard trees. Pruning follows the same principle. Botanists explain the phenomenon this way. “Food”, which is otherwise used for vegetative growth will now be diverted to the development of flowers and fruits. But geneticists have a further explanation. Again, a gene that controls this balance responds favorably to saving the species – even with the risk that the parent may die. In many cases this is also true in the animal kingdom, and among protists.

When earthworms crawl out of their holes, a flood is coming.

It was early morning at Kenting Park in southern Taiwan, my student and thesis advisee, Anthony Cheng, and I saw earthworms, bigger than the size of pencil crawling away from their burrows. He looked up the sky. “Is it going to rain?” I asked noting the heavy overcast. “No, but we haven’t the monsoon yet.” It was already August.
Image result for earthwormsBy the way, earthworms are subterranean, eating on decomposing leaves, and converting them into humus, a very rich soil, called casting. That is why farmers and gardeners call the earthworm as Nature’s fertilizer factory. Tons and tons of castings are brought out of their burrows and deposited on the ground in small mounds.

Why do earthworms abandon their burrows before an impending heavy rain or flood? Earthworms drown when water fill their burrows, so that their recourse is to move out to higher grounds. Nature has equipped them with sensitive hairs around their body connected with a neural system that guides them find rich deposits of organic matter and water. In summer earthworms penetrate deep and wide. Then in monsoon as ground water rises, they burrow in higher areas, this time to keep away from too much water. Making use of this evolutionary tool - a kind of Noah’s sixth sense, so to speak - earthworms avoid getting entombed in their very burrows.

Swarming of winged termites confirms the rainy season (habagat)has finally arrived.

They come by the armies, careless and suicidal, attracted by light and ending in a basin of water. That is how we catch gamu-gamu, or simut-simut in Ilocano, which we feed to chicken, or sauté into a rare delicacy. Where did the swarm come from? And why only at a specific time of the year?

Termites belong to a very ancient Order of insects, Isoptera, which means “same wings”. Yet when we examine termites after digging their nest called anthill (punso’), we find them wingless, naked, and small, except their large heads, and mandibles especially in the case of the soldiers. In the royal chamber lies a queen, enormously large, the size of the index finger. Her job throughout her long life is to lay thousands of eggs everyday and keep the colony intact through a scent she produces called pheromone.

It is the end of summer. After the first heavy rain usually in May, the anthill becomes extraordinarily busy. Inside, the once sterile males and females – formerly soldiers and workers - awaken to the dictates of hormones. They develop strong wings, and with their bodies filled up with fats, they are ready for the once-in-a-lifetime adventure - swarming. The nocturnal swarm soon takes place, and moves as one huge army guided by light – celestial or neon – before it splits into congregans, allowing intermingling with members from other anthills. Now the much-awaited nuptial flight begins. For hours the winged termites circle around lights, very much like the proverbial moth in Rizal’s writings. In the process, individuals, which survive the frenzy and onslaught by predators, find their mates, move together to a potential place, and finding it suitable to start a new colony, soon lose their wings. Here they live together for a very long time. Termites are the longest living insects, surpassing the life of the 17-year old locust or cicada.
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May or June Beetle heralds the coming of the rainy season.

We call it salagubang, scientifically Leucopholis irrorata, a destructive pest of many field crops. Its larva, a white grub, which feeds on roots, remains in the ground until the first strong rain comes. Then it comes out as beetle. If the monsoon is early they come out in May, otherwise they are seen coming out in June.

But this year I have noticed that the emergence of this beetle was as early as in April. Why is this so? It is because of the unusual rainfall pattern this year. Practically there was no summer as you have probably experienced. It means then that the insect responds to meteorological signals that govern its biological clock. How this phenomenon works is not well understood, but definitely, it is a product of a long evolutionary process that enabled the species to survive up to this day.

Co-evolution with plants on which it thrives in both larval and adult stages gradually developed through time into a dynamic pattern, that while the host plants are at the receiving end, the insect’s feeding habit and life cycle are attuned to a tolerable level. Thus we usually find the insect in areas where this natural relationship exists. If you find the salagubang, and its relative, the salaguinto, in May, farmers are likely to start plowing their fields soon. Farmers are glad to see the beetle come out in May, or as early as April. It is because they can plant earlier which allows for a second crop of vegetables or legumes – or another rice crop.

Related imageCicada sings for rain.

When you hear the shrilling song of cicada (kuliglig), it means the rains have finally arrived. From here we expect the rains to intensify throughout the southeast monsoon or habagat then tapers off in October. The cicada spends its immature or nymph stage in the ground feeding on roots of plants. There are species that complete their life cycle in one year (annual cicada which is most common), two years, and seventeen years (often called seventeen-year old locust). Whatever is the species, the emergence of cicada is at the onset of the rainy season, usually in April or May in most part of the country.

Rain softens the soil and signals the full-grown nymph to get out of its cell. It then climbs to the nearest tree and at some distance from the ground, it metamorphoses into an adult. It is the male cicada that “sings”, which is actually a continuous rapid high-pitched sound - tick-tack-tick-tack… produced by a pair of drums attached on its abdomen. Imagine the lid of a tin can pressed and released in rapid succession. On the other hand, the female cicada is totally mute and her response to a get near a Romeo whose song pleases her.

 means that a strong rain, if not a typhoon, is coming. Cockroaches come out of their abode and seek for shelter.

The biological clock of these creatures responds to invisible signals, which comprise decreased atmospheric pressure, high relative humidity and air temperature. Their sensitive antennae and tactile hairs covering their body pick these up these changes of the environment. Thus we find ants in exodus, they move as a colony carrying their eggs and young indoors. Cockroaches become unusually active, flying about in frenzy, in search for a new place. There is a common message, that is, to escape to safer ground, an archetype ingrained in their genes passed on to them by their ancestors through evolution.

Mosquitoes bite more aggressively before rain.

True. Like any organism preparing for reproduction, the female mosquito must be able to obtain blood to enhance egg fertility. Failure to do so may cause eggs to become sterile, a finding which can be applied in controlling this ferocious vampire which has caused human death more than all casualties of wars combined. Note: Only the female mosquito feeds on blood, the male depends on plant sap and exudates.

The kingfisher (salaksak) is an emissary of death.

The kingfisher’s throaty voice is a call of death, so the old folks say. Well, when ponds and rivers dry up because of drought, this fish eater will scour for alternative food outside its niche, poaching around farms and homes.

When the leaves of Samanea acacia fold it’s time to go home - before it gets dark.

It is time to fetch the carabao from the pasture and to start walking home before it gets dark. The fowls prepare to roast in their tree abode. The stew leaves a trail, as the western sky dims in the setting sun. By now the leaves of acacia (Samanea saman) have completely folded toward each other at the midrib, and the base of the midrib itself is bent on its attachment. This is also true with the leaves of sampaloc, ipil-ipil, kakawate - and more so with makahiya.

These plants, among others, belong to the legume family and are equipped with a special organ – pulvinus – that controls the erection and folding of the leaves. The principle is like a balloon. When turgid the leaves are erect; when flaccid, the leaves fold. The pulvinus is controlled by osmosis, that is, the intake and release of water in the cells.

Reference of time among old folks is built through observation of the natural environment and a lifestyle where the amenities of modern living are absent. This triggers our biological clock, and while it may not be accurate, brings people to a natural sense of time and quaint living.

Nature’s mysterious ways are discreet and take place when all is still and quiet. But anyone of us who stirs to the nuptial flight of winged termites and ants, to the restlessness of catfish before an impending earthquake, the dangling of numerous pods of kapok which signals the coming of El Nino, earthworms abandoning their underground homes to escape flood, the emergence of “April beetle”, - is indeed endowed with a special intelligence – naturalism. If however, no bird sings when the spring has come, either we have slept too long, or we have failed to prepare for its coming.
Acknowledgement: Internet photos,except that of kapok tree.

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