Monday, May 29, 2017

Rediscovering Lost Culture and Art - Pride of a People and Nation

Dedicated to the memory of Mr Bonifacio Rafanan (c.1956), my teacher in history and social science in high school at Divine Word College (Colegio de la Imaculada Concepcion) in Vigan Ilocos Sur. 
 “My dad taught me from my youngest childhood memories through these connections with aboriginal and tribal people that you must always protect people's sacred status, regardless of the past.” Steve Irwin

Dr Abe V Rotor 

Homogenization, like a giant pool, mirrors a phenomenon which is a consequence of progress - globalization.

Headgear is ethnic art and status symbol among the Igorots.

Globalization is irreversible. But is it really progression? If it is trend of progress where will it lead us to? To what extent, and for how long? The believers of this thesis are disciples of science and technology, and therefore are not afraid to open new horizons. They seldom look behind.

The traditionalists look at things differently. They have deeper roots in history and culture, they find time to ponder and analyze, and ask others and themselves, “Quo vadis?” But don’t get me wrong as anti progress, anti technology.

Globalization is like a cauldron in which diversities of culture are thrown into. They dissolve in our very eyes. Either they disappear or lose their identity.

Clearly there is homogenization of races, creeds, ideologies - technology. For example there is only one kind of car in the world – they all work of the principle of Internal Combustion. Formal education has generally of one pattern worldwide, from preparatory to post graduate; so with the various courses offered.
Ethnicity encompasses many aspects of life and culture; other the humanities are the natural sciences, ethnobotany among them (the study of the relationship of people and plants in a natural setting.). 
Ethnic wooden art in the Cordillera

From here evolved the knowledge of man in pharmacology, and while such knowledge has vastly grown into a major industry dominated by multinational companies, a great deal of herbal healing still abound in rural communities.

Folk wisdom akin to traditional knowledge is carried onto the present by elder members of the community has lost much significance in general perception, but a great number of them are enshrined by our culture and writings. They are natural leaders whose words are listened to with respect. Why village elders have also the role of an herbolario, matchmakers in marriages, teachers in their own right based on rich experiences and long practice!

Confucian teachings permeate in the family. Christian values are reinforced by age-long heritage, and vice versa. So with the teachings of Buddha and Mohammad, and other great religious leaders. Mythology, too, has deep rooted influence in our lives. It lives in our superstitious belief, folklore and customs. But many of these are being threatened, if not endangered, in our march toward progress and affluence, along with the current of postmodernism which is sweeping the world today.

On the other hand, there is growing consciousness for moderation in living. More and more people are looking for alternatives of the so-called Good Life.

One alternative is the revival of tradition, a rediscovery of lost culture and art can be enshrined in our present life.

1. Revival of ethno medicinal healing has suddenly found relevance where the dangers of modern medicine are perceived. Lagundi, Oregano, Sambong are now DOH-approved How about the bulk of herbal medicine?

Home child delivery assisted by a village "kumadrona" 

2. It’s the cold wind from the north that came too soon that caused poor rice harvest. Old folks would tell us. And scientists confirm that pollination-fertilization is indeed adversely affected by cold weather.

 Revival of Pottery: art and livelihood, environment friendly. Sudipen, La Union

3. Pet therapy is gaining popularity even in modern hospitals. Victims of stroke who lost coordination of their hands surprisingly recover with a pet around.

4. Honeybee sting sends arthritic people back on the road.
5. Return to cotton, ramie, abaca, flax, and other natural fibers for clothing and other wears is indicative of people's awareness on the comfort and health
benefits of these natural fibers, not to mention their being environment friendly.

A tribal community sketch 

5. Ethnic art  is gaining popularity in galleries and studios. Native arts are found on murals and in halls. The revival of ethnic art is very visible among the aborigines of Australia, the American Indians, the Incas and Aztecs. So with other indigenous cultures.

We need to help students and parents cherish and preserve the ethnic and cultural diversity that nourishes and strengthens this community - and this nation. - Cesar Chavez

Resurrection and Regeneration

Dr Abe V Rotor

                  House lizard or butiki, emerges from hiding after shedding off its skin (molting). 

Old folks tell us of the magic of lizards growing new tails, crabs regaining lost claws, starfish arising from body pieces. How can we explain these mysteries?

The biological phenomenon behind these stories is called regeneration. The male deer grows a new set of anthers each year; sea squirts and hydras are produced from tiny buds; the same way plants grow from cuttings. New worms may regenerate from just pieces of the body; and some fish can sprout new fins to replace the ones that have been bitten off.

Experiments demonstrated that the forelimb of a salamander severed midway between the elbow and the wrist, can actually grow into a new one exactly the same as the lost parts. The stump re-forms the missing forelimb, wrist, and digits within a few months. In biology this is called redifferentiation, which means that the new tissues are capable of reproducing the actual structure and attendant function of the original tissues.

Curious the kid I was, I examined a twitching piece of tail, without any trace of its owner. I was puzzled at what I saw. My father explained how the lizard, a skink or bubuli, escaped its would-be predator by leaving its tail twitching to attract its enemy, while its tailless body stealthily went into hiding. “It will grow a new tail,” father assured me. I have also witnessed tailless house lizards (butiki) growing back their tails at various stages, feeding on insects around a ceiling lamp. During the regeneration period these house lizards were not as agile as those with normal tails, which led me to conclude how important the tail is.

Regeneration is a survival mechanism of many organisms. Even if you have successfully subdued a live crab you might end up holding only its pincers  and the canny creature has gone back in the water. This is true also to grasshoppers, they actually detach their legs in order to escape their enemies.

Another kind of regeneration is compensatory hypertrophy, a kind of temporary growth response that occurs in such organs as the liver and kidney when they are damaged. If a surgeon removes up to 70 percent of a diseased liver, the remaining liver tissues undergo rapid mitosis (multiplication of cells) until almost the original liver mass is restored. Similarly, if one kidney is removed, the other enlarges greatly to compensate for its lost partner. ~

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Humanities weaves a beautiful tapestry of humanity

- is a beautiful tapestry of humanity
- brings out the sense of awe and wonder
- builds on the framework of truth and values
- brings out the human spirit
- brings tranquility in crisis
- is guardian of movements and schools
- aims at goodness and peace
- is keeper and pioneer of the arts
- faces challenge of the cyber age
- is the keeper of the network of humanity
Dr Abe V Rotor
“Son, what do you remember as the happiest moment in your life?” asked a dying old man at his deathbed.
“When we went fishing, dad, and caught fireflies on our way back to camp.”

The old man smiled his last. It was a parting sealed by sweet memory of father-child relationship.

Humanities brings out the sense of awe and wonder

Humanities brings out the sense of awe and wonder, specially to the young, of the things around , of life processes and cycles, the passing of seasons and ages. It makes one aware of even the minute existence of things, the transformation of the ordinary into something beautiful.

Wonder the summer night, camping by a lake, home outside of home,
no roof but the sky, no walls, no gate, stars and fireflies mingle as one;
Wonder the breeze blow and weave through the trees, comb the grass,
carry into the sky kites of many colors and make greeting the rainbow;

“The sense of wonder is indestructible, that it would last throughout life, an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantment of later years.” Says Rachel Carson, author of an all-time favorite novel, Silent Spring. It is true, the sense of wonder prepares the young to face and conquer the world.

Humanities builds on the framework of truth and values

Even with few words the mind is set to explore, giving way to imagination beyond mere reason. Brevity is the framework of the mind, the heart and spirit in the Lord’s Prayer and the Gettysburg Address of America’s most loved leader, Abraham Lincoln. It is also a path to humility in greatness, a union of the classical and the contemporary.

If the story of the Creation can be told in 400 words, if the Ten Commandments contain 297 words, if Lincoln’s immortal Gettysburg Address was only 266 words, if an entire concept of freedom was set in the Declaration of Independence in about 1,300 words – it is up to some of us to use fewer words, and thus save the time energy, vitality, and nerves of those who must read or listen. (Jerome P Fleishman)

Humanities brings out the human spirit

Guernica, a plaza mural made by the greatest modern painter Pablo Picasso, ignited popular revolt against the Nazi regime. On the huge mural were embedded hidden images that conveyed principles of truth and freedom.
Spolarium by Juan Luna  Similarly, in an earlier era, our own hero Juan Luna painted Spolarium, (centerpiece of the National Museum), a mural depicting the Filipinos under Spanish rule suffering like the gladiators during the Roman times, a visual message for the people to realize their plight. Later Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere, one of the greatest books ever written in the category of War and Peace by Tolstoy, and Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, extolled the coming of a new world order – post-colonialism and the birth of new nations.

Humanities brings tranquility in crisis

It may be strange to know that Winston Churchill, the great English hero of WWII, still found time to paint by the bank of the Thames. Arts bring tranquility in times of crisis, and elevate the senses on a higher vantage plane of vision. Putting down his brush and easel, he would then return to the battlefield with greater revolve to save Great Britain from the ravaging war. And to a greater surprise, what was it that Churchill painted? Peace.

It was the other way around five hundred years earlier when the great Michelangelo who single handedly painted the huge ceiling of the Sistine Chapel would descend from the scaffolding, exchanged his paint brush with sword and fought side-by-side his benefactor the Pope, and when victory was apparent would climb back to finish his masterpiece. The result: the biggest composite mural that brought God, the angels and saints, down to earth., making the Sistine a microcosm of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Humanities is guardian of movements and schools

From the paintings of early man in the Lascaux caves in France, to the surrealism of Salvador Dali, humanities has kept faithful to the evolution of human creativity expressed in various aspects of human life, pouring out from palaces and cathedrals to the villages and streets. For arts no longer belong to selected societies and cultures. Impressionism took over Romanticism and translated Realism for the grassroots, subsequently bypassing standards of perception, and permeating into the unconscious seeking expression and catharsis. 

                                        On-the-spot-painting contest, UST 

Expressionism founded by Vincent Van Gogh opened a wider door to abstractionism that subsequently spilled into post-modernism.

“What’s abstract? a young art enthusiast
once asked, dutifully I answered:
“When you look through the window of a car
running so fast that views are blurred.”

                 Native flower bouquet, Mt Makiling, Laguna   

“What’s expressionism?” an elder one asked;
“When the car stops, or just about,
yet still running inside, seeking, searching
for the spring of life to pour out.”

“And what is impressionism?” a third asked,
and I said: It’s sitting on a fence -
On one side Amorsolo, the other Ocampo,
It’s the spirit of art past and hence. ~

Humanities aims at goodness and peace

Propagandism and license are perhaps the greatest enemy of Humanities. The world plunged into two global wars, followed by half a century of cold war - the polarization into opposite ideologies that froze mankind at the brink of Armageddon, awakening Humanities to a new dimension - the search for peace.

"Peace starts with our children." AVR 

And as in the Renaissance, Humanities centered on rebirth and renewal of man’s faith in his destiny. Peace reigned the longest in contemporary times in spite of local conflicts. And for a century or so Humanities blossomed into wide popularity and acclaim, and rich diversity today, dominating media, commerce, industry and in practically all aspects of life, which often venture on the boundaries of humanities itself, among them pornography, religious extrememism, aculturation, among others.

Museum of Natural History, UPLB
Humanities is keeper and pioneer of the arts

Humanities gave the world the finest of human achievements and continues to do so - timeless classics from novel to cinema, painting to photography, colonial design to high rise structures, stage play to TV and Internet show. Man’s glory is akin to humanities - Venus de Milo, Taj Mahal, Borobodor, Eiffel Tower, Hallelujah, Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story, The Little Prince. to name a few.

Jeepney, Filipino art 

Humanities discovered superstars like Elvis Priestley and Michael Jackson, and our own local sensations, Leah Salonga and Charisse Pempengco.

Humanities faces challenge of the cyber age

But arts has also plunged into a deep and unknown global pool bringing across the world cultures heretofore unknown and appreciated, and riding on postmodernism into the chartless world of cyberspoace. Which leads us to a puzzle, Quo vadis, Humanus?

Humanities is the keeper of the network of humanity

We are the World – the song that united the world by the compassion it created for the dying is perhaps the greatest humanitarian movement in recent times, originally USA to Africa in the eighties, and was repeated during the Haiti disaster twenty years later. Translated by different races, beliefs, ideologies into a common call, it brought consciousness to the whole world, that humanity is a network, a closely knit fabric beautifully expressed in the lyrics of the song -

There comes a time
When we heed a certain call,
When the world must come together as one.
There are people dying
And it’s time to lend a hand to life,
The greatest gift of all

We are the world
We are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So let’s start giving
There’s a choice we’re making
We’re saving our own lives
It’s true we’ll make a better day
Just you and me .

It is a most fitting tribute to mankind through this song, that no man is an island, that when somebody dies, a part inside each of us also dies, and for every man’s victory, we too, feel triumphant. Humanity is a beautiful tapestry, and Humanities is Arachne on the loom.~.

“Humanities holds the greatest treasure of mankind.“

In summary, Humanities

- is a beautiful tapestry of humanity
- brings out the sense of awe and wonder
- builds on the framework of truth and values
- brings out the human spirit
- brings tranquility in crisis
- is guardian of movements and schools
- aims at goodness and peace
- is keeper and pioneer of the arts
- faces challenge of the cyber age
- is the keeper of the network of humanity

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Your first work is a masterpiece

Dr Abe V Rotor
Old photograph of one of my earliest paintings. I never saw 
this painting again. (oil on plywood, 10" x 12") circa 1965

Don't throw away your early work 
if not in favor of your judgment
or of others; you are not the critic
nor they, but time and art,

for it could be your masterpiece,
the window of your soul,
its expression at the break of dawn,
when light is fresh and pure. 

and through the years to old age,
your work unfolds to the world,
the stirrings of your youth
seeking perfection in dream.

And imperfection is all it shows, 
a felled tree half buried lives on
in a hill of flowering weeds,  
ephemeral and beautiful.~ 

Famous first work as unfinished masterpieces 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Wheels of Rainbow

Dr Abe V Rotor 

 Wheels of Rainbow mural showing details (5ft x 8 ft) by AVRotor, June 6, 2012

They come through prism splitting the light of heaven,
     In joyful, glorious colors of seven,
Each color the color of life in joy and sorrow,
     Today and the promise of tomorrow,

Wheels of fate to wheels of destiny in man’s hand,
     They all come down to the faithful in band,
Through time and space on the road of man’s lifetime,
     Whether this or another or over the clime.

Old as they may or new, while others are yet to be born,
     Their origin is the same – goodness sworn;
Passport to the way beyond this life each one must earn
     Above the material, blind faith and yearn.

They come down in gears spinning, large and small
     Moving constantly bouncing like a ball,
The essence of competition, the essence of oneness,
     How one plays in compassion and goodness.

Claim for heaven alone by the book and tongue is falsehood,
     Veering from the chain peace and unity should;
Poor orphan of humanity, the very core of faith,
     Forlorn, and man returns to his own fate.

But where is heaven, what is the afterlife, ask the people,
     As they look at the sky and the totem pole,
And losing faith they break away from the holy bond,
     Alas! walk down the road of a vagabond.

They pray for heaven to come down, out from the blue,
     The long Promise to billions waiting to be true,
Where the discs as one on some fertile ground must grow
     Into one Eden arched by the rainbow. ~

Saturday, May 20, 2017

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. ~

The Lonely Island

Dr Abe V Rotor 
                                                                        Danajon Reef, Bohol 

Let life's burden to ease,
    in ripples and rivulets, 
save the passing breeze, 
    whispers like clarinets.

and the sun in lazy haze
    blankets the cold and old,
veils the face pained by grief, 
    and conquers the bold.~

I love to paint fish in the deep

Paintings by Dr Abe V Rotor
Which way is in, which way is out?
a school of fish moving about.

Fish imprisoned among the weeds, 
their nests, food and other needs.

Piggy ride for joy in the deep, 
a mother for its young to keep.

The color red to revere,
to rule the deep by fear.  

 Forest of the sea, forest on land, 
 the Creator's contiguous plan. 

Riddle in hide and seek, 
mimicry of the meek.

Christmas every day among the coral reefs,
to humans, save a Season, the world sleeps. 

 Like cavemen before, fish live in cavern,
allegory of the cave they didn't learn. 

Survival -  bloody, rough, ruthless, yet the rule,
like men, the brave triumphs, woe to the fool. 

The Art of Diorama: Museum of Natural History, UPLB Laguna

The Art of Diorama: Museum of Natural History, UPLB Laguna 
Photographed and Edited by Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog []
Philippine Eagle lords over the vast landscape atop Mt Apo, its home. Fewer and fewer sightings tell us the bird may soon join the list of extinct animals - if we don't protect its remaining population estimated to be less than a thousand
The idea of a diorama is likened to a showcase in a mall. It is an enclosure of glass, multi-dimensional so that the viewer enjoys a natural panoramic scenery - foreground and background, ground and ceiling, and a spacious center view for the main subject.  From one side to the other, and back, the viewer finds freedom of vision to explore the whole diorama.  

Natural history dioramas gain attention to naturalness.  The stuff animals look real, a pond reveals the secret of its bottom.  Water always looks fresh and invigorating.  Trees and the whole vegetation retain their freshness. Depth of field leads the eye to the farthest point disappearing in thin air. 

Emphasis is given to interaction of the living with the non-living world, the  interrelationships of organisms in food chains and food webs, and by the flow of energy from one organism to another.  

A diorama artist is multi-skilled: he is a sculptor, a painter and an architect.  Above all,  he is a scientist who understands the working of biology and ecology.  He must be a naturalist, and being one, must uphold the philosophy of reverence for life that makes man the custodian of creation. 

The Museum of Natural History is an educational center with a sprawling natural setting - Mt. Makiling, a tropical rainforest reached in three hours from Manila. It is a world-famous center of studies and researches in agriculture, environment and many related sciences, including humanities.  

I recommend the place for a whole day educational field trip. An itinerary includes the Mt Makiling Botanical Garden, tour of UPLB campus (agriculture and forestry) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). Special lectures and guided tours may be arranged. Packed lunch under the trees is a rare experience.  Nature photography, is at its best - so with on-the-spot composition (drawing, musical sketch, poetry). 

Happy field trip!
The Hornbill is another endangered Philippine bird.  The first and last time I saw hornbills was in the seventies at the tip of Luzon along the treacherous Patapat road joining the Ilocos Region and Cagayan Valley. They are a closely knit family moving on the forest canopy. Their call is heard far and wide.  It is resonated by their big hollow bills and echoed by big trees and cliffs.  
Cave bats in a simulated habitat.  Being nocturnal, the bats hunt from flying insects in the dark locating their prey through echolocation, the principle of the radar.Their droppings make a huge guano deposit mined for agriculture. 
A rare rodent that lives on trees in Palawan, the last bastion of rare animal species, among them the porcupine, mouse deer and anteater.  
Nesting pigeons keep vigil for intruders and predators. Masters of camouflage they blend with the surroundings and remain extremely quiet and still at the sign of danger. But when imminent, the mother bird stealthily dashes to another place and decoys away the attention of the enemy.  
 Instead of a diorama, the actual skeleton, and replica, of a whale  are displayed for anatomical and morphological study. In  the Smithsonian the blue whale, the biggest creature that ever lived on earth spans the length of a hall the size of a typical chapel. 
Tree mushroom garden 
 A cluster of nature dioramas, each an ecosystem pristine and unspoiled.  
 Centennial celebration of UPLB, pictorials at the museum's lobby. 
Author and wife are among the countless visitors.   

"Go forth and multiply." An identification test.

"Now as for you, be productive and multiply; spread out over the land and multiply throughout it." International Standard Version

Dr Abe V Rotor

Identify the following organisms and tell how they reproduce. 
1. Clue: egg mass of a kind of insect.

2. Clue: Pods of the biggest legume in the world

3. Clue: Shellfish in the wild

4. Clue: Mosaic virus of a plant family that can remain 
dormant for as long as 20 years.
5. Clue: Nitrogen-fixing nodules.
6. Clue: immature stage of housefly 

7. Clue: popularly referred to as plant lice living at the axils and
underside of leaves

8. Clue: saprophyte, lives on dead wood

9. Clue: pods of wild orchid

10. Clue: flower emerges separately from vegetative phase, emits foul odor to
attract flies to pollinate, scientifically 
Amorphophallus campanulatus.

1. Egg mass of preying mantis, 2. seeds of acacia (dicot), 3. eggs of oyster, 4. mosaic virus of tobacco, Family Solanaceae, 5. Rhizobium bacteria of legumes  6. maggots hatched from eggs of housefly, 7. young of aphids (Aphis maydis or A. gossypii),  8. Ganoderma shelf mushroom by spores 9. seeds of a wild orchid, 10. seeds of pongapong (Amorphophallus campanulatus)