Saturday, August 19, 2017

Sentry Skippers

Dr Abe V Rotor

Your dainty wings spread shining,
sowing tiny dots in waning light;
if my evening is your morning,
would you be my sentry tonight?

Auguries of Solitude

Solitude brings out the best of human thoughts and ideas.

Dr Abe V Rotor 
Living with Nature School on Blog

Adversity makes a man, wealth monster,
War heroes, lethargy commoners.

To the hungry no bread is bad;
Glad is he, yet inside he’s mad.

Swords may clash and words may hurt,
In silence graver is a grieving heart.

The face, the index of the mind;
Groom, the glitter of a gold mine.

Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for many years, liberated, and led his country, South Africa, to independence from Britrain .

All men are fools, differing in degree,
Even philosophers themselves agree.

Patience is bitter, but sweet is its fruit;
To the old, the prize of Ginseng root.

Children are key to paradise,
Poor man’s riches, or compromise.

Love lives in castles, more in cottages
Where it knows no caprice through the ages.

Weakness of our enemy, our strength,
Yet unaware are we to our last breath.

Time is gold when rightly used,
And there is no other choice. 

Walden is one of the greatest books of all time. American philosopher Henry David Thoreau taught the world dignity in living alone by the Walden Pond, far away from civilization. It is here where he wrote a treatise between nature and man which today found new relevance to man's direct assalt against Nature. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Desert in Bloom

Dr Abe V Rotor

                                                     Atacama Desert in Bloom, Peru (Internet) 
Where have all the flowers gone?
Gone with the passing clouds in the sky,
Casting a dark shadow, then fly,
Leaving but a scorching sun.

Where have all the flowers gone?
Gone with every tear the heavens cry
On tired branches and empty ground
Where angels pass by.

Where have all the flowers gone?
Gone with the dryads now away.
Gone are the shower and bouquet
That make a beautiful day. ~

The White Cross - A Short Story

In the middle of a local cemetery rises an immaculate white cross, and no weed grows around it.
Dr Abe V. Rotor

Mysterious white cross beside an old bangar tree, San Mariano, Isabela
He graduated from the famous Philippine Military Academy on top of his class. On the day of graduation his father, a general from the Philippine Air Force, and mother, a dean of the University of the Philippines, proudly pinned the Medal of Excellence on their only son and child. Nobody could be happier. God smiled at them. The world loved them. And they loved the world. What more did they wish?

There was none, although his mother said in prayerful whisper, looking up to heaven, “How I wish we are like this forever – happy and united.”

Secretly his father wished his son to become famous. He knew that a military career awaits many opportunities of greatness to one who adheres to his pledge to defend his country and countrymen. His thoughts gleamed with his medals he received for participating in the Korean War and the Vietnam War. He treasured most a medal given by the President of the Philippines for serving as a military adviser during Martial Law.

Those were troubled times, he thought, and put away his fears that his son would be placed in a similar test.

The young Lieutenant was looked up with pride and praise. How many young men in the world are endowed with caring parents, good school, intelligence, good looks and excellent health? Heads turned as he walked. Young women saw him a knight in shining armor. Children looked up to him a model, a hero of sort. Would they grow up just like him? Dreams! Air castles!

But he was real. He dressed up simply. He was friendly. There was no air of arrogance in his actions and words. He liked people. And people liked him. Many times he would go to the village of his birth in Pangasinan – Bigbiga, near Anda. He talked to farmers and fisher folks for hours. At harvest time his presence alone was enough to draw people from their homes and other work just to help harvest the golden grains. How the field beamed with laughter and music and joyous company! It's reminiscent of Fernando Amorsolo's masterpiece, "Harvestime."

Surely there were many stories to tell, many pleasant memories to recall. Housewives on errand bringing baon to the workers would make up all sorts of excuses for returning late. Passersby who were not from the place, when they heard the name Lieutenant Carding Lopez, took off their hats in greeting - and always, they got their reward of recognition. Children playing nearby would caution each other not to be rowdy, and they would display their best to impress their special guest.

And months passed. The monsoon came and the young lieutenant joined the planters in the field as he did at harvest time. Came fishing season, and he would join the fisher folks pull in the daklis (seine) net to shore. And when they gave him his share of the catch, he would politely decline or give it to the old people in the village.

One time he stopped to greet a crew draining a nearby swamp, the lowest part of the village. While relating how the Panama Canal was built, people the next day came by groups armed with shovels, crowbars and all. The swamp was drained in a short time. Incidence of malaria and dengue drastically fell. Farmers planted melons and watermelons on the reclaimed mudflat and made a lot of money.

But it was the marketplace he was fond of visiting on Sundays. The barangay chairman saw to it that everything and around appeared clean and orderly. More vendors came to sell their wares and products. And more people came to buy them.

Once strolling on a dirt road, he paused to put some stones to fill up a rut. The next day a gravel truck came. With it were workers. What took an hour to reach the market, could now be reached in half an hour.

General Lopez and Dean Lopez who were living in a push subdivision in Manila began to wonder at the kind of life their son was leading in the province. Surely it is very strange to know of one who is full of dreams and raring to seek a bright future. Not for a young and ambitious man, and a Pemeyer. No, not their son and only child, Carlito.

“No, no, let’s talk to him,” the mother rose from her lounging chair. “Hush, hush, let him be,” replied her husband soothingly.

One day the young Lieutenant received a call to report for duty. In the next few days he was flying over Sierra Madre on a mission. But alas! His plane disappeared in the sky and crashed on a misty slope covered by forest, far, far away from civilization. No one witnessed the accident, but guesses are not rare for such news. The plane plunged into the sea where three islands make a triangle, ventured one mystic who knew about the Bermuda Triangle that mysteriously “swallow up” airplanes and ships.

Maybe it crashed on one of the Philippines’ tallest mountains - Mt. Apo or Mt. Pulag. That’s how high jets fly, said an elderly native who knew too well about the flight of the Philippine eagle. Oh, exclaimed an activist, who said the young Lopez was an idealist, who must have sought refuge maybe in Indonesia, or New Guinea - or somewhere else.

Guess turned into hoax, rumors died down, only the enigma on how a promising young man suddenly disappeared without trace persisted. General Lopez shook his head in disbelief. Even in times of peace, he realized, danger hangs like a Damocles Sword. You can’t rely on  technology, he muttered. Those planes – yes, those planes he remembered, they were very old. He knew it; they were donated by the US soon after the Vietnam ended. Mrs. Lopez had retired from the university, but how could you enjoy retirement if you were in her place?

It had been five years since the young pilot mysteriously disappeared. The village people of his birth put up a cross in his memory at the center of the village cemetery. At all times they kept it white, and not a single weed grew around it.

Tourists today come to Bigbiga, now a progressive community. It boosts of a model cooperative. It is a persistent winner of cleanliness in the whole province. A church has been built, around it is a park and playground. Not far is the cemetery. Classes are no longer conducted under the big mango tree. Floods that accompany the monsoon are a thing of the past. The market is a village mall of sort, attracting people from nearby towns. An institute of science and technology was recently inaugurated. Young men and women are returning and changing the concept of balikbayan, at least in Bigbiga. They call it brain gain, whereas before we called it brain drain. The fields are green and at harvest time under the moonlight, some people would swear, they would see a young handsome man inaudibly talking and laughing – men and women and children huddled around him.

The general and his wife did not live long in their grief. A new leadership had taken over the reins of command in the military. A new president has been installed in Malacañang. He is young and handsome, and there’s something they like in him - the way he talked, his actions, his friendliness and warmth. They trust him. Those who knew the late Lieutenant Lopez liken him to the new president.

One day there was a flash report that a community was discovered somewhere between Nueva Ecija and Aurora. It is ensconced in a valley shrouded by forests and clouds, accessible only on the Pacific coast. That is why it remained obscure for a long time. "There must be some mistake," a Manila-based government official commented. So a survey team was formed.

It is like searching a lost city in the Andes, or in the Himalayas. But it is true. There in the very eyes of the team unfurled a local Shangrila - the former Dakdakel, a remote barangay of San Mariano, Isabela, now transformed into a model community.

The people in that community are peace loving, self reliant, and respectable. They are farmers, craftsmen, many are professionals. They have children studying in Manila, and relatives working abroad. There is a cooperative and a progressive market. A chapel stands near a cemetery. In the middle of the cemetery rises an immaculate white cross, and no weed grows around it.

x x x

Monday, August 14, 2017

Early Agricultural and Industrial Artifacts

Dr Abe V Rotor
Indigo Vats
Fermenting tanks in the manufacture of añil or azul during the Spanish era. The product is derived from a plant, indigo (Indigofera tinctoria) which was extensively cultivated in the Ilocos Region.  Añil was exported to Europe through the Galleon Trade which operated for two centuries (17th and 17th century). San Vicente, Ilocos Sur. (AVR Photo)    

Wooden sugarcane crusher, drawn by carabao on a circular path. The cane is fed between the rollers and repeated to extract the most juice which accumulate in a receptacle, usually an earthen jar or burnay.  The juice is cooked in large kettles and made into basi wine, vinegar, or directly cooked until it become red sugar, either powdered or in blocks. The wooden roller has been replaced by mechanized iron crushers.  (AVR Photo)  

Sleds for transport on rice paddy made of wood and bamboo; native hats and raincoats made of leaves of anahaw and buri palms. (Grains Museum, NFA Cabanatuan City) AVR Photo

Multi-purpose stone grinder for coffee, grain and bean, a universal tool on the farm and home, also for local industries, which is still used today in remote places, and in preserving ethnicity. (Internet photo).

Primitive tools and equipment as early as in prehistoric times. These have evolved into the scythes, mallet and stone grinder we may be familiar with. {Internet photo)

This artifact is an indigenous pinawa (brown rice) hand mill. Grains Museum, Cabanatuan City. (AVR Photo)

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Ten things to see under a microscope (Basic Microscopy for Kids)

Dr Abe V Rotor

Summer Workshop for kids conducted by the author. Lagro QC 2013]

You can't see what is inside a mega mall, 
     but things for granted and so small;  

You can't see a movie or a telenobela,
     but the living world of minutiae;

You can't see Superman and Godzilla,
     but their minuscule Vorticella;

You can't see the beginning and end of time,
    but in between, a moment divine.

You can't see where all the wealth and money 
     come from, but another story.  

You can't see the winning number of a game,
     but a narrow path to fame.

You can't see the source of love and devotion,
     but the beginning of true union.

You can't see Pasteur, Koch and Fleming,
     but their little disciples striving.    

You can't see miracles and great missions,
     but their humble manifestations. 

You can't see God as you would at the Sistine,  
     but His image in every thing. ~   

Oxygen bubbles cling on filamentous green alga, by-product of photosynthesis.  Oxygen is either dissolved in water for fish, or released into the air for land animals, including man. Chlorophyll (green pigment of plants, algae and some monerans like BGA) catches the light energy of the sun, and with CO2, produces food and oxygen which are important to life.  This process is known as photosynthesis.  

 Yeast cells actively divide in sugar substrate in fermentation resulting in the production of ethanol or wine, and CO2 as byproduct. When used in baking, the CO2 is trapped in the dough and causes it to rise and form leavened bread. Yeast (Saccharomyces) reproduces rapidly by vegetative means - budding.  Note newly formed buds, and young buds still clinging on mother cells. 

 Protozoans are agents of decomposition, and live on organic debris.  In the process they convert it into detritus or organic matter and ultimately to its elemental composition which the next generation of plants and other life forms utilize. Protozoans or protists are one-celled organisms, having organelles which function like organs of higher animals. Protozoans live in colonies and in association with other living things as symbionts, commensals, and for the pathogenic forms, parasites.    

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Painting Models for Beginners and Enthusiasts

Dr Abe V Rotor 
Summer in the Woods, acrylic on canvas using paint brush and pallete knife  
Nymphaea water lily, acrylic on canvas using stubby 
paint brush to create dubbing and smudge effect.

Big Bang, acrylic on canvas using paint brush and palm for 
smudging effect. Streaks were made with palette knife. 
Birds in the Tree, acrylic on wood using green leaves impressed 
on fresh paint.  Leaves were sprayed with paint of desired shape, 
size and color, before they were laid flat and firm on board.

Convergence, on large canvas (2' x 3')  in thick acrylic applied by hand, 
brush and knife. Spluttered effect created by stubby paint brush. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Oil pastel is best medium for budding artists.

            Dr  Abe V Rotor
Still Life in pastel by Anna Cristina Rotor-Sta Maria
Chalk is made of limestone or gypsum and compressed into powdered sticks. Soft pastels are made from pure mineral pigments. The same pigments are used in oil paint, acrylics, and water color. ... The pigment, is in effect, crystals been spread across the paper. Oil pastel (also called wax oil crayon) is a painting and drawing medium with characteristics similar to pastels and wax crayons. Unlike "soft" or "Japanese" pastelsticks, which are made with a gum or methyl cellulose binder, oil pastels consist of pigment mixed with a non-drying oil and wax binder. Wikipedia


I watched my daughter Anna draw with oil pastel.  She seemed to be playing with colors leisurely, while I, using oil or acrylic on canvas, would labor at my medium for hours. She did this drawing (above) in three or so sittings.  In between she had time to practice her piano lessons, play games, and attend to her pet rabbit. 

What really make things easy for one and difficult for another, even on the same subject?  In this particular case, the art of drawing and painting, an expression of creativity?

Art to the young is pure and simple, to us grownups, it is complex, and oftentimes we have to knock down a wall before we could create our own world. Anna as a budding artist, and I her tutor, found ourselves at a crossroad, before us is an endless horizon where one could find full expression of creativity.

I was more interested in the process she used oil pastels. It is in the combination of colors, not only by choice but blending. She took freedom to experiment with the medium. Here are some techniques she used. 
  • Pre-blending on palette by cutting or scraping pieces of oil pastel she wished to blend. With palette knife and fingers the mixture was mixed and applied on the drawing board or canvas. Bright colors are preserved and enhanced this way, such as the oranges in this specimen work.   
  • She would directly apply the color of her choice on the board and apply a second color of oil pastel adjacent  the first color, and rub the adjoining edges until the two edges appear smooth. This forms a gradient of colors desired.  This is effective in drawing folds of curtain and cloth, and in drawing a bunch of fruits like bananas as shown in the drawing. 
  • She would mix or overlay the color pastels directly on the board, first by generously making a layer  followed by a second layer of a different color. There are instances she would make additional layers to achieve the desired hue, as in the apples and grapes.
  • Scrumbling is a method to develop texture and value, done by selecting two or more colors, with one color first applied by scribbling across the board, followed by the other colors in random and overlapping strokes.  This technique was applied on the papaya and curtain.  Modification by cross-hatch to enhance light and shadow can be appreciated in the pineapple and floral drawings. 
  • Blending with fingers is often used with oil pastel but extreme care is necessary to prevent smudging.  Fingers must be kept clean before moving to the next part of the drawing.  Avoid finger clots which may have made the watermelon to appear over ripe.   
  • One tool Anna used is a pastel shaper, the palette knife being the most popular. I used boy scout knife for ease and emphasis of light and shadow. Observe caution so as not to leave cuts and over-scraped parts. Scrapers include paint brushes, wood, Q-tips, and even sandpaper. Stumps (tightly wound rolls of paper shaped like pencil) are effective in creating fine details and sharp edges.  On the other hand stumps are used in creating smudged effects. 
Experimenting with pastel is joy and challenge; it leads to discovery of techniques in developing one's style, and in coping up with today's various art movements. 

Whenever I conduct drawing and painting workshops for kids I use Anna's Still Life as model. And if she is free, I would invite her to personally explain her techniques to children, who some years ago, were like her - ardent and eager to become artists. ~   

Monday, August 7, 2017

Course Syllabus in Photography Today

We are in Photography Revolution!
Virtually everyone all over the world has access to the technology as photographer, photo editor, publisher, producer of documentaries, and even movies. Or, simply through selfie. Although its application has vastly expanded, the objective, art and discipline of photography remain, more so with the code of ethics of journalism to which photography is a principal medium. Here is a guide in preparing a teaching outline for photography in workshops and as an three-unit subject in college.

Professor in photojournalism 
UST Faculty of rts and Letters. and 
St Paul University QC 
Description: This course is specifically designed to meet the needs of modern communication as well as creative writing, making use of conventional and modern tools and equipment which include advanced optical and digital technologies. 

(Photo by Reuters Photographer Damir Sagolj)
The course focuses on the application of photography in the various branches and forms of media. It explores the application of photography in publicity and promotions, newspapers, magazines, and electronic publications, education, photographic arts and other fields, with emphasis on Philippine situation.


A. General Objective: To develop basic skill in the use of the camera – conventional and digital – combined with the development of journalism skills, as tools for effective communication in print, broadcast and the Internet.

B. Specific Objectives: Upon completion of this course, the student is expected to be able to

1. appreciate and identify the role and application of photography in the various fields of communication;

2. use the camera, principally digital, effectively and accurately;

3. use photography in creative composition, and other artistic expressions;

4. acquire the facility of choosing the right tools and equipment in photography, including those for editing, processing, organization & presentation;

5. prepare photo releases acceptable principally in Philippine newspapers and magazines;

6. develop discipline and cooperation through group work, adherence to the ethic of journalism; and

7. develop a healthy attitude of learning from experts the advances and movements of photography and journalism

8. keep abreast with the development of photography, and its current applications in print and digital media, particularly the Internet. 

 Photojournalist's full gear 


1. Photo-Journalism Stylebook (1991) - The Associated Press
2. Creative Photography (1991) – Michael Langford. The Reader’s Digest
3. More Joy of Photography (1988) - The Editors of Eastman Kodak Company
4. Digital Portrait Photography (new) – D. Evans
5. Digital Photography (new), Tom Ang and Michael Beazley
6. The Everything Photography Book (2000), Elliot Khuner and Sonie Weiss
7. Digital Camera 3rd edition, 2003, Dave Johnson
8. Black and White Photography (1988) 3rd edition, Henry Horenstein
9. An Illustrated A to Z Digital Photography (2000), Nigel Atherton and Steve Crabb
10. 100 Ways to Take Better Photographs (1998), Michael Busselle
11. Photographing Your Children (new), John Hedgecoe
12. Underwater Photography (new), Annemarie Danja Kohler
13. Secrets to Great Photographs, Zim Zucherman
14. Nature Photography, Learning from an Expert, Gilles Martin and D Boyard
15. People Shots That Sell, Tracy Tannenbaum and Kate Stevens
16. Beginners Guide to Digital Photography, (new) PC World
17. Close-up Photography, Michael Freeman
18. The Photo Book (1996), Phaidon
19. Complete Idiot’s Guide to Photography like a Pro (1997)
20. Through the Lens, National100 Photographs That Changed the World, Life, 2004
21. The World’s Top Photographers in Landscape (new), Terry Hope
22. Geographic Greatest Photographs, 2004
23. The Essentials of Underwater Photography Manual, Denise Nielsen Tachett and Larry Tachett
24. Portrait Photography, David Wilson
25. Philippine Journalism Handbook (1989), 3rd edition – Jaime Ramirez
26. Journalism for Filipinos (2003) - 3rd Edition, Alito Malinao
27. Handbook of Journalism (1994) Victoria Villanueva Sebastian
28. Light in the Woods, Photographs and Poems (1995), Abercio V. Rotor
29. Sunshine on Raindrops (1996), Abercio V. Rotor
30. Light of Dawn (1998), and Genevieve Andrada and Abercio V. Rotor
31. In His Presence, Praises (2003), Belen Tangco and Abercio V. Rotor
37. Rotor AV (2003) Living with Nature Handbook (2 volumes), UST Publishing House
38. Living with Nature Website
39. Naturalism – the Eighth Sense - AV Rotor
40. Magnificent Nature - AVRotor (Series)

Navy corpsman cradles an Iraqi child 

Dying for the Story,
Shattered Glass,
Features in Photography
Reporters in War
Nature Photography
(National Geographic)

Other references can be sourced from libraries,  International Newsmagazines (e.g. Time, Photography), newspapers, Internet and TV programs National Geographic and Discovery Channels, others.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Drip, drip, drip

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature - School on Blog

Lesson: Dirge, music for the dying and the dead. Can you make this poem the lyrics for your composition? Please try it . Refer to some requiem compositions by Beethoven, Mozart, Mendelssohn, our own Santiago, and other composers.

Drip, drip, drip, like tears,
too far out to meet the sea,
in dirge of a dying waterfall
once proud and full and free.

Drip, drip, drip, like rain,
too little to quench the land,
to make the fields green and alive,
and dewdrops to greet the sun.

Drip, drip, drip, the pipes run dry,
no longer music in the park;
behind white walls and rooftops,
and some forgotten arch. ~

Old Waterfall, in acrylic by AVRotor (c.1986)

Loafing or Idleness?

"Loafing, the idleness of the young and bored;
To the old, inner peace and luxury." avr

Dr Abe V Rotor
Photos by Marlo R Rotor

Leisure under the coconut trees

Time out on a hammock

Life begins truly late when life had gone adrift,
On the path of retreat, to retrace life itself;
Like a balikbayan drawn by homing instinct,
Seeking the good old days, whatever is left.
Loafing, the idleness of the young and bored
To the old, inner peace and luxury;
Where wisdom is knowing less about the world,
And knowing more of life, simple and free.~

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Catch the Passing Wind

"Wind, sail and keel make a perfect trio,

only if they have a common direction to follow." avr

Painting and Verses by Dr Abe V Rotor

Lost time, lost opportunity and lost gain,
like passing wind that may not come again.

Who sees silver lining of clouds dark and bold

seeks not at rainbow's end a pot of gold.

A clenched fist softens under a blue sky

like high waves, after tempest, die.

When a flock of wild geese takes into the air

a leader must get ahead to break the barrier.

Even to a strong man, a little danger may create

the impression he's small or the problem is great.

In the doldrums or during sudden gusts,

the ship is much safer with a bare mast.

Wind, current and keel make a perfect trio

only if they have one direction to follow.

You really can't tell where a sailboat goes

without keel, but to where the wind blows.

The sound of a yes may be deep or hollow,

and knowing it only by its own echo.

Walk, don't run, to see better and to know

the countryside, Mother Nature and Thou. ~

Friday, August 4, 2017

Papyrus - Signature of Egyptian Art

Dr Abe V Rotor
Museum guide at the Egyptian Museum, Cairo, demonstrates to author and other guests on how fresh papyrus stalk is cut and split, then laid crosswise, one layer on top of another, and pressed with a mechanical presser (background, second photo).  The mat is dried and pounded to attain evenness and smoothness. Now it is ready for use as writing and drawing material.  Papyrus is the first paper, hence the name).   
Author inspects papyrus drawings and paintings depicting the rich history of ancient Egypt, the oldest civilization in the western world.  Hieroglyphics (picture story) on papyrus, like Chinese calligraphy (language signs), make an art distinct and  unique from all the arts in the world. Papyrus art is a major attraction to scholars and tourists, and contributes significantly to the Egyptian tourism industry. 

Papyrus is highly adapted in humid tropical countries like the Philippines.  The conditions are similar to those along the Nile River. The local industry developed from papyrus and related species is the making of mats, baskets, curtain and blinds.  

Cyperus papyrus belongs to the sedge family, Cyperaceae, to which our own tikiw (cattail) and barsaga (Cyperus rotundos), a persistent weed on the farm, belong. It is a native of southern Europe, Syria and Africa. Egyptian manuscripts and paintings were done on paper made from this plant as early as 2400 BC. A cheap imitation is made from banana stalk. 

Photos of the plant were taken at UP Sunken Garden,

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

15 Anecdotes for Growing Up

My Childhood and personal experiences 
Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature
 1. Staying put on the farm -  is that all you aspire for?

“Buy me a tractor,” I asked by dad,  “And I will not look for a job. I’d stay on the farm.”

 “Is that all you aspire for?”  My father replied. It was the turning point of my life.  I left the farm and went on to pursue my studies, later joining the government service, and after early retirement, becoming a university professor.
Farm house of a Gentry, acrylic AVR 
Dad is now long gone and only my sister is overseeing the farm.  One time while visiting the farm, I asked my eldest son, Marlo, “Do you like to stay here and manage the farm?”  He fell silent and I did not utter another word.
2. I stopped schooling to be with my dad.
I stopped schooling in Manila, so I went home to San Vicente, arriving there on a Sunday at dawn.  Instead of directly proceeding to our house, I dropped at the church through the main door.  In the distance a man was standing, stooping, his nape showing the marks of old age.  I wondered who the man was, and to my surprise I found out he was my dad.  I did not know he had grown that old.  I said my prayers, and left with a heavy heart. 
It was at home that my dad and I met after the mass. He knew it was not yet school vacation, but he was very happy to see me.   I did not tell I saw him in the church that morning. Later I told my plan not to continue my studies anymore because I wanted to be with him.  He just felt silent.
Life on the Farm, acrylic AVR
The following morning he prepared our two bikes.  “We are going to Banaoang,” he said in an aura of confidence.  Banaoang is a mountain pass through which the mighty Abra River flows, where bamboo from the hills are sold in quantity. We were going to build a flue-curing barn.

The going was easy at first, but the distance and the uphill part were exhausting.  Dad gave up before we reached our destination.  “Get a rope and pull my bike.  Let’s go back home.” He sat down in the shade of a mango tree. When we were rested we slowly pedaled back home. Both of us were silent the rest of the day. 

I stayed with my dad until the end of summer working in the tobacco barn we put up. I went back to Manila the following schoolyear to continue my studies. I always pass the highway dad and I once took, and there under  an old mango tree, I would be seeing a man resting in its shade, stooping, wrinkles in his nape showing old age.   
3.      I shot an arrow into the air and it fell on a newspaper
I must have been 4 or 5 years old. Dad was reading Manila Bulletin on a rocking chair.  I was playing Robin Hood. Since our sala is very spacious (it has no divisions), anything on the ceiling and walls was a potential target. But something wrong happened. In physics a crooked arrow would not follow a straight line, so it found an unintended mark – the center of a widespread newspaper.  The arrow pierced through it and landed on my dad’s forehead, almost between his eyes. He gave me a severe beating with my plaything as he wiped his forehead, blood dripping. I did not cry, I just took the punishment obligingly.  Dad must have seen innocence in my eyes.  He stopped and gave me a hug. 
4.      I shot my finger with an airgun.
I bought an airgun from Ben Florentino, a classmate of mine in high school at the Colegio de la Immaculada Concepcion (CIC Vigan) for fifty pesos, a good amount then, circa  1955.  I was loading the pellet, when I dropped the rifle, and on hitting the ground, went off.  The bullet pierced through the fleshy tip of my left forefinger. I tried to remove it but to no avail, so I went to the municipal doctor, Dr. Catalino Lazo. There was no anesthesia available, and when I could no longer bear the pain, he simply dressed the wound and sent me home.  

My wound soon healed, and the lead pellet was to stay with me for the next five years or so, when I finally decided to go for an operation. Had it not been for my playing the violin, I would not have bothered to do so.  And it was providential. 

Dr. Vicente Versoza, our family doctor in Vigan, performed the operation.   A mass of tissues snugly wrapped around the pellet, isolating its poison. He told me I am lucky. There are cases of lead poisoning among war veterans who bore bullets in their bodies. I remember the late President Ferdinand Marcos.  Was his ailment precipitated by lead poisoning?   
5.      I can “cure” a person who is naan-annungan.
An-annung is the Ilocano of nasapi-an. Spirits cast spell on a person, the old folks say. The victim may suffer of stomachache or headache  accompanied by cold sweat, body weakness or feeling of exhaustion.

Well, take this case.  It was dusk when a tenant of ours insisted of climbing a betel, Areca catechu to gather its nuts (nga-nga). My dad objected to it, but somehow the young man prevailed. 

The stubborn young man was profusely sweating and was obviously in pain, pressing his stomach against the tree trunk. Dad called for me. I examined my “patient” and assured him he will be all right. And like a passing ill wind, the spell was cast away. Dad and the people around believed I had supernatural power.

There had been a number of cases I “succeeded” in healing the naan-annungan But I could also induce – unknowingly - the same effect on some one else.  That too, my dad and old folks believed.  They would sought for my “power” to cast the spell away from - this time – no other than my “victim”.  What a paradox!   When I grew older and finished by studies, I began to understand that having an out-of-this-world power is a myth. I read something about Alexander the Great consulting the Oracle at Siwa to find out if indeed he is a god-sent son. “The Pharoah will bow to you, ” the priestess told him.  And it did happen - the pharaoh kissed Alexander’s feet.  The great warrior died before he was 33.
 6.      Manong Bansiong, the kite maker
Kites always fascinate me, thanks to Bansiong, nephew of Basang my auntie-yaya.  He made the most beautiful, often the biggest kite in town.  His name is an institution of sort to us kids.  But remote as San Vicente was, we had the best kites and the town was also famous for its furniture and wooden saints.
It's kite flying Season mural painting by the author dedicated to the late Manong Bansiong.
Manong Bansiong made different kites: sinang-gola, sinang-cayyang, sinang-golondrina (in the likes of a bull, a bird with outstretched wings and legs, and a maiden in colorful, flowing dress, respectively).  His kites were known for their strength, stability, beauty, and their height in the sky.  In competitions he would always bring home the trophy, so to speak.

Because of Manong Bansiong I became also a kite maker of less caliber, but being an endangered art there is not much variety of kites flying around. The kites I make are not common, and they probably exude the same feeling to kids today as during our time.

I made kites for my children when they were small.  Kites fascinated my late first-born son, Pao. It was therapy to his sickly condition. We would sit down together on the grass for hours holding on to the kite, the setting sun and breeze washing our faces. 

When my youngest, Leo Carlo, took part in a kite competition at UST, I helped him with the sinang-cayyang.  It did not win.  But in the following year and the year after Leo Carlo became the consistent kite champion of UST, and so he carries on the legend of Manong Bansiong. 
7.      Draining a fishpond with centrifugal pump
We were perhaps the first in town to own a centrifugal pump, a three-horsepower Briggs and Stratton with a two-inch-diameter pipe.  Which means, we can now irrigate whole fields, or drain fishponds.

One summer when the water was low, dad decided to use the pump in our one-hectare fishpond by the estuary in Nagtupacan, a coastal village of San Vicente.  He put me in charge of the operation. I was a high school sophomore then. I stayed with the pump in the shade of nearby spiny candaroma (aroma) trees, sleeping under the stars at night. I learned that high tide followed by low tide occurs during the day, and repeated at night. That means the pump must overcome high tide that pushes water from under the fishpond and through the base of its dikes.

What we thought to be an easy operation probed to be an unending battle.  Finally we gave up.  We lost, but not entirely for we were able to harvest some fish from a drained area. Above all, I learned a lesson, which I was to use in my teaching in the university.  On the part of dad, he told me, “Machines are no match to enormous power of nature.” A few years after, the machine broke down, so told dad in his letter. I was then in Manila earning a college degree. That night I imagined the spiny candaroma and the stars and the tides.
8. Blackout and A Blue Baby
Basang, my auntie-yaya used to recount this story on how I came into this world.  It was Japanese invasion. At night no lights were allowed for fear of the Japanese bomber planes. The whole town plunged into a blackout when I was born. It was October 22, 1941. The partera (midwife) worked under a flickering candle. I came out a blue baby, hind first (suni). And knowing I did not have any chance to live, the carpenters in my father's furniture shop started making me a coffin.

But there was an old woman, Lela Usta (Faustina Ramos), a good neighbor and distant cousin of my dad who did not believe I was dead. She bundled me up and kept me warm by  blowing over my cuppo-cuppo (bumbunan) with her breath as she chewed ginger. An hour had already passed and the kind old woman, now covered with sweat and tears, noticed a faint pulse, then heard a faint sound.  She continued on until I started to breathe.  Not for long, I cried and drew the small crowd to a cheer. 

Shhh.... my father cautioned everyone, and I, too, stopped crying.
9. I remember the Japanese
It was in the last year of the Japanese occupation that memories of World War II became vivid to me. In desperation the enemy killed anyone at sight in exchange for its apparent defeat. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were soon to be erased virtually from the map. I was then four years old. According to psychologists, at this age impressions become lasting memory.
WW II Memorial, St Paul University QC
Vigilance was the game. Far ahead of time one should be able to detect the enemy. Fear gripped the neighborhood and the whole town. We hid in a dugout shelter made of solid narra slabs several meters away from our house. Trees and banana plants hid it from view. At one time, I wanted to get fresh air, but my yaya, Basang prevented me to do so. Japanese soldiers were around the place. I heard them chase our geese and chicken. Then I heard my favorite goose, Purao, pleading - then it fell silent. Instinctively I rushed out of our hideout, but Basang  pulled me back just on time.

Before this incident Japanese soldiers entered and ransacked our house. Two confronted Basang who was then wearing thick shawl and holding me tight in her arms. In trembling voice, she was saying repeatedly, “Malaria, malaria,” and begging the soldiers to take anything and leave us. One took all our eggs and started eating them raw, pitching the shell at us. One hit me straight on the face and I squirmed. Basang apologized. The soldier shouted.  Then the other came back with a stuffed pillow case and signaled the other to leave, but before leaving he gave me a hard look.

It is a face I still see today, cold as steel, lips pursed into a threat, brows drawn down like curtain over sultry and flashy eyes. How I reacted on the wicked face, I don't remember. I must have just stared coldly. But deep in me grew a resolved never to be afraid of the Japanese or an enemy for that matter.
8.  Watching war plane in dogfight.
It was the last year of WWII, 1945.  I was going four at that time and the images of planes fighting are still vivid.  Toward the east is the Cordillera range that looked blue in the distance. The view was clear from our house, and hideout. Even if the old San Vicente church got across our view, we saw now and then warplanes passing above.  It was also the first and only time I saw a double body aircraft flying. There was at least one occasion warplanes fought somewhere above Vigan, and a plane simply bursts into flame and dark smoke. My dad prodded us to go back to our underground hideout.
10.The Case of the Empty Chicken Eggs
Childhood is full of adventure. I was big enough then to climb and reach the baki (brooding nest) hanging under the house. I found out that if I leave some eggs in the basket as decoy, the more eggs you gather in the afternoon. But why leave some eggs that may become stale?  Then a new idea came. With a needle, I punctured the egg and sucked the content dry. It tasted good and I made some of these empty eggs as substitute decoy in the nest.
My dad was a balikbayan. He settled down in our hometown, San Vicente, Ilocos Sur, soon after finishing his studies at De Paul University in Chicago. That evening after discovering the empty eggs he called all of us and said, "First thing tomorrow morning we will find that hen that lays empty eggs.”

It was a family tradition that every Sunday we had tinola - chicken cooked with papaya and leaves of pepper (sili). Dad would point at a cull (the least productive member of the flock) and I would set a large basket with a trap door, and place some corn for bait. My brother Eugene would slash the neck of the helpless fowl while my sister Veny and I would be holding it until it laid still. The blood is mixed with glutinous rice (diket), which is cooked ahead of the vegetables.

That evening I could not sleep. What if dad inadvertently chooses one of our pet chickens? On the farm we call our favorite chickens by name. I felt sorry, the empty eggs were the cause of the whole trouble.

In the morning after the mass I told dad my secret and even demonstrated it. He laughed and laughed. Soon we were all laughing. And the case of the empty eggs was laid to rest.
Many lessons dawned from my first experiment. I also realized that one just can’t fool anybody.
11. The caleza I was riding ran over a boy.
Basang, my auntie yaya and I were going home from Vigan on a caleza, a horse carriage. I was around five or six years old, the age children love to tag along wherever there is to go. It was midday and the cochero chose to take the shorter gravelly road to San Vicente by way of the second dike road that passes Bantay town. Since there was no traffic our cochero nonchalantly took the smoother left lane fronting a cluster of houses near Bantay. Suddenly our caleza tilted on one side as if it had gone over a boulder. To my astonishment I saw a boy around my age curled up under the wheel. The caleza came to a stop and the boy just remained still and quiet, dust covered his body.  I thought he was dead. 

Residents started coming out. I heard shouts, some men angrily confronting the cochero. Bantay is noted for notoriety of certain residents. Instinct must have prodded Basang to take me in her arms and quickly walked away from the maddening crowd.  No one ever noticed us I supposed.
12. Paper wasps on the run! Or was it the other way around?
This happened to me, rather what I did, when I was five or six - perhaps younger, because I don’t know why I attack a colony of putakti or alimpipinig (Ilk). It was raw courage called bravado when you put on courage on something without weighing the consequences. It was hatred dominating reason, motivated by revenge. 

I was sweeping the yard near a chico tree when I suddenly felt pain above my eye. No one had ever warned me of paper wasps, and I hadn’t been stung before. I retreated, instinctively got a bikal bamboo and attacked their papery nest, but every time I got close to it I got stung.  I don’t know how many times I attacked the enemy, each time with more fury, and more stings, until dad saw me.  I struggled under his strong arms sobbing.  I was lucky, kids my size can’t take many stings. There are cases bee poison can cause the heart to stop. 
13. Trapping frogs
It was fun to trap frogs when I was a kid. At harvest time I would dig holes in the ricefield around one and one-half feet deep. The frogs seek shelter in these holes because they need water and a cool place. Insects that fall into the hole attract them and become their prey.
By the Fishpond in Nagtupacan, San Vicente
Early in the morning I would make my rounds, harvesting the trapped frogs.   The frog is skinned, its entrails removed, and cooked with tomato, onion, and achuete (<span style="font-style: italic;">Bixa orellana</span>. Frogs make a favorite dish, especially among Ilocanos. 
14. I got caught by an iron hook.
I was boarding with the Camat Family in Gatid, Sta. Cruz, Laguna in 1962.  I was then a trainee of the Farm and Home Development Office (FHDO) under UPLB, then UPCA, as a crop technician under the sponsorship of the Ford Foundation. One morning while standing on the batalan I saw a rope dangling from a nearby branch of a sampaloc tree, and the little Tarzan in me told me to try some acrobatics. I jump for the rope, and as I slid down an iron hook tied at the end of the rope caught me between my legs.  I was able to free myself on reaching the ground and immediately called for help. My friends flagged a jeep that took me to the provincial hospital in Sta. Cruz, some seven kilometers away.  We were over speeding and a police officer stopped us.  I pointed at my wound, by now blood had soaked the towel cover, so he let us go.  The doctor said I was lucky, the iron hook missed just a fraction of an inch the vital parts of my body, principally my reproductive organ. After my wound was stitched and dressed I was allowed to leave the hospital.  I went back to Gatid to recuperate.
15. Getting drunk at an early age.
I was already a farmhand before I was of school age, but dad always warned me not to be an aliwegweg (curious at doing things), the experimenter that I was. One morning as dad went on his routine, first to hear mass in our parish church just across our residence farm, I went down to the cellar with a sumpit (small bamboo tube) to take a sip of the sweet day-old fermenting 
Farm Brickhouse, acrylic AVR

sugarcane juice. I didn't know that with a sip too many one gets drunk. 

And that was precisely what made me feel sick, but I did not tell dad. He called a doctor to find out what was the matter with me. When the doctor arrived he found me normal. What with the distance from Vigan to San Vicente - on a caleza (horse-drawn carriage)? But the doctor was whispering something to dad.

Then it happened. Dad had left for the church, so I thought. I went to the cellar and as soon as I probed the sumpit into a newly fermenting jar and took a sip, someone tapped my shoulder in the dark. It was dad!
Imagine the expression of his face (and mine, too) in the dark. I sobbed with embarrassment while he took a deep sigh of relief.  Since then the doctor never came again. And I promised never to taste my “beverage" again.~