Thursday, July 30, 2015

Kamote Tops Beauty

Dr Abe V Rotor 
Living with Nature School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (People's School-on-Air) with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 evening class Monday to Friday
(Model: Miss Gelyn S Gabao, 19 Filipina)

Kamote (Ipomea batatas) tops contain more minerals and vitamins than any other vegetables, or its equivalent weight in meat and poultry. It is a glow food that enhances natural beauty and health, and gives that gait, poise and stride that many beauties display. It is the secret to acquiring and maintaining natural immunity and high resistance against diseases and other ailments. It contains substances that sharpen the brain and quicken responses to situations and the environment. 

It is a vegetable all year round. In summer kamote is grown in the fields and gardens for its enlarged roots or tubers which are rich in carbohydrates (go food) and rich in protein (grow food). In the habagat, it grows wild and luxuriant on hilltops, on levees and dikes, on the uplands, covering wide areas, keeping weeds down and protecting the soil from erosion. 

Kamote tops make an excellent dish with mungo and pork, bulanglang with shrimp or fish, and mushroom, or cooked in other recipes, or served as salad, blanched with red, ripe tomatoes and sliced onions, with a dash of salt, or a dip of fish sauce - bagoong or patis. Or cooked in tinola in place of pepper leaves, and green papaya. Why not blanch the tops on rice in its final stage of cooking? Add bagoong squeezed with calamansi or lemon. 

Kamote tops, maligned for being a poor man's food, rise to the apex of the food pyramid, top the list health programs, and doctors' prescription. Kamote tops occupies the rank of malunggay, alugbati, talinum, and spinach, relegating lettuce and other crucifers - cabbage and cauliflower and pechay - to the backseat.

Kamote tops are safe to health and the environment because they don't carry residues of pesticides applied on the field on many crops, and also those of toxic metals like lead, mercury and cadmium. Damaged parts are simply discarded, harvesting only the succulent and healthy leaves for further safety and better presentation.

Kamote tops come in green and purple, characteristic of the plant varieties, but in both cases, the same nutritive values are derived, with some advantage from the purple variety which contains xanthophyll in addition to chlorophyl. Both are recommended for anemic persons for their high iron content, and to those suffering from poor bone development, poor eyesight, and poor metabolism.

Kamote tops are used as planting materials, a case of cloning in the plant world, each stem becoming a new plant rejuvenated and true to type genetically - and younger than the parent source.  The new plant is capable of carrying all processes that constitute the plant's cycle.  It is a phenomenon known in variable observations in the living world, which heretofore remains unsolved by science.

Beauties come naturally with good food, simple and active lifestyle, in the rural areas where sunshine, clean air and surrounding, make a perfect combination from which spring the true beauty of man and woman, as compared to the makeup beauty from cosmetics, expensive salons, and by the so-called wonders of science and technology like liposuction and surgery. Why can't we simply eat kamote tops more often?~

Takong - the Nest-Building Sow

Dr Abe V. Rotor
Living with Nature - School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday
Takong in her old age.

When I was a farmhand I watched Takong – mother pig, build a nest. She gathered dry banana stalks, rice straw, leaves, and if there were clothes or blanket on a sagging clothesline, they would likely end up as nesting materials.

Takong was a native pig and carried much of the features of baboy ramo or wild pig. Her tusks were long, protruding and curved outward, resembling amulets. Her snout was long, her skin dark gray to roan and loose, her hair wiry. She was seldom without caked mud over her body because she loved to wallow. Like the carabao, pigs cool themselves in wallows and the mud coat protects them from insect bites and overexposure to sun. It also serves as camouflage. As to food, Takong was self supporting so to speak, straying on the farm, subsisting on rice bran, fruits and vegetables in season, kitchen refuse, or whatever leftovers there were after threshing, drying or milling of rice and corn.

“Our sow is ready to give birth,” my dad announced one summer vacation. Takong had been in her nest and if it were not for her heaving and grunting, you would dismiss her nest as a mere heap of dry farm materials. That night I heard grunting and squeaking. Our sow was giving birth. The piglets came out at intervals.

As the first rays of the sun peeped through her den, I cautiously searched how many piglets our sow had delivered. There were 10 piglets in all! But none was wholly dark gray and roan like their mother; they had spots of roan, white and black of varied patterns. Their father was a foreign breed - Duroc Jersey - stocky and bigger than Takong. It had upturned nose and flappy ears. Takong laid on one side and obediently nursed her litter, each taking possession of a teat. "Just don't get too close." my father warned.

Father knows that even if animals have been domesticated, they still carry the evolutionary gene designed to protect their young against any perceived enemy - which may include their own masters. Animals are most dangerous at nesting time and after giving birth, and until the young are ready to be weaned. Another warning my dad emphasized is that never touch the young, more so to take them away from the nest or litter.

We can't resist picking up newly born animals, like kittens and puppies, because they are lovable. Their mother can easily detect our intrusion. She may abandon the poor cute thing, or even kill or eat it. Or she takes the whole litter away to a safe place, sometimes too far, we won't be able to trace.

In the wild, animals can sense danger that may threaten the whole litter, if not the whole herd. According to sociobiology as proposed by Dr E O Wilson, the founder of this new field of biology, altruism and sacrifice are actually part of behavioral instinct which is important to the survival of the species - to the extent of sacrificing its individual members. Murder and cannibalism among animals may be explained with this theory. So with sudden attacks on people by pets, and by animals in zoo and circus.

Takong's offspring soon reached weaning time. Dad sold them as growers, leaving one of our choice to become our next sow. It was a crossbreed. It bore less of the features of the mother than those of the father. “It got more blood from her father," said Anding, our caretaker. I named our future sow Turik, meaning multiple spots.

We built a concrete pen for Turik to protect her from the sun and rain, and from other animals. Feeding and watering troughs were made for easier work. Twice the local veterinarian came to give Turik immunization, and thereafter visited her regularly like a medical doctor to a patient.

Turik grew bigger than her mother, Takong. Well, because we pampered her with so-called modern technology like giving her only pre-mixed feeds which we brought from the capital three kilometers away. To save time and wastage we provided built-in feeding trough with automatic dispenser and faucet. The floor was always kept clean with a power hose. A roll-on, roll-off canvas was installed to keep off the sun or cold wind. But there was one thing I sorely missed.

I missed Takong, I never saw a sow build a nest again. ~

Mystery of the White Cross

 Dr Abe V Rotor
 Living with Nature - School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday
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 people. 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 one another 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 MalacaƱang. 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 a tall immaculate white cross, and no weed grows around it.~

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Miniature Dioramas: School Projects and Educational Tools

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog 
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM Band, 8-9 evening class, Monday to Friday

Miniature diorama of a Coral Reef 

 These mini-dioramas were projects of students and became part of the former St Paul School Museum. SPUQC. This lesson is dedicated to the students who made them, and to many visitors who appreciated the value of these masterpieces. 

Hands-on, these dioramas took shape,
     Bruised and cut and stained,
Sweat and tears, imagery and faith,
     That Nature's image is made.

On-site, these scenes now in glass cases,
     Are faithful to science and art;
They reveal the earth's beautiful faces,
     But with the spark of life apart.~

The idea of miniaturized dioramas depicting ecological scenes was pioneered by students taking up ecology subject at St. Paul University QC. Their works - two dozen mini-dioramas depicting major ecosystems - were displayed for 15 years at the school museum, then the centerpiece of natural history.

A diorama is a “view window” reproduced from an actual or imagined event or scene made by artists who have a background of painting, architecture and sculpture combined, and of course, history. In this particular case, the diorama artists must have a working knowledge of ecology and biology.

One who may have visited any of the following museums has a better understanding as to what a diorama is in terms of structure, content and medium: National Museum in Manila, Ayala Museum at Greenbelt in Makati, and National Food Authority Grain Industry Museum in Cabanatuan. But the dioramas in these museums are large and spacious. It gives him the feeling that he is right on spot where the event is taking place or where the scene is located. This is enhanced with the right ambiance of lighting, musical background, narration or dialogue and the like.

The mini-dioramas at the former SPUQ museum are much simpler and smaller. They are works of amateurs but nonetheless exude the quality works of artists cum ecologists. Here are seven mini-dioramas depicting the Tropical Rainforest, the Ocean, Pacific Lagoon, Coral Reef, Alpine Biome, Savannah and the Desert,

1. Tropical Rainforest
The earth once wore a broad green belt on her midriff – the rainforest – that covered much of her above and below the equator. Today this cover has been reduced - and is still shrinking at a fast rate. The nakedness of the earth can be felt everywhere. One place where we can witness this is right here in the Philippines where only 10 percent of our original forest remains. Even the great Amazon Basin is threatened. As man moves into new areas, puts up dwellings, plants crops, becomes affluent, increases in number, the more the tropical rainforest shrinks. Our thinking that the forest as a source of natural resources is finite is wrong. Like any ecosystem, a forest once destroyed cannot be replaced. It can not regenerate because by then the soil has eroded, and the climate around has changed. It is everyone’s duty to protect the tropical rainforest, the bastion of thousands of species of organisms. In fact it is the richest of all the biomes on earth.

2. The Ocean
Scientists today believe that eighty percent of the world’s species of organisms are found in the sea. One can imagine the vastness of the oceans – nearly 4 kilometers deep on the average and 12 km at its deepest - the Marianas Trench and the Philippine Deep - and covering 78 percent of the surface of the earth. Artists and scientists re-create scenarios of Jules Verne’s, “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea,” such as this diorama, imagining man’s futuristic exploration in the deep led by Captain Nemo, the idealistic but ruthless scientist. Such scenarios are no longer fantasy today – they are scenes captured by the camera and other modern tools of research. And the subject is not one of exploration alone, but conservation, for the sea, limitless as it may seem, is facing the same threats of pollution and other abuses man on land, in water, and air. The sea is man’s last frontier. Let us give it a chance.

3. Pacific Lagoon
The vastness of the Pacific Ocean is disturbed now and then by the presence of islands – big and small, singly or in groups - that appear like emerald and pearl strewn on the dark blue water, presenting a most beautiful scenery that attracts people to experience true communion with nature. Originally these islands were the tips of volcanoes, at first fierce and unsettled, but later became tame to the elements that fashioned them through time into lagoons, and other land forms of varied geographic features. As seen in this diorama, this island typical of Boracay is rich in vegetation, coconut trees grow far into the water and on the white sand that cover the shores. The coral reef teems with many kinds of marine life, from rare shellfish to aquarium fishes. In fact the whole island is a sanctuary of wildlife. It is a natural gene bank, a natural museum of biological diversity.

4. Coral Reef 
Second to the Tropical Rainforest in richness in species diversity is the coral reef, often dubbed as a forest under the sea. Corals are simple animals of the Phylum Coelenterata, now Ctenophora, that live in symbiosis with algae. Algae being photosynthetic produce food and oxygen that corals need, and in return receive free board and lodging, and carbon dioxide. Within this zone grow many kinds of seaweeds, some reaching lengths of several feet long as in the case of kelp (Laminaria), and Sargassum, the most common tropical seaweed. As a sanctuary it cradles the early life stages of marine life until they have grown to be able to survive the dangers and rigors of the open sea. Coral reefs are formed layer upon layer through long years of deposition of calcareous skeletons of Coelenterates which is then cemented with sand, silt, clay and gravel to form into rock. Limestone is a huge deposit resulting from this process Scientists believe that without coral reefs islands would disappear and continents shrink. Above all we would not have the fishes and other marine organisms we know today.

5. Alpine Biome
Isolated from the lower slopes and adjoining valley, this ecological area has earned a distinction of having plants and animals different from those in the surrounding area. Because of the unique climate characterized by an intense but short summer and extreme cold the rest of the year, the organisms in this biome have acquired through evolution certain characteristics that made them fit to live in such an environment. Alpine vegetation is dramatic owing to its ephemeral nature. Here annual plants bloom with a precise calendar, attracting hordes of butterflies and other organisms. The trees are gnarled as they stand against the howling wind, mosses and liverworts carpet the ground, streams are always alive, and migrating animals have their fill before the cold sets in. We do not have this biome in the Philippines, but atop Mt. Apo in Davao and Mt. Pulog in Benguet, the country’s highest mountains, lies a unique ecosystem – a combination of grassland and alpine. This could be yet another biome heretofore unrecorded in the textbook.

6. Savannah
Home of game animals in Africa, the Savannah has the highest number of herbivores of all biomes. It had always been the “grand prix” of hunters until three decades ago when strict laws were passed prohibiting poaching and destruction of natural habitats. The diorama depicts the shrub-grass landscape, a stream runs into a waterhole where, during summer, attracts animals from the lowly turtle to the ferocious lion which stakes on preys like zebra and gazelle. Beyond lies Mt. Kimanjaro, Hemingway’s favorite locale of his novel of the same title (Snows of Kilimanjaro). It is said that the beginning of the Nile River, the longest river in the world, starts with the melting of snow atop Kilimanjaro, right at the heart of the Savannah.

7. The Desert
Scenes of the Sahara flash in our mind the moment the word “desert” is brought about to both young and old, in fantasy or reality. Here lies a wasteland, so vast that it dwarfs the imagination. Deserts are found at the very core of continents like Australia and North America, or extend to high altitude (Atacama Desert) or way up north (Siberian Desert) where temperature plunges below zero Celsius. In the desert rain seldom comes and when it does, the desert suddenly blooms into multi-faceted patterns and colors of short-growing plants. Sooner the desert is peacefully dry and eerie once again, except the persistent cacti and their boarders (birds, insects and reptiles), shrubs and bushes that break the monotony of sand and sand dunes. But somewhere the “desert is hiding a well,” so sang the lost pilot and the Little Prince in Antoine de St. Exupery’s novelette, “The Little Prince.” I am referring to the oasis, waterhole in the desert. It is here where travelers mark their route, animals congregate, nations put claims on political borders. Ecologically this is the nerve center of life, spiritually the bastion of hope, a new beginning, and source of eternal joy particularly to those who have seen and suffered in the desert. The desert is not a desert after all.~

Other biomes include:

  • Tundra - type of biome where the tree growth is hindered by low temperatures and short growing seasons. It is the coldest of all the biomes.
  • Taiga - The Russian word for forest and is the largest biome in the world. It stretches over Eurasia and North America
  • Temperate Deciduous Forest - dominated by temperate broad-leaf trees that lose their leaves each year. The four seasons are distinct.  The trees lose their leaves in colorful display characteristic in autumn; they lay bare often in snow in winter, resume growth in spring, and are most luxuriant in summer which is also the time of flowering and seed formation.  
  • Grassland -  characterized as lands dominated by grasses rather than large shrubs or trees. The largest grasslands are the prairies of North America, and pampas in South America
  • Chaparral a shrubland or heathland plant community found primarily in the U.S. state of California and in the northern portion of the Baja California peninsula. 
  • Lake - Examples: Sea of Gallilee, Aral Sea, Laguna Bay, Victoria 
  • River - Mekong, Danube, Rhine, Nile, Mississippi, Yangzhe River, Brahmaputra, 
Biomes are defined as the world's major communities, classified according to the predominant vegetation and characterized by adaptations of organisms to that particular environment. The importance of biomes cannot be overestimated. Biomes have changed and moved many times during the history of life on Earth. More recently, human activities have drastically altered these communities. Thus, conservation and preservation of biomes should be a major concern to all.

Quaint Talipapa

Dr Abe V Rotor

 Living with Nature - School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday
Tahong and talaba (green mussel and oyster)
Sugpo (shrimp) and crabs
Shellfish and lobster
Pusit (squid)
Arusip (Caulerpa)
Talangka (mud crab)

It's people's market, a spontaneous institution;
Everywhere, anywhere it rises in communion
With all walks of life converging into a ganglion,
Serving felt needs, the yardstick of satisfaction;
Name it: seaweeds, hito, giant grouper, tahong,
Variety for all culinary, or just a meal's portion;
Buffer against force majeure and economic recession;
By any measure, sans dollar-peso conversion,
Life goes on and on, so with the whole nation.~

Monday, July 27, 2015

Fragments of Spirituality

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature - School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday
 Fragments of Spirituality, glass painting (36" x 48") by the author, 2002 
Its rays broken, the sun no longer bright,
      foresaken this house of worship,
where the world around is a green pasture,
      sans the shepherd and his sheep.~

Green World - Where lies the Pierian Spring

Dr Abe V Rotor
 Living with Nature - School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday

Green World in acrylic by the author 2015

Rest your eyes away from TV and computer screen
      and feast on the freshest color of all - green:
Deep in this kingdom where peace and freedom reign 
      spans from the mountains down to the glen;
Get out of the metropolis to this wonderful scene   
     where lies the good life  tranquil and serene. 
World of the living and deities as it has always been
    home of the Homo sapiens and his kin. 

*In Greek mythology, the Pierian Spring of Macedonia was sacred to the Muses. As the metaphorical source of knowledge of art and science, it was popularized by a couplet in Alexander Pope's poem "An Essay on Criticism" (1709):
"A little learning is a dang'rous thing;/
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring."

An early reference to the Pierian spring is found in the Satyricon of Petronius,
In one English translation (by W.C. Firebaugh, available online *:

"Come! Gird up thy soul! Inspiration will then force a vent
And rush in a flood from a heart that is loved by the muse!"