Thursday, August 17, 2017

Green Rock

Painting and Poem by Dr Abe V Rotor

Green Rock, in acrylic (37” x 22.5”) AV Rotor, 2013

What good is rock if it loses the essence
     on which life rises, so with dreams;
nurtures the living from birth to death,
     builds rills, rivulets and streams?  

What greater strength than to yield
     to the lowly moss and lanky vine,
to tall trees that live for a hundred years,
     once upon a rock now a shrine?

What greater gift than boys climbing
     a rock face, in pure adventure
to conquer the world, real or fantasy,
     and unveil the secrets of nature?

What greater drama than in the world
     of young Darwin’s and Jules Verne’s time,   
when imagination and reason are but one   
     to make a rock become sublime?    

Endangered Species: Don't ever say goodbye!

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature - School on Blog
This is our 1,886th post. Welcome!

Lesson: Let's protect threatened and endangered species. They are part of the Web of Life. Losing them means breaking the links of the chain, thus destroying the integrity of the system in which man is a part. List down the species of plants and animals that are threatened or endangered in your area or country. What can you do to protect them? Don't allow them to say goodbye. Research and present it in class or in an environment conference or workshop.

Specimens of endangered animal species, among them the Flying Lemur, Palawan Peacock, Porcupine, and Spotted Philippine Hawk. Former St Paul University Museum, QC

Philippine Eagle (formerly monkey eating eagle) Parks and Wildlife Center QC

Sea eagle, La Union Botanical Garden, Cadaclan, San Fernando LU

Giant fruit bat. Lake Tikob, Tiaong, Quezon

Swordfish. Photo taken at San Fernando, La Union 2004

Never say goodbye, my friends in the wild,
Friends of my ancestors, of time long gone;
Survivors of the meteor's gale, Darwin's test, 
By creation or evolution that you've come. 
Never say goodbye, it's not coming or going,
As casual as among kin and friends;
Else death the consequence of your absence;
A link of the chain broken, and life ends. 

I wish you to stay under the roof above -
The sky, although heavy and foul;
To stay on land, the field, hills and valleys,
Though crowded each soul yearning a bowl.

I shall protect your last bastion, just don't say
Goodbye. Else it's losing Paradise again,
All creatures become orphans of Mother Earth -
Lifeless - no one shall be left to gain. ~

Old Spanish Vigan

Dr Abe V Rotor
UNESCO World Heritage - This is how Vigan, the oldest Spanish settlement in the Philippines, after Cebu and Manila, looked like - day and night - way back in the 16th century. Today Vigan is the top tourists' attraction in the whole of the Ilocos Region. Photos by Matthew Marlo Rotor who hails from the place. (Vigan is 400 km north of Manila, reached in 6 hours on first class buses. Check flight schedule to Vigan, or Laoag. From Laoag, it's 90 km by land down to Vigan.)

Monday, August 14, 2017

Grains Museum Re-opened After 30 Years

The ingenuity at the grassroots cannot be underestimated. Farmers' technology developed with the birth of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent thousands of years ago, and spread throughout the world. 

Dr Abe V Rotor 

The re-opening of the museum signifies the revival of the original objectives of the museum, which the author envisioned and pursued as its first curator in the early 1980s. . . 

One of the seven dioramas, Rice farming on the Banaue rice terraces

Featured in the Grains, official publication of the National Food Authority, the NFA Grains Industry Museum with address at the Regional Office in Cabanatuan City (NE) is now inviting students, scholars, researchers, and ordinary folks, even while restoration is on-going. 

The feature story is quoted in part, as follows:  (December 2016 Vol. 44, No. 4), written by Ms Lina G Reyes and Ms Josephine C Bacungan), 

"Old farm tools and artifacts had been sitting quietly, gathering dust at the dilapidated museum of the Central Luzon Regional office in Cabanatuan City. National Food Authority Grains Industry Museum was a brainchild of then NFA Extension Director Abercio V Rotor with a vision to highlight the evolution of the rice industry through various images on production, post-harvest activities, processing, storage and marketing /distribution of rice and other grains .  It was intended to serve as NFA's contribution to the preservation of cultural traditions particularly in the agricultural landscape.  It operated for sometime but was closed down due to lack of funds and trained personnel to maintain it.  But thanks to he history-loving team of Director Amadeo de Guzman and Assistant Regional Director Serafin Manalili, and then Asst Director Mar Alvarez, et al ... "(the whole staff of the NFA regional and NFA provincial offices.) 
Rare Artifacts   
Operated by hand this native rice mill made of wood and bamboo separates the husk from the grain, leaving the grain intact with its bran.
Brown rice or pinawa dehusker made of bamboo and hardened earth with hardwood grinder displayed at the former Farmers' Museum of the National Food Authority in Cabanatuan City.c 1981 
The bran contains minerals, vitamins, oil, and digestible fiber which conventional rice mills removed during polishing. Polishing removes the bran leaving the grain white and polished. In the process, much of the grains is broken, particularly the defective and immature ones chalky and powdery.  It is the bran that gives the nutritious tiki-tiki which is extracted in the final boiling stage in cooking rice. Tiki-tiki was developed by a Filipino scientist, Dr. Manuel Zamora, a cheap and practical source of infant food supplement which saved thousands of babies during the second World War. It was later popularized as United Tiki-tiki. 

 Biggest wooden harrow (suyod) with a span of two meters, more than twice the size of a typical harrow for upland farming.  

The harrow is of two designs and make. One with iron pegs (left) is used on wet paddy. It serves as harrow and leveler.  The second is made of bamboo with natural and embedded pegs used as harrow for the upland.  

Author demonstrates a rare wooden planter with a sliding wooden block at the middle. The block creates a tic-tac sound to let know the worker is busy on the job, while the deep sound warns birds and rodents to keep away from the newly planted seeds. The block vibrates the stake shaking off clinging soil and dirt before it is thrust to make the next hole. Whoever put this mechanism into multiple and unified uses must be a true genius. 
At the background (above) are naturally shaped hame* made of bamboo.  At the foreground is the mould (cross section) showing the formed hame. The process involved is simple.  The mould is placed atop an emerging shoot.  The shoot grows through the mould and grows to maturity. One or two years after, the bamboo is cut with the mould, and cured and seasoned for durability all in the natural way.  (Hame is a curved harness that fits over the nape of a draft animal like carabao and bullock. Hame for the horse is made of two wooden pieces, padded and clamped together around its neck.) 


Native raincoats made of leaves of anahaw (Livistona rotundifolia), cowhide, and woven bamboo slats, with matching headgears likewise made of native materials.  Foreground: Sleds, one made of bamboo (left) and the other of wood. 

All over the world there are similarities, based on a general pattern, save variations for ease and comfort in usage, which we call today ergonomics, Thus primitive farmers were the founders of this new science. Pride in the farmer can be read on face on discovering these simple tools displayed in the museum.   

These sets of mortar and pestle in different designs came from different regions of the country, principally for dehusking palay into rice, and making rice flour. Other uses include  cracking beans such as mungo, and grinding corn into grits and bran. 

Photo below was taken just after the inauguration of the Museum (1982). The author (left) shows new collection to Dr Romualdo M del Rosario (in barong), deputy director of the National Museum, who helped in setting up the museum. 

The ingenuity at the grassroots cannot be underestimated. Farmers' technology developed with the birth of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent thousands of years ago, and spread to many parts of the world. The commonality of inventions is more on function, rather than scientific explanation, the latter serving as basis in improvement and diversification.
Rice Industry Showcase
The Farmers' Museum of the then National Grains Authority, now National Food Authority, was put up in response to the administration's thrust in food self-sufficiency.  It was during the time the country gave emphasis on developing cultural pride as a nation and people, as evidenced by the expansion of the National Museum, the putting up of the Philippine Convention Center, and the National Art Center on Mt Makiling, among others, during the administration of the late President Ferdinand E Marcos. The Farmers' Museum occupied the right wing of the Regional NFA Building in Cabanatuan City for two decades, until it closed down.  It was once a pride of the agency, the centerpiece of visitation by foreign dignitaries, convention participants, tourists, professors and students, and most especially farmers who found the museum not only as a showcase of the agricultural industry, but as a hallmark of their being the "backbone of the nation." AVR   

There are seven dioramas, four of these are shown in these old photographs. A wall mural meets the visitor on entering the museum.  Indigenous farm tools and implements are lined on the foreground.  The dioramas are grouped at the center of the cubicles.   

 Rice Industry Dioramas 
The flagship of the Marcos administration Masagana 99, a nationwide
 rice production program that made the Philippines a net exporter 
of rice in the later part of the seventies.
Rainfed (sahod ulan) farming dominates the uplands and hillsides. 
Good harvest depends on generous amount and distribution of 
rainfall during the monsoon. Since ancient times festivals implore 
providence for bountiful harvest. This practice still exists especially 
among the  minorities like the Yakans.  
World famous rice terraces in Banaue in the Cordillera have been declared World Heritage by UNESCO. Rice farming on the terraces is as old as the terraces believed to be as old as the Pyramids of Egypt, and much older than the Great Wall of China. Science is still studying the sustainability of these terraces. 
 The Encomienda System dominated agriculture during Spanish rule over the
 islands for more than three centuries. The friars and Spanish officials were the encomienderos,similar to hacienderos.   Although the system underwent land reform, it still persists to this day under corporate umbrella such as the case of Del Monte pineapple plantation. Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac still retains some features of the system.                          

This mural was destroyed when the wall had to undergo major repairs.
How primitive are farmers' tools and implements? The animal-drawn sled predates the wheel cart, and has not changed since its invention thousands of years ago.  It is still used in the remote countryside. 
Brain coral for shelling corn raises eyebrow to the city bred.  Biggest iron bar scale (timbangan), probably is  another item for the Book of Guinness. 

“Education is the lifeblood of museums. Museum education has the power and the responsibility to do the challenging inner work of tackling tough topics and turning them into teachable moments... If we truly believe in the power of cultural institutions to impact communities and engage authentically with social justice issues, if we believe in museums’ capacity to bring about social change, improve cultural awareness, and even transform the world, than we must also believe that our internal practices have an impact, and must act according to the changes we seek.”

― Monica O Montgomery

“Closing a museum to save money is like holding your breath to save oxygen...”
― Nanette L. Avery  

Some treasures of the former St Paul Museum (1995-2006)

Dr Abe V Rotor
Former faculty curator

Dr Anselmo S Cabigan lectures on natural history at the former SPUQC Museum

These, among hundreds of items, are what used to be the features of a school museum of its kind - St Paul University Museum QC. These earned the museum recognition by the National Commission of Culture and the Arts with the curator sitting as member of one of its committees for a decade until 2007 when the original museum closed down to give way to a new plan.  

[Tyto capensis amauronota (Cabanis)] Stuffed specimen
" Of all the birds I ever did see, the owl is the queerest me ," goes the rhyme we learned in the elementary school. It is true in a sense because first, owls have monkeylike faces and large round eyes which are fixed in their sockets so that the bird must turn its head virtually 360 degrees to focus its sight on an object without moving its body. Second, owls are active only at    night , hunting for other animals which they swallow whole and sometimes live and kicking . In their search for prey they fly silently and ghost like, making occasional humanlike scary sounds .     These indeed paint a very queer picture of this maligned creature which is in the list of endangered species. Ecologically owls are important in controlling the populations of rats in the field and forest. And without the owl, a full moon scene would be less romantic because it would  be devoid of the chilly touch of Doyle and Hitchcock . Besides, writers would have to look for another symbol, which we doubt of there is any other animal wiser than the wizard owl.

Shells belong to vast Phylum Mollusca which contains about 100,000 species, half of which live in saltwater, while the other half live in freshwater and on land. All mollusk have complete organ systems, including a brain. They are generally egg laying. They are vegetarians, carnivorous and scavengers, and a few have even look to kill their prey. There are also poisonous species which may be lethal to man. These specimens are rare collections which are seldom found today. Their white and chalky characteristics are a result of continuous exposure to heat and rain.

This figurine was carved from a solid rock emitted during the volcano's eruption on June 12, 1993. Although the volcano emitted pyroclastic material which was principally ash, occasionally  there were stones and rocks which were either thrown out directly from its bowels, or coagulated in the process of emission or sedimentation. The local folk etch a living from this solid material, which they carve into figurines or gather for the construction industry.

With the unabated destruction of our coral reef it is not common to see undisturbed huge corals  such as this one. Corals are animals in colonies belonging to Phylum Coelenterata, which is often associated with Cnidaria, of the Class Anthozoa. This specimen belongs to an Acropora or Elkhorn species. Coral reefs are the forest of the sea, the counterpart of our terrestrial forests. With the association of seaweeds, they constitute the abode of fishes and other marine life, without which our seas would not be as productive as they are today. However, the destruction of coral reefs through illegal fishing like "muro-ami" and dynamite fishing, as well as   the conversion of shores into resorts and fishponds have greatly reduced fish catch and the diversity of marine species. Today our laws prohibit coral gathering, more so for export. Coral reefs conversation is a priority program of many countries. Without corals our island would fall back to the depth of the sea and our continents would be reduced through erosion. Thus, corals are nature's architectural and engineering wonder for they serve as riprap and barrier against the restless sea, while making the world underwater a truly beautiful scape beyond compare.

Cynocephalus volans Linnaeus, (Stuffed specimen)
In Carmen , an hour drive by jeep on rugged road from Davao City, a pair of Philippine lemur was caught at the edge of a forest clearing. The animals were clinging upside down, their face buried in the membranous fold that covers the body, batman style for fear of light and human beings. As we invade their habitats, cut down the trees and expand our farms, we are unwittingly flushing out the remaining rare Philippine flying lemurs. This animal is found also in Samar, Basilan and Bohol. It is nocturnal and solitary, spending the day inside holes of big trees in the forest. At night it climbs to the peak and glide again to the next as it feeds on young leaves and ripening fruits of certain tree species. Sometimes it travels too far that it is overtaken by daybreak before it reaches its tree home. In this case it seeks a nearby thick cluster of leaves and hides there, then resumes its travel back home the following night. Except  for its fur which is used as fancy cap , the animal has no commercial value. Its species is now endangered along with our vanishing forest. AVR

This two-piece primitive grinder is perhaps one of the first machines developed by stone age man following the invention of the wheel some 4000 years ago. Although flour milling is now highly mechanized, this grinder is still used in remote areas. In fact there is a unique place in San Esteban, Ilocos Sur, where local stone carvers, using hand tools, still make this grinder. The operation is simple. Glutinous rice previously soaked overnight is fed through the top aperture. The upper stone is slowly and steadily rotated by hand. The rice is crushed between the stones and the wet flour is expelled through the sides. With gradual addition of water, the flour flows down the furrow and is finally collected. Partially crushed grains are once more fed into the grinder. The tedious process adds traditional color and quaintness to our indigenous "puto bongbong", "duyduy", "suman", and other native delicacies.

PHILIPPINE BATS (Stuffed specimens)
This cluster of Philippine bats are cave dwellers (Eonycteris), while the big solitary specimen is a fruit bat, Macroglossus lagochilus lagochilus. Cave bats belong to the genera Eonycteris, Megaderma, Hipposidros, and Rousettus, to mention the most important ones. Because the Philippines is endowed with their natural habitats, bats are a common sight in practically all over the 7,100 islands. one can imagine the fiction scene at dusk when the bats emerge in horde from their abode inside the cave complex of Tabon, Palawan or in Callao, Cagayan. Most bats are insectivorous and are therefore, ecologically important. Bat droppings form guano which is the best natural farm and garden fertilizer. Bats are nocturnal and can "see" their prey by radar using high pitch sound which echoes to their sensitive ear, enhanced by their acoustic membranous wings. They have developed the unique agility to catch their prey as small as a mosquito in mid-air through this aerial echo loaction phenomenon, compensating for their poor visual sense which has degenerated through evolution. Our concern today is to arrest the decreasing population of bats as we destroy their habitats, converting caves into tourists' spots, quarrying and deforestation. To literature lovers, would horror stories be the same without bats? AVR.

This is wood turned into rock by a natural process called petrifaction. This piece of wood was converted into rock by infiltration of mineral matter mainly calcium, the same material which makes up limestone. This specimen reveals the original anatomy of the wood - the bark, cork, cambium layer, xylem and the like - which may lead to the identification of its species, including its age by counting the annual rings, and such historical information as the occurrence of fire, pest attack, and drought which affected the living tree. All these were accurately preserved through petrifaction. This specimen belongs to an early Gymnosperm, relative of the pine, which dominated the Coniferous forest where the dinosaurs probably roamed. AVR

Man's First Invention
The wheel revolutionized human life and society. It laid down the foundation of agriculture, and later, industry - from the bullcart to the steam engine, and soon after, the automobile and spacecraft. Today we are virtually living on wheels - everyday. (From the prairies of Manitoba, Canada)

THE PLAGUE (Sand table)
It was supposed to be cycle, a round about wherein one branch was to benefit from the other. From the Supreme Being came the gift of creation and the division of talents among the races.  And then came the innovations made by man to benefit their kind and the other living things. But along with the advancement of technology provided us were their waste products.
The earth's pristine forests and the living inhabitants that adorn the surroundings would never have crossed our minds to even translate its parts into huge dumpsites. Garbage disposal has posed as a massive and disturbing problem since the sites are almost all filled up and has caused so much pollution to the nearby towns where the dumpsites are located.

It is surprising how much things can change in just a short span of time. In the most recent years, the rivers have bluntly been marred; its natural hues have transformed into a thick, black pigment synonymous to that of an oil spill which has pervaded throughout the seas, and sadly, these are all because of the careless discard of waste products. The chemicals emitted by industrial factories go straight to the waterways, directly affecting the condition of the water and the species inhabiting their particular niche. Shanties which are erected nest to the creeks or rivers disposed their garbage in the closet, most convenient place - the water. in a much wider scope, the waterways are continuous which means that one polluted water body will flow on the next path, and it may influence or eventually affect the water contained in another area.

Various insects swarm over the rubbish. These insects fly and prey from one object to another, and the cause disease that may severely affect our health. Facilitation of the chemical repellants contain strong components which, when infused into our system, may or will cause diseases.
Fortunately, the elders of the nations around the world have finally been roused by the peril that the ecological imbalance may induce in the coming years if they continue to neglect the warning  condition of the mother earth. We, as people of this earth have an austere responsibility to confront the current detriments that pang our niche.

Whatever we give out, it comes back to us in a hundred or ten folds. Waste segregation, if sternly followed will benefit not only us, the human race, but mother earth , as well since some matters of waste may be used to enrich the soils that hold the sturdiest of trees, and the most beautiful of greens. Segregation will also ease the efforts of recycling, since everything will be put to its proper places. Donated by Miss ROCHELLE N. ALFORJA, ABMC

SHIPWRECKPaul on his Way to Rome
Acrylic Painting (105 " x 48") and Poem by Dr AV Rotor

There are crossings ahead unexpected,
No lights, no guide; to the lesser, the end
Of dreams or riches told but ne'er granted;
But to Paul the beginning’s yet at the bend.

There is a Caesaria where the laws of men
May deny the just. There’s a friendly Malta -
Goodness begets goodness in every brethren.
And there, too, a Herod or an Agrippa.

On a stormy night for Rome, Paul's last mission
To plant the Seed in the very heart of power,
Was a grave at sea, but greater was his vision,
On weathered rock a tree rose like a tower.

To live one must almost die is reference,
But is he willing to die that others might rise?
He is truly brave, and there's the difference
To the one who deserves to walk with Christ.

PARADISE AFTER ROME: End of Paul's Mission
Acrylic Painting (105" x 48") and Poem by Dr AV Rotor

The seed in time gives rise to a forest;
In the like of the Faithful that grows,
Leaving the Pharisees and Sadducess
To Nero's wrath, to where the wind blows.

Sodom after the Ark was forgotten,
‘Til Ormoc sang the dirge of Pompei;
What’er happened to Utopia since then,
Look down Paoay Lake the old folk say.

Augustine warned people going downtown,
The city’s like a horde of restless ants.
And asked, where have all the proud souls gone,
The Pharisees, sapiens and the savants?

Ask not now if old friends will ever meet
Where once stood the great city's gate.
Who sees Golgota, Paradise at his feet,
Truly he deserves a blissful fate.

The heaven in the stars and in dream,
The promise of afterlife fulfilled
Starts here with nature, Eden redeemed -
Walk Paul, Milton and others who sinned.


He was thirty then when he arrived in Levesville-la-Chenard. It was 1694. Here Fr. Louis Chauvet prepared young girl volunteers to run a school where the children were educated and taught Catholicism. Among the four young volunteers was Marie Anne de Tilly who came from a noble family, and Marie Micheau who became known outside Levesville. In 1708 the bishop of Chartres, Monsignor Paul Godet, invited the Sisters to open a house in Bourgneuf. A congregation soon grew here, not far from the famous cathedral of Chartres.
By 1727, the congregation was serving 17 institutions in France. In the next five years missions were sent to many parts of the world. it was at the beginning of this century when the first SPC missionaries arrived in the Philippines. From here on Paulinian education spread all over the country. There are twenty major institutions under the St. Paul School System today, and one of them is SPCQ. The teachers at SPCQ continue to carry on the vision-mission of the founders and first teachers at Levesville and Chartres.

Original photos and reproduction of the first Paulinian and lay teachers at SPCQ just after the Second World War.


These are tools and paraphernalia of early cultures which retain their basic forms and functions through time. Many of them are still used to this day by the minorities, such as the Aetas around Mt. Pinatubo, the Ilongots of Nueva Vizcaya, Igorots of Cordillera, the Itneg of Abra, Itawes of Cagayan, the Yakans and Tausogs of Mindanao, and many others. There are certain commonalities in these tools and equipment, but it is more of their distinctive characteristics with which we associate or identify the culture using them. The advance of civilization however, has either modified or displaced many of them. On the other hand, their discovery has led to many efforts in trying to preserve them, mainly for historical and aesthetic reasons - and posterity. They are often part of cultural presentations, or decorations on walls and hallways, and it is not seldom that we see a foreigner wearing rattan knapsack in downtown Manila or New York.

The Young Once (Original photos and reproductions)

Looking back many years ago your teachers looked like these in these photographs - cute babies, budding beauties, knights in the shining armor, and what have you. Compare them now. Is there any semblance? But first you have to identify them. No coaching, please. Abide with the rules of the contest. There are prizes at stake.

Birthplace of SPC (Original photos)
At Levesville a school was organized by Fr. Louis Chauvet and run by four young volunteers, among them were Marie Anne de Tilly and Marie Micheau. Near the Cathedral of Chartres is a house in Bourgneuf, the seat of the congregation. Above: these sisters who soon took over the helm of SPC and helped the congregation spread to parts of the world.

The First Graduates of St. Paul College Quezon City. 1946-19471946-1950 (original photos)
These Pioneers blazed through the travails of SPCQ in the first 5 years of struggle for survival and self-reliance, a proof of SPC's determination to carry on the Paulinian vision and mission.

Where Have All the Miniature Dioramas of Nature Gone?

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

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:

    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,

These mini-dioramas were made by students as school projects and were displayed at the then St Paul University QC museum for 15 long years that I was professor and museum curator. The museum has been transformed since I left in 2010 into  another purpose.  

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.

Start making a home museum - or one for your local community

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

Lesson: Start collecting items to build a museum for your home or your community. Here are some items displayed at San Jacinto House, giving a pleasant ambiance to the place, ideal to celebrate family occasions, group meetings, workshops, or simply a place to take a break from hectic schedule. It is located along C-5, going to Katipunan, QC.

Decorative plate made in Delft, Holland, famous for its distinct azure

Wooden relief map, a rare collection.

Mariner's gadgets in the days of the galleon.

Rare collection - blunderbuss, prototype of today's long firearm.

Old cups and canisters
Antique cabinet to display collections is a museum piece itself.

Replica of a Roman Standard

Old cash register.

Reproduction of an old magazine cover, with theme still relevant today.

Acknowledgment: San Jacinto Restaurant, QC.

Top 10 Most Visited Museums in the Philippines

by Jane Dacumos on August 02, 2013

1.    National Museum of the Philippines
2.    Ayala Museum
3.    The Mind Museum
4.    Cultural Center of the Philippines
5.    UST Museum of Arts and Sciences
6.    Rizal Shrine
7.    Bohol Museum
8.    Clark Museum
9.    Palawan Museum
10.  Museo Pambata

Visit these museums and other museums as well in the country and abroad, and get ideas on how to start and manage your home or community museum.