Monday, June 18, 2018

Rizal - My Hero

Dedicated to Dr Jose P Rizal on his 157th birth anniversary, June 19, 2018
"The three greatest treasures of mankind are liberty, fraternity and equality - guard them with your life."

Dr Abe V Rotor

Author poses before the historical marker, Arch of the Centuries, University of Santo Tomas, ManilaAuthor is an alumnus (Ph.D. 1986) and professor in the UST Graduate School, and Faculty of Arts and Letters. (1986-2016).  Photo below:The Arch of the Centuries 

Since childhood I have always looked up to our national hero, Dr Jose P Rizal, as my personal hero. Here is a list of lessons I gathered from my readings about his life and works.
  1. Don't allow yourself to fall into vices and bad habits.
  2. Seek the truth, how difficult and painful it may cause you.
  3. Tap your talents, develop them to the fullest and use them for a cause.
  4. Work hard, aim high, and realize your dreams.
  5. Never associate yourself with people who can destroy your values and principles.
  6. Fight for your rights, and the rights of others, seek for and stand by the truth.
  7. Always be ready to help people, particularly those who are less fortunate than you are.
  8. Love your country, there is no better place in the whole world.
  9. Love your people, they are your pride, dedicate your life to them.
  10. Freedom is the first and ultimate right of any individual.
  11. Never forget to recognize God' wisdom and goodness in the midst on man's evil ways.
  12. Be fair, be objective, be sincere in seeking justice.
  13. The meaning of life is its consecration to a great idea - even if its time has not come.
  14. In death there is light even before freedom for which you fought has not dawned.
  15. Goodness will always triumph over evil; never evil over evil.
  16. Look back at tradition, preserve and be proud of it; it is the foundation of values in life.
  17. Remember your ancestors and those who died for your country and people.
  18. Fight for the cause of social justice; you have all reasons to gain for your people and country - even if you lose.
  19. The three greatest treasures of mankind are liberty, fraternity and equality - guard them with your life.
  20. Martyrdom is the greatest credential that shall earn you a place to be with your Creator.
Add to the list other lessons this great man has influenced you, the Filipino people, and the world. ~

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Bigger-than-Life Sculptor - Jose Lazo Jr:

San Vicente (Ilocos Sur) Series
"Losing a masterpiece has indeed a profound effect - such experience generates renewed challenge and greater resolve." 

Dr Abe V Rotor
Sculptor Jose Lazo and his recent obra maestra – 12-foot concrete statue of St Francis of Assisi, 2017

He may not be the like of the sculptor of the lost Colossus of Rhodes, one of the wonders of the ancient world. Or the mysterious creator of the giant bird of Nazca in Peru, or the makers of the busts of four US Presidents chiseled on a whole face of Mt Rushmore. 

But he has the resoluteness and deep spirituality of a religious artist like Michelangelo who made the Pieta – Mary holding on her lap the dead Christ, her son, the most power sculptural work that moved the world to its knees. He has the sense of patriotism of Guillermo Tolentino, foremost Filipino sculptor who made the UP Oblation and the Bonifacio Monument in Caloocan – great works that made him National Artist.

Or that of the mystic imagination of Auguste Rodin who molded The Thinker. People who saw it say he is a living rock with mind, heart and soul. “Tap his knees and imagine yourself in his place.”

Sculptors have a singular vision other artists may not have. Give them a piece of rock or block of wood or a hill of clay and they bring down Mt Olympus, so to speak; heroes come alive in the middle of a square, deities become humans; unfinished works whole like the armless Venus de Milo which exuding the deepest source of beauty because of her incompleteness.

But who are these sculptors, and how do they relate with contemporary times, more so with today’s postmodern art?

In my hometown, the classical sculptors are a dying breed, in fact many of them are gone – but their works remain immortal. Names like Boy Peralta, Norling Castillo, Lorenzo Mata, and Jose Lazo Sr, still ring whenever San Vicente is mentioned, a town just west of Vigan dubbed “Little Florence or a la Vatican.” Or Paete (Laguna) of the North, artisan center of spatial art of world class fame, or Angono (Rizal) art capital of the Philippines, town of another national artist, Botong Francisco.

The local fame however, lives on. In my younger days I knew artists in the older generation in our hometown. After years of absence I met Jun Lazo, son of a well-known sculptor. He is a prolific maker of bigger-than-life religious and secular icons, and a series of saints adored by thousands of faithful, especially during Holy Week. His works are found in altars, grottos, atop fence walls of churches and plazas.

(Top left, clockwise). Mary Magdalene; twin statues – Christ about to be scourged. and St John the Baptist; two versions of the crucified Christ, Christ seated in pensive mood

Jun at work: concrete statue of Bernadette who witnessed Mary’s apparition at Lourdes, France; Jun renders the basic shape of Christ on the Cross with local tools

A BS Fine Arts graduate from the University of Northern Philippines, he had a stint as instructor in the same university taking over his father’s post after his untimely demise. But he opted to leave and became a full-time and free-lance sculptor of religious icons as well as heroes and prominent individuals.

Among his famous works is a monument of Andres Bonifacio leading the Philippine Revolution in 1889. The monument proudly stood for some time at the highway junction to Bangued and Narvacan coming from Manila, until it gave way to the elements and was never restored. Jun told me that it was painful to find out the sad fate of his work, especially because it represented a national hero revered not only by Filipinos, but the whole world. “It is as if something died in me.” He sighed. Losing a masterpiece has indeed a profound effect - such experience generates renewed challenge and greater resolve. 

Jun climbs a scaffolding to put the final touches of a replica of a cave where Mary appeared to young Bernadette at Lourdes, France.

I studied Jun’s works, and asked him what really motivates his passion as a sculptor. “Have you ever been in Lourdes to be able to make a replica of the miraculous place and event in a local setting?” He sensed my question even before I asked it. I wonder how an artist, practically all by himself, can make a giant statue. He sensed this, too, and showed me a picture of a 12-foot concrete statue of St Francis of Assisi, patron saint of ecology and environment. “You have to work fast before the concrete mix hardens.” 

“When does an artist write finish, and put down his tools? Who has the final say?” Jun was silent. In commercial art it’s the patron. Historically, in ancient times and in the Middle Ages, the Renaissance notwithstanding, the patrons of art paid high for premium works, their imprimatur putting high value to such works, and the artists on the other hand, gain recognition and fame. Such is the case of Michelangelo, Da Vinci, and later in the field of painting, Vincent Van Gogh and Pablo Picasso, and on our part of the globe, Luna, Amorsolo, Ocampo, Alcuaz, and others. 
It reminds me of Michelangelo’s David, a huge marble statue of King David in his youth carrying the symbolic slingshot that killed Goliath. Soon after the statue was formally presented, Michelangelo’s patron commented, “His nose is a bit large.” Though adamant the great sculptor climbed the statue to fix it. Cleverly he put in his pocket marble dusts and pretended chiseling the nose to the satisfaction of his patron. The truth is that Michelangelo did not change his masterpiece a bit. 

The case of Rodin’s monument of Honore Balzac, France's greatest novelist, was different. While in the making, Rodin’s students visited the great sculptor in his studio and praised his on-going work. “Oh, master what real, beautiful hands! The hands alone make this work a masterpiece.” “Even only these hands make you great, Master.” seconded another student.

Instead of being elated Rodin got an axe and cut off the hands of his icon and said, “In art, no part is greater than the whole.” Today the monument of Balzac without arms proudly stands in a plaza.

Jun, as he is popularly called, is the “Last of the Mohicans” so to speak, referring to the theme of the novel by Fennimore Cooper, of a dying breed of a noble race, the Native Americans who were ultimately conquered and displaced from their domicile by foreign invaders from the West.

Art today faces a similar dilemma. Today’s technology has taken much of the illusions of artists, machines are taking over the sweet tedious task of creativity, mass production has made art cheap in the guise of affordability by the masses. And the magic of electronics has led people’s attention away from original and genuine works of art. 

Go to a store of religious items; watch the faithful carry icons during procession; examine medals, scapulas, brooches; go to the mall and have a cursory study of beauty in the corporate world; pause for a selfie; visit museums and exhibits ,,, 

How art has changed. Yes, in a material world. In a world of fleeting moments, And if we seem to be drifting away with change - aimless, chartless, feeling uneasy and not finding peace inside us, we might as well look back and seek comfort in what makes us humane – the Humanities. 

Humanities is never considered a science, in fact it is a recourse from too much use of the left brain, the seat of reason. Humanities doesn’t deal with equations and logic, it’s the right brain taking us to the greatest height of imagination we call creativity. Creativity is the foundation of originality. And in art you can’t be wrong, because it is theory, your theory. And there is no judge better than you. 

Go over the original works of artists – amateurs and professional. Then look into you own works, and you will better appreciate Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Tolentino, et al, and their students, Jun Lazo among them. And innumerable potential artists waiting to be tapped -- you among them. 

Sculptor Jose Lazo Jr (left) and author take time out before a wall-to-floor murals painted by the latter at his residence in San Vicente Ilocos Sur.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Jose Lazo Jr is a native of San Vicente, Ilocos Sur. He comes from a family of professionals, his two sisters are a nurse and a care giver, and his brother a medical doctor. He has three children, all professionals too, in the fields of business management, nursing and information technology. While art runs in the family, it is Jun who found art a lifetime career and profession. ~

Friday, June 15, 2018

Yes, you can write. Tips on How to be an Effective Writer

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature - School on Blog

 The late Senator Edgardo Angara, AVR; Larry Henares (center) 
 Great Filipino Writers: Sedfrey OrdoƱez, Ofelia Dimalanta, Hortencia Santos Sankore,
 Larry Francisco, Jose Garcia Villa; right, Nick Joaquin 

 400 Books of UST (1611-2011), International Book Fair, author and family with Bishop Bacani
 Left: Authors of Humanities Today with Radyo ng Bayan hosts; 
veteran dramatist and author, Fr James Reuter, SJ

You can be a newspaperman, radio broadcaster, TV anchorman, feature writer, columnist. You can be an author, and that's not a far dream.

If you are a student you will get higher grades for your reports and theme work. You will get a good rating for your research. You will be better understood of what you wish to communicate.

If you follow the following tips:
1. Think first, then write
2. Get to the point
3. Use familiar words
4. Omit verbal deadwood
5. Keep your sentences short
6. Shorten your paragraph
7. Use specific, concrete language
8. Prefer the simple to the complex
9. Be positive
10.Use the active voice
11.Write as you talk
12.Use adjectives sparingly
13.Revise and sharpen
14.Write to express, nmjot to impress
15.Odds and ends. Moderate use of words
16.Grammar, form and style
17.Respect culture and tradition
18.Morals and ethics
19.Read, read, read
20.Providence, the Unseen Hand

Good luck!

Reference: Journalism for Filipinos, Alito L Malinao

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Remembering Fr Jose Burgos on Philippine Independence Day, June 12, 2018

Father Jose Burgos - Idealist, Scholar and Hero 
Jose Burgos opened the gateway to Philippine Independence from Spain

By Dr Abe V Rotor
Excerpt from author's response on receiving the Father Jose Burgos Achievement Award 2015
“But I am innocent!”
“So was Jesus Christ," said one of the friars. At this point Burgos resigned himself. The executioner knelt at his feet and asked his forgiveness. “I forgive you, my son. Do your duty.” And it was done.

Jose Apolonio Burgos y Garcia
(February 9, 1837 – February 17, 1872). He was only 35 at the time of his execution.

am transported back in history, 143 years ago to be exact, as I receive this prestigious award.  There I see a very young Filipino priest, together with two other priests, being garroted to death. I cry with my heart out to stop the barbaric, dastardly act. But then I realize what martyrdom truly means, and that is, death brings forth a new beginning, a new life, new hope from the cause for which the martyr gives his life.
Burgos was the last, a refinement of cruelty that compelled him to watch the death of his companions. He seated himself on the iron rest and then sprang up crying: “But what crime have I committed? Is it possible that I should die like this. My God, is there no justice on earth?”

A dozen friars surrounded him and pressed him down again upon the seat of the garrote, pleading with him to die a Christian death. He obeyed but, feeling his arms tied round the fatal post, protested once again: “But I am innocent!”

“So was Jesus Christ," said one of the friars.” At this Burgos resigned himself. The executioner knelt at his feet and asked his forgiveness. “I forgive you, my son. Do your duty.” And it was done.

(Veneracion quotes Leon Ma. Guerrero’s The First Filipino: “We are told that the crowd, seeing the executioner fall to his knees, suddenly did the same, saying the prayers to the dying. Many Spaniards thought it was the beginning of an attack and fled panic-stricken to the Walled City.”)
As I stand at the foot of his monument today, I feel unworthy of the cause Father Burgos gave his life. His name forever lives in the annals of history not only for his countrymen, but for all peoples of the world. His death stirred a revolution that paved the way to Philippine independence from Spanish colonialism. It marked the beginning of a new era – the end of colonization, followed by the birth of new nations. 

It is this incident with acronym GOMBURZA (Gomez, Burgos and Zamora for the three martyrs) that virtually started the Philippine Revolution. It was later inflamed by the power of the pen of Jose Rizal, our national hero, followed by armed mass uprising led by Andres Bonifacio, consequently the raising of the first Philippine flag by Emilio Aguinaldo.
Execution of the three priests, Gomez, Burgos, and Zamora by garrote
I trace the roots of Father Burgos in Vigan, the provincial capital of Ilocos Sur, now a UNESCO World Heritage city. Our hero’s home is now a veritable museum; a plaza is dedicated to him, at the center rises his monument, his statue pensive and scholarly, indeed a pose relective of his extraordinary academic record at San Juan de Letran and University of Santo Tomas where he earned three baccalaureate degrees and two doctorate degrees, with a third for final completion. Indeed this achievement serves to inspire our youth today to study hard and give education the highest priority.

What crime did our hero commit to deserve capital punishment and justify his death? We can only surmise who the victim was in a master-slave society. Burgos stood for and on behalf of his fellow Filipino clergy against abuses and discrimination by Spanish friars, which was taken as a serious threat to the Spanish government and grave offence to the church hierarchy. Burgos' implication in a mutiny in nearby Cavite, sealed his fate. He was 
placed in a mock trial and summarily executed in Bagumbayan, now Luneta, along two other clergymen. When dawn broke on the 17th of February there were almost forty thousand Filipinos (who came from as far as Bulakan, Pampanga, Kabite and Laguna) surrounding the four platforms where the three priests and the man whose testimony had convicted them, a former artilleryman called Saldua, would die.

Execution Scene by an Eyewitness

I imagine the scene of the execution from the account of a witness, Frenchman Edmund Plauchut, when Burgos, the last to die after seeing his two compatriots met their death suddenly stood from the garrote seat shouting, “What crime have I committed to deserve such a death? Is there no justice in the world?” Twelve friars of different orders restrained him and push him back into seat, advising him to accept a Christian death. Burgos calmed down, but went on again shouting, “But I haven’t committed any crime!” At this point, one of the friars holding him down hissed, “Even Christ was innocent!” Burgos finally gave in to the executioners who broke his neck with one swift and sudden twist of the garrote handle. 

It is a re-enactment of Christ’s passion and death, except that the leaders of the church are the very persecutors! Christ was killed by his enemies, Burgos by his friends and colleagues!

Burgos as Outstanding Thomasian  

Burgos’ death opened the road to freedom from the Spanish colonial masters. But what is the relevance of Burgos’ martyrdom today? I ask my students at the University of Santo Tomas of their impressions of Dr Jose Burgos was an alumnus and professor of the university. They regarded him with high esteem - as a great man and hero like Rizal who also studied at UST. Both were exemplary models in the pursuit of education, and higher education at that. Burgos was not only a very good student, he taught us that there is no end to learning. Thus the importance of a continuing education as a way of life. My co-professors also uphold the idea that the pursuit of knowledge on the level of philosophy elevates the learned person on the highest level of scholarship. This is where knowledge transforms into wisdom. Philosophy is love of knowledge, an extraordinary discipline open to all.
GOMBURZA  at the Bonifacio Monument in Caloocan MM
The name Burgos is enshrined in eight municipalities in Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Isabela, La Union, Pangasinan, Quezon, Southern Leyte and Surigao del Norte. There are also roads, schools, organizations named after him.
Burgos’ nationalist views, codified in editorials, essays, championing political and ecclesiastic reforms in favor of empowering more native clergymen, made him a target of opposition to civil authorities.” – The True Life of Jose Burgos (Ang Tunay na Buhay ni Jose Burgos.)
As one of the most important events in Philippine history the significance of GOMBURZA is taught in schools. History books by Teodoro Agoncillo, Gregorio Zaide, et al point to this event important in arousing national consciousness for freedom. It influenced Filipino leaders to carry on the great task, among them Rizal who dedicated his second novel, El Filibusterismo to Burgos. 

Burgos' Influence on Rizal and Jacinto 

In Rizal's letter 18 APRIL 1889 to Mariano Ponce, another compatriot, he said, “Without 1872 (GOMBURZA execution) there would not now be a Plaridel, a Jaena, a Sanciangco, nor would the brave and generous Filipino comrades exist in Europe." Without 1872 Rizal imagined he would now be a Jesuit and instead of writing the Noli Me Tangere, would have written the contrary. "At the sight of those injustices and cruelties, though still a child, my imagination awoke, and I swore to dedicate myself to avenge one day so many victims. With this idea I have gone on studying, and this can be read in all my works and writings. God will grant me one day to fulfill my promise.” 

On April 30, 1896 at the height of The Philippine Revolution General Emilio Jacinto recalled the GOMBURZA Execution. Author Jim Richardson wrote: “The day that Gomez, Burgos and Zamora were executed, writes Jacinto, was a day of degradation and wretchedness. Twenty-four years had since passed, but the excruciating wound inflicted that day on Tagalog hearts had never healed; the bleeding had never been staunched. Though the lives of the three priests had been extinguished that day, their legacy would endure forever. Their compatriots would honor their memory, and would seek to emulate their pursuit of truth and justice. As yet, Jacinto acknowledges, some were not fully ready to embrace those ideals, either because they failed to appreciate the need for solidarity and unity or because their minds were still clouded by the smoke of a mendacious Church. But those who could no longer tolerate oppression were now looking forward to a different way of life, to a splendid new dawn.” 

Father Jose Burgos Achievement Awards 

Burgos’ is honored in an annual celebration KANNAWIDAN (Heritage) in his birthplace Vigan which honors the province’s outstanding sons and daughters with Father Jose Burgos Achievement Awards and Recognition, dubbed the Nobel Prize among Ilocanos, in like manner the Ramon Masaysay Award is regarded as the Nobel Prize of Asia.

Where are the Writings of Burgos? 

There are 44 known works of Burgos, mostly unpublished and unlocated, 12 were in manuscripts and preserved in Luis Araneta collection in Manila. Topics gleamed from the titles include the following (translated from Spanish):

1. Shells in the Philippines
2. History of Roman Religion in the Philippines and its Mysteries
3. State of the Philippines at the arrival of the Spaniard
4. Studies on Philippine life in prehistoric time
5. What is a Friar?
6. What is the Bible and how to interpret is
7. Studies of archaeology of Manila at the arrival of the Spaniards
8. Philippine stories and legends
9. Corruption bathed in blood in the Roman religion
10. Religion vs Science (annotated by Rizal?)
11. How religions are formed
12. Are Miracles True?
13. Can religion make man better?
14. Studies of fishing in the Philippines,
15. Philippine Kings,
16. Mysteries of the Holy Inquisition in the Philippines,
17. Reforms necessary for the country,
18. Is the end of the world at hand?
19. Cultivation of intelligence in this country,
20. Comparative study of savage rituals, Crime in old Manila

But where are the original manuscripts? Why weren’t they printed and translated. Was it part of the silencing of this great Filipino Scholar? Allegedly too, Burgos' works were faked to the extent probably to discredit him and erase his name from any significant aftermath against the Spanish government and the church. Discovered as fake is La Loba Negra ( Black She-Wolf), printed and made into a play and dance.

Burgos rekindled Liberty. Equality and Fraternity
the trilogy of the French Revolution of 1789

The life and death of Jose Burgos rekindles the trilogy of the French Revolution 100 years before. Liberty, Equality, Fraternity was a battle cry for ten long years of struggle until the Monarchy toppled. The triad became the foundation of constitutions of a number of countries including the US and the Philippines. In effect, the martyrdom of Burgos, Rizal et al, brought a new meaning of the trilogy in contemporary society. GOMBURZA paved the way to Philippine Independence from Spain, and continued to inspire Filipinos onward. Today we face threats to that cause locally and globally, a test whether or not we have truly imbibed the timeless great lessons from our great heroes. 

1. Life and Works of the Three Martyred priests GOMBURZA
2. The True Life of Jose Burgos (Ang Tunay na Buhay ni Jose Burgos.) 
Ambeth Ocampo, The Incredible Father Burgos
4. Leon Ma. Guerrero,  The First Filipino 
NOTE:  The author studied at UST for his doctorate degree (Ph.D. Biological Science 1986 Meritissimus), thereafter he was appointed professor at the university's Graduate School and Faculty of Arts and Letters for 30 years. The author studied in Vigan for his high school at the Colegio de la Imaculada Conception, now Divine Word College of Vigan. He is a native and resident of San Vicente, a town three kilometers west of now Metro Vigan, a UNESCO Heritage City.   

Evolution of Patriotism

120th Philippine Independence June 12, 2018
Guest Editorial (Greater Lagro Gazette
Patriotism is a way of life. So with loyalty. Both must live with and in us always. 
Dr Abe V Rotor

Image result for Philippine independence 119 anniversary photos

Theoretically and ideally patriotism is a sacred temple founded on four pillars:
· love and compassion,
· support and defense of ones country
· national loyalty
· universal principle for peace.

Before arriving at this ideal definition, patriotism has undergone a long historical evolution 

To children patriotism and heroism are tied up, say in Superman comics and in the classics. Here the protagonist prevails over the villain and circumstances while building the moral of the story. Heroism is a result of strife, sacrifice, guts and Providence. In tragic stories, death is justified by a cause, such as freedom. At the end it is always the human spirit that triumphs.

Our children therefore must be guided to inculcate in their mind and heart the sense of  patriotism and 
heroism and as they grow up will understand their common grounds and differences, whether fiction or true story.

To scholars, patriotism has many faces. In the age of colonization the master was the patriot, the self-proclaimed civilizer as he “brought the subjects – the natives into the folds of civilization and converted them into a new faith.”

First Philippine Republic: Asia's First 

Going back to June 12,1898, proudly the Philippines proclaimed independence from Spain, the first to break away from colonial rule in Asia. Though short-lived, the First Philippine republic, nonetheless catapulted the Filipino nation onto the world’s consciousness carving not only a place among the family of nations but also a distinct niche as the first republic in Asia. 

The birth of new nations in post-colonial era spawned a new breed of heroes and patriots, hardline nationalists building a glamorized image as benevolent dictators. while they were trapped to allegiance to either democracy and socialism polarized during the Cold War which lasted for 45years until 1989.

Racism, apartheid, anti-semiticism, extreme fundamentalism, and the like, have faded from the limelights of enlightened societies. Walls dividing ideologies were knocked down. Divided countries like Germany and Vietnam were reunited. USSR was dissolved back to Russia we know today, liberating its union members into independent states.  

Today the concept of patriotism is again at the crossroad. For one, the indigenous peoples have found a place among former colonial masters in government and in various fields, and even excel in many of them. Indigenous leaders considered before as enemies are now recognized as heroes like Lapu-lapu in the Philippines, and   Montezuma of the Aztecs (early Mexicans). Many aboriginal leaders in Australia, Africa, the US and other parts of the world have been brought to fame and bestowed honor. Patriotism brings back the pride and dignity of ancestors, aborigines and indigenous people: Mac-liing of Upper Chico River in Kalinga Apayao, Wangari native of Kenya led the planting of millions of tree, Barack Obama and Luther King led the once maligned Negro to international respect, redeeming him from freedom to equality. 

Patriotism in Postmodern Era

Patriotism grows with the times. But it must stand firm, it should not be engulfed by the current of change. On the contrary, patriotism must serve as anchor against rapid and chartless change, especially in our new era we call postmodernism, which means “living tomorrow today.”

The electronic age has “wired” the globe. Today we are just a dial away from each other. Communication satellites loom in the sky.  We are now subjects of the cyberspace empire. Today we ask what is patriotism in social media, in the Internet? To Google, Facebook, Twitter et al

No one should live in the future. It is too dangerous, lonely and uncertain. Out there is a battlefield where the enemy is no other than us – ourselves, having drifted away from

· time-tested tradition,
· valuable lessons of history,
· the primordial institutions of family and community,
· honored values and tradition, and
· man’s harmonious relationship with nature.

Where does patriotism come in - in this scenario? In this battlefield that covers practically all human societies linked by a network of communication and transportation, commerce and industry, the so-called progress has been found to have miserably failed to bring true prosperity, peace and happiness. It has undermined the true meaning of The Good Life. It is taking man away from the realities of life, much less its challenges and conditions that make life exciting, fulfilled, and worth living, that ensures the sustainability of these attributes in future generations.

One unique characteristic of Patriotism is its humbling effect, contrary to popular notion. It brings man to his knees to reflect and meditate. And to gather courage and strength for change. But it is a change against, and away, from futurism. Away from the brink of Armageddon, from a cataclysmic consequence of a global conflict that is not remote from happening.

Let us seriously consider these disturbing global events that threaten world peace and security:

· rise of organized terrorism,
· escalating Syrian war,
· the sudden diplomatic row between and among countries in the Middle East.
· breakup of the European Union,
· nuclear threat by North Korea and Iran
  (and the unaccountable nuclear stockpile during the Cold War.)
· unabated pileup and emission of wastes on land, sea and in the air
· global warming, climate change, induced force majeure and other consequences
· runaway increase in population (7.7 billion today)
· eroding values and tradition
· greedy capitalism and consumerism,
· maverick science and technology (Frankenstein syndrome)
· extremism and fundamentalism leading to separatism and alienation.
· our own present Mindanao conflict.

We must be soldiers to defend none other but ourselves, the human race. No species on earth is as self-destructive as Homo sapiens, ironically the “thinking man,” the only rational organism on earth. 

"We are soldiers ourselves to protect ourselves."

If we are soldiers ourselves for our own sake what then are we fighting for or against? Remembering the great Mahatma Gandhi, we must renounce the seven Deadly Sins defined by this great leader, acclaimed Man of the Millennium (the greatest man who ever lived in the last one thousand years) by starting with and in ourselves. 

Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Aristotle who lived 2500 years before, qualified such change, said, “It is not always the same thing to be a good man and a good citizen.”

These sages meant that a good man has higher attributes than just being a good follower, law-abiding, and conscious of his rights and privileges. Patriotism surpasses tenets and doctrines; it sets inviolable principles. It prods us to renounce

· Wealth without work
· Pleasure without conscience
· Science without humanity
· Knowledge without character
· Politics without principle
· Commerce without morality
· Worship without sacrifice.”

― Mahatma Gandhi, Seven Deadly Sins

Patriotism is committed to preserve tradition. 

It is a conservatory of values that have guided our ancestors for eons. In fact one writer said, “Primitive people were more patriotic than we are today.” The liberty of the individual is no gift of civilization. It was at its greatest before there was any civilization. On the road of change let’s look back and see the beacon that has guided man's aspiration and goal.

“A love for tradition has never weakened a nation, indeed it has strengthened nations  in their hour of peril” said the great British hero, Winston S Churchill.’’
We have reasons to cherish life which nature provided us free and plentiful. Theodore Roosevelt said, “Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children's children.

Tradition is the saving grace of a dangerous postmodern world. We are living in a bubble that can burst anytime. As a consequence economics over the world will collapse. We are sitting on a social volcano which may erupt in Syria, Middle East, Mindanao, Europe or North Korea.

Among us are heroes and patriots in their own way: senior citizens still active, still contributing to the welfare of our society;
 teachers dutifully attending to their duties as vocation; media men and women truthful to the code of journalism even as they face the risk of the profession; "doctors in the barrio" as how the late Dr Juan Flavier described them; widows, orphans in great resolve to go on in life - these and 1001 others are the unknown heroes in our midst. They are like the Unknown Soldier, who only God is witness to his deed. And that there is no deed, however small, is insignificant.

Yes, patriotism is a way of life. So with loyalty. Both must live in and with us always. x x x

Sunday, June 10, 2018

A Dead Tree Arises Heavenward

Dr Abe V Rotor 
Skeleton of Agoho (Casuarina equisetifolia) of the Pine Family, QC, 2017 

Half a century I lived, my master is now gone, his generation remnant
of tradition, imprimatur of the old school, the values of old, outstripped
by today's postmodern living.

My death is also the death of my friends: lichens and mosses on my
bark, ferns and lianas on my limbs, mycorrhiza and rhizobia in my 
roots, and others in symbiosis with me.

My demise is also a great loss to countless dependents: insects 
feeding on my leaves, bats feeding on my cones, bagworms housed in  
my needle leaves, earthworms thriving on my litter.

My crown was once a huge umbrella for tired passersby, stopover 
of  birds in their migratory route; it buffered strong wind, and filtered
dusts and carbon in the air, cooled the surroundings. 

I stood tall to reach out for the sun and through photosynthesis 
converted its energy into food and other materials, while releasing
oxygen to balance the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. 

Like my relative, the pine, I did not shed my leaves all at once unlike 
the deciduous trees; instead I shed my leaves as they grew old, thus
I kept the landscape evergreen all year round. 

My life was a struggle like my kin in the wild abiding with the laws 
of nature; unlike them however, I lived on the whims and dictates of 
the human community in which I was introduced.

I did not have a family of my own, my children were weaned early 
and carried to places I never knew; nonetheless I learned to live well 
in a man-made community of plants humans called park or garden.   

I played with children in my shade and on my limbs, lulled them in 
their cradle, the old in their hammock, the bold in their swing, 
whispering, humming, creaking in nostalgic pain and laughter.

Many times I joined their celebrations, tasted their beer, held up their 
flag and banner, joined in their singing, kept secrets of lovers who 
marked my trunk their initials and vows leaving traces of memories. 

I grew up with kids until they left home, rejoiced at their return, 
welcomed and showered confetti to friends and guests, prayed for the
sick, grieved for the dead, expressed my own way of compassion.  

I was pruned many times to give way to electric lines and cables, 
road widening, for necessity of  firewood and materials for various 
crafts, or simply for aesthetic reason whatever that means.  

Progress, I had my share too, but I got mostly the harmful consequences:  
pollution, congestion, global warming, acid rain, ailments that 
accompany the Good Life, which progressively led to my demise.   
I have been standing dead for some time now and no one seemed to 
care, save the termites and fungi gnawing on my skeleton, and some 
black birds that sit awhile on my bare crown.

I rise up and peep into the hole in the sky beneath me, and if this is
a gate to an afterlife told by man to be so beautiful, I ask my Creator 
if I too, deserve the gift of eternal life and happiness only a place 
called Heaven can give.  ~                                                                                                                                                                         

Saturday, June 9, 2018

A Glimpse into the World of Insect (A Lesson in Entomology)

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog 

Lesson: Entomology - and other sciences - can be made more interesting through popular writing, translating the technical nature of science to the level of undertanding, and entertainment, particularly among children. The humanities treatment of this article, enriched by painting and photography, enhances general readership and appreciation of the subject. 

Garden - Haven of Insects
La Union Botanical Garden, Cadaclan, San Fernando, LU. On-the-spot painting by Abe V Rotor. Courtesy of Dr. Romualdo M del Rosario, Project Director.

With increasing population, traffic and commerce all around a community, there is one place, a garden, that offers a wildlife sanctuary, specially insects. Here they live freely in the trees and shrubs, on annuals, inside the greenhouses, around the ponds, in loamy soil, and in the shade of buildings, and even visit homes seeking a suitable abode.

I have the feeling that of all animals, insects are the most adapted to the varied aspects of human activities, from the sound of hurrying feet to soft echoes of prayer and hymns – and loud music. When there are humans around, insects feed on morsels, paper and crayons, drink on fruit juices and beer. They aestivate in flower pots and boxes to tide with the harsh summer months. Or hibernate when the cold Siberian High comes. I think Pavlov’s conditioned learning works with insects as well.

Interestingly, as an entomologist, I have been monitoring the insects in some gardens, listing down a good number of species that include those not readily found elsewhere. These include a giant click beetle, a rhinoceros beetle with horns resembling a triceratops, Ficus pollinating wasp, leaf-curling thrips of ikmo, long horned grasshoppers, sulfur and Papilio butterflies.

Well, it is a fact that there is no escape from insects - good or bad ones. In terms of species, there are 7 insects out of 10 animal’s organisms of earth. Insects comprise 800,000 kinds and scientists estimate that their kin-lobster shrimps, spiders, ticks, centipedes, millipedes and scorpions if these were to be added, the phylum to which they all belongs, Phylum Arthropoda, would comprise 80 percent of all animals organisms. To compare, plants make up only one-half million species.
Daddy-long-legs, relative of the mosquito, quakes continuously when at rest by swaying its body back and forth in all directions, causing blurred view to a would-be attacker, and mesmerizing a potential prey. In the open, such optical illustion is enhanced by the shadow of the moving organism. Note the hind pair of wings reduced into halteres or balancer, characteristic of Dipterans. There is another kind of daddy-long-legs which belongs to Arachnida.

Antlion's traps. The predatory larva of this Neuropteran (Dendroleon obsoletum) lies buried at the bottom of the pit waiting for an unwary ant to fall and become its meal.

What secrets have insects in dominating the animal world, and surpassing the geologic history of dinosaurs, fishes, mammals and even some mollusks?

Well look at the ants, termites, and bees, the so-called social insects. Their caste system is so intact and strict that is was long regarded as a model of man’s quest for a perfect society. It inspired the building of highly autocratic empires like Egyptian and Roman Empires, and the monarchial Aztecs, Inca and Mayan civilizations.

Take the case of the butterflies and moths. Their active time is not only well defined - diurnal or nocturnal, but their food is highly specific to a plant or group of plants and their parts. Their life cycles allow either accelerated or suspended metamorphosis depending on the prevailing conditions of the environment, a feat no other animal can do more efficiently.

One time my students gathered around me by the ponds. There I explained to them the bizarre life of the dragonfly, once a contemporary of the dinosaur. Its young called nymph is a fearful hunter in water as the adult is in air. Apparently this is the reason on how it got its legendary name. I showed them the weapons of insects: the preying mantis carries a pair of ax-and-vise, a bee brandishes a poisonous dagger, while a tussock moth is cloaked with stinging barbs, a stink bug sprays corrosive acid on eyes or skin. The weevil has an auger snout, the grasshopper grins with shear-like mandibles, and the mosquito tucks in a long, contaminated needle.

We examined a beetle. Our thought brought us to the medieval age. A knight in full battle gear! Chitin, which makes up its armor called exoskeleton, has not been successfully copied in the laboratory. So with the light of the firefly, the most efficient of all lights on earth.

Wait until you hear this! Aphids, scale insects and some dipterans, are capable of paedogenesis, that is, the ability of immature insects to produce young even before reaching maturity!

Numbers, numbers, numbers. This is the secret of survival and dominance in the biological world. King Solomon is wise indeed in halting his army so that another army - an army of ants can pass. Killer ants and killer bees destroy anything that impedes their passage, including livestock - and human.

Invisibility is another key to insect survival and dominance. Have you examined the inside of leaf galls in santol, Ficus and ikmo? Well, you need a microscope to see the culprit - thrips or red mites. I demonstrated to my students how insects, being very small, can ride on the wind and current, find easy shelter, and are less subjected to injury when they fall. Also, insects require relatively less energy than bigger organisms do. All of these contribute to their persistence and worldwide distribution. Insects surely are among the ultimate survivors of a disaster.

In an article I wrote, A Night of Music in a Garden I described Nature’s musicians, the cricket and the katydid. While their sounds are music to many of us they are totally coded sounds similar to our communications. Cicadas, beetles, grasshopper, have their own “languages”, and in the case of termites and bees, their language is in the form of chemical signals known as pheromones. It is from them that we are learning pheromones in humans.

A Walking Stick, a perfect example of mimicry.

Without insects, we are certain to miss our sweetest sugar which is honey, the finest fabric which is silk, the mysterious fig (Smyrna fig) which is an exotic fruit. We would be having less and less of luscious fruits, succulent vegetables, the reddest dye, unique flavor in cheese, and most likely we will not have enough food to eat because insects are the chief pollinators, and main food of fishes and other animals. They are major links in the food chains and food webs, the columns of a biological Parthenon.

Without insects, the earth would be littered with dead bodies of plants and animals. Insects are the co-workers of decomposition with bacteria and fungi as they prepare for the life of the next generation by converting dead tissues into organic materials and ultimately into their inorganic forms. Together they help bridge the living and the non-living world.

A garden without bees and butterflies mirrors a scenario of the biblical fall. And if the other creatures in that garden strayed away from its beautiful premises as our first forebears began their wandering, they too, must have learned the true values of life, which they share to us today.

Beautiful is the verse from A Gnat and a Bee, an Aesop fables. To wit:

“The wretch who works not for his daily bread,
Sighs and complains, but ought not to be fed.
Think, when you see stout beggars on their stand,
The lazy are the locusts of the land.”

In The Ant and the Grasshopper, Aesop, acting like a father with a rod in hand, warns. He was referring to the happy-go-lucky grasshopper.

“Oh now, while health and vigour still remain,
Toil, toil, my lad, to purchase honest again!
Shun idleness! Shun pleasure’s tempting snare!
A youth of rebels breeds age of care.”

Ecologically insects are the barometer of the kind of environment we live in. A pristine environment attracts beneficial insects, while a spoilt one breeds pests and diseases.
Ficus pseudopalma and its exclusive wasp pollinator, a classical example of co-evolutionOnly this species of wasp can pollinate and subsequently fertilize the introverted flower of this fig plant. Wasp is magnified 20x under a stereo microscope.

I have yet to see a firefly in a city garden. I remember an article in Renato Constantino’s series of publications, Issues Without Tears. Its title is, You don’t See Fireflies Anymore, a prophesy of doom, a second to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.

Maybe. But I have not lost hope. Someday, a flicker in the night may yet come from a firefly and not from a car or cigarette - if only others will share with me the same optimism.
x x x