Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010 - Year of Heroes. Are you one of them?

Dr Abe V Rotor

You can be a hero in many ways. Consider these and rate yourself through Reflective Analysis.

1. If you live a practical life so as to build personal savings, become less dependent on burrowing, and reduce wasteful living in the process.

2. If you practice a lifestyle that favors good health and relationship, without the trapping of vices and ostentatious living, making yourself an example to others.

3. You are an effective teacher using simple tools and methods, instead of sophisticated tools and expensive means, to be able to bring functional literacy to the grassroots bypassed by formal schooling.

4. If you generate power – electricity and fuel – through direct and natural means such as biofuel, and energy from wind and water, and not depend on expensive, destructive, and non-renewable sources.

5. If you convert wastes into new and recycled materials, such as composting and biogas generation, thus reducing pollution and conserving natural resources.

6. If you produce food from your backyard and kitchen (gardening, poultry, food processing), in line with self reliance, home enterprise and clean environment.

7. If you plant trees as an avowed activity to help Nature rebuild the environment, as a means of bioremediation, erosion and flood control, and the like, while increasing the supply of food and useful materials derived from them.

8. If you build your own home that is simple and economical, comfortable and health-promoting, harmonizing it with the aesthetics and bounty of nature, thus enhancing the beauty of creation itself.

9. If your go natural - from food, medicine to personal items, promoting organically grown food, alternative medicine, non-GMO (genetically modified organisms) and the like, thus protecting the health of humans and the environment.

10. If you protect wildlife and help rebuild the natural habitat of threatened and endangered species of plants and animals in ecological sanctuaries, and by enforcing laws in protecting them.

11. If you do not stop learning, if you apply what you learn through skills, and valuing them as well, to your enhance your output, and to share them for the benefits of others.

12. If you recognize and uphold the institutions, respecting the laws of the land, and revering great men and women for their works and examples for which they lived and died, without condition of doing your part well.

13. If you make use of your time fully in work and study, and not live idly, thus living a life of example to the youth in particular - diligence, persistence, sharing, and most important, valuing of life’s purpose.

14. If you build a happy family and provide well its needs, and securing a bright future of your children - and even your children’s children.

15. If you engage in an enterprise, keeping in mind and applying it as well, through entrepreneurship that is equitable to all concerned stakeholders such as the Grameen Bank Model in Bangladesh founded by Nobel laureate M Yunus)

16. If you uphold and practice the principles of equality, fraternity and liberty, in every act and decision you make, providing room for kindness and forgiveness on one hand, and firmness and resolve on the other, even in the face of danger.

17. If you cannot quiet your mind and conscience with sin – whether it be a sin or commission or omission – until you have done your part in amending it and preventing it in harming other people, in corrupting society, and the environment.

18. If you are patient, forgiving, resilient, understanding, and such other qualities that enable you to rise above difficulties of living, particularly in times of calamities - not only for your own benefit, but more for those who are less fortunate than you are

19. If you always remember to pray to that one God for his Providence, recognizing His gifts, through expression of Goodness to yourself, to Humanity and to Mother Earth.

20. If you are aware and honestly believe that you are “passing this way but once,” thus living the life that best earns your passage to that kingdom of your Creator – however humble that life may be.

Congratulations! Live then the life of a hero for 2010.

Happy New Year! From Dr. Abe V Rotor and Family.

Living wuith Nature 3, AVR

Short Story for the New Year: The Mystery Child

Child with a Dove is one of the classic oil paintings
of Picasso painted in 1901. The painting is now loaned
to the National Gallery, London.

Abe V Rotor

In a workshop for adult leaders, the instructor asked the participants to draw on the blackboard a beautiful house, ones dream house ideal to raise a family.

It was of course, an exercise, which in the minds of the participants was as easy as copying a model, or recalling experience and memory. Besides it is a universal dream to own such a house, and its concept allows free interplay of both reason and imagination.

The participants formed a queue to allow everyone to contribute his own idea on the blackboard.

The first in the queue drew the posts of the house, on which the succeeding members made the roof and floor. The rest proceeded in making the walls and windows.

In the second round the participants added garage, porch, veranda, staircase, gate, fence, swimming pool, TV antennae, and other amenities.

Finally the drawing was completed and the participants returned to their seats to discuss, What make a dream house, an ideal house? A lively “sharing session” followed and everyone was happy with the outcome, and none was happier than the teacher who learned this exercise in an international forum. Now it works on the village level.

Just then a child was passing by and peeped through the open door. He saw the drawing of the house on the blackboard. He entered the classroom and went close to the drawing and stood staring at it for a long time. The teacher approached him and the participants turned to see the unexpected visitor.

The child pointed at the drawing and exclaimed, “But there are no neighbors!”

In the same village there was a similar workshop exercise, but this time the participants were to draw a community. The participants made a queue towards the blackboard and after an hour of working together, they came up with a beautiful drawing of a community.

In the drawing there are houses. There is a plaza, around it are a church, a school, a village hall. A network of roads and bridges shows the sections of the village. People are busy doing their chores, especially in the market area. Indeed it is a typical village.

The participants discussed, “What constitute a community.” It was a lively discussion and everyone was so delighted with their “masterpiece” that the teacher even wrote at the corner of the blackboard “Save.”

Just then a child was passing by. When he saw the drawing on the backboard through the open door, he entered the classroom. He went close to the drawing and looked at it for a long time. The teacher and participants fell silent looking at their very young unexpected guest.

The child exclaimed, “But there are no trees, no birds; there are no mountains, no fields, no river!”

Some days had passed since the graduation of the participants in the two workshops. Because it was not unusual to see a child in the village, no one really bothered finding out who the child was or where he lived.

Then one day, the whole village woke up and began to search for the child, but they never found him – not in the village, not in the neighboring village, not in the capital, and not in any known place.

Who was the child? Everyone who saw him in the workshops never forgot his kind and innocent face. They pondered on his words which became the greatest lessons in life:

• But there are no neighbors!
• But there are no trees, no birds; there are no mountains, no fields, no river!”

x x x

The Mystery Child, Living with Nature 3, AVR

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Health Proverbs for 2010

Abe V Rotor

The genius, wit, and spirit of a nation are discovered in its proverbs.
- Francis Bacon

Let's learn from beliefs of different cultures, time-honored and universal in values. These are enshrined in proverbs.

These are some common proverbs about the subject of human health, which in many ways have guided us in the family in keeping good health to both young and old members. Proverbs bridge the generations, they link wisdom and current knowledge, and exude a kind of quaintness that cautions the impact of the lessons derive from them.

Select from among these proverbs those that apply best to your situation and priorities. Write a paragraph to explain each of the proverbs you selected. Enrich our list by adding more proverbs. Indicate their origin.

1. An imaginary ailment is worse than a disease. ~Yiddish Proverb

2. A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor's book. ~Irish

3. Fresh air impoverishes the doctor. ~Danish

4. The appearance of a disease is swift as an arrow; its disappearance slow, like a thread. ~Chinese

5. When the head aches, all the body is the worse. ~English

6. He who has health has hope; and he who has hope has everything. ~Arabic

7. If you start to think about your physical or moral condition, you usually find that you are sick. ~ German

8. Man can cure disease but not fate. ~ Chinese

9. A man too busy to take care of his health is like a mechanic too busy to take care of his tools. - Spanish

10. Sickness comes on horseback but departs on foot. ~Dutch

11. He who takes medicine and neglects to diet wastes the skill of his doctors. ~Chinese

12. A healthy poor man is worth halk a rich one. ~ Chinese

13. Bitter words are medicine; sweet words bring illness. ~ Chinese

14. Much talk brings on trouble; much food brings on indigestion. ~ Chinese

15. The doctor who rides in a chair will not visit the house of the poor. ~ Chinese

16. We must turn to nature itself, to the observations of the body in health and in disease to learn the truth. ~ Hippocrates

17. Sleep is a healing balm for every ill.~ Menander

18. Health, the greatest of all we count as blessings. ~ Ariphron

19. Every human being is the author of his own health or disease. ~ Buddha

20. Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship. It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver. ~ Buddha

NOTE: Proverbs, together with fables, folktales, folksongs and riddles, are part of every spoken language. They have been handed down by word of mouth from generation to generation, until they were recorded and became a folklore treasure for posterity.

The earliest collections of proverbs can be traced as far back as ancient Egypt, about 2500 B.C. The Old Testament attributed some 900 proverbs to King Solomon of Israel (10th century B.C.).

The first person, however, to engage more systematically in the collation and classification of proverbs was the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 B.C.). According to the neo-Platonic philosopher Synesius (A.D.370-413), Aristotle considered proverbs a survival of an older wisdom: 'Proverbs are... elements of old philosophy which survived, thanks to their brevity and dexterity.'

Light from the Old Arch 2, AVR; References: Chinese Proverbs (National Book Store), Greek and English Proverbs (Introduction), P Karagiogos

Monday, December 28, 2009

Twilight in the Forest

Light in the Woods in acrylic AV Rotor 1995, St Paul University Museum QC

The forest, always silent, now assumes that calm

that is more breathless and awesome than silence;
the breeze dies down, the leaves cease to rustle,
the animals of the woods slink away to their lairs;
one sees only an occasional crow,
its obstreperous caw-caw-caw echoing
and re-echoing for miles around.

No Angelus rings here,
for the nearest church is a day's journey away,
down the river and along the coast,
but one does not need to hear the tolling of distant bells
to be reminded of the hour for prayer.

One must pray here,
if only to relieve the terrifying solitude,
to stay the gathering darkness.
Here one must kneel down, make the sign of the cross,
join the twilight hush that like a solemn invocation
rises above the heads of the tallest tree to heaven.

The darkness comes like a sluggish, ever deepening stream.
Imperceptibly it crawls, inch by inch,
and as it crawls it swallows everything that stands in its way,
first the towering trees, from their buttressed roots
to the high quivering leaf,
then the shrubs and the undergrowth.

No one knows that it has reached a certain point
by the sepulchral silence that follows in its wake,
for it passes all sound and movement cease,
the creaking of the stiff branches,
the scampering of the small animals under the trees,
even the wind as it hurries through the lattice of the leaves
and vines seems arrested in its flight.
Over the deep holes left by decaying logs,
the deep puddles made by the wild boar,
this stream swirls and eddies
and forms little unplumbed pools.

The hour signifies the end of the day's work,
the cessation of all the hurrying and stumbling during the day,
a chance to sit down or lie among the cool sedges
that grow near the spring, to bow your head
or rest your bowed head on your arms;
twilight is the quiet awaiting of sleep and forgetting,
the expectation of the sensation that is peaceful and resigned...

The forest always silent, now assumes that calm
that is more breathless and awesome than silence.~

This piece was lifted from Convict's Twilight, by Dr Arturo B Rotor, and arranged in poetry form. The narrative beauty and musical language used by the author fit well with the style of a poem, although not so much with its structure. But on reciting it, following the author's purposive punctuations to emphasize details of the scenarios in romantic mood, one senses the nostalgia of the place with the ambiance of twilight. (A V Rotor)

From the The Wound and the Scar, by Dr Arturo B Rotor, 1966 Republic Cultural Heritage Awardee for Literature. Dr Rotor finished medicine and conservatory of music at the same time from the University of the Philippines in 1932. He served as executive secretary of Presidents Quezon and OsmeƱa during the Second World War era.

Orchid of Five Wounds

Orchid of Five Wounds
Is there such an orchid?

"It comes from a plant, Inday, that grows in the deep woods. It is an orchid, and it has a very unusual name, Five Wounds, Orchid of Five Wounds. Quite unusual, isn't it? But not anymore than Baby's Breath or Angel's Tears. This one got its name because on the tip of each white petal is a spot of red or purple, like a drop of blood. There is a legend that when Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross, some drops of blood from his wounds fell on this plant. Hence the name. Someday I shall tell you more about the legend."

This is an excerpt from The Orchid of Five Wounds, a short story about a sixteen-year old girl suffering of inoperable blindness. The attending doctor was describing this very rare flower. Before the kind doctor described the flowers, the patient caressed the flowers separately, feeling the petals, bringing the bunch nearer her nose. "I have never seen it before, but I think it is beautiful. Ten flowers on one stalk, petals like pearls... the fragrance reminds me of orange blossoms, but it is not..."

This excerpt gives the reader an idea on how loving a doctor can be in treating a patient. It reveals the doctor's knowledge of psychology and botany, separate disciplines he managed to unite with healing. There is mystery about the specimen - does this orchid really exist?

No one knows exactly. But the doctor in this story is thought to be the author himself - Dr Arturo B Rotor- in whose honor a new orchid he discovered was named after him, Vanda merrilii rotorii as described by Dr Eduardo Quisumbing, the country's foremost botanist. There's one thing, writers usually lead their readers into the realm of a mysterious world where the essence of living is elevated to a higher plane that challenges the faculty and psyche.

Surely the Orchid of Five Wounds resides in that realm. ~

The Men Who Play God, by Dr Arturo B Rotor, 1866 Republic Heritage Awardee, contemporary of Jose Garcia Villa, Salvador Lopez and Manuela Arguilla. Published by Ateneo de Manila University)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Papyrus, First Paper

Papyrus (Cyperus papyrus) at the Sunken Garden, UP Diliman, QC

Papyrus grows extensively along the Nile River, its stems are made into paper by the Egyptians.
The ancient art of making papyrus paper is a tourist attraction in Egpyt. Historical events and art recorded on papyrus survive to this day. These were made during the time of the Pharoahs as far as three thousand years ago.

The plant is a wetland sedge (hydrophyte), and it resembles grass. Actually it is Cyperus (Family Cyperaceae), relative of the persistent weed, Cyperus rotundus, and cattail (Typha) which is woven into mats, carpets and decors. Ancient Egypt used this plant for boats, mattresses, mats, rope, sandals, and baskets.

Living with Nature 3, AVR

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Goodbye, Camphor Trees, Goodbye

Dying Camphor Trees, UST Manila -
effects of global warming and pollution,
aftermath of typhoons and flooding.

Goodbye, Camphor Trees, Goodbye

Goodbye, camphor trees, you've served mankind well
Since Aristotle and Hippocrates,
In old villages and in the cities,
Cure-all to islanders and the Chinese.

Science has taken your place, it is time
That you return to the forest and kin;
Gardens and parks are no longer your home,
And children do not even know your name.

We've enough of your secrets copied
In bottles and syringe and cellophane,
In formulations that are hard to explain,
Except in dollars and by those who gain.

Go back to the wilderness away from man
While there's still time, while your DNA's
Still the same. We'll call you again, if ever,
Before sunset and the Armageddon.

Living with Nature 3, AVR (All Rights Reserved)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Part 2 - Antibiotics from Green Tree Ant (Oecephalla smaragdina) - A Research Proposal

Green Tree Ants' nest partly opened showing papery casing.

Oecephalla smaragdina closeup

Dr Abe V Rotor

The aim of this study is to determine the scientific basis on the claim that the secretion of green tree ant is effective in relieving inflammation and preventing infection of wounds caused by microorganisms. Such remedy is practiced in rural communities in some tropical countries which cover the Itnegs at the lower Cordillera region.

In spite of the advances in medicine and development of modern drugs, the importance of alternative and complementary medicine has not diminished in many areas, mainly for the reason that it is cheaper and therefore, affordable to the masses. Not all folk remedies have the impression of quackery laced with superstition. There must be some scientific basis in many cases. But this remains in the realm of doubt unless proven scientifically.

Validation in the laboratory and through actual cases is therefore, necessary. One such practice that needs to be proved is the use of the secretion and body fluids of certain insects known to have curative power. Ants and bees as one group are renowned for healing wounds, rheumatism, arthritis, microbial infection, and inflammation that accompany such ailments.

Theoretical Framework of the Study


Body fluid and secretion of Green Tree Ant as antibiotic and anti-inflammatory remedy.

Characterization of the secretion’s chemical composition and determination of effective dosages using bacterial test organisms and test animal.

Validation of remedy using GTA secretion, and establishment of its scientific basis.

Statement of the Problem: The investigation of the green tree ant (O. smaragdina), which has been reported to be effective in treating wounds and inflammation using its secretion and body fluid, is the object of this study. It aims to validate such local practice while expanding the knowledge about this topic.

General Hypothesis: The secretions of the Green Tree Ant larva (O. smaragdina), and the adult body extract have antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties.

Specific Hypotheses:There is a difference in the effectiveness of the larval secretion and adult body extract as antibiotic and anti-inflammatory material.
  • There is a difference in the effectiveness between the fresh and dried larval secretion.
  • The preparation from the GTA secretion is not affected by temperature, storage and sunlight exposure.
Scope and Limitation of the Study: The research focuses on the antibacterial and anti-inflammatory activity of the crude extract and secretion of the green tree ant of the local species O. smargadina inhabiting local plant hosts. Test microorganisms are E. coli and S. aureus, two most common infectious bacteria to man. As previously determined by the researcher, both crude extract and secretion of green tree ants showed negative reaction against Saccharomyces and Candida, thus the study shall be limited only to antibacterial test. On the other hand, albino rats will be used to test the anti-inflammatory property of the insect.

Description of the Green Tree Ant: It is famed as a weaver ant, not on account of its architecture that consists merely of a pile of leaves pulled together, but because of their methods of working. When fastening two somewhat separated leaves together, these ants line up on the edge of one of them, holding onto it with the legs stretched full length behind them, and working together, pull up the other leaf with their mandibles. Meanwhile other ants, with the spinning larvae in their mouths, weave the leaves together. If the distance between leaves is too great for an ant to bridge the gap, the ants form ladders; these not only make possible to pull the leaves closer together, but also serve as a bridge for the weavers. The larval secretion may be extended inward to strengthen earlier ties and provide lining to the brood. It is this secretion that is reported effective as remedy against wound infection, and in relieving inflammation.

The substance also serves a pheromone, a chemical signal for communication between and among the members of the colony. There are also over 30 different substances found in the insect, including hexanol, 1-hexanol, 3-undecanone and 2-butyl-2-octenol. When these four substances were individually tested for their effects on the behavior of the ants, its was shown that hexanol triggered an undirected alarm reaction in the ants, while 1-hexanol on the other hand led the alerted ants in the direction of the source of the scent, and 3-underconone and 2-butyl-2-octenal triggered a biting reaction. What really are the chemical compounds in the insect that possess antibiotic properties. What medicinal properties has the insect's pheromone? ~

References: Useful and Destructive Insects, Metcalf and Flint; The Social Biology of Ants, by Dumpert; Insect World, by Linsenmaier.

Part 1 - Antibiotics from Insects

Poultice made from soldier termites is effective
cure of wounds and sores.

Maggots secrete allantoin, an antibiotic substance.

Dr Abe V Rotor

The declining effectiveness of commercial antibiotics as a result of increasing resistance of pathogens makes it necessary to search for more potent ones from various sources - plants, animals, fungi and unicellular organisms. A proposed study is focused on insects with the following premises.

• The use of insects and their products in alternative medicine dates back to olden times with the use of wild honey as poultice for wounds and infections other than its principal use as health food. Even today the practice of alternative medicine in clinics and among doctors in the U.S. and other parts of the world include the popular use of bee venom in the treatment of arthritis and rheumatism.

• A mealy bug, (Dactylopius coccus) produces cochineal. The insect is reportedly being cultured commercially in Honduras, Canary Island, Mexico, Peru and Spain. Cochineal is extensively used as dye but lately it has been discovered to possess properties that allay pain, and its effectiveness in treating whooping cough and neuralgia.

• One potential source of antibiotics is the green tree ant (Oecophylla smaragdina), a member of the large order of insects, Hymenoptera, to which bees and wasps belong. Like their relatives, the green tree ant, locally known as hantik, lives in colonies. This social behavior enables them to grow in numbers of hundreds or thousands in a single colony, which can remain active for a long time. Other than its reported antibiotic property, the papery secretion attached to the leaf nest and the crushed bodies of the larva and the adult green tree ant relieve inflammation when applied on the affected area. the green ant of the Family Formicidae, is used to prepare a refreshing drink, curing headaches, and as cold remedy, and as an antiseptic and expectorant

• In the case of the leaf-cutter ants (Myrnica sp), success in growing fungus that serves as their food, depends largely in producing enzymes that have antibiotic properties, thus reducing competition with other microorganisms. The ants also remove and destroy directly alien microorganisms from their garden.

• Australian aborigines extensively use insects from their surroundings as food, medicine. The larvae of the witchery grub (Xyleutes leucamocha Turn) are rich in calories, protein and fat. The natives also crush grub to provide covering for wounds and burns.

• The honey pot ant (Melophorus batgoti Lubbock) provides sugar believed to be an elixir. The honey bag of the sting less native bee (Trinomial sp) which is directly consumed by natives as food, is also used for medicine in “cleaning their guts out”, meaning as purgative. The importance of insects to these natives extends to aboriginal fables, art, sorcery and folk healing.

• A substance from the secretion of the maggots has the same property of healing infected wounds as the maggot themselves. This material known as allantoin is described as harmless, odorless, stainless, painless, and inexpensive lotion which when applied to chronic ulcers, burns and similar pus-forming wounds, stimulates local granulation. It is also of special value in treating deep wounds such as bone marrow infections where the internal part of the wound must be healed first.

• During the First World War, Dr. W. S. Baer noticed that wounds of soldiers who had been lying on the battlefield for hours did not develop infections, such as osteomyelitis, as did those that had been treated and dressed promptly after they were inflicted. The difference was due to the fact that the older wounds were infested with maggots developed from eggs laid about the wounds by certain flies. The remarkable recovery that these maggots could clean up the infection in deep-seated wounds much better than any known surgical or medicinal treatment led to the practice of rearing maggots of the housefly (Musca domestica) and certain blue bottle flies (Caliphora vomitaria) under sterile conditions. These surgically clean maggots are then introduced into the wounds to eat up particles of putrefied flesh and bone resulting to early healing.

• Another insect with medicinal value is the blister beetle, so-called “Spanish fly” (Lytta vesicatoria) that occurs in abundance in France and Spain, and a relative of the American blister beetle. The beetle carries in its body cantharidin. It is used as folk medicine during the 19th century for all sorts of ailments, and was used as aphrodisiac. At present it is used in treating certain diseases of the urinogenital system and in aiding animal breeding.

However, the use of insects as medicinal remedy may be pure quackery or based on superstitious belief. In the seventeenth century people attributed curative power to certain insects. For example, the bite of katydid or cricket will remove warts. Cockroaches or earwig when dried and compounded will cure ulcer, weak sight, earache and dropsy. But there are authentic reports that border superstition and truth. For example, spiders are thought to heal wounds because of their web-forming habits that are likened to the stitching of wounds. Indeed by applying a mass of spider web on wound hastens its healing, an ethnic practice known in many rural communities.


References: Useful and Destructive Insects, by Metcalf and Flint; The Social Biology of Ants, by Dumpert;
Living with Nature 3, AVR

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Reverse mask to ward off animal attack.

Reversed mask as part of costume in a parade on UST campus.

A lynx cat. Avilon Zoo, Rizal

Abe V Rotor

When walking through a forest, wear a reversed mask to ward off tiger or lion attack.

This may not apply in the Philippines because we don’t have tigers and lions. But it helps discourage aggressive dogs, bulls, and even a male turkey from attacking. But how funny one may look walking with a mask turned the other way around.

In some parts of Asia and Africa, there are cases of people attacked from behind by ferocious animals which include the lynx (photo), and leopard. Reversed mask makes the would-be prey to appear always on the guard.

But recently, a growing number of these animals could no longer be deceived. Either they have become bolder as man continues to trespass into their habitats. Or it is simply a case of poor art.~

Living with Folk Wisdom, AVR-UST Manila

Living with Nature First Anniversary - Thank You! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Today is the first anniversary of our blog. There are 877 posts to date, covering a wide range of topics that revolves on the central theme of living with nature, peripheral topics notwithstanding.

I wish to thank you for your support, and hope you can share the knowledge you got with your family and friends, in the school and workplace. But I would appreciate knowing from you your reactions and suggestions.

I thank in particular our 193 followers, those who communicated with me in letters and through e-mail [], those who commented on the items directly in the blog.

I also thank the listeners to Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (School-on-Air) DZRB 738 KHz AM Band 8 to 9 o'clock p.m., Monday to Friday []. Many of the lessons can be found in the blog.

Lastly, I would like to apologize to those I may have failed to recognize or acknowledge. And to our Blog organizers and sponsors, the Internet, and all those who have made this first anniversary possible - my sincerest gratitude.

On behalf of my family I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Abe V Rotor and Family.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Crocodile in the Sky

Abe V Rotor

These two photographs of Manila Bay along Roxas Boulevard
were taken from the Cultural Center of the Philippines where
the 2009 Ramon Magsaysay Awards Ceremonies was held on
that day, August 30, 2009.

Crocodile in the Sky

I thought I would see the last of your kind
With every tree cut, swamp drained,
The river dammed or made into sewer,
The shore into resort and fishpond.
Or at least in homage, I would visit you
In a museum, stuffed or in skeleton.

Darwin and Freud studied you well
Didn’t they? So with Orwell and Marx,
Prophets and sages of old and new,
Crick and Watson, Venter and Collins –
If your DNA doesn’t suffice to tell me
All about you – then who are you?

You must be a ghost who haunts and lurks,
Immortal before your mortal demise
And haunting man since his fall,
And haunting him still - perhaps forever;
Ah, you are the biblical devil no less
To test man's rationality and obedience.

You have no place then except the place
Of your birth and those of your ancestors
In flesh and blood – and if you are a ghost,
It’s time to say goodbye to your friends,
Your guardians, benefactors,
And clear your image in the sky. ~

Living with Nature 3, AVR (All Rights Reserved)

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Little Corner of Eden

Abe V Rotor

Pristine Loboc River, Municipality of Loboc, Bohol
(Photos by Ms Cecilia R Rotor)

A Little Corner of Eden
Dr Abe V Rotor

If I were to return after the Fall
To where my forebears once lived;
If I were to trace back their footsteps
To their world of make believe -

What would I tell to my dear Creator
Whose open arms have waited so long
For man to return, to repent for his Sin -
And I, having also failed all along?

I would tell Him there is also a place,
A little green corner of grass and trees,
Of bees and flowers, rainbow and butterflies,
Where birds come and sing with the breeze.

An emerald river gently flowing,
Meandering between hills and on the plain,
Palms and trees bowing at its levees,
Its waters soothing the day's pain.

I would tell Him of this place also forgotten,
Abandoned by a bandwagon,
By those who nurture the Utopian dream,
Now orphaned and virtually alone.

Is forgetfulness also Your tool of creation?
Where man shall be gone forever
Paradise is redeemed and once more born?
No wonder Nature triumphs when left alone.~

Acknowledgment: Loboc Tourism Office. Living with Nature 3, AVR (All Rights Reserved)

Religious Vendors of Manaoag

Abe V Rotor

Name the holy objects - from rosaries to statuettes,
holy water to ointments - and the vendors have it.
Vending is more than livelihood, it is art - craftsmanship
and the art of selling itself. Persistence and persuasion,
variety and strategy, make vending a serious business
yet it is a hobby and past time, a kind of sport to many.
Above all, vendors bridge the gap of trade and commerce,
linking different walks of life and the grassroots. Here
they are part of the faithful's devotion to the Lady of

Religious Vendors of Manaoag

Tell me how many candles you have burnt for the Virgin;
Rounds of rosaries, Stations of the Cross, and psalms?
How many times have you walked to the altar on your knees,
And stigmata bleeding your side, feet and palms?

You have done these a thousand times through the faithful
Queuing to touch the miraculous icon, touching her robe;
You have done these with the light and incense of offering,
In whispers of atonement of faults in quiet throb.

You have done these a thousand times through your art
That leads the faithful to know where good and evil part. ~

Photos taken during a family pilgrimage to Our Lady of Manaoag
shrine in Manaoag, Pangasinan, Holy Week 2009.

Light from the Old Arch
2, AVR

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Part 1 - The Tropical Rainforest’s Last Stand

Part 1 - The Tropical Rainforest’s Last Stand
Dr Abe V Rotor
Bohol landscape from the air.

Farming in Chocolate Hills, Bohol.

The Tropical Rainforest could be the biblical Lost Paradise immortalized in the masterpieces of John Milton.

It was after dawn and smoke from nearby homesteads rose with the mountain mist in Carmen, between Davao City and Tagum, when I spotted a company of loggers carrying a wooden cage looking very much like an oversized onion crate. To my curiosity I looked into the cage and found a pair of flying lemurs locally called kaguiang in Bisaya or ninmal in Samal Moro, clinging upside down and cringing from the first light of morning.

Cynocephalus volans Linneaus, as the animal is scientifically called, is one of the rare mammals that can fly, an adaptation they share with the versatile bats. Unlike bats however, the flying lemur can only glide from tree to tree, a pair of thin expandable flap of skin and fur connecting the whole length of its front and hind legs serves as parachute and glider combined.

It was a pathetic sight. The pair was apparently captured when their natural habitat - tall trees that made the original forest were cut down for lumber, and the area subsequently converted into farmland in a most destructive system called swiden or kaingin farming.

Loss of Natural Habitat Results in Loss of Species

Scientists warn us that the loss of natural habitats will result in the disappearance of organisms. This is true to the flying lemurs – and this is true to thousands of different inhabitants in the tropical rainforest, the richest biome on earth.

It is estimated that more than half the species of plants, animals and protists live in the tropical rainforests. According to a Time report, there are as many as 425 kinds of living plants that are naturally occupying a hectare of tropical rainforest in the Amazon. Similarly our own rainforest is as rich because the Philippine lies on the same tropical rainforest belt together with Indonesia and Malaysia in Southeast Asia. There are 3,500 species of indigenous trees in our rainforest.

Imagine a single tree as natural abode of ferns, orchids, insects, fungi, lichens, transient organisms - birds, monkeys, frogs, reptiles, insects and a multitude more that escape detection by our senses. The tropical rainforest must be God’s chosen natural bank of biodiversity. The “Lost Paradise” that the Genesis describes and literary giant John Milton classically wrote – Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained – is undoubtedly one that resembles a tropical rainforest.


Part 2 - Tropical Rainforest Profile

Part 2 - Tropical Rainforest Profile
Dr Abe V Rotor
Rainforest serves as watershed, keeps river full and clean,
creates a cool mini climate in the area, Bohol.

Reforestation rebuilds and increases stand of trees, Bohol

Let us look at the TRF profile like slicing a multi-layered cake and studying its profile. It is made up of storeys similar to a high-rise building. The “roof” or canopy is what we see as forest cover. Here and there are very tall trees called emergents jotting through the monotonous canopy like living towers.

From the air, the view of a tropical forest is one huge and continuous green blanket that catch the energy of the sun and through photosynthesis converts it into organic materials beginning with simple sugar to the most complex compounds from which useful materials are derived - wood, rubber, resin, and drugs, etc. These products are needed to sustain the life of countless organisms and the stability of the ecosystem itself.

From the forest floor, one can see only a little part of the sky, with the rays of the sun filtering through. But now and then, the trees, depending on the species, season and other environmental conditions, shed off their leaves, which can be compared to the molting of animals as they grow. Entire crowns of leaves fall and litter the forest floor. Transformation into humus continuously takes place with the aid of insects, bacteria, fungi, earthworms and the like. And this is very important because humus fertilizes the soil and conserves water acting as sponge and blanket.

This is one of the wonders of nature. Trees in a tropical rainforest have this special characteristic. They are not only self-fertilizing; they are soil builders. Through time, with the deciduous cycle repeated without end, the forest floor – even how thin the soil is, or how solid the underlying rock is – builds up, layer after layer, and it is this process that enables many organisms in the forest obtain their nutrition in order to grow.

Deciduousness allows sunlight to pour over the previously shaded plants occupying the various layers or storeys, which serve as specific habitats or niches. Occupying the lowest part of the forest, which is equivalent to the ground floor of a building, are mostly annuals, ferns and bryophytes. Next are the shrubs which occupy the lobby and second floor, followed by undergrowth trees that reach a height equivalent to the third and fourth floor, lianas and epiphytes which may reach as high as the eighth floor. It is not surprising to find emergent trees reaching up the 200 feet.

How big can a tree grow and for how long? Take the case of the Redwoods or Sequoia found growing in southern California and China. I saw a tree of this kind in southern Taiwan, recently killed by lightning. The tallest redwood, which is still growing today, is 267.4 feet tall with a trunk diameter of 40.3 feet. It is estimated to be 3,500 years old.

The analogy of the layers of a rainforest with a ten- or twelve-storey building gives us in imagination of the orderliness of nature in keeping the rich biodiversity of the ecosystem.

The true forest primeval – the rain forest – stands along the equator now reduced into a sanctuary of “living fossils” of plants and animals that once constituted the eternal green cover of the earth.

The canopy at one time or another allows the sky to meet the residents of the forest from the ground floor to the upper storeys - something that if you stand among the trees during this transformation you will find a kind of communion that, while it can be explained biologically, fills the spirit with the wonders and mysteries of nature.

The tropical rainforest is a natural menagerie where peace, music, colors, patterns, art and skill are not so well known to modern man. The high-perched artists like squirrels and monkeys are better acrobats by birth and practice than any known human acrobats. Many primates howl with electrifying, ear splitting and blood-chilling sound that breadth the land. Above plummet the masters of the sky – the Philippine eagle and hawks, spotting their preys which may be several kilometers away, or hundreds of meters below – something which our modern spotting scopes can not yet achieve with readiness and precision.

Inside their tunnels the termite workers tap their way and chop the wood for their colony and themselves. Man has yet to learn more about the social structure of this insect.


Part 3 - Mass Species Extinction through Deforestation

Part 3 - Mass Species Extinction through Deforestation
Tamaraw (Anoa mindorensis) skeleton,
Museum of Natural History, UPLB Laguna

Orangutan in captivity, Avilon Zoo, Rizal
Wild Pigeon (bato bato), Tikob Lake, Quezon

Parakeet, Parks and Wildlife Nature Center, QC

Philippine Hawk, Parks and Wildlife Nature Center, QC

Abe V Rotor

Ecological genocide. There is possibly no other term that can appropriately picture the magnitude of destruction by deforestation. The cutting down a whole forest evidently eliminates all inhabitants. While a number of them could escape and find shelter somewhere, most of the residents being habitat-specific, cannot survive without or outside their original abode or beyond the boundaries of their niches.

This is understandable. As an ecosystem, the forest is a product of evolution. Organisms evolve with their natural habitat, acquiring traits in the process. Nature is patient so to speak, to give chance for organisms to acquire the Darwinian fitness, otherwise they will perish. Many have gained dominance in terms of number. Others simply are persistent like the dragonfly that is older than the dinosaur and has remained a popular forest resident. Acquisition of protective or aggressive mimicry is a product of long years of evolution that shows that it is effective adaptation. A classical example is the relationship of fig trees with wasps that pollinate their flowers. Not even water or wind or man can effectively do it. More specific than this is the fact that each kind of fig has a particular wasp pollinator that carries out the job. And each kind of fig has a specific fruiting season, providing continuous supply of food to many animals, such as monkeys and ground fowls.

Premised by this knowledge, we now begin to realize that reforestation is not and will never be able to replace the original forest. Reforestation efforts are merely providing a temporary vegetative cover that cannot be compared with the structure of the original forest, much less to compare it with the latter’s productive efficiency and biodiversity. Here are other premises to support this contention.

1. Nature, and not man, determines the species composition and combination in a forest. We may be referring to a woodland - not a forest - when we see Gmelina, Ipil-ipil and Teak plantations. These are intended to produce commercial wood or pulpwood for paper.

2. The landscape and the forest developed together - geographically, geologically, and biologically. Streams and springs are full because trees store rainwater in the ground; the roots and natural vegetative cover check erosion and siltation. Thus the death of a forest means also the death of streams, drying of river, silting of lakes and ponds into swamp, meandering of rivers, etching of gullies on hills and mountainsides, to mention but a few consequences.

3. Abandoned deforested areas continue to lose not only soil fertility; they lose the entire soil structure, beginning with the most fertile topsoil to the clay foundation next to bedrock. In short, through erosion the foothold built for thousands of years could be lost permanently. We can only surmise what kinds of plant grow in such situation. It is not surprising to see wasteland of talahib and cogon grass on former forestlands.

4. The forest creates a mini-climate. Forest attracts clouds. Transpiration enhances precipitation so that rain occurs anytime of the day, hence the name rainforest. All this can be permanently lost with the destruction of the forest. This explains why desertification (formation of desert) starts at deforested areas. Southern Cebu, in spite of its proximity to sea, is a typical example where one can observe the pathetic gnawing process. This can be observed also on the Sierra Madre starting in Bulacan, and on extensive areas along the narrow strip of the Ilocos region.


Part 4 - A Critique on the Lost Eden

Part 4 - A Critique on the Lost Eden
Dr Abe V Rotor
Light in the Woods, acrylic, AVR 1994

Forest Fire, Acrylic, AVR 1995

A long list of vanished and vanishing species - even those that have not been discovered and named – haunts the human species, Homo sapiens, the most intelligent of all creatures. If this is not an evidence of the original sin which he continues to commit since his early ancestors were driven from Paradise, then we are merely being led to believe in something bound by deep faith, and in something supernatural.

Every time we destroy a forest, a coral reef, or grassland, we are repeating the fault of our ancestors. The biblical story is fiction if we fail to grasp its essence. True, exile comes in many ways. But definitely, if an ecosystem is destroyed, if it loses its capacity to provide the basic needs of its inhabitants, starvation, death, and other forms of deprivation follow. Does this not trigger exile – or exodus, which is the ultimate recourse for survival?

Here is a poem I wrote upon reaching Tagum. It is about the destruction of a forest I related in the first part of this article.

Lost Forest

Staccato of chirping meets the breeze and sunrise,
Waking the butterflies, unveiled by the rising mist;
Rush the stream where fish play with the sunbeam
And the rainforest opens, a stage no one could miss,
With every creature in a role to play without cease.

John Milton wrote his masterpiece of Paradise,
While Beethoven composed sonata with ecstasy,
Jean Fabre and Edwin Teale with lens in hand
Discovered a world Jules Verne didn’t see,
But found Aldo Leopold’s ecosystem unity.

For how long to satiate man’s greed can nature sustain?
It was not long time ago since progress became a game,
Taking the streets, marching uphill to the mountain,
Where giant machines roar, ugly men at the helm -
Folly, ignorance and greed are one and same.

AVR, 2001

In 1960 Philippine Dipterocarp Forests occupied almost 14 million hectares. What is left today is only three and one-half million hectares. The average rate of decline is over 2 percent annually. What is more alarming is the decline in the volume of trees in the forest which around 6 percent in the last 30 years. All over the world, annual deforestation represents an area as large as Luxemburg. This means every tick of the clock is a hectare of rainforest permanently erased from the globe.~

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Old Church of San Vicente, Ilocos Sur

Abe V Rotor
Aerial View, circa 1976

Old photo, circa 1956

Detail of Greco-Roman frieze, typical
of European Renaissance art in the
15th century.

Ramparts of a fort.

Recent photo, detail of facade.

View of the grotto from the western tower.

Stained glass of St Vincent Ferrer

Detail of facade, eastern view.

Two statues at the front of church,
Virgin Mary and Sacred Heat.

San Vicente
(My Hometown)

In my childhood I saw detours of footprints
dividing the East and the West, two warring niches
where the zone of peace was the holy ground,
and beyond was wilderness - and the unknown,
beyond the confines of Subec and the Cordillera,
the memory of Diego Silang, and the Basi Revolt
on old meandering Bantaoay River.

In my youth I saw the sun sitting
on acacia stumps and on the tired landscape,
but rising in dreams and visions on the horizon,
and in the wisdom of my forebears,
the old guards of your fort.

Time has stood still since then.

I come to pay homage in your temple,
and into the arms of my people, my roots;
I see the footpath of yesteryears,
now grown and multiplied, and always fresh,
leading from the East and West,
and the many corners of the earth
converging at your portals in pilgrimage. ~

Light from the Old Arch 2, AVR

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Sea as Field Laboratory

Abe V Rotor
Phycology students from the University of Santo Tomas
test the water at low tide in Paraoir, Bacnotan, La Union.

Seaweeds form debris on the shoreline - a biological
indicator of biodiversity and composition.

Pollution from cement dusts emitted by a nearby cement factory.

A mat of Chaetomorpha, a green alga growing on
shallow coral reef.

Gathering and identifying specimens in situ -
a first hand experience.

Snorkling, a requirement in marine phycology.

"Don't disturb, just observe nature."