Monday, September 28, 2009

Trees are Benevolent Hosts

Abe V Rotor

The tree laughs, talks, with all the joys of childhood.
"A tree is a joy forever."
Tandang Sora QC

Playing hide-and-seek in a bamboo grove. The
spirit of the place gives quaintness to living.
Taal, Batangas

A fallen mango tree makes a romantic
ambiance. (Atimonan, Quezon)

Phylodendron gains foothold on Dita tree (Alstonia
scholaris) as it reaches for the sun several meters high.
UST Botanical Garden

Algae and mosses live on the spongy bark of acacia,
providing nutrients to the tree, and
creating a
favorable microclimate. UP Diliman, QC

Balete (Ficus benjamina) strangles emergent tree
with interlacing roots and branches locking its host
to certain death, hence gaining a notorious name of
Strangler's Fig. Mt Makiling, Laguna

Roots are exposed by slow erosion reveal tenacity
of this tree. The tree allows growth of plants and
animals like millipede and land snails, as well as
micrororganims, many are symbionts to the tree.
Mt Makiling Botanical Garden, UPLB

Interlacing roots, principle of inarching, riprap
slopes and banks, provide abode to many organisms.
Mt Makiling, Laguna.

Fruticose lichen clings on bark of tree. Lichens are
communities of algae and fungi. They aid in food
production and recycling of organic matter, as well
as help conserve water. Caliraya Lake, Laguna

Crustose lichen coats trunk of young tree. Lichens are
important to the tree; they also indicate pristine

condition of the environment.
Caliraya Lake, Laguna

Drynaria fern as ephipyte helps conserve water, attract
wildlife that protects trees from pests and diseases.
It is not unusual that a branch gives way to the weight
of the tenant fern.
St. Agustin Parish, Tagudin, Ilocos Sur

Even after death the tree remains a host to red
mushroom, termites, other saprophytes and
decomposers, giving off its entire energy to
serve the living world.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Self-Healing Power of Trees

Self-Healing Power of Trees
Dr Abe V Rotor
New shoots emerge to eventually replace the lost
crown of a mahogany tree (Swietenia macrophylla

A lone shoot rises from a cut branch of a fire tree
Delonix regia)

Rot starts at the center on an old cut, while
healing takes place peripherally in a camphor
Annual rings show that the branch was
five years old when it was cut.

Delayed healing exposes the wood to rot and
eventually form a hollow - the result of a
typhoon which ripped off a major branch
from the trunk.

Normal healing process showing actively dividing cambium
layer which will completely cover the wound.
Note numerous
dots on the newly formed layer. These are breathing pores
called lenticles, counterpart of stomata on the leaves.

Completely healed wound.

Scars of vandalism. Law prohibits posting of advertisements
on trees, so with other destructive means.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Folk Wisdom - a Way of Life

Culture is the Soul of Civilization
Professor Ronel P. dela Cruz, Ph.D.
Professor, St. Paul University Quezon City

Cultural anthropologists affirm culture as the soul of civilization where people attain their identity, value orientation and aesthetic sense. Culture gives the people their perceptual apparatus and orientation of understanding. It is the reservoir of life-wisdom of the people. Today, the concept of integral sustainable development includes cultural progress which starts from a positive social self-definition and identity. Hence, local history and cultures provide a glimpse of the indigenous wisdom of the people which speaks of their religious worldview and deep connection with the Earth.

However, globalization, along with information and communication in hi-tech form, very much affects the cultures of peoples and nations in the world today. The global market regime continues to erode the cultural rights of local communities in the world. It has furthermore accelerated the commodification of human cultures towards the eradication of the culture of life. Under the influence of hi-tech media and the global cybernetic information process, our cultural identity, cultural sensibility, cultural awareness, cultural competence and cultural values are being dismantled. This is a process of one-dimensional homogenization of local and national cultures of life. Elitist globalization that excludes and marginalizes the traditional and local indigenous practices, beliefs and worldview (cosmology) continue to separate humanity from nature.

What is very alarming is that the global market will exchange cultural commodities, which may occupy the main process of the market. Globalization is commercializing the popular, mass and indigenous cultures into commodities in the market. This is causing several problems, such as homogenization, cultural desertification and identity crisis, as well as drastic injustices in terms of the cultural powers of communication and information.

Living with Folk Wisdom is a compilation of traditional wisdom, beliefs, values, practices and worldview among local communities in the Philippines. While some of these practices demonstrate Filipino worldview attempting to influence natural processes, the dearth of these beliefs and practices manifest egalitarian and interrelated connection with nature. This book gives importance and relevance of the cultural diversity of local communities which is an essential component of envisioning a sustainable future.

Researchers and educators gathered in Benguet State University for a seminar on Filipino cultural identity showcased best practices in integrating indigenous culture in the curriculum. This “cultural creative” group lauded the initiative of colleges and universities in using the local wisdom, practices and traditions in their curriculum as an effective tool for cultural development, identity and national progress.

Living with Folk Wisdom is an interesting material which can be used across disciplines like Biology, Social Sciences, History, Culture and Indigenous Studies. Today, there is a demand for a new cultural movement and initiatives that are truly life-enhancing in local communities. Documenting the wellspring of wisdom and resources for a sustainable life, Dr. Rotor counters the current cultural process under the dictates of globalization. This opus is his cultural creativity which is very much demanded for life, not for profit in the market. ~ ~

Living with Folk Wisdom is available at the National Book Store, Quezon Avenue; and the UST Publishing House, Espana corner P Noval

Self-Administered Test on Austerity

Abe V Rotor
Instructor, Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid
738 KHz-AM DZRB, 8 to 9 evening, Monday to Friday

Answer Yes to items you are presently practicing and/or those which you agree with.

1. You would rather buy things in bulk (paint, cooking oil, rice), or by the dozens (eggs, softdrinks) for ready supply at home, particularly these days when prices are increasing and supply is unpredictable.

2. You keep these tools and materials which you personally use now and then in various handiwork such as house repairs and gardening: a pair of pliers, hammer, set of screw driver, nails and screws, GI wires, electrical tester, and the like.

3. You would rather have your laundry and ironing once a week rather than daily or every other day, scheduling it usually on a weekend, thus saving precious water and electricity, and getting more helping hands from the family.

4. As a general policy of any state, the government should pursue a self sufficiency program in food, particularly staple (rice and corn) as the best way to insure food security, even if there is adequate supply in the world market.

5. In economics, austerity is when a national government reduces its spending in order to pay back creditors. Austerity is usually required when a government’s fiscal deficit spending is felt to be unsustainable. Austerity must cut down spending on development projects (countryside development funds from pork barrel), welfare and other social programs (subsidies and charitable expenditures).

7. The best way to save money is to set aside immediately a part of your salary, say 20 percent, and budget strictly the 80 percent. This is more effective than setting 20 percent after having budgeted and spent 80 percent of your salary.

8. You participate in the informal economy just like the farmer’s wife who goes to market to sell farm products and comes back with various household supplies. This is contemporary barter system. This is entrepreneurship on the grassroots.

9. Food supplementation reduces our dependence on conventional food, discovery of new food sources like seaweeds, wild food plants, as well as the discovery of new ways to prepare food comes at the heels of austere living. Hamburger from banana flower (puso), Ipil-ipil for coffee DON’T – use roasted rice instead or roasted corn, papait vegetable, sea cucumber, kuhol, the many uses of gabi, substitution of wheat flour with rice flour. Substitution of staple food with root crops (camote, cassava) to save on precious rice.

10. Postharvest losses reduces our supply, in fact to one-half, that by saving even only 10 percent of what is wasted, would be sufficient to fill up our annual deficit in rice and corn. Austerity is reducing our waste on all levels – production, post production, food preparation.

11. Austerity is the most practical weapon to fight obesity. It means avoidance of junk food, moderation in eating, and consumption of natural food. It is also favorable to health. Less kidney trouble, liver ailment, cardiac problem, high blood pressure. It means less hospital cases, cancer, ulcers, less alcohol consumption, etc. Austerity means natural beauty, good fit, good stride, and happy disposition.

12. There are more and more good schools in the provinces and chartered cities. We would rather send our children in these schools for practical reasons.

13. Grains would rather be used directly as food and lessen the amount of using them in producing animal protein by feeding the grains to poultry and animals. By doing this we maximize the value of food and make them available to ordinary people.

14. Israel as an emerging new state adopted an austerity program lasting for 10 years (1949-1959). When USSR collapsed, Cuba adopted an austerity policy (1991 onwards) to be able to survive as an “orphaned socialist” state. Austerity is aimed at attaining self-reliance at a time of crisis.

15. Private banks or institutions like IMP may require a country pursues an austerity policy if it wants to re-finance loans that are about to come due. The government may be asked to stop issuing subsidies or to otherwise reduce public spending. We call this as “IMF conditionalities.”

16. People’s power – the cry of the first EDSA Revolution – fizzled out because the newly acquired empowerment was not used put to proper use as evidenced by unsuccessful cooperative movement, agrarian reform which turned out to be confrontational between right of property and right of tillage, rampant and blatant graft and corruption in the government, declined productivity in agriculture and industry, spread of poverty.

17. Family planning refers to limiting the number as well as proper spacing of your children. If there is a sin of commission or omission, there is also a sin of neglect – and if that neglect is within the knowledge of the sinner, and the consequence is the ruin of the lives of those under his care as parent, atonement is almost unthinkable.

18. It is easier to meet our needs than our wants to most people although to many, affluence is pursue even before needs are met.

19. Youth today are torn between choices of white collar jobs and blue collar jobs. They are lured to easy education – diploma mill, and on the modern method of leaning on the computer which actually does not offer an “end course” that makes one a professional like a doctor, lawyer, agriculturist, and the like. Austerity calls for a re-definition of courses that are functional in nature and p[practical in application, and relevant to the changing times.

20. Limits to growth come like a moving vehicle suddenly running out of fuel, its tires worn-out and flat, engine conking out, while the road is getting rougher, narrower and steeper. Austerity is applying the brakes before all of these happen. It is anticipating the limits to growth, before it turns against you.

People for manpower turning overpopulation, unemployment
Industrial growth turning out pollution
Agriculture causing erosion, siltation; invading wildlife

Austerity brings awareness, it gives us time to plan out, to review our goals.

21. HiTech is expensive and it is the consumer who ultimately pays it. It is to the people the users of Hi Tech charge its cost. Austerity calls for a moderation in technology. Austerity and innovative technology are compatible. Innotech is people’s technology.

22. Modeling of successful projects such as coops (farmers multipurpose cops), agro-eco center (Cabiokid), Kabsaka (Sta. Barbara, Iloilo), mangrove farming, seaweed farming, Irrigators’ association, Dr. Parra of Iloilo – these must ride on Filipino trait of gaya-gaya. Gaya-gaya put to good use. Peer teaching and learning is effective among the masses, and should be complementary with formal education. Austerity opens a gateway to look into models we can adopt under our local conditions.

23. “Necessity is the mother of invention," so “crisis is the sphinx of survival.” (Story of the Sphinx.) What is it that walks on all fours in the morning, two at noon and three in the evening?”) Crisis is Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest. It rewards the strong, eliminates the weak, humbles the proud, deepens the soul, and elevates the spirit. - of those who can make it.” Crisis is the time to test man’s soul.” Soul is the ultimate of man’s capacity to survive. (Thesis of Victor Frankl – A Search for Meaning)

24. You practice the 8Rs in Waste Management: Reduce, Recycle, Refurbish, Renovate, Restore, Reserve, Revere (and Rotor – Rotate). These 8Rs are vital tools in living an austere life.

25. The more closely related supply and demand cycle in a given community, the more self-reliant the community is. This means that in that community, people produce what they consume; consumption motivates production and vice versa. This according to Dr. Anselmo Cabigan is a basic tenet of austerity, because the self-reliant community becomes less dependent on external factors and the vagaries of the larger environment.

When does Austerity come in? Wartime, recession and depression (US), epidemic, high inflation, queuing for food, disaster, embargo (N Korea), new settlements, pooor harvest, political turmoil, religious conflict, El Niño, cyclone (Burma), earthquake (China)~ ~ ~

All questions are answered with Yes. You may use these items as your ready guide and reference for the home, school, and community outreach program.

Living with Nature 3, AVR

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Burning of St Paul College

Mural painting by Dr. Abe V. Rotor,
Marlo, Anna and Leo Carlo Rotor

St. Paul College QC, then a Novitiate and Provincial House of the Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres (SPC), was made a camp during the Japanese occupation in World War II. Hundreds, mostly Filipinos were held prisoners here, many dying from torture, wounds, diseases, and despair. Then, in 1945, the tide of war changed. Desperately fighting the superior Allied Forces, the Japanese went into rampage, killing civilians and burning buildings - including this building complex that once served as their headquarters. The burning building depicted in the mural is the present High School building, now renovated, and the former Greco-Roman Chapel-Little Theatre complex, now replaced. This mural reminds us to be forever vigilant against “man’s inhumanity to man”.

Light from the Old Arch 2, AVR

The Seven Sisters - First St Paul of Chartres Missionaries to the Philippines

This mural painting shows the arrival of the first Paulinian mission in Dumaguete (Negros Oriental), composed of seven sisters: four French, one American, one Portuguese, and one Chinese. It is for this occasion that this Centennial Arch is dedicated. In depicting the scene, the artists - Dr. Abe V. Rotor and his three children – Marlo, Anna and Leo Carlo – relived the event through readings and interviews, noting every detail in order to capture the dramatic event as it happened one hundred years ago. A member of the mission wrote, “The ship (from Vietnam) dropped anchor more than one hundred meters away from the harbor. There was not enough water for the ship to get closer. xxx Rowing (the boat) ceased about fifty meters away from the ship. A score of men waded towards us…”

And the rest is history.

Light from the Old Arch 2, AVR

Part 2: Attributes of the Expert Teacher

Abe V Rotor

1. Women dominate the teaching profession. Of the 69 outstanding teachers, women constitute 74% as compared with that of men which is 26 &, or a ratio of 4 to 1. The reason for this is that men place less priority to teaching than better paying jobs. This is manifested in the choice of careers. In the case of men, they prefer law, engineering, and applied courses in industry and technology that offer better professional growth opportunities and pay as compared to teaching.

2. The median age of the expert teacher is 50. Majority of the experts (82.6%) are in their past 40. Surprisingly one-fifth of the experts is in the 60 to 79 age bracket. These data point out that teaching – contrary to common belief – does not deteriorate with age. On the other hand, teaching improves with time and experience. Distilled and seasoned knowledge is wisdom.

3. Forty-five of the 69 expert teachers are married. The remaining 24 are single with two of them a nun and a priest. Again at this point, contrary to common belief, being married and having a family is not a deterrent to being a good teacher. On the contrary there are many cases where teaching career is enhanced by an understanding and cooperative family.

4. In general, the 69 outstanding teachers did not choose teaching as their first career. Only 26 actually set their minds to teaching as early as upon graduation in high school. For one reason or another the 43 set out for other careers. Others found teaching compatible with their present professions, while a good number opted to spend their retirement as teachers or professors. Among the outstanding teachers are practicing agriculturists, journalists, scientists, lawyers, doctors, engineers, TV hosts, and the like. This shows that a good teacher may not have started out early in his career as teacher but ended up becoming a good teacher. Professions and experiences outside of teaching greatly contribute to teaching effectiveness.

5. The experts were academic achievers in college. There were only 14 of the experts who were active in extracurricular activities in college, say in athletics and campus politics. Fifty-eight are academic achievers, with 33 as top performers but who did not make it in the dean’s list, and 25 who were consistent scholars and honor students. Only 11 were average academic performers. Dr. Reyes explains the relationship of academic performance and expertise in teaching this way. “Academic achievers generally have good self-esteem and exude high self-confidence – personal attributes that are helpful to teachers, cognitive intelligence as a facilitative factor to subject mastery and instructional skills, notwithstanding.” An intelligent teacher is therefore highly desirable so long as he demonstrates humility patience and understanding. On the other hand, “magtitser ka na lang,” is an insult to the teaching profession.

6. On the educational attainment of the expert teachers, 35 of them have doctoral degrees while 26 have master’s degrees. The remaining ones were at the time of the survey still pursuing their graduate studies. This means that 88.4% of the expert teachers have at least a master’s degree, which points out to the importance of graduate education as a factor in effective teaching. Graduate education is characterized by “extensive professional reading and research, as well as personal discipline, perseverance, diligence, and a strong motivation to succeed,” in the words of Dr. Reyes. The pursuit of graduate studies confirms the strong conviction of the teacher towards excellence and dedication in his profession. Graduate studies confer the imprimatur of a teacher’s professional status, and his place among his peers.

7. The expert teachers do not only possess high educational attainment; they also excel in specific disciplines or fields of study. Here is a breakdown of the findings:

 Education and related fields 36 %
 Applied and natural sciences 26
 Languages, literature, communication art 15
 Medicine, nursing and public health 6
 Political, social science, economics 6
 Psychology, guidance and counseling 5
 Philosophy 3
 Agriculture 3

It is interesting to note that 55 of the experts have either completed or enrolled in programs that offer rich opportunities for sharing research, information, and work experiences in the school setting.

8. On teaching experience, the range is wide – 2 to 47 years, with a median of 25 years. Yes, it takes 25 years to be a model teacher. There is a saying, “Experience does not only make a good teacher; experience is the best teacher.”

9. Which hemisphere of the brain is more useful to the expert teacher? The different specializations of expert teachers attest to a left-right brain combination or mix-brain, which means that the use of both hemisphere in proper balance and harmony is needed in teaching - the left for language, mathematics and logic, and the right which is dominantly for creativity is for intuition, inspiration and imagination. Majority of the expert teachers are mix-brained (43 women and 11 men). The rest are left-brained who are experts in the fields of science, mathematics, language, philosophy, research, nursing and agriculture. The survey came up with a negative right-brained among the experts.

10. The effective teacher draws inspiration from his or her family. Almost one-half of the expert teachers consider the supportive role of family members who understand the nature of teaching as having greatly contributed to their success. Twenty of the expert teachers mentioned of a family member as their mentor and source of inspiration. On the other hand the role of school administrators is very important, with almost 70% of the participants attributing the administration’s support to their success. The ambiance of teaching is equally important whereby the school is one large respectable family with a community atmosphere.


Part 3: Philosophies of Education

On-the-spot drawing, University of Santo Tomas

The 69 experts are divided according to the following philosophies of education, namely

 The majority of the participants (29 women and 6 men) are experimentalists. They uphold the experimental educational philosophy. This means that these teachers are flexible and open to educational change.

 Twelve are advocates to eclectic educational philosophy, which means that they do not subscribe to just one philosophy, and they shift their roles from being facilitators of learning to transmitters and interpreters of knowledge.

 Twelve are perennialists, that is, they perceive themselves as authority figures in the classroom, transmitting and interpreting knowledge.

 Nine are realists. They tend to focus on the here and now. They stress knowledge as how it is applied or observed. For example the laws of nature are better understood through observation and research.

 Only one among the expert teachers is an idealist. She views education as a means of developing students’ intellectual abilities. Influenced by the Greek philosophers Socrates and Plato, she stresses the importance of logic and philosophy.

Given these premises, the expert teacher is motivated to learn more, to expand his horizon as new things evolve – in science and technology, management, education, research, and in the many ways the world and human society are changing. His love for his profession takes him to a higher realm of continuing professional growth, his love for knowledge itself, which is the primordial tool in teaching, and in sharing them to the younger and future generations in the wisdom and humility of the Good Shepherd.

Living with Nature 3, AVR

Friday, September 18, 2009


Abe V Rotor

The sail-fish belongs to Genus Istiophorus, a relative of the swordfish. Sometimes it is mistaken as one, were it not for its expanded dorsal fin. It is vulnerable to commercial fishing, and toxicity from the accumulation of poison through the food chain, and it is sad to think that this beautiful creature would just become part of fairytale to the succeeding generations.

Sail-fish caught off the coast of Agoo, La Union. I took this
photo by chance on a moving vehicle, circa 2000.

Closeup of stuffed sail-fish. The enormous dorsal fin
opens like fan as the fish glides and steers over waves and
through wind. Its caudal fin forked almost 45 degrees
is an efficient rudder, while its elongated lateral fins
function both as balancer and oar.

Sail-fish hangs in a guestroom inTagaytay, Batangas

It's a beautiful sight this sail-fish makes as it glides on the blue sea, creating kaleidoscope colors like sprays of rainbow against the glistening crests on a clear morning or late afternoon.

Just as how fast it rose from the depth, hanging for a while on its sail, riding and slicing the waves, it sinks back taking with it a prize - an unwary fish prey - by a pair of sharp elongated beaks.

Fisherfolks tell stories around a bonfire, and I remember how sea creatures glow in the dark which we now understand as phosphorescence - the emission of phosphorous and other illuminating substances by fishes or by certain microorganisms that live in symbiosis with them. The sail-fish momentarily joins these nocturnal creatures, to the thrill and awe of night fishermen waiting for their big fish like Santiago, the old fisherman in Ernest Hemingway's novel, The Old Man and the Sea.

As a hobbyist, I have had the privilege sitting on a dimly lighted boat in the middle of the sea. Perhaps there is no other place where man is completely filled with wonder and respect and humility, but the sea. And if this were to lead man to renounce his destructive ways, there is hope to save the sail-fish - so with other threatened species. ~ ~

Living with Nature 3, AVR

Poetry Book as Guaduate Thesis

Author and Poet Paul Engle, MA

Abe V Rotor

This is one way to earn a graduate degree. Images of China is a book of poetry written by Paul Engle, which he submitted as a thesis for a Master of Arts at the University of Iowa.

No such book about the Chinese people, places, paintings, problems, has been written at that time in the form of poetry. One unique aspect of the book is that it contains most of the verse forms in English - rhymed stanzas, blank verse, the sonnet, free verse, unrhymed couplets.

Since the book is a record of Paul Engle's intense responses to a trip over much of China with his wife, Nieh Hualing, the shape of the poems had to vary as the landscapes, the men and women, the issues discussed also varied.

Images of China is deeply concerned with the people of China. Every poem is about the human condition as Paul Engle saw it, about joy and suffering, about work and pride, about courage and punishment, about the warmth and humor and endurance of the people. It is a people's book.

Luckily I found a copy of this book in a Beijing bookshop in 1982. I was a member of a mission that visited China soon after the so-called "bamboo curtain" was lifted. China was virtually isolated from the rest of the world since the Chinese Revolution led by Mao Tse Tung in 1949. It was a time when the "sleeping giant" stirred and prepared to wake up, so to speak.

Images of China provides a keyhole view of then China and the China we know today. Many things have changed as its ideology long detested by the West evolved into a hybrid communism-capitalism. China is now the second largest economy after the United States.

Here are selected passages from the book.

"Four thousand year old water buffalo
In your foot-furrowed, hand-shaped, eye-loved land,
Gladly the fields feed the hand that bites them
Out of gray water now sprouts sing green song.
Dragon of history snarls inside your ear.
The old feed it their bodies,
The young stamp on its tail."
- Images of China

"xxx Nothing defeats them. They destroy destruction.
Survival is a word that mans, Chinese."
- Images of China

Paul Engle compares China with an Owl in a Chinese painting, by Huang Yungyu .

"You painted a clever owl
With one eye open and one eye closed.
Are half its eyes open,
Or are half its eyes shut?
Or is it half asleep?
Is it half talking,
Or is it half silent?
Is one eye closed in half fear,
Or is one eye open in half aggression?

Is half fed,
Or is it half hungry?
Is it half alive,
Or half dead?

Is it half watching the world,
Or is it half shutting our the world?
Is it planning to open the closed eye,
Or close the open eye?
Is it half light of dawn
So it will sleep all day,
Or is it half light of evening?
So it will hunt at night? x x x "

Owl Replies

"One eye open, one eye closed,
Both eyes closed, both eyes open,
I'm still a better bird than you.
Because you sleep when it's dark
You don't know how beautiful night is. x x x

Why don't you give up

Your foolish human life
And become a wise owl with furious feathers,
Sitting one eye open, one eye closed?"

Artist replies

"Usually I paint with both eyes open.
Sometimes I close one eye
So the other can see only one part of the canvas.
Sometimes I close the other eye
So it can see another part of the canvas.
Sometimes I close both eyes
To see the painting only inside my head.
To paint an owl you have to think like an owl.
Anyone who looks at a painter's owl
Must imagine the artist
Imagining the owl."

Paul Engle Replies

"Thanks for your courteous answers.
I've now decided
I don't want to be a murdering owl
Spitting the garbage of mice out of my mouth.
I don't want to be an artist
Making a pretend owl out of a live bird.
I prefer being a poet
And writing about both of them"
- To Huang Yungyu, Artist, Beijing

The above examples speak of substance and style; they create imagery of what China was then in rich symbolism, irony and metaphor, personification and apocryphal criticism.

At the end of the book, the author once more made reference to another work of the same artist, On a Pond Painting by Huang Yungyu.

"White lotus in a pond,
White crane across the sky:
Wide wing says to the flower,
Wouldn't you like to fly?
Lotus says, Foating's fine.
Would you like to try?

The crane - I float in air.
The flower - I float on land.
White lotus, white bird
Cry, Let us understand -
Forever both of us
Float in the painter's hand."

Ultimately the author wrote, the last poem in his book. Here are concluding passages.

"x x x Steel ruts, wood rots, wind blows itself away,
The greasy wool wears out, the silk brocade,
Delighting in its dragons, flowers and faces,
Turns brittle, crumbles at a finger's touch.
At old Chang'an imperial palaces
Dissolve like dying emperors into dust. x x x

But language is the toughest-tempered thing.

Delicate words survive the written page.
The sound of love, grief, joy outlive the talking tongue,
The poem survives the poet and his pain."
For Ai Qing (Read by the author at the University of Iowa, September 13, 1980.)

Images of China as viewed by Paul Engle are transitory from ancient to contemporary, and at the time he was writing the book, China was strangling out of the shell of the Cold War which polarized the world into two warring ideologies that lasted for almost fifty long years.

It is said that it is darkest before the dawn.

References: Images of China
by Paul Engle, 1981; Living with Nature 3, by A V Rotor

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Part 1: Vendors Have a Field Day

Mango season peaks in summer.
Dell H. Grecia
Women’s Journal
Backyard Ventures

They are everywhere- earning a decent living by selling homemade products that range from kesong puti to RTW clothes.

Vendors are everywhere- on the sidewalk, at the bus station, in subdivisions, offices, in every stoplight. They sell their wares even in the middle of the night.

Sidewalk Vendors

In the local market or talipapa, old and young vendors swarm around prospective customers. Since they offer everything you might need, vendors could save you a trip to the congested wet market. Before you know it, you are able to complete your shopping list by patronizing the sidewalk vendors.

Again, my good friend Dr. Abe V. Rotor has something to say about vendors: “The personal service vendors offer is beyond compare. They are natural and spontaneous. Whether an old woman or child learning the trade, vendors make a class of their own.”

My friend Abe recalls that he used to accompany his aunt to the market where she sold farm produce, which in modern parlance is called “marketable surplus”. She was able to earn well from selling rice and chicken.

During milling time, they made local wine called basi, as well as vinegar. Today, we called this “processing” (agro-industry in the economic sense) and because there is an increase in the value of the commodity we call this gain, “value-added”. Since they make two, three or more different products, economists would call this “diversification”. To maintain the quality of the product, “packaging” has become imperative.

While bending is basically the art of selling, there are other factors that go with it. Many vendors actually produce their items; others process them. Others repack them into smaller units or volumes.

Examples are the housewife who prepares packed lunch meals, the broom-maker and the necklace- maker, and the fruit vendor who whips up jams and jelly.

This is economics at the grassroots.

A. Kesong Puti Vendor

One popular product sold by Laguna vendors is kesong puti or carabao’s cheese. One whole bundle costs P100. Mario, 36 years old, peddles his kesong puti in Calamba, Laguna. There are ten individual bundles wrapped in green banana leaves, which keep the white cheese inside fresh.

Cheese he sells is usually prepared that same morning- ensuring its freshness. In fact, barrio folks prefer good ole kesong puti to the commercial brands.

Traditional kesong puti vendors adhere to the same process they’ve practised through the years, in spite of the presence of the Dairy Training and Research Institute at the University of the Philippines in Los Baños (UPLB).

B. Door–to-Door RTW

Also a new development are the vendors who would go house, selling ready-to-wear clothes. Should the clothes they offer not fit their customers, they offer to come back the following day with the right sizes. They’re that persistent.

Take the case of the Pauline Alintago, a 44-year-old mother of six. She teamed up with Nimfa Arbose, also 44 years old and a mother of three, for a successful RTW business.

They earn as much as P250 daily, with the regular customers – the sukis - they’ve accumulated in their rounds.


Part 2: Vendors, Vendors

Dell H. Grecia
Women's Journal

C. Broom-Maker

Jenny Linsangan, a mother of three, makes broom bamboo and sells them house to house. She learned broom-making from her neighbors at the Malaria Control Center in Caloocan. She is one of two dozen broom-making in her barangay. She sells her products in Quezon City, specifically in Lagro. Aside from the common walis tambo, Jenny also sells long-stemmed brooms for cleaning the ceiling.

For three years now, Jenny has been augmenting her husband’s earnings as a mason. She easily earns P200 in a day. Her brooms, she asserts, can compare, in terms of quality and durability, with those made in Baguio - except her brooms are cheaper, of course.

D. Tinobong Vendor

Tinobong, a rice cake delicacy cooked in bamboo, is a specialty of the Ilocos region. A big one costs P15, while the smaller one, P10. All you have to do is heat the cake for a few minutes, then the crack bottom part, to sample the tasty morsel inside.

Tourists and balikbayans love this native treat. It has a shelf life of three days on the average.

Child Vendors

In the old days, it wasn’t called child labor abuse. In fact, children in the provinces were expected to help out in the farm. They learned a lot by helping their parents in their work- whether it was in the ricefields or in the market. It was certainly a lot better than forcing kids to beg or sell sampaguita and rags in the city streets.

In Chinese-owned stores, we also see the younger generation helping out their parents in the family business. In the process, these children learn the ropes: how to compute, weigh, wrap, label and check the inventory. That is definitely a lot more productive than spending the entire day in front of the television.

I myself was a vendor - selling our farm’s produce like alugbati, cucurbits, and tomatoes. I also sold duhat and siniguelas when they were in season. I hawked peanuts and native delicacies made from peanuts. Being a vendor helped me earn a decent living. As such, my parents didn’t have to worry about my tuition fee. Because of my vending, I had enough savings for school.

These childhood lessons helped me tremendously - giving me the discipline I needed to finish my college degree.~ ~

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Salt, Leaves of Madre de Cacao hasten ripening of fruits

Still the best fruit is one that ripens naturally.
Don' t harvest immature fruits.

Abe V Rotor

It is true.

Not only that sodium chloride hastens ripening. It seals the base of the peduncle (fruit stem) and protects the fruit from fungi and bacteria that may cause rotting during ripening. Not all fruits though respond to this treatment, especially those harvested when still immature.

This is a common practice of old folks on chico, nangka, atis, guava, guyabano, papaya, mango, and the like. It is effective. Here is another ripening technique.

Old folks use fresh leaves of madre de cacao or kakawate (Gliricida sepium) to ripen banana, papaya, mango, chico, guyabano, atis, avocado, and others.

The fruits are placed in an earthen jar lined with a layer or two of kakawate leaves. The jar is closed or inverted in order to trap the ethylene gas that catalyzes the softening of pectin and the conversion of complex to simple sugar. Ripening takes around three days. Plastic bag is a good substitute for jar.

Unlike the commercial method of using carbide (carburo), kakawate ripened fruits, assuming they were picked at proper maturity, retain their natural taste, color and aroma as if they were ripened on the tree.

Living with Folk Wisdom
, AVR, UST Manila

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Harelip or cleft lip is the result of an accident when the baby was still in the womb.

Abe V Rotor

It's not true.

When a mother accidentally falls, or is bumped, the baby she is carrying gets injured. The baby in the womb, by instinct sucks its thumb, so that we are made to believe that the injury is in the upper lips.

Actually, harelip - named after the shape of the lips of the hare or rabbit – is a result of incomplete fusion of the embryo’s facial parts early in prenatal development. It is a congenital abnormality. Slight cleft lip can be easily repaired by surgery. Cosmetic surgery to minimize the scar may be desirable when the child is a few years older.
~ ~ ~

Living with Folk Wisdom, AVR, UST.

Food offering (atang) on special occasions is homage to the spirits.

Abe V Rotor

The practice includes offering a plate of food and drink the host has prepared for the occasion. It is placed on the family altar, or any place the souls and spirits are deemed to be around. Respect (pag-galang) is true Filipino and Oriental tradition to the living, the dead and the unseen. It strengthens camaraderie, keeps memories of loved ones alive, and adds quaintness to village life.

It’s customary to first spill a little of your wine in deference to the spirits.
And say a little prayer, too, to appease the souls and spirits. It is a sign of peace and respect not only to the memory of the departed souls and spirits of the place, but also a gesture to the host and company. But please do it discreetly and with finesse. ~ ~ ~

Living with Folk Wisdom, UST Manila

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Photography: Self-Administered Test in Photography (True or False, 50 items)

___1. For best results there is no substitute to having a manual camera with semi-automatic system for photographic art – kahit digital camera pa.
__ 2 . When taking pictures, the rule is that the source of light must be at the back of the photographer.
___3. The lens of a camera is like the pupil of the human eye.
___4. Single lens reflex (SLR) means you are looking at the subject through the lens of the camera.
__ 5. Satellite imaging can detect weather disturbances, pollution; it can predict crop yield levels, and in fact even hideouts of terrorists.
__6. Satellite imaging is used in cartography, that is, the science of mapping the features of the earth.
__ 7. Deeper interpretation of contrast is in the subject of the photo, rather than interplay of light and shadow, colors and lines.
__ 8. The larger the lens opening the better is the depth of field.
__ 9. If the background is bright and your subjects are posed against it, what you can do to counteract glare is to use flash.
__10. Filters emphasize outlines, increases contrast of light and shadow, warm and cool and colors. It is also used in silhouette photography.
__11. The opening of a flower bud step by step is recorded by means of time lapse photography, a technique that compresses time to enable the eye to witness the event in a short time frame. (T)
__12. Buildings appear in concentric circle converging at the top if you use fisheye lens.
__13.When using a wide angle lens for a group photo, those on the sides appear to be very thin while those at the center are fat.
__14. Telezoom lenses extend the view, compressing distance, thus they are used in war zones.
__15.Allow the pupil of the eye to narrow down by sending a series of faint flashes before the real flash is made. This is to prevent redeye in the photograph.
_ 16. With the state-of-the-art digital photography, a poorly taken photo can be edited anyway - so, why worry?
__17. Black and white photos are simpler to process and print than color photographs.
__18. The computer is equipped with a software to correct blurred, burned, incomplete and misaligned photos to appear normal.
__ 19. As a rule do not retouch a historical documentary photos; they are more authentic in their original state.
__ 20. It is easier to photograph emotions rather than features, because they come naturally, while you have to do a lot of script in the latter.
__21. A famous photograph – a naked young girl, her body burned by napalm (Orange Agent) running along a highway with other children, while soldiers simply didn’t mind, was taken during the recent Iraq war.
__22. A lone man standing in front of a column of tanks was taken during the Vietnam war. The photo freezes the action as if the man succeeded in his suicidal act.
__23. Today, photography – from shooting to printing - can be done in a home studio, and therefore offers a good business opportunity. In fact documentaries and short movies can be done.
__24. Composition is the key to telling a story, be it a painting, a poem, a novel – or a photograph.
__25. The elements of art – are also the elements of photography.
__26. Foreshortened effect is shown on traffic signs written on the highway.
__27. 400 ASA/ISO/DIN film is more sensitive than 100 ASA/ISO/DIN film, in the same way as 4 megapixels is more sensitive than say, 2 megapixels.
__28. As the number increases - 30, 60, 100, 250, 500, 1000 – it means the shutter mechanism proportionately slows down or decreases speed.
__29. Here are three ways to improve your photo when lighting is poor: use tripod, use flash, increase ASA or DIN – in any combination, or all of them at the same time.
__30. You can get multiple exposures in a single shot of fireworks even without a tripod.
__31. Adjust shutter to B and mount camera on tripod when shooting night scenes – a busy street, Christmas lights, stars, constellation, etc.
__32. Today’s digital camera is more versatile, relatively cheaper, easier to operate – but not necessarily superior in quality - to film camera.
__33. Some digital cameras can used the lenses of film cameras, particularly SLRs.
__34. The most advanced digital cameras are made by Kodak.
__35.When a close up of flower is blurred, the subject is too close.
__36. Basketball player in air totally blurred – shutter speed is too slow.
__37. Sunny outdoor view is rough, with dot matrix like in “pointillism.” – ASA value too high.
__38. Photo is too light all over, no accent, clarity poor – insufficient light, lens opening too small, or both
__39. When having your picture taken, relax your shoulder and your face muscles will also relax.
__40. “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” and “Micro Safari” have one in common – microphotography.
__41. Light microscope reveals the world of microorganisms – countless of them in a single drop of water.
__42. Electron microscopy produces photographs of extremely small objects up to 50,000 times in a myriad of colors like a rainbow.
__43. Radiotelescope enables the human eye to see very far objects like stars using the same principle of lens telescope.
__44. One area of photography that enables us to see fast moving objects normally invisible to the eye is through slow motion photography.
__45. The aura emitted by our body is visible through photography.
__46. Photography brings to the eyes of the world good things to appreciate, and evil things to correct.
__47. Photojournalism is a risky profession, like other media men, they risk their lives. In fact the Philippines has the most number of fatalities among media men, second to Iraq.
__48. War is the arena of photography – war against poverty, graft and corruption, environmental degradation, diseases, ignorance, terrorism, and the like.
__49. Yet photography offers the newest, most modern, technologically advanced, now popularized to be enjoyed by millions of people everyday.
__50. Photography is the extension of our eyes and other senses, in fact our intellect, our feeling and our soul.

ANSWERS: False - 1,3,8,13,18,19,20,21,22,30,34 & 42.
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid, DZRB 738 AM with AVRotor and Melly Tenorio

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Evolution of Faith

Abe V Rotor

Move over Baroque, once bastion of the ancient

world, evolved from the underground and grassy hut,
into mighty fort for war and worship - a kingdom,
until Gothic took its place - ah, freedom!
Soaring into Heaven, scaled not by walls or stairs
but by spire rising like sword piercing the blue sky -until smog hid its view, and took away its purity,
no longer a rod to fear, no longer pointing at eternity.
High rise buried Baroque and Gothic, with billboards
all around; Gregorian chant sang in rock and pop,
in time passing, not by the clock but by flashy car,
and space a catacomb of concrete and steel bar.
Make way for the Messiah, make haste, we are told;
but who would he or she be? Of what race and tongue?
manger and star we no longer find even by Google chart;
does faith make any difference through in science and art
The world did not really change, but we - we did.
Creation, we're but a part - never the Creator, forbid. ~ ~

Living with Nature, Volume 3. All Rights Reserved.

Squatters on the Slopes

By Abe V Rotor

Painting in acrylic by AV Rotor, showing details 2009

Get the gold, tear the mountains,
Dry the basin to the bones,
Dam the river at your doorsteps,
Wishing Midas to touch the stones.

Throw some seeds on the terrace,
Catch fish with a strange sound or trap,
Hunt the surviving animals and fowls,
Here in this unmarked place in the map.

A fugitive you are to country and Nature
Raping her, the helpless young ones dying;
A valley of death your wastes doth make,
By your senseless, careless living.
x x x

Living with Nature, Volume 3. All Rights Reserved.

Get the Best from Your Favorite Fruits

Guapple, a recent cultivar of mango.

Buko, young coconut - most popular nut
for fruit, juice and salad

Atis (Anona squamosa)

Caimito (Chrysophyllum cainito)

Abe V Rotor

My dad used leaves of kakawate or madre de cacao (Gliricida sepium) to ripen bananas inside earthen jars. He lined the inside of the jar with fresh of leaves kakawate, placed the green latundan or lakatan bananas, then covered them with more leaves before turning the jar down or covering its mouth with wilted banana leaves and jute sack. In two or three days the bananas are bright yellow, evenly ripe, and without blemish – and does not have the residual odor of carburo (calcium carbide) which is now a common practice today to force the ripening of fruits.

He cautioned me as a farmhand that only when the fruits have reached maturity that they should be harvested. He gave me these tips that I have kept in mind every time my sister sends green fruits to Manila where my family now resides, or whenever we buy fruits from the market.

1. Be keen with the appearance, smell, feel – and even sound – of the fruit before harvesting or buying it. For example, jackfruit or nangka when fully mature is yellowish green, and its spikes are well spread. The rind gives way to slight pressure and you smell the faint characteristic sweet odor. When tapped with the forefinger the sound is dull and deep.

2. Many fruits are tested this way. You must have a clinical eye, ear, nose, and finger (EENF). And if the vendor allows you, sample the fruit. There’s no substitute to Taste Test. Develop your skills on these fruits: mango, musk melon, soursop or guyabano and its relative, sugar apple or atis. Also try on caimito, chico, siniguelas, and such rare fruit as sapote.

3. You cannot always use all senses though for all fruits. Take the case of watermelon. This is perhaps the most difficult fruit to know when to harvest it, or which one to pick from a fruit stand. Study the rind. The alternate rows of green and yellowish green shades are wide spread, making the fruit appear round, plumb, and shiny. The attached stem (peduncle) should be green, at least green at the attachment; otherwise the fruit had long been picked. Be keen with the sound as you tap at different parts with the nail of your forefinger. Resounding and vibrating sound indicates the fruit is not fully ripe. Deep and dull sound on the other hand, means it is over ripe, especially if the rind yields to pressure. Sixth sense and luck often accompany good choice.

4. When buying young coconut or buko, the vendor usually asks you want it for salad or just for the water. Then he taps the nut with the back of his bolo twice or thrice. It’s sixth sense, I suppose because there is no rule to follow. It is just like picking a nut of macapuno (coconut sport). At Los Banos I tried to learn how to differentiate macapuno from a normal nut just by its sound upon hitting the ground. Ask the coconut harvester and he will tell you how. But there are things you simply cannot learn. Could this be a part of the gift of “green thumb”?

5. In the city you use the rice dispenser to ripen chico, caimito, avocado, tomato, and the like. Wrap the fruits loosely with two or three layers of newspaper before placing them inside the dispenser – or simply bury the bundle in a sack of rice. In the province palay is preferred. The principle is that, as the fruit ripens it exudes ethylene gas that is then trapped. It builds up and induces ripening and all the fruits ripen almost at the same time.

6. To ripen fruits that do not readily get ripe, specially those which lack maturity, put table salt on the cut stem (peduncle) soon after it has been picked. For fruits bought from the market, clean the base of the stem before putting salt. Salt does not only facilitate ripening, it also protects the fruit from fungi and bacteria that cause it to rot. Try this technique on mango, nangka, chico, caimito, guyabano, and papaya.

7. Look for unusual marks. Freckles and warts are signs of fungal and viral diseases affecting banana, especially latundan. Black spots on mango is sign of anthracnose fungus. Black ridges on atis are sign of an insect that bores into the flesh. Pinpricks on depressed and uneven skin of cucumber are entry points of fruit flies. Most likely the insect’s larvae are still inside. Holes lead to spoilage of the whole frui in santol, macopa and guava. These holes are made by the same fruit fly that are of two species. Dacus dorsalis is the worse pest that attacks the mango fruit. The reason mango importing countries have strict quarantine regulation is not only to assure the quality of the commodity but because this insect lives on apple, orange and other fruits as alternate hosts. While these insects and pathogens are generally harmless to humans, it is the byproducts of putrefaction that may cause ailments including allergy.

8. This is myth. The presence of black ants on lanzones, many believe - and it is a good selling point, means that the fruit is sweet. Black powdery fungus and aphids on the stem and fruits may be the reason why the ants are there. They live in symbiosis with the aphids. The black fungus grows on the sugar secretion of the aphids, which also serves as food for the ants.

9. This is another myth. Oranges with deep bottom is sweeter than those with even bottom. Purple caimito is sweeter than the green skinned. Well, both are green but one variety turns red violet when ripe. Purple avocado is also green when unripe, just like the green variety. Like caimito it is not in anyway better in taste and texture. Perhaps it is psychological. Papaya is ripe when it turns yellow or orange yellow. There are papaya varieties that retain much of their green coloration even when fully ripe, and they are as sweet as the yellow ones.

10. The bigger the better. Not always. Native chico is sweeter and more aromatic than the ponderosa chico. It is firmer, less susceptible to fruit fly, and has longer shelf life. This is also true with the native guava. Large duhat is preferred because it is fleshy, but the native duhat is much sweeter. Big lanzones has large seeds. Bicol (Formosa variety) pineapple, although not juicier, is sweeter than the Hawaiian variety. Extra large banana must have been grown on very rich soil, so that it is less sweet and firm than the smaller banana of the same variety. Large cucumber is seldom preferred. Commercial pickling cucumber is thumb size.

11. For citrus, the main criterion is sweetness and fleshiness. Pinkish color is preferred. For rambutan, it is the bright red color that attracts most. Taste test should prove it is really sweet and the pulp can be easily dislodged from the rind. For mangosteen, the color should be deep purple and shiny, and the sepals are still intact and green. When buying, examine the bunch for some hidden over ripe fruits. Again, Taste Test is the best tool.

12. Of course we always pick up the biggest mango, nangka, caimito, watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, avocado, atis, guyabano, and the like. It depends though on your budget and if there is an special occasion. The jackfruit is the biggest fruit on earth. It can weigh up to 35 kilos, and it is very expensive. A kilo may cost as much as 100 pesos.

13. There are vegetables that are eaten as fruit or prepared into juice. Examples are carrot, tomato, green corn, and sweet green pea. Vegetables made into fruit juices are tomato and carrot. When preparing these juices, pick the best kind. It was in China where I tasted asparagus juice. Now hear this. Have you tasted bamboo juice?

How to enjoy your favorite fruit after you have sufficiently chosen and ripened it is how it is served. It is a general rule that the best fruits are eaten fresh, and the inferior ones are made into preserves such as jelly, jam, and pickles. They can be made into candies. A common way to prepare fruit juices is by first making puree from the pulp using as osterizer or fruit juicer. You can keep this in the refrigerator as mother stock. Now and then the children prepare their own mix from it adding sugar and milk. Try papaya puree and purees made from guyabano, guava, ripe or green mango, and pineapple.

Try some varieties. Frozen caimito. Nangka ice cream. Dried mango. Pineapple boat with fruit cocktail. Candied papaya. Avocado cubes. Fruit toppings on ice cream. Durian candies. Now hear this. Have you tasted Chico wine? Guava wine? Many fruits make excellent table wine. And we have the technology and skill.

To enjoy the abundance of your favorite fruits consult the fruit season calendar. Bananas, jackfruit, papayas abound all year round. In the city even seasonal fruits are available but the price is high. Off-season lanzones comes from Camiguin, mango from June to December comes from Mindanao. But caimito, siniguelas and guyabano are strictly seasonal and are not always readily available in the market. Durian and Marang are not only seasonal, they are exclusively grown in the south, and they must be eaten directly when ripe. So with strawberry which is grown only on semi-temperate climate.

Enjoy thus your favorite fruits. Wouldn’t it be more complete given the ambiance of the song “Guavas are Ripe” and the painting of Amorsolo of a rustic scene of a fruit-laden mango tree?


Living with Nature, by AVR, UST Manila