Sunday, February 28, 2010


Abe V Rotor

Charcoal and firewood are still the most popular fuels for cooking in the world. In fact they constitute at least 80 percent of rural households, and even in urban centers, they are preferred for specific uses such as pugon in making pandesal, and barbecue and broiling and roasting. Alternative sources of fuel have lately gained attention in the light of dwindling supply of fossil fuel and increasing cost of electricity, among them is charcoal.

For my students in Earth Science with Ecology: This is your assignment. I also invite followers and viewers of this blog. Write down the advantages of using charcoal. On the opposite side of your paper, write down its disadvantages. Which one weighs more? Write an essay of around 200 words, "To use or not to use charcoal, that's the question."

Truckloads of charcoal at Commonwealth Market, Manggahan QC.

Charcoal is the black residue consisting of impure carbon obtained by removing water and other volatile constituents from animal and vegetation substances. Charcoal is usually produced by slow pyrolysis, the heating of wood, sugar, bone char, or other substances in the absence of oxygen. The resulting soft, brittle, lightweight, black, porous material resembles coal and is 50% to 95% carbon with the remainder consisting of volatile chemicals and ash.

Living with Nature 3, AVR; Internet.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Part 2: Green Revolution - "Small is Beautiful."

Abe V Rotor

Yes, Small business is beautiful.

There must be something wrong somewhere. But while we diagnose our country’s ills, we should make references to our own successes, and even come to a point of looking on models within our reach and capability to imitate. There are “unsung heroes” in practically all fields from business, agriculture, manufacturing to folk medicine and leadership. Perhaps for us who belong to the older generation, it is good to feel whenever we recall old times when life was better – and better lived.

Let me cite particular areas of biotechnology in which small entrepreneurs play a vital role and which they have proven themselves successful in one way or the other. The first group involves the production of alcoholic drinks and vinegar through fermentation. These products are

 Basi (sugarcane)
 Lambanog (coconut)
 Tuba (coconut)
 Layaw (nipa)
 Bahalina (coconut and tangal)
 Fruit wine (kasoy, bignay, pineapple, etc.)
 Vinegar (nipa, sugarcane, coconut, various fruits)

With readily available raw materials and simple tools used, brewing is a practical industry. More so, with the simplicity of fermentation itself which is the conversion of sugar into ethanol through fermentation with yeast. The brewed product is either consumed immediately or aged. Aging improves quality and lengthens the shelf life of the product. These home breweries are reminiscent of European vintages. It is said that the best wine in the world is not found in bars and wine shops, but in home cellars of Europe. It is true.

There, wine making is an art, and a personalized enterprise, with each cellar having a distinctive quality trademark. Bordeaux in France for example, is famous for brand, while the Scotch Whiskey remains a top grade liquor made from grains. Similarly we have basi in Ilocos amd lambanog in Southern Tagalog. So with Apple cider compared to our own Sukang Iloko, or Sukang Paombong.

The second group of village biotechnology products are beverages, food condiments, tobacco and betel for chewing.

 Kapeng barako (Batangas and Cavite)
 Cacao (Batangas, Mindanao)
 Vanilla (Mindanao)
 Tsaa (Batangas)
 Fruit puree (mango, guyabano, etc.,
Southern Tagalog, Mindanao)
 Bagoong and patis (Navotas, Balayan, Dagupan)
 Kesong Puti (Laguna)
 Betel (Cordillera, Laguna, Ilocos)
 Ketsup (banana, tomato)
 Rolled tobacco (Cagayan Valley, Ilocos)Toyo (Southern Tagalog, Mindanao)

Like in the first group, these products are area-specific which point out to their indigenous production and processing, so with their patronage. Rolled tobacco or pinadis, for example, has a special market for old people who are used to the product – and not to the younger generation. This is also true with betel or nganga.

On the other hand, bagoong and patis, which used to be a specialty among Ilocanos, are now marketed abroad. So with kapeng barako a local coffee which is mainly grown in the highlands of Batangas and Tagaytay. Fruit puree and fruit preserve, though relatively new, are amazingly growing fast, as people are shunning away from carbonated drinks. Because of high demand, these products became a boom to small growers, who recently are becoming mere conduits or raw products suppliers of big companies, instead of making and marketing the finished products themselves. Tea, coffee, fruit juice and chocolate, in this order, make up the world’s top beverages, thus pointing out the vast opportunities of biotechnology.

The third and largest group of village biotechnology products is in food.

 Puto or rice cake, very popular among Filipinos
 Bibingka (rice)
 Maja (corn grit)
 Burong manggang paho, mustasa)
 Burong Isda (dalag and rice)
 Hamon (manok, baboy, pato)
 Tocino, longganisa
 Itlog na pula and century egg
 Balot and Penoy
 Tokwa (bean curd)
 Taosi (fermented black bean)
 Talangka Paste
 Pickles (papaya, carrot, ampalaya, onion, cucumber, etc.)
 Toge (mungo sprout)
 Cakes (banana, cassava)
 Ripening of fruits (madre de cacao)

Food processing constitutes the bulk of village biotechnology in developing countries, on both domestic and commercial scales. Like in the other groups, these undertakings are seldom organized as formal establishments, but rather fall under the category of informal economics.

“The biggest piracy that is taking place today is not at sea and on the rich. It is stealing people’s resources – from herbal medicine to indigenous technology – stolen by rich countries and big corporations. Biopiracy and technopiracy constitute the greatest violation to human rights and social justice in that the people are not only deprived of their means of livelihood; they are forced to become dependent on those who robbed them.”

Informal or “underground” economy is the lifeblood of rural communities. They are the seat of tradition, rituals, barter and other informal transactions. They link the farm and the kitchen and the local market. They are versions of agro-processing and agribusiness on the scale of proprietorship and family business. They strengthen family and community ties.

It is for this reason that the NACIDA – National Cottage Industry Development Authority – was organized. And truly, it brought economic prosperity to thousands of entrepreneurs and families in the fifties to sixties.

South Korea for one in the late sixties, saw our PRRM and NACIDA models and improved on them with their SAEMAUL UNDONG development program which ultimately brought tremendous progress in its war-torn countryside. In Tanzania, one can glimpse some similarities of our program with LAEDZA BATANI (Wake up, it’s time to get moving) rural development program. The Philippines stood as an international model, recognized by the WB and ADB, for our countryside development program – cottage industries, farmers’ associations, electric cooperatives, rice and corn production program, which made us agricultural exporters. So with our biotechnology in farm waste utilization through composting with the use of Trichoderma inoculation, and in natural rice farming by growing Azolla in lieu of urea and ammonium nitrate. Another area of biotechnology is in the retting of maguey fiber, which is a work of decomposing bacteria.

Today there are many opportunities of biotechnology that can be tapped and packaged for small and medium size businesses and organized groups of entrepreneurs and farmers. These opportunities also pose a big challenge to the academe and to enterprising researchers in government and private institutions.

Important organisms for biotechnology

• Spirulina (blue-green alga or Eubacterium) - high protein, elixir.
• Chlorella (green alga) – vegetable, oxygen generator
• Pleurotus and Volvariella (fungi, mushroom) – anti-cancer food.
• Azolla-Anabaena (eubacterium with fern)– natural fertilizer
• Porphyra, red seaweed, high-value food (“food of the gods”)
• Hormophysa (brown alga) – antibiotics
• Eucheuma (red alga) – source of carageenan, food conditioner
• Gracillaria (brown alga) – source of agar, alginate
• Sargassum (brown alga) – fertilizer and fodder
• Saccharomyces (fungus, yeast) – fermentation
• Aspergillus (fungus) – medicine, fermentation
• Penicillium (fungus) – antibiotics
• Caulerpa (green alga) – salad
• Leuconostoc (bacterium) – nata de coco, fermentation of vegetables
• Acetobacter (bacterium) – acetic acid manufacture
• Rhizobium (bacterium) – Nitrogen fixer for soil fertility
• Nostoc (BGA or Eubacterium) – bio-fertilizer
• Ganoderma (tree fungus) – food supplement, reducer
• Halobacterium and Halococcus (bacteria)- bagoong and patis making
• Lactobacillus (bacterium) lactic fermentation, yogurt making
• Candida (yeast) – source of lysine, vitamins, lipids and inveratse
• Torulopsis (yeast) – leavening of puto and banana cake
• Trichoderma (fungus) – innoculant to accelerate composting time.

Before I go proceed allow me to present a background of biotechnology in relation with the history of agriculture.


Part 3: Today's Green Revolution

Patola raised on trellis. Trellis compensates for limited
land area for climbing plants - squash, cucumber, upo,
ampalaya, and the like.
Vegetable gardening may be organized as a community
project in San Juan, MM, an outreach project of SPU-QC.

Three Green Revolutions

The First Green Revolution took place when man turned hunter to farmer, which also marked the birth of human settlement, in the Fertile Crescent, between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers where the present war in Iraq is taking place.

The Second Green Revolution is characterized by the improvement of farming techniques and the expansion of agricultural frontiers, resulting in the conversion of millions of hectares of land into agriculture all over the world. This era lasted for some three hundred years, and marched with the advent of modern science and technology, which gave rise to Industrial Revolution. Its momentum however, was interrupted by two world wars.

Then in the second part of the last century, a Third Green Revolution was born. With the strides of science and technology, agricultural production tremendously increased. Economic prosperity followed specially among post-colonial nations - the Third World - which took the cudgels of self rule, earning respect in the international community, and gaining the status of Newly Industrialized Nations (NICs) one after another.

Towards the end of the last century, the age of biotechnology and genetic engineering arrived. Here the conventions of agriculture have been radically changed. For example, desirable traits are transferred through gene splicing so that trans-generic – even trans-kingdom – trait combinations are now possible. Bt Corn, a genetically modified corn that carries the caterpillar-repelling gene of a bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis, exemplifies such case. Penicillin-producing microorganisms are not only screened from among naturally existing species and strains; they are genetically engineered with super genes from other organisms known for their superior production efficiency.

Biotechnology for people and environment

The need for food and other commodities is ever increasing. Together with conventional agriculture, biotechnology will be contributing significantly to the production of food, medicine, raw materials for the industry, and in keeping a balanced ecology. This indeed will offer relief to the following scenarios:

1. World’s population increases from today’s 6 billion to 10 billion within 20 years.

2. Agricultural frontiers have virtually reached dead end.

3. Farmlands continue to shrink, giving way to settlements and industry,
while facing the onslaught of erosion and desertification

4. Pollution is getting worse in air, land and water.

5. Global warming is not only a threat; it is a real issue to deal with.

These scenarios seem to revive the Apocalyptic Malthusian theory, which haunts many poor countries - and even industrialized countries where population density is high. We are faced with the problem on how to cope up with a crisis brought about by the population-technology-environment tandem that has started showing its fangs at the close of the 20th century.

Now we talk in terms of quality life, health and longevity, adequate food supply and proper nutrition - other human development indices (HDI), notwithstanding.

As scientists open the new avenue of genetic engineering to produce genetically modified organisms for food, medicine and industry, entrepreneurs are shaping up a different kind of Green Revolution on the old country road – the employment of veritable, beneficial microorganisms to answer the basic needs of the vast majority of the world’s population.

Green Revolution for the masses

This Green Revolution has to be addressed to the masses. The thrust in biotechnology development must have a strong social objective. This must include the integration of the mass-based enterprises with research and development (R&D). Like the defunct NACIDA, a program for today should be cottage-based, not only corporate-based. Genetic engineering should be explored not for scientific reasons or for profit motives alone, but purposely for social objectives that could spur socio-economic growth on the countryside, and the improvement the lives of millions of people.

Alternative Food

These lowly organisms will be farmed like conventional crops. In fact, today mushroom growing is among the high-tech agricultural industries, from spawn culture to canning.

Spirulina, a cyanobacterium, has been grown for food since ancient times by the Aztecs in Mexico and in early civilizations in the Middle East. Its culture is being revived on estuaries and lakes, and even in small scale, in tanks and ponds. Today the product is sold as “vegetablet.”

Seaweeds, on the other hand, are being grown extensively and involving many species, from Caulerpa to Nori. Seaweed farming has caught worldwide attention in this last two decades, not only because it offers a good source of food, but also industrial products like carageenan and agar.

Environmental Rehabilitation

In the remote case that a nuclear explosion occurs, how possible is it to produce food and other needs in the bomb shelters deep underground? Fiction as it may seem, the lowly microorganisms have an important role. For one, mushrooms do not need sunlight to grow. Take it from the mushroom-growing termites. Another potential crop is Chlorella. While it produces fresh biomass as food it is also an excellent oxygen generator, oxygen being the by-product of photosynthesis. But where will Chlorella get light? Unlike higher plants, this green alga can make use of light and heat energy from an artificial source like fluorescent lamp.

Sewage treatment with the use of algae is now common in the outskirts of big cities like New York and Tokyo. From the air the open sewer is a series of reservoirs through which the sewage is treated until the spent material is released. The sludge is converted into organic fertilizer and soil conditioner, while the water is safely released into the natural environment such as a lake or river.

Marine seaweeds are known to grow in clean water. Their culture necessitates maintenance of the marine environment. Surprisingly seaweeds help in maintaining a clean environment, since they trap particles and detritus, and increase dissolved Oxygen and reduce dissolved CO2 level in water.

Bacteria being decomposers return organic substances to nature. So with algae and fungi. Fermentation is in fact, a process of converting organic materials into inorganic forms for the use of the next generation of organisms. In the process, man makes use of the intermediate products like ethyl alcohol, acetic acid, nata de coco, lactic acid, and the like.

Speaking of sustainable agriculture, take it from Nature’s biofertilizers like Nostoc and other Eubacteria. These BGAs form green matting on rice fields. Farmers in India and China gather this biomass, and use it as natural fertilizer. Another is Rhizobium, a bacterium that fixes atmospheric Nitrogen into NO3, the form of N plants directly absorb and utilize. Its fungal counterpart, Mycorrhiza, converts Nitrogen in the same way, except that this microorganism thrives in the roots of orchard and forest trees.

Let me cite the success of growing Azolla-Anabaena on ricefields in Asian countries. This is another biofertilizer, and discriminating consumers are willing to pay premium price for rice grown without chemical fertilizer - only with organic and bio-fertilizers. At one time a good friend, medical doctor and gentleman farmer, Dr. P. Parra, invited me to see his Azolla farm in Iloilo. What I saw was a model of natural farming, employing biotechnology in his integrated farm –
• Azolla for rice,
• Biogas from piggery,
• Rhizobia innoculation for peanuts and mungbeans,
• Trichoderma for composting.
• Food processing (fruit wine and vinegar)

His market for his natural farm products are people as far as Manila who are conscious of their health, and willing to pay the premium price for naturally grown food.

Genetic Engineering

It is true that man has succeeded in splicing the DNA, in like manner that he harnessed the atom through fission. Genetic engineering is a kind of accelerated and guided evolution, and while it helps man screen and develop new breeds and varieties, it has yet to offer the answer to the declining productivity of farms and agriculture, in general, particularly in developing countries. Besides, genetically engineered products have yet to earn a respectable place in the market and household.

Genetic engineering of beneficial organisms is the subject of research institutions all over the world. I had a chance to visit the Biotechnology Center in Taipei and saw various experiments conducted by Chinese scientists particularly on antibiotics production. But biotechnology has also its danger. One example is the case of the “suicide seeds”. These are hybrid seeds which carry a trigger enzyme which destroys the embryo soon after harvest so that the farmers will be forced to buy again seeds for the next cropping. It is similar to self-destruct diskettes, or implanted viruses in computers. This is how Monsanto, the inventor of suicide seeds, is creating an empire built at the expense of millions of poor farmers over the world.

Medicine and Natural Food

As resistance of pests and pathogens continue to increase and become immune to drugs, man is corollarily searching for more potent and safe kinds and formulations. He has resorted to looking into the vast medicinal potentials of these lowly organisms, as well as their value as natural food. Here are some popular examples.

1. Nori or gamet (Porphyra, a red alga) – elixir,
claimed to be more potent than Viagra

2. Edible seaweeds - rich in iodine, vegetable substitute.
There is no known poisonous seaweed.

3. Seaweeds as source of natural antibiotics, much safer than conventional antibiotics.

4. Mushrooms have anti-cancer properties.

6. Cyanobacteria prolongs life, restores youthfulness.

7. Yeast is a health food

8. Yogurt is bacteria-fermented milk, health drink.

9. Carica and Mamordica extracts for medicine and health food

10. Organically grown food (without the use of chemical pesticide and fertilizer)

Dr. Domingo Tapiador, a retired UN expert on agriculture and fisheries, helped initiate the introduction of Spirulina in the country. He showed me the capsule preparation produced in Japan. “Why can’t we grow Spirulina locally?” he asked.

Today a year after, there are successful pilot projects. Spirulina is not only good as human food but feeds as well. Professor Johnny Ching of Dela Salle University found out that Spirulina added to the feed ration of bangus improves growth rate. (MS Biology, UST) Similar studies point out to the beneficial effects of Spirulina on the daily weight gain in poultry and livestock. Earlier studies also discovered Azolla, an aquatic fern with a blue-green alga symbiont – Anabaena, as a valuable feed supplement to farm animals.

These lowly groups of organisms which cannot even qualify as plants, but instead protists with which protozoa are their kin, biologically speaking that is, are after all “giants.”

They hold the promise in providing food, medicine, clean environment, and as a whole, a better quality of human life for the people today and the coming generations.

x x x

Living with Nature in Our Times, AVR

Self-Administered Test on Water (True or False, 50 Items)

Cumulo-stratus cloud in summer is a sign of early rain.

Dr Abe V Rotor

1. H20 is the chemical formula of water which means 1 hydrogen and 2 oxygen.

2. Transpiration, respiration, evaporation have one thing in common – they are processes that send water vapor into the air.

3. Water in liquid form is cooler than water in vapor dorm.

4. Only 5 % of the total water on earth is freshwater, 95 % is salt water.

5. Total water on earth as ice and glacier is around 2 percent.

6. Of the total freshwater, glacier and ice make up 78.19 %, 20.58 %groundwater, and 0.82% rivers and lakes, soil 0.41%.

7. When water freezes it becomes denser and heavier.

8. Water in vapor or gaseous forms into liquid or rain when it losses heat.

9. When water evaporates it leaves behind sediments, pollutants, other chemical – in short just H20.

10. Saltwater intrusion is stronger in summer than in the rainy season.

11. Sea breeze usually occurs usually in the afternoon and early evening.

12. Land breeze occur usually in the morning towards noon.

13. We say we have sufficient rain if water has adequately supplied our aquifers – and ground water, Runoff water is not really that necessary.

14. Chlorine, methane, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide contribute to acid rain.

15. Acid rain and global warming have no connection to each other.

16. Why not allow a village to be part of the La Mesa watershed? It’s but a drop in the bucket so to speak. The argument is correct.

17. The village will act as caretakers of the La Mesa Reservoir – expert sila sa water management – allow them.

18. Most vulnerable to drought are land areas just above and below the equator.

19. The continuous circulation of Earth's water supply between the ocean, atmosphere, and landmasses is called the hydrologic cycle.

20. Capillary water rises to the root zone of the plants coming from the water table.

21. More water is evaporated from the ocean than is returned to the ocean by precipitation.

22. The most abundant salt in seawater is NaCl.

23. The driest soil contains water that can be used by plants.

24. Water is densest just before it freezes – this is how water breaks rocks and ice itself.

25. Weather system is traced to the differential density and distribution of the ocean water.

26. The two months the Philippines has the highest amount of rainfall is August and September.

27. Steam engine is a new invention, allegedly by a Filipino.

28. While we suffer of lack of rain, Northern China, India, Australia and the US may be experiencing floods, hurricanes and tornadoes.

29. The most common agents of erosion is running water and wind.

30. The idea of using natural steam commercially to generate electricity dates from about 1950.

31. The discharge of a river usually increases downstream.

32. The biggest dam in the world today is the Aswan Dam in China across the Yangtze River.

33. Aral Se in Russia, Sea Galilee, Dead Sea, Baltic Sea - all are salty.

34. The more sandy the soil is, the longer it can retain water - because it has larger spaces between particles that that in clayey.

35. The integrity of the watershed is in its being multi-layered - or multi storied vegetation.

36. When it rains hard in a few days the water in swimming pools and lakes turn green because of acid rain.

37. We are about to feel the effects of the Amihan, come Septemberrrrrr.

38. Water is Nature’s general solvent, it comprises 90 percent of the bodies of most organisms on earth.

39. In the Philippines our estuaries are saltier during the cool months than during hot months.

40. The strongest typhoons that hit the Philippine is towards the end of the year.

41. All oceans of the world are interconnected.

42. Lightning and thunder occur at the same time.

43. The greatest agent of erosion that levels anything along its way are the glaciers.

44. Cumulus cloud brings rain – it is a good sign even if it becomes stratus cloud.

45. Formation of acid rain start with evaporation – picking up along its way the pollutants.

46. Kaingin is allowed as long as it is outside watersheds of reservoirs.

47. The byproduct of engines using Hydrogen fuel is water.

48. Dilution with water is the most popular way of cheating customers: Shampoo, patis, vinegar, soup, and broth, honey, syrup, liquid medicine, alcohol. There’s a saying, “tubig ang binibili mo.”

49. Convection of water is poor, warm water tends to remain on top, thus plankton population is lower in the tropic than in temperate waters.

50. To compensate for poor convention, wave action help mix warm and cold water as current moves from deep to shallow water.

Patapat Twin Falls, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte

ANSWERS: 1f, 2f not respiration, 3t, 4f 3.97%, 5t, 6t, 7f, 8t, 9t, 10t, 11f, 12f, 13f, 14t, 15f, 16f, 17,f, 18t, 19t, 20t, 21t, 22t, 23 f hygroscopic water cannot be used by plants, 24t, 25t,26f, 27f, 28t, 29t, 30t, 31t, 32t, 33f Sea of Galilee and Aral Sea are freshwater lakes, 34f opposite, 35t, 36f nitrate, 37t, 38f 70%, 39f, 40t, 41t, 42t, 43t, 44f, 45t, 46f, 47t, 48t, 49t, 50t.

Living with Nature 3, AVR

Friday, February 26, 2010

Poetry: Who? What did you say?

Confucius, the Great Teacher. His teachings
elevated man's consciousness to the highest
level of self-worth and dignity.

Albert Einstein, Man of the 20th Century.
His formula E=mc2 revolutionized man's
concept of the physical world, the key to
modern science and technology.

Abe V Rotor

1. What is essential is invisible to the eye,
so with Keller's faith and the loyalty of Bligh.

2. Fibonacci Sequence is correct, but is it of any use?
If you understand E=mc2, then there is no excuse.

3. Before Philip attacked Elizabeth and lost his fleet,
he swore to his faith with gold around his feet.

4. They say raw courage is bravado. Aye! Aye!
Why did Nelson put the telescope on his blind eye?

5. Napoleon's army was in the deep Russian cold.
"Come out and fight, cowards," cried the lost bold.

6. "Hush, hush! Suddenly the world became still
as Allan Poe's raven appears on the window sill.

7. The spider weaves a perfect tapestry
Guided by the goddess Arachne.
Ask Charles Darwin the explanation
And Robert Bruce the exclamation.

8. Unbridled company breeds notoriety
In Chaucer's Pardoner's Tale;
Many men were lost in the Hessian Army
And in ships with black sail.

9. What is the fate of an era long gone;
When the master had left little of his art?
Remember the story of the Prodigal Son
And a father who received him back.

10. If Millet were to paint a scenario,
Of a man like The Man with a Hoe?
Markham puts meaning to these two,
Would life be just a see-saw?

11. If it is not in our stars
where our problem lies,
"Where then?" We may ask.
Pogo says, "The problem is us."

12. Be it at Acadie or Walden Pond,
Basilan or on Mount Saint Paul,
Or atop the Pyramid of the Sun,
God's message is same to all.

13. Freud and Jung foretold,
The man you see today
Was the child of yesterday,
Whom you saw growing old. ~

NOTE: Search the Internet, find who these people are; places and events, likewise, in italics.

Light from the Old Arch
2, AVR


The skipper has dual characteristics of moth and butterfly.
Wing spots appear as eyes of two or more creatures to ward
off a would-be predator.


Abe V Rotor

You are neither butterfly nor moth,
Yet bear the morphology of both,
For you lack sun or color of night,
But crepuscular glow at twilight,
Scaring enemies and the innocent
With eyespots false and phosphorescent,
Among flowers, after sunset, bloom -
Your faithful hosts and your home.~

Living with Nature 3, AVR

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Lichen Moth

Moth mimics lichen and bark of tree from bird prey.

Abe V Rotor

You have learned to love the lichen
and lived with it even in Eden -
isn't the lichen complete in itself
even without you, a guardian elf?
Balanced, integrated trio with trees,
fungi and algae in symbiosis,
you've no reason to be in the place-
and there's no need wearing a lace.
You fear to depart and I wondered why,
until I saw the birds passed by.~

Living with Nature 3, AVR

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Dr Anselmo Set Cabigan, PhD

Author as botanist and naturalist (Caliraya Lake).

Author with his students in Life Science,
St Paul University Museum, QC

The last time Ka Abe asked me to write something for the second volume of Living With Nature, I wrote about catching quail with bare hands and shrimp with a noose of hair from a horse’s tail. The joys of childhood in the hinterland ring like legend for the metropolitan youth of today. This time, I choose a timely subject, rice – the staple: in the time of hunger between harvest seasons.

Before the advent of high yielding varieties (HYV) of rice and the requisite fertilizers, pesticides, and irrigation support systems, there was only one cropping season, even in lowland irrigated ricefields. Seedbeds were prepared immediately after the early rains in May for transplanting on the first week of June. The paddies were plowed twice and harrowed thrice before transplanting the month-old seedlings. Father would leave three small paddies around the seedbed. These were prepared rather hurriedly after the seedlings have been uprooted. There was no transplanting on these paddies because all the seedlings would have been used up on the main field. These were seeded directly instead.

The variety used was called Sinadyaya (meaning by intent.) The variety was intentionally different from the main crop because it played a crucial role in the survival of the rice farmer. The main crop would ripen from October to November, a long wait indeed for a farmer whose family supply of rice ran out two months after planting the main crop.

The Sinadyaya was not a handsome crop. It was rather short, spindly with a tendency to crawl on the ground. The least wind brought it down, lifting only one or two leaves and the short sparsely – grained panicle just above the water line. Its grain was coarse, with dark red pericarp, practically tasteless and hard-textured when cooked. But it had its merits. In the stormy, rainy, cloudy season of May to August, it brought a crop of grain ripening even in the rain. August was kawitíng-palakól season (literally, reaching with the edge of the axe) when hunger stalked the rice farmer’s family before the next harvest season. And it was in August when the ungainly Sinadyaya brought its measly harvest of coarse, tasteless grain.

There was no problem harvesting in the rain. The panicles could be threshed in the shed. The problem was drying the grain for milling. It was impossible to dry in the sun. The sun seldom came out between the August rains. Mother roasted the fresh grain on a large talyasì (wok) over a low smoldering fire, stirring the grain with a long-handled wooden ladle. We, children, gathered around the fire waiting for popped grains that sometimes jumped out to the ground. Eventually the grain was half-cooked and dry. It was called tanák (probably the closest term for parboiled rice).

The tanák was still hot when transferred to a wooden mortar for pounding. There was very little rice bran. Parboiling had made the pericarp tough and the endosperm elastic. Pounded rice was almost whole grain, with the bran intact. This was called pinawà (brown rice). The partly roasted aroma was good, but above all the quick product of industry was on the dining table in no time. Hunger stopped stalking.

Long before the merits of brown rice was in advertisement, it was an item of survival in the farmer’s diet. Brown rice took twice as much water to cook. Soft well-milled rice varieties that required 1:1 rice:water ratio by volume would take 1:2 rice:water ratio to bring the brown rice to acceptable cooked texture. The hard and coarse Sinadyaya took almost three parts water to one part rice. The gain in volume was further improved by a decrease in intake. One took about half as much pinawà as polished rice. It was a bit tough and took much longer to chew (also much longer to digest). Consequently, one ate less rice and more of the green vegetables that grew on the bench terraces, clung on the fence, and even clambered onto the roof.

When the rice shortage became a current issue, my family switched to brown rice. No, we did not get the ungainly Sinadyaya type. We bought the highest quality aromatic brown rice in the market. The term did not fit the product – it was not brown. Vacuum-packed and pre-cleaned, it looked almost white with colorless pericarp. It cost as much as its well-milled counterpart of the same variety. (As a matter of fact, it should cost less because the milling recovery was 20% higher in brown rice). True enough, it took twice as much water to cook, required more chewing time to eat, but tasted good. It also cut my family rice consumption to half.

Living With Nature includes not only reminiscing the romantic past when oldtimers like us lived in a more “naturalistic” environment. Bringing up the lessons learned a long time ago to the present is more useful. Switching to brown rice not only makes more milled grain available, it also reduces consumption. In simple arithmetic, increased production [milling recovery and cooking volume] and reduced consumption [less rice intake per meal] means a higher ending rice stock balance. It may be too much to suggest paddy processing by tanák, but certainly choosing pinawà sounds more like a health option than a sacrifice.~

Living with Nature in Our Times, AVR

Don't Cut the Trees, Don't!

Don't Cut the Trees, Don't!
Author’s Note

“To the see the world in a grain of sand
And a heaven a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour,”

William Blake, Auguries of Innocence

Many years ago I recited this verse before my teachers in literature in high school, Mrs. Socorro Villamor and Miss Leonor Itchon, at the Colegio de la Imaculada Concepcion, now Divine Word College of Vigan. Hesitatingly I proceeded to interpret it.

Because I lived on the farm, the world I knew then was a physical one and the kind of life associated with it was as simple as the passing of seasons - when the rains come and the fields turn into a carpet of green until harvest time comes when the grains turn gold. I recalled my childhood in this poem I wrote years later.

Childhood is when nobody misses
The morning before the sun rises,
Before the herons stake for fish,
And finches chirp in the trees.

War is fought with kites and fishing poles,
In hide-and-seek and barefoot races;
Faith grows with seasons the sky extols,
Virtues all that friendship embraces.

Summer is short, rainy days are long,
All these are but passing imagery,
For the young can’t wait, yet all along
The years, remains a lasting memory.

To recite again Blake’s verse brings out a larger view of life and the world. The innocence of childhood has given way to realities of adult life. The environment has lost much of its pristine nature. A revolution of knowledge has reached global proportion.

The essence of the verse now touches the dimension of philosophy rising above its own literary meaning. Its humility has turned into a challenge, like Markham raising a social issue against society, viewing poverty in an otherwise romantic painting by Millet, The Gleaners.

Indeed, progress has brought folly to man to dream of power – even to the point of transgressing creation, a dream that borders between reason and passion, temperance and lust, waking up a sleeping god in man that drives him to wrest control over time and space, pursue beauty and pleasure as he wishes. He has cracked the atom and the DNA, and amassed tremendous wealth and power. And he has started to probe the universe. Which only means man is playing God, the old sin of disobedience. “Quo vadis, Homo sapiens?

After retiring from government service and subsequently finding a niche in the academe, I found time once again to read the works of my favorite authors such as John Milton (Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained) and Ernest Hemingway (The Old Man and the Sea).

I found again Alexander Pope, Thomas Gray, William Shakespeare, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow - and of course, our very own Ophelia A Dimalanta, Jose Garcia Villa, Francisco Arcellana, Sionil Jose, NVM Gonzales, Nick Joaquin, Rolando Carbonel, to name some local literary giants. From them I found valuable lessons, not only about nationalism, culture and the art of living, but techniques and style of using English, being a second language to Filipinos.

Henry David Thoreau (Walden Pond) and the great naturalist Charles Darwin (The Origin of Species), brought me close to Nature and led me to experiment in combining ecology and literature.

As I was writing this book, I could not help but ask myself, Will man ever regain his place in Paradise while he is on earth?

I can only imagine what the great French sculptor Auguste Rodin must have been thinking while at work at his masterpiece, The Thinker. What inspired Michaelangelo’s The Creation showing an omnipotent Creator reaching out for Adam at a spark’s distance from His finger? I remember other thought-provoking masterpieces like Salvador Dali’s Melting Clocks, and Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night. Perhaps Helen Keller who wrote, If I were given Three Days to See, saw more about the world than some people do who are not blind.

From where I was transfixed in reflection, absorbed in serious thoughts, a flock of pigeons soared into the sky. A chilly breeze whistled through the trees and joined the lilting children playing, and the sound of busy feet on the Camino Real. Time passed and a kind of stillness settled. I recited the old verse again. It brought nostalgic reflection of the past and the sinking sun.

As I prepared to leave for home I noticed a weed growing along the path that I was to take. I gently picked the lowly plant and examined it against the reddening sky. Why it bore flowers in disguise!

From here I began writing Don’t Cut the Trees, Don’t.~

Inflorescence of a weed.

“Tranquility reigns on her face, rage in her breast;
If beauty exudes best from a spring of force,
I do not wonder at the shyness of a crest
And the power of a single rose.”

- AVR, Sunshine on Raindrops

Don't Cut the Trees, Don't, AVR 2010

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Stink Bug

Dr Abe V Rotor

First instar nymph

Third instar nymph

Fifth instar nymph

Adult stink bugs (Nezara viridula)

What reason have you to attract
creatures with royal color,
then repel them at their track,
with obnoxious odor?

Your foes know your deception -
your art of survival
with your kin in isolation,
sans neighbor or rival. ~

Living with Nature 3, AVR (All Rights Reserved)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Entomology: Insects in Summer

Dr Abe V Rotor

Brown moth 1

Green leafhopper

Brown moth 2

Lacewing insect

Preying mantis

Guayabano fruit borer

Galls of santol caused by mites (Arachnida), relative of insects

Honeybee pollinating flowers of Kamias

Caterpillar of Papillio on Citrus

Tiger moth resting during the day

Green leafhopper carrier of tungro virus of rice

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Six Asian achievers receive the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Awards

For 2009, the recipients of this year's Ramon Magsaysay Awards - the equivalence of the Nobel Prize Awards on this side of the globe - come from Burma, China, India, the Philippines, and Thailand. 

1.      Ka Hsaw Wa of Burma, is being recognized for “dauntlessly pursuing nonviolent yet effective channels of redress, exposure, and education for the defense of human rights, the environment, and democracy in Burma.’’

2.      Deep Joshi, of India, is being recognized for “his vision and leadership in bringing professionalism to the non-government organization movement in India, by effectively combining ‘head’ and ‘heart’ in the transformative development of rural communities.’’

3.      Krisana Kraisintu, of Thailand, is being recognized for “placing pharmaceutical rigor at the service of patients, through her untiring and fearless dedication to producing much-needed generic drugs in Thailand and elsewhere in the developing world.’’

4.      Yu Xiaogang, of China, is being recognized for “fusing the knowledge and tools of social science with a deep sense of social justice, in assisting dam-affected communities in China to shape the development projects that impact their natural environment and their lives.’’

5.      Ma Jun, also of China, is being recognized for “harnessing the technology and power of information to address China’s water crisis, and mobilizing pragmatic, multisectoral, and collaborative efforts to ensure sustainable benefits for China’s environment and society.’’

6.      Antonio A. Oposa Jr., of the Philippines, is being recognized for “his path-breaking and passionate crusade to engage Filipinos in acts of enlightened citizenship that maximize the power of law to protect and nurture the environment for themselves, their children, and generations still to come.’’

NOTE: The author had the rare opportunity to witness the ceremonies held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines August 31, 2013. Acknowledgement: Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation (RMAF)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Waterfalls at Amadeo, Cavite

Amadeo Waterfalls

How many falls do you tumble all the time?
And songs you sing in rhythm and rhyme?
Oh, you are simply filled with awe and joy.
And I, I wish I were forever a boy -

I ride on your crest, plunge into your floor,
Inside your womb I'm a child once more,
Together we flow, and I'm weaned out to sea
To tell the world of a beautiful story. ~

Living with Nature 3, AVR (All Right Reserved)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Self-Administered Test on Life Science (Biology) True or False 50 Items

Colorful fish among seaweeds, acrylic AVR

Dr Abe V Rotor

1. All living things, whether they are big or small, simple or complex, plants or animals, are made up of cells - except the bacteria.

2. Evolution is the process by which all the organisms that we know today have come about. Hundreds of millions of years ago the first forms of life slowly evolved into complex forms through genetic mutation.

3. Nothing in this world is permanent, and this applies not only to physical things but to living things as well. Biologically then, all living things have been changing – and will continue to change, including us humans.

4. Evolution however, is not always progressive and radical; many organisms in the past have not changed. They are called living fossils such as the algae, insects and reptiles.

5. Charles Darwin, who founded the theory of evolution through natural selection, succeeded in tracing the origin of species, and as well as the origin of life itself.

6. Life begets life, and there is no exception. This principle puts to rest the common notion of Spontaneous Generation, such as mushrooms come out after heavy rainfall and lightning, and flies coming out from the bodies of dead animals.

7. As the chemical world has its organizational hierarchy (atoms to molecules, elements to compounds), so with the biological world (cells, tissues, organs, organ-systems). This is true with algae, fungi, amoeba, paramecium, and other protozoa.

8. The tropical rain forest has the highest biological diversity because this ecosystem contains the most number of living organisms, both in kind and number, as compared with other ecosystems. This kind of ecosystem is found in the tropical region which includes the Philippines, Australia, Northern China, Pakistan, South America and Japan.

9. No two organisms are the same even if they belong to the same species, or even if they are identical twins. This is the basis on forensic science using DNA Analysis. The DNA of leaves belonging to the same plant is however, exactly the same.

10. Today it is possible to have a plant such as corn bred with a bacterium such as Bacillus thuringenis, thus their offspring is a kind of corn containing the genetic material of the bacterium. (Bt Corn). Similarly we have now Bt Cotton.

11. Organisms reproduce by sexual and asexual means, that is through the exchange of genetic materials (generally through union of sex cells), and by vegetative means such as cutting, grafting, fragmentation, spores, etc. Bacteria and protozoa reproduce by both means.

12. The reason why close relatives are strictly not allowed to intermarry is to prevent in-breeding (inbreeding syndrome). The gene pool must be invigorated now and then with new genes, more importantly dominant genes. This principle explains the importance of hybridization, cross-breeding, and the buildup of resistance and hybrid vigor.

13. Nature saw to it that dominant genes must prevail by various mans in order that the species becomes capable of facing the ordeals of a changing environment. Certain dominant genes however, though they may be transmitted to the next generation do not contribute at all to the enhancement of species’ survival.

14. If this is the case, referring to the previous question, then recessive genes do not contribute to the wellness or the fitness of the species.

15. Evolution is a thing of the past as we have known the fate of the dinosaurs, the end of the giant ferns that once covered the earth. It means that the organisms that we see today have ultimately reached the highest degree of perfection, with man as the ideal example.

16, The most controversial subject matter between science and religion is Evolution. It has always been confrontational, and the church is likely not giving up its dogma of Creation.
For this reason Christian Fundamentalists prohibit the teaching of Darwinian evolution.

17. Hibernation is a tool of survival of organisms trapped in extreme dry and hot habitats. It is a state of torpor which is near death, and when the conditions become favorable again, the organisms – such as reptiles, fish, mammals, shells, and the like, emerge into life and resume their normal activities.

18. Organisms may be found living under extreme conditions, but definitely nothing lives inside the crater of volcanoes where the temperature well exceeds 100 degrees centigrade. And nothing lives underneath the permafrost of the North Pole where temperatures remain way below freezing point.

19. Nature is best cared for in the presence of man, for which reason man was created as the guardian of the earth. Thus, today we enjoy the beauty of parts, resorts, gardens, beautiful sunsets, refreshing waterfalls and streams, and all the aesthetics and amenities of living,

20. When a famous scientist-philosopher was asked, “How can you preserve Nature?” He was humbly answered, “Leave Nature alone.” This means that Nature can take care itself better without Man – indeed a concept supported by facts and scientific proofs.

21. Extraction of the DNA in fossils such as dinosaurs (Jurassic Park) can lead into the re-creation of the extinct organisms – indeed a revolution in science. Actually scientists have already succeeded in this venture.

22. Dolly the sheep was cloned from her mother, the first successful cloned animal. Other animals have been likewise cloned such as cow, horse, dog and cat. One problem these cloned animals have in common is premature aging, become senile and dying ahead of their mothers.

23. Genetic engineering, the unlocking the code of life, is the latest breakthrough in science. The first two scientific breakthroughs are the splitting of the atom which led us to the Atomic Age, and the invention of the microchip which led us into the Computer Age. All three took place in a span of time witnessed by one generation or in one’s lifetime.

24. Louise Brown is the first test tube baby. After 30 years or so, all over the world there are thousands and thousands people born from the same technology -in vitro fertilization. This is gave rise to new technologies involving surrogate motherhood, post menopausal childbirth, multiple birth, and the like. All these made biotechnology a very lucrative business all over the world.

25. The fuel we use in our vehicles is known as fossil fuel. It is because it came from plants and animals formed during the Carboniferous forests that were preserved under the earth for millions of years ago.

26. If this were so, referring to the previous question, then every time you step of the gas you are actually releasing the ancient sun trapped in this fossil remains

27. The virus is the ultimate unit of living thing because it cannot be seen even under the ordinary microscope. It is only through the electron microscope that its image can be viewed.
To illustrate its minute size, millions of viruses can reside on a single cell or bacterium.

28. Mad Cow Disease or BSE (Bovine Spongiosform Encephalopathy) is caused by a virus. This disease is similar to the CJD (Cruetzel-Jakob Disease) which affects human. This disease emanated from Britain in the eighties and spread to Europe, US, Japan and other countries.

29. These epidemic diseases – Ebola, SARS, Meningococcemia, HIV-SARS, Bubonic Plague, Influenza are caused by viruses, a proof of the extreme virulence of this kind of pathogen.

30. Nature knows how to heal herself every time a calamity such as typhoon, earthquake, flood, or drought strikes. The healing process, though it may take time, results ultimately to Homeostasis (dynamic balance).

31. Energy cannot be created; it can only be destroyed. Example: The sun’s energy is transformed into chemical energy (manufacture sugar through photosynthesis), transformed into mechanical energy (muscular movement on the part of the eater of the plant). The use of this energy means its destruction.

32. These organisms make a food chain in this order. Algae <– snail <– duck <– man.

33. These organisms make complete food web: rice plant, grasshopper, spider, frog, heron, carabao, man, snake, monitor lizard, dragonfly.

34. A thing is considered to be living if it possesses these criteria. A. It has a definite form and structure. B. It has the ability to reproduce itself. C. It can respond to stimuli and can adjust to the changes of its environment. D. It has the capability of metabolism.

35. The Kyoto Protocol was attended by most countries of the world with the agenda to reduce gas emission into the atmosphere. All countries signed the Protocol, a manifestation of global unity when it comes to solving a common global problem. 36. B. The Ozone layer is progressively being destroyed by CFC gases emitted by Freon coolants, atomizers, paints, etc. Today the Ozone hole which is about the size of continental US hovers above the Arctic region. 37. One of the effects of global warming is extensive drought throughout the world, thus resulting to desertification, that is the transformation of productive lands to arid lands.

38. Scientists predict that global warming will precipitate the coming of another Ice Age, which is likely to start at the end of this century. This phenomenon occurs in a cycle of several thousands of years - even without the intervention of man.

39. Acid rain is formed by the reaction of water and these gases in the atmosphere such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, chlorine and Sulfur dioxide. These are emissions of vehicles and industries, other than those that are occurring naturally.

40. When lightning strikes tons and tons of nitrogen are fixed into nitrates, a compound that fertilizes the fields, lakes, mountains and seas. Lightning also fixes, phosphates, sulfates and other elements, making them available for the use of plants and other organisms.

41. The reason why farmers intercropped legumes (such as mungo and peanut) with corn is because corn is a heavy feeder of nitrates, while legumes convert nitrogen into nitrates through the Rhizobium bacteria that reside in their roots.

42. These are biological clocks with which we read Nature. June beetles emerge with the coming of amihan. Hovering dragonflies signal the coming of a typhoon. Ring (halo) around the moon means fine weather the following day.

43. These are other biological indicators. When earthworms crawl out of their burrows, drought is coming, When the leaves of acacia starts to fold it’s already morning - it’s time to wake up.

44. Weekly rhythm has a biological basis; that’s why people all over the world respond to it. After the French Revolution in the 18th century new leaders changed the 7-day system into a 10-day system. The new system lasted for many years until recently.

45. In fractional distillation of fossil fuel, among the products obtained are Kerosene, Diesel oil, Gasoline, Jet gas, LPG, Lubricating Oil, and Asphalt. 46. Among these alternative fuels have great potential in solving the energy crisis - Wind, Water, Geothermal, Biogas, Solar, Tide, Hydrogen – it is Deuterium or heavy water that lies under the depth of the Philippine Deep is the last frontier that holds an indefinite supply of energy.

47. The Water Cycle first involves the evaporation of water from sea, land and on land, followed by cloud formation, and consequently rainfall. Where the land is barren and dry, clouds are attracted to fall, rather than areas that are covered with forests or wetlands – because the latter are already saturated.

48. When there is too much rainfall, the soil becomes saturated and water moves over land as runoff. The abundance of trees helps trap water and deposit it into the ground for future use, rather than directly consuming it and losing it through transpiration.

49. Habagat wind becomes laden with clouds that bring rains, while Amihan wind is dry and cool because it originated in Siberia, for which reason we call it also as Siberian High.

50. If a red rose is crossed (pollination-fertilization) with a white rose, their progeny will consist of all pink roses. If two of these pink roses are crossed, their progeny will consist of a proportion of 1 red, 2 pink and 1 white rose. (25-50-25 percent, respectively).
NOTE: Answers and Rating will be posted soon.
Drynaria fern on acacia, Tagudin, Ilocos Sur

Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid DZRB 738 AM, 8 to 9 Evening Class
Monday to Friday with Dr. Abe V. Rotor and Ms. Melly Tenorio