Friday, March 26, 2010

I wonder why herons hide their nest.

Herons are migratory birds flying over great distance from their abode. Their arrival by the flock signals the start of the monsoon season. They frequent ricefields feeding on frogs, insects, and other living organisms. Their association with carabaos and cattle creates a romantic ambiance that has inspired artists to paint and write stories about these enigmatic creatures.

Abe V Rotor

Why do herons hide their nest?
Where on earth is their home?
I stalked through the thorny test
Where the white feathered roam -

Hushing away the unseen,
Deity, the fanged or quagmire;
I became part of the scene,
A drama of life to admire.

As the birds basked in the noon sun
In regal poise and dainty movement,
I moved for the kill, a lens on hand
To freeze the precious moment.

But lo! A loud crack filled the air
Driving the birds away from their rest;
My story now untold - but who would care?
Wonder why herons hide their nest.

Living with Nature 3, AVR

Ode to Lowly Creatures

Haring gagamba (king spider), Amadeo, Cavite

Abe V Rotor


Your home is the space
where your embroidery sways
and glitters with the rainbow
giving life to shadow.

Redeem your mother Arachne
vanished for her art by Athene;
put the morning star to rest,
and the sun to its crest.


Fortune on the De Beers' wasteland -
diamonds embedded in the rocks,
the greatest wealth of any man,
vast and immeasurable in bucks.

To anyone of us a fortune awaits,
whose skill can too, blaze a trail
on land and sea where man satiates
his craving for the holy grail.

Here's wealth to the researcher;
in Sesame's magic the lens opens
to a world of diatoms everywhere,
a greater wealth that never ends.

Hermit Crab

A rare pet you are -
you never had a home,
now you have two:
you borrowed the one
on your back; the other,
above your head -
that you earned it from
the humility of a pet.

Actinotrichia fragilis, red Marine alga

Red Algae

You are mistaken
to be aloof and mean;
of all seaweeds
you are the least seen,
for you live in the depth,
in the dimmed coral reef,
clothed in violet or red
which is your greatest gift
to catch the fading light,
to escape the grazers
and to be out of sight.


You make a forest on the sea floor
where the fish hide from the storm;
what puzzles those who explore
is your massive yet simple form.

Above: Sargassum; snorkeling on coral reef, Bacnotan, La Union

Tussock Caterpillar

You are Medusa in the garden,
a serpent in garb all golden,
sowing destruction on your way
until Perseus put you away.

.Living with Nature
3, AVR; acknowledgement Wikipedia Diatoms

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Part 1 - Home, Sweet Home

Dr Abe V Rotor
Lesson, Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (School-on-air)
DZRB 738 KHz AM Band, 8 to 9 o'clock in the evening,
Monday to Friday

Here is a beautiful poem to start the lesson. If you will recall, those of you who saw the movie, The King and I, Anna the English teacher sang a part of the song. It was typical in her time when Europeans left their home in search of a new one at the other side of the globe, many of them pioneers in the New World, which was to become the United States of America. Others found the Orient, and for Teacher Anna, it was a special arrangement for her to serve the King of Siam (Thailand) as tutor to his many children.

To us Filipinos, the song stirs the heart as well. Thousands leave their native land, their homes and families in search for opportunities as OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers), and migrants, many of them never to return, except on brief visits as balikbayan.

Fortunately OFWs remit a large part of their earnings back home to their loved one, enabling them to build a house or improve the dwelling they left, supporting their children to acquire education, and to a significant extent, starting a local business for the family. Such opportunities are rare and we are fortunately for it. It is the remittances which average $1 billion dollars a month that is saving our national economy today.

Both external and internal generation of resources in the hands of the citizen is crucial to progress. To be practical about it, material progress is necessary. It is a bridge to a better standard of living. It is a tool in making a happy home and family.

This lesson explores the many ways we can create a happy home and family.

Home Sweet Home
John Howard Payne
Music by Henry Rowley Bishop (1786-1855)
(Arranged for the violin and piano by Henry Farmer)

‘Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home;
A charm from the sky seems to hallow us there,
Which seek through the world, is ne’er met with elsewhere.
Home, Home, sweet, sweet Home!

An exile from home, splendor dazzles in vain;
O, give me my lowly thatched cottage again!
The birds singingly gaily, that came to my call –
Give me them – and the peace of mind, dearer than all.
Home, Home sweet, sweet Home.
There’s no place like Home! There’s no place like Home!

We are a country of peaceful people, lovers of pets, united in family and faith. We are a country of OFWs, wanderers, migrants and the balikbayan. We are divided in many ways.

• Spouses
• Babies, mothers
• Father, mother
• Parents, children
• Siblings
• Uncles, aunties
• Grandparents, grandchildren
• Lovers, friends, neighbors
• Classmates, town mates
• Masters, pets

Divided we may be – and apparently increasingly everyday. Yet the spirit is never weak, it binds people through distance and time. The spirit of longing and belonging is but one.~


Part 2 - Home is ...

Dr Abe V Rotor
There are 101 definitions of home. Let us make a short list, as follows:

1. Home is a roof for everyone, residents and guests.
2. Home is a wall with large windows that let the sun and the breeze in.
3. Home is where fish in the aquarium sparkle in the morning’s sun.
4. Home is a baby smiling, of children playing.
5. Home is a faithful husband and wife.
6. Home is a “place for everything and everything in its place,” but not always.
7. Home is dad and mom waiting for us from school.
8. Home is a workshop for hobbies and inventions.
9. Home is where our dog lies on the doormat waiting for its master.
10. Home is a litter of puppies and kittens.
11. Home is a rooster crowing, nature’s alarm clock.
12. Home is a house lizard’s crispy announcement of a guest coming.
13. Home is a frog croaking in the rain.
14. Home is a safari of wildlife – from insects to migratory birds.
15. Home is a warm embrace of a cat.
16. Home is a cup of coffee, a sip of wine, a newspaper.
17. Home is a warm bath, a cold shower, a bath tub.
18. Home is National Geographic, Time Magazine, Daily Inquirer.
19. Home is ripe tomato, succulent radish, dangling stringbeans,
20. Home is a brooding mother hen in her nest.
21. Home is fresh eggs everyday.
22. Home is the sound of birds and crickets.
23. Home is the sweet smell of flowers, falling leaves, swaying branches in the wind.
24. Home is the sweet smell of the earth after the first rain in May.
25. Home is a singing cicada in the tree.
26. Home is a swarming of gamugamo in the evening.
27. Home is a sala too small for so many friends.
28. Home is a cabinet of books, a study table, a computer.
29. Home is Beethoven, Mozart, Abelardo, Santiago.
30. Home is Charlotte Church, Josh Groban, Sharon Cuneta.
31. Home is Amorsolo. Picasso, Van Gogh.
32. Home is potpourri of appetizing recipes, of the proverbial grandmother apple pie.
33. Home is pinakbet, lechon, karekare, suman, bibingka.
34. Home is a garden of roses, a grass lawn to lie on.
35. Home is an herbarium of plants, a gene bank.
36. Home is home for biodiversity, a living museum.
37. Home is doing repair that has no end.
38. Home is disposing old newspapers, bottles, metal scraps, used clothes.
39. Home is a midnight candle before an exam.
40. Home is a shoulder, a pillow, to cry on.
41. Home is Noche Buena.
42. Home is fireworks on New Year.
43. Home is general cleaning on weekends.
44. Home is a soft bed that soothes tired nerves and muscles.
45. Home is a fire place, a hearth, which takes the cold out of the body and spirit.
46. Home is a Prodigal Son returning, Good Samaritan.
47. Home is a round table where thanksgiving prayer is said.
48. Home is laughter and music, prose and poetry.
49. Home is forgiving, rejoicing, celebrating.
50. Home is angelus and rosary hour.

To sum it all, Home is Home Sweet Home.~

Living with Nature 3, AVR

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Summer is ...

Summer is fishing and dreaming. I am seeing myself in this
photo many years back. Award winning photo.
My personal
congratulations to the winner and sponsor of the photo contest.

Abe V Rotor

Summer is ...

1. Putting on cool clothes, comfortable field shoes, accessories against sun.
2. Always wear sunscreen or you might get melanoma or worse.
3. Having a camera and taking photos and arranging them in an album, or in an electronic device.
4. Not wasting the season watching TV and playing with the computer every day.
5. Getting into some classes in handicraft, art, sports, dance, driving, and the like .
6. Going for vacation in the province; paying respects to old folks.
7. Reunion with family and relatives.
8. Homecoming with former classmates, townmates, co-workers.
9. Working on your body at a local gym; playing badminton, volleyball, pingpong
10. A walk in the park, on the beach, a walk with nature on a nature trail.
11. Learning to market, to cook and prepare the table – for girls specially.
12. Renting a beach house for the whole family overnight, campfire, informal program.
13. Having an inflatable swimming pool in the garden, for kids, and adults too.
14. Planting tree seedlings at the onset of rain, and preparing the home garden as well.
15. Putting up a lemonade stand (economic for kids) and go into business. Halo-halo, gulaman, too
16. There's nothing better than relaxing on the beach watching the ocean – meditate, reflect to recharge energy
17. Creative writing – poetry, short story, essay, feature.
18. Writing in your journal – The Story of my Life
19. Recuperating from ailment and infirmity.
20. Seeing your doctor, scheduling a thorough checkup – and get a clean bill of health.
21. Making a family video of an occasion, better still a documentary.
22. Organizing family photos, report cards, birthday cards, artwork, concert programs and other keepsakes from the past year into a scrapbook
23. Summer Pet Bonding - make your pet happy and you healthy. Teach your dog new tricks
24. Learning a new language - the best way is to go to a place where the language you wish to learn is the only language.
25. Improving your English (or first language)
26. Learning to play a musical instrument -Music enhances the mind in many ways. Studies have shown that children who study music at an early age do better in school than those who don’t. Aside from that, it is also just plain fun.
27. Learning to sew. Sewing is a very useful skill to have regardless of your gender. You can learn to mend clothes, make your own clothes and other things for your house, which can save you a lot of money. Older and more skilled children can even make their own clothes for the coming school year.
28. Taking a special computer class - but make it fun. Learn to type properly, use a spreadsheet or database, design websites, make presentations, etc. Most jobs these days involve computer use, so knowing as much as you can about computers might help you get a higher salary.
29. Sorting through your stuff. Go through your clothes and things and prune out those you no longer want or need. You could donate the things you no longer need or hold a garage or yard sale and make some money to put into your college or retirement savings
30. Enrolling in back subjects – “survival classes”
31. Re-arrange your room or home. Re-arranging your room or home can have a positive impact on your life. A change can be uplifting and produce an overall feeling of well-being and accomplishment, renew your energy and increase productivity.
32. Cleaning your computer. Ideally you should do this several times a year, but if you use the internet and download a lot of things, it’s a good idea to clean out your computer on a regular basis. If there are programs you don’t use, uninstall them. If there are files that you no longer need, delete them. Clean your registry if you’ve had the computer for a while. Keeping your hard drive from getting too full will extend its life.
33. Mall Walking - Walking in an indoor, air-conditioned mall is a great way to get exercise away from the heat and smog, and you can also save on sunscreen. You can even window-shop during your walks, but if you think you might get too tempted, leave your money and credit card at home.
34. Learning to swim. Swimming is another low-impact exercise (safer than running) which increases endurance, muscle and cardiovascular strength. Try to swim in an indoor pool whenever possible or wait until early evening to avoid sunburn.
35. Joining prayer rallies, healthy religious activities, bible studies.
36. Making sweet, jams, jellies, for hobby and money. Summer is fruit season.
37. Participating in Clean and Green, other environmental projects. Prevent bushfire.
38. Reviving traditional games like kite flying, spinning top, yoyo – make, don’t buy.
39. Repair, repair, repair. Name it and it needs repair (toys, house, figurine, kitchen wares, china, etc)
40. “Earn to learn.” For working students, especially.
41. Joining ecology groups and campaign. Beach cleaning, neighborhood and community cleaning.
42. Indexing your books and CDs, DVDs, notes, documents.
43. Retreat time – Holy Week
44. Fiestas, celebrations, festivities.
45. Blogging. Why don't you open a blog, if you haven't?

Summer is not
1. Do not get obsessed with losing weight.
2. Do not over-tan or you'll look disastrous.
3. Don't over party.
4. Do not spend too much money on new items. For all you know that nice outfit you saw earlier is marked down half-price somewhere else.
5. Don't be idle. Reading (even fun fiction) can help improve your mind, vocabulary, grammar and writing skills.

This time I would like to ask my followers and visitors of this blog to list down what Summer is not...

Living with Nature 3, AVR

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Cultural Revival

Photos by Abe V Rotor

Above: Reviving cultural heritage in Muslim Mindanao

Popular Caniao dance of the Cordilleras

NOTE: Photos taken during the Ramon Obusan Dance Troupe presentation at the Saint Paul University QC, 2009.

Part 1 - Is Aesop still relevant today?

Abe V. Rotor
Aesop did not write down his fables. He told many people the stories and they remembered them. It was nearly two hundred years before the stories were collected together and published. The fables were not published in English until the 15th century, but since then they have been read by people all over the world. Their moral lessons are as true today as they were 2,500 years ago when Aesop was alive.

Childhood Lessons from Fables

The first lessons I learned from my father came from Aesop’s fables. Quite a number of them are still fresh in my mind nearly fifty years after. Fable or fibula in Latin is a story or tale, especially a short story, often with animals or inanimate objects as speakers or actors, devised to convey a moral. So simple and universal are fables that no one could possibly miss the lesson of each story.

Before I proceed let me say a few words about the genius behind this ancient art of storytelling. the founder of fables. Aesop was a native of old Greece, a former slave who earned his freedom out of his genius and wit, a master in allegorical philosophy. It is for this natural gift that he also gained fame – and ironically, it is also for this that he met a lamentable end in the hands of enemies whom his fables created.

Aesop is the greatest fabulist of all time, and if there are other prominent fabulists after him and at present, there is likely a shade of Aesop in their stories. Even modern fables like the movie Babes, about the pig that gained its right to live by learning to be a sheep dog, reminds us of Aesop. Or take the case of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, a story about man’s folly and greed for power and wealth and lavish living.

But little can we perceive the original morals of Aesop in most of today’s animations. There is simply too much fantasy that masks the lesson, especially so with the versatility of technology that emphasizes scenarios that heighten the plot as if fables are running entertainment stories. What technology misses is that it fails to capture the refinement of presentation and the purposeful message that lingers in afterthought. Aesop has a unique way of making his reader to first look within himself before casting judgment upon others. Like many philosophers in his time, he believed that change is basically internal and often, discreetly self atonement and non-effacing. Aesop is Aesop for such extraordinary character as can be gleamed from records about the man. To wit -.

“It is probable that he was of a low and diminutive stature, though agreeable in his complexion, and polite in his manners. It is however certain that he had a great soul, and was endowed with extraordinary mental qualification; his moral character approached to a degree of perfection to which very few have attained. He appears to have had a true sense of morality and a just discernment of right and wrong; his perceptions and feelings of truth were scrupulously mice, and the smallest deviation from rectitude impressed his mind with the greatest antipathy.

“No considerations of private interest could warp his inclinations to as to seduce him from the path of virtue; his principles are steadfast and determined, and truly habitual. He never employed his great wisdom to serve the purposes of cunning; but, with an uncommon exactness, made his understanding a servant of truth.” (Oliver Goldsmith, Life of Aesop)

While we recognize Aesop as the father of the fable, there were fabulists ahead of him like Archilochus who wrote fables one hundred years before. But it is certain that Aesop was the first that brought that species of teaching into reputation, building upon the style of using animals and inanimate objects to describe the manners and characters of men, communicating instructions without seeming to assume authority of a master or a pedagogue.

Here is a story from which we can gleam the Aesop’s indomitable reputation. He adopted a unique strategy to reconcile his master and his estranged wife who had left him. It is said that Aesop, then a slave of Xanthus, went to the market and brought a great quantity of the best provisions, which he publicly declared were intended for the marriage of his master with a new spouse. This report had its desired effect, and the matter was amicably settled. And at a feast to celebrate the return of his master’s wife he is said to have served the guests with several courses of tongues, by which he intended to give a moral to his master and wife, who had by too liberal use of their tongue almost caused their permanent separation.

In another occasion, Aesop astounded the sages of Greece. An ambitious king having one day shown his vast riches and magnificence, and the glory and splendor of his court, asked them the question, whom they thought was the happiest man. After several different answers given by all the wise men present, it came at last to Aesop to make his reply. He said: “That Croesus was as much happier than other men as the fullness of the sea was superior to the rivers in his kingdom.”

If we were to base Aesop’s sagacity and severe morality his answer would rather be one of sarcasm rather than compliment, but he was undoubtedly understood by the king to be a great compliment, that in his vanity exclaimed, “The Phrygian had hit the mark.” Afterward, alone with a friend, Aesop commented, “Either we must not speak to Kings, or we must say what will please them.”

While he was living at the court of King Croesus, now a free man, celebrated and famous, he was sent on a journey to the temple of Apollo at Delphi. There he was accused by the Delphians of sacrilege, and he was convicted by an act of the greatest villainy. They concealed among his baggage, at his departure, some golden vessels consecrated to Apollo, and then dispatched messengers to search his baggage. Upon this he was accused of theft and sacrilege, and condemned to die. The angry Delphians pushed him over a steep cliff to his death.

Aesop’s ironic death is not the first among respected citizens of Greece, paradoxically when Greece was at its peak of power, as we can only imagine with this aphorism “the glory that was Greece.” Not far after Aesop’s time, Socrates, the greatest philosopher of Athens in his time and one of the greatest minds the world has ever known, was condemned to die by drinking poison hemlock for “corrupting the minds of the youth.” Socrates opened the gate of enlightenment; the concept of the Lyceum or university.

I have selected a number of Aesop fable to suit the purpose of conveying important messages related to contemporary issues in a manner that they can be understood at the grassroots. This is the purpose of Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (school-on-the air) to impart functional literacy to the masses. It is not the intention of the lessons to impose moral authority, much less to proselytize our society of its failures and weaknesses. It merely seeks to elevate awareness for change, in the humblest manner we may find ways to reform, through the lessons in the fables Aesop related more than two thousand five hundred years ago.

Here are some of the popular fables of Aesop with the morals they convey.

Popular Aesop Fables

1. The fox without a tail – Wise people are not easily fooled

2. The shepherd boy and the wolf – If we tell lies, no one will believe us when we speak the truth.

3. The boastful traveler – People who boast are soon found out.

4. The crow and the fox – Beware of people who say nice things they do not mean.

5. Who will bell the cat – Some things are more easily said than done.

6. The crow and the swan – Think well before you copy other people.

7. The wolf and the lamb – People who want to do something bad can always
find an excuse.

8. The lion and the hare – It is sometimes wiser to be content with what you have.

9. Brother and sister – It is better to be good than to be just good looking.

10. The goose that laid the golden eggs - A greedy man can lose all he has.

11. The wind and the sun– Kindness often gets things done more quickly than force.

12. The trees and the axe – Be careful when you give way over small things,
or you may have to give way over big ones.

13. The dog and his reflection – If you want more because you are greedy, in the end
you might find you have less.

14. The fir tree and the bramble – People who are too proud may be sorry later.

15. The ant and the dove – No one is too little to be helpful.

16. The boys and the frogs – Do not do things to other people that you would not
like to be done to you.

17. The raven and the jug – If you try hard enough, you may find you can do something
that at first seems very difficult.

18. The dog in the manger – Do not stop others having what you don’t need.

19. The fox and the grapes – It is silly to say that you do not want something just
because you cannot have it. (idiomatic expression: sour grapes)

20. The wolves and the dog – Those who cannot be trusted deserve to be treated badly.

21. The fox and the lion – Things are not always what they seem to be at first.

22. The bear and the travelers - A real friend will not leave you to face trouble alone.

23. The fox and the stork – If you play mean tricks on other people, they might do
the same to you.

24. The man and the partridge – No one loves a traitor.

25. The Ant and the Grasshopper – “Save for the rainy day.” Action and industry of th wise and a good man, and nothing is so much to be despised as slothfulness.


Part 2 - Versions and Interpretations of Aesop’s Fables

The interpretation of an Aesop fable varies considerably. For example, The Fir tree and the Bramble, has this earlier interpretation, from Oliver Goldsmith, citing Bewick’s version.

Poverty secures a man from many dangers; whereas the rich and the mighty are the mark of malice and cross fortune; and still the higher they are, the nearer the thunder.

To have a better view of the moral, let me cite the fable from Bewick’s. The fable starts with a verse, as follows:

Minions of fortune, pillars of the state,
Round your exalted heads that tempest low’r!
While peace secure, and soft contentment wait
On the calm mansions of the humble poor.

So the story goes like this. “My head, says the boasting Fir-tree to the humble Bramble, is advanced among the stars; I furnish beams for palaces, and masts for shipping; the very sweat of my body is a sovereign remedy for the sick and wounded: whereas thou, O rascally Bramble, runnest creeping in the dirt, and art good for nothing in the world but mischief."

"I pretend not to vie with thee," said the Bramble, "in the points that gloriest in. But, not to insist upon it, that He who made thee lofty Fir, could have made thee an humble Bramble, I pray thee tell me, when the Carpenter comes next with the axe into the wood, to fell timber, whether that hadst not rather be a Bramble than a Fir-tree?”

Compare the same fable with this simplified version for children. Here it goes.

One day, on a hill top, a fir tree said to a bramble bush. “Look at me. I am tall, strong, graceful and very beautiful. What good are you? You are small, ugly and untidy.”

This made the bramble bush very unhappy because it knew the fir tree was right. But next day some men carrying axes came up the hill. They started to chop down the fir tree. They wanted to use it to make a new house.

”Oh dear!” cried the fir tree, as it started to fall. “I wish I were a bramble bush, then the men would not have cut me down.”

The Fox and the Grapes

Here is Bewick’s version of this fable.
Old maids who loathe the matrimonial state
Poor rogues who laugh to scorn the rich and the great,
Patriots who rail at placemen and at pow’r,
All, like Reynard, say, ”The Grapes are sour.”

And here is the main body of the fable.

“A fox, very hungry, chanced to come into a Vineyard, where hung many bunches of charming ripe grapes; but nailed up to a trellis so high, that he leaped till he quite tired himself without being able to reach one of them. At last, Let who will take them! Says he; they are but green and sour; so I’ll even let them alone.”

This is the interpretation from the same source (Bewick’s).
When a man finds it impossible to obtain the things he longs for, it is a mark of sound wisdom and discretion to make a virtue of necessity.

To compare with the simplified children’s version, the story goes like this as retold by Marie Stuart (A Second Book of Aesop’s Fables, Ladybird Books, 1974)

A fox saw some nice grapes. “They look good,” he said. “I want to eat them, but they are too high for me. I must try jumping for them.”

He jump and jumped but could not reach the grapes. So he said, “I can see now that they are green. They are not sweet. I do not like green grapes. They are sour. I don’t want them.”

So he went away without any. He knew that the grapes were really very nice. He just said they were sour because he could not reach them.

This story gave rise to the idiomatic expression – sour grapes, which are an expression of frustration, a passive surrender, a defeatist argument, and a kind of defense mechanism.

What could have led to the variation in the interpretation of the two versions? Thomas Bewick from whom Goldsmith based his English translation, lived in the later part of the 18th century and early 19th century, and apparently wrote and illustrated in wood block Aesop’s fables; whereas the children’s version is a very recent one. Understandably, it the social message in Bewick’s time and ours that has not changed, but it is in the way it is stated. The earlier version reflects the fineness in expression and diplomacy of the English language, unlike our contemporary style of expression - direct and moralistic. Thus the idiom – sour grapes was born out of the contemporary version.

The Shepherd Boy and the Wolf
(A Boy and False Alarms)

Of all the fables I learned as child, I like best the story of the boy who cried “Wolf!” After bluffing twice, thrice, and made fun out of wit, people didn’t believe in him anymore. Then the real wolf came and killed all the sheep.

Here is the story from Bewick written in Medieval English style.

“A shepherd’s boy kept his sheep upon a common, and in sport and wantonness had gotten a roguish trick of crying. A wolf! A wolf! When there was no such matter, and fooling the country people with false alarms. He had been at this sport so many times in jest, that they would not believe him at last when he was in earnest; and so the wolves broke in upon the flock, and worried the sheep without resistance.”

The fable shows us the dangerous consequences of an improper and unseasonable fooling. The old moral observes, that a common liar shall not be believed, even when he speaks true.

The Mice in Council
(Who will bell the cat?)

It’s an interesting fable that behooves upon whose who are good only as critics, and ruefully poor doers. It also applies to those who may be sincere in a thing they think is right, but lack the courage to do it. Why many evil things continue to prevail because of indifference!

Let us look into the story. This is the simpler version for children to understand. Once some mice lived in a house where there also lived a big cat. Everyday she liked to eat some mice. At last the mice said to one another. “This must stop, or soon we shall all be eaten.”

So after a time an old mouse said. “I know what we can do. One of us must put a bell on the cat. The bell will tell us when she is near and when we must stay at home. After she has gone away, we can come out again.”

“Yes, that will be a wise thing to do. Let us do that,” they all said.

“But which one of us will put the bell on her?” said the old mouse. “I am too old, I cannot run very fast so I don’t think I can do it.”

“So are we,” said some of the others.

“And we are too little,” said the baby mice. In the end no one would do it. So the bell was never put on the cat and she went on eating the mice.

Another interpretation suggests that the fable must have been addressed to celebrated personages - people who are members of a council. In the story, the members offered solutions which they debated upon. Here the one who offered the solution to bell the cat came was a young mouse, who in fine florid speech convinced the council. Thereafter an old grave Mouse, who had sat silent all the while, gave another speech, in which he said that the proposal is ingenious. However, he thought it would not be so proper to thank the proponent unless he informs them how the bell was going to be fastened around the cat’s neck, and which mouse would undertake the dangerous assignment.

Bewick’s interpretation speaks on a higher level of thought. To wit:

“The different lights, in which things appear to different judgments, recommend candor to the opinions of others, even at the time we retain our own.”

The Dog and the Shadow

Perhaps the most popular fable about avarice is The Dog and the Shadow (The Dog and His Reflection)

One day, a dog took a bone from a shop. He ran off with it before anyone could catch him. He came to a river and went over the bridge. As he looked down into the water, he saw another dog with a bone. He did not know that the dog he saw in the water was a reflection of himself.

“That dog has a big bone. It is as big as mine,” he said. “I will jump into the water and take it from him.” So he jumped.

When he was in the water, he could not see the other dog. And he could not see the other bone either. He had lost his own bone, too, because it fell as he jumped in. So because he was greedy, he got nothing in the end.

The story invites the reader to reflect upon himself on these related lessons:
• Excessive greediness mostly in the end misses what it aims.
• Disorderly appetite seldom obtains what it would have.
• Passions mislead men, and often bring them great inconveniences.


Part 3 - Less Popular Aesop Fables

Related image

Dr Abe V Rotor

A rare Aesop’s fable
Its characters are not animals or inanimate objects this time, and the seriousness of the lesson cannot be taken too lightly. What with a dying father giving advice final advice his sons! And this is the story of A father and his sons. 

A very honest man happened to have a contentious brood of children. He called for a rod, and bade them try one after another. With all their force, if they could break it. They tried, and could not. Well, says he, unbind it now, and take every twig of it apart, and see what you can do that way. They did do, and with great ease, by one and one, they snapped it all to pieces. This says he, is the true emblem of your condition: keep together. And you are safe; divide, and you are undone.

Interpretation (Goldsmith): The breach of unity puts the world into a state of war, and turns every man’s hand against his brother; but so long as that hand holds, it is the strength of all the several parts of it gathered into one, and is not easily subdued.

From this fable was derived the importance of unity that spurred men to victory, the French Revolution perhaps the most famous with the battle cry: Igalite', Fraternite', Liberte'. Note the sequence of the cry. Only when we have realized equality can we gain friendship, and with friendship and unity we gain freedom - liberty. In modern parlance we have these sayings: In union there is strength. Divide and conquer. Sama-sama sa kaunlaran. The fable brings to mind the walis tingting principle and the underlying principle of a cooperative.

A list of Aesop Fables

Here is a list of Aesop Fables which may not be as popular to us as compared with those in the first list. It is true that many fables have remained obscure and forgotten in some shelves, relinquished aside in favor of modern day fables and animations. Ironically many stories about animals are not fables at all. Even legends have a place of their own, and a lot of them do not fall into the category of fables. The Minotaur for example will remain firmly within the sphere of mythology, more so with the mystical beasts legends and myths like Medusa and the Dragon.

A boar and a fox – A discreet man should have a reserve of everything that is necessary beforehand.

The fox and the crow – There is hardly any man living that may not be wrought upon more or less by flattery.

An ass, an ape and a mole; The hares and the frogs – These two fables tell us that we
cannot contend with the Orders and Decrees of Providence.

The ant and the fly – An honest mediocrity is the happiest state a man can wish for.

The horse and an ass – This fable shows the folly and the fate of pride and arrogance.

An husbandman and stork – Our fortune and reputation require us to keep good company.

A father and his sons – The breach of unity puts the world in a state of war.

The sick father and his children – Good counsel is the best legacy a father can leave
to a child.
A peacock and a crane – There cannot be a greater sign of a weak mind than a person’s valuing himself on a gaudy outside.

The stag looking into the water – We should examine things deliberately,
and candidly consider their real usefulness before we place our esteem on them.

The gnat and a bee – Industry ought to be inculcated in the minds of children.

A swallow and a stork – A wise man will not undertake anything without means answerable to the end.
The Satyr and the traveler – There is no use conversing with any man that carries two faces under one hood.

The eagle, the cat and the sow – There can be no peace in any state or family where whisperers and tale bearers are encouraged.

The two frogs – We ought never to change our situation in life, without duly considering the consequences of such a change.

The discontented ass – Here is a beautiful verse written about this fable

Who lacks the pleasures of a tranquil mind,
Will something wrong in every station find;
His mind unsteady, and on changes bent,
Is always shifting, yet it is ne’er content.

And here is a shade of mythology in Aesop in these two fables:

. Hercules and the carter
. Prayers and wishes amount to nothing: We must put forth our own honest endeavors to obtain success and the assistance of heaven; and

Mercury and the woodman – Honesty is the best policy.


A boa swallowed a whole rat.

Boa constrictor

Abe V Rotor

I was in elementary then, I couldn’t remember exactly in what grade, but I remember pretty well one night I was aroused by a rumble below the house, in the cellar where dad also kept wood materials for furniture.

“Rats are fighting again,” my dad came to a quick conclusion since rats are real plenty at harvest time when our tenants would be delivering our share of palay which we kept in the granary (sarusar).

Early the following morning dad woke me to show a big snake, a boa constrictor we call in Ilocano beklat heavily stuffed in its middle. It had apparently exhausted itself so I was told by the rough guys in the carpentry shop who subdued it easily, and now they were going to strip its skin for shoes and belt. One guy - was it Mang Ramon? - who took a knife, honed it for a while and talking to himself, made a clean cut along the creature’s bulging belly dislodging a whole señora, a term for a queen rat. It is the señora old folks respect. “Don’t hurt the señora,” they would warn, “or she will do more harm.”

I felt no sense of pity because everyone felt triumphant for having eliminated two unwanted creatures, the snake most of all, for who would love a snake? No, no one in his right mind would disagree lynching the tempter responsible for the fall of Eden, and banishment of our first parents, who for their disobedience, bequeathed to us and our children the church calls original sin. No one takes the side of the snake, the living symbol of evil and treachery.

How about the rat? I remembered the Pied Piper, a legend of Hamlyn in old Germany. The Piper played with his pipe, and rats, countless of them, followed him to the end of the sea where they all drown. Rats are also the carrier of the deadly bubonic plague that killed a third of the population of Europe. And rats can destroy whole fields of rice ready to be harvested. No, no one loves the rat - even if it is Disney's most lovable character.

How little did I know of my biology, and the prejudices and folly of man! I realized as I grew older that no creature is without purpose on earth, that each one has a role to play in keeping the integrity of a grand design we call the biosphere. Yet in spite of this I have yet to learn and truly accept with the clarity of thought and conscience what things belong to science and what things are a matter of faith, in the same way we say, quoting Shakespeare, “Give to Caesar what is due to Caesar..."

That morning, while viewing the boa and its prey, I looked at dad my hero. As I grew up I realized the victory of man over other creatures won't really make him a hero at all. ~

Living with Nature 3, AVR

A shade of Noah’s Flood.

Flash flood as I recall it in painting, acrylic 2009

Abe V Rotor

The water kept on rising and dad made another notch on the post of our stair.

It is the season of siyamsiyam we call in Ilocano nepnep, the phenomenal – or is it proverbial? – “nine-plus-nine days of continuous rainfall” which occurs usually in August, the rainiest month in the country and peak of the monsoon in the Asian region. But it had been raining much longer than that, and dad said it would last for forty days, citing the story in the bible about Noah’s Flood.

I was in the elementary but I was then strong enough to wade and retrieve our empty basi jars or burnay being swept away by the flood. Since there was no dry ground left I pulled the jars from the rushing current. It was not easy to restrain a jar partly filled with water so that you have to empty it as much as you can before you could pull it to safety. Dad and I barely understood each other at the top of our voices in the downpour and rumbling flood, but I knew he was telling me to let the jars go because of the extreme danger, pointing at the main current just across the house.

But I simply ignored him not realizing the danger until he pulled me, letting off the jars to roll in the current sometimes banging at one another. We never gave up though with whatever we could under the extreme situation. My brother Eugene was even more daring, overtaking the jars before they were swept to the street. Manang Veny kept an watchful eye on the jars in the cellar and under the sagumbi (kichen-granary).

When we were nearly exhausted dad examined the water level he marked earlier. It was down two marks which meant the water was receding. Only then did we realize we had been working in danger, cold and hungry, for the whole morning. In the afternoon the jars came to a halt in the muddy sediment. The flood was over. I thought I saw a white dove flying above.

Where did the floodwater come from? Towards the east is the edge of the Cordillera range running parallel with the coast of South China Sea. Dad used to tell me that when he was like me then, it was verdant green, bluish in the morning mist and before dusk.

I realized how different it was on that day the floodwater came down. It is worse today. When the day is clear you can see the scars of erosion in roan and orange and ochre, breaking the monotony and giving it a somewhat romantic touch. But these are not good signs. In fact they are signs of destruction of the forest cover, the watershed of the narrow strip of flat land spreading out northward and spilling westward to the South China Sea. Along it is a chain of villages around towns wedged by the mountain and the sea. One can imagine the movement of water when it rains, and how ground water is trapped and stored to irrigate tobacco, vegetables and other summer crops.

But without trees, runoff water simply rushes down into flood, scouring on its way riverbanks, farms and houses. There is not enough time and foothold for rain to seep into the ground and feed the spring and aquifers. And there is not enough ground water to be drawn out from wells. Because water is scarce and too deep trees succumb in summer and brushfire often sweeps and consumes the dying vegetation.

Many years has passed since the Noah’s Flood in my childhood. I trained my tired, aging eyes over the Cordillera. It too, is now old, tired and worn.~

Living with Nature 3, AVR

Crpyt in an Old Cathedral

Underground crypt in an old cathedral at Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Abe V Rotor

A cathedral – but where is its door?
A barred gate, heavy lock at the rear,
Forbidden view the eyes couldn’t tour,
Footsteps only radar could hear.

That was before; the war is over now.
I knocked at the door. A kindly nun
Let me in and showed me all around.
I saw through the stained glass the sun.

Into the Crypt I dared not tread,
My shoes dusty, I was in slack,
Yet dared I to ask from the dead,
The martyrs the courage I lack. ~

Light from the Old Arch 3, AVR

Home away from home

Abe V Rotor

Minh Tam, you are my home,
Across the ocean, through eons of time,
Home away from home;

For a week, you make it timeless;
A room you make for a hall,
An honor to a foreign soul.

I open my window on the third floor;
A tree greets me, its branches stir,
Birdsong sweetly I hear.

The sun weaves through its crown,
Quivers with the morning breeze,
I breathe the air in peace.

Beyond smog rises into a screen or veil,
Below bikes roar, perhaps a thousand,
Towers and chimneys stand.

I close my window, switch on the aircon,
Draw back the curtain, and soon
I am back to my old home.

Light from the Old Arch 2, AVR.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Do you believe in divination?

Abe V Rotor

This is a case of a water diviner – one who can detect the source of ground water by mere perception.

A kindly old man from Baclaran, a foreigner who has been in the country for years, is known for his special gift as a “water diviner”. He was hired to locate a reliable source of water for a piggery project in Macabebe, Pampanga. Previous to this there was a newly constructed well which ran dry. This is the story related to me by the project manager.

First he prayed, then looked from a perfect Y-shape branch of guava and cut it like a big frame of a slingshot (tirador). Holding the smaller ends in each hand, and pointing the common end to the ground, he scoured the whole area. Then on a spot he stood, the branch vibrating in his hands. “Dig here,” he said.

True, he found an underground stream, which to this day, forty years after, the well continues to pour out hundreds of gallons of water everyday.

Can the water diviner detect the vibration of the flow of an underground vein of water (aquifer)? If so, he must have that special gift of naturalism.~

Living with Folk Wisdom, AVR

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Non-cash farming technology

Harvestime, acrylic AVR 1992
Abe V Rotor

“It is technology farmers do not have to pay cash for a non- cash input.” This definition by Dr. H. T. Chang of the World Bank actually refers to good basic farm practices which is small farmers can carry out themselves- first, to save on production cost; and second, to improve production efficiency.

Non- cash technology, however, should not be regarded as alternative to cash input per se, but can be a substitute to some costly items. What is significant in the concept is that good farm practices can maximize the value of cash input.

The best examples are found right in all fundamental steps of good farming. Good seeds generally produce more yields under any condition. These means farmers must practice seed selection, and plant only certified seeds. Grains produced from poor seeds are not only few; they produce low milling recovery due to admixtures of different grain shape, size and maturity.

The labor-intensive characteristic of typical farms in Asia ideally provides for greater attention to enhance proper farm management. After all, the progressive farmer is one who prepares is land more thoroughly, manages his nursery better, water his field more cleanly and has better water control, mainly through his effort and those of his large family.

Non-cash technology extends further from mere saving on direct expenses. It is also based on innovative approaches. A rice-garlic combination has these components; the garlic crop “rides” on the remaining soil moisture and on the tillage of early rice crop; and rice straw is used to mulch garlic in order to reduce water loss and weed population.

Other popular examples of non-cash inputs are:

1. Use early maturing varieties to allow a second or third cropping.
2. Make use of solar energy in drying palay, corn and other farm products.
3. Follow precise timing of land preparation to turn up weeds to dry up. Plow them under to be decomposed to save on herbicide and laborious weeding
4. Prepare rows parallel to East-West direction to allow more solar exposure to enhance growth and yield.
5. Practice green manuring in place of or supplement to, commercial fertilizers.
6. Recycle farm residues like corn stovers, rice straw and peanut hay for livestock, and farm wastes for organic fertilizer.
7. Practice intercropping to reduce the spread and occurrence of pests and diseases, and to maximize the utilization of an input like fertilizer..

The revival of non-cash technology is generally recognized as a Third World innovation. It may lack the glamour and sophistication of modern agriculture, but it holds the key in solving many problems of small farms.

Living with Nature 3, AVR

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Discovering the less popular Philippine fruits

The camera captures disturbing signs of our time.

Dr Abe V Rotor
Unedited photos with a digital pocket camera.

Photography reveals all - and if there is something, other than "death and tax," that we can't avoid in life, it is the camera.

Who cares? Values do not only conflict, they don't mean anything at all, as in this scene, typical in a number of places. What and where is law and order? Do prayers, the national anthem, homily, bayanihan, et al, mean anything? What and where is the Good Life?

This is a disturbing snapshot that speaks a thousand words. But a scene like this requires no words. Mother and child on the sidewalk begging, framed by hope. (Commonwealth corner Regalado Avenue, QC)

Instant swimming pool after a main water pipe burst. Delayed completion of repair gave a haven to these happy children who are unaware of danger and disease. E Rodriguez Ave and Araneta Ave., QC.

Smoke belching "nineteen forgotten" bus, rolls clandestinely
very early in the morning and late in the evening along
Commonwealth Ave., QC . Where have all the traffic officers
Apparently they are not around.

Global warming and smog create this eerie sunset view.
The air is thick and heavy. Acid rain builds on emitted
gases. CFCs continue destroy the ozone layer.

Fairview, Quezon City

Mobile human cage - full to the brim and packed
like sardines - rolls freely, carelessly, apparently
without regard to traffic rules, more so the extreme
danger to life and limbs. Mabalacat Pampanga.

Virtually everyone now carries a camera in his cell phone or hidden in his palm. At the corner, atop posts, inside offices and rooms are well hidden lenses watching everything within its view, with or without reason.Telephotos, zoom lenses respect no distance. Macro lenses reveal details a thousand times or more.

Move over gods and goddesses of Mt Olympus, satellite cameras can see all, hear all, even feel, taste and smell all. They make images of infrared at night, analyze the conditions of water and air, warn of a brewing storm, record humidity and temperature, diagnose a impending volcanic eruption, and many more.

Nanocameras on the other reveal the world of the minutiae, the root cause of our ailments, our private life brought to the open for doctors to analyze, and the public to know. With the camera, our intentions are revealed, our deeds known.

So with our future, in the near future. The camera, bow. ~

Light from the Old Arch 2, AVR

UFO or Optical Illusion?

Abe V Rotor

The sky is without mystery day or night. If you are observant enough and always with a camera at hand, you may be able to capture a sight like this - an Unidentified Flying Object or UFO. Several times have I sighted similar events, a shooting star too long for its course, for example.

Meteors and meteorites falling to earth may be UFOs in part. Of course, a jet plane leaving a trail is familiar to anyone these days, or a commercial jet framed by the colors of the rainbow.
At one time, kites - dozens of them - simply danced around the setting sun. But whose kites are these other than the kids in the neighborhood? Clouds too, make queer figures, changing into shapes and faces of animals.

Would an intelligent being somewhere beyond our would be sending these to us in the likes of Hello? How are you? We are here! Come on, read us! Cheers!

This world of ours, this world is full of mysteries, mysteries that keep us quaint and believing,
teased into thinking and discovering, puzzled and reverent to a Higher Being.~

Note: This photo is unedited, taken with a digital pocket camera along Commonwealth Avenue QC, on December 2, 2009.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Why can’t the Vietnamese speak English?

War Memorial Museum, Ho Chi Minh City

Abe V Rotor

Because the GI spoke a different language
Never music to the Vietnamese ear,
He spoke with the gun, barked at passersby;
Through years he spoke cruel day and night
In distant thunders, in fires
Ranging in the forest and at sea.
He spoke of heroes of another land,
Of a cruel god, foreign, unknown.

Yet the Vietnamese well knew –
For who can’t know blood in any tongue?
Grief, sorrow, pain – words not spoken;
They just throb, they just spill.

Why can’t the Vietnamese speak English?
Ask the bare mountains and hills,
The bare trees and the passing breeze.~

Light from the Old Arch 2, AVR

Introduction to Living with Nature

Dr. Anselmo S. Cabigan
Professor, St. Paul University QC, and
Former Director, National Food Authority

Living with nature built character and helped men find meaning in their lives. Moses walked through the desert and found his commission at the burning bush. John the Baptist lived in the wilderness and preached repentance, sustained by locusts and honey. Jesus of Nazareth spent days in the wilderness and came out committed to the way of the cross. Saul of Tarsus waited for marching orders in his garden from a Master whose followers he once persecuted. Charles Darwin took a peek into evolution while sailing along the shores or South America and into the Galapagos. George Washington Carver parlayed with his Creator in the forest and gave the world its first taste of peanut butter.

Once upon a time, nature was pristine, undefiled, and unspoiled. We used to live in a dreamlike world of tropical virgin forests, and pure hidden springs, calm ponds, and serene lakes with majestic purple mountains, crowned with canopied trees. That was when people took only what they needed, caught only what they ate, and lived only in constant touch with a provident earth.

Nature eventually succumbed to human exploitation and was sacrificed in the altar of greed. Her bowels were desecrated for minerals and oil, and her verdance raped for timber and paper. The face of earth was scraped for agriculture and housing projects, and her waters poisoned and mercilessly gagged with garbage. Man choked the air with pollutants and dumped garbage on the oceans. Meanwhile the earth’s species were hunted to extinction, and her forests burned with billowing smoke, so massive, it is visible from the surface of the Moon.

In this age of environmental degradation, resource depletion, and unparalleled human population explosion, how can man live and find meaning in their lives with nature?

Very common people, in very common settings, with very simple objects, now tell us how to keep in touch with nature. For instance we rejoice in the bounty of leafy vegetables growing on discarded tires, sustained with compost from a city dump. We also find relief from a burning fever through a cup of lagundi tea, or savor broiled catfish fattened at a backyard pond. Sometimes, we painfully ponder the fate of a dog headed for slaughter, or grieve at the gnarled skeleton of a dead tree, or awe in at the metamorphosis of a cicada, or immersed in the lilting laughter of children at play.
The following episodes speak of very common people, in very common settings with very simple objects, finding meaning in their lives. The Living with Nature Handbook speaks of us and to us.

(Author’s Note: Dr Anselmo S. Cabigan and the author are very close friends, having studied for their doctorate degrees. They share many things in common, both in their personal lives and professions. Both are naturalists, gentlemen farmers, executives of the government, and college professors. It is most fitting for one, as close to the author as Dr. Cabigan is to speak about the book on his friend’s behalf.)~

Book available at National Book Store, and UST Publishing House, España, Manila.

Corals - Nature's Architectural and Engineering Wonder

Abe V Rotor

A juvenile Staghorn Coral. SPUQC Museum

Fossilized ancient coral showing age in concentric lines and bands.

With the unabated destruction of our coral reef it is not common to see undisturbed coral fields. Corals are animals in colonies belonging to Phylum Coelenterata, which is often associated with Cnidaria, of the Class Anthozoa.

Coral reefs make the forest of the sea, the counterpart of our terrestrial forest. With their association with microscopic algae and seaweeds, they constitute the abode of fishes and countless kinds of marine life, without which our seas would not be as productive as they are today.

However, the destruction of coral reefs through illegal fishing like muro-ami and dynamite fishing, as well as the conversion of shores into resorts and fishponds have greatly reduced fish catch and the diversity of marine species.

Today our laws prohibit coral gathering, more so in exporting them. Coral reefs conservation is a priority program of many countries. Without corals our islands would fall back to the depth of the sea and our continents would be greatly reduced through cutbank erosion.

Thus, corals are nature’s architectural and engineering wonder for they serve as riprap and barrier against the restless sea, while making the underwater world a truly beautiful scape that is beyond compare with any kind.

Let's all give a hand to the conservation of corals. Let's join the campaign. No to the following:

1. Dynamite fishing, muro-ami and paaling, and bottom trawl fishing.
2. Reclamation of coral reef areas.
3. Conversion of shorelines to resorts and fishponds
4. Pollution of rivers and seas.
5. Settlements on coral reefs and seashores.
6. Goods and commodities made of corals.
7. Coral decors and jewelery
8. Deforestation - it causes erosion and siltation, forms mudflats over coral reefs.
9. Collection of shells, rocks, and the like, within coral zone
10. Quarrying of coral deposits.

Let's remember that corals are virtually a non-renewable natural resource because they grow very, very slow. It takes fifty years to grow to the size of a man's head. We have but very little time to witness and be part of a noble task of keeping our islands and continents from being swallowed down into the depth of the sea. Our foothold is but skin deep to the enormous sea. ~

Living with Nature 3, AVR