Monday, May 30, 2011

Of course, you are intelligent! Find it out from the 8 Realms of Multiple Intelligence

Dr. Abe V. Rotor
Re-posted by popular requests, appropriate for the opening of the schoolyear. Discover yourself, your children, friends, through this simple evaluation. Photo: Scene at the old Saint Paul University Museum, 1996

The Concept of Multiple Intelligence

1. Man’s intelligence is vast and varied, permeating into five divisions, namely, logic, mathematics, science, philosophy, history and humanities.

2. Knowledge becomes self-conscious, that is, knowledge is reflective of its diverse disciplines, modes of inquiry, fields of scholarship and systematic study. The thrust is what and how far do we know of the knowable universe.

3. Knowledge builds upon knowledge with the divisions of knowledge closely interconnected. It is not a matter of summing up knowledge, because knowledge is synergistic, which means that the whole is far greater than the sum of all its parts.

4. The growth of knowledge is enhanced through encyclopedic growth and development as it bridges history, cultures and generations – indeed mankind’s greatest heritage to its members and society.

5. Like the Maslow’s ladder organization, the usefulness of intelligence follows a four-tier structure - first, the accumulation and organization of knowledge and information (which involves the head); second, expression through skills (hands); third, valuing (heart); and fourth, concern and involvement (humanity). These 4 Hs are the pillars of education.

The 8 Realms of Intelligence

1. Interpersonal (human relations) - Sometimes this is referred to as social intelligence. Leaders, advertising experts, politicians, teachers excel in this field. “They exude natural warmth, they wear disarming smile,” to quote an expert on human relations. Name your favorite characters. My models are Nelson Mandela, Condolezza Rice, Henry Kissinger and our own, the late Carlos P. Romulo.

2. Intrapersonal (inner vision self-reflection and meditation) – Masters in this realm are priests, nuns, poets, yogi practitioners. St. Francis of Assisi is a genius in this domain. Pope John Paul II, Maximilian Kolby, Mother Teresa of Calcutta are unparalleled. Didn’t Beethoven compose music with his inner ear and Helen Keller “see” from an inner vision?

3. Kinesthetics (athletics, sports, body language, dance, gymnastics)- Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Roger Federer and Bjorn Borg excel in their respective sports. Now think of your idol in the sports world, or in the art of dance. Lisa Macuja Elizalde is still the country’s top ballet dancer. Paeng Nepomoceno, Efren Bata Reyes and Manny Pacquiao top the local list.

4. Languages or linguistics - There are people who are regarded walking encyclopedia and dictionary. The gift of tongue in the true sense is in being multilingual like our very own Dr. Jose Rizal. Authors like Ernest Hewmingway, John Steinbeck, Charles Dickens, Leo Tolstoy, Boris Pasternak, Miguel Cervantes, to name a few, represent this realm. How fast can you learn the dialect or language of a place?

5. Logic (dialectics, Mathematics) - Marxism is based on dialectics which is a tool in studying and learning philosophy. Likewise, this realm includes the intelligence of numbers – mathematics, geometry, accounting, actuarial science, etc. This is the key to many IQ tests. Einstein, Mendel, Newton, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle are popular figures who represent this realm. I saw "A Beautiful Mind," the story of Noble Prize winner John Nash who excelled in a new field of economics.

6. Music (auditory art) – Frederick Chopin, Nicanor Abelardo, Lucio San Pedro, Ryan Cayabyab, Lea Salonga – name your favorite. Amadeus Mozart produced therapeutic musical compositions. Beethoven is perhaps the most celebrated composer of classical music. Surprisingly he could hardly keep pace with his steps when dancing. I like to listen to Pangkat Kawayan play Philippine music. Mabuhay Singers, Madrigal singers, the Las PiƱas Boys, and the UST Choral Ensemble, have won international fame.

7. Spatial intelligence (drawing, and painting, sculpture, architecture, photography) - The greatest contemporary artist, Pablo Picasso, was robbed in his studio. Hog-tied, he carefully studied the robber, the way an artist studies his model. After the incident he sketched the face of the robber and gave it to the police. The police made a hundred arrests without succeeding in pinpointing the culprit. The sculptor Rodin wanted his subject to look as if it were melting, like clay softened by rain. What could be a better expression of poverty for his masterpiece, “The Burghers of Calais?” Juan Luna and Fernando Amorsolo remain unequaled.

8. Naturalism (Green Thumb, Relationship with the Natural World) - There are people who have “green thumb”. Their gardens are beautiful even with little care. There are those who can predict weather, fishermen who know when a fish bites, farmers who pick the reddest watermelon, fullest macapuno nuts, just by feel and sound. Good doctors, I am sure are not only good because of high scholastic records, but have the green thumb as well. Charles Darwin and Carolus Linnaeus are the world's top naturalists.

Here is an exercise on Multiple Intelligence. With a piece or paper, list down the eight realms on the left column. Through self-analysis score each realm using the Likert Scale: 1 is very poor (VP); 2 is poor (P), 3 is fair (F), 4 is good (G), and 5 is very good (VG). This exercise takes around ten-minutes. It requires concentration and objectivity.

What are your top three realms? Can you draw out their interrelationships? Relate them with your personal strength. On the other hand, in what ways can you improve on the other realms? Now relate your score with your present studies or work, and with your relationship with your family and community.

Yes, everyone has a distinct intelligence - and spark of genius, too. ~

Home from the Plain - Six Verses

By Abe V Rotor

1. To change our ways, hold your peace;
In his dungeon Gandhi prayed at ease;
Bowed on a loom he wove the cloth,
Cloth for the naked and flag he sought.

2. Can we attribute all of man’s change
Oe’r thousands and thousands of years
To factors outside his own will?
Lo! Let's learn from our forebears.

3. Wall invisible to another,
Behind we refuse to be seen,
Of what we are and what we’ve been –
Break it, be a true brother.

4. Gentle is life yourself you make,
Gentler it is you make for Him,
While the world spins as it may seem,
Gentlest for the young ones’ sake.

5. Where is my home, home from the plain -
Battle in life’s work and wandering?
A family to stand by and sharing
The joys, but neither fear nor pain.

6. He marched with the flag behind him
The Drummer Boy to his master’s will;
The flag drops, yet drumming still,
Fell he, knowing only the battle hymn.

x x x

Through the Mist of Time

Mural and Verse by Dr Abe V Rotor

Through the mist we see children
Years back with many years lost;
Yet much is gained in memory
That holds stories untold.
Who is fishing there? Ahoy!
Only the tingling chime answers;
The childhood in us throbs, throbs
With the sweet music of time.
x x x

Death of the Rowing Song

The Rowing Song

Rowing Song has died with the river,

Its tune now a dirge, its lyrics lament;
Gone are the gay deities in the water.

Pasig River, Manila

How a river dies reflects human indifference and irreverence. Pasig River is typical of dying natural waterways in many parts of the world.

The Rowing Song

Rowing Song has died with the river,

Its tune now a dirge, its lyrics lament;
Gone are the gay deities in the water,
The happy rower and his laden net.

Oh, the Blue Danube is no longer blue,
And the Rhine idle gray in the morning;
The Yangtze and Nile, and the Mekong, too
The Rowing Song is dying, dying.

- Lorenzo P Bonoan 

Here is the most popular version as a nursery rhyme:

Row, row, row your boat,

Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.

But in this other version the jovial mood suddenly shifts to an unspeakable lament.

Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the brook.
If you catch a little fish,
Let it off the hook.

Throw, throw, throw the corpse,
Gently in the grave.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Say goodbye and wave. ~

Saturday, May 28, 2011

13 Practical Thesis Works in Biology

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature - School on Blog

Lesson: Looking for a researchable topic for your thesis or simply school project? What you have in mind is something you can perform with least time, expense and tools, and yet the result is directly beneficial.

Here are 13 researches conducted by pharmacy students at the University of Santo Tomas. They explored common plants as food and source of products for medicine and industry. The results provide home remedies using natural antibiotics, elixir substances, pesticides, and the like, with simple tools and methods.

Weeping willow is a natural pest repellant. It drives mosquitoes and flies around. You save on expensive and dangerous pesticides by having a tree in the yard. Its leaves exude fresh and pleasant smell in the surroundings. The leaves when crushed is best for aromatherapy. Its fresh menthol. Burn some dried leaves to drive out vermin. Try some crushed leaves as deodorant in the bathroom and bedroom.

1. Alginate from Sargassum can increase the shelf life of fruits
Tumambing K, Santok G, Seares A and V Verzola

If you happen to be walking along the beach those dry brown seaweeds washed ashore could bring in a lot of profit, not only as source of algin and alginic acid which are extracted for food conditioner and for industrial use. The researchers found out that by extracting the alginate substance by ordinary means, the extract is effective in delaying the spoilage of fruits such as mango, papaya and banana. The extract is diluted 5 to 10 percent with water before the ripe or ripening fruits are immersed, then allowed to dry.

The alginate compound leaves a coating on the fruit that delays ripening from two to four days, at the same time protects it from microorganisms that cause rotting and spoilage.

2. Common moss as a practical source of antibiotics
Nabong W, Aquino M, Orlino C Ramos J and H Sumabit

The common moss often used in its dried form as substrate for orchids has a puzzling characteristic. It resists rotting and does not arbor the breeding of microorganisms that are pathogenic to the orchid. From this observation coupled by the fact that indigenous people use dried moss to cover wounds and skin diseases, led the researches to conduct an experiment on the antibiotic properties of mosses. The results are positive to bacteria causing skin infection, but the range of antibiosis has yet to be determined.

The researchers recommend that further studies be conducted on methods of extraction, other than the use of ethanol, in isolating the active principle which is the key to the antibiotic property of mosses.

3. Make your own Marker Ink from Mayana
Galang E, Cu MV, Constantino A and C Flores

Marker inks or colorants come in bright green, pink, blue and in different hues and shades. They are used to highlight keywords and sentences, terms or simply for arts and graphics. Commercial highlighters as these markers are commonly called, are imported from Japan, US, Germany and China. Local brands make use of imported colorants.

Mayana (Coleus blumei) is a colorful annual plant, dominantly red, maroon, green pink, yellow in various patterns and combinations. The researchers extracted the pigment using volatile solvents. Comparing the different cultivars of mayana, they came up with two dominant colors. Flesh to brown color appeared to be the best among the colors tested. Drying time compared to the commercial brands is the same.

The researchers recommend other possible plant colorants such as Carissa, duhat (Syzygium cumini) and bright petalled plants like Hibiscus.

4. Reasons Caulerpa seaweed eaters live healthier and longer lives.
Chua AG, Fancubit AL, Flores F and MR Liwag

Ilocanos in particular, who love to eat lato or ar-arusip are known to enjoy healthy and long lives. Is it a myth? The researchers found out that this green seaweed sold commercially in two species, C. lentelifera and C. racemosa, possess antibiotic properties. Raw extract has been found effective in destroying bacteria, such as Pseudococcus and Escherischia coli, common pathogens causing human ailments. Aside from this property,

Caulerpa contains caulerpine that to many people has relaxing effect, but excessive intake of the vegetable may cause dizziness. It is the only known edible seaweed that causes this symptom. This active principle may be tapped for its tranquilizing effect.

5. We can grow pechay and tilapia in a home aquarium.
Del Rosario L, De La Calzada GR, Javillonar C, and V Roquero

This research is based on palay-isdaan, an indigenous practice in low lying ricelands where rice and fish naturally grow together during the monsoon months. Thus, the researchers experimented on growing pechay (Brassica chinensis) in an aquarium medium, which can at the same time sustain the normal growth of tilapia (Tilapia nilotica).

The result promises another aspect of urban green revolution where hobbyists can combine the growing of fish in home aquarium with the production of vegetables. The idea may be the answer to having fresh and safe food supply for the home and neighborhood, and in maintaining a balance aquarium with lesser cost.

6. Makabuhay and Neem tree extracts are effective in control cockroach (Periplaneta Americana)
Tenorio RW, Nudo L, Roxas R and AC Uichanco

Makabuhay (Tinospora rhumphii) is a liana that grows in the wild. Previous experiments proved that its extract is effective in controlling common rice insect pest and the golden kuhol. Could it be effective in controlling the tough and elusive cockroach? The same question was raised on Neem (Aziderachta asiatica), known as insecticide tree that was introduced into the country from India in the sixties. According to the researchers, extracts of both plants proved effective as direct spray on cockroach.

Comparative effectiveness showed that the diluted extract of makabuhay gave a higher mortality that the pure extract, indicating the synergistic effect of water solvent, but only for makabuhay. Neem extract at low level dilution is more effective than that of makabuhay at the same level. While synthetic chemical sprays are more effective than these herbal extracts, the advantage of the latter is its being safe to humans and the environment and does not leave toxic residues.

7. Rat Poison from the Seed of Botong (Barringtona asiatica)
Perez R, Dela Cruz K, Rivera M and J Santos

If botong (Barringtona asiatica) is effective as fish poison, could it be effective as rat poison just as well? The researchers found it to be effective, but the problem to lure the rodents to eating the bait is a problem. This is because of the shy nature of rats and their oliphagous characteristic that is they eat a wide range of food under natural field condition. When starved rats may consume any available food and this may include poison baits.

The advantage of using plant poison is its safe nature to humans and the environment. Presently used compounds include arsenicals, anticoagulants under the brand names Dethmor, Racumin, Dora, and the deadly “1081” a zinc phosphide compound which is now banned in the market.

8. Botong (Barringtonia asiatica) is safer poison against fish pest

Dequina MJ, Castro JC, Limtin R and J Patawaran

This is the rational of the experiment: Is there a safer compound than synthetic pesticides to clean up fishponds in order to eliminate fish predators at seeding time?

It is a known practice among fishpond owners to use Malathion, Endrin, and other chlorinated hydrocarbon, as well as phosphate compounds to eliminate fish such as tilapia, dalag, and Poecillia after harvesting a fishpond. These remaining fish pose danger as predator of bangus fries raised in the next season.

The researchers found out that the extract of botong seeds (B asiatica) is an effective substitute. Like other plant extract, it is environment friendly and leaves non-toxic residue to the incoming fries and fingerlings.

9. Antibiotics from papaya seeds
Casas JM, Cadiz RI, Calvelo AM and MC Cremen

With the increasing resistance of bacteria to the group of Penncilium antibiotics, scientists are looking into more potent antibiotics. Modern antibiotics however, are expensive and are not readily available particularly in the countryside. But natural antibiotics abound in nature. One such source is the ordinary papaya, specifically the native or solo variety.

The researchers claim that the papain in papaya has an antibiotic property and the most likely part where the active compound is concentrated is the seeds, which are thrown away for no use except as propagation material. The seed oil is potent against both gram negative and gram positive bacteria, such as Staphylococcus. This explains why papaya is a health food.

Although the oil has also shown anti-fungal effects, the researchers recommend further studies in this aspect. They also recommend further studies in the preparation of the seed oil as antibiotic drop or ointment.

10. Mosquito repellant from bottle brush (Salix sp)

Clemente R, Landan RP Luquinario MI and P Padua

If there is a way to rid mosquitoes from attacking us without net or special paraphernalia, it is that advertised “Off” mosquito repellant. But the commercial products are synthetic compounds and reports claim that they are carcinogenic affecting not only the skin but internal organs as well since poison can be absorbed by the skin and into the blood stream and other tissue of the body.

The researchers collected the volatile oil of the weeping willow which is also known as bottle brush for the formation and shape of the leaves. With ethyl alcohol as solvent, the preparation was tested against house mosquitoes (Culex pipens) in the same manner as the advertised commercial product is used. The results are positive.

11. How good are commercial organic fertilizers as claimed by their manufacturers?
Olivenza CR, King A, Reyes CJ and A Young

There are a number of organic fertilizers in the market manufactured from various raw materials. As such there is no standard set particularly for their nutrient content. They are advertised with various advantages which the researchers in this study say only by experimentation on at least one plant indicator can resolve – pechay (Brassica chinensis).

The results of the experiment are varied and therefore support the theory that organic fertilizers in the market do not have standard effects on the growth and development patterns on the test plant. The researchers believe that fortification of organic fertilizers with chemical fertilizers improves the formula and helps solve nutrient deficiency.

12. Bunga de Jolo has bactericidal propperties.

Villaluz MC, Enebrad K, Garcia R and V Guzman
Vetchia merillii, a palm relative of the bunga (Areca catechu) was found to have a unique potency against the bacterium, Bacillus proteus as well as others pathogens causing infection. Direct extract from the seed showed potent inhibition against the test organisms, a feat the control (Penncilium type) failed to show.

This explains the usefulness of Bunga de Jolo as a substitute of Areca in the absence of the latter. Both produce nuts, which are used by older people for mastication with or without the betel leaf and the occasional lime that goes with the preparation.

Beware of Ganoderma food supplement
Africa MA, Abulencia HM, Bautista A and AM Bebanco

This shelf fungus comes as food supplement, mainly as pre-packed coffee and tea, and advertised in several names. White mice fed freely with the raw fungus died after a few days. Even those given with limited amounts showed adverse physiologic effects like loss in weight, thinning of hair, and progressive weakness. Many died after two or three weeks. The results indicate that the fungus has toxic effect.

It will be recalled that among the most poisonous materials occurring in nature come from fungi, the classical example is the Amanita mushroom which when mistakenly eaten by humans can cause instant death. There is no known antidote of mushroom poisoning. At minimal dosage however, not exceeding 10 mg per 1 kg body weight, the test animals gained weight faster than those not given with Ganoderma.

Thus the researchers recommend judicious use of the food supplement, as it may be deleterious to health contrary to the claims of its manufacturers and distributors.
x x x

Students find leisure in outdoor study. At the background is the historic building of the 400-year old university. (1611-2011)

These researches are dedicated to the memory of late Prof. Eduardo de Leon, Department Chairman in Botany of the Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Santo Tomas, who initiated and supervised these researches. Professor Ed and I worked together for many years as professors. These researches earned for the concerned students the thesis requirement of Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy.

Camouflage - Nature's Sweet Lies

Abe V. Rotor

Fish camouflaged by red seaweeds. Glass painting AVR

Aesop's locust in summer brown,
Lonely creature with face of clown;
In monsoon full, hues of green;
Grotesque and mean I've ever seen.

Its kin picks dust to clothe its frame,
Wakes up at dusk and plays the game
Of feigning dead, devoid of spark;
Its enemies think it is all bark.

Where comes the trigger, that I know,
Hormones by signal freely flow,
Masking colors, painting a view,
To match a perfect scenario.

Deceit and conceit in duo,
Makes one believe or doesn’t know
To accept things or analyze
Nature’s own sweet and gentle lies.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Everyday is Earth Day - Quotations to Live by

Living with Nature - School on Blog
Take care of the earth and she will take care of you.

Lesson: Here are 20 quotations from proverbs and famous people for us to analyze and reflect regarding Reverence for Life and the Environment.

Assignment: Interpret each quotation, provide an appropriate illustration or photograph. Why don't you make posters out of these quotations for your home, school and community?

Use them in your assignments and reports, in meetings and conferences.

Add on to the list, and have a ready compilation. You may add your own.

Rock Pool, acrylic (11"x14") AVR
We can't live in an environment like a
rock pool detached from the ecosystem.

1. Nature is the art of God.
~ Thomas Browne, Religio Medici, 1635

2. When a man wantonly destroys one of the works of man we call him a vandal. When he destroys one of the works of god we call him a sportsman. ~Joseph Wood Krutch

3. Only when the last tree has been cut down,
Only when the last river has been poisoned,
Only when the last fish has been caught,
Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.
— Cree Indian Prophecy

4. Eventually we'll realize that if we destroy the ecosystem, we destroy ourselves.
~ Jonas Salk , American physician and microbiologist

5. A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.
— Franklin Delano Roosevelt

6. It is good to realize that if love and peace can prevail on earth, and if we can teach our children to honor nature's gifts, the joys and beauties of the outdoors will be here forever.
— Jimmy Carter

7. Our environmental problems originate in the hubris of imagining ourselves as the central nervous system or the brain of nature. We're not the brain, we are a cancer on nature. ~Dave Foreman, Harper's

8.. Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans.
— Jacques Cousteau

9. If you want one year of prosperity, plant corn.

If you want ten years of prosperity, plant trees.
If you want one hundred years of prosperity, educate people."
— Chinese proverb

10. Man must feel the earth to know himself and recognize his values.... God made life simple. It is man who complicates it.
~Charles A. Lindbergh

11. The system of nature, of which man is a part, tends to be self-balancing, self-adjusting, self-cleansing. Not so with technology.
~E.F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful

12. Now I truly believe that we in this generation must come to terms with nature, and I think we're challenged, as mankind has never been challenged before, to prove our maturity and our mastery, not of nature but of ourselves.
— Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

13. To live a pure unselfish life, one must count nothing as one's own in the midst of abundance.

14. There is hope if people will begin to awaken that spiritual part of themselves, that heartfelt knowledge that we are caretakers of this planet.
~Brooke, Medicine Eagle

15. When we heal the earth, we heal ourselves.
~David Orr

16. When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.
~John Muir

17. The good news is we know what to do. The good news is, we have everything we need now to respond to the challenge of global warming. We have all the technologies we need; more are being developed. And as they become available and become more affordable when produced in scale, they will make it easier to respond. But we should not wait, we cannot wait, we must not wait.
— Al Gore, An Inconvenient Truth

18. You must be the change you wish to see in the world.
— Mahatma Gandhi

19.Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.

~ Albert Einstein ~


We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature—trees, flowers, grass—grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls.

— Mother Teresa

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.
~ Albert Einstein

Acknowledgment: Professor Cris Paner of University of Santo Tomas for providing us these valuable quotations.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cicada heralds the arrival of the rainy season

Abe V Rotor
Male cicada of the genus Tibicens (topmost) attracts females love struck by its singing. NOTE: There is a third female that is barely visible.

Skin casting shows the shape and size of the final nymph before emerging into adult.

The shrilling song of the cicada or kuliglig is the loudest in the insect world and one of the most pleasant sounds of nature.

It heralds the arrival of habagat, the rainy season. It lifts the spirit after a long, hot and dry summer. Up there in the tree it sings beautifully, and without pause, the song of Romeo until a Juliet comes around. And if the singer has the touch of Caruso, two or three love struck females arrive. And the world stands still.

It is the opposite of Shakespeare's masterpiece. But this is nature.

From here on we expect the rains to intensify, peaks in July and August and tapers off towards the end of the year with the once beautiful song fading out as well.

There are two types of cicada: the annual or biennial of the Genus Tibicens, and the periodic - Magicicada. The latter emerge after 13 years in one group and 17 years in another. Hence the name 17-year old "locust" or cicada. The periodic cicada are mainly in temperate countries like the United States.

Adult cicadas are short lived, and the main function of such brief sojourn is reproduction. After that they die. Cicadas lay their eggs on twigs of trees. The newly hatched nymphs fall off to the ground and burrow into the root area of perennial plants whose roots serve shall serve as their food the rest of their underground life.

Then when their biological clock strikes, they push their way out through the softened earth, metamorphose into adults leaving their skin castings behind on the trunk of some trees.

Singing is actually a continuous and rapid high-pitched sound - tick-tack-tick-tack… produced by a pair of drums attached on the male's abdomen. Imagine the lid of a tin can pressed and released in rapid succession. Amazingly each species has specific codes insuring orderly love making even in the midst of an orchestra of different species.

It is in the world of the cicada where the female is obligingly quiet - because she is completely mute.

x x x

Tree Frog in the Bathroom!

Abe V Rotor

The Common Tree Frog (Polypedates leucomystar) has an arboreal habit, but now and then it comes down to feed on insects, and even visit nearby homes. This is how I encountered this living specimen one hot summer afternoon in a most unlikely place - the bathroom of a dormitory in a retreat house in Lipa City. As I was about to cool off, I found company with this unexpected creature perched on the shower head apparently enjoying itself.
Unabated loss of natural habitat has driven wildlife species to seek shelter in human settlements. Like the tree frog, they slowly adapt to man-made conditions, invading privacy and causing discomfort, and to the extent of spreading diseases.
The last time I remember seeing a tree frog was when I was a farmhand. In Ilocos we called it tukak uleg or snake frog, because it is a favorite prey of snakes, and its distress cry sends instinctive warning to anyone who is in the vicinity. Sometimes it is called banana frog because it resides at the axils of leaf stalks where water from rain and dewdrops accumulates and make a series of miniature ponds. It is not unusual to find a frothy egg mass hanging up in a banana tree. Here the eggs hatch into tadpoles, and being larvivorous, feed on mosquito wrigglers and plankton organisms until the become frogs. Here they subsist on insect pest and worm. It is a classical example of biological control which benefits farmers and residents in the area.

Chemical pesticides were unknown to us and the farmers then. Many organisms disappeared since modern agriculture was introduced in the sixties, among them scores of species, including this curious looking tree frog. Once I compared this cadaverous and clumsy creature to Ichabod Crane as described by its creator, the father of short story in America - Washington Irving!

I had in mind the features of the tree frog when I described the odd looking fiction character.

"If your vocabulary is limited, " my dad once said, "use analogy." I did. Mrs Leonor Itchon, my literature teacher in high school nodded wryly after my recitation amidst subdued giggling among my classmates. Well, I may not have received a good grade, but the tree frog helped me become a biologist.

The bathroom encounter with my long lost acquaintance - the tree frog - that hot afternoon won't make a movie, but at least my son, Marlo and I, were able to document a biological renaissance. I had just made a review of Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls. The theme of the novel made me realize man's vulnerability to destruction amidst progress and pursuit of his dreams. At the end of the novel warns us, "the bell tolls for no one; it tolls for thee."

Maybe not, as long as creatures we thought to have been lost forever are coming back alive. Hail to the tree frog.

By Dr Abe V Rotor and Matthew Marlo R Rotor, Lipa Batangas.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Waterfall Forever

Abe V Rotor
Painting and Poem by AVR

Flow from the hills,
play on the rivulets,
laugh with the brook,
feed the river,
make it full and strong and swell,
mirror the land and sky
before you bursts into waterfall.

Delight many a child wide-eyed,
make him feel afraid that he will be brave,
awed to gain respect,
mystified to explore and learn,
subdued to be determined.

Flow, flow forever in his mind;
throb, throb in his heart
with the thunder of love,
the whisper of humility,
and into his soul,
fill the font of humanity.

x x x

Monday, May 23, 2011

Humanities: Painting Exercise - Adventure and Fantasy

Abe V Rotor

Mural Detail by AVR. Cover photo of Living with Folk Wisdom by AVR 2010

This exercise relies principally on imagination and fantasy. We are in adventure-land. What kind of scene is this? It is one made by our imagination and dreams. It is the world of Jonathan Swift’s second book, Gulliver in Brodningnad, where Gulliver was a dwarf in a land of giants where everything is big, yet things far down below and up in the sky are small.

Imagine yourself a dwarf on a mountain cliff. How insignificant you are to the massiveness of the mountain. A cave could easily swallow you up. One false move and you plunge into the ravine. Mystery waits inside the dark tunnel. You gather courage and share it with your companions, or vice versa. There is danger and this makes anyone humble. I remember Honey, I Shrunk the Kids? If you have seen the movie you imagine how insignificant humans are. If we were the size of an ant or anything as small, everything is a giant.

We are like that in in this world. You can easily get lost in a forest. Trees grow to several meters high, the sea is vast, it seems it has no limit. In the middle of it you are just a speck - in the same way our Solar System is just a speck in the Milky Way Galaxy. The grassland is a sea of green, vast and endless, as well. The sky has no roof, except the passing clouds - or when they gather into rain or snow.

Yet it is harmony with nature and other creatures that we seek. In so doing we don't get the feeling we are lost. For indeed we are - in many respects and reasons, physically and psychologically. In this exercise man leaves behind the amenities of living - no cars, buildings, comforts and ease. Nature is left alone in her pure state. This is communion with her.

Use Oslo paper and pastel colors. Draw a part or section of that that landscape, a sample of which is shown in this painting. Include the things that make that landscape of your imagination, with the elements of adventure and fantasy. There should be the essence of discovery that awes and excites you.

For a musical background, The Last Rose of Summer by Flotow and Life Let's Cherish by Henry Farmer, fit well in this exercise. Schubert's compositions fit well, too. For local compositions, try the music of Lucio San Pedro, Ryan Cayabyab and Francisco Santiago.

Critique your work. Tell about what you were imagining, and what you were feeling while working on it. Show your work to your art teacher. He will tell you its good points, and those you can do to improve it - or do next time. Take criticisms positively. Congratulations!
x x x

Fly on My Little Kite

“Fly on my little kite,

Ride on the wings of the wind

Over plains and dales;

Hear the whispers of the treetops,

And the secrets of the clouds.”*

Wonder on the timelessness and vastness

Of imagery that transcends to all ages;

The young and old, the past and present – and beyond,

Unleashing the searching mind to freedom,

Liberating the soul in the confidence

Of the Hand that holds the string of that kite,

For who would not like to fly

On that kite to see the world,

At least to be taller from where he stands,

Or to turn the hands of time –

To be a child again even only for a while?

* From a poem of Sister Macarius Lacuesta, SPC

Make the bedroom an ideal place for rest. It's where we spend half of our lifetime.

Abe V Rotor

House dust mite (Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus) greatly
magnified under electron microscope.
It makes the bedroom its home.

The one place we least expect to find dirt in is under our bed.

Here clouds of talc powder settle down, particles slowly crumble from paper, paint, plastic, clothes and foam as they slowly disintegrate. Flakes that fall off daily from our skin and hair attract countless mites that live with us in our room. Wiping and sweeping often miss them stuck in corners and crevices.

We sneeze as if struck by allergy. Our nostrils clog and we mistake our misery for colds. Our sleep is shallow and disturbed. When humidity is high our room smells musky. Imagine how bad the smell is for those who are bed smokers.

If you suspect to be a victim of this condition, these are the things you can do.

1. Have a general cleaning in your room every weekend. It is best to take the bed out so that you can expose it under the sun for at least two hours. This will drive out the mites, bedbugs and vermin. Scrub, beat if it is foam, and vacuum it if feasible. Clean the room walls and ceiling with warm water and mild detergent. As for the floor scrub and polish it.

2. Simplify and organize your room. The fewer things we have in our room the better. Take out those books, magazines, and old newspapers. Discard unneeded cosmetics and medicine. Keep no food in the bedroom. Remove those racks and shelves that tend to accumulate dust. And keep that computer out of your room. You can have a TV, radio, study table, and a few of your “favorite things”. Don't make your room a collector’s showcase of figurines, dolls, posters, Mementos, etc.

3. Next, clean the apparador or closet. You are likely to encounter another pest there – the silverfish (Lepisma saccharina). This is an insect that eats on old clothes and paper. It is a most primitive of all insects, and perhaps the most resistant. It is a living fossil, older than the dinosaur. If your barong (Filipino formal shirt) bears some poke holes, it is likely the work of this pest. The silverfish likes starchy materials, and natural fiber.

Silverfish (Lepisma saccharina) feeds on clothes and paper

Other tenants in your room are the fungi. Fungi live on old materials, especially under humid conditions. They are the moldy growth on your shoes, bags, at the edge of the mirror, on top of cosmetic cream, on the armchairs. They cause buni, an-an, and athlete’s foot. Because they cannot produce their food by photosynthesis, unlike the plants, they have to become saprophytes (nature’s scavengers), subsisting on almost anything, including the lens of the camera.

4. The number one enemy of fungi is sunlight. Allow sunlight to penetrate into your room as much as possible. Do not store moist materials, especially clothes in your room. Expose fungi-prone materials like shoes and bags to the sun by bringing them out, or letting the sunshine in. Open the case and click your camera directly toward the sun if you intend not to use it for sometime.

5. Your room should be clean, cool and dry. Air conditioning is good, but a room that allows natural ventilation and sunlight is best. The ideal kind of room is one integrated with the outdoors where one step leads to the garden and to nature, which is the essence of the American bungalow architecture, and the bahay kubo concept. Here the confluence is not only defined by aesthetics, but by spiritual communion with nature.

The bedroom is where we can find most often time to reflect and meditate. Away from the maddening crowd, we seek refuge from the fast pace of life outside. Here is a poem for meditation.

Dust in My Room

Alone in my room, I wrote and wrote:
The door was locked, my meal cold;
With clumsy hands, my pen dropped,
On all fours I groped in the dark.

There to a curb, it rolled and rolled.
Into a mat of dust and web.
Whence I found, a old tale untold
Of my life like the tide in ebb.

Words flowed, like a river on rush,
To be weaned, yearning to be free;
Chronicler and vanguard, oh dust,
You led me out of my misery.

Our health is greatly influenced by our room, the place we rest our tired bodies, where we keep ourselves away from the rigors of work. This is where we spend half of our lifetime. It is the very core of Home, Sweet Home.

Other tips in making our room an ideal place of rest and good health.

1. Never make your bedroom your office. By all means, never make it your working area, dining room, guest room.

2. Avoid making your bedroom a storeroom. You are only inviting cockroaches, mosquitoes and flies, and even rats.

3. Secure doors and windows with screen. Be sure to clean screen regularly as they are dirt traps. Check on any possible passageway of vermin, especially mice and rats.

4. If you share your room with others, have a common agreement on good house keeping.

5. If you have a problem of bedbugs, flea and mites, the most practical way is to place some dried leaves of madre de cacao (Gliricida sepium), or neem tree (Aziderachta asiatica) under the mat. Consult a pest control officer. To rid your room of mosquitoes check your screen. Do not use chemical spray or aerosol. If you cannot help it, use a plant derivative insecticide such as pyrethrum and rotenone. Allow at least three hours before occupying the room. Do not spray inside the houe. As a rule, the presence of vermin in your room is an indicator of unsanitary condition.

6. If your room is newly painted, do not occupy it. Paint fumes are harmful. Place some pieces of charcoal at a corner to absorb the gas molecules in the air, thereby reducing the odor. Place a bowl of natural vinegar in a corner to reduce chemical and foul odor.

7. If you are building a house or designing your bedroom, present your plan to the architect and hear his suggestions.

8. Keep noise levels as low as possible. Piped in music can be soothing. That goes with subdued light.

9. Always be prepared in case of emergency to find the fire exit or the nearest gate.

10. Lastly, don't forget to hang a crucifix and provide a handy bible to remind us that we are not alone in our room. For other faiths it is equally important to exercise devotion and reverence to God in the bedroom. After all there is but one God that binds us all.

Allergy-proofing the bedroom
  • Strictly don't smoke
  • Keep pets out.
  • Encase sleeping place
  • Replace sheets regularly
  • Run your aircon through filter
  • Replace the blinds with curtain
  • Steer clear of soft seats
  • Filter the vents
  • Choose pillows and comforters wisely
  • Wash away the pollen
  • Leave flowers outside
  • Take off shoes before entering
  • Give Teddy a bath

Reference: The Living with Nature Handbook by AV Rotor, Ust Publishing House, Manila

Sunday, May 22, 2011

About Allergy: Fact or Myth?

Abe V Rotor
Fact or Myth?

1. Children who grow up in the countryide are at much lower risk to allergy than children in the city.

2. Infants on the farm have fewer allergies than those who grow up in sterile environments.

3. Children who grow up with a cat in the house are less likely to develop allergies or asthma.

4. Very few pet owners are allergic to the animals they love.

5. Children who have been breastfed are less likely to have allergies.

6. Milk, soy, wheat, egg, peanut, fish and meat comprise the most common food allergies.

7. Most reactions to food are not allergic in nature, but rather intolerance in which there is no allergic antibody involved.

8. Babies exposed late to cereal grains have higher risk to cereal allergy, especially wheat.

9. Regular use of “foreign” materials (e.g. nail polish remover, contact lens, metals) can eventually cause sensitivity and reaction to the products.

10. Allergy can induce strong and unwelcome mental and emotional reactions, such as altered perception or inappropriate changes of mood.

Answer: Each item is well supported by research - they are therefore true.

Green Tree Frog - A Study in Photography

The green pond frog (Rana erythraea) lives in ponds, clearly visible on rocks and floating plants, usually in groups, and makes the characteristic croaking call, its belly expanding and contracting in the process. Because these frogs are quite tame, photographers and school children can oberve them for hours.

While frogs live mainly in water, they can easily adjust to land condition specially in the dry season. This makes amphibians one of the most adaptable and oldest creatures on earth. Today, frogs, including this green frog, are threatened by pesticides, pollution, overhunting, and worst, destruction of their natural habitat.

The frog plays a major role in the food web: it preys on insects and worms. On the other hand, it is preyed upon by bigger animals specially birds (heron) and reptiles (snake), and man. There are species of frogs that are extremely poisonous. Natives catch them to poison their arrows. The biggest frog is the Goliath frog an African rainforest species which grows to a weight of three kilos.

Photos by Matthew Marlo Rotor, Canon EOS 350D with Telezoom lens 70-200. Mt. Makiling Botanical Garden, UPLB, Laguna.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Learn outside the classroom

Dr Abe V Rotor

Climb to the top of the world - the lighthouse and enjoy the panoramic view. The lighthouse guides ships safely to their destination. Since olden times the lighthouse has been the favorite subject of legend and folklore, a landmark of heroes and adventure. Be Theseus after defeating the Minotaur. Be Jason who found the Golden Fleece. Find out where the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the wonders of the ancient world, once stood. Can not compare this Cape Bojeador Lighthouse (Burgos, Ilocos Norte) with the fabled Lighthouse of Alexandria?

A family outing may turn out to be an educational one - especially for the little girl, who asks, "If the hill is a punso, where are the dwarfs? Is it true a fairy lives around?" Truth is, it's an termite mound, and a colony of several thousands of members headed by a queen lives inside the mound, mistakenly termed anthill. "Yes, a fairy lives around, too."

A choral group finds the garden more conducive to rehearse because there are no walls, floor and ceiling that distort music, its pitch, volume, melody, cadence, style, and the like. There are no electronic devices to rely on or resort to; natural music is still undisputedly the best sound of music.

On-the-spot drawing and painting, poetry writing, brings out latent talents, hones the imagination, bridges logic and creativity - all because you are with your subject. Both of you are one, interconnected, interdependent, which is why masterpieces were made on-the-spot. Remember Vincent Van Gogh's Wheatfield, Auguste Renoir, Nymphaea in the Pond, Henry David Thoreau's Walden Pond.

Look up! Explore from tree top to the blue sky. Freedom to choose subjects, to soar to space, to study the microcosm of a larger whole, or the minutae of the living world - these would take you to a travelogue much farther from the armchair. Here you go to where your specimen is naturally found, not vice versa. Use all your senses to study a subject. The more senses you use, the deeper and more lasting is the experience.

Follow nature's trail, or a zoo itinerary where you are caged and brought to the beast's natural habitat, and not the caged animal brought to your convenience. Each section is a chapter, if it were a book. Modern parks simulate real situations as they occur naturally. Kaohshiong National Park in Taiwan covers a whole landscape you wouldn't be able to cover in a day. We have our own Mt Makiling trail to the Hot Springs, the fumaroles of this dormant volcano shared by Laguna and Batangas provinces.

Pantomime - a lighter side of life, is played with simple tools such as a spotlight and a white linen. You are not dependent on technology. It's going back Shakespearean. It is only then that true talent is tapped and developed. Such films like Dead Poet Society, Mid-Summer Dream, bring back life on the stage and not on screen - what with all the camera tricks and studio generated effects. Simple films like The Hurt Locker won six Oscars, while Avatar, a lavish hightech film, a top grosser, won only minor awards. We are going back to real drama.

What has this tomato to do with all the attention it gets from these graduate students from UST? It is because of the secret of its red color, no tomato in the lowland could achieve. Simple observations could lead to complex research, such as carotene and xanthophyll, and the nutrient value of the tomato itself - in three aspects: genetic, environmental, and horticultural. There is nothing so simple and obvious it's not important to know. (Amadeo, Cavite)

Go to the sea. Be a snorkel or Scuba diver. Study and hobby are a good combination. Nature the best laboratory. But you have to endure its test, a hurt foot, a gulp of seawater, a scary undercurrent. Isn't learning an adventure, and adventure learning? There is a saying in The Hanging Tree, "To live truly, you must almost die." Of course, you don't have to go that far. (Class in Phycology, the study of seaweeds, UST Faculty of Pharmacy at Bacnotan, La Union)

Camp out. Be a boy scout. Leave behind the amenities of living. Can you live like Tom Hanks in Castaway? Only then you will realize how fragile is man without the institutions he built, the comforts of his technology, and the pampered companionship provided by his community. Learning is first and foremost, learning to live - alone. Hasn't man been challenged before? His banishment from Paradise. His survival in Noah's Arch. His rise after two world wars. Can he rise again if challenged by the threats he himself has created - nuclear Armageddon, global warming? Autotoxicity from his wastes?

Maybe what you need is respite from work, from cares and worries about the world. Here silence is gold, loafing is luxury, incubating knowledge in the process, and transforming it into wisdom. These could be the greatest contribution of getting out of the classroom and learning more - about life. (Class in biological science, UST Graduate School)

Living with Nature 3, AVR

Humanities: Experimental Painting

Abe V Rotor

When two immiscible mediums - oil and water-based acrylic - are mixed and sandwiched by two glass panes, the two opposing mediums create unexpected impressions of varied colors, shapes, hues and shades trapped in a network of venation. This method is extremely difficult in exactly executing a planned design or subject.

Surprisingly however, with constant practice and experimentation you can create amazing serendipitous designs and images such as these specimens. The biologist in me seemed to have dominated my new art, spontaneously expressing my thoughts about the subject, including the interpretation of each painting.

Specimen 1 - Fan-type, typical of leaf venation, fungal mycellia
and patterns of
antibiosis in a culture medium.

Specimen 2 - Colony-type, typical of swarms of plankton organisms,
germinating spores, and decomposition of tissues

Specimen 3 - Dichotomous-type, typical of branching of
plants, seaweeds, growing buds, and growth habit of
protists and invertebrate organisms.

Specimen 4 - Bilateral symmetry, typical of dividing cells,
growth pattern of seaweeds, mosses and ferns.

Specimen 5 - Multiple dichotomy, typical of cancerous
growth, patterns of decomposition by bacteria and fungi.

This experimental painting technique and the results that it has created and continue to create, support the argument of a professor in Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines who said, "Everyone is entitled to his own theory of the arts. In arts no theory is wrong."

x x x

Vietnam Through a Window

Dr Abe V. Rotor

Through the window of an airplane,
I see a shroud of smoke turn into rain;
This is Vietnam now.
Its pains may linger, its wound a scar,
Blessed are her plains, golden in the sun.
Blessed are her people, victims yet victors
Of a David and Goliath war.

Through the window of the mind,

Through the window of a Western eye;
The world was blind for long, but not now.
As the one-eyed Nelson defied order
Cupping the wrong eye.

Through Milton’s window when lost

The sight, clearer is the view, deeper,
Deeper is the sense of seeing,
And the sense of being.

Through the window of a posh hotel

Over tree tops gracing the view,
Swaying and singing in the breeze,
While the city is buried in mist.
Wait, wait for time with ease.

For time knows all, cures all, forgets all,

Yet indelible is the lesson of mankind
That lust never last, it ends in fatal fall.
And pain endured is glory’s gain.

Through the window of ones soul,

Has spirituality lost its meaning?
Ask the Vietnamese toiling the fields
With a grave by his side.
Sans cross, sans tombstone,
Only a whisper of a name.

It is an old window I am seeing through,

My own, through a politics of disorder,
Greed and indifference, its spawn.
How can I raise a chin to greet you,
After you have mended your own?
I must have slept too long in comfort
And ease in plenty and play, in freedom,
Believing in a god I call Bathala,
Existential to my needs and caprice;
While you struggled for sanity
With a god by your side fighting,
And brought Olympus down.

Through a window from a bird’s eye

Opens a drama of human misery
And respite after the Big Brother
Had laid waste, desolate of hope and resolve,
Of wealth of any kind, yet the One,
Through another window, another time
Called His angels and down they came singing
The hymns before the Fall with the silence
Of guns, and the silence of the stars.

I see you fighting again,

Opening your doors to conquer the world
With homegrown rice, knowledge and valor,
Perhaps to pin it with another honor. ~