Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Part 1: Yes, you can be a poet! Start writing verses. Here are ten five-liners.

Part 1: Yes, you can be a poet! Start writing verses. Here are ten five-liners.
Abe V Rotor

Get out and write.

1. Foot Bridge

I walked the bridge to its far end and beyond,

And down the river to the sea I cast my pole.
It was a fight I fought, it was no longer game,
And it was neither fish nor dream I caught.

2. Mayon Volcano

Tranquility reigns on her face, rage in her breast,

If beauty exudes best from a spring of force,
I do not wonder at the shyness of a crest,
And the power of a single rose.

3. Artisan

I touched the towering figure and I was touched,

Transported to Gulliver’s land for a moment;
To meet the maker, a simple man from the hills,
Unschooled, yet his burin sings of glorious Greece.

4. Gulliver

Pygmies make giants, for the little man dreams of what he misses.

Humble is he, painstakingly working on his stead,
Until a Genie rises from his hands, mirror of a great soul.
Lo, a pupil I am, doubting my skill, my goal.

5. Children of Nature

Summer’s short, rainy days are long,

And so brief is this imagery;
The young can’t wait, and all along
The scene a blissful memory.

6. A happy lot

For just once the world is mine

With rowdy friends and I,
Happily with a jug of wine,
Words come easy, ‘Aye, Aye!’ ”

7.The other side of progress

Through time, humanity has changed through use

Of its environment for man’s needs through abuse,
From adaptation to modernization,
All in the name of civilization.

8. Youth

Pleasance to you youth, bright as the sun;

The world be at war or be at peace.
Ask not where have all the flowers gone;
Seasons come, and seasons go at ease.

9. Rage

Rage and break, rage and break,

On the cold wall and be free;
Make the sky and the river meet
Under a rainbow by the sea.

10. Drink from my little cup

Rise up from the sea and come down as rain;

rise, rise up and be weaned, to be free;
and if one day the water of the sea is not enough,
drink, drink deep from my little cup.


Part 2: Yes, you can be a poet. Ten verses to study theme, medium and style.

Abe V Rotor
What has this photo do with the verse, Creation?
Develop the verse into a poem. What is your
advocacy or message to your reader?


How wonderful is creation

when we realize in a minuscule
the universality of the simple
linked to the complex,
where every living thing is part
of life’s interrelating;
like a chain, its strength
shared by each link cooperating.

2. Old Man and Waterfall

He is old now and the cataract is but a spring,

He touches the spring. Where have all the waters gone?
Yes, he sighs with relief, his gaze takes him far away,
And there the last drops of his waterfall meet the sea;
And the sea roars in gladness, roars in a thousand cheers.

3. What makes a man?

What makes a man? Ask not someone who had gone to war,

Chores backbreaking he endured out of childhood sorrow,
Ever patient with the passing and coming of seasons;
Seasoned timber, mind steeled, only to time he yields,
To the young, to the ideal, to a beautiful world.

4. Wisdom comes with age

He who nods when old is wise and deep

Save he by the fireside asleep;
How can the sun reach the hadal depth,
Where the world is cold, where love is dearth?
Hasn’t someone a bit of sun long kept?
Come, come and save the hearth.

5. Freedom

Where the sky and the rivers flow

Under the rainbow by the sea.
Let me flow with thee;
A song I sing along with you
To where the world is free.

6. Learning outside school

Lessons you teach, they don’t find in school,

No words, nor chalk, no talking tall;
Patience, patience, who waits is not a fool,
For his fish whether big or small.
When the sun is up and down -
and up again another time.

7. Brotherhood

Now I know why there is a magic carpet that flies,

For I am witness to a basin with a child,
He made himself a boat, everything he supplied.
Then there are two, three boats, and more,
Filling the pond, the ocean, the world -
Happy children, who, remembering this tale,
Call each other brethren.

8. The man who slept for 20 years

Old Rip van Winkle I’m today,

And longer did I sleep than he;
For too long had I failed to pay
Respect to this land by the sea,
And the treaty of time and me.

9. Seed

Wake up sleeping one;

The soil is fertile, the rain has come,
The fields shall bloom To feed mankind.
Wake up, stir my life, All my intellect, my faith,
That they shall blossom for love as I serve mankind.

10. Ecology Prayer

When my days are done, let me lay down to sleep

on sweet breeze and earth in the shade of trees
I planted in youth and old; and if this were my last,
make, make others live that they carry on the torch,
while my dust falls to where new life begins –
even an atom let me be with you dear Mother Earth. ~

Monday, November 28, 2011

Call of Childhood

Abe V. Rotor

A beautiful world, this scene to the young,
Faces on clouds, kites flying high,
Gleaming proud, resting on the setting sun.
While the trees sing, nests sweetly cry.

If for all the fish and Amihan breeze,
Fields aglow, the call of a songbird -
The clock should come down to hammock’s ease -
Comes a call urging to be heard.

Summer's not enough, transient is the game;
Starts with glee and ends with sigh.
Childhood soon ends, but never its aim,
Not the sky to make the li'l ones cry.

Guardians and mentors - they all before saw
The man, the child of years ago,
Sitting by the pond or climbing a bough,
His kite rising to heaven’s glow. ~

We Can Re-Create the Garden of Eden

We Can Re-Create the Garden of Eden
Dr Abe V Rotor
Arch of the Centuries and Fountain of Knowledge, University of Santo Tomas, Manila

What really make gardens beautiful may draw two schools of thought – Romanticism and Functionalism. But a typical Philippine garden for one does not take side on the issue – it portrays both schools in an integrated, harmonious design patterned after the richest and the most enviable biome on earth – the Tropical Rainforest.

And here are gardens to see - the Sunken Garden of UP Diliman QC at the back of the Oblation, and the UST Botanical Garden along España in downtown Manila. And for more extensive gardens, go to San Fernando La Union Botanical Garden in Cadaclan at the foothills of Cordillera. When picnicking at the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center visit the vegetation along the lakeshore.

There are striking features of a garden. For example at UST, there are man-made waterfalls.  Trace the flow on a meandering rocky stream that ducks under a footbridge before plunging into the depth of a pond, its bottom murky and cool and rich in detritus. Here clams and snails, and other bottom dwellers, mostly decomposers reside, shy from the sun and ensconced in the very food source that settles down. Such is the niche of these sessile, benthos creatures.

A Garden of Algae and Mosses

The running stream at the UP Sunken Garden keeps the environment fresh and cool, lapping on the rocks and sending spray on its banks. Small waterfalls and boulders lay along its path.  Here thick algae and mosses layer after layer form a carpet on which another niche is found - the domain of bryophytes in Lilliputian imagery, or one depicted in the movie, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

But the ultimate source of water is the sky, from clouds that gather and grow atop the forest.  Transpiration from trees on one hand and evaporation on the other attract clouds, pulling them down in shower or downpour at anytime of the day or night. It is for this phenomenon that this biome got its name - rainforest.

The garden’s design simulates this condition. The waterfall, streams, a large fountain and a series of ponds maintain high humidity in their environs. High humidity and continuous supply of water are crucial in the formation of multi-storey vegetation and subsequently the presence of a myriad of resident organisms.

An Evolving Ecosystem

It may take years for a new garden to approximate the structure of a typical rainforest. In the process visitors may not be aware of the slow transformation, one sere after another until a climax community is formed, a true measure of it is homeostasis or dynamic balance. The scientific and aesthetic aspects are interesting to study. Inference can be drawn on the viewpoint of ethico-morals that governs man of his role in God’s creation – and the transformation of man himself as one good and faithful steward of the environment.

A botanical garden is thus transforming deliberately like an evolving ecosystem. It is Nature’s laboratory and a playing field of biological diversity.

Drynaria fern on a tree in acrylic AVR

Biological Diversity

1. As a field laboratory the garden demonstrates ecological cycles – invasion, colonization, competition, and emergence of dominant species, as well as seasonal and long-term succession patterns. We may not have the four distinct seasons, but there are tropical trees that demonstrate some temperate characteristics carried by their ancestral genes, such as the deciduousness of narra (Pterocarpus indicus) and talisay (Terminalia catappa) simulating trees in the temperate region that completely lose their leaves at the onset of winter.

2. The garden is a living manifestation of dynamic balance in a changing environment with the organisms constantly adjusting to the demands of the latter, but at the end they also change the environment itself. The transformation process or seres always leads towards homeostasis and the result is the formation of a climax ecological system.

3. As a showcase of natural habitats, the garden adjusts to the development of niches and diversity indices. The garden never sleeps, so to speak. It is an arena and the drama of life goes on and on.

Energy Flow

4. When we look at life, we look at it in the realm of physics and chemistry – the flow of energy through the food chain, food web and their hierarchic order, the food pyramid. The light energy of the sun is transformed into chemical energy by plants through photosynthesis, and is passed on one after another through the links of a chain until the remaining energy reaches the ultimate member – the decomposers that transform organic substances back into inorganic forms so that the next generation of organisms can start all over again. We can  witness this among the residents in the pond, and among insects, arachnids, birds, reptiles, and others that inhabit the garden.

Plant Physiology and Animal Behavior

5. The garden demonstrates physiologic responses of plants - tropisms or reactions to light, touch, and the other elements on one hand, and animal behavior on the other. Why do plants grow tall, while others do not - even if they belong to the same species? Where do toads and frogs hide in summer? How do they survive without food and extreme hot and arid condition?
Dragonflies hover low before a rain. A preying mantis resembles the leaf or flower on which it waits for its prey. These and many more demonstrate intelligence among animals.

6. There are biological indicators of the state of the environment. The garden has a host of these indicators such as lichens and fireflies. The presence of both attest to the pristine condition of the environment and clean of air around. The garden itself is a barometer of El Niño. There are bamboo species that produce flowers at the onset of the cyclical phenomenon.
Balete trees atop a church ruin, Magsingal Museum, Ilocos Sur.

Gene Bank

7. The garden is a sanctuary of wildlife. In spite of the crowded environment and high-rise buildings around, a garden is always with butterflies. Some people say, if you see butterflies there must be a garden nearby. It is because the garden is their natural abode with plants they feed on and rear their young. The ponds and streams are a sanctuary of dragonflies as well, and their waters teem with both phytoplankton and zooplankton that students in biology can study with the use of microscope.

8. As a gene bank, the garden is a depository of biological diversity, providing access to genetic studies, propagation and exchange with other institutions. A garden must aim at expanding its collection of species, even those that are thought to be weeds and volunteer plants. In many ways nature is the principal architect of biodiversity. Birds, water and wind carry seeds into the garden. When we design the garden we follow Nature rules. For example, plants are classified according to water regime, type of growth, sunlight requirement, seasonality, etc.

9. In another article I wrote, I mentioned about the garden as a microcosm of the biosphere, the pond a minuscule of a lake – and now, the new the garden is a replica of the Tropical Rainforest.

10. This miniature replica of a Tropical Rainforest, where living organisms – macroscopic and microscopic – live in a state of unity and harmony is man’s way of redeeming a lost Paradise. There is more than just romanticism and functionalism, not even human imagination can describe it. Indeed we can re-create a Garden of Eden is some little corner of the Earth, the greatest offering we can make to the Creator who gave us the capacity to build it. ~

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Environment: Bacteria are getting more and more resistant to antibiotics

Structure of a typical bacterial cell. Photo credit: Biology of Microorganisms Prentice-Hall

Dr Abe V Rotor

When Alexander Fleming discovered antibiotics in the early 19th century, the world rejoiced on this wonder drug that was to become the most effective cure against infection – from skin inflammation to tuberculosis.

What is this wonder drug, antibiotics? Antibiotics refers to any material that destroys or inhibits the growth of pathogens. It may be derived from fungi such as Pennicillin notatum, the mold Fleming accidentally found, to natural substances present in plants such as allicin and aliin in garlic, Allium sativum. Today antibiotics are available in many kinds and brands, many of which have the ending “mycin” like streptomycin and erythromycin.
Antibiotics saved countless lives during the Second World War. It brought hope to patients suffering of then incurable diseases such as venereal diseases, small pox and leprosy.

When antibiotics were first used as chemotherapy following successful experiments against infectious diseases, the problem of creating antibiotic-resistant bacteria was never considered seriously. The fact is that bacteria, like other organisms, have the ability to develop resistance against certain substances, especially if these are repeatedly used. This is the same principle to explain the buildup of immunity of insects to insecticide, thus next time you spray mosquitoes or cockroaches, you `need a higher concentration – or a more potent pesticide.

Biological Specialization

Imagine a population of bacteria crowding an injured tissue. Ideally the application of an antibiotic will wipe out the entire population. But this is not so. In the process there are survivors. These survivors pass on their acquired resistance to their progeny. To eradicate them you need to apply a dose higher that the previous one - or shift to another kind that is more potent. As this is repeated over and over, one can imagine the amount of resistance gained by the bacteria.

Thus we hear doctors prescribing higher dosages, say from 200 to 400 mg per dose, or extending the treatment of the disease. In many occasions doctors prescribe different antibiotics that are purposely more potent. Today we know of “second generation” antibiotics that offer the solution to bacteria, which can no longer be treated, by the antibiotics in the first generation or penicillin group.

Self- Medication Creates Resistant Bacteria

The emergence of resistant microbes is exacerbated by self-medication since many antibiotics are available over the counter. Any symptom of infection, whether viral or bacterial, is immediately confronted with antibiotics.

Wrong. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses. They are designed principally against bacteria. Therefore, influenza cannot be treated with antibiotics; it is the secondary infection by bacteria that the doctor targets when administering antibiotics. And there is a prescribed dosage for it and period of treatment. The condition of the patient at this time makes him prone to bacterial infection that principally attacks the respiratory system.

Media is part to blame for the overuse and misuse of antibiotics.

Imagine an advertisement showing the helplessness of patients who are not attended immediately with antibiotics. A scratch needs antibiotics. Sore eye for whatever is the cause must be treated with antibiotics. Zealousness over sanitation in the office, home, hospitals, includes the use of many kinds of germ-killing compounds and materials. Antibiotics are part of our every life. I overhead some guys taking antibiotics before spending a night in the red district. It is as if the prefix, anti, is an assurance of protection.

Mechanics of Resistance Acquisition

The rapidly increasing incidence of drug resistance is now recognized worldwide as a serious threat to the treatment of life-threatening infections in both humans and animals. Antibiotic resistance can emerge as a result of genetic change and subsequent selection process through the use of anti-microbial drugs. The initial appearance of a resistant bacterium in a susceptible population is often caused by mutation in a single bacterial gene. The frequency of such initial mutation may be low, occurring at a rate of one mutation in a population of several millions.

However, other bacteria can become antibiotic resistant at a much higher frequency merely by acquiring a gene from a bacterium that is already resistant. The genes for resistance can be transmitted or passed on from one organism to another by transformation, conjugation and transduction.

To illustrate, here are the three phases of development of resistant bacteria.

Mutation of a single gene in one member
of a population of millions of bacteria

A bacterium can acquire the mutant gene

The gene for resistance can be transmitted pr passed on from one
organism to another by transformation, conjugation or transduction

By all means let's maintain good health because good health is the most effective and practical assurance against disease. Let us not resort to self-medication, and this includes all kinds of medicine. The necessity of taking antibiotics is determined only by a medical doctor.

Resistant Bacteria in Gastro-intestinal Tract of Meat Eaters

If you are a meat eater, chances are you are harboring bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.

In her doctoral dissertation at the University of Santo Tomas, Vicky Concepcion Mergal found out that drug-resistant strains of Enterobacter and Escherichia coli found in the gastrointestinal tract is related indirectly to ingestion of meat conditioned to antibiotics, or its combined effect with exposure to medication in cases of infectious diseases. How do we explain this findings?

The respondents in the study of Dr. Mergal are of two categories. One group consists of vegetarians and the other group of non-vegetarians or regular meat eaters. For the first group, the incidence of finding drug-resistant bacteria is very little. But in the second group – the meat eaters – the existence of drug resistant Enterobacter and E. coli is high.

The root cause: overuse of antibiotics in poultry and sivestock

Dr. Mergal’s adviser, Dr. Irineo Dogma, has the explanation why there is higher incidence of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract of non-vegetarians because of their intake of meat. As a background to this contention, poultry, hogs and livestock are given consistently high ration of antibiotics in their feeds. This is to safeguard the animals from possible outbreak of diseases, which are a threat to business. Imagine a whole ranch wiped out by foot-and-mouth disease, or a battery of chicken with corriza, or a commercial piggery with scouring. Huge investments must therefore be protected with antibiotics even if the animals do not actually need it. It is because they have their own defense mechanism - natural immunity.

Resistance to antibiotics among bacteria is built this way. Repeatedly, more and more of these resistant strains develop, thus necessitating further increase in antibiotic dosage, or change to more potent antibiotics. What happens to the residue of the antibiotics in the body of the animal, or in eggs and milk?

Residual Antibiotics in Bad to Our Health

When we eat the meat, eggs and milk we are introducing into our body the antibiotic residues that our body does not need. In fact, its presence makes our immune system idle, so to speak. In the event that the supply of antibiotic residues stops, we become predisposed to infection and related kinds of disease because of the presence of resistant bacteria in our body. This explains the findings of Dr. Mergal, as well as the puzzling high rate of death due to infection – in spite of antibiotic treatment.

This leads us to recall the term, superbacteria and superbugs. These are the doings of man, his interference with nature, and abuses often in the guise of progress. I have the inkling that nature has its own ways of dealing with the folly and abuses of man, and one of them is the emergence of resistant organisms that threatens man himself. ~

Friday, November 25, 2011

Environment and Health: Perk Up Your Love Life

Dr Abe V Rotor and Ms Melly C Tenorio
Paaralan Bayan sa Himpapawid
738 DZRB KHz AM Band 8 to 9 evening Monday to Friday
Keep tradition alive - it adds quaintness to love life

1. A natural clock governs every person in his system. This is often referred to as biological rhythm. Although there is a general plan on how this internal clocks works, no two persons are tuned in to the same pattern - not even husband and wife. Try to live by your own biorhythms and learn to adjust with those of our partner.

2. Recognize your moods and energies that change with the time of the day and night, with months and seasons.

3. Lovemaking is mutually fulfilling when both partners have synchronized biorhythms. Generally human body is dynamic that it can reset itself daily and adapt to the changes in the environment.

4. The foundation of a full and sustained sex life is made up of proper diet, avoidance of toxic materials and vices, a regular physical exercise regime, positive attitude, adherence to morals and culture norms. Love and sex is a celebration on top of a pyramid built on this foundation.

5. Food, Rest, Exercise and sunlight = Health (FRESH). This formula is easy to remember. Watch out for the food that you take. Eat health foods, and avoid those in the list of Don’t Eat which your family doctor gave you. A vegetarian is healthier and lives longer.

6. There is no substitute to adequate sleep. Maintain a healthy sleeping habit. Take a rest between heavy schedules, and avoid buildup of tension. Relax. Exercise regularly within your natural capacity. Do not over exercise. .

7. Sunlight perks you up, breaks monotony, and takes out the blues in your life. It makes us closer to nature, and takes us to outdoor adventure. All these make a happy love life with your partner.

8. Sexual expression is not restricted to estrus periods or seasons of the year. Humans have the ability to match their sexual desires with their moods and feelings. Hormones influence, but not dictate, sex life.

9. Meaningful spiritual love and emotional feelings multiply the ecstasy of physical pleasure.

10. A woman’s menstrual cycle dictates her sexual moods. They feel sexiest at the midpoint of their menstrual cycle.

11. There are people who are sexier in the morning than at night. There are also those who feel sexier in summer than during cool months, or vice versa.

12. There are times when men become sexier and this is indicated by rapid growth of their beard.

13. Studies show that the most active time for sexual activity is in the evening, but lovemaking at this time is poor since the androgens (love hormones) are low. (They are highest between 8 to 12 a.m., and lowest at 6p.m.) Evening is convenient to most working people. If this is not enough, make up for it during weekends.

14. Reduce meal size as the day progresses and avoid high calorie snacks in the evening. But do not skip breakfast or lunch. Carbohydrates help calm and focus the mind. Protein food boosts mental energy, but avoid fatty foods when you want to be mentally alert.

15. When planning out an active evening, like going to a concert, holding a party, or having a date, reduce your dinner, with protein food preferred over fatty and carbohydrates food. Coffee makes you awake, and drinking may delay your regular bedtime or makes you fall asleep. If you want to wake up refreshed and alert do not take alcohol in the evening before.

16. An enduring and fulfilling love life is one that is shared together by husband and wife. Here are the basic elements essential to a lifelong relationship: trust and confidence, empathy (feeling with the other person), marriage (sex outside marriage cannot remain meaningful and does not usually last).

17. Stay in touch with your creative side. Use your right brain – the seat of creativity – more often. Let your left brain – the seat of reason – rest for a while. Paint, draw, write verses, sing.

18. Sex can become monotonous especially with modern life. Many people find little time to express tender love with sex. They employ a number of ways to vary their sexual expression as not merely satisfying a desire, feeling relieved and exhausted afterward - or just for the sake of giving in to their partner. Many more miss the spiritual element of lovemaking, whereby the act is a means to sustain a passionate emotion from which follow exhilaration, and a great feeling of satisfaction.

19. Share your jokes. Laughing together is a great bonding experience. Start a casual conversation or talk with a joke. Diffuse the electric atmosphere. Break the ice, so to speak with humor.

20. Laugh together. Light up the years. Reinvigorate. You can be young again. It is in the heart. Make up for the lost time you should have been together as a couple. Have a date, perhaps a second honeymoon, now that the children are at their own.

Living with Nature 3, AVR. Reference, Love, Life and Nutrition by B Jensen

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Unspoiled environment is key to happy life even to those with Infirmities

Dr Abe V Rotor

“Good bye,” said the fox to the Little Prince, “And here is my secret.”

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
(The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery)

It’s rightly so. Take it from Water Lily (Nymphaea), which is perhaps the last painting of French impressionist, Claude Monet (1840-1926) before he became totally blind. The scenery draws deeper meaning from the accompanying verse from Auguries of Innocence, William Blake’s late prophetic poem – fearless and free.

How perfect is the combination of these two masterpieces - made by artists who “saw” the world differently from that of ours – we who are unaffected of sight or any sense, we who are not infirmed in life. Nymphaea represents our natural world, undisturbed and unspoiled by human hands, while Auguries of Innocence speaks of the purity of mankind, reverent and subservient to a Higher Principle, and sensitive to the world.

To see the World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven a Wild Flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
- William Blake, Auguries of Innocence

Edgar Degas also suffered from very poor eyesight towards the end of his life. Surprising it is in this twilight zone that artists made their masterpieces.

Here are other famous people with sight problems
• Andrea Bocelli - opera singer
• Loiuse Braille - inventor of braille
• Ray Charles - American singer and composer
• Helen Keller - American author, philanthropist
• John Milton - English poet
• Horatio Nelson - British admiral
• Rembrandt – Dutch painter
• Stevie Wonder – American singer
• St. Paul - Apostle
• Homer - Greek poet
• Samson - Biblical hero

Here are biblical, religious and fiction characters, too, that are popular to many of us.
• Tiresias - mythological, Greek seer
• Odin - Norse god
• Horus - Egyptian god
• Oedipus - mythological Greek King
• Cupid/Eros - Greek/Roman god of love

We have local Blind Musicians in our midst performing in malls, fiestas, and in various occasion. A live band of five to as many as twenty plays instruments and sings as other famous bands do. In spite of being blind these musicians find joy in entertaining people. They pursue a happy life and live normal like other people do.

Quite often we hear people invariably asking this question on who is fit to live? Who of us best deserve life? How do we earn our worthiness to live? It’s a casual question, yet it is perhaps the most difficult to answer, because the art of living is the most difficult of all the arts. Perhaps we can draw some thoughts from John Milton’s works, the most famous is Paradise Lost.

God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts: who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best.
His state is kingly.
Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait.”
- John Milton, When I Consider How My Light Is Spent, 1652

Many people have various versions of how live is well lived with nature. In Living with Nature in Our Times, a book I wrote in 2006, I tried to make a capsule that tries to capture my own definition, greatly influenced by my associates in the field and academe. To wit:

Nature shares her bounty in many ways:
He who works or he who prays,
Who patiently waits or gleefully plays;
He is worthy of the same grace."
- A V Rotor, Living with Nature in Our Times

Priorities & Choices in Life

Helen Keller, deaf-blind since infancy became a role model for millions of people. She wrote a moving essay that challenges us who have the power of vision on how we would value “Three Days to See” if we were blind like Helen Keller blind since infancy. (The Story of My Life)

Try this exercise. If you were given Three Days To See just as Helen Keller told in her essay, how would you prioritize these? (Please indicate the day after each item; or it is not applicable.) Please refer to the answers below

1. Lives of people everyday
2. Theatre – concert, performing art
3. Transformation of night to day
4. Views from top of a high building
5. Loved ones and friends
6. Nature - landscape and garden
7. Museum of arts and natural history
8. Historical records of man & society
9. Things at home, favorite books, etc
10. Comedy, the lighter side of life.

After checking your work with the answers guide below, compare it with the priorities of Helen Keller.
1st Day - Loved ones, Favorite Things, Nature
2nd Day - Natural History, History, Humanities,
3rd Day - The Business of life. (NOTE: The lighter side of life closes the episode.)

Three Days to See challenges us to look into our priorities and choices in Life
• City or countryside life
• Aesthetics or materialism
• Permanence and transience
• Love and Friendship
• Spirituality and faith
• Computer graphics or fine arts
• Perception or sensitivity
• Affection or companionship
• Vice or hobby
• Knowledge or Wiisdom

Answer Guide
Lives of people everyday - 3rd day
1. Theatre – concert, performing art –end of 2nd day
2. Transformation of night to day –opening of 2nd day
3. Views from top of a high building – 3rd day
4. Loved ones and friends – 1st day, immediately.
5. Nature - landscape & garden – 1st day pm to sunset
6. Museum of arts and natural history – 2nd day
7. Historical records of man & society – 2nd day
8. Things at home, favorite books, etc – 1st day
9. Comedy stage play - End of 3rd day

From this exercise we can better appreciate Helen Keller’s philosophy of life.

Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn whatever state I am, therein to be content.”

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen and even touched. They must be felt within the heart.” ~

Cockroaches eat on anything - almost.

Abe V Rotor

American cockroach (Periplaneta americana)

Being omnivorous, cockroaches voraciously consume all kinds of materials that are rich in carbohydrates, proteins, fats and oils.

But when these are not available they turn to unlikely food sources like soap, photographic film, clothes, wood and even drugs. In fact they even turn into predators, devouring other insects, and sometimes biting people in their sleep. Their bite often gets swollen and infected. Cockroaches are found in all places where humans live and conduct his trade, commerce and industry. Only rats can be compared with the tenacity of the cockroach.

The cockroach has very powerful digestive enzymes: proteases digest protein, invertase breaks complex sugar, and amylase breaks starches. Its saliva contains powerful enzymes coming from the gastric caeca, while the Malphigian tubules secrete an enzyme that is equally disgusting. It is no wonder that just a single drop of frass (feces) can spoil a whole pot of rice by its obnoxious smell.

By the way there are three most common species that we encounter in the home and public places.
  • American cockroach or Periplaneta americana (large, rust red with a yellow band across its thorax),
  • German cockroach or Blatta germanica (pale yellow, only one-third the size of the American species) and
  • Oriental cockroach or Blatta orientalis (dark brown to black, the biggest and filthiest of all cockroaches.)
Meticulous sanitation is the best way to get rid of cockroaches. To keep their population down, sprinkle carbamate (Sevin) on the kitchen floor, pathways and possible hideout of the pest, preferably before retiring at night. Keep doors and screens properly closed to prevent entry of the insect.

Sweep the dead cockroaches, and leave the powder for another day or two - or until you don't find any dead cockroach in the morning.

Cockroaches are eco-indicators. Their presence speaks of untidy condition of the place. ~

Synopsis of “Life of Lam-ang,” an Epic of the Ilocos Region

Life Of Lam-ang (Biag ni Lam-ang)

Edited by Abe V Rotor

The theme of the epic revolves around the bravery and courage of the main character portrayed by Lam-ang, who was gifted with speech as early as his day of birth, who embarked on a series of adventures which culminated in his heroic death and subsequent resurrection. This series of adventures started with his search for his lost father who was murdered by the head-hunting Igorots in the Igorot country. While on his way, he met a certain Sumarang, whose name connotes obstruction, who tried to dissuade him from proceeding and who taunted him into a fight. The fight that ensued proved fatal to Sumarang as he was blown "three kingdoms" away with a spear pierced through his stomach. This encounter led to another when he met a nine-headed serpent who, like Sumarang earlier, tried to dissuade him from going any further. The serpent having been ignored challenged him into a fight which cost the serpent its heads. Lam-ang went on until he found it necessary to rest and take a short nap. While asleep, he dreamed of his father's head being an object of festivities among the Igorots. He immediately arose and continued his journey until he found the Igorots indeed feasting over his father's head. He asked the Igorots why they killed his father, but the Igorots instead advised him to go home if he did not want to suffer the same fate which his father suffered. This was accompanied by a challenge to a fight, despite their obvious numerical superiority. But Lam-ang, armed with supernatural powers, handily defeated them, giving the last surviving Igorot a slow painful death by cutting his hands and his ears and finally carving out his eyes to show his anger for what they had done to his father.

Satisfied with his revenge, he went home. At home, he thought of taking a swim in the Cordan River with the com¬pany of Cannoyan and her lady-friends. So he proceeded to Cannoyan's place in the town of Calanutian, disregarding her mother's advice to the contrary. On his way, he met a woman named Saridandan, whose name suggests that she was a woman of ill repute. He resisted her blandishments, for his feeling for Cannoyan was far greater for anyone to take. When he reached Cannoyan's house, he found a multitude of suitors futilely vying for her hand. With the help of his pets - the cock and the dog - he was able to catch Cannoyan's attention. He asked her to go with him to the river along with her lady-friends. She ac¬ceded. While washing himself in the river, the river swelled, and the shrimps, fishes and other creatures in the river were agitated for the dirt washed from his body was too much. As they were about to leave the river, Lam-ang noticed a giant crocodile. He dove back into the water and engaged with the creature in a fierce fight until the creature was subdued. He brought it ashore and instructed the ladies to pull its teeth to serve as amulets against danger during journeys.

Back at Cannoyan's house, he was confronted by her parents with an inquiry as to what his real intention was. He had to set aside his alibi that he went there to ask Cannoyan and her friends to accompany him to the river, and told them, through his spokesman - the cock - that he came to ask for Cannoyan's hand in marriage. He was told that if he desired to marry Can¬noyan, he must first be able to match their wealth, for which he willingly complied. Having satisfied her parents, he went home to his mother and enjoined her and his townspeople to attend his wedding which was to take place in Cannoyan's town.

The wedding was elaborate, an event that involved prac¬tically everyone in town. There were fireworks, musical band, and display of attractive items like the glasses, the mirror, the slippers, clothes and nice food. After the wedding, Lam-ang's party plus his wife and her townmates went back to their town of Nalbuan, where festivities were resumed. The guests ex¬pressed a desire to taste a delicacy made of rarang fish. Lam-ang was obliged to go to the sea and catch the fish. Before going, however, his rooster warned that something unpleasant was bound to happen. This warning proved true, as Lam-ang was swallowed by a big bercacan, or shark-like fish. Cannoyan mourned and for a while she thought there was no way to re¬trieve her lost husband. But the rooster indicated that if only all the bones could be gathered back, Lam-ang could be brought to life again. She then enlisted the aid of a certain diver named Marcus, who was ready to come to her aid to look for the bones. When all of Lam-ang's bones were gathered, the rooster crowed and the bones moved. The dog barked, and Lam-ang arose and was finally resurrected. Cannoyan embraced him. For his deep appreciation for the help of his pets - the cock and the dog - and of Marcus the diver, he promised that each other would get his or its due reward. And they lived happily ever after.

This synopsis is based on the transcription made by Jose Llanes from a recitation by memory of the poem by an old farmer, one Francisco Magana, from Bangui, Ilocos Norte, sometime in 1947. Of the six old versions of the epic which include a zarzuela (folk stage play) written by Eufemio L. Inofinada, the Llanes version ( 206 stanzas) and that of Leopoldo Yabes (305 stanzas) are the most popular. Many believe that the author of the epic is Pedro Bucaneg, a blind Ilocano poet who lived during the early part of Spanish colonization. On close examination the farmer’s (Magana) version pre-dates the Bucaneg’s “Hispanized” version, because the former clings more closely to ethnical culture, and is richer with indigenous and pagan influences. Historians believe that Biag ni Lam-ang is an epic drawn out from oral tradition handed down through countless generations in the same way the Greek’s Iliad and Odyssey were handed down through centuries to the modern world. Historians like H. Otley Beyer, Fox, Fay-Cooper Cole and Jose R. Calip believe in the pre-Hispanic origin of the poem. Calip in his doctoral dissertation, University of Santo Tomas, 1957, further stated that “it is not a product of any single mind but as a property of the people – a floating wisdom from the centuries into the generations.” Through a long, slow evolutionary process, it floated from one century to another, and grew into several versions retaining a lucid mirror of the people of the past, reflecting their own values, environment and culture. Reference: Lam-ang in Transition by Kenneth E. Bauzon, Philippine Social Sciences and Humanities Review, Vol XXXVIII, No. 3-4.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Environment and Biology : Part 1 - The Criteria of Life (When do we say a thing is living?)

Dr Abe V Rotor

The Coral Reef is sanctuary of "living fossils" Painting in acrylic by AVR

All of us may have witnessed in one or many occasions the transformation of the landscape when the first monsoon rains finally put an end to a long, hot summer.

The hills and the mountains begin to turn green; the fields come to life with frogs croaking, mudfish or dalag emerging from their encrusted abode, and herons hovering over the paddies. It is a moment of rejoice, a new beginning of life.

Let us analyze the scenario in the context of biology.

As the landscape turns from brown to green let us examine the germinating seeds, the young plants and the new shoots of shrubs and trees. What brought them suddenly to life? What broke the dormancy of buds of stems and tubers and made them sprung to life? What loosened the soil and made the sleeping seeds germinate'? Where did the mushrooms come from? And mosses carpeting the rocks? This scenario depicts one most appropriate to call “a celebration to life."

Here we see that the monsoon brought in the life giving substance that no other planet within our knowledge possesses - water. With water, the nutrient in the soil are released and made available to plants and animals. Water feeds the brooks and rivers and on its way down to the sea, wakes up the aestivating organisms, releasing them from their prison of mud crust.

Animals respond to the favorable change in season, and now they have food to eat. They emerge from their lair and soon move to new places, mate and multiply. Among the first organisms to dominate the fields are insects that will soon become food of birds, and fishes. Food chains are restored and new ones are built which in turn will form food webs and food pyramids.

This is a microcosm of a web of life simultaneously taking place in many parts of the world at a particular time. It is the essence of changing seasons that influences the living world. The elements of the physical world determine the kind of life that exists in a place, and how its diverse forms interact among themselves and with their immediate environment.

Biology, the Science of Living Things

We are studying biology, from the Greek word bios meaning "life", and logus, meaning study or "science of”. The scenarios we presented could well be traced to early man visioning his environment, and not only to students and scientists. But more than mere curiosity to know what was happening, our ancestors were more interested on plants and animals that relate to his survival. We can then say that biology to early man was an applied form as he searched for food and shelter, sought for cure from plants, and later, as he domesticated plants and animals he found useful to him and the settlement he built.

We have been mentioning the term life. What really is life? When do we say a thing is alive? It is possible that there are non- living things that exhibit certain properties attributed to living things. For example, there are rocks and stones that "grow," but their increase in size is by accretion and not by any biological means. Even those that exhibit life-like functions like viruses, according to scientists, are not living things even if they possess fragments of genetic materials that enable them to stay inside living cells.

The best way to determine whether a thing is alive or not is to follow these criteria which are fundamental properties shared by all living things. They are the following:

1. Molecular organization
2. Hierarchical organization
3. Metabolism
4. Reproduction
5. Development
6. Heredity

Let us take up these criteria one by one. Living things, without exception, are made up of large, complex organic molecules which are of four kinds, namely, carbohydrates, protein, lipids and nucleic acids.

Molecular Organization Based on
Four Basic Organic Compounds

Let us imagine the scenario after the first heavy rain and relate how these compounds became products of the newly germinated plants. The first product of photosynthesis is simple sugars which are then assembled into carbohydrates, calorie-rich food passed on through the food chain. Thus it is called "go" food.

Proteins, on the other hand, are built from amino acids produced through a series of chemical reactions in the cells. They are the building blocks of the cells and tissues, and equally important is their role as enzymes. We eat protein-rich food often referred to as "grow" food.

Lipids on the other hand, are components of fat and oil which are actually reserve food, and chief material that makes up the cell membranes. If we look under a special microscope the inside of a nucleus of every living cell, be it plant or animal - or protist for that matter - we find chromosomes which contain the genes. The genes in turn contain nucleic acids that constitute the code in transmitting hereditary characters from one generation to the next.

These four types of molecules are found all living things and are basically the same in both plants and animals, except in certain molecules which differ in form and configuration such as the case of enzymes. It is no wonder then to see plants and animals, and unicellular organisms, sharing with one another these compounds through the food chain and food web in which they are a part. We recall the second scenario after the first heavy rain when plants and animals have established themselves ecologically. The key to renewal of life is in the universality of these four organic substances in the living world. (Continued)

Part 2: The Criteria of Life (When do we say a thing is living?)

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature - School on Air

Binding of virus with host cell, initial step

Adenovirus, Obesity is suspected to be caused by this type of virus (Ad-36), lower photo. The virus is not considered by biologists as a living organism because it cannot meet all the criteria of life.

Hierarchical Organization: Organelles to Organ- System

Let us imagine a ladder with four rungs. Cells make up the bottommost rung, tissues occupy the second, while the third is made up of organs, and finally the topmost rung comprises of the organ-systems. Since many cells make up a tissue, and tissues make up an organ, and several organs make an organ-system. The ladder in our mind has a broad base tapering at the top.

At the top are the "higher" plants such as the mango and "higher" animals such a Philippine eagle - or man, himself. The more complex an organism is, the more developed are its organs and organ-systems. The circulatory system in man, for example, consists of a pumping organ - the heart, and a network of blood vessels with specialized functions, locations, size and structure, through which blood flows. Whereas the circulatory system of an insect consists merely of a simple pumping organ and blood that openly circulates in the body cavity.

But what about the unicellular organisms - the protists and monerans? Do the paramecium and euglena for example, also have organs?

We do not call their body parts organs, but rather organelles, since these parts are confined in their single-cell body structure. They are "organs" of the cell.

To illustrate, the amoeba ingests food with its pseudopodia (false feet), and is stored and consequently digested in food vacuoles. Here the pseudopodia are organelles for locomotion and ingestion, while the food vacuoles are the organelles that function like a digestive system.

Community to Ecosystem

Another hierarchical organization in the biological world maybe similar imagined as another ladder, but in this case, the lowest rung consist of the organism, followed on the next rung by the population of that organism, which together with the population of other organisms form a community. Communities form ecosystems, and ecosystems make up the biosphere which constitutes all parts of the earth where life exists.

In the physical world we also realize the existence of a hierarchy of atoms of an element, which join to produce molecules of a compound which resulted in the combination of a compatible element. These molecules combine to produce macromolecule, which brings us back to our study of carbohydrates, proteins lipids and nucleic acids.

We wonder if the course of evolution, looking at the hierarchical organization of organisms, a cell might have "deviated" and "emerged" from its own organization, hence became an independent unicellular organism, a protist or a moneran. On the other hand, could it be that a group of independent cells united and "emerged" into an organ, which became the precursor of a prototype multicellular organism? Evolutionists believe in both. This is true to certain facultative bacteria to demonstrate the first case, and to the Poriferans - the sponges- for the second.

And yet we know that certain protozoans have developed affinity to their host, and vice versa, that together they are almost integral as one. This is the case of the termite and its protozoan-symbionts living in its digestive system. Could we consider another case whereby certain cells or tissues "deviate" from their structure and function, if and when the conditions of their existence and well-being are threatened? If such a deviation is dictated by a primitive evolutionary archetype, then we are looking into a new field of research about cancer.

Metabolism: Acquisition and Expenditure of energy

All organisms, with no exception, needs energy. How they acquire it distinguishes four groups of organisms, namely:

1. Photosynthesizers - Plants, algae and Eubacteria or BGAs, formerly known as blue- green algae.

2. Chemosynthesizers - Sulfur bacteria

3. Herbivores and carnivores - predators, foragers, parasites, and most animals, including man.

4. Saprophytes - carcass feeders and decomposers, mainly fungi and archaeobacteria, and many protists.

The distinction of each kind is not well defined. We know that there are organisms which obtain their energy by not only one means. The Euglena for example, obtains energy in three ways, namely, by photosynthesis (it has chloroplasts), by feeding on microscopic algae (herbivore), and by ingesting dead organic matter: (saprophyte). Man is both herbivore and carnivore, or in short, omnivore. There are bacteria that are parasitic; they cause diseases, at the same time decomposers.

Thermodynamics in Biology

Organisms expend energy to carry out various life processes. We call this respiration or catabolism (destructive metabolism) as distinguished from anabolism (constructive metabolism, or energy acquisition). All organisms are governed by the law of thermodynamics, which principally explains the transformation of energy from one form to another, as it is passed on from one organism to another through the food chain. Solar energy is transformed into chemical energy (sugar), and the organism that feeds on this sugar releases it into mechanical energy, heat energy, or a kind of electrical energy which makes nerve cells and brain cells function. In all organisms, energy is stored, transformed, and converted through a complex bio- chemical process involving the compound adenosine tri-phosphate or ATP which releases the energy, while its counterpart, adenosine di-phosphate (ADP) absorbs energy, both compounds working in a synchronized cycle.


When does reproduction start? Let us look at it this way. On the part of unicellular organisms, a simple fission or budding is itself reproduction. In higher organisms, reproduction means the birth of one or more individuals. The union of gametes or fertilization precedes this. In plants, reproduction may be by cutting, grafting and other vegetative means. And in a very rare case like in certain insects, an immature individual may produce young even without reaching maturity, which is called paedogenesis, a rare phenomenon in the living world which demonstrates the possibility of "virgin" birth.

On the cellular level, cells divide as the organism grows develops, and reproduces. For somatic or body cells, cell division is called mitosis, while in the reproductive organs or gonads, cell division which results in the production of male or female gametes is called meiosis.

Growth and Development

When we talk of growth and development, which are two biological processes intertwined, we have in mind the illustration of a life cycle. That illustration maybe a circle divided into parts, each part representing a phase.

It may be a square to emphasize the four-stage development of say, a butterfly or a triangle, which is represented by organisms undergoing simple metamorphosis. Arthropods like shrimps and spiders have only three stages in their life cycle - egg, young, and adult.

In plants, algae and other protists, we encounter the term, alternation of generation. It is worth to mention that algae and the lower plants, for example, are dimorphic - sporophyte and gametophyte - so that their life cycle is made up of two parts. A living thing, no matter how simple, changes throughout its life span, growing in size, duplicating its parts as this is necessary in duplication.

Heredity and Genetics

All living organisms, modem and primitive, carry a genetic code, which is passed on from one generation to the next, the DNA. The DNA is the plantilla of organisms so that their offspring will carry the characteristics of the parents. The vehicle of this genetic code is the gene. The genes on the other hand, are built in larger structures called chromosomes. The science that deals with the study of heredity is genetics. Today's genetics encompasses such revolutionary techniques as genetic engineering and cloning.

Response and Adaptation

All living organisms respond to the conditions of the environment in which they live in two ways. First, is day-to-day response as the organism undergoes through its life cycle, as influenced by weather, biological rhythms, and the like. The second is a long-term response called adaptation. Harsh changes of the environment may force organisms to adopt to such conditions, otherwise they perish. The survivors carry the acquired characters and pass them on their offspring. Over time these characters may be accumulated, ultimately setting the conditions of evolution in which case new species may arise, a process called speciation. This is the basis of the Darwinian principle of evolution summarized in a very simple phrase, “survival of the fittest".

Re-creating Life through DNA

While we look at these criteria to guide us in differentiating living and nonliving things, we cannot help picture in our mind "Jurassic Park" which showed the possibility of re- creating a long dead if not extinct organisms from its DNA imprints. If this will be true in the future, then life would assume a new dimension, and therefore a new definition. We would think of the day when organisms or tissues "sleeping" in cryonics laboratories would be brought to life, in a similar way the DNA of a dinosaur was reconstructed to life.

But whatever breakthroughs about life that science and technology shall bring, we do recognize that there is but one and only source - an Omnipotent Being – who is the Author of life, the Creator of all living things, and the Maker of the whole universe. ~

NOTE: This lesson provides a framework for further studies in biology and related studies. On the other hand, it can be simplified for basic instruction.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Garlic - Miracle Health Food and Medicine

By Dr Abe V Rotor

Garlic is Nature's most powerful anti-viral food and drug. I am posting this article in response to queries on what are other sources of substances that fight off viruses, other pathogens notwithstanding. This is particularly important because of the present threat of a pandemic caused by the swine flu virus or A(H1N1) virus. There are of course, other natural anti-viral food plants and herbals, fruits and vegetables generally, among them onions (Allium cepa) and kutchai (Allium tuberosum) which belong to the same family of garlic - Liliaceae.

Our native Ilocos garlic has more of the anti-viral

Basang, an auntie and yaya of mine, used to treat kabag (gas pain) with garlic. She would roast two large cloves over candle, crush and wrap them with a piece of cloth, and while still warm, apply the bandage around both my large toes. She made sure that the garlic covers the joint at the base of the nail. While doing it she inaudibly said some prayer imploring divine intervention. And indeed, relief came and calmed me down.

“The garlic draws out the gas,” she explained. “But before the trapped gas is released, garlic relieves tired and cold nerves, frees cramped muscles, drives out tension, and restores normal body temperature.” This is what people call traditional medicine - or natural medicine, as some put it. Today, the term natural is more than just the use of herbals known to be effective, but also includes the enhancement of normal healing without the side effects of synthetic drugs.

Many years later when I suggested to our family doctor to apply the same remedy to my own children, he just smiled and scratched out a prescription, which the patient was to take every after meal. Meantime to relieve the pain, he gave Carlo, my youngest son a tablet, which soon made him comfortable. I only knew the brand and generic name of the medicine but how it worked was not explained as vivid as Basang described the roasted garlic wound around my large toe. Oh well, that is the difference between traditional and modern medicine.

Since the advent of modern medicine, the medicinal value of garlic has been virtually forgotten, and this once powerful panacea has been relegated to the kitchen. The fact is that garlic is the oldest recorded herbal remedy to a long list of human afflictions, dating as far back to the ancient Chinese and Egyptian civilizations.

Ancient Healing with Garlic

We do not know when garlic was first used as food or medicine, but in a book, Calendar of Hsia, written 4000 years ago, it tells us how the followers of Emperor Huang-ti who happened to have eaten a poisonous plant were saved by eating wild garlic they called suan. Since then garlic became an important Chinese herbal medicine.

Garlic bulbs were found in the tomb of the celebrated Egyptian king, Tutankhamen, an evidence of the inscriptions of earlier pyramids describing garlic as food and medicine. The Israelite slaves who built the pyramids drew their strength and nourishment from garlic. And the bible mentioned how Moses and the Israelites sorely missed it while they were crossing the desert and fleeing Egypt. Garlic as food and medicine is also mentioned in the Koran, in the writings of the Babylonians, Greeks and Romans. The Vikings took garlic among their provisions in long sea voyages.

In the Middle Ages, Jewish superstition suggested that carrying garlic bulbs would protect a person from the dreaded pestilence, the Bubonic Plague, which decimated the population of medieval Europe by more than one-third. The scientific explanation of course, is that garlic has antiseptic and anti-microbial properties against the bacterial pathogen, while its volatile oil repels the flea vector (Xenopsylla cheopis). But during those times the magic of garlic was ascribed to superstition that it drives evil spirits, a belief many still hold today. In the provinces we still see garlic hanging at the doorway and around the house for fear of aswang and manananggal, monsters of the evil world who scare and even hurt people.

Origin of Herbolarios

Don’t you know that the great Greek doctor, Hippocrates, applied garlic on a variety of diseases, including leprosy? Hippocrates, the “father of medicine” and author of the Hippocratic Oath, code of ethics in the medical profession, made garlic popular as treatment for wounds and toothaches, and as diuretic and laxative.

When the Romans conquered the Greeks, many of the medicinal practices such as the use of garlic were continued. The Roman doctor Dioscorides spoke highly of garlic. To wit:

It is sharp, biting, wind-producing, and excites the belly, dries out the stomach, creates thirst and reduces growths on the skin. If eaten it helps eliminate tapeworm. It drives out urine. It is good against snakebite with wine or when crushed in wine. It is good against the bite of a rabid dog. It makes the voice clear and soothes continuous coughing when eaten raw or boiled. Boiled with oregano, it kills lice and bed bugs. It doth clear the arteries. Burnt and mixed with honey, it heals white skin spots, herpetic eruptions, liver spots, leprosy and scurvy. Boiled with pinewood and incense, it soothes toothache when the solution is kept in the mouth. Boiled flowers is good for bath to help the coming of menstruation. xxx”

Why these are the very things our local herbolarios are practicing! Could it be that natural medicine spontaneously developed along with the evolution of man and his society?

(A subject that deals with the natural relationship between man and plants – ethonobotany – is offered at the Graduate School of the University of Santo Tomas, and other universities as well.)

Garlic - “White Gold”

From the economic point of view, garlic is regarded as a high-value crop with farmers earning as much as three times more than rice or corn. Generally, garlic is planted soon after the rice crop is harvested in November or early December. It is harvested before summer sets in. The two Ilocos provinces comprise the garlic capital of the Philippines, contributing up to eighty percent of national production which is equivalent to 15,000 metric tons, well worth above P100 million a year. However, with the present globalization policy, imported garlic mainly from China, is threatening the local garlic industry. Imported garlic is very much larger in size and cheaper, although our own is more pungent and aromatic, which means that it contains higher levels of phytochemical substances.

The Wonders of Garlic

Garlic not only makes food more appetizing and aromatic, it also has various healing and herbal qualities.

Garlic, a bulbous crop, is easy to grow. It can be potted or planted in plots or an empty container. Have you noticed that its cloves, when left alone, begin to shoot even without a medium? Which only goes to show that this crop can be grown even by an inexperienced gardener.

Garlic is not only easy to grow, it is a must spice in every home. It is also healthful and medicinal. In the book Calendar of Asia, written 4,000 years ago, the followers of Emperor Huang-ti, who happened to eat a poisonous plant, were saved by eating wild garlic they called suan. Since, then garlic has become an important Chinese herbal plant.

A. Power Food

Garlic bulbs were found in the tomb of the Egyptian pharaoh, Tutankhamen. Inscriptions on pyramids describe garlic as food and medicine. The Israelite slaves, who built the pyramids, drew their strength and nourishment from garlic. And the Bible mentioned how it was sorely missed by Moses and the Israelites while they were crossing the desert after fleeing Egypt.

Garlic, as food and medicine, is also mentioned in the Koran, in the writings of the Babylonians, Greeks and Romans. In the history of the Vikings, garlic was also among the provisions in their long sea voyages.

B. Supernatural Powers?

In the Middle Ages, Jewish superstition suggested that carrying garlic bulbs would protect a person from the dreaded Bubonic plague, which decimated the population of medieval Europe by more than one-third. The scientific explanation, of course, is that garlic has antiseptic and antimicrobial properties against the bacterial pathogen and its volatile oil repels the flea vector. During those times, however, the magic of garlic was ascribed to superstition. Just like in the provinces, where people still hang garlands of garlic to drive away evil spirits, vampires and witches.

C. Advent of Herbolarios

The greatest Greek doctor, Hippocrates, applied garlic on a variety of diseases, including leprosy. During his time, garlic became a popular treatment for wounds and toothaches, and as diuretic and laxative. Hippocrates is better known as the “father of medicine” and author of  the Hippocratic Oath, which doctors take before joining the medicinal profession.

When the Romans conquered the Greeks, many of the latter’s medicinal practices, such as the use of garlic, where continued. The Roman doctor Dioscordes spoke highly of garlic. “It is  sharp, biting, wind-producing, excites the belly, dries out the stomach, creates thirst and reduces growths on the skin. If eaten it helps eliminate tapeworms and drives out urine. It is good against the bite of a rabid dog. It makes the voice clear and soothes continuous coughing when eaten raw or boiled. Boiled with oregano, it kills lice and bed bugs. It clears the arteries. Burnt and mixed with honey, it heals white skin spots, herpetic eruptions, liver spots, leprosy and scurvy. Boiled with pine wood incense, it soothes toothache when the solution is kept in the mouth. Boiling the umbel flower is good for bathing and helps the coming menstruation.”

D. Phytochemicals in Garlic
What secrets really has garlic for being a powerful medicine? Paul Simons in his book, Garlic, the Powerful Panacea, did an extensive research on the phytochemical properties of garlic. These are:

1. Allicin - This substance is believed to be largely responsible for giving garlic its anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory effect.

2. Alliin - Garlic is often known as Russian Penicillin and the Russians believe, as do many other scientists, that this is the substance that produces its antibiotic activity.

3. Di-sulphides - These are believed to have a cholesterol lowering effect, which help control cholesterol and other fats within the arteries and blood vessels.

4. Anti-haemolytic Factor - It is claimed that this is responsible for the beneficial effect of garlic in the treatment of anemia.

5. Anti-arthritic Factor - Japanese research teams investigating arthritis and similar conditions claim this factor to be present in garlic.

6. Sugar Regulating Factor - It was reported in 1973 that garlic is useful for treating some forms of diabetes. It is this factor that is believed to be the cure.

7. Anti-oxidant Factor - Garlic has been shown capable of helping prevent foods from going  rancid and spoiled. Garlic is a natural food preservative. It helps in digestion and breakdown of toxic substances.

8. Anti-coagulant Factor - Garlic contains certain active substances which prevent blood from coagulating, thus benefiting heart conditions.

9. Allithiamin - This special type of vitamin B1 has been isolated from garlic and has beneficial properties as defense against infection.

Garlic as an Aphrodisiac

In Philippine Herbs to Increase Sexual Vitality, a book written by Dr. Romualdo del Rosario, Dr. Delia Ontengco (1999), and the author, garlic was described as a powerful aphrodisiac. Its use as an aphrodisiac is widespread among Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Chinese, Japanese, Swedish and Germans. The East German pharmaceutical journal Die Pharmazie says garlic is especially suited for men and women of climacteric age because it contains compounds related to sex hormones.

The aphrodisiac effect is also associated with the fact that it makes food more appetizing, stimulates secretion of gastric juices, increases the appetite, tones up the organs, builds stamina and strength, and generally contributes to a feeling of well-being.

Nutritional Composition of Garlic

What nutrients do we get from garlic? According to the US Department of Agriculture, raw garlic gives 31 percent carbohydrate, 6 percent protein and 0.2 percent fat. It contains 61 percent water.

As to minerals, a 100-gram dried sample has the following mineral contents:
• Calcium - 29 mg,
• Phosphorus - 202 mg,
• Iron - 0.5 mg, and
• Potassium - 529 mg.

Calcium is important for our bones, while Phosphorus is important in the proper functioning of our brain and nerves. It fact it is called the “brain element”. Iron aids in the oxygenation of the body. Its deficiency is manifested by anemia, docile and sickly condition. Potassium maintains our heart and muscles healthy and strong.

As to the vitamin content of garlic, based on 100 grams raw sample, Vitamin B1 (thiamin) and B2 (riboflavin) comprise 0.25 mg and 0.50 mg, respectively. It is Vitamin C that is very rich (15 mg). The Vitamin B family prevents arthritis and rheumatism, enhances sexual vitality, and it is allied to rejuvenation. Vitamin C on the other hand, prevents scurvy, and aids in the absorption of Iron, thus help in the oxygenation of the body. People who lack vitamin C may experience bleeding gums, slow healing of wounds, frequent colds and infections, and shortness of breath.

Garlic Smell – a Pest Repellant

It is the peculiar smell that makes garlic a natural pesticide. It is one of the insect-repelling plants grown to protect many crops. How is this so? Here is a tip for gardeners. Plant some garlic around plots, between rows and among the plants to be protected from insects. Just the odor of the growing garlic is sufficient to repel destructive insects such as grasshoppers, aphids, mealy bugs, fruit flies and caterpillars, as well as those residing in the soil like crickets and grubs. And if there are thrips and mites around, they are attracted by the garlic which then serves as trap crop, thus saving the other plants like cabbage and beans. The trap crop (infested garlic plant) is then rouged and burned together with the eggs, young and adults of the attacking pests.

Why don’t you try making your own garlic insecticide? This is the procedure prescribed by the Rodale Herb Book.

1. Chop 75 grams garlic cloves and soak in 50 ml vegetable oil for 24 hours.
2. Mix this in 575 ml water in which 20 grams of powdered soap has been dissolved.
3. Stir well and strain with old nylon stocking, and store in a glass jar. Do not use plastic or metal container.
4. You can dilute this mother mixture one part to 20 parts water, down to 1 : 100, depending on the level and kind of infestation.

Entomologists at the University of California reported that even low concentrations of crude garlic extract could kill at least 5 species of mosquito larvae. Mosquitoes are vectors of dreaded diseases like malaria, dengue and encephalitis. Further experiments using refined extracts were found to be more effective. The author has successfully tried the formula against kiti-kiti (mosquito wrigglers) by directly applying the solution in the stagnant water and along canals where the mosquitoes breed.

Garlic is environment-friendly. Unlike synthetic ones, like DDT, organic phosphates and hydrocarbons – herbal pesticides are biodegradable and therefore, do not leave toxic residues that destroy the balance of nature and they do not enter into the food chain that may reach our dining table.

Many people do not like the smell of garlic though. It is really repulsive. The smell of garlic does not go well along fine culture, so some people say. On the other hand, good food does. To avoid the smell, take the garlic oil capsule or gel which is available without prescription. It is advisable to first consult the doctor since there are people who may be allergic to garlic extract.

Garlic is a health food and potent medicine rolled in one. Other than its culinary uses why don’t you try some sautéed garlic in oil or garlic with onion in vinegar? There goes the saying, “Garlic everyday drives the doctor away.”

x x x

References: Living with Nature in Our Times, by AV Rotor, UST Press; Philippine Herbs to Increase Sexual Vitality, a book written by Dr. RM del Rosario, Dr. D Ontengco and Dr AV Rotor (1999); and Garlic, the Powerful Panacea, Paul Simons