Thursday, June 30, 2011

Ruins, Ruins, Ruins

Dr Abe V Rotor
Ruins through time (Castle ruins in Cairo, Egypt) Painting by AVR

Ruins through abandonment, Vigan Ilocos Sur
Ruin of a lost culture (Greco-Roman architecture), San Vicente, Ilocos Sur

Ruins of fire (Old Comelec building) Intramuros, Manila

Ruin of colonization. Sinking Tower of Laoag, Ilocos Norte

Ruin of industrialization giving way to modernization. Paco, Manila

Ruin of a watchtower, Bantay, Ilocos Sur

Ruin of a convent, San Vicente Ilocos Sur

Ruin of a past industry - Indigo Vat for making indigo blue dye. San Vicente, Ilocos Sur

You treasure the past, history on your lap,
Noble and shame, proud and tame;
Tell to the tourists, it doesn't matter now;
Will the wind of change be the same?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Part 2: Practical Pest Control at Home

Frogs, such as this Green Pond Frog, are the most
common natural predators of pests in the field.

Abe V Rotor

Here are pest control techniques you can adopt at home.

1. To control furniture weevil and moths which destroy the felt and piano wood, place a teabag of well-dried and uncrushed black pepper in the piano chamber near the pedals. Paminta is a good repellant and has a pleasant smell.

2. Coconut trees whose shoots are destroyed by rhinoceros beetle (Oryctis rhinoceros) can be saved with ordinary sand. If the trees are low, sprinkle sand onto the leaf axils (angle between the leaf and axis from which it arises). Sand contains silica that penetrates the beetle’s conjunctiva, the soft part of the body where hard chitinous plates (hard outer membrane) are joined.

3. To control bean weevil (Callosobruchus maculatus), an insect that destroys stored beans, especially mungo, mix a little ash of rice hull (ipa’) and spread it in a way that sand kills the rhinoceros beetle.

4. To get rid of nematodes (microscopic elongated, cylindrical worms) in the soil, incorporate chopped or ground exoskeleton (skin) of shrimps into the soil, preferably mixing it with compost. Chitinase is formed which dissolves the cover of the egg and the body of the nematode. Use poultry dropping to reduce nematode population in farms and gardens.

5. To control the cucurbit (plants of the gourd family) fruit fly (Dacus cucurbitae), wrap the newly formed fruits of ampalaya and cucumber with paper bag. Bagging is also practiced on mango fruits. For ampalaya use newspaper (1/8 of the broadsheet) or used paper, bond size. Roll the paper into two inches in diameter and insert the young fruit, folding the top then stapling. Bagged fruits are clean, smooth and light green. Export quality mangoes were individually bagged on the tree.

6. To keep termites away from mud-plastered walls, incorporate termite soil (anthill or punso). To discourage goats from nibbling the trunk of trees, paint the base and trunk with manure slurry, preferably their own.

7. Raise ducks to eat snail pest (golden kuhol) on the farm. Chicken and birds are natural insect predators.

8. An extra large size mosquito net can be made into a mini greenhouse. Underneath, you can raise vegetables without spraying. You can conduct your own experiments such as studying the life cycle of butterflies.

9. Plants with repellant properties can be planted around the garden. Examples of these are lantana (Lantana camara), chrysanthemum, neem tree, eucalyptus, madre de cacao (Gliricida sepium), garlic, onions, and kinchai (Allium tuberosum).

10. To scare birds that compete for feeds in poultry houses, recycle old balls, plastic containers, styro and the like, by painting them with two large scary eyes (like those of owls). This is the reason why butterfly wings have “eyes” on them to scare away would-be predators. Hang these modern scarecrows in areas frequented by birds. To scare off birds in the field, dress up used mannequins. In some cases, the mannequin may be more effective than the T-scarecrow. Discarded cassette tape ribbon tied along the field borders scares maya and possibly other pests.


Part 1: Are there pesticide-free vegetables?

Abe V Rotor

This item was originally written as a response to queries about how certain we are that our vegetables are, indeed, safe from pesticides.

In general, leafy vegetables (e.g. pechay) and fruit (tomato) vegetables receive more chemical spraying than do root (potato) and seed (mungo) vegetables, but this is not always true as we will see later.

As far as our problem on pesticide is concerned, I would rather classify vegetables into two: those that do not need spraying at all, and those which can not be raised economically without the protection of chemicals.

For the first category, here is a list of 30 common vegetables in their common and scientific names. Farmers simply find them resistant to insects, mites, nematodes, snails, fungi, including weeds, rodents and birds. These vegetables may also be found in the wild, or in the open spaces.

1. Malunggay (Morinda oleracea)
2. Saluyot (Corchorus olitorius)
3. Wild ampalaya (Mamordica charantia)
4. Katuray (Sesbania grandiflora)
5. Batao (Dolichos lablab)
6. Patani (Phaseolus lunatus)
7. Sinkamas (Pachyrisus erosus)
8. Summer squash (Cucurbita maxima)
9. Native eggplant (round) - (Solanum melongena)
10. Native tomato (susong kalabaw) - (Lycopersicum esculentum)
11. Native sitao (short) – (Vigna sesquipedalis)
12.Seguidillas (Psophocarpus tetragonolobus)
13.Alugbati (Basella rubra)
14.Talinum (Talinum triangulare)
15.Native spinach (Amaranthus sp.)
16.Gulasiman (Portulaca oleracea)
17.Sweet potato (tops and root) (Ipomea batatas)
18. Kangkong (Ipomea reptans)
19. Pepper or Sili (labuyo) (Capsicum frutescens)
20. Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
21. Rimas or breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis)
22. Sayote (Sechium edule)
23. Taro or gabi (Colocasia esculenta)
24. Kamoteng kahoy or cassava (Manihot esculenta)
25. Ubi (Dioscorea alta)
26. Tugui’ (Dioscora esculenta)
27. Kadios (Cajanus cajan)
28. Banana (Saba) (Musa paradisiaca)
29. Sampaloc (Tamarindus indica)
30. Kamias (Averrhoa bilimbi)

Most of these vegetables are native to our soil and climate. Consequently, they have natural resistance to pests and diseases that would not spare other introduced varieties, especially those of foreign origin.

Tinkering with the genes of indigenous species erodes natural resistance. Our native rice varieties for example, although they are not top producers, are resistant to pest, drought, flood, can compete with weeds, and do not need much care. Genetically “improved” rice varieties became pampered with fertilizers, water, planting distance, thorough soil cultivation, and most specially, spraying with insecticides and fungicides. They are likened to our present breeds of animals. Our poultry today can no longer thrive in the open, whereas our native fowls are “self-supporting”.

This is true with many vegetables. That is why commercial vegetables throughout their life cycle are provided with a “chemical blanket” to protect them from the onslaught of pests and diseases, many of them became destructive as a result of induced mutation. Indiscriminate chemical spraying has been found to build biological specialization so that certain insects and pathogens, which survive, carry on their acquired resistance to the next generation.

To the farmer this means more frequent sprayings at higher dosages, with elevated toxicities. This is what is happening today with many vegetables bought in the markets. The sector least heard of regarding this dilemma is the pesticide industry because it greatly benefits from it.

Pesticides are believed to be the most common source of poison that causes liver and kidney ailments. They affect our nervous system and impair our senses. They have long been tagged as a major cause of cancer, diabetes, allergy and other physiologic disorders. Because most of the pesticides today are synthetic chemicals, our body cannot readily degrade and excrete them. Instead, they tend to accumulate until a threshold level is reached that leads to many health problems.

Let us look at the second category of vegetables: those which are grown successfully only with the aid of pesticides. Without pesticides, they cannot survive the attack of pests and diseases.

The most sprayed vegetables are the crucifers – cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, mustard, celery, carrot, pechay, wonbok, and the like. The pesticides used on them are the most potent brands, leaving no chance to caterpillars ensconced in deep holes, mites in the roots, and aphids in leaf axils. The poison must be absorbed and distributed throughout the plant so that any insect that feeds on the sap is sure to get the poison and die. This is why such poisons are called systemic, which means that they are translocated in all parts of the plant from roots to tips of stems and leaves, to flowers and fruits. The sap carries them in the same way substances are carried and distributed by blood to all parts of our body.

Poisons of this kind are also used on cucurbits (melons, watermelons, cucumbers, upo, squash, patola and ampalaya). The principal enemy is the fruit fly (Dacus cucurbitae), which lays eggs on the young fruits. Mango growers also use systemic poison to protect the fruits from another species of fruit fly, Dacus dorsalis. Mango importing countries like Australia, Japan and the United States impose strict regulations against fruit flies, which also attack other fruits and vegetables, like oranges and bananas, endangering their local fruit industries.

There are vegetables that may have been sprayed long before they are harvested such as peanut (Arachis hypogea) and mungo (Phaseolus radiatus). Rice and corn are relatively safe from the pesticides sprayed on them during their growing period. It takes at least 20 days for the grains to set and mature, ready for harvesting. By this time, the sprayed chemical has leveled off safely. It is the protective spraying before and during the storage of the grains that must be strictly regulated as this can leave harmful residues.


Today's Environmental Revolution - 3 philosophies

Dr Abe V Rotor

Three philosophers have three formulas of an environmental revolution.

Rudolf Bahro,
author of The Alternative, claims East Europe’s non-capitalist road to industrialization has been shaped by the same growth ideals and methods as has Western capitalism, and that the working classes of both West and East have the exploitation of nature and the Third World as common. Defending their own societies’ privileged positions on the world market, both camps add to global inequity. For which Bahro calls for a new social movement – the environmental movement, a grand coalition of people’s forces, a rebuilding of society from the bottom upwards.

Ivan Illich on the other hand, criticizes modern society and its failure to cater to human needs. He believes that the privileged today are not those who consume most but those who can escape the negative by-products of industrialization – people who can commute outside the rush hours, be born and die at home, cure themselves when ill, breathe fresh air, and build their own dwellings. People must arm themselves with the self-confidence and the means to run their own lives as far as possible, especially as big institutions like schooling, medical care and transport today are creating more problems than they solve. Politics is no longer a simple Left-Right choice; man must have a choice of energy, technology, education, etc., he calls vernacular values.

According to Andre Gorz the ecology struggle not as an end in itself but as essential part of the large struggle against capitalism and techno fascism. He champions a civil society shifting power from the State and political parties to local community and the web of social relations that individuals establish amongst themselves. The State’s role is to encourage self-management among the citizens. He envisions a Utopian future where “the citizens can do more for less,” and the development of a rich, all-round personality.

Definitely, while we need a revolution to save our environment, any means that is contrary to peace and unity, is definitely unacceptable. And we would not adhere to the rule of force or violence just to be able to succeed.

It is said, that revolution starts in a small corner. It could start in each of us.

x x x

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Eight Fields of Intelligence - Self Evaluation (same post, transferred)

Dr. Abe V. Rotor

Assignment in Communicatuion and Socio-Cultural Change
(CA217, Faculty of Arts and Letters, University of Santo Tomas. Ist Semester 2011-2012

What is the relevance of this exercise with the subject - Communication and Socio-Cultural Change?

Here is an exercise on Multiple Intelligence. Make three columns on a regular bond paper. On the left, list down the eight realms (copy from this article). On the middle column write your score for each of the 8 items.

Use 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). On the right column write the rationale (explanation) of each of your score. This exercise may take 30 minutes to one hour. It requires concentration and objectivity. Author and guests at the former SPUQC Museum

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, Hilary Clinton, 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? Van Gogh founded the school of expressionism - self expression in art.

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, top tennis players Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, 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, Wright Brothers, Thomas Edison, 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, Charisse Pempengco – name your favorite. Josh Groban, Charlotte Church, Pavarotti, Boccelli, Steevi Wonder, Nat King Cole, Elvis Preistley, Michael Jackson, are great singers. 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 Piñas Boys, and the UST Choral Ensemble, have won international fame.

7. Spatial intelligence (drawing, and painting, sculpture, architecture, photography) - This is a story about Pablo Picasso. He 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. Yet Picasso became one of the world's greatest contemporary artists. 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 likened the Filipinos under Spain as Gladiators of Rome in his masterpiece, Spolarium. Fernando Amorsolo's paintings of rural scenes remain unequaled to this day.

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 after Aristotle.

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.~

People's Green Revolution: Agribusiness and Biotechnology on the Village Level

Dr Abe V Rotor
Welcome to Living with Nature - School on Blog

Assignment: Communication and Change (Socio-cultural, economic and environment) Faculty of UST Arts and Letters. After reading this article, what biotechnology product is found nearest your place, or in your hometown? How does this particular commodity relate to the thrust of our subject? Please summarize. (Handwritten on regular bond, one page only).

This is also a lesson on Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (People's-School-on-Air) using the same article as guide. (DZRB 738 KHz AM Band, 8 to 9 o'clock in the evening, Monday to Friday

Mineral water is prepared by treating ordinary drinking water with malunggay seeds. Three or four crushed mature seeds are soaked for three hours to kill any germs and to allow particles to settle at the bottom. Transfer treated water into smaller bottles leaving behind the sediments. Place in ref to chill.

Home biotechnology products: padas (fish) bagoong,and peanut brittle. Manaoag, Pangasinan.

Home industry: rice cakes - patupat amd tupig (photos). Also suman, pinipig, tinubong, bucayo, bibingka. Natural yeast and other beneficial microorganisms extend shelf-life and improves taste. Vigan, Ilocos Sur

Basi table wine of the Ilocos Region sold in tourists shops. Basi is made from sugarcane, brewed and aged in earthen jars (burnay). San Vicente, Ilocos Sur

Cultured mushrooms: Shitake and Pleurotus. Tagaytay


Nature works silently through her invisible biological agents. We wake up to the fresh aroma of coffee, chocolate, vanilla, the cured taste of dried tapa, tinapa, ham and bacon – all these are products of a mysterious process we generally call fermentation. Aged wine is mellower, cured tobacco is more aromatic, naturally ripened fruits are sweeter, dried prunes, raisin and dates have higher sugar content and have longer shelf life. Why many foods taste better after allowing them to stand for sometime! Take suman, tupig, puto, bibingka, and the like. Thanks to the myriads of microorganisms working in our favor even while we are asleep.

The vast potential uses of microorganisms - bacteria, algae, fungi and the like - in providing food, medicine and better environment to supply the requirements of our fast growing population and standard of living are being tapped by biotechnology. Biotechnology hand in hand with genetic engineering will likely dominate the Green Revolution of this century – the fourth since Neolithic time. But will this be a Green Revolution for the people?

Biotechnology is not new

My father, a gentleman farmer, was a brewer. He inherited the trade from my grandfather and from previous generations. I still use today the good earthen jars in producing the same products – basi, the traditional Ilocos wine, and its by-product, natural vinegar - using the same indigenous formula.

The making of basi and vinegar, as well as a dozen other products of sugarcane, like panocha, pulitiput, kalamay, sinambong, and kinalti, is a traditional cottage industry in the Ilocos region which is traced back to the Pre-Hispanic era when hundreds of small independent brewers like my father lived comfortably on this once flourishing industry.

Things appeared simple then. But time has changed. We know that sugarcane has long been planted with rice, legumes and vegetables, but it sounds like new in modern parlance with terms like crop rotation or crop diversification. Making of wine, vinegar and confectionery products are under agro-industry. Because the process generates profit, we call this value-added advantage. So with the tax that is now slap manufactured products. To determine the business viability of a business we determine its internal rate of return (IIR) and its return on investment (ROI). Brewing today is agro-processing and an agribusiness. And my father would be called not just a proprietor or entrepreneur - but as a business partner since family members and relatives share in the operation of the business. Possibly his title today would be general manager or CEO.

Things in my father’s time have become outdated, shifting away from traditional to modern. But it is not only a matter of terminology; it is change in business structure and system.

Big business is name of the game

Like many other village industries, the local breweries bowed out to companies that now control the production of commercial and imported brands. The proliferation of many products and the inability of local products to keep up with the growing sophisticated market have further brought their doom. Definitely under such circumstances the small players under the business parameter of economics of scale find themselves at the losing end. Bigness is name of the game.

Monopolies and cartels now control much of the economy here and in other countries. Transnational companies have grown into giants, that one big company far outweighs the economy of a small country. Today agribusiness and biotechnology are corporate terms that are difficult to translate on the village level and by small entrepreneurs.

All these fit well into the present capitalistic system that is greatly under the influence of IMF-WB on borrower-countries, and terms of trade agreements imposed by GATT-WTO on its members, many of which reluctantly signed the its ratification. Under the capitalistic system there has been a shift of countryside industries into the hands of corporations, national and transnational. Take these examples.

Coffee is raised by millions of small farmers all over the world, but it is monopolized by such giant companies like Nestle and Consolidated Foods. Cacao is likewise a small farmer’s crop, but controlled by similar multinationals. So with tea, the world’s second most popular beverage.

Unfortunately this inequity in the sharing of the benefits of these industries is exacerbated by the absence of a strong and effective mass-based program that emphasizes countryside development through livelihood and employment opportunities. Multi-national monopolies thrive on such business climate and biased laws and program in their favor.

We import rice, corn, sugar, fruits, meat and poultry, fish, fruits and vegetables in both fresh and processed products, when in the sixties and seventies we were exporters of the same products. We were then second or third in ranking after Japan in terms of economic development.

“Small business is beautiful”

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

Let me cite particular areas of biotechnology in which small entrepreneurs play a vital role and which they have proven themselves successful in one way or the other.

The first group involves the production of alcoholic drinks and vinegar through fermentation.

These products are

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

Vinegar from sugarcane brewed and seasoned in earthen jars or burnay. Bantay, Ilocos Sur

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Development Models on the Grassroots

It is for this reason that the NACIDA – National Cottage Industry Development Authority – was organized. And truly, it brought economic prosperity to thousands of entrepreneurs and families in the fifties to sixties. This concern for the common tao made Ramon Magsaysay the most loved president of the Philippines.

South Korea for one in the late sixties, saw our PRRM and NACIDA models and improved on them with their SAEMAUL UNDONG development program which ultimately brought tremendous progress in its war-torn countryside.

In Tanzania, one can glimpse similarities of our program with LAEDZA BATANI (Wake up, it’s time to get moving), a rural development program. The Philippines stood as an international model, recognized by the WB and ADB, for our countryside development – cottage industries, farmers’ associations, electric cooperatives, rice and corn production program, which made us agriculturally self-sufficient and net exporter of rice.

We developed biotechnology in farm waste utilization through composting with the use of Trichoderma inoculation, and in natural rice farming by growing Azolla in lieu of urea and ammonium nitrate. Another area of biotechnology is in the retting of maguey fiber, which is a work of decomposing bacteria. These and many other people-based approaches to development projected the image of then President Ferdinand Marcos among greatest nation builders like Mao Tse Tung, Chiang Kai Shek, Park Chung Hee, Dr Mahathir, Sukarno, Lee Kuan Yu, among others in the Western hemisphere - leaders who brought their respective countries out of the Thir World syndrome. There is but one abnd common denominator of progress in these countries, and that is development at the grassroots, or the so-called bottom-up development.

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

Cultured tainga ng daga (Auricularia). It is a giant compared to the native species growing in the wild.

Important organisms for biotechnology

Spirulina (blue-green alga or Eubacterium) - high protein, elixir.
Chlorella (green alga) – vegetable, oxygen generator
Pleurotus and Volvariella (fungi, mushroom) – anti-cancer food.
Azolla-Anabaena (eubacterium with fern)– natural fertilizer
Porphyra, red seaweed, high-value food (“food of the gods”)
Hormophysa (brown alga) – antibiotics
Eucheuma (red alga) – source of carageenan, food conditioner
Gracillaria (brown alga) – source of agar, alginate
Sargassum (brown alga) – fertilizer and fodder
Saccharomyces (fungus, yeast) – fermentation
Aspergillus (fungus) – medicine, fermentation
Penicillium (fungus) – antibiotics
Caulerpa (green alga) – salad
Leuconostoc (bacterium) – nata de coco, fermentation of vegetables
Acetobacter (bacterium) – acetic acid manufacture
Rhizobium (bacterium) – Nitrogen fixer for soil fertility
Nostoc (BGA or Eubacterium) – bio-fertilizer
Ganoderma (tree fungus) – food supplement, reducer
Halobacterium and Halococcus (bacteria)- bagoong and patis making
Lactobacillus (bacterium) lactic fermentation, yogurt making
Candida (yeast) – source of lysine, vitamins, lipids and inveratse
Torulopsis (yeast) – leavening of puto and banana cake
Trichoderma (fungus) – innoculant to accelerate composting time.
Rhizobium resides inside these nodules attached to the roots of leguminous plants. This bacterium fixes inert N2 gas into soluble NO3 or nitrate which is then absorbed and used by plants.

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

Three Green Revolutions

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

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

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

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

Biotechnology for people and environment

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

1. World’s population increases from today’s 8 billion to 10 billion well within 20 years.

2. Agricultural frontiers have virtually reached dead end.

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

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

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

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

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


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


Green Revolution for the masses

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

Alternative Food

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

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

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

Environmental Rehabilitation

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

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

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

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

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

Let me cite the success of growing Azolla-Anabaena on ricefields in Asian countries. This is another biofertilizer, and discriminating consumers are willing to pay premium price for rice grown without chemical fertilizer - only with organic and bio-fertilizers.

At one time a good friend, a medical doctor and gentleman farmer, Dr. P. Parra, invited me to his Azolla farm in Iloilo. What I saw was a model of natural farming, employing biotechnology in his integrated farm –

Azolla for rice,
• Biogas from piggery,
Rhizobia innoculation for peanuts and mungbeans,
Trichoderma for composting.
• Food processing (fruit wine and vinegar)

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

Genetic Engineering

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

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

Medicine and Natural Food

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

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

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

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

4. Mushrooms have anti-cancer properties.

6. Cyanobacteria prolongs life, restores youthfulness.

7. Yeast is a health food

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

9. Carica and Mamordica extracts for medicine and health food

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

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

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

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

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

x x x

The Living with Nature Handbook, AVR-UST

Monday, June 27, 2011

Part 1: Humanities weaves a beautiful tapestry of humanity

Abercio V Rotor, PhD
Living with Nature - School on Blog
Dedicated to teachers and students of Humanities, a 3-unit subject in college.

Lesson: Humanities is like Janus, not because it has a happy face and a sad one at the opposite, but because students taking up the course are divided, in the same way our brain is divided into two. Well, perhaps there are those who are more inclined to the reasoning left, while others on the creative right. The ideal however, is a well-balanced use of both hemispheres, and a healthy tandem that brings a wholesome and holistic use of our faculties. Through humanities, we learn to use properly reason and imagination, logic and creativity - in fact, the eight realms of intelligence - in our everyday life, and in our pursuit of our ambitions and dreams.

Humanities as a subject and course focuses on four fields of art, namely, spatial (painting, sulpture, architecture, creative photography, literature ( prose and poetry), music and drama which are usually combined, together with the others, into what we call performing art. These, through their themes and applications are link to the various disciplines, from theology to natural science. In fact, humanities takes us to the highest plane of goodness and beauty and peace.

Monument of Fr. Miguel Benavides, founder of the University of Santo Tomas, now on its 400th year (quadicentennial). UST is well known for liberal arts, the precursor of all fields of knowledge.

Son, what do you remember as the happiest moment in your life?” asked a dying old man on his deathbed.

“When we went fishing, dad, and caught fireflies on our way back to camp.”

The old man held the hand of his son tight, and smiled looking at him. “Thank you.” It was a parting sealed by the sweetest memory of life - childhood, love and nature

1. Humanities brings out the sense of awe and wonder

Humanities brings out the sense of awe and wonder, specially to the young, of the things around, of life processes and cycles, the passing of seasons and ages. It makes one aware of even the minute existence of things, the transformation of the ordinary into something beautiful.

Wonder the summer night, camping by a lake, home outside of home,
no walls, no roof but the sky, stars and fireflies mingle in the dark;
Wonder the breeze blow and weave through the trees, comb the grass,
carry into the sky kites of many colors flying under the rainbow’s arch.

“The sense of wonder is indestructible, that it would last throughout life, an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantment of later years.” Says Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring. It is true, the sense of wonder prepares the young to face the world and conquer it.

2. Humanities builds on the framework of truth and values

Fewer words set the mind to explore, giving way to imagination, over and beyond reason. Brevity is the framework of the mind, the heart and spirit in the Lord’s Prayer and the Gettysburg Address of America’s most loved president, Abraham Lincoln. It is a path to humility in greatness. It unites the classic and the contemporary.

If the story of the Creation can be told in 400 words, if the Ten Commandments contain 297 words, if Lincoln’s immortal Gettysburg Address was only 266 words, if an entire concept of freedom was set in the Declaration of Independence in about 1,300 words – it is up to some of us to use fewer words, and thus save the time energy, vitality, and nerves of those who must read or listen. (Jerome P Fleishman)

3. Humanities brings out the human spirit

Guernica, a plaza mural made by the greatest modern painter Pablo Picasso, ignited popular revolt against the Nazi regime. On his huge mural were cleverly embedded images that conveyed principles of truth and freedom, and secret call for action.

Similarly, in an earlier era, our own hero Juan Luna painted Spolarium, (centerpiece of the National Museum), a mural depicting the Filipinos under Spanish rule suffering like the gladiators during the Roman times, a visual message for the people to realize their plight. Later Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere, one of the greatest books ever written in the category of War and Peace by Tolstoy, and Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, extolled the rise of a new world order – post-colonialism and the birth of new nations.

4. Humanities brings tranquility in crisis

It may be strange to know that Winston Churchill, the great English hero of WWII, still found time to paint by the bank of the Thames. Arts bring tranquility in times of crisis, and elevate the senses on a higher plane of vision. Putting down his brush and easel, he would then return to the battlefield with greater revolve to save Great Britain from the raging war. And to a greater surprise, what was it that Churchill painted? Peace.

It was the other way around five hundred years earlier when the great Michelangelo who single handedly painted the huge ceiling of the Sistine Chapel would descend from the scaffoldings, exchanged his paint brush with sword and fought side-by-side with his benefactor the Pope, and when victory was apparent would climb back to finish his masterpiece. The result: the biggest composite mural that virtually brought God down to earth with the angels and saints, making the Sistine Chapel a microcosm of the Kingdom of Heaven.

5. Humanities is guardian of movements and schools

From the paintings of early man in the Lascaux caves in France, to the surrealism of Salvador Dali, humanities has kept faithful to the evolution of human creativity expressed in various aspects of human life, pouring out from palaces and cathedrals to the villages and streets. For arts no longer belonged to selected societies and cultures. Impressionism took over Romanticism and translated Realism on the grassroots, subsequently bypassing standards of perception, and permeating into the unconscious seeking expression and catharsis. Expressionism founded by Vincent Van Gogh opened a wider door to abstractionism that subsequently spilled into post-modernism.

“What’s abstract? a young art enthusiast
once asked, dutifully I answered:
“When you look through the window of a car
running so fast that views are blurred.”

“What’s expressionism?” an elder one asked;
“When the car stops, or just about,
yet still running inside, seeking, searching
for the spring of life to pour out.”

“And what is impressionism?” a third asked,
and I said: It’s sitting on a fence -
On one side Amorsolo, the other Ocampo,
It’s the spirit of art past and hence. ~

Humanities is the universal language of goodness, beauty and peace.


Part 2: Humanities weaves a beautiful tapestry of humanity

Dr Abe V Rotor

Humanities holds the greatest treasure of mankind." - AVR

"Humanities accompanies you through a valley of grandeur and beauty to a kingdom of no return - a singular experience in a lifetime." (AVR) Wall Mural, St Paul University QC

6. Humanities is guardian of change, of movements and schools

Propagandism and license are perhaps the greatest enemy of Humanities. The world was shattered by two global wars, and while recovering, laid in coma for half a century of cold war - the polarization into opposite ideologies that froze mankind at the brink of Armageddon. Humanities sought recourse through peace and understanding.

And as in the Renaissance, Humanities centered on rebirth and renewal of man’s faith in his destiny. Peace reigned the longest in contemporary times in spite of pockets of conflicts. And for a century or so Humanities blossomed into wide popularity and acclaim, and rich diversity which we know today, dominating media, commerce, industry and in practically all aspects of life, which often venture on the boundaries of humanities itself, through pornography, religious extrememism, aculturation, liberalism, among others.

7. Humanities is custodian and pioneer of the arts

Humanities gave the world the finest of human achievements and it continues to do so - timeless classics from novel to cinema, painting to photography, colonial design to high rise structures, stage play to TV and Internet show.

Man’s glory is akin to humanities - Venus de Milo, Taj Mahal, Borobodor, Eiffel Tower, Hallelujah, Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story, The Little Prince. to name a few. Name the wonders of the world, and those in a longer list, and humanities is there. It is there in the crowning glory civilizations and cultures.

Humanities discovered superstars like Elvis Priestley and Michael Jackson, and our own local sensations, Leah Salonga and Charisse Pempengco. It uncovers the genius of man in the past, bringing it to life, spanning the gaps of knowledge and history.

8. Humanities faces challenge of the cyber age

But arts also plunged into a deep and unknown global pool bringing across the world cultures heretofore unknown and untested, and riding on postmodernism into the chartless world of cyberspace. Which leads us to a puzzle, Quo vadis, Humanus?

9. Humanities elevates man’s reverence for life and Nature

And yet humanities is anchored on a strong foundation, none other than the place of his birth and his ascension into Homo sapiens - Nature. Reverence to Nature is reverence for life, the highest expression of man through humanities. From this relationship he finds inspiration in his arts and technology, in seeking knowledge and wisdom, and in enhancing the unity and harmony of creation, and among mankind into a living network.

10. Humanities is the keeper of the network of humanitiy

We are the World, the song that united the world by the compassion it created for the dying is perhaps the greatest humanitarian movement in recent times, originally USA to Africa in the eighties, and was repeated during the Haiti disaster twenty years later. Translated by different races, beliefs, ideologies into a common call, it brought consciousness to the whole world, that humanity is a network, a closely knit fabric beautifully expressed in the lyrics of the song -

There comes a time
When we heed a certain call,
When the world must come together as one.
There are people dying
And it’s time to lend a hand to life,
The greatest gift of all

We are the world
We are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So let’s start giving
There’s a choice we’re making
We’re saving our own lives
It’s true we’ll make a better day
Just you and me .

It is a most fitting tribute to mankind through this song, that no man is an island, that when somebody dies, a part inside each of us also dies, and for every man’s victory, we too, feel triumphant. Humanity is a beautiful tapestry, and Humanities is Arachne on the loom.~.


- weaves a beautiful tapestry of humanity
- brings out the sense of awe and wonder
- builds on the framework of truth and values
- brings out the human spirit
- brings tranquility in crisis
- is guardian of movements and schools
- aims at goodness and peace
- is custodian and pioneer of the arts
- faces challenge of the cyber age
- elevates man’s reverence for life and Nature
- is the keeper of the network of humanitiy ~

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Yes, you can paint a Mural! Confluence of Nature in Mural and Poetry

Yes, you can paint a Mural! Confluence of Nature in Mural and Poetry

Mural and Verses by Abe V Rotor

Living with Nature - School on Blog

Lesson: Convert those empty walls, dead end corridors, hanging spaces, blank concrete fences, into Nature mural. Bring Nature inside your home. Instead of facing a blank wall, you will enjoy watching a waterfall. Stair case among rocks is a good idea. Pavements appear wet as a stream flows by. This is of course in the imagination. A rock breaks monotony of space, it creates a hidden view. Trees give a feeling of strength and height, and make you imagine of many creatures living there. Make the cloud a curtain, which opens in part to reveal flying birds, a rainbow, peeping sun, a stairway to the "Lost Horizon."

Make mural painting a family affair. Write a story or poem about your mural. Call me through this Blog for assistance.

Confluence of Nature mural in acrylic on canvas, 9ft x 8 ft

Confluence of nature, unity in diversity,
where sky meets land, river flows to sea,
where time and space, matter and energy
are in union and joyful harmony,
omnipotence of no other but Thee.

Nymphaea wakes up in red, pink and white,
to the rising sun in glory and ease,
but ephemeral these flowers are at sunset
sinking into the night in peace.

Hurry up the bees, the flowers cannot wait,
hurry up the lovers to the morning chime,
the lonely, the old, the sick, the meek;
beauty to behold in the nick of time.

Mirage - vision beyond any sense,
not to the eye or the range of a lens;
the sun peeps under a cloak of green,
something stirs seen and unseen.

Do fish ever sleep?
I wonder like I wonder
if sheep ever sleep
on some grassy hill,
and the gentle fish
in a peaceful cove.

But where is that
peaceful cove
and that grassy hill?

Living on the edge, the land by the sea,
the woods on the levee
cling to the living and dead, new and old,
taming the cruel and bold.
Transient is life, it's just a breathe away;
make it long, we pray.
We live on the edge of time and space,
of mortality and grace.

Nothing is impermeable,
Nothing is impenetrable;
Ask the sun and the wind,
The human mind and will.

Rage with fire, burn the sky, bled the heart,
Fire the kiss of life, fire the kiss of death;

And when your petals fall, so with your seed,

Fire the kiss of death, fire the kiss of life;

And beauty the brief passing of time and grief.

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

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

Acknowledgment: Courtesy of Atty Lito and Dr Christine Doria. This mural graces their beautiful new home. The aura of the natural world makes it truly a Home, Sweet Home with Nature.