Friday, August 31, 2012

Short Story: Lost in the Desert

Dr Abe V RotorOasis at Sunset, acrylic painting by Miss Anna Christina Rotor, circa 2002

He has been there for some time now filling up a well he made in the sand with water from the sea.

“What are you doing?” I asked nonchalantly, knowing what a silly thing he was doing. I acted like a teacher with the critical nature of one showing up.

“You know, you can’t really fill your well, or empty the sea either.” I said with an aura of authority.

He looked up at me and beamed a smile in the sun. He was not just pouring water into his well; he was decorating it with seashells, seaweeds, corals and plants growing nearby. He was making a landscape.

Fish were not biting that morning so I folded up my fishing rod and passed by the boy's well again.

Why it was an oasis model he made! Complete with a sandcastle, a pathway, a retaining wall and waterhole.  The boy was no longer there.

That was a long time ago when I had the luxury of spending a whole day or two fishing, when weekend is a day of leisure and unwinding from pressure of work.

Who cares about one boy out of millions of boys building oases and sandcastles? What is the boy’s name? Oh, the only thing that lingers in my head under graying hair is his lovely innocent face and charming smile.

Years later, in my last year in government service I was sent to Israel to attend a Food and Agriculture Organization sponsored conference. What a luck! A pilgrimage to the Holy Land!

Tourists in general, love to take side trips, and I am no exemption. After touring Israel “tracing the footsteps of Christ,” I decided to continue on to Egypt where the Holy Family, according to the bible visited. So I joined a tour from Tel-Aviv to Cairo via the Sinai Peninsula, crossing the Suez Canal.

In the middle of the desert, we the passengers were told to register somewhere at the border of Israel and Egypt, before reaching the Gaza Strip. We left our bus and proceeded to an isolated police headquarters. The inspector looked at my passport and started questioning me in Arabic. I didn’t understand a word. He presented me to the officer-in-charge who spoke a little English. He said they are on a lookout for terrorists who attacked a tourist bus. After examining my papers which included those about the conference I had just attended, he sort of apologized and let me go.

Outside I met a blinding sandstorm. I lost my way to my bus. When I saw it, it was already far and moving away. I ran after it shouting until I was exhausted. Was it a mirage?

When the sandstorm subsided I found myself alone. “Where is the station, the road?” I was talking to myself, feeling abandoned.

In the desert the reference for direction is the sun, and at night the moon and stars. I remember the pilot lost in the desert in The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery. And Coleridge’s Water, Water Everywhere about a mariner lost at sea.

The sun was now going down. I reckoned, “If you go west, you will reach the Mediterranean.” So I walked toward the sun. Sand trapped in my shoes made my feet sore. “Surely there are buses, cars and people around,” I said, always keeping an eye on the horizon.

But there was none. I remembered what the tourist guide said, “Vehicles travel on the Sinai in convoy. You can’t travel alone on the long stretch of sand.” What if my bus was in the last convoy for that day?

I had never felt so hungry and thirsty in my life, and now fear was creeping in. I was empty handed; I left everything in the bus. “Now where is my hand-carry bag? My medicine? My camera? I had left them, too. Why did my bus leave without me? They should have made a roll call, at least a headcount.” I was in soliloquy. I was like the old man in Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea talking to himself in the middle of the sea. “But he had a boat. I have none.”

I used to tell tall stories, “You know, I was assigned in very dangerous places,” referring to Cordillera and Samar island, bailiwick of bandits and rebels. But here the enemy is different - it is emptiness. And I would continue, “You know, I was twice taken hostage by dissidents and never gave in to their demands.” What if they tagged me an Arab terrorist! Here courage just turn into bravado, a kind of bahala na stance. I began to despair.

Sitting on top of a dune I imagined Alexander the Great searching for the Oracle at the Oasis of Siwa near Cairo. According to history he got lost, but how can a man destined to conquer the world get lost? That’s legend, and legends are for great people. And here I'm but a lost soul.

Oasis! That’s a bright idea. I could almost hear the melody of the song, The Desert is Hiding a Well. Yes, if I find date palms and olive trees, there must be an oasis nearby.” And perhaps people living there, and travelers passing by.

Climbing on to the crest of a taller dune reminded me of Golgotha. "I would rather die on top of sand dune than be buried under it." So I stayed there straining my sight to where an oasis might lie. Again I remembered the Little Prince, not the story but what he symbolized – inner vision, unending hope. I needed any kind of encouragement now. I was desperate.

Suddenly, something reflected at the foot of a crescent dune, hidden by another. Water?

Eureka! Eureka!

And down the dune I ran, sliding and tumbling, and in a record time reached a greenery of date palms and olives, a waterfall pouring into a small lake, its water shimmering with the rays of sunset. I cupped the precious liquid with my hands and immediately quenched my thirst. And slept.

I saw a boy repeatedly filling up a well he made in the sand with water from the sea.

“What are you doing?” I asked. “You can’t succeed filling your well, or emptying the sea either.” He looked at me, his face beamed in the sun, and continued with his craft.

When I returned I found a beautiful landscape - an oasis!

When I woke up I was in a clinic, in the same headquarters I was earlier interrogated. A search team found me unconscious of dehydration and delirious with high fever.

“What is the name of that beautiful oasis?” I asked. The attendants just looked at each other. One of them wearing a stethoscope said, “You need more rest. Tomorrow we will take you to Cairo”

Today, I care about that boy, and millions of boys making oases and sandcastles.

What is the boy’s name? It does not matter. For the best thing that lingers in my head under graying hair is his lovely innocent face and charming smile, and a lovely masterpiece he made. ~

Angalo, the Friendly Giant

Dr Abe V Rotor
Pinsal Falls, acrylic AVR

Imagine how big Angalo, the legendary giant of the Ilocos region is. One foot of his left an imprint on a rock in Pinsal falls in Sta. Maria, and the other has its mark way up north, somewhere in Magsingal, two towns in Ilocos Sur some fifty kilometers apart. He must be a giant indeed surpassing the size of King Kong or Gulliver in Lilliput. I once stood in his huge footprint and what a miniscule I must have looked.

We ponder on Angalo’s power, we kids of our time. He is friendly and helpful in our mind, just as our old folks told us in many stories, wrapping him up into one gentle giant. He would stop flood, hold mountains apart, stood guard against the sea, roll the clouds and bring rain. And we kids would like to be as strong and brave, friendly and helpful just like him. How could we have idolized one whom we never saw, one who exists only in our imagination? It was a child’s gentle way of growing up into a giant.

Although legends live forever, Angalo and his kind, have been lost in the jungle of characters created on the screen and cyberspace. ~

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Fright - Bond of Loving

Fright - Bond of Loving
Dr Abe V Rotor
Photo Courtesy of Miss Marian A Bassig

Kitten comes out of its hiding frightened.  It missed its master 
who had just arrived wet from the floods that hit Metro Manila 
for days.   

Strange this feeling, fright, 
that spares no one:
the wild, tame, the rational,
in danger seen, unseen, 

More strange this feeling
beyond self alone;
for loved one in danger,
real or in the mind. 

Strangest still at realizing,
the other unknowing
of shared fright,
the bond of loving. ~      

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

UST AB Assignment: Capturing Human Emotion in Photographs

Dr Abe V Rotor

Here are examples  of human emotion to guide you in your assignment. 

Describe each. What skill should a photographer develop to capture emotion? What does the term feelin' mean?

  Attach your answer to your printed assignment - your best shot of Human Emotion.
Submission on Friday.  AVR

Go for Fresh, Natural, and Locally Produced Food

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature - School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday

Theme: Live a healthy and long life with fresh, natural food produced in your locality

Saluyot and squash flower are a favorite of Ilocanos,
cooked as diningding (bulanglang Tag), rich in vitamins,
minerals and digestible fiber, free from pesticide residue.

Sinigang na samaral (malaga Ilk) with green pepper,
shallot (multiplier onion) and red ripe tomato.

Arusip or Caulerpa served as is, fresh from the sea,
excellent salad and side dish, with or without tomato,
onion and a dash of salt.

Kalabasang ukoy (squash, shrimp, egg and flour)
home recipe for breakfast and snack

Tupig wrapped with banana leaves (coconut meat anf milk,
glutinous rice and red sugar) cooked on charcoal

Caliente - ox hide softened under low fire, heavily spiced
with onion and pepper. Drinkers' delight (pulotan)

Get fresh, natural, and locally grown food. Lessen your dependence on fast food, processed and preserved food - they are not good to your health and they are generally expensive. The general rule is that, the longer and the more processed a food is, the less nutritious it is, and the more of health-related problems we encounter.

But you have to develop a keen sense - natural sense - in knowing what is fresh, what is safe, what is locally grown and not imported, and the ingredients a food may contain in terms of nutritional value, additives and possible harmful substances. And you must aim at geting your money's worth.

A. Always go for natural food

The rule of thumb is that, it is always preferred to eat foods grown under natural conditions than those grown with the use of chemicals. These are criteria to know if a food is natural.

• It must be fresh, or freshly packed

• It must be free from pests and diseases

• There are no harmful chemicals and artificial additives, including antibiotics residues.

• Food must not be tainted with radiation

• Natural food excludes the so-called junk food.

• It has been processed by natural means such as blast freezing, sun drying and the like.

• Packaging materials are safe to human health, animals and the environment.

• It meets standard organoloeptic test (taste test) and nutritional value requirements.

Don't take "magic sugar" (aspartame, nutrasweet, saccharine, zero softdrinks, diet cake, diet drinks). Powdered fruit juices generally contain natural and magic sugar (mostly aspartame). Read the label properly and be guided. Don't use MonoSodium Glutamate (MSG) or Vetsin, and other pseudonyms, in your cooking. When ordering food in a restaurant, specify not to use MSG. Don't eat in restaurants you aren't sure the food you are eating is spiced with MSG. Read more about the harmful effects of these two artificial food additives - Aspartame and MSG. Reference: Internet.
B. Get the best from your favorite fruits

1. Be keen with the appearance, smell, feel – and even sound – of the fruit before harvesting or buying it. There’s no substitute to taste test.though. Develop your skills on these fruits: mango, musk melon, soursop or guyabano and its relative, sugar apple or atis. Also try on caimito, chico, siniguelas, and such rare fruit as sapote.

2. To ripen green fruits, rub table salt on the cut stem (peduncle). Salt does not only facilitate ripening, it also protects the fruit from fungi and bacteria that cause it to rot. You can use the rice box-dispenser to ripen chico, caimito, avocado, tomato, and the like. Wrap the fruits loosely with two or three layers of newspaper before placing them inside the box. As the fruits ripen they exude ethylene gas that hastens ripening.

3. Bigger fruits are always generally preferred. Not always. Native chico is sweeter and more aromatic than the ponderosa chico. Big lanzones have large seeds. Bicol or Formosa pineapple, although not juicier, is sweeter than the Hawaiian variety. Of course we always pick up the biggest mango, nangka, caimito, watermelon, cantaloupe, atis, guyabano, and the like.

4. There are vegetables that are eaten as fruit or prepared into juice. Examples are carrot, tomato, green corn, and sweet green pea. Asparagus juice, anyone? Try a variety of ways in serving your favorite fruits. nangka ice cream, fruit cocktail in pineapple boat, avocado cake, guava wine. Enjoy the abundance of your favorite fruits, consult the fruit season calendar.

C. Do the processing yourself. Can you make Vrgin Coconut Oil (VCO) at home?

The price of this “miracle cure” has soared and there is now a proliferation of commercial brands of virgin coconut oil in the market. The old folks have been doing this for a long time. One such person is Mrs. Gloria Reyes of Candelaria (Quezon) who makes virgin coconut oil. This is the step-by-step process she follows.

1. Get twenty (20) husked, healthy, and mature nuts. They should not show any sign of spoilage or germination. Shake each nut and listen to the distinct sound of its water splashing. If you can hear it, discard the particular nut.

2. Split each nut with a bolo, gathering the water in the process. Discard any nut at the slightest sign of defect, such as those with cracked shell and oily water, discolored meat, presence of a developing endosperm (para). Rely on a keen sense of smell.

3. With the use of an electric-driven grating machine, grate the only the white part of the meat. Do not include the dark outer layer of the meat.

4. Squeeze the grated meat using muslin cloth or linen to separate the milk (gata) from the meal (sapal). Gather the milk in wide-mouth bottles (liter or gallon size).

5. Cover the jars with dry linen and keep them undisturbed for 3 to 5 hours in a dry, dark and cool corner.

6. Carefully remove the floating froth, then harvest the layer of oil and place it in a new glass jar. Discard the water at the bottom. It may be used as feed ingredient for chicken and animals.

7. Repeat the operation three to four times, until the oil obtained is crystal clear. Now this is the final product – home made virgin coconut oil.

Virgin coconut oil is a product of cold process of oil extraction, as compared with the traditional method of using heat. In the latter coconut milk is brought to boiling, evaporating the water content in the process, and obtaining a crusty by-product called latik. The products of both processes have many uses, from ointment and lubrication to cooking and food additive. There is one difference though, virgin coconut oil is richer with vitamins and enzymes - which are otherwise minimized or lost in the traditional method.

D. Rice is substitute, and a better one, to wheat flour.

Of all alternative flour products to substitute wheat flour, it is rice flour that is acclaimed to be the best for the following reasons:

• Rice has many indigenous uses from suman to bihon (local noodle), aside from its being a staple food of Filipinos and most Asians.

• In making leavened products, rice can be compared with wheat, with today’s leavening agents and techniques.

• Rice is more digestible than wheat. Gluten in wheat is hard to digest and can cause a degenerative disease which is common to Americans and Europeans.

• Rice is affordable and available everywhere, principally on the farm and in households.
Other alternative flour substitutes are those from native crops which are made into various preparations - corn starch (maja), ube (halaya), gabi (binagol), and tugui’ (ginatan), cassava (cassava cake and sago).

. Lastly, the local rice industry is the mainstay of our agriculture. Patronizing it is the greatest incentive to production and it saves the country of precious dollar that would otherwise be spent on imported wheat. ~

UST- AB Post Exam Review: The Death of Privacy. (Watch out, you are being watched!)

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature - School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM  8 to 9 evening class Monday to Friday

This article is reprinted from previous post in this blog for post-exam review. It is a topic deemed important to daily living, personal security, and for the general safety of everybody. Please include this lesson in your outreach project in the community. Or just among members of your family and friends.  It would be very valuable to warn children of the possible untoward consequences.  

Watch out, you are being watched.

Loss of privacy is exacerbated by modern technology. 
Someone is watching your every move – at the bank, on the Internet, even walking down the street. Our right to be left alone has disappeared, bit by bit, in Little Brotherly steps.” Says Time magazine in a special issue on The Death of Privacy. We are headed for an even wired unregulated, overintrusive  privacy-deprived planet.  Privacy is dying.

Our letters are no longer private on e-mail dispatch. IDs are also for time record, entry pass, emergencies, discounts.  We carry USP (removable disc or flash drive) which contains a library of information indistinguishable whether for private or public consumption.  And who cares, if you too, get access to the same unsolicited materials?

Don’t forget to lock up your personal computer; even then, be sure no one knows your PIN (personal identification number). One moment everything it contains is copied without your knowing it.  For hackers it's worst; you can’t keep your own files anymore.

Go to the mall, drop at the Post Office, pick up grocery, visit an ITM.  Waiting for a ride, speeding on a highway, practicing in a gym, promenading?  Anything you do, even in your rented bedroom, someone is looking at you through the electronic eye, an n-generation of the conventional camera, complete with sounds, and special effects, versatility likened to Hubs telescope or Skylab’s.     

In fact your organs are monitored on TV during diagnosis, more so during operation.  I saw my kidney bombarded by laser.  “Oh, you are awake,” my doctor was surprised.  “See, the stone is gone, the fragments are being flushed out.” It’s me I was seeing. I don’t remember if I passed out afterward that. 

Cell phone.  Yes, it’s a magnificent invention. You can be at any place at anytime. And with modern hybrids, you send and receive information to whomever without full control.  That is why clever people make a dummy of them and hide their reality.  This is your Second Person, your avatar, your clone, but you are soon to be discovered, and little by little your second person becomes your first person – you.

Good if it’s the real you as you would like to put your best foot forward, so to speak.  Somebody did some anatomical experiment, putting your face on another body, doing a thing you don’t like in a place your find impossible to be, attired differently, if at all.  And your dignity? “Oh, it’s not me,” you deny, but it’s your face people see. And this monster runs on the wire and soon you find yourself an international figure (disfigure). You are lost.    

Melly asked me if it’s all right to have a digital ID system.  Why not, who does not have one nowadays?  Even a kinder has one around the neck; college students enter the school premises by swiping their ID to show their face and number on the monitor, otherwise you are trapped and questioned. Remember terrorists are also in white.

But the worst and ultimate loss of privacy is in having a Personal Gene Map.  Since HGP (Human Genome Project) was launched and published, there will come a time each of us will be wearing a mini disc that contains the map of our chromosomes and their corresponding genes, and each gene carrying a specific trait from the color of your hair to your temperament. In short, genetic cartography reveals all our traits which doctor, insurance companies, prospective employers and spouses are likely to know. 

“Will the map also show loyalty, infidelity?” asked Melly.  I was speechless.  I was nodding my head in disbelief.  Why not? Hasn’t holism been re-defined by science and technology. Now what chromosome or chromosomes, and what gene or genes can we view the so-called inner self – conscience?  God, where is the soul to be found?

How are you spied on?

Bank machines – Every time you use an automated teller; the bank records the time, date and location of your transaction.

Prescription drugs – If you use your company health insurance to purchase drugs, your employer may have access to the details.

Browsing on the web – Many sites tag visitors with magic cookies that record what you’re looking at and when you have been surfing.

Cellular telephone – Your calls can be intercepted and your access numbers cribbed by eavesdroppers with police scanners.

Credit cards – Everything you charge is in a database that the courts and agents of law, among others, can look at.

Registering to vote – Voter registration records are public and online – if computerized.  They typically list your address and birth date, etc.

Making a phone call – The phone company does not need a court order to note the number you’re calling – or who is calling you.

Supermarket scanners – Many grocery stores let you register for discount coupons that are used to track what you purchase.

Sweepstakes –  In the US these are bonanzas for marketers.  Every time you enter one, you add an electronic brushstroke to your digital portrait.

Satellites – Commercial satellites are coming online that are eagle-eyed enough to spot you – and maybe a companion – in a hot tub.

Electronic tools – In many places, drivers can pay tolls electronically with passes that tip off your whereabouts.

Surveillance cameras – They’re in banks, office buildings, 7-elevens, even houses of worship; New Yorkers are on camera up to 20 times a day.  How about us in Metro Manila?

Mail-order transactions – Many companies, including mail-order houses and publishers, sell lists of their customers.  Why do you think you’re getting those catalogs?  

Senior Citizen discounts - You may get discount all right, but you also gave your identity. And you affixed your signature - which can be easily copied. 

Sending e-mail – In offices, E-mail is considered part of your work.  Your employer is allowed is allowed to read it – and many bosses do.

1.      Protect Yourself

2.      Just say no to telemarketers. Say, “I don’t take phone solicitations.”

3.      Consider removing your name from many direct-mail and   telemarketing lists.

4.      Pay cash whenever possible.

5.      Be wary about buying mail order.

6.      Give your Social Security number only when required by law.

7.      Think twice before filling warranty cards or entering sweepstakes.

8.      Be careful when using “free blood pressure clinics.”

9.      Avoid leaving footprints on the Net.

10.   Surf the Web anonymously.

If you can make it, disarm yourself of any electronic device on a weekend, and stay home. Take a vacation away from electronic devices.  It could be the best way of restoring a part of your privacy.  Set on mailbox, if not switch off,  your cell phone to enjoy your weekend or vacation.

 As people go to live in cities and high rise apartments, they give up privacy in the guise of freedom and modern culture. .
Advertisements break traditional customs, introduce a lifestyle that favors liberalism and consumerism.    

Why don't you list down other means, you can preserve or restore your privacy. (Optional assignment)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tree of War and Peace

Dr Abe V Rotor

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam 

If for any reason this tree has grown high,
Higher than any building, higher than the eye;
It was war, it was once a flag pole;
It was war that makes a proud soul.

If for any reason this tree is now bare and shrunk,

Their tops pruned, red flags once nailed on its trunk;
It is peacetime, two scores after the battle cry;
It is peacetime, and people just pass by.

x x x

Is it a sin to cut down a tree?

Dr Abe V Rotor

Living with Nature - School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday

In a conference-workshop a participant asked me, being the resource speaker on ecology. “Is it a sin to cut down a tree?”

The question is not to be taken literally, or jokingly either. It permeates into something bioethical. It is not the cutting of the tree per se – or similarly, the spewing of CFC in the air, or throwing mercurial waste into the river, that the issue should be examined. It is the destruction of the ecosystem, the disruption of the functioning of natural laws and processes, and therefore the integrity of whole system is the one that is at stake.

The unabated logging of the watershed of the once beautiful city by the sea – Ormoc City in Southern Leyte – resulted into an unprecedented massive mudflow that swept the central part of the community killing thousands of residents, and causing untold sufferings.

There followed after five years another massive landslide that claimed hundreds of lives near Maasin, Southern Leyte, burying a whole school with pupils and teachers conducting their classes at the time of the tragedy.

In Real, Quezon, scores perished in a similar incident, also attributed to the cutting down of trees on the watershed - or logging of the forest itself. These are becoming rampant cases not only in the Philippines but all over the world.

Yet the ethics and morality of these acts of destruction, particularly on the part of the loggers and their accomplices, were never given importance as much as that of the criminal offense committed. I would like to view these tragedies in the realm of theology, that of a paradigm of salvation.

According of Fr. Percy Bacani, it is a sin to harm the environment, because it causes people to suffer. How could it be that the culprits of these tragedies find salvation in the mere act of contrition - even without plowing back their ill-gotten wealth to rebuild the community and help nature regain its former state and stability? This is other than the compensation deserved by the victims.

This paradigm touches deep into the roots of moral philosophy itself and the foundation of ethical principles. It is embodied in the proclamation of the Vatican that destroying the environment constitutes a cardinal sin, one of the seven cardinal sins the church has lately affirmed.

Yes, it is a sin to cut down a tree.

x x x

Photography: Beauties in a Garden

Dr Abe V Rotor
Reference in Photography on Natural Beauty
Living with Nature - School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday

Hawaiian touch with white frangipani

Framed with orchids

Morning with the crotons

Atop a guava tree

A heavy veil of Mussaenda

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Giant Grass, Giant Men

Dr Abe V Rotor
Giant Bamboo - the biggest grass in the world, 
Museum of Natural History, Mt Makiling, Laguna

Kin of the cereals, the pasture grass,
the bamboo stands king of 'em all,
living all through the seasons green,
while its kind surrenders to the fall.

Mystic are its ways, proud it stands, 
whisp'ring stories spooky and tall, 
music to growing up children 
into brave men, seasoned and full. 

The world wouldn't be the same without,
men build churches, high rise and all,
their craft and art in their living huts
make the finest behind their wall. ~   

Can fish understand human music?

Dr Abe V Rotor
Author plays before a home aquarium of Oscar fish.  

I touch your senses with the violin
in a variety of tune and melody; 
I touch your world, and yours with mine,
together we make a fantasy.

I wonder what song you sing in water
if ever heard outside your realm;
The bleating lamb in Beethoven's ear,
thunder and the bubbling stream.

Do you  also sing a Brahms's lullaby
or San Pedro's Ugoy sa Duyan?
March with Mendelssohn's graduation, 
for real or just for the fun?  

My fish do not answer, they are dumb;
Or I can't hear and understand;
For worlds apart we are, sea and land
across a thin transparent sand. ~

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Beauty of the Beast

Beating hot summer, Agoo, La Union

Carabao herd, San Marcelino, Zambales

Detail of mural, Life on the Farm

Dell H. Grecia*
Women’s Journal
Backyard Ventures

Don’t underestimate the lowly carabao. In this country where modernization remains a distant dream, the carabao is still nature’s most efficient farm machine.

How much do we really know about the water buffalo or carabao?

The carabao is nature’s most efficient farm machine, capable of providing food, articles of trade and services. It requires little maintenance and depreciates very slowly. It also adds aesthetic value to the rural landscape.

Three factors are responsible for our renewed interest in the water buffalo. These are: 1) the worsening oil crisis; 2) the growing ecological concern; 3) the increasing demand for natural food.

Undoubtedly, the carabao is not only a beast of burden, but also a beast of hope in the Third World.

What about Mindoro’s tamaraw?

The tamaraw, or Anoa Mindorensis, is a related species as it belongs to the same family. Other off-lineages are the Anao depressionis of Sulawesi, Indonesia, and the seros or Capricornis sumatraensis of Sumatra.

There are only around 100 million heads of water buffaloes in existence today in 38 countries, mainly in the Asian region with India and China accounting to seventy percent of the population. We have around two million heads in the Philippines, 99.5 percent is raised in the backyard, according to the Philippine Carabao Research and Training Center. 

But just how important is the buffalo as a draft animal? Until recently 50 percent of the total available agricultural power in Asia is supplied by animals - most of which are water buffaloes.

Beef vs. Carabeef

The carabeef of a two-year-old animal is even better in chemical and nutritional value than beef. As for the taste, carabeef, provided they came from animals of the same age and raised on the same feeds, have similar qualities, including tenderness, flavor juiciness and general taste.

I also learned that the apparent aversion to carabeef is caused by the fact that nearly all carabaos slaughtered for meat are tired animals, which have fibrous meat with low nutritional value.

Better Than Dairy Cattle

Buffaloes have a longer lactation period, and produce a greater percentage of milk (over 2,700 kg per lactation) with higher fat content. In addition, they also have a much longer productive life. However, buffaloes have longer dry and gestation periods. They tend to be older at first calving, and have no longer calving intervals. These, among other factors, cause raisers to prefer dairy cattle to buffaloes.

Richer Than Dairy Cow’s Milk

Buffalo milk is richer in all major nutrients, which is important in creaming. Philippine carabao’s milk contains 9.65 percent fat (4.5 percent higher than Jersey’s cow’s milk), 5.26 percent protein, 4.24 percent total solids, 0.083 percent chloride, 0.216 percent calcium, and 0.177 percent phosphorous. Philippine carabaos also produce a higher fat and total solid content than any other domesticated buffaloes.

Our local soft white cheese is made from carabao’s milk. Local cheese is made in many parts of the world where buffaloes and cattle are raised. Laguna and Batangas are the country’s leading white cheese makers.

There are two cheese- making methods: one is the traditional method, which produces inferior cheese with low quality: the other is the improved method, which was developed by the University of the Philippines Los  Banos (UPLB). With the latter, both yield and keeping quality have been improved. One study even showed that the quality of white cheese produced through the UPLB method is comparable to that of European cheese.

More Notes on the Carabao

India exports millions of dollars worth of buffalo hide yearly. Next to jute and cotton, buffalo hide is the third largest industry in Pakistan. The U.S., UK, Yugoslavia, Italy and Australia are the major markets for buffalo hide, which is used in all types of heavy leather manufacturing- from belts to upholstery, and recently, even fashion articles.

Filipinos, on the other hand, love chicharon, a delicacy made from carabao hide, and kare-kare, which also contains buffalo skin.

Buffalo hair is also made into industry brushes and paintbrushes used by artists.

Promotes Ecological Balance

Raising water buffaloes likewise helps in maintaining ecological balance. For one, the mud in which they wallow serves as the habitat of useful organisms like edible snails, frogs, mudfish and shrimps. When the monsoon rains come, the population of these organisms increase, to the delight of farmers who depend on them for food.

Secondly, buffaloes also serve as agents-biological machines- that recycle farm waste and residues.

The excreta of the buffaloes are a good organic fertilizer containing 18.5 percent nitrogen, 43.7 percent phosphoric acid, and 9.6 percent potash. It is a good source of fuel, either as dried dung or for generating biogas.

Thirdly, it can be mixed with clay as a building material or as plaster for the ground where palay is threshed. When mixed with clay, it is excellent for sealing jars and other earthen containers.

When I was in Pakistan to attend a convention, along with half a dozen other Filipino agricultural journalists, I observed that houses in the countryside were made of a mixture of animal dung and clay.

Raising the Beast

Buffaloes, like cattle, can be raised in the ranch. In fact, there are now carabao ranches in the Philippines housing around 500 heads.

Buffaloes can also be raised by small farmers principally for meat and milk. An individual farmer can raise 10  fattening steers as year by planting good forage in an irrigated area and can make as much money from these as a successful rice farmer does. Raising carabaos is the perfect companion industry for rice farming, as water power, meat, milk, and organic fertilizer.


The sight of the carabaos reminds me of my farming days, back when I was studying at the Central Luzon Agricultural School (now Central Luzon State University) in Munoz, nueva ecija. And then, during the Japanese time, my father and I tilled our two-hectare farm in Balabag, Pavia, Iloilo.

When I was in agricultural vocational school, my group mates and I were lent a male crossbred buffalo (native bred with India Buffalo) to use in farming. (Second-and third-year students were required to complete a two-year rice farming activity, so we had to devote half a day to our farm work and the rest of the day to studying.) The buffalo assigned to us was docile and industrious- it could work rain or shine. We also saw to it that he was fed well, and we let him wallow in the mud.

After the two-year farming period, we found that parting from the animal was difficult, as we had learned to love him, and we felt that he, too, loved us back.

As for our harvest, the school bought them all, and the money was immediately deposited in our student bank to withdrawn once we graduated, so we had money for capital or for college education.

In our Iloilo farm, our male carabao was also a hardworking one. He was adept at plowing, especially in making straight rows, and in intertillaging, when plants-especially corn-needed tillaging.

One day, I was riding on the back of our carabao on my way to our farm. While crossing the lake, the animal got scared of something and suddenly stopped, tossing me, head first, into the muddy part of the lake. I could have drowned if it were it not for Ising, a cousin who happened to pass by.

My anger at the animal was short lived, though. I forgave him, and enjoyed many more journeys with it.~ ~

Acknowledgment: In memory of the late Dell H Grecia, long time friend of the author; Living with Nature in Our Times, 2006 UST Publishing House