Sunday, January 29, 2012
most massive standing Spanish tower in the
Philippines, it lost its crown to earthquake
in the sixties. Bacarra, Ilocos Norte 2009
Avenue QC, a blatant disregard to law, and indifference to
public order and decency. This bus, among thousands of
smoke belching vehicles, is supposed to have passed gas
emission test prescribed by LTO (Land Transportation Office)
architecture of the Renaissance and introduced by
the Americans during the Commonwealth era gives
way to modernization, Paco, Metro Manila
long time as people everyday pass by. Intramuros, Manila
acceptance its kindness;
forgetting its end."
Vigan, Ilocos Sur
earth caused by El Niño phenomenon. Photo by Nilo
Manalunsong, National Food Authority
more frequent tidal waves brought about by global
warming. Morong, Rizal
their rocky foothold as a result of increasing temperature
of sea water mainly attributed to global warming.
Sto. Domingo, Ilocos Sur
is depicted in this mural painting. Photo 2006
weather - and true to the prediction of old folks, it ushered the
start of the current El Niño plaguing the country and other parts
of the world. Photo taken at San Vicente Ilocos Sur, April 2009
Sugar mill chimney emits tremendous amount
of heat and carbon dioxide, as well as other
pollutants, an eerie night scene, Calatagan,
This dead kamachili tree provided shade and
edible fruits for some fifty years or so until a
barangay road was built beside it necessitating
pruning of its limbs that subsequently led to
its demise. Sagpat, Bantay, Ilocos Sur 2010
Saturday, January 28, 2012
Abe V Rotor
to scare or just for fun;
the goddess Maria Makiling,
and Helios, the sun.
I imagine the world without them -
without them around:
Children wouldn't be home before dark;
and dogs at night wouldn't bark?
Why sunflowers always face the sun,
and go to sleep when gone;
trespassers, beware, take the road instead,
unless you hold the labyrinth's thread;
over the hills and valleys thunder rolls
when angry Thor growls,
and mushrooms spontaneously appear
breaking the ground like spear;
phosphorescence fascinates us,
even after the fire has turned to ash;
look up, they’re but one - fireflies and stars,
fireflies are the missing stars;
holiest the altar of nature unspoiled,
where logging was foiled,
where the kapre lives in big trees,
and scares with a sudden breeze;
paddies sigh, bamboos creak and whisper,
unseen - creatures or not – slither.
The world is alive with tales and legends;
untrue yet true, for they are a twin;
and if you pass by a tree, stop and listen
to the spirit that throbs within.~
Friday, January 27, 2012
The Leaning Fire Tree
Actually there are thousands of leaning trees in Metro Manila that are pruned to keep them from touching power lines and communication cables running overhead. These are actually the few survivors, but sooner or later they too, will give in to the consequences of deprivation and the law of gravity. ~
Fire tree, burn and speak with rage,
before your flowers become your wreath;
burn the whole day through to its edge,
but never die with the sunset. ~
Abe V Rotor and Melly C Tenorio
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid
738 DZRB AM 8-9 evening Mon to FriForces of Nature Models, murals by AVR, 2010.
Nature is alive. She doesn’t sleep. She can only rest like fallowing, aestivation, hibernation. She is as gentle as breeze and rough like a storm at sea. She is discreet like alpha radiation, silent as a dormant volcano, suddenly waking up.
So with living things. They reproduce, form populations, reach a climax level and establish a niche. Populations interact, they compete. There is diversity. Balance of Nature is built this way and is always dynamic.
There are two general models to illustrate the forces of nature: cyclic and the non-cyclic, as shown in these paintings.
Model A: Cyclic Force of Nature
Model B: Non-cyclic Force of Nature
Every thing in the universe is governed by these two models. So on Planet Earth, in the living and non-living world, in our lives, the march of seasons, in the life cycle of organisms - they follow the concentric model, characterized by repetition as if it is a plantilla .
The second model is best shown by the relationship of matter and energy, by Einstein's formula of E=mc2. It is clearly illustrated in the duality of metabolism – anabolism (constructive) and catabolism (destructive), photosynthesis and respiration, respectively. The classical application of the second model in the transformation of energy from one form to another.
Distinct as these models may appear, the forces of nature are not fixed. There is gradual or sudden transformation from one model to another, from A to B and vice versa. This how is Nature’s healing power can be explained.
For example a typhoon disrupts the balance of an ecosystem, such as a forest (A to B). Trees are felled by strong wind, epiphytes and lianas as brought down by the death of their host trees, nesting birds are driven off. So with myriads of tenants in the forest. All these disruptions represent A.
As the swath of destruction across the forest heals – saplings take over the space of the fallen trees through the years, little by little the former residents return. In fact there are new ones that emerge. Food chains are restored. And food chains form interrelationships to form food webs and food pyramids. We call this process homeostasis (B to A). Then the forest once more becomes a balanced ecosystem (A).
The typhoon that caused such destruction follows also a pattern.
A typhoon by the way starts as a low pressure area. This is caused by differential heating of the atmosphere and surface of the earth by the sun, and in effect creates wind. Cold air is heavier than warm air, so that warm air rises and a low pressure is formed. Now the cold air moves in toward the low pressure area (Boyle’s Law), in the process develops into wind. Because of the nature of the rotation of the earth the wind also rotates, counterclockwise above the equator, and clockwise in the southern hemisphere. As the wind gains momentum it becomes into a cyclone or typhoon. Or hurricane in the South Pacific. Or a tornado. All these represent Model A.
What happens when the typhoon hits land? It slows down, dissipates by transferring its energy on structures of the land, on settlements and farms and forests. (A to B)
Nature is always alive. She doesn’t sleep. She can only rest like fallowing, aestivation, hibernation. She is as gentle as the breeze and rough like a storm at sea. She is discreet like mild radiation or bold like volcanic eruption.
But even volcanic eruption (B) is necessary. Lava fertilizes the surroundings, varies the topography of the land, in fact creates islands and atolls, which become symbols of peace and beauty of Nature (A). ~
Exercise: Here is a list of phenomena and events. Classify each one according to the two models and explain.
- Hurricane Katrina
- Higad season
- Migration of birds and animals
- Oil spill at Gulp of Mexico
- Earthquake in Haiti
- The Great Recession
- Birth and death of stars
- Rise and fall of the Roman Empire
- Pasig River before and now
- H1N1 pandemic 2009
- Adolescence and senility
- Chernobyl incident and aftermath
- Atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Abe V Rotor
"Sleep, so called, is a thing which makes man weep,
And yet a third of life is passed in sleep."
- Lord Byron, Don Juan
Buried deep so deep.
A tiny plant,
Lay fast asleep.
"Wake," said the sunshine,
"And creep to the light."
"Wake," said the voice,
Of the raindrops bright.
The little plant heard
And it rose to see,
What the wonderful,
Outside world might be.
Most farm crop seeds are probably dead after 25 years, even under favorable storage conditions. The alleged germination of seeds after prolonged storage in ancient tombs is known to be a myth. I had a chance to examine some authentic seeds recovered from a pharaoh’s tomb at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. The seeds were highly carbonized and have completely lost their viability. There are however, seeds of some plants in the wild that retain their vitality for 50 years or more. Dry arctic lupine seeds found buried in lemming burrows under 10 to 20 feet of frozen soil in the Yukon Territory in Canada, were able to germinate. Their assumed age is older than that of the Great Pyramid of Giza.
Vernalization – Overwintering of Crops
dormancy, which coincides with the rainy season.
The Russians found out that by pre-germinating wheat seeds and keeping them safe and healthy during the long winter, the young seedlings will resume growth immediately as the snow thaws. Much time is saved for the crop to grow, while its life cycle is significantly shortened. Before the winter sets in, the crop is already harvested.
Thousands of hectares have been placed under cultivation following this procedure. Seeds of wheat, oats and barley are planted in late autumn. They germinate and remain dormant under snow for the whole winter (overwintering), then resume growth in spring and harvested at the end of the short summer. Researches on the application of vernalization have successfully made other crops adapted to this kind of environment. Former wastelands in Siberia and Northern Canada are now productive farmlands.
Breaking the Dormancy of Wildlife Species
Aestivating snails, crustaceans and frogs ensconced in the bottom of rice fields are similarly liberated by the monsoon rains. Together with hito and dalag which aestivate in mud like the lungfish, they stir with the first contact with rain water, wiggling out to freedom in the flooded fields where they resume active life – growing, mating and reproducing – and migrating while the monsoon persists and whole fields are one contiguous lake.
These are biological feats that feed man’s fantasy to live long and postpone death.
1. The African lungfish buries in mud up to two feet deep in order to escape extreme drought and heat in the desert. It curls into a ball and seals its chamber with its own mucus secretion and there it aestivates for as long as four years in the absence of rain.
2. Garter snakes survive the long Canadian winter while remaining in burrows, or in extreme cases, encrust in ice. They are liberated only when the ice thaws in spring, and soon resume their normal activities. They grow, mate and reproduce before they hibernate again come next winter.
3. Snakes and other reptiles easily go for long periods without food. Snakes have been kept alive without food for almost two years. A python in captivity has been observed to go without food for a period of 13 months. Frogs can fast for 16 months and fishes for 20 months; land tortoise for a year and salamander for one and one-half years.
4. The most popular mammals that hibernate is the bear. Sustained by large amounts of stored fat, it sleeps in the entire winter in its den. Its normal body temperature remains the same in spite of its heartbeat reduced from 40 to 10 times per minute. Beware, a sleeping bear may be provoked at the slightest disturbance.
5. Bats in hibernation hang in caves, eat nothing, their hearts feebly beating and their breathing scarcely imperceptible. Through collective body heat the colony survives extreme cold and long winter.
Fasting – Mechanism for Survival
Fasting is a means of meeting exigencies of life. It is one of nature’s best methods of dealing with physiological problems. Take the hibernating bear, the aestivating crocodile, the sick elephant, the wounded dog – these fast in order to meet the problems before them. Fasting is indeed a very useful means of adaptation.
But how long can animals abstain from food? Let us look into these examples.
1. There were dogs that remained alive for 38 days without food. The longest survival record is 117 days.
2. Rats may survive after 5 to 6 days. Guinea pigs may last for 7 to 8 days without food, while rabbits can live for 15 days under strict fasting.
3. Spiders undergo incredible fasting, spinning webs daily from substances generated by their bodies. Spiders have been observed to exist without food for 17 months.
4. Unicellular organisms such as amoebae and paramecia can exist without food from 4 to 24 days. As a result they undergo diminution in size.
5. The larvae of a beetle, Trogoderma tarsale, that infest cereals can live for as long as five years without food.
6. The condor, like all other vultures, is capable of fasting for days. It gorges itself however, when it finds food.
7. Scorpions are known to have starved for 368 days.
8. A freshwater fish, Amia calva, can fast for 20 months.
9. Ticks can exist in an active state for as long as four years without eating anything.
10. A boa constrictor may remain inactive for months after a full meal. So with the anaconda in the Amazon jungle.
Deeper mystery shrouds our knowledge of Dormancy
It is practice to irradiate potato and onion before they are stored in order to retard sprouting. If radiation does not kill the embryo how does it induce dormancy?
Locusts may suddenly group and coalesce into a swarm. Like birds and other animals, migration is an adaptive mechanism to escape extreme conditions of the environment. Are these organisms not equipped with the gene for dormancy?
Deciduousness (complete shedding of leaves) of certain trees like the narra, occurs periodically but not necessarily jibed with the dormancy period. In fact some trees are even more luxuriant when other plants are dormant. We have little knowledge about the biological clock that dictates dormancy among different species of organisms.
Episodes of the Red Tide phenomenon caused by dinoflagellates, such as Pyrodinium, Peridinium, and Gonyaulax, are unpredictable. What predispose these organisms to bloom? How do they stay dormant in between seasons of occurrence?
This leads us to the epidemic cycles of certain human diseases. How do influenza viruses stay “alive” during off-season? What made H1N1 virus (swine flu) spread into pandemic in so short a time? When will its virulence subside?
How does HIV remain passive in an HIV positive patient? Bubonic plague devastated medieval Europe in three major waves killing one-third of the population. How do we explain alternate virulence and dormancy of the causal organism?
What really induce flowering? How does potassium nitrate induce flowering of mango during off-season? Why is it that old folk cut notches on the trunk of trees that are “lazy” to bloom? Then for whatever reason, the wounded trees come alive with flowers and fruits.
As I was writing this article, some birds came flying by and perched on a nearby talisay tree singing melodious songs that herald a new season - amihan. The Siberian winds have arrived. In the Northern hemisphere it is time for hibernation, in the South hemisphere it is aestivation. For many birds and animals, it is time for migration.
Except for humans, all living things take heed of Nature’s call. ~
Monday, January 23, 2012
Abe V Rotor
Ipil-ipil (Leucaena glauca), the miracle tree in the sixties and seventies has provided Filipinos much hope for cheap wood, fuel, paper, board, feeds, compost, and in reclaiming our denuded forests and wastelands.
The Department of Agriculture came up with a “litany” on the miracles about this tree. Ipil-ipil as a new source of dendrothermal power; ipil-pil for high-protein component feed for poultry, piggery and livestock; ipil-ipil as construction material, scaffolding, pole, furniture, toothpick, matchstick – to name a few.
Ipil-ipil can be used in the manufacture of organic fertilizer to reduce our dependence on imported chemical fertilizer. It is also used for rip-rapping, terracing and strip cropping to save our lands from erosion and desertification. It is an excellent source of firewood and charcoal for many homes.
Ipil-Ipil “Gold Rush”
The ipil-ipil fever spread throughout the country that no home lot or farm was virtually without this leguminous tree. Plantations sprouted. As a biologist I know that there are nitrogen-fixing bacteria (Rhizobia) which reside in its roots, adding to the fertility of the soil. With the tree continuously shedding off its leaves, there is free mulch with which to conserve water and control weeds choking the plants intercropped with the tree. Along levees four to six rows of ipil-ipil could effectively serve as windbreak, buffering strong winds and filtering the sand and dust that affect sensitive field and garden crops.
As Forest Wood Substitute
Because the wood is white, soft, and uniform grained, many entrepreneurs tried making toys and decorations such as fans, spin tops, picture frames, knife handles out of it. Since it is easy and fast to grow, it helps in conserving forest trees. This means we can spare harvesting our forests’ reserve. We can keep our narra, almaciga, apitong, and mahogany that are considered rare. Ipil-ipil is also a good substitute of acacia, a favorite of woodcarvers.
Because of its success as a plantation crop in Hawaii and Peru, we did not only import its technology, we introduced its varieties into the country, in favor of our own native variety which is small. In fact one would consider it a mere shrub which happens to be growing in places where no other plants grow, usually on scrubby and inclined slopes, wasteland where only the sturdy talahib and bamboo grow. The early uses for native ipil-ipil are firewood and bean poles.
On closer look the secret of success of the native variety is its tap root system. Few trees can grow on rock with their penetrating deep through cracks in order to reach deep-seated water. In the process, they pry off the rock itself helping in weathering it. And if it is adobe rock, the locked up nutrients are released as soil formation progresses. One drawback of the native variety however, is its high mimosin content.
Mimosin as Pesticide
“Don’t allow the goats to browse too much on ipil-ipil,” my father used to remind me on the farm. I would then secure the rope that restrains the animals feeding in the open. Years later I found out that the warning is based on the fact that mimosin causes poor growth (bansot) and falling of hairs in animals. I believe that early balding is one of the effects of drinking coffee clandestinely mixed with ipil-ipil seeds.
Initial experiments show that mimosin can be made into pesticide against weeds, insects and pathogenic fungi. It has been also observed that it repels insects such as flies and mosquitoes.
Re-vegetation of Corrigidor Island with Ipil-ipil
Our native ipil-ipil is perhaps the first plant used for rehabilitating wastelands in the countryside. Immediately after the war, sacks of native ipil-ipil seeds were air dropped on Corrigidor island at the onset of the rainy season. The project facilitated the re-vegetation of the war-torn island, and prevented it from further destruction, this time from the ravages of erosion.
What Wiped Out Ipil-ipil?
With the introduction of Hawaiian and Peruvian ipil-ipil varieties, the expected performance level in terms of fast growth, adaptation and yield were achieved. This stimulus caused universal acceptance of the new crop, creating a new field in agriculture: dendrothermal (or firewood) farming.
But the boom was short lived. Nobody knew that the foreign varieties also carried with them a deadly pest – the leafhopper of the genus Psylla of the Family Psyllidae, Order Homoptera, the same group of insects that are the scourge of many agricultural crops, such as the tungro leafhopper, aphids, scale insects and mealybug.
Cause of Widespread Infestation
In biology, natural enemies control a pest. If the enemies are not around, the pest multiplies rapidly. Despite quarantine procedures, the Peruvian and Hawaiian varieties carried the Psylla insect from their port of origin. Unlike in their native countries abroad, this pest while here, lost all natural predators. Thus the insect began to multiply to epidemic proportions. Thousands of trees, and plantations, succumbed to the pest.
This is how the pest attacks. First, it establishes a foothold on the young leaves and shoots, where it builds a colony. Being highly prolific the colony can explode into thousands of insects inside of a few weeks, nurtured in all stages of development by the virtually endless supply of nutrients from the growing tree.
The final blow comes when the insect drains the tree sap dry, stopping the growth of healthy shoots to replace the dying ones. Interestingly the bigger the tree is the more it is prone to attack and eventual starvation.
Homopterans are among the most adaptable of all insects. They are very small, reproduce rapidly and can adopt through seasons through alternate tree hosts. Having studied their unusual reproductive development, I have found that when stressed for food or due to a harsh environment, they can shorten their life cycle to accelerate reproduction. Under extreme conditions they either lay eggs prematurely or directly bear young. Sometimes nymphs can reproduce. Biologists call this phenomenon paedogenesis.
Abandonment of Ipil-ipil Projects
In the late 1970s many farms of ipil-ipil were laid waste by the insect. Owners cut down the trees prematurely. Tree, after tree, was felled not by the ax but by the ravages of the pest. But our own native ipil-ipil stood healthy, a proof of genetic resistance of the indigenous variety.
Friday, January 20, 2012
On the face of a wide blue sky,
Climbing on trees and rocks up high
That we see ourselves in the hands of time;
Through the mist we see children
Of many years back with Mark Twain's
Huckleberry Finn and company
On a meandering river to the sea.
Who is fishing there? Ahoy!
Only the tingling chime answers;
The childhood in us throbs, throbs
With the sweet music of time past. ~
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Dr Abe V Rotor
1. I love insects for their honey, the sweetest sugar in the world, elixir, energy-packed, aphrodisiac, therapeutic, the culinary and confectionery arts it makes;
2. I love insects for their silk no human fabric can equal - cool in summer, warm in winter, velvety to the touch, flowing and free, friendly to the wind and sun, lovely in the night, royal on the throne, smooth to the skin, hypoallergenic, dynamic to fashion and casual wear;
3. I love insects for their shellac, the best varnish that lasts for years, unequaled by synthetic substitutes; their wax, the best lubricant and natural polish that makes the dancing floor alive and schoolrooms happy.
4. I love insects for the resin they produce with certain plants which is used in worships, to bring the faithful to their knees, similarly to calm down fowls on their roost, drive vermin or keep them at bay, pacify and make peace with the unseen spirits;
5. I love insects for the amber, transparent rock originally from resin, which forever entrapped fossils of insects and other organisms, complete with their genes and attendant evidences of natural history, enabling us to read the past, turning back the hands of time in visual imagery;
6. I love insects for their crimson dye produced by certain scale insects that made the robes of kings and emperors, and only they were privileged to wear; likewise for their phosphorescence like the wing scales of butterflies that make the most beautiful and expensive paint for cars today;
7. I love insects for their medicinal substances they produce - antibiotics from fly maggot and soldier ants, cantharidin from blister beetle, formic acid for weak heart, bee sting for rheumatism;
8. I love insects as food, high in protein and minerals, elixir and stimulant, not only in times of famine but as exotic food in class restaurants, and on occasions that bring closer bonding among members of communities and cultures;
9. I love insects for all the fruits and vegetables, the multiplication of plants, geographically and seasonally, through their being the world's greatest pollinators; and in effect make the ecosystems wholesome, complete and alive;
10. I love insects for disposing garbage, of bringing back to nature organic compounds into elemental forms ready to be used again by the succeeding generations of living things.
11. I love insects for play, and for lessons in life - how they jump and fly, carry tremendous load which I wish I could, how they practice frugality, patience, fraternity, and how they circle a candle one lonely night and singed into its flame that inspires heroism and martyrdom;
12. I love insects for whatever nature designed them to be, their role in health and sickness, , sorrow and joy, ugliness and beauty, deprivation and abundance, even in life and death, for I have learned that without insects, we humans - so with many other organisms - would not be here on earth.~
Giant Earthworm, and earthworm castings, UST campus Manila
Abe V Rotor
A lazy farmer I’m, lazy is the word,
When every one is busy in this world.
Among them a degenerate annelid,
That does nothing all day but dig.
In the night gleans the lawn of waste
And grinds it into organic paste.
That nourishes all that lives around
And me always on the run.
With no time to farm, yet a farmer;
I’m Rip Van Winkle’s brother.
For I rely on the lightning and rain
That make the field green and golden.
Seasons to fallow the fields in summer
Then wake them up from slumber.
The bees that make flowers into fruits,
The Rhizobium feeding the roots.
The yeast that makes the finest brew
The rainbow’s promise in its view.
The sun the source of light and life
That unburdens a farmer’s strife.
And the earthworm, my farmhand
Takes over below the ground.
A lazy farmer I’m, lazy is the word,
When every one is busy in this world.
And if my friends call me Green Thumb,It’s the earthworm, true and dumb.