Dr Abe V. Rotor
Author, Living with Nature in Our Times (Recipient, National Book Award)
Author with family, Fr Vice-Rector, and Dean Sison (center) right photo
Some time ago a good old friend asked me, Abe how can you go back to nature? Are you going back to the farm. Don’t you like to live anymore in the city? Are you selling your car.
Yes, I answered. No not my car, that’s my only car. Yes, I can live with nature. Oo nga naman. We talked and talked, until we were back in our childhood – I mean, childhood. This was when my father got sick. And this is how I came to learn that chicken soup is good for one who is convalescing, yon’ galing sa sakit - nagpapagaling.
True. Totoo. Chicken soup is good for the convalescent. However, there are specifications of the kind of chicken to be served. First, it must be native chicken. Karurayan is the term in Ilocos for a pure white native chicken which does not bear any trace of color on its feathers. It is preferably a female, dumalaga or fryer, meaning it has not yet reached reproductive stage. It is neither fat nor thin. Usually the herbolario chooses one from recommended specimens. He then instructs and supervises the household in the way the karurayan is dressed, cut, cooked into tinola (stew) and served to the convalescent. He does not ask for any fee for his services, but then he takes home one or two of the specimens that did not pass the specifications. (The more affluent the patient is, the more chicken the herbolario takes.)
Chicken soup as a convalescent food is recognized in many parts of the world. Because of its popularity, chicken soup has become associated with healing, not only of the body – but the soul as well. In fact there is a series of books under the common title Chicken Soup - for the Woman’s Soul, Surviving Soul, Mother’s Soul, Unsinkable Soul, Writer’s Soul, etc. Of course, this is exaggeration, but nonetheless it strengthens our faith that this lowly descendant of the dinosaurs that once walked the earth of its panacean magic.
Try chicken soup to perk you up in these trying times - with all the rush, tension, various ailments, and expensive medication. Ika nga, bawal ang magkasakit.
But first, be sure your chicken does not carry antibiotic residues, and should not be one that is genetically engineered (GMO). By the way, I was a participant in the rituals made by this good herbolario. I was then a farmhand and I was tasked to get the karurayan. Our flock failed the test, but I found two dumalaga with few colored feathers. I plucked out the colored feathers and presented the birds to Ka Pepito. They passed the criteria. Three days after I asked my convalescing dad how he was doing. “I’m fine, I’m fine, now.” He assured me with a big smile.
Writing a book such as this needs advice. This time I needed one outside of the farm, and away from the village. There’s no one else to my mind but someone in the academe. I went to Dr. Lilian Sison, dean of the Graduate School of UST. Dean Sison went over the manuscript and after a few days, I went to see her again. In the message for the book she said the most beautiful things that encouraged me a lot to continue writing about Nature. She said, and I quote.
“Living with Nature in Our Times can be lumped up into one word - awareness. For today’s trend in progress and development, spurred by science and technology, and spun by globalization cannot undermine the need to answer a basic question, “Quo vadis?” (Where are you going?) To where are we headed as a civilization?”
Dean Sison continued, “Living with Nature in Our Times gives us practical knowledge that elevates our awareness on three levels: that of our perception of the things around us by our senses, that of our perception of the inner stimuli that affect not only our physical being but our psyche and emotion, and the third which occupies the highest level of awareness – that which is beyond mere perception because it requires us to imagine, plan and anticipate the future.
“Living with Nature in Our Times cautions us while walking on the busy lane of change. It reminds us to retrain our senses and to hone our sensitivity to better appreciate the best life can offer. Only when we are close to nature are we able to truly appreciate its exquisitiveness; only when we heed the old folks’ good advice can we truly appreciate the beauty and bounty of nature.”
I could say no more, overwhelmed by Dean Sison’s message. Then I realized. Mataas nga ang expectation ng reader sa libro ko! Did I write enough? Am I understood as much as the listeners to my radio program, Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid do? Baka naman hindi ako maintindihan ni Ka Pepe at si Aling Maria.
It was a weekend and it was the tail end the monsoon – the best time to be on the farm. I did the final editing of the book here – the farm where I grew up, where I got my stories, experiences I still remember, in a small town where I used to listen to old folks. This time I am one of them.
This same old good friend I told you earlier came to visit me. I took him out into the fields. It was harvest time and a time of festivities of sort in the fields. The maya birds came by hordes, A gust of wind blew and my friend winked, apparently napuwing. And he started rubbing his eyes. Huwag, I said. Just blow you nose. He laughed.
“Just do it.” I said. He did once, twice, each for each nose, covering the other. Harder. He looked amazed. The puwing is gone! Success! (You can try it later.)
My friend who grew up in the city complained again. “My tooth aches,” It’s lunchtime. Sayang. We were going to have lunch, picnic style beside a farm pond we call alug.
“Sumasakit din ang aking ngipin,” I said, … “na hindi ko matikman lahat nito,” savoring the aroma of the food being cooked. It’s like the proverbial grandmother’s pie.
“Hindi ako nagbibiro,” He said.
“Okay press the base of your jaw, like this,” and demonstrated how. Open your mouth and feel the attachment of the jaw, it’s the hollow part. Press it long enough until the pain subsides. He did it and held it there.
“Okay ka na?”
“Masakit pa rin.”
“Saan ba ang sumasakit?”
Para akong dentista.
“Doktor, nga si Dr. Rotor,” I heard a kindly old woman nearby.
“Dito sa left.” My friend opened his jaw. “
ang pinipisil mo, eh. Ang pinipisil mo as
ang kanan mong jaw.” Mali
A whole banana leaf was laid before us. We sat on the grass. A tabo of water was passed on to each of us to wash his fingers before eating. Then, like the old faithful Genie had arrived, we were partaking in a banquet no five-star hotel could match.
There were hito, martiniko, broiled medium rare on uling, pesang dalag (mudfish stewed with green saba and a lot of tomato and onion, and kuhol with tanglad. Rice is newly harvested upland Milagrosa! Miracle talaga sa bango at sarap. Everyone was quiet. How could you with your mouth full? Now and then a dog would come from behind begging, licking.
“How you eat this kuhol, my friend asked. Ganito lips-to-lips,” Matunog. It tells your host you like the food very much. “Ayaw, eh” Pukpukin mo muna ang puit.” Paano? Kumain ka lang. Then we had ulang (river crayfish). Hindi ba masakit kumagat yan? He whispered.
“Hindi naman alimango yan, eh. At patay na. Sigue kumain ka lang.”
With or without toothache, we had our fill.
Masakit pa ba ?
Ow.. Ouch.. Ow.. This time tiyan naman niya ang sumasakit.
Oo nga naman. Pag meron kang kaibigan na katulad nito. Either you want to live long or … forget him.
Living with nature is fun, live life best – it’s more than The Good Life. It is Renaissance Part 2. It is Postmodern Renaissance. It is Living with Nature in Our Times.
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Response Book Launching