Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Panacea from Doctrine of Signatures

Dr Abe V Rotor

Living with Nature School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (People's School on Air) with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday

Panacea from steeped reptiles and herbals
in high proof wine, Ho Chi Min City, Vietnam.

The Doctrine of Signature was popular in Medieval Times or the Dark Ages. This is used in folk medicine even today. Snakes will make you aggressive, its poison will shield your body from disease, harm and extreme weather conditions. Cobra is a popular brand of products claimed to restore health. Rhino horn is elixir, it hardens your muscles and extremities. Liverwort (a bryophyte, relative of the moss) cures liver ailment. Ginseng root resembling a nude is aphrodisiac.

I can imagine how lizards and spiders transfer their power to man. I wonder if we get the agility of sharks and eels by eating a lot of them.

Then there is the belief of maternal impressions - pinaglihi-an. We can't explain the origin of looks and abnormalities through maternal impressions as we cannot scientifically attribute well-being to parallelism.

Both Belief in Maternal Impressions and Doctrine of Signatures have long been discarded by modern medicine and science. If however, there are testimonies to the contrary - there are other factors responsible, among them is faith. Faith is the fountain of hope, respect, self-esteem, and reverence to a Higher Principle. ~

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Sungka - Asia's Friendly Feudal Game

Sungka - Asia's Friendly Feudal Game 
Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (People's School on Air) with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday

Sungka (pronounced SOONG-kah) is a game played on a solid wooden block with two rows of seven circular holes and two large holes at both ends called "head". This game is called mancala in the US. It is also known as "count and capture" or "sowing game" in English. The latter moniker is because seeds are sometimes used instead of shells or stones. Filipinos ordinarily use cowrie shells. 

Sungka, a favorite family game in the 
Philippines and Asian countries 

The Language of Sungka 

If you can't hold but vent your ire,
and wish your opponent harm
by fire, quagmire, and death,
and surprise him to disarm,

If you are seeking a battle  
in silence, save the clicking
of cowries in the lazy air,
whatever means of winning 

By the sleight of the hand,
or distract your enemy,
surreptitiously skipping
traps by hiding a cowrie.

If you play the ruthless Nero
while Rome is burning;
and your opponent raids 
the bounty you're keeping,

In words unpleasant, unkind,
yet devoid of real meaning 
in incessant exchange.
either winning or losing.

Winner and  loser come to terms  
in sweet notes that friends remain,
and peace reigns once again -
play of the sungka game.    
                                  Sungka, another indigenous invention, Calatagan, Batangas
Rules in playing sungka 
1. The game begins with 49 game pieces (shells, marbles, pebbles or seeds) equally distributed to alternate holes - seven pieces in every other hole - except "heads" which remain empty. Sungka requires two players. Each player controls the seven holes on his side of the board and owns the "head" to his right. The goal is to accumulate as many pieces in your own "head".

2. The first player removes all pieces from the hole on the extreme left of on his side. He then distributes them anti-clockwise --- one in each hole to the right of that hole --- omitting an opponent's "head" but not a player's own "head".

3. If the last piece falls into an occupied hole then all the pieces are removed from that hole, and are distributed in the same way (to the right of that hole) in another round. This player's (current) turn ends when the last piece falls into an empty hole on the opponent's side.

4. If the last piece distributed falls into a player's own "head," then  the player earns another turn, which can begin at any of the seven holes on his side.

5. If the last piece distributed falls into an empty hole on his side, then the player captures all the pieces in the hole directly across from this one, on the opponent's side and put them (plus the last piece distributed) in his own "head". If the opposing hole is empty, no pieces are captured..

6. The other player chooses which hole he wishes to start from, removes the pieces and distributes them - one in each hole to the right of that chosen hole. If a player has no pieces on his side of the board when it is his turn, then he must pass.

7. The game ends when no pieces are left in any hole on both sides of the board. The players now count the number of pieces in their own "head" and see who has won.

This game (with variations) is also played in other Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia where it is known as "Congkak."

(Acknowledgment: Internet - ASEAN/Philippines Sungka, on rules of game)

Parable of the Five Trees - Folk Wisdom for Growing Up (Lagro-Laha Summer Workshop Lesson No 13A)

A Lesson on the Parable as a form of short story to convey a moral theme
Dr Abe V Rotor 

Living with Nature School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (People's School on Air) with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday
 Parable of the Five Trees in Acrylic by AVR

Trees, like humans, also talk. They talk to one another everyday.

Actually the breeze passing through their leaves carry their conversations and even their songs and messages.

Only that we do not understand what they are saying, so we can only make inferences. For example, the rustling of their leaves and their outstretched branches touching one another, or some trees leaning to get close to others undoubtedly vouch this belief to the level of phenomenon.

The communication of trees runs through a network that enhances the unity and harmony of the ecosystem they form. Sometimes this kind of communication is perceived as queer, unintelligible sounds which made our ancestors believe there are spirits guarding the place like the deity Maria Makiling guarding the forest that is named after her.

Old folks advise us trespassers just to utter reverently "Bari-bari... Or tabi-tabi, po." when going through the forest or thicket.

One day five juvenile narra trees were engaged in a conversation.

Said one, "When I grow up and reach my fate to be cut down, I wish that I be made into a beautiful bed fit only for a king or queen."

The four trees began to have their own wishes, too.

Said the second narra, "I would like to be the mast of the tallest ship that travels fast and wide on the ocean."

Said the third, "I will make a fort, a strong fort, no invader can break through."

The fourth narra tree took some time to think, then said, "I'll be a tower to hold a big bell."

The fifth was the last to speak, but not outwitted. "Oh, in my case I would like to give all my wood to make the biggest temple of worship."

Years and years passed, and the trees finally reached full maturity. The woodsmen came and cut them down.

Guess what happened to the trees. Did all their wishes come true?

The first tree did not become a beautiful bed, but only a manger, actually a feeding trough in a secluded barn.

The second tree did not become part of a tall ship; it was made into a simple boat.

The third tree was not made into a strong fort, only a stem of it the size of a pencil and  became a writing tool of sort.

The fourth tree was not made into a belfry, but just one branch of it was made into a fine shepherd's crook.

The fifth tree failed to provide materials to build the largest temple of worship; two limbs were made into a cross.

So when Christ came into this world, he was born on a manger. It was comfortable enough on a wintry night?

When He became a shepherd, He looked for a crook and found a sturdy one to tend His flock of sheep.

As a Preacher He rode on a dinghy on which he delivered his sermons and told parables before the throng along the shores of Galilee.

When people were about to stone a sinner to death, He took a stick and wrote something on the ground, and on rising said, "He who has no sin cast the first stone." No one did.

Alas! When Christ was condemned to die, He carried a wooden cross and on it he was crucified. The cross became the symbol of Christianity.

When I went on a pilgrimage to the part of the forest where the five trees once grew, I found nothing but grass. There was complete silence as a beam of light from the sky shone on the spot where I stood. ~      

                   Reflection on the Parable of the Five Trees
Lofty are my dreams soaring far and wide,
     In boundless flight to nowhere;
in pursuit of wealth, power and pleasure,
     and confidence of a conqueror.

Blind of history, even as it repeats itself,
     In short-lived fame and fortune,
Yet models it presents to my ambitions
     In glitters, glory and grandeur.

All In youth’s craving, and craving still
     To believe dreams ne’er get old;
But time takes toll in dreams unfulfilled,
     And fate the judgment on earth.

Beyond lies a second kingdom few
     Can grasp – life’s real meaning;
Life’s purpose, stirrings of the soul
     To live in others, beyond the self.

How little do I know of the Fisherman,
     Born simple, preached love,
wrote justice, searched the lost lamb,
    died that humanity may live. ~
                                                                avrotor 2013

Kapre! - Writing Short Story: Folk Wisdom for Growing Up Summer Workshop Lesson

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (People's School on Air) with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday.

Balete has overgrown a church ruin in Magsingal, Ilocos Sur, a favorite playground for kids. Who says a kapre lives here?

“Did you hear that?” I was startled by a mysterious moaning in the dark. I switched on the headlight.
“What is it?” Cecille sleepily responded.

“It’s a strange sound, like someone agonizing.” I said while straining my eyes on the sugarcane fields on both sides of the road.
We had just parked along a newly opened road of the North Diversion somewhere in Tarlac that night. My wife and I were driving to Manila after a vacation in our hometown in Ilocos. I was so tired driving, I pulled our Ford Escort to the grass lane for a brief rest, and switched off the engine.
Then. “Did you hear that?” Cecille shook me. It was the same agonizing sound I heard earlier, and it was coming closer!
I switched on the headlight, and there stood at the opposite side of the road a tall figure the outline of the Colossus of Rhodes – black and hairy, so huge I could barely see his torso.
Instinctively I started the engine and stepped on the gas. Cecille moved close to me as the monster took another step toward us. We escaped in the nick of time.

Since then I became popular with children. “Tell us about the kapre!” And they would gather around clinging to one another. It reminded me of Lola Basiang, the story teller of folklores and legends.

My story became known to my friends and officemates  It was the cause of a meeting suddenly losing its agenda to the kapre. Everyone had something to say about the mythical monster. They talked about kapre living atop big old trees, along rivers and somewhere else. One related his experience while clearing the vines clinging around a large tree when suddenly he noticed blood dripping from above. He looked up. Kapre!

Old folks say there are different kinds of kapre. There is even one taking over abandoned houses and empty buildings. There is kapre in empty playgrounds, farms and pastures. Kapre in gambling places, like the cockpit, kapre appearing suddenly in a group picture.

Since then we didn’t have to stay in office late. We had to finish our work early so we would not be taking the stairway that is seldom used, or hear typewriters clicking when everyone had already left. We won’t be passing dark alleys on our way home.

Children who heard the story of the kapre would stop playing at dusk. The farmer looks at the leaves of acacia, and when they start drooping, starts walking for home. Everyone in the family must be home for supper.

Because of the kapre, trees are spared of the ruthless chain saw. People passing through thickets politely whisper, “tabi tabi, po.” Fishermen catch just enough fish for their family’s need. Harvest festivals are observed even if harvest is not good.

Indeed there are different kinds of kapre. And they abound everywhere.

When I was buying a new battery for my car and told the salesman how I encountered a kapre one dark night, he handed me a new brand of battery. “Sir, nakakasiguro kayo sa bateryang ito.” (Sir, you can surely depend on this battery.)~

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Photo Study of Maria Makiling in Summer

Dr Abe V Rotor
Maria Makiling profile, view from Pansol, Calamba , Laguna 
Reclining Maria Makiling profile on SLEX. 
Maria Makiling profile, lower half,  highway view at Calamba, Laguna 
Settlements and farms have invaded the lower slopes
Rain cloud combs the deity's profile, instead of veiling her to hide her aging landscape. 
Haze returns in the afternoon with the promise of rain as May approaches.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Blue Pond

The Blue Pond
Dr Abe V Rotor

The Blue Pond in acrylic (48" X 36") by AVR, UST Publishing House

It's summer here, 
yet autumn, 
leaves golden 
before they fall    
into litter, 

or drift 
on the pond 
blue as the sky;
all seasons 
come as one.

in Vivaldi's baroque
Four Seasons, 
Monet's fading light
and Van Gogh's
unmixed colors -

it's summer here
yet spring, 
fresh as blue ice
in winter 
to the eyes.

It's autumn,
and summer again
in the heart
with the brush
at hand. ~

Leaf Skeleton

Dr Abe V Rotor
Leaf Skeleton in acrylic, AVR 2013

The forest litter, layer after layer,
leaves fall, year after year;
for the earthworms, and the fungi 
and rain from heaven high.

Imprints of time, imprints of life,
footprints of passersby;
but neither the past nor future,
shall any living thing defy. 

life goes on, and on, ad infinitum
to hereafter unknown. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Child in a boat conquers the world

Folk Wisdom for Growing Up Summer Workshop for Children (Lagro-Laha)

Folk Wisdom for Growing Up Summer Workshop for Children (Lagro-Laha)
Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog [avrotor.blogspot.com]
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid  People's School on Air)with Ms Melly C Tenorio, 738 DZRB AM, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday 

  Features of the Summer Workshop
April 17  – May 13, 2013

1. Summer workshop for children of school age - 7 to 12

2. Recommended and sponsored by officers of Lagro homeowners Association

3. Class size: 25 to 30, preferably of equal gender

4. Venue and facilities: Laha Conference Hall, with working tables, blackboard,
proper ventilation. (Multi media and sound system, optional)

5. Attendance: ten sessions, three hours each, thrice a week; in addition  field trip, exhibition of selected works, and graduation.

6. Class rules: same as in school, on grooming, attendance, performance

7. Recognition: Grading and ranking, citations, exhibit award.

8. Lessons in 6 parts or chapters (list below).

9. Teaching method: Lecture-demo, hands-on, team work, field lecture,
tutoring if needed.

10. Broadcast Link: 738 DZRB Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday

11. Internet Link: avrotor.blogspot.com Living with Nature, School on Blog

12. Accreditation: Certificate of participation, UST Faculty of Arts & Letters faculty outreach program

13. Field lecture and on-the spot painting: La Mesa Eco Park

14. Special project: Exhibit of selected work, and graduation

15. Cooperating organizations: LAHA, LGU, UST, others

MWF 8 to11 AM, April 17 start of classes



Children come every Sunday afternoon to the house in Lagro. At first there were six, then two dozens -  children ages 7 to 13 years from the neighborhood. They call me Lolo Abe, their mentor.

They are in the grades and in high school and they are intelligent. And they are a happy lot. They like to come and want to know what I am doing with the microscope, how I mix colors and paint on canvas, play the violin, feed the fish in the aquarium. Or visit an mongrel dog I gave a home.

We meet under a covered front yard and under the trees. It is sort of extension class. Lessons were compiled and became a source book.  It has six chapters with thirty  articles.

1.    Keeping Tradition Alive
2.    Appreciating Nature’s Beauty and Bounty
3.    Building Good Health and Lifestyle
4.    Developing Practical Skills and Self-Reliance
5.    Tapping Talents in the Humanities
6.    Emulating Models of Greatness

Some have attended as many as 12 sessions, three hours each.  They started talking about school projects, home remedies, and things about growing up – or at least, not cartoon characters, computer games, or frequenting the malls. But what happens after?  

The lessons are taken up on  Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid hosted by Ms Melly C Tenorio and myself as the instructor. The program is linked up with School on Blog [avrotor.blogspot.com], broadcast simultaneously every 8 to 9 in the evening, Monday to Friday on 738 DZRB AM.

The children simply open the Blog and read the lessons. They can download and print them. New lessons are posted regularly to keep the program going. They join the viewers on the Internet (500,000 pageviews to date), and the audience of  the radio program. On PBS and Bureau of Broadcast  network nationwide and on [www.pbs.gov.ph] worldwide

Learning can be simplified with today’s technology and vast networking. Education can be made available to everyone.  Lessons become practical, literacy functional with the least cost. Let us start with the kids in the neighborhood.  ~

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Singular Halo-halo

The Singular Halo-halo
Dr Abe V Rotor

It's a long, hot summer, and one way to beat it is to have a large glass or bowl of halo-halo (literally, mix-mix). Halo-halo is very popular in summer wherever you go in the Philippines.    

 Make halo-halo at home from a wide choice of ingredients. The most popular ingredients are kaong, nata, sago, gulaman or gelatin, cut boiled saba banana, evaporated milk, sugar - and a topping of leche plan. You can have other ingredients as substitute , or in addition to, like nangka (jackfruit). 

The enjoyment in eating actually is in digging out the ingredients while in leisurely (and haltingly) conversation with members of the family or with friends. There's a saying in Pilipino, "the deeper you get, the better it tastes." In Ilocano, "Umun-uneg, umim-imas."  Note: Halo-halo may cause indigestion because of its rich, varied ingredients, and when taken in large amount. It is not recommended for babies.~

Make one for me, a large, large glass,
Epicurean I am - Filipino;
halo-halo's the name and the brand,
that the world may know.

Make it potpourri-like, heap full flowing,
nectar sweet, white as snow; 
family, friends, and guests in company,
and special just for two.      

Make it loaded with native delights,
bounty of Ceres and Apollo,
pride of country and race and taste, 
oh! singular halo-halo. ~

Native Bibingka Goes to the City

Dr Abe V Rotor


 Native bibingka goes modern, retaining much its quaintness and countryside taste.

Queen of all pies to Filipinos
    with its come quick aroma;
oven fresh from wood-fed pugon,
    specialty of old grandma.

From the countryside trails
    to the city its magic wand,
onto the highway and the mall,
    to a li'l bibingka stand.

A bit of culture and history,
    culinary and folklore, too;
and old memories shall follow
    to where the bibingka could go. ~

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Home Gardening - Green Patch at Home (Lagro-Laha Summer Workshop Lesson No 2, April 19 2013

Home Gardening - Green Patch at Home   (Lagro-Laha Summer Workshop Lesson No 2,  April 19 2013
Dr Abe V Rotor 

Living with Nature School on Blog 
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (People's School-on-Air) with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday                                                

 Community gardening, QC

By size, my home farm is a Liliputian version of a corporate farm. Intensive cultivation-wise however, it dwarfs the monoculture of a plantation. It is only when your area is small that you can attend to the requirements of an integrated farm with basic features of a garden.

When I moved to the city, I set aside a corner lot equivalent to a space of a two-bedroom bungalow. Here, after two years of experimentation and redesigning a city home garden evolved - a miniature version of tri-commodity farming where I have vegetables and fruits, chicken and hito.

My wife, who is an accountant, estimates that presently, the garden could save up to 20 percent of our family’s expense for food, in exchange for twenty family man-hours every week. Labor makes up to 50 percent of production costs, she says. Since gardening is a hobby in lieu of outdoor games, we agreed not to include labor as cost. This gives a positive sign to the garden’s financial picture.

We do not also consider in the book the aesthetic value of weekends when the garden becomes a family workshop to prove green thumbs, and gainful influence my family has made on the community, such as giving free seeds and seedlings, and know-how tips. When my children celebrate their birthdays, the kids in the neighborhood enjoy harvesting tomatoes, string beans and leafy vegetables - a rare experience for boys and girls in the city.

What makes a garden? Frankly, I have no formula for it. I first learned farming from my father who was a gentleman farmer before I became an agriculturist. But you do not have to go for formal training to be able to farm well. All that one needs is sixth sense or down-to-earth sense, the main ingredient of a green thumb. Here are valuable tips.

1. Get the most sunlight
A maximum of five hours of sunlight should be available - geographically speaking that is. Morning and direct sunlight is ideal for photosynthesis. But you need longer exposure for fruit vegetables, corn and viny plants like, ampalaya. So with crucifers like mustard and pechay because these are long-day plants.

Well, to get more sunlight, I prune the surrounding talisay or umbrella trees at least once a year. I use the branches for trellis and poles. Then, I paint the surrounding walls with white to enhance reflected and diffused light to increase photosynthesis.

Plot the sun’s course and align the rows on an East-West direction. Plants do not directly over-shadow each other this way. This is very important during wet season when days are cloudy and plants grow luxuriantly. Other than maximizing solar radiation you also get rid of soil borne plant diseases. Sunlight that gets in between the plants helps liminate pest and pathogens. And in summer, you can increase your seeding rate, and therefore potential yield. Try planting in triangular formation or quincunx. Outline that part of the garden that receives the longest sunlight exposure. Plant this area with sun-loving plants like okra and ampalaya.

Lastly, remember that plants which grow on trellises and poles “reach out for the sun,” thus require less ground space. Put up trellises at blind corners and train viny plants to climb early and form a canopy. For string beans, use poles on which they climb. You wouldn’t believe it but as long as your rows are aligned with the sun’s movement, and that trellises and poles are used, you can plant more hills in a given area, and you can have dwarf and tall plants growing side by side. Try alternate rows of sitao, tomato and cabbage.

2. Try Mixed Garden or Storey Cropping
What is the composition of an ideal garden? Again, there’s no standard design for it. The most practical type is a mixed garden. A mixed garden is like a multi-storey building. Plants are grouped according to height. That is why you have to analyze their growing habits.

Are they tall or dwarf? Are they seasonal, biennial or permanent? What part of the year do they thrive best? Refer to the planting calendar or consult your nearest agriculturist.

Look for proper cropping combinations through intercropping or crop rotation. Malunggay, papaya, kamias, banana and the like, make good border plants. Just be sure they do not shade smaller plants. Cassava and viny plants trained on trellis are next in height. 

 Our children grew up with a garden at home.

The group of pepper, tomato and eggplant follows, while the shortest in height hierarchy are sweet potato, ginger and other root crops. Imagine how these crops are grouped and built like a tall building. We call this storey cropping.             

A friend commented, “Why streamline your garden the American way?” I agree with him. Plant the Filipino way.         

At any rate there are crops “we plant and forget.” Before the pot starts to shimmer, you realize you need some malunggay leaves, a dozen tops of kamote, a handful of fresh onion leaves, etc. All you need is to dash to the backyard and pick these green ingredients.

3. Practice Organic Farming
Traditional farming is back with modern relevance. Organic farming is waste recycling - not by getting rid of the waste itself but by utilizing it as production input. “This system is an alternative to conventional chemical farming”, says Domingo C. Abadilla in his book, Organic Farming.
Practice organic farming for two reasons. Crops grown without chemical fertilizers and pesticides are safer and more nutritious.

What would you do with poultry droppings and Azolla from the fishpond? Kitchen refuse and weeds? Make valuable compost out of them. For potash, sieve ash from a garbage-dumping site. Just be sure it is not used for industrial waste.

Can we grow crops without insecticides? Generally, no. But there are ways to protect plants in a safe way, such as the following:

Alugbati, tops gathered for diningding and salad

• Use mild detergent, preferably coconut-based soap, to control aphids and other plant lice.
• Plant tomatoes around pest prone plants. They exude repellant odor on a wide variety of pests.
• Keep a vigil light above the garden pond to attract nocturnal insects that may lay eggs on your plants at daytime. Tilapia and hito relish on insects.
• A makeshift greenhouse made of plastic and mosquito net will eliminate most insects.
If you find stubborn insect pest like caterpillars and crickets, make a nicotine solution and spray. Crush one or two sticks of cigarette, irrespective of its brand, dissolve it in a bucket of water. The solution is ready for application with sprinkler or sprayer. But be sure not to use the solution on tomato, pepper and eggplant. It is possible that tobacco mosaic virus can be transmitted to these crops.

A friend who is a heavy smoker, came to visit our garden. When he touched the tomato plants, he was unknowingly inoculating mosaic virus. Tobacco virus can remain dormant in cigars and cigarette for as long as twenty years. Then it springs to life in the living system of the host plant that belongs to Solanaceae or tobacco family.

4. Raise Fish in the Garden Pond

Catfish (hito) fattened in our garden pond have become pets; the biggest measures 2 ft long. 

Water from the pond is rich with algae, plant nutrients and detritus. While you water your plants, you are also fertilizing them. The pond should be designed for growing tilapia, hito or dalag, or a combination of these. For tilapia, keep its population low to avoid overcrowding and competition. Stock fingerlings of the same size and age.

Try growing hito, native or African. When you buy live hito from the market, separate the small ones (juveniles), which will serve as your growers. They are ready to harvest in 3 to 6 months with 3 pieces making a kilo. Hito is easier to raise than any other freshwater fish. One thing is that you do not change water often because the fish prefers to have a muddy bottom to stay.
Feed the fish with chicken and fish entrails, vegetable trimmings, dog food, etc. Just avoid accumulation of feed that may decompose and cause foul odor, an indication that Oxygen is being replaced with Carbon Dioxide and Hydrogen Sulfide.

Azolla, a floating fern, is good fish and animal feeds because it contains 20 to 25 percent protein,. It is also an excellent organic fertilizer because it is rich in nitrate, a product of nitrogen fixation by Anabaena, a microscopic blue-green algae living in the fronds of Azolla. Nitrate is important for plant growth. Grow Azolla in a separate pond, or in floating cage, so as to maintain a regular biomass supply.

5. Integrate Backyard Poultry
Raise some broilers and layers in separate cages. Have other cages to rear chicks and growers to replenish your stock. Formulate your feed. If not, mix commercial broiler feed and yellow corn in equal proportion. This is more economical and you may get better results than by using commercial broiler feeds alone.

Construct a fence around the cages and have some turkey on the loose. Similarly you may rear a few native chickens to get rid of feed waste. Clip their wings regularly to prevent them from escaping and destroying your garden. I don’t recommend piggery unless the neighborhood does not object to it.

6. Plant Fruit Trees
Do not forget to have some native fruit bearing trees such as guava, atis, guyabano, kamias, kalamansi and other citrus species. If your area is big you can include coconut, mango, kaimito, bananas. Rambutan? Why not? There are fruit bearing rambutan trees in some residences in Quezon City.

Atis, ripe in the tree

Just like annual plants, adopt the East-West planting method for trees so that you can have seasonal crops in between their rows. Use compost for the fruit trees, just like in vegetables. You can plant orchard trees like mango, guyabano, coconut and cashew along the sidewalk fronting your residence.

7. Make Your Own Compost, and Grow Mushrooms, Too
In one corner, build a compost pile with poles and mesh wire, 1m x 2m, and 2m in height. Dump leaves, kitchen refuse, chicken droppings and allow them to decompose to become valuable organic fertilizer. Turn the pile once a month until it is ready for use.

In another place you can have a mushroom pile made of rice straw, or water hyacinth. After harvesting the mushrooms, the spent material is a good compost material and composting will take a shorter time. To learn more about mushroom growing and composting, refer to the technology tips of DOST-PCARRD, or see your agriculturist in your area.

8. Plant Herbals - Nature’s First Aid
It is good to have the following plants as alternative medicine. Lagundi for flu and fever, guava for skin diseases and body odor, romatic pandan and tanglad for deodorant and air freshener, oregano for cough and sore throat, mayana for boils and mumps, ikmo for toothache, pandakaki for cuts. There are other medicinal plants you can grow in your backyard. Remember, herbals are nature’s first-aid.
 Pansit-pansitan (Piperomia felucida) for arthritis; Oregano for colds and sore throat, also for food flavoring (dinuguan, pizza)
 Pandan mabango for rice flavoring; soro soro for lechon
Coconut provides  the family young (buko) and mature nuts every two months. 
 Tanglad for food flavoring, also as deodorant  
 Saluyot and squash flowers grow with very little attention. 
 Malunggay is a must in every backyard. It grows along fences and in dead corners into a moderate size tree that remains productive up to 20 years or even more. Our malunggay tree at home is around 35 years now. Both leaves and young pods are rich in vitamins and minerals.  

These things and many others are the reasons you should have a home garden. One thing
is sure in the offing: it is a source of safe and fresh vegetables and fruits, fish and meat, and natural medicine. Most important of all, the garden is a re-creation of nature itself, a patch of the lost Eden. •