Friday, January 31, 2014

Pond makes us feel at home with nature.

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

Are you aware that having a pond to complement your garden is beneficial for you and members of your family? This is so because a pond represents an ecosystem. As such it has the basic features of a functioning ecological unit. Thus you will feel part of the living system called biosphere.

Home of the Living Minutiae

The pond is a field laboratory for microbiology. Plankton organisms are revealed under the microscope. In their diversity, a whole new world unfolds - a world man did not know before Anton van Leeuwenhoek introduced the science of microscopy sometime in the 17th century.
You will be surprise to see microscopic algae - green, yellow, orange and in varied hues and designs. Microscopic animals from Paramecium to Vorticella when seen under the microscope takes you to a world of make-believe and fantasy. Many of them may appear aliens from outer space.

These are monerans and protists, the world’s oldest - yet simplest- organisms. It is a wonder why these organisms did not evolve and develop into complex organisms like the plants and animals we know- and why they are ensconced in a confined environment such as a pond.

The microcosm of the ocean is the pond. It is like “seeing the world in a grain of sand.” And for the eons of time and generations these organisms have passed through, it is like “holding eternity in the palm of the hand.” Thus the pond is the representation of our biological world, manifesting how little we know of God’s immense wisdom contained in a drop of water that teems with myriads of micro-organisms.

Pond Life

Anyone who takes time out to sit by the pond could lose his thoughts in the larger realm of nature and the countryside. Cattail and umbrella plants which belong to Family Cyperaceae rise among the floating water lilies, whose pink to purple flowers break the monotony of the pondscape. The centerpiece of a pond may be a community of yellow and pink flowered Nymphaea, and colony of white-flowered lotus.

There may be a small island built at the center, the pond being the moat of this sanctuary connected only to the outside world by a foot bridge naturally hidden by twining plants and lianas. The island is cozy with some trees riprapping it and providing shade to a native hut.

Staying here detaches one physically and mentally from the cares and worries of the world. Because it is a world by itself - so small, so private, so remote and secure.

Peering through the deep green water, one may be surprised to see a school of colorful carp and tilapia, stirring at the slightest hint of company and food. Their graceful movement creates gentle waves and soft lapping sounds against the center island and bank.

And to an observant eye, small fish like Poecilia and rainbow fish form small schools that inhabit the edges of the pond and its tiny islets and coves formed by aquatic plants and rocks. These tiny fish are always mindful about staying out of the path of their large counterpart. Other than small insects that fall into the water, and on planton organisms, they subsist as gleaners of any kind of food.

At the bottom of the pond lies the harmless, independent janitor fish known for their role of eating crust of algae and scum. That is why they are important in keeping aquariums and ponds clean. In the process, togwether with snails, they convert organic matter into detritus, the pond’s natural fertilizer, and the source of sediments that accumulate and become a foothold of aquatic plants. Seldom to these helpful creatures rise to the surface, but if you want to see these shy, docile fish, peer into the water on a clear day when the sun is directly above, and you will find them lying prostrate at the bottom, like sunken ship on a sea floor.

The P
ond Provides Relaxation

Stress–relieving benefits can be derived from a pond. When you need to relax, observe the turtles basking in the morning sun, stretching their neck and appendages. Or watch those cooling off on a hot day, their nostrils and carapace protruding out of the water. Nearby, a toad might patiently sit on a leaf pad, sheepishly eying an unwary insect for its next meal, its long tongue coiled like spring, ready to strike like lasso.

Bees buzz from flower to flower, while red, green and brown dragonflies hover prettily above the water as they search for a suitable place to lay eggs that will hatch into aquatic nymphs that feed on mosquito wrigglers and Daphnia. Strung on leaves and stalks are spider webs glistening with dewdrops. These resemble strings of diamonds that will soon turn into nearly invisible death traps for the hoppers, mosquitoes and flies that stray into them.

Fishing Sport

Catfish and mudfish are indigenous in ponds, whether man-made or natural. They are virtually permanent residents, and are masters of camouflage, and for being resistant to changing seasons, aestivating in summer beneath the muddy bottom, becoming active again come rainy season. Tilapia is the most visible among the large fishes. It multiplies fast. As such there is need to thin the pond occasionally by net, or hook and line. Ponds are a source of viand and fishing is adventure when the water starts to recede. It is a local sport for old and young when the rainy season ends.

It is not only the aesthetics and functional value that make ponds well-loved fixtures; they are a microcosm of larger ecosystems – the lakes and seas. They make us feel at home with nature.

x x x

NOTE: Do you have a garden pond at home? Share us your views and experiences.


paula said...
it is really nice to have a pond at home because it makes you feel closer to nature. it is relaxing to see a pond with clear water with a lot of fish swimming around. for the koi fish is the best kind to put in a pond because of its bright color.
darrel said...
Having a pond is very beautiful in our eyes. There are lots of organisms we can find. We should protect and care for our earth because this is our home.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Philosophy through Art

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature - School on Blog 
Acrylic on a pair of glass, experimental, AVR 2001

Impressionism - reconstructed
footprints of the mind;
expressionism - longing
of a tortured soul;
and abstract art?
Philosophy, like a twin waterfall.~

UST GS Watch Out for Organisms Gone Wild

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

Progeny of African wild bee with domestic bee poses danger for their aggressive nature and poisonous sting.
The house sparrow (Passer), now cosmopolitan in distribution, invades homes, parks, farms, including high rise buildings. While it is pest in farms and gardens, it is also nature's housekeeper being predator and scavenger.

Organisms even when domesticated still carry their wild genes. What is the implication of this scientific fact?

I have known pets that bite their masters. There are wild animals even if they were taken cared of the movement they were born, turn out to be killers. The killer instinct is dictated by their genes that enabled them to survive in the wild. That is why it is not advisable to pet cubs  of tigers and lions.

Certain plants exhibit wild traits, too. The white bean, bred to become bushy to facilitate cultivation and harvesting, may revert into its viny character to evade ground grazers. Patani or Lima bean when left uncultivated grows wild and fends itself from feeders by producing high tannin.

Here are specific cases to warn us of the dangers of animals becoming out of our control.

• The janitor fish, loved for its ability to clean the aquarium, for which it got its name, is now a pest in Laguna Bay, competing with the edible fish species, such as tilapia and carp.

• Golden kohol or golden snail, imported in the seventies to support the government’s food production program, has turned into a maverick, now the number one pest of rice. More than half of our total riceland (3.5 million hectares) is attacked by this mollusk every planting season.

• The deadly African bees continue to invade and hybridize with domestic bees in the US as well as in other places, transmitting in their genes of high aggressiveness and venom.

• Toad (Bufo marinus), imported for it its predatory habit useful in the biological control of insects has become a pest itself. Because of their poison glands, animals, such as snakes and eagles that feed on them die. They directly compete with other predatory animals. In Australia the toad introduced to control of sugarcane insect pests, has turned into a pest itself.

• Plant lice (Psyla) that wiped out the local ipil-ipil industry was actually introduced into the Philippines with foreign species (Hawaiian and Peruvian ) which we imported in the sixties.

• Erythrina or Dapdap gall wasp has virtually wiped out all over the country this beautiful indigenous tree that bears bright red flowers in summer. The wasp was introduced with the coral tree, a dwarf Erythrina introduced some years ago by local ornamental enthusiasts.

• There are reports of animals escaping from their confines and threatening our safety. At one time when I was accompanying my students on a field trip on Mt. Makiling, a plant nursery technician warned us to keep watch for cobra which allegedly escaped from the laboratory and reproduced with the local species.

• The tree ant, Oecephala smaragdina, allegedly a hybrid of an introduced species with our native hantik (ammimisay Ilk.), has become a nuisance. They build their nests in trees and bite when disturbed, making pruning, harvesting and other farm operations difficult.

. The thorny Opuntia which was introduced in Australia by plant enthusiasts, became a widespread problem of ranchers. It took another insect, a scale insects, to destroy the maverick cactus.

. A species of Caulerpa, similar to our lato or ar-arusip Ilk), has spread extensively on the ocean floor of the Mediterranean. Caulerpa produces caulerpin, for which its genus was named, which causes the death of fish and other marine organisms. 

Next time you plan to introduce an animal or plant not native to the place, get the expert's advice. Get in touch with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), and other research institutions.

UST GS: Jatropha controls snail vector of Schistosomiasis

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

Scientists Dr Domindo Tapiador of UN-FAO (left) and Dr AV Rotor
examine Jatropa tree at the St Paul University Botanical Garden, QC.
With them is Mr Dell H Grecia (center), veteran journalist and
columnist of Women Journal and Ating Alamin Gazette.
Details of Jatropha pods and seeds 

The leaf extract of tubang bakod (Jatropha curcas) found growing wild on wastelands is effective in controlling golden or apple snail, Pomacea caniculata.

Ingestion of the bait prepared with one part of the crude extract with 10 parts rice bran (darak) resulted in sure death of the pest in both its immature and adult stages, thus preventing the pest from further destroying standing rice crop or spreading to nearby fields.

It will be recalled that the golden snail was introduced into the country in the seventies as supplemental food, but later turned maverick, and is now in the rank of pest, which includes stemborers and leafhoppers that attack rice and other crops.

The finding is traced to a thesis defended by Marie Shiela Alberto for a BS Biology degree at then St Paul College QC. Dr Anselmo S Cabigan, a well known biologist, and former director for research of the National Food Authority was the adviser.

Dr Cabigan emphasized the safe nature of botanical pesticides which are readily biodegradable, besides being practical in field application. Today some 2 million hectares of ricefields which harbor this pest stand to benefit from the result of this study.

Schistisomiasis Control

Jatropha curcas was also found effective in controlling the snail vector (Oncomelana quadrasi) of Schistozomiasis, a dreaded parasite that affects humans in tropical countries, the Philippines among the most affected. I had a chance to work in a project to drain and farm the fringes of the huge Sab-A Basin in Leyte. Various methods of controlling Schistozomiasis was conducted in consultation with the local Schistozomiasis Control Center headed by Dr B.I. Blas. The vastness of the swamp needed a more extensive study to eradicate the snail and consequently the disease.

Direct Control Method 

Here is a practical method I learned from farmers. Plant Jatropha on the high levees where it can grow into a small tree. Prune periodically the growing rice crop. Chopped and spread on the flooded field. Apply once or twice, on the early and late growing period of the crop. The biomass when decomposed will also serve as organic fertilizer.

NOTE: The plan to produce biofuel from Jatropha opens a potential source of natural pesticide. The active principle, although biodagradable, may be poisonous to other organisms, including fish, amphibians, beneficial insects, and the like. Toxicology studies should emphasize safety to humans and the environment as well.~ 

Schistosomiasis, or snail fever, is one of the more severe disease problems in the Philippines. Primarily rural, schistosomiasis has socioeconomic ramifications because it affects mostly farmers and their families, and thus hampers agricultural productivity.

There are about half-a-million endemic cases of Schistosoma japonicum distributed in 24 endemic provinces including: Oriental, Mindoro; Sorsogon, Luzon; the 3 provinces in Samar; Leyte and Bohol in the Visayas; and all the provinces of Mindanao except Misamis Oriental and Sulu (Figure 1). In these provinces, the human population at risk is 5.1 million and there are 2,987 known snail colonies with an approximate area of 28,731 hectares. The exposed human population in the 1,160 barangays (villages) is about 1.5 million (BI Blas et al)

Acknowledgement: Wikipedia, Internet, Dt BI Blas, Schistozomiasis Control Center 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Child kissing a fish

Dr Abe V Rotor
Child plants a kiss on an aquarium fish. At home, QC 

That's the way innocence works -
ephemeral to behold; 
time is of the essence but once  
and reigns only in childhood,
when barriers are bridged and crossed,
in the diversity of the world,
and to spread love to all creatures,
  the very young and the old;
praise what it means years ahead 
this child and the living word
unspoken, a kiss of innocence 
that promises accord. ~     


Guimaras - John Milton's Paradise

Paradise Lost in Postmodern Times
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 ( 

Country road exudes the ambiance of a typical countryside.

(Re-published article written in 2006, dedicated to the victims of the oil spill tragedy in thatyear, and to those who rose to their finest hour to help.)

NOTE: Recently another oil spill incident hit the island.  Although on a lesser scale, the damage is likewise irreparable. This article is dedicated to the inhabitants whose beautiful place has become an unwilling victim of economic and technological progress. This article is also dedicated to the brave workers many of them volunteers, whose efforts brought hope and light in the hour of need. From this repeated tragedy the world can not just turn its back, it cannot be dumb silent in bringing justice and peace particularly, to the victims and the inheritors of the malady - the next generation and beyond.       

Guimaras Island on the map

Irreversible loss of natural habitats covering thousands of hectares of mangrove, estuaries, coral reefs and sea grasses.  Fishing virtually came to a halt; other livelihoods closed down.

Guimaras can be imagined as the Paradise in the Book of Genesis.

The big difference however is that 
on Guimaras Island Paradise was destroyed by man, whereas in the Bible man was banished from Paradise as punishment for his sin, thus Paradise was preserved.

Nature reveals her beauty on the green fields that turn yellow and gold at harvest time. The pasture is a carpet green dotted with grazing cattle in roan, black, white and spotted colors, moving slowly, if at all, in docile pace that you think they are strewn boulders in the distance.

The trees, when the wind blows, sing in soft, plaintive, rustling notes, their branching swinging to the music. Towards the end of the year when the cold wind from the north arrives, their leaves turn into autumn colors of red, orange and yellow, falling off and littering the ground around. Now and then a gust of wind takes them to the road, and when the sun is up and you happen to step on them barefooted, they crackle and tickle. They send children giggling with delight. And they would rally the leaves floating down the whistling stream as if they were racing boats.

It is a similar experience you get when walking on the shores of Guimaras. White sands swallow you up to the ankle at the water edge, pegging you down. You cannot resist taking a dip or swim in the pristine water, and before you know it you are joined by colorful fishes, a school of them, bobbling to the surface to greet you and diving around your feet, sometimes playfully nibbling your toes. They live among the seaweeds and corals that make the forest of the sea.

And speaking of forest, look behind you. Afar the mountains are dark green because they are covered with virgin forests. They catch the clouds and make them fall everyday. The rain makes the trees lush, irrigates the fields, feeds the rivers and lakes and down it meets the sea. It is here where freshwater and sea water meet. It is call estuary.

The estuary is the sanctuary of countless organisms; it is their breeding ground, their nursery. It is in the estuary where mangrove trees, coconut and nipa palms densely grow, binding soil and mud to build a new land, or form a delta. On the sea side they serve as a living wall that buffers the impact of tidal waves or the sudden onslaught of 
tsunami. They are nature’s fortress to protect the villages, farms and pastures.

But these scenarios are a thing of the past. It is a beautiful dream that ended in a nightmare.

On waking up, the gentle people in Guimaras, a small island near Iloilo in the Visayas, came face to face with the biggest catastrophe that changed their lives and their island forever.

Oil spill!

A huge barge carrying millions of liters of fuel oil broke and sunk into the bottom of the sea directly facing the island.

The black liquid oozed for days, and continued for weeks and months from the sunken ill-fated tanker, and because oil is lighter than water, it floated and spread over many square kilometers, polluting the once pristine sea and beaches. Soon fishermen abandoned their trade. Tourists no longer came. Because oil is poison to all living things – fish, amphibians, corals, trees and the like – died. And under the shearing heat of the sun, spontaneous combustion finishes off the dying trees and palms.

Many people died – and more are dying due to the cumulative and long-term effects of oil, because being a hydrocarbon it destroys the liver, kidneys and nervous system. Many people got sick, mostly children. Schools closed. The streets were empty. There was little to buy in the market. Fumes filled the air, and into the lungs sending people to live elsewhere. Many of those who chose to remain got sick and died.

Ka Pepe and Aling Maria lost their only son. He worked too hard cleaning up the black oil that seeped under their house, until he succumbed to the deadly fumes.

“What have we done to deserve this?” The stricken couple asked. “Why are we punished for a sin we did not commit.”

"It is a wrath of God," a religious said with firmness in her voice, "because we have sinned." Many were angry with pointing fingers. Nobody could offer any other acceptable answer, until one said, “Forgive your brother who sinned.” Yes, it is Christian to forgive for the love of God. It was consoling. It made people feel calm compassionate.

Indeed there were many people who went to Guimaras after the tragedy struck. Fr. Ben said mass. Nuns sang hymns. Petron, the owner of the spilled oil, paid residents to clean their own homes and environs. Hairdressers sent shipments of hair to bind the floating oil, but this only compounded the problem of disposal because hair does not readily decompose and burning it further creates another problem - another pollution.

Others sent old clothing, canned goods, some money. Local officials visited places on rugged wheels, places they had missed in their itenerary before. Doctors and nurses worked into the   night. Media documented the tragedy. Victims were interviewed. There were volunteers who would come and go. There was no let up of investigations trying to pin down the culprits. Soldiers stood guard.

Every morning the curtain unveils this pathetic drama of life, and closes it at the end of the day, trying to erase it from memory and in the darkness of night. How long will this nightmare continue, one would only guess. Perhaps years. Perhaps a generation or longer. And future generations will never know what happened.

There were no laughters, not even from the children playing. The sea did not clap. The waves simply died on the shore, muffled under sludge of oil. A crow flew above, gave off some sonorous notes – the sound of death.

It is Paradise Lost in our times before our very eyes. ~

Photos Courtesy of Francis Allan Angelo, The GUARDIAN Newspaper; Wikipedia;  Acknowledgment: Iloilo City Boy
Field Trip to Guimaras:
 A Living School Beauty, Bounty and Wisdom 

Field trip - on-site and hands-on learning. Participants to the Philippine Society for Educational Research and Evaluation (PSERE), representing 26 colleges and universities from different parts of the Philippines, visited the JBLFMU Ecological Park, listened to field lecture and demonstration, and experienced social immersion with the members of the community. Cruising by motorboat to reach Guimaras Island from Iloilo, and to the Southeast Asia Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) marine station, is adventure - a learning process seldom encountered by teachers and students in the city.

Scenes on Guimaras: Professors all, academicians, educators. The world is exploding with knowledge, the world is traveling on two feet (communication and transportation).  Tradition is left behind if not being waylaid, generations are losing their connections by culture, exposure, distance. We must keep abreast, we have to be computer literate, we go back to school, attend continuing education training, get ourselves involved in social immersion. This is PSERE's thrust in research, but research that looks not only to discoveries and inventions, but to ascertain the continuity, contiguity, and sustainability of progress, of proven techniques and formulas, of working models, of every research that contributes to the efficiency of  a system.     

Who qualifies as tour guide?  Field instructor? Like in the field of sports, he is a player himself - and somebody who has won medals and trophies.  So in science and technology, in marine biology, in explaining the mangrove, the flying foxes (giant fruit bats), in predicting a coming storm, the spawning of dulong and other species, sudden swarming of jellyfish. Why the deer is no longer around.  Are there still crocodiles in the swamp? Pick a leaf and he will tell you the plant, its scientific name and family, too. Why do starfishes stay on sea grasses, how are they harmful to shellfish like clams and oysters (because they have five arms alternately prying the bivalve which ultimately loses its muscle grip to keep close).  We smile for new knowledge, and at people who bring it to us in their simplicity and sincerity and friendliness.  
Meet Jun a marine technician of SEAFDEC (in blue green) an expert by virtue of long, rich experience and domicile by the sea since birth.  Ask about the giant lapulapu (kugtong), mother bangus, mullet (ludong), mayamaya, matangbaka, and the like, and he will recite their natural history at fingertip.  If he were in music he is a musico de oido (by ear), and if there is a blue thumb, counterpart of green thumb in farming, he is surely one in fishing. He is indeed a naturalist. 

Nature posters express concern on the environment by students who spend time in the Eco Park, making it an extension of the classroom and laboratory. Here they forget for the time being the TV, the computer, and other amenities of life.  It is communion with nature. ~

Country Road in Guimaras 

Take me to the country far, far away from the city, 
where sound is music, nature's canvas the landscape,
where mountains, meadows and the sea are green;
where there are no walls, roofs, and bars to escape.

Take me to the county, far, far away from the crowd,
where I'm not just a part, where I am myself again;
where there is no high rise, where the cottage reigns,
where home is nature as I open the window pane. 

Take me to the country, far, far away from forgetting,
the cheerful child in me many, many years back;
flying kites at harvest time, fishing in the summer,
where school is far, yet learning is not what I lack.

Take me to the country, far, far away from the town,
where cars can't follow, where affluence has no place;
where commerce is simple, where wealth is not gold,
where living is not a show, where every meal a grace.

Take me to the country, far, far away from the race,
where I can compete best with myself, not with others;
where I can learn more the ways of nature, not of men;
where civilization begins once more at its borders. ~ 

Road expansion gives way to the growing number of vehicles.   

Slow pace of life is still evident; road arch welcomes the visitor to Nueva Valencia, site of an ecological park.

Changing landscape:  mansion and nipa hut attest to a growing socio-economic disparity.  

Monday, January 27, 2014

Chicken soup is best for convalescent; when dust gets into your eyes, blow your nose

Dr Abe V Rotor
Response, Book Launching Living with Nature in Our Times
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 (

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 home.)

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 the dean the Graduate School of UST. She 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?”

The dean 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 exquisiteness; 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 the dean'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 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. “Mali ang pinipisil mo, eh. Ang pinipisil mo ay ang kanan mong jaw.”

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 talk with your mouth full? Now and then a dog would come from behind begging, licking.

“How dp 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.

NOTE: Living with Nature in Our Times is a sequel to The Living with Nature Handbook published by the UST Publishing House in 2003. It won the National Book Award in 2005, the highest honor bestowed to a book and its author. 

There are 35 chapters in this new volume grouped into four sections. Enjoying Nature’s Bounty has eleven chapters, which deal with such hobbies as Home Gardening, Landscaping and Hydroponics. The second section, Understanding Nature’s Ways, has nine chapters. Mystery of the Fig Wasp is a recent research, while The Mosquito is an update about this deadliest creature on earth.

The third section, Conserving Our Natural Resources has seven chapters which include The 7Rs in Pollution Management, and Farming Peat Soil, a frontier of agriculture in the Philippines. The fourth and last section, Harmonious Living with Nature, has eight chapters which remind us of the importance of maintaining good relationship of man and nature. Topics include Health and Values and Walking with Nature.

Many of the articles in this book were taken from the lessons presented on Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (People’s School-on-the-Air). This is in response to listeners requesting copies of the lessons. Like in the first book, Living with Nature in Our Times is distributed by the publisher and National Book Store Quezon Ave., QC and other branches.
x x x

Odd Trio: Fish, Reed, Red Dragonfly

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 (

Lesson: Poetry on nature, with sociological theme
A red dragonfly perched on a reed by a pond

Aimlessly I sat by a pond,
     suddenly I wasn't alone;
a red dragonfly came flying by,
     to be my companion.

Ah, you also need rest, I said,
     quivered its last strain of flight,
its foothold too, came to a stop,
     calm the pond, what a sight!

Whereupon a strange creature
     rose from the deep and broke
the watery image of peace,
     peace I read from the book.

Peace returned to the pond again,
     but where’s my red dragonfly?
The reed stood prouder still,
     for the next passerby. ~

Light at the Edge of a Forest, AVR 2011

Shipwreck - Paul on His Way to Rome

Mural Painting and Poem by 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 (

I am reprinting from my collection the poem (from the original draft) that accompanies this mural: Shipwreck - Paul on His Way to Rome. The mounted copy of the poem attached to the mural might have been misplaced when the mural was transferred out of the old museum to its new location - after fifteen years.

Shipwreck - Paul on His Way to Romeby Dr Abe V Rotor

There are crossings ahead unexpected,

     no light, no guide; to the lesser, the end
of dreams and riches told but ne’er granted;
     but to Paul the beginning’s yet at the bend.

There is Caesaria where the laws of men
      may deny the just. There’s a friendly Malta –
goodness begets goodness in every brethren.
     and there, too, a Herod, an Agrippa.

On a stormy night for Rome, Paul’s last mission
     to plant the Seed in the very heart of power,
was a grave at sea, but greater was his vision,
     on the weathered rock a tree rose like a tower.

To live one must almost die is reference,
     but is he willing to die that others might rise?
he is truly brave, and there’s the difference,
     to one who deserves to walk with Christ. ~

Rarely can paintings stand by themselves, so to speak, and tell the viewer what it is in terms of characters and events in history. Owing to the subjective nature of art, it is not unusual to miss the message if the viewer fails to appreciate its historical background, and would rely only on his personal perception. This is often the case with most works of art, more so if the situation does not warrant adequate time and effort to study the particular piece. And to think of the explosion of art forms and styles that dominate our postmodern world.

On the other hand, it is also dangerous to rely on ones own interpretation based on personal experience, and bias. In The Gleaners (a favorite painting of the SPC congregation), for example, an early nineteenth century painting of three old women gleaning leftovers of wheat harvest at sunset - all that the painter, Millet, wanted to show was a rustic country scene that evokes a romantic feeling (romanticism). But years after, Markham a political analyst and socialist, interpreted it as a serious subject, a social issue of injustice and repression. Now this is crucial to being a professor in humanities, and a curator of a museum, two posts I assumed for fifteen years.

This mural is based on the life of St Paul, bold and daring and unstoppable in our present terminology, that nothing could possibly bar his way in propagating the faith. So deep was Paul's loyalty, yet he never met personally his Master, for He was already long dead when he became His faithful servant. This scene is a proof of Paul's determination - determination on a philosophical level, with a purpose - above all, a cause. Which is the essence of the last stanza:

To live one must almost die is reference,
but is he willing to die that others might rise?
He is truly brave, and there’s the difference
to one who deserves to walk with Christ. ~
Why the painting in the first place?

As caretaker of St Paul's Museum, I wanted to focus as centerpiece the works and teachings of St Paul. There must be some other meaning, more than responsibility. I wanted the young Paulinians to learn more about St Paul's life as the Paulinian way of life, to appreciate the meaning of courage and sacrifice, of service and scholarship. (Paul wrote practically a third of the Bible.) For fifteen years with countless guests and friends visiting the museum - repeatedly for many, mostly Paulinians - the mural became a visual aid - vision of the sense and vision of the future. ~

NOTE: In response to requests, this post can can be downloaded to serve as lesson, reference, and for whatever purpose it may serve, except publication. Request to view the mural has been endorsed to St Paul University QC