Wednesday, April 30, 2014

I wonder why herons hide their nest.

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, 8-9 evening class Monday to Friday
Herons are migratory birds flying over great distance from their abode. Their arrival by
the flock signals the start of the monsoon season. They frequent ricefields feeding on frogs,
 insects, and other living organisms. Their association with carabaos and cattle creates a
romantic ambiance that has inspired artists to paint and write stories about these enigmatic creatures.

Why do herons hide their nest?
Where on earth is their home?
I stalked through the thorny test
Where the white feathered roam -

Hushing away the unseen,
Deity, the fanged or quagmire;
I became part of the scene,
A drama of life to admire.

As the birds basked in the noon sun
In regal poise and dainty movement,
I moved for the kill, a lens on hand
To freeze the precious moment.

But lo! A loud crack filled the air
Driving the birds away from their rest;
My story now untold - but who would care?
Wonder why herons hide their nest.

Friday, April 25, 2014

UST GS: Let's Go Back to Nature: Self-Administered Test (True or False, 25 Items)

Let's Go Back to Nature: Self-Administered Test (True or False, 25 Items)
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, 8-9 evening class Monday to Friday
Miniature diorama, former SPU-QC Museum

1. "Going back to nature” means we have to live the lives of our ancestors and renounce our modern living.

2. We can actually transfer genetic materials from one organism to another irrespective of species or class or sub kingdom by means of genetic engineering, resulting in the formation of what we call as GMO.

3. Genetic engineering actually started with Gregor Mendel, the father of the science of genetics and heredity some two hundred years ago.

4. There is no question about a human clone of not having a soul because, the soul of the parents transcend to offspring which is the clone.

5. We live under different ages all at a given time - atomic age, computer age, age of genetic engineering, and space age – all rolled into what scientists called the age of postmodernism.

6. “Tailor the land to the crop, and not the other way around,” is a cardinal rule of "treaty between man and nature."

7. Man is a recent creature on Earth. If the 5 billion years of the earth’s existence is compared to a calendar (365 days), man came into this world only on the eve of December 30. Man is only one-day old on earth.

8. “Our lives are being run and outrun by science and technology.” This statement is generally true.

9. "Universities without walls" or "distance education" will enable mass education to the grassroots. It will break the cartel or control by elite universities and colleges.

10. Toxic metals abound on land, sea and air – from kangkong to tuna to fowls – unless we control the emission and spread of these toxic metals.

11. Going back to nature is to become a strict vegetarian – giving up animal products. Unless we do this we can’t truly say we have gone back to nature.

12. “Ecological paradigm of salvation” means “we express our love and care to people by protecting nature.” Plant a tree, for example, is reverence to nature and therefore to the Creator; kill a tree and you commit a sin – more so it caused flood and erosion leading to death and destruction.

13. Support and actively participate in movements such as Clean Air Act, Piso sa Pasig, Clean and Green, Green Revolution, Carless Day, Car pooling, Biofuel, Saving Endangered Species, Greenpeace.

14. Convert deserts into woodlands and pasture; empty shorelines into resorts, given the tremendous resources to accomplish such gargantuan task.

15. Petrodollar is the life of the world economy – so that we support the idea there there is plenty of oil yet to be discovered. There should be no letup in tapping these reserves.

16. We should implement stricter laws such as: absolutely no logging (total log ban); impound all smoke belching vehicles; no conversion of agricultural to industrial lands; no hunting of wild animals; and the like.

17. Even without the human species, Planet Earth will continue to “go round” so to speak in the same way as it did in the last 5 billion years – and perhaps go on for another 5 billion years. We just don’t know what will be the kind of dominant species after us.

18. Homesite for the golden years is feasible in the rural as well as in the urban areas; it can be modified according to area, design and structure – but not purpose.

19. It is good to go back to classics without aristocracy, spirituality without religious dogmatism; philosophy without ideological bias; realism without barbarism – to have a better view of life, and a firmer basis of our decision and faith.

20. Science and technology has imprisoned us in many ways – that is why we are not truly happy. We need a direction – a definition of life’s meaning. Logotherapy is as relevant as in a situation where we are kept helpless in a prison camp.

21. Science and technology has actually eliminated the scourge of the human race – disease, poverty and ignorance. Actually we are only begging for more benefits discreetly.

22. Today it takes weeks for man to make diamonds in special oven chambers the size of a washing machine, when it would take nature thousands of years to make one.

23. Reports have been verified of the presence of bromate in sugar, sulfite in wheat flour, nitrate in meat, human hormone in milk.

24. Alternative vegetables are not to be recommended because we have barely studied them unlike conventional vegetables.

25. Homeostasis means dynamic balance – Nature’s way of renewal, renaissance, seeking stability as continuing goal.~

ANSWERS: 1 F, 2T, 3F, 4F, 5T, 6F, 7T, 8T, 9T, 10T, 11F, 12T, 13T, 14F, 15F, 16T, 17T, 18T, 19T, 20T, 21T, 22T, 23T, 24 F, 25T

Thursday, April 24, 2014

UST GS Entomology Field Lectures 2

UST Botanical Garden 
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, 8-9 evening class Monday to Friday

 UST Graduate Students in Entomology, Summer 2014, with Dr Abe V Rotor   
 Pod of botong (Barringtona asiatica) has a single seed that contains pesticidal properties. 
 Spent flower of botong and old leaves on the ground; growing habit of the tree.   

Studying a local fern (Pteris sp) 

  Balete (Ficus benjamina); marker of the UST Botanical Garden 
 Kamagong (Diospyros discolor); fruit attacked by fruit fly (Dacus dorsalis), and fruit bat. 

Assignment: List down the topics we discussed in the field lecture.  Emphasize the aspects relating to entomology. Handwritten on regular bond. Include both field lectures.  

UST GS: Listen to the Music of Nature!

Part 2: Are you an Effective Teacher? A personal evaluation.

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, 8-9 evening class Monday to Friday

Professors and graduate students of the Graduate School, University of Santo Tomas

Professors of the graduate school of Perpetual Help University La Piñas, Rizal

Lesson: Personal Evaluation as a teacher
In the first part of this article I presented the Profile of an Effective Teacher. This time I will try to explain effectiveness in teaching with the use of appropriate expertise models based on the same book of Dr. Flordeliza Clemente-Reyes, Unveiling Teaching Expertise: A Showcase of 69 Outstanding Teachers in the Philippines, a CHED sponsored project and publication.

Teaching expertise – like intelligence – is an abstract term because of its varying composites and the many factors that characterize it. There are two compositions however which are used as basis in relating it to effectiveness in teaching. These are the following:

 Essentials – Requisites or “musts” for the attainment of teaching expertise; and
 Enhancers – teaching practices and behaviors contributory to teaching expertise.

What then is effective teaching? How is it differentiated from responsible teaching? These are questions often asked in qualitative analysis of teaching.

Expertise is divided into six domains, namely

 Subject matter

 Instructional
 Classroom management
 Diagnostic communication
 Relational

1.Subject matter expertise – All of the experts demonstrates a very thorough knowledge of subject matter, which facilitates effective organization of content to promote learning

Thorough/excellent knowledge of content – All of the expert teachers possesses a thorough mastery of what they teach. They are experts in their field, they are well-read, their explanations are spontaneous. They know formulas by heart. Facts are at their fingertips. They have good knowledge on present issues.

Being up-to-date with the latest developments in their fields – The experts are updated and very knowledgeable, explain new alternative ways of solving a problem.

 Knowledge of the interrelationships among the structural elements or concepts of the subject matter -
The expert teachers have a clear, coherent view of the course content in terms of interrelationships among the various topics comprising it. All of them conduct their lessons coherently, such that subtopics form into a meaningful whole.

 Knowledge of the relationship of the lesson with other courses or disciplines – An ecology teacher treats the subject as a multidisciplinary issue. Another expert, a philosophy teacher, relates phenomenology with psychology. History of art is also the story of a civilization. What is the similarity in the use of parenthesis in mathematical statements and when used as punctuation mark?

 Knowledge of practical application and concrete, interesting examples to clarify abstract ideas/concepts – All of the expert teachers have readily available examples which are clear, simple, and interesting, to clarify issues or ideas.

2. Classroom Management Expertise – This is the ability of the teacher to prepare for and provide a physical learning environment. Students engage actively in class, time is properly managed, and students behave accordingly. A highly desirable study ethic prevails in class.

 Efficient handling of routine activities and time management – All expert teachers manage classroom routine and time efficiently. The teacher is familiar with the names of his students, and knows who is absent, who is a fast or slow learner. More than half of the experts (58%) do not check attendance because the students are properly monitored and absenteeism does not pose a problem. Classes start and end on time. The teacher employs different ways of maximizing class time, such as the use of OHP, and other instructional devises, including handouts.

 Maintenance of students’ on-task behavior - 92% of the experts use this enhancer. They use socialization techniques, encourage students to recite, motivate, and check their progress. There is never a dull moment in the classroom for an expert teacher.

 Absence of class disruptions – The expert teachers make sure that the class does not suffer from unnecessary disruption. The experts are not reactive to disruptive situations; they are proactive, meaning they anticipate and prevent such situations to happen – or they can immediately remedy the situation from getting worse.

3.Instructional Expertise – The expert teachers demonstrate facility in the use of varied instructional strategies, demonstrate knowledge of different teaching strategies, adopt group dynamics, and are particular in instructional clarity. They have the ability to simplify and clearly present lessons.

Use of varied teaching strategies – 90% of the expert teachers use varied teaching strategies. They employ other than lecture and recitation, song and movement, role-playing, pantomime, choral; reading visual imagery, concept mapping, brainstorming, contest, simulation, oral debate, cooperative learning etc.

 Use of varied instructional equipment and materials to enhance education – 83% of the expert teachers use other instructional equipment, devices, and materials (other than chalk and blackboard) to enhance their teaching. These include OHP, computer, tape recorder, slide projector, PowerPoint, videos and audiotapes, specimens, drawings, cartoons and many others.

 Instructional clarity – The students must have a clear understanding of the lesson. This is a primordial rule among the experts. The teacher clarifies at the onset the objective and coverage of the lesson beforehand. The lesson must be well organized, easy-to-follow, and direct to the point.

4.Communication Expertise – The experts are skillful in oral communication such as fluency, good diction, articulation and clear language, pleasant voice, and the like, coupled with expressive use of nonverbal language, such as facial expressions, hand and arm gestures, etc as natural visual aids. Communication is a two-way affair, characterized by attentive listening and openness to students’ questions and opinions. But the common denominator for this enhancer is skillful use of the language, which facilitates interactive and participative classroom atmosphere.

 Expressive non-verbal or body language – The expert teachers are every expressive in driving home a point through their voice, facial expression - that she herself is the visual aid.

Excellent oral communication skills – 88.4% of the expert teachers are very fluent, articulate and have good voice quality, like a DJ. They use English and Pilipino. Even if a teacher is intelligent, if she lacks facility in the use of the language, she will not be effective.

 Provision of two-way communication – All the experts provide for two-way communication in the classroom, although they differ in that some experts speak more expressively or emphatically than others.

5. Diagnostic Expertise – The expert teacher spots and readily identifies students who experience learning difficulties. Thus he makes provisions to encourage students, or to prevent the occurrence of learning difficulties, as may be the case.

Sensitivity to students’ learning problems/difficulties – The expert teacher uses unconventional means of checking her students’ understanding about a lesson, by intentionally giving a wrong information. She pauses and ask, “What is wrong with this?”

Anticipation of probable problems or misconceptions – The expert teacher is a good chess player – she anticipates the next move of her opponent, and possible an error. In the classroom she is kinder, but the same principle applies in anticipating the reaction of the students, more so wrong impressions about a topic.

6.Relational Expertise – refers to the teachers’ relations skills in the classroom, which facilitate the establishment of high rapport with the class, and the provision of facilitative approaches to learning. These make the students relaxed, self-confident, and affirmed.

 Non-threatening disposition - A pleasant disposition as shown on the videotape characterize the 69 expert teachers as having very pleasing personalities. They are non-threatening, non-intimidating, and are patient. They are accommodating, approachable, and friendly.

 Enthusiasm – Teaching is acting – real acting. She puts feeling in her work. “The teacher is very lively and enthusiastic throughout the lecture. There has never been a dull moment,” comment the students.

 Providing a psychologically safe learning environment –The expert teachers are concerned of their students with TLC. It is apparent that the students feel the same to their teachers. They interact, they laugh together, the teacher gives encouraging words, and knows how to deal with them formally and informally.

 Making learning pleasant and enjoyable – Expert teachers use entertainment strategies in teaching. He applies humor. Discussion is light. There is interaction. The students are free to express their talents without fear. The expert teacher uses basic theatre techniques, such as , “Name that tune,” expression of emotions, indoor and outdoor games.

 Classroom humor – Filipinos are fond of humor. HIV is “hair is vanishing.” Pilipino for family planning, English of balot. Expert teachers chose pleasant and clean jokes. There are 27 of the experts could ignite laughter in class through jokes and anecdotes. Humor built in the lecture though is more natural.

 Magnetism/Charisma – 53 or 77% expert teachers exude magnetism, charisma, or dynamism, while they are articulate and expressive. They are spontaneous, they attract students ands sustain their interest.

 High rapport with students – All of the expert teachers hold high rapport with their students. Reciprocally the students appear pleased and happy with their teachers. Deeper than that, there is mutual trust. There is camaraderie. “My students feel comfortable with me. They treat me like a father.”

 Affectionate interaction with students – 42 expert teachers are affectionate in dealing with their students during classroom instruction.” They consider their students special and important. They do not treat their students like numbered items. It is the extra effort of the teacher, especially in difficult situations that creates affection.

Responsible Teaching
The expert teachers are concerned not only with the development of the intellectual capability and maturity of the learners but also with the students’ moral development. Responsible teaching is therefore, an essential element of teaching. The expert teachers
 integrate values in teaching,
 communicate their belief in the students’ capacity for learning,
 facilitate development of understanding and draw out generalizations and insights,
 provide students opportunities to assume an active role in the learning process and to be responsible for their own learning, and
 select and implement teaching strategies, learning activities and instructional materials.

Learner-centered teaching

Learner-centeredness – 84% of the expert teachers generally value learner-centered over teacher-centered practices. They assume the role of learning facilitators. They encourage discussions, students’ questions, group dynamics, case analysis, field trips, and the like. The experts
 adjust to student personalities
 are sensitive to students’ needs
 consider each student as unique
 know the students
 put students’ welfare above his own

Developing students’ responsibility for learning – 84% of the experts draw out from students’ understanding and appreciation of the lesson through activities that actively engage the latter in the learning process. Instead of giving her opinion on the matter, the teacher throws back the problem to the student, so that the student can think critically and independently.

Values integration – Most of the expert teachers integrate values in their teaching. They offer to new teachers the role to
 strengthen personal human values
 lead people to Christ
 imbibe gospel values
 maintain high moral values

The illustration below puts in capsule all the attributes of A Filipino Model of Teaching Expertise, distinguishing the Essentials and the Enhancers.

Are You an Effective Teacher?
An Evaluation

Opposite each item, indicate your score based on the Likert Scale (1 Very Poor, 2 Poor, 3 Fair, 4 Good, 5 Very Good) Answer those with dot/square marks only

1.Subject matter expertise

 Thorough/excellent knowledge of content

 Being up-to-date with the latest developments in their fields

 Knowledge of the interrelationships among the structural elements or concepts of the subject matter -

 Knowledge of the relationship of the lesson with other courses or disciplines

 Knowledge of practical application and concrete, interesting examples to clarify abstract ideas/concepts

2. Classroom Management Expertise

 Efficient handling of routine activities and time management

 Maintenance of students’ on-task behavior

 Absence of class disruptions

3.Instructional Expertise

 Use of varied teaching strategies

 Use of varied instructional equipment and materials to enhance education

 Instructional clarity

3.Communication Expertise

 Expressive non-verbal or body language.

 Excellent oral communication skills

 Provision of two-way communication

4. Diagnostic Expertise

. Sensitivity to students’ learning problems/difficulties

. Anticipation of probable problems or misconceptions

5.Relational Expertise

 Non-threatening disposition

 Enthusiasm

 Providing a psychologically safe learning environment

 Making learning pleasant and enjoyable

 Classroom humor

 Magnetism/Charisma

 High rapport with students

 Affectionate interaction with students

B. Responsible Teaching

 integrate values in teaching

 communicate their belief in the students’ capacity for learning

 facilitate development of understanding and draw out generalizations and insights

 provide students opportunities to assume an active role in the learning process and to be responsible for their own learning

 select and implement teaching strategies, learning activities and instructional materials.

 Learner-centered teaching

 Learner-centeredness

 Developing students’ responsibility for learning

 Values integration

NOTE: We are all teachers in our own rights - at home, in our community, in the office, and the like. This evaluation applies to all of us. xxxx

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Quo vadis, Movie? 

Movie Parade at UST (1611-2011, Quadricentennial Celebration)
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, 8-9 evening class Monday to Friday

Movies took over the stage,
created make-believe players;
from arena to theaters,
cinema to home screen
these hundred years.

How technology spanned
live drama and celluloid,
Charlie Chaplin and Lucas,
Carl Jung and Simon Freud,
the young and the very old.

Hollywood to Bollywood,
white actors to colored,
aristocracy giving way
to realism on the road,
in stories simply told.

This is not all. It is just
the start of the future
which we live in today -
postmodern culture
in cyber adventure.

Movies, movies, movies
defy classification,
on Internet, television,
from studio to home grown
video to animation.

Quo vadis, movie?
where are you headed for?
for whom are you made
as we had known before,
at the local shore?

Is this a sign of demise,
of the movie, the classical,
movie, the great adventure,
movie, the historical,
true and ideal?

Movie does not speak,
or we just can't hear anymore,
under the heap of this strayed art
yearning not for more,
but for some quality score. ~

A popular movie animae
Local movie on the life of Rizal, an alumnus of UST
Scary theme, musical treatment
Witches walk the campus
Alice in Wonderland
"Good triumphs over evil."
Shrek and Company
2012 - Year of the Dragon
Pirates of the Caribbean

Farming the Tridachna (Taklobo)

Farming the Tridachna (Taklobo)
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, 8-9 evening class Monday to Friday
The taklobo is now a threatened species.
Graduate students from the University of
Santo Tomas visit a taklobo farm in Masinloc,
Zambales, 2010.

Taklobo shell as holy water receptacle.
Mount Carmel Church, QC

One way to spend a summer is to visit marine projects such as a Tridachna or taklobo farm. Farming the sea includes seaweeds such as

Caulerpa or lato, green seaweed, ar-arusip in Iloko
Porphyra or gamet, red seaweed, also known as nori in Japan
Codium or pokpoklo, green seaweed
Gracillaria or guraman (Ilk), brown seaweed
Eucheuma or guso, brown seaweed

Fish cage culture of grouper and mullet has become popular in many parts of the world. And now, genetically modified salmon which lost its homing and free range characteristics by crossing genetic materials of unrelated species.

The earliest attempt to farm the sea is by building fishponds, converting estuaries and swamps into fishponds. But in large and open shallow areas, fish pens and cages, became more feasible. Prawn, milkfish, catfish, tilapia are among the common species raised.

Shellfish like oysters and green mussels are grown in the estuaries, and the traditional way of using bamboo and rope on which the juvenile shellfish cling to has not changed. Perhaps the most sophisticated marine farming is pearl culture, where pearl formation is induced.

Today, farming has spilled over seas, estuaries, rivers and lakes, after conventional frontiers have been conquered, threatening ecological balance, and pitting farming and environmental conservation as strange bedfellows. Runaway population, growing affluence, advances in science and technology are all aimed at the so-called Good Life. We are wrong.

The taklobo is a natural indicator of our planet's health. It is now a threatened species . Out there in its natural habitat one could hardly find a taklobo. Soon only its fossil can be found either in the museum or in the church as receptacle of Holy Water.~

Monday, April 21, 2014

UST GS Earth Day April 22, 2014: "All in the name of civilization" - A Reflection

April 22,  2014: "All in the name of civilization" - A Reflection
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, 8-9 evening class Monday to Friday

Home, Sweet Home with Mother Earth

“The ultimate test of any civilization
Is not in its inventions and deeds;
But the endurance of Mother Nature
In keeping up with man’s endless needs.”

- AVR, Light in the Woods.

What is civilization? Can’t civilization hear and heed the groaning of Creation?

1. It is civilization that wiped out the American Indians from the Great Plains, and plundered the Aztecs and Mayas Empires, among other cultures.

2. It is civilization that spurred the powerful West to "discover" and colonize the East for centuries.
3. It is civilization that resulted in the death of millions and the genocide of 6 million Jews in WWII.
4. It is civilization that built the atomic bomb – and dropped it on two cities of an "enemy."
5. It is civilization that made a clone animal, Dolly the Sheep, and inevitably man to be the next in the near future.
6. It is civilization that threatens the whale and the Philippine Eagle, and resulted to the extinctions of many species, and in threatening more.
7. It is civilization that is causing global warming and its untold consequences, destroying lives and properties, and the environment itself.
8. It is civilization that is causing today’s fuel crisis and food shortage, drastic inflation and loss of currency value, the recession of America and consequently the world, ad infinitum.
9. It is civilization that gave way to excesses of living, from obesity to promiscuity, license to abuse of power and wealth.
10. It is civilization that allowed growing inequities in resources distribution,
in bridging the rich and the poor.

First atomic bomb on Hiroshima Japan, 2014

But it is also civilization that brought us and our society to the highest level of consciousness no known species can parallel. It is civilization that makes the Earth a beautiful place to live in.
1. It is civilization that gave us consciousness as rational beings, guiding us to live peacefully as a group and with the things around us.
2. It is civilization that created our great institutions that bind us into a society, and as one humanity.
3. It is civilization that made the greatest masterpieces in the fields of philosophy, science and the arts.
4. It is civilization that gave us the greatest religions of the world that brought us closer to our Creator.
5. It is civilization that guarantees our basic rights as individuals and a people, and as a nation -  and international community.
6. It is civilization that instills in us pride and dignity in our continuing accomplishments and discoveries.
7. It is civilization that prods us to explore the ocean and space, and the mysteries of life making use of our faculties, the greatest gift to mankind.
8. It is civilization that treasures knowledge and history in libraries, archives and multimedia, ever expanding and mysteriously revealing.
9. It is civilization that inspires us all towards achieving our dreams and searching for a meaning in life in each of us, and as a people.
10. It is civilization that gives holism to our existence as Homo sapiens (thinking man), Homo faber (man the maker), Homo jugens (playing man), and Homo spiritus (praying man).

It is civilization that makes nations great - big and small - equally proud of their culture, and contribution to the world.

It is civilization that brings us all towards universal brotherhood and globalization, shrinking the world into a friendly village.

It is civilization that makes heroes and martyrs that always prevail at the end in keeping peace and order here in our only home, The Planet Earth.~

Civilization is a precarious balance. We still ask today why we build beautiful things and destroy them. We are puzzled by the answer of the madman who destroyed the Pieta with a sledge hammer –“because I cannot own beauty.” So, if one man can’t, why should he deprive humanity?

Human Life and Environment, presented at the Capiz Archdiocesan Gathering of Priests, August 4, 2011

Mystery of the Stone Carabao

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, 8-9 evening class Monday to Friday
Figurine made of volcanic rock from Mt Pinatubo eruption. Sculptor unknown. Bacolor, Pampanga (c. 1989)

It was already dusk when my family and I decided to visit the sunken church of Bacolor, Pampanga. We had just spent the weekend in Morong, Bataan and we were on our way back to Manila.

An old woman, frail and bent in the waning light, met us at the entrance of the old church.

"Sir, bilhin na ninyo eto. Pambili lang ng pagkain." (Please sir, buy this thing to buy me some food.) She was referring to a stone figurine she was holding.

The thing was a roughly carved figure of a lying carabao, made of volcanic rock from the recent eruption of Mt Pinatubo.

"One hundred pesos lang, sir."

I pulled out a hundred peso bill from my wallet and got the figurine.

"Salamat, sir." Light shone on her wrinkled face.

We did not actually go inside the church because it was half buried with    lahar. You have to stoop low to get through the arch of the entrance. So we just stood at the entrance and Cecille, my wife, led us to pray.

There must have been pilgrims ahead of us, but the place was now deserted. It was eerie silent. So with the abandoned buried houses not far from the place. Not a stir of life. A gust of wind came, then another. I pulled my jacket close. My children did the same. Cecille cut our prayer short.

Curious, I looked for the woman. She wasn't around. Where could she had passed? There was a long stretch of footpath down the road, but there was sign of her. Not a silhouette.

I thought I was the only one who noticed her sudden departure.

"Papa, uwi na tayo," my children chorused and we drove home.

When we reached home I examined the figurine. Why it's a work of art! Did the old woman make it? Who was the old woman?

It didn't take a long time I had another chance to visit the church. This time there were people around. It wasn't yet sunset. I asked those apparently familiar with the place who the old woman was. I described her like how I saw her face when she handed me the stone carabao.

"Wala pong matandang ganong dito." (There's no such old woman here.) And they looked at each other in bewilderment.

I pondered on this puzzle if it has any message at all. Or could it a reminder of doom like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah? In this    biblical story God commanded a righteous couple to flee the wicked city, and never to look back. But pity on the dying stopped them on their track and they became into stone.

Stone figures take us even farther to Greek mythology – to Medusa who wears a headdress of snakes. Anyone who looks directly at her turns into stone. Aware of the danger the hero Perseus used his shield as mirror in slaying Medusa. And when he presented Medusa’s head to the tyrant king and his court, all of them turned into stone.

The story in the bible of course is not to be taken literally, more so with Greek mythology. But these stories usually take us to a higher level of consciousness about life and about the world we live in. What could this puzzle of the Stone Carabao mean then to us?

When I told the story to a good friend of mine who is an expert on carabao, he stood up and exclaimed, "Why, don't you know that the Philippine carabao is now a threatened species? So with other buffaloes all over the world?"

Yes, now I have a story to tell. ~

UST GS: Resurrection and Regeneration

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, 8-9 evening class Monday to Friday

                  House lizard or butiki, emerges from hiding after shedding off its skin (molting). 

Old folks tell us of the magic of lizards growing new tails, crabs regaining lost claws, starfish arising from body pieces. How can we explain these mysteries?

The biological phenomenon behind these stories is called regeneration. The male deer grows a new set of anthers each year; sea squirts and hydras are produced from tiny buds; the same way plants grow from cuttings. New worms may regenerate from just pieces of the body; and some fish can sprout new fins to replace the ones that have been bitten off.

Experiments demonstrated that the forelimb of a salamander severed midway between the elbow and the wrist, can actually grow into a new one exactly the same as the lost parts. The stump re-forms the missing forelimb, wrist, and digits within a few months. In biology this is called redifferentiation, which means that the new tissues are capable of reproducing the actual structure and attendant function of the original tissues.

Curious the kid I was, I examined a twitching piece of tail, without any trace of its owner. I was puzzled at what I saw. My father explained how the lizard, a skink or bubuli, escaped its would-be predator by leaving its tail twitching to attract its enemy, while its tailless body stealthily went into hiding. “It will grow a new tail,” father assured me. I have also witnessed tailless house lizards (butiki) growing back their tails at various stages, feeding on insects around a ceiling lamp. During the regeneration period these house lizards were not as agile as those with normal tails, which led me to conclude how important the tail is.

Regeneration is a survival mechanism of many organisms. Even if you have successfully subdued a live crab you might end up holding only its pincers  and the canny creature has gone back in the water. This is true also to grasshoppers, they actually detach their legs in order to escape their enemies.

Another kind of regeneration is compensatory hypertrophy, a kind of temporary growth response that occurs in such organs as the liver and kidney when they are damaged. If a surgeon removes up to 70 percent of a diseased liver, the remaining liver tissues undergo rapid mitosis (multiplication of cells) until almost the original liver mass is restored. Similarly, if one kidney is removed, the other enlarges greatly to compensate for its lost partner. ~

Saturday, April 19, 2014

UST GS: The Garden - Living World in Microcosm

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, 8-9 evening class Monday to Friday

Nature keeps a dynamic order where unity resides in diversity. We will never understand this mysterious order. Perhaps it is better not to probe it at all - for it is our deep faith in the Maker of that garden that we earn our place there to live in harmony with all creatures.

A view of the UST main building from the botanical garden
framed by a deciduous narra tree and climbing Phylodendron.

Century old dita (Alstonia scholaris) dominates the UST Botanical
Garden. It towers over the surrounding buidings on the campus.

“To see a world in a grain of sand,
And heaven in a wild flower;
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And Eternity in an hour.”

- William Blake, Auguries of Innocence

This verse captures the essence of the title of this article. It condenses the universe into its elemental symbols from which we take a full view of the world we live in. It reduces the complexities and vastness of both non- living and the living world into a microcosm that is complete in itself- a plantilla of creation all contained in the hand and experienced within a lifetime.

Lucky is the person who realizes this singular gift. Through this microcosm he can traverse the breadth of time and space, live with the myriad of life forms, and most important, he is blessed by the Great Maker to be part of the wonders and mysteries of creation.

So deep is the faith of the poet, William Blake, who wrote this verse more than two hundred years ago. Then, there were no computers, no television, no spacecraft and satellites. Could it be that in the absence of these modern tools that the mind could penetrate deeper, imagination soar higher, and faith stronger?

A fine arts student finds solace and subject at the UST Botanical Garden.

A. Garden as a Microcosm

The garden could have been the place where Newton formulated the laws of gravity and magnetism when an apple fell on his head, where Darwin developed his theory of evolution through natural selection, where Henry Fabre discovered organization intelligence among insects over and above mere instinctive behavior. It was in a garden where Claude Monet painted his masterpieces, capturing the essence of the natural beauty of wild flowers, such as the Nymphaea and the lotus.

We may not expect inventions and discoveries, and master’s arts, to creep into the mind of whoever spends time in a garden, or any similar microcosm of nature for that matter. But we are most certain that he finds enlightenment through the knowledge and experience he gains, and with these he develops in himself the discipline to discover new things, and to acquire values that help him live at peace with nature and himself. It is in keeping close to nature that we better understand the ways of the world in which we live.

When I conducted a lecture- demonstration at the UST Botanical Garden before my students, I was in effect simulating the scenario. Here I showed them the different parts of the Garden, starting with the basics such as, “ What makes a Garden?” I explained the composition of a typical rainforest ecosystem. The garden is precisely a pocket representation of this ecosystem, and, by dissecting it, we were in effect looking at its profile.

B. Deciduous Nature of Trees in Tropical Rainforest

Deciduous umbrella tree or talisay (Terminalia catappa) displays the color of autumn.

I gathered my students under a narra tree- Pterocarpus indicus. Trees belonging to the Dipterocrap group of family Legumonosae dominate the canopy of the tropical rainforest. Their leaves fall off completely at certain season so that the trees are bare for some time, thus allowing sunlight to penetrate and nourish the understory trees, ground plants, lianas and epiphytes.

The floor becomes covered with litter that nourishes insect, earthworms, fungi and bacteria. These decompose the leaves into humus that ultimately becomes soil while supplying nutrients to different plants in the forest. Because of the high precipitation throughout the year, the forest becomes lush and dense. The multi- story nature of the tropical rainforest makes it the richest biome in both diversity of species and number of inhabitants.

C. Gymnosperms and Angiosperms

These are cone-bearing and lowering plants, respectively. Gymnosperms are exemplified by pine cypress, and arios. I allowed my student to touch and examine these plants. Then they turned to examine the angiosperms that predominate the campus. Phylogeny shows that flowering plants are more “ modern “, which means that through evolution, the gymnosperms are older, and later gave way to the evolving angiosperms. Except in colder countries and in the taiga biome, the natural vegetation of forests is composed of flowering plants. The pine, cypress and cycad are the most common representatives of the cone-bearing plants in tropical gardens.

The oldest living organisms belong to gymnosperm - the Redwoods of California. And the Bristle Cone which is believed to be even older. Many of these trees were already bearing cones during the time of Christ. I have seen one in central Taiwan, estimated to have been two thousand years old, before it was struck by lightning. It still attracts many tourists who wonder at its massive size. One would associate it with legend or cartoon if he hadn't gone to the place. massive it is even after death. It takes

D. False flowers

Nature’s sweet lies have a purpose. The brightly colored leaves of poinsettia and bougainvillea attract insect pollinators and enhance fertilization and subsequent fruit and setting and seed formation, thus ensuring the perpetuation species how many plants are benefited by this special make-up.

The truth is that most flowering plant has designed attraction mechanisms. In general, flowers are made attractive, although the attraction that we know may not be the same as how insects perceive it. We know red as red, yellow as yellow, and so forth. But insect have different perception of colors. Nonetheless, the basic purpose is what counts - and is almost always achieved. Other means that guarantee pollination-fertilization are sometimes needed. For example insect are attracted by the obnoxious odor of Lantana camara, pollinating it in effect.

Pongapong flower is pollinated by flies

This is also in the cases of pongapong (Amorphophallus campanolatus), kalumpang or bangar tree - and, of course, the Rafflesia, the world largest flower that emits putrefying odor. They have one thing in common: they attract flies to pollinate their flowers.

E. Flowering Bamboo- Prophet of Doom

The old folks used to tell us, “Beware when the bamboo flowers.”

What is the connection of a flowering bamboo to a force majeure, such as drought? Old folks use it as a barometer of El Niño. Climatologists around the globe predict the coming of this phenomenon by observing plants, among them the flowering of bamboos. The cycle is ten years or closer. El Niño is accompanied by poor harvest, forest fires, death of livestock, spread of certain diseases that effect man, animals and plants.

Biologically, organisms subjected to stress tend to reach the reproductive stage earlier than usual. In fact, certain insects even skip molting just to be able to metamorphose into an adult and carry out reproduction while the environment allows. It is nature’s way of insuring the perpetuation of the species at the expense of the organism, so to speak.

So, when a bamboo flowers it ultimately dies. This is why the panda, which derives its food mainly on bamboo suffers. There are bamboo species that flower after fifty years or so, then die.

There are other plants that signal the coming of drought. One is kapok. A fruit-laden kapok tree means poor against harvest ahead. Even the sturdy kamagong or mabolo is stressed by drought. While it stops producing new leaves, the crown remains intact. This could be the reason why this tree produces the hardest wood. In the case of the narra, and mango, they show no apparent stress signal. It is because they have sturdy, long taproots that penetrate deep into the ground and into the bedrock. Old folks, however, warn us that no plant is spared from the worst kind of drought.

E. Trees are Sound and Wind Barriers

Have you noticed how the sound of traffic dies down in the dense vegetation of trees? Loud voice is muffled, blarring sound reduced to tolerable decibels, and music is more soothing to the ear. The trees at UST and in the Sunken Garden of UP Diliman are definitely for this purpose, in addition to being buffers against strong wind.
Windbreaks help reduce wind pressure. I saw a 10- row windbreak of different species of trees along the highway to the Beijing airport. Another windbreak made of agoho (Casuarina equisitifolia) is found along the coastline of Kaohsiung in Southern Taiwan which similarly serves to buffer winter wind. Woodland hedges along field boundaries in Europe serve the same purpose. The Indian tree is an effective sound breaker because of its thick, cone- shaped crown. It has also another advantage, that is, it grows tall and straight so that several trees can be planted close to each other.These man-made forests are a source of many valuable products and serve as a natural habitat of wildlife. It is no wonder why the Hanging Garden of Babylon was one of the wonders of the ancient World.

F. Hantik Ants - Biological Control Agents

Nest of hantik ants (Oecephalla smaragdina)

My students studied the nests of the giant green tree ants or hantik. The older nests were built on the upper branches of alagao, while a newly built nest was on a smaller tree Ficus pseudopalma. It is not easy to trace which nest an individual ant belongs to, but each colony has a specific chemical signal called pheromone. This prevents members from fighting, and allows the colonies to co-exist with defined territories assigned to each colony. Scientist calls this territory as niche.

Hantik ants are notorious killers of other insects. This could be the reason I have not seen any need to spray chemicals. Hantik ants feed on grubs, caterpillars, aphids, scale insects, and many others. They carry off morsels to their nest to feed their larvae. They scare organisms several times bigger than themselves. In fact, one who happens to get close to their domain is likely to get a bite or two, which is warning enough. But they do not hesitate to attack once they are threatened or disturbed.

I demonstrated the ferocity of the hantik by crushing a member of that colony. Sooner than I expected other members came to the rescue and pheromone was immediately put to use in the coordination and division of work, and in the strategy of war.

G. Common Medicinal Plants

A botanical garden is not complete without a good collection of medicinal plants. Here I showed to my students examples of medicinal plants with their uses. UST Botanical Garden was once the pharmaceutical garden of the university founded by Fr. Rodriguez a century ago. It is one of the oldest phamaceotical gardens in the world.

Here are typical examples of medicinal plants found in backyard and home gardens.

1. Lagundi - fever and flu
2. Pandakaki- minor wound or cuts
3. Oregano - sore throat and cough
4. Ikmo - mouth wash
5. Mountain tea - health drink
6. Guava - body odor and skin diseases
7. Pandan - beverage and food additive
8. Alagao - fever and cold
9. Avocado - diarrhea
10. Banana - kidney ailment

H. Poisonous Plants

showed my students poisonous plants growing in the garden. But why do we have poisonous plants around?

There are plants which produce poisonous substances that are valuable as pesticide. Examples are neem tree, derris and makabuhay. These have been proved to be effective in controlling certain pests and disease of plants.

Botanical pesticides are generally safer than chemical pesticides. Studies have shown that neem (Azideracta asiatica), a native of India, has long been used as insecticide. It is widely used on field crops and against domestic pest like cockroaches, mosquitoes and bedbugs in many countries including the Philippines.

Makabuhay (Tinospora rhumpiana) is effective against a wide range of rice pests and the application is very simple. Fresh stems and leaves are finely chopped and directly broadcast in lowland ricefields. The active principle is also very effective on golden kohol, a major pest of rice of the Philippines.

Derris is the source of commercial rotenone insecticide. The concentration of its poison is in its enlarged roots.

Two poisonous plants grow in the garden. In fact they grow wild and have been persistent for a number of years now. Castor bean contains a poisonous substance - ricinin - for which reason castor oil is no longer prescribed as laxative. The other plant is Jatorpha curcas or tubang bakod. A few years ago a group of students from a Quezon City High School ate the seeds which taste like peanut. They were taken to the hospital for treatment.

Bangbangsit (Lantana camara) , insect repellant
------------------------------------A garden harbors the inquisitive mind, the seeking heart, the longing spirit. It is a place of peace and quiet. Here the seasons of the year are best observed. As an miniature ecosystem it defines basic relationships between and among living things, including man. Never is a garden idle, nothing is waste, and time is never prodding yet never dull.

I. Conclusion

The microcosm is far from complete. But it is the framework that is important, like building replica of a dinosaur from pieces of recovered fossil. Knowledge is like that. It starts with principles, but, before that, one must be inspired and motivated to learn. There is no true learning unless one labors for it to some degree. Even frustration that may threaten learning itself, could be, at the end, a motivating factor, a challenge and test of what one is really made of. The Great Maker just gave us the Plantilla from which we follow the way to learning and understanding. ~

Bust of the founder of the former UST Pharmacy Garden, Fr. Rodriguez.

Symbols of the UST Pharmacy Garden. Both
monuments grace the garden's central area.