Friday, January 30, 2015

Sunrise on the Farm (10 Anecdotes)

Sunrise on the Farm (10 Anecdotes)
Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature - School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio

738 DZRB AM, 8 to 9 evening class Mon to Fri

Children fishing, painting by AVRotor

1.  Eugene and I nearly drowned in a river.

There was a friendly man who would come around and dad allowed him to play with us.  People were talking he was a strange fellow. We simply did not mind. He was a young man perhaps in his twenties when Eugene and I were kids in the early grades in San Vicente.  

One day this guy (I forgot his name) took us to Busiing river, a kilometer walk or so from the poblacion. The water was inviting, what would kids like best to do?  We swam and frolicked and fished, but then the water was steadily rising so we had to hold on the bamboo poles staked in the water to avoid being swept down by the current. I held on tightly, and I saw Eugene doing the same on a nearby bamboo pole.  

The guy just continued fishing with his bare hands, and apparently had forgotten us. Just then dad came running and saved us.  We heard him castigate the fellow who, we  found out that he mentally retarded that he didn’t even realized the extreme danger he put us in.
 happen - the pharaoh kissed Alexander’s feet.  The great warrior died before he was 33.
    
2. Manong Bansiong, the kite maker

Kites always fascinate me, thanks to Bansiong, nephew of Basang my auntie-yaya.  He made the most beautiful, often the biggest kite in town.  His name is an institution of sort to us kids.  But remote as San Vicente was, we had the best kites and the town was also famous for its furniture and wooden saints.

Manong Bansiong made different kites: sinang-gola, sinang-cayyang, sinang-golondrina (in the likes of a bull, a bird with outstretched wings and legs, and a maiden in colorful, flowing dress, respectively).  His kites were known for their strength, stability, beauty, and their height in the sky.  In competitions he would always bring home the trophy, so to speak.

Because of Manong Bansiong I became also a kite maker of less caliber, but being an endangered art there is not much variety of kites flying around. The kites I make are not common, and they probably exude the same feeling to kids today as during our time.

I made kites for my children when they were small.  Kites fascinated my late first-born son, Pao. It was therapy to his sickly condition. We would sit down together on the grass for hours holding on to the kite, the setting sun and breeze washing our faces. 

Kite Season Mural, by AVRotor

When my youngest, Leo Carlo, took part in a kite competition at UST, I helped him with the sinang-cayyang.  It did not win.  But in the following year and the year after Leo Carlo became the consistent kite champion of UST, and so he carries on the legend of Manong Bansiong. 

3. I shot an arrow into the air and it fell on a newspaper

I must have been 4 or 5 years old. Dad was reading Manila Bulletin on a rocking chair.  I was playing Robin Hood. Since our sala is very spacious (it has no divisions), anything on the ceiling and walls was a potential target. But something wrong happened. In physics a crooked arrow would not follow a straight line, so it found an unintended mark – the center of a widespread newspaper.  

The arrow pierced through it and landed on my dad’s forehead, almost between his eyes. He gave me a severe beating with my plaything as he wiped his forehead, blood dripping. I did not cry, I just took the punishment obligingly.  Dad must have seen innocence in my eyes.  He stopped and gave me a hug. 

4. I shot my finger with an airgun.

I bought an airgun from Ben Florentino, a classmate of mine in high school at the Colegio de la Immaculada Concepcion (CIC Vigan) for fifty pesos, a good amount then, circa  1955.  I was loading the pellet, when I dropped the rifle, and on hitting the ground, went off.  The bullet pierced through the fleshy tip of my left forefinger. I tried to remove it but to no avail, so I went to the municipal doctor, Dr. Catalino Lazo. There was no anesthesia available, and when I could no longer bear the pain, he simply dressed the wound and sent me home.  

My wound soon healed, and the lead pellet was to stay with me for the next five years or so, when I finally decided to go for an operation. Had it not been for my playing the violin, I would not have bothered to do so.  And it was providential. 

Dr. Vicente Versoza, our family doctor in Vigan, performed the operation.   A mass of tissues snugly wrapped around the pellet, isolating its poison. He told me I am lucky. There are cases of lead poisoning among war veterans who bore bullets in their bodies. I remember the late President Ferdinand Marcos.  Was his ailment precipitated by lead poisoning?   
  
5. The Case of the Empty Chicken Eggs


Soon as I was big enough to climb the baqui (brooding nest) hanging under the house and trees.  I found out that if I leave as decoy one or two eggs in the basket, the more eggs you gather in the afternoon. Then a new idea came. With a needle, I punctured the egg and sucked the content dry. It tasted good and I made some to substitute the natural eggs for decoy.

Dad, a balikbayan after finishing BS in Commercial Science at De Paul University in Chicago, called us on the table one evening. "First thing tomorrow morning we will find that hen that lays empty eggs.”

It was a family tradition that every Sunday we had tinola - chicken cooked with papaya and pepper (sili) leaves. Dad would point at a cull (the unproductive and least promising member of the flock) and I would set the trap, a baqui with a trap door and some corn for bait. My brother Eugene would slash the neck of the helpless fowl while my sister Veny and I would be holding it. The blood is mixed with glutinous rice (diket), which is cooked ahead of the vegetables.

That evening I could not sleep. What if dad’s choice is one of our pet chicken?  We even call our chickens by name. The empty eggs were the  cause of it all, so I thought.

In the morning after the mass I told dad my secret. He laughed and laughed. I didn't know why. I laughed, too. I was relieved with a tinge of victorious feeling. Thus the case of the empty eggs was laid to rest. It was my first “successful” experiment.

In the years to come I realized you just can’t fool anybody. And by the way, there are times we ask ourselves, “Who is fooling who?”

6.  I can “cure” a person who is naan-annungan.

An-annung is the Ilocano of nasapi-an. Spirits cast spell on a person, the old folks say. The victim may suffer of stomachache or headache  accompanied by cold sweat, body weakness or feeling of exhaustion.

Well, take this case.  It was dusk when a tenant of ours insisted of climbing a betel, Areca catechu to gather its nuts (nga-nga). My dad objected to it, but somehow the young man prevailed. 

The stubborn young man was profusely sweating and was obviously in pain, pressing his stomach against the tree trunk. Dad called for me. I examined my “patient” and assured him he will be all right. And like a passing ill wind, the spell was cast away. Dad and the people around believed I had supernatural power.

There had been a number of cases I “succeeded” in healing the naan-annungan But I could also induce – unknowingly - the same effect on some one else.  That too, my dad and old folks believed.  They would sought for my “power” to cast the spell away from - this time – no other than my “victim”.  What a paradox!  

When I grew older and finished by studies, I began to understand that having an out-of-this-world power is a myth. I read something about Alexander the Great consulting the Oracle at Siwa to find out if indeed he is a god-sent son. “The Pharoah will bow to you, ” the priestess told him.  And it did 

7. Paper wasps on the run! Or was it the other way around?

This happened to me, rather what I did, when I was five or six - perhaps younger, because I don’t know why I attack a colony of putakti or alimpipinig (Ilk). It was raw courage called bravado when you put on courage on something without weighing the consequences. It was hatred dominating reason, motivated by revenge. 

I was sweeping the yard near a chico tree when I suddenly felt pain above my eye. No one had ever warned me of paper wasps, and I hadn’t been stung before. I retreated, instinctively got a bikal bamboo and attacked their papery nest, but every time I got close to it I got stung.  

I don’t know how many times I attacked the enemy, each time with more fury, and more stings, until dad saw me.  I struggled under his strong arms sobbing.  I was lucky, kids my size can’t take many stings. There are cases bee poison can cause the heart to stop. 

 8. Trapping frogs

It was fun to trap frogs when I was a kid. I would dig holes in the field, around one and one-half feet deep, at harvest time. Here the frogs seek shelter in these holes because frogs need water and a cool place. Insects that fall in to the hole also attract them. Early in the morning I would do my rounds, harvesting the trapped frogs.  

Frogs are a favorite dish among Ilocanos especially before the age of pesticides. The frog is skinned, its entrails removed, and cooked with tomato, onion and achuete (Bixa orellana) to make the menu deliciously bright yellow orange.

9. Getting drunk at an early age.

I was already a farmhand before I was of school age, but dad always warned me not to be an aliwegweg (curious at doing things), the experimenter that I was. One morning as dad went on his routine, first to hear mass in our parish church just across our residence farm, I went down to the cellar with a sumpit (small bamboo tube) to take a sip of the sweet day-old fermenting sugarcane juice.

 I didn't know that with a sip too many one gets drunk. And that was precisely what made me feel sick, but 1 did not tell dad. He called a doctor to find out what was the matter with me. When the doctor arrived he found me normal. What with the distance from Vigan to San Vicente - on a caleza (horse-drawn carriage)? But the doctor was whispering something to dad.

Then it happened. Dad had left for the church, so I thought. I went to the cellar and as soon as I probed the sumpit into a newly fermenting jar and took a sip, someone tapped my shoulder in the dark. It was dad!

Imagine the expression of his face (and mine, too) in the dark. I sobbed with embarrassment while he took a deep sigh of relief.  

Since then the doctor never came again. And I promised never to taste my “beverage" again.

10. The caleza I was riding ran over a boy.



Basang, my auntie yaya and I were going home from Vigan on a caleza, a horse carriage. I was around five or six years old, the age children love to tag along wherever there is to go. It was midday and the cochero chose to take the shorter gravelly road to San Vicente by way of the second dike road that passes Bantay town. Since there was no traffic our cochero nonchalantly took the smoother left lane fronting a cluster of houses near Bantay. Suddenly our caleza tilted on one side as if it had gone over a boulder.

To my astonishment I saw a boy around my age curled up under the wheel. The caleza came to a stop and the boy just remained still and quiet, dust covered his body.  I thought he was dead.  Residents started coming out. I heard shouts, some men angrily confronting the cochero. Bantay is noted for notoriety of certain residents. 

Instinct must have prodded Basang to take me in her arms and quickly walked away from the maddening crowd.  No one ever noticed us I supposed. 

Waterhole and Other Poems

"I walked the bridge to its far end and beyond,
And down the river to the sea I cast my pole.
It was a fight I fought, it was no longer game,
And it was neither fish nor dream I caught."
AVR


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


 Waterhole

Memories come easy on this foot bridge
Many years ago I built across a stream,
Stream in monsoon and pond in summer,
Alug, as the old folk call it – waterhole.

It was my waterhole, I saw the world in its water;
Images of airplanes cruising, birds migrating,
Clouds in many patterns, many faces and hues,
The arena of wit and skill, fishing for hours.

And fishing not for fish but dreams,
Dreams about far places, of beautiful things,
Dreams almost real, even as they fade away
In ripples and into the dusk.

One day I woke up and found my waterhole
Swallowed up by floodwater from the hills.
Washing away the air castles I built,
And down its path it took summer away forever.

I walked the bridged to its far end and beyond,
And down the river to the sea I cast my pole.
It was a fight I fought, it was no longer game,
And it was neither fish nor dream I caught.  

            Fallow

When I was a boy I would walk the empty fields
       when harvest was over
And watch the maya glean on the leftovers
       like the old women
In the paintings of Millet and Brueggel
       which inspired Amorsolo
To paint the ricefields with the richness
       of Rembrandt’s colors.

And I would roll up the straw mulch
       and catch the aestivating frogs,
Now brown instead of green for they mimicked
       the surrounding they were hiding in:
Geometric deep cracks where the soil
       was fertile and rich in humus,
For they yielded larger and fatter catch.

And I knew the alug, the depression
       where the water receded,
Harboring dalag encrust in its muddy deep
       ready to spring to life
With the crayfish and snail and catfish
       likewise ensconced,
When the first true rain comes in May
       or April if monsoon is early,
I, too, would doze on my pet carabao lazily browsing,
       its body as lean as the plants in summer.

Then the afternoons became cooler each day,
       the dragonflies hovered lower and in hordes.
Distant thunder were heard getting closer and closer –
     Until the winds hissed
And the whole sky fell into downpour.

The fields began to wake up from deep slumber
       and I knew summer is over.
Fallow is a season of reflection, an experience
       shall always remember. ~

                                                        Masks
Ann, Leo and Matt, are they?

Could you be as serious as your looks,
     Or as weird as your thoughts?
Could you be my children,
     Or those of a beast or alien?

Mask, mask, mask,
     You hide the truth
Like the rind of a fruit.

           Cariton

Mount the cariton, my father wouyld say,
     When it was harvestime ,
And I would go and get our palay share,
     But the joy is in the ride, the fields,
And talking to the beast like Daniel,
     Or Hercules at times.    

The sugar cane and yam on the way
     thinned every time I passed,
The wild pigeons were getting shy
     every time I missed with my slingshot;
But not the maya,
     they came by army and were not afraid,
Even if the cariton had not had any greasing
     for some time.

I kept sentry on my rama until the mudfish,
     ar-aro, gurami, and catfish
Were big enough, or the water had receded,
     whichever came first.

The cariton was my chariot and truck,
     my canoe in monsoon flood,
My spaceship to the stars, my traveling home;
     jute sacks were also for mat;
A clay pot on three stones made a kitchen,
     plates of banana leaves.

My bolo was knife, shovel, saw, weapon
     that go with the cariton.
There was no computer then but Labang,
     the bullock knew the lipit very well,
Giving me confidence to sleep and to dream,
     waking up only at my destination,
Or when he gives the signal, kicking off flies,
     or snorting against smudge
Trained against our trees to flower
     early or on time.

Years, many years had passed, and I,
     with this story to pass on
To my children dreaming on my lap
     listening to it more like a tale,
Said, “It is true, but that was many,
     many years ago.”
One day in a museum I saw something
     for whatever reason.
 “Look, there!” I gathered my children.
     It is an old, old cariton. ~
         

                          Transience of Childhood 
                                                        Painting (15.5 ft x 5 ft) by AV Rotor



This is a beautiful world to the young,

Faces grow on clouds and kites fly high,
In kaleidoscope against the setting sun. 
The trees sing and nests sweetly cry.

If for all the fish and the Siberian breeze, 
The fields are still, save a songbird,
The clock comes to a stop in hammock’s ease -
But a chime yonder is urging to be heard.

Not enough is summer, transient is the game; 
It starts with glee and ends with a sigh,
And childhood ends. But never is the aim 
Of the sky to make the little ones cry.

Freud and Thoreau – these great minds foresaw
What makes a man, the child of years ago,
Sitting by the pond or climbing on a bough,
His kite rising to heaven’s glow.

Painting presented to Mayor Jose Tabanda III by Dr. Abercio V. Rotor,
as a remembrance of happy childhood, the impressions of which are indelible
even to those who are far away from their beloved hometown. May 23, 2005


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Story of the White Cross

Dr Abe V Rotor 

Mysterious white cross beside an old bangar tree, San Mariano, Isabela

He graduated from the famous Philippine Military Academy on top of his class. On the day of graduation his father, a general from the Philippine Air Force, and mother, a dean of the University of the Philippines, proudly pinned the Medal of Excellence on their only son and child. Nobody could be happier. God smiled at them. The world loved them. And they loved the world. What more did they wish?

Nothing more, although his mother said in prayerful whisper, looking up to heaven, “How I wish we are like this forever – happy and united.”

Secretly his father wished his son to become famous. He knew that a military career awaits many opportunities of greatness to one who adheres to his pledge to defend his country and countrymen. His thoughts gleamed with his medals he received for participating in the Korean War and the Vietnam War. He treasured most a medal given by the President of the Philippines for serving as a military adviser during Martial Law.

Those were troubled times, he thought, and put away his fears that his son would be placed in a similar test.

The young Lieutenant was looked up with pride and praise. How many young men in the world are endowed with caring parents, good school, intelligence, good looks and excellent health? Heads turned as he walked. Young women saw him a knight in shining armor. Children looked up to him a model, a hero of sort. Would they grow up just like him? Dreams! Air castles!

But he was real. He dressed simply. He was friendly. There was no air of arrogance in his actions and words. He liked people. And people liked him. Many times he would go to the village of his birth in Pangasinan – Bigbiga, near Anda. He talked to farmers and fisher folks for hours. At harvest time his presence alone was enough to draw people from their homes and other work just to help harvest the golden grains. How the field beamed with laughter and music and joyous company! It's reminiscent of Fernando Amorsolo's masterpiece, "Harvestime."

Surely there were many stories to tell, many pleasant memories to recall. Housewives on errand bringing baon to the workers would make up all sorts of excuses for returning late. Passersby, who were not from the place, when they heard the name Lieutenant Carding Lopez, took off their hats in greeting - and always, they got their reward of recognition. Children playing nearby would caution each other not to be rowdy, and they would display their best to impress their special guest.

And months passed. The monsoon came and the young lieutenant joined the planters in the field as he did at harvest time. Came fishing season, and he would join the fisher  folks pull in the daklis (seine) net to shore. And when they gave him his share of the catch, he would politely decline or give it to the old people in the village.

One time he stopped to greet a crew draining a nearby swamp, the lowest part of the village. While relating how the Panama Canal was built, people the next day came by groups armed with shovels, crowbars and all. The swamp was drained in a short time.  Incidence of malaria and dengue drastically fell. Farmers planted melons and watermelons on the reclaimed mudflat and made a lot of money.

But it was the marketplace he was fond of visiting on Sundays. The barangay chairman saw to it that everything and around appeared clean and orderly. More vendors came to sell their wares and products. And more people came to buy them.

Once strolling on a dirt road, he paused to put some stones to fill up a rut. The next day a gravel truck came. With it were workers. What took an hour to reach the market could now be reached in half an hour.

General Lopez and Dean Lopez who were living in a push subdivision in Manila began to wonder at the kind of life their son was leading in the province. Surely it is very strange to know of one who is full of dreams and raring to seek a bright future. Not for a young and ambitious man, and a Pemeyer. No, not their son and only child, Carlito.

“No, no, let’s talk to him,” the mother rose from her lounging chair. “Hush, hush, let him be,” replied her husband soothingly.

One day the young Lieutenant received a call to report for duty. In the next few days he was flying over Sierra Madre on a mission. But alas! His plane disappeared in the sky and crashed on a misty slope covered by forest, far, far away from civilization. No one witnessed the accident, but guesses are not rare for such news. The plane plunged into the sea where three islands make a triangle, ventured one mystic who knew about the Bermuda Triangle that mysteriously “swallow up” airplanes and ships.

Maybe it crashed on one of the Philippines’ tallest mountains - Mt. Apo or Mt. Pulag. That’s how high jets fly, said an elderly native who knew too well about the flight of the   Philippine eagle. Oh, exclaimed an activist, who said the young Lopez was an idealist, who must have sought refuge maybe in Indonesia, or New Guinea - or somewhere else.

Guess turned into hoax, rumors died down, only the enigma on how a promising young man suddenly disappeared without trace persisted. General Lopez shook his head in disbelief. Even in times of peace, he realized, danger hangs like a Damocles Sword. You can’t rely on technology, he muttered. Those planes – yes, those planes he remembered, they were very old. He knew it; they were donated by the US soon after the Vietnam ended. Mrs. Lopez had retired from the university, but how could you enjoy retirement if you were in her place?

It had been five years since the young pilot mysteriously disappeared. The village people of his birth put up a cross in his memory at the center of the village cemetery. At all times they kept it white, and not a single weed grew around it. 

Tourists today come to Bigbiga, now a progressive community. It boosts of a model cooperative. It is a persistent winner of cleanliness in the whole province. A church has been built, around it is a park and playground. Not far is the cemetery. Classes are no longer conducted under the big mango tree. Floods that accompany the monsoon are a thing of the past. The market is a village mall of sort, attracting people from nearby towns. An institute of science and technology was recently inaugurated. Young men and women are returning and changing the concept of balikbayan, at least in Bigbiga. They call it brain gain, whereas before we called it brain drain. The fields are green and at harvest time under the moonlight, some people would swear, they would see a young handsome man inaudibly talking and laughing – men and women and children huddled around him.

The general and his wife did not live long in their grief. A new leadership had taken over the reins of command in the military. A new president has been installed in Malacañang. He is young and handsome, and there’s something they like in him - the way he talked, his actions, his friendliness and warmth. They trust him. Those who knew the late Lieutenant Lopez liken him to the new president.

One day there was a flash report that a community was discovered somewhere between Nueva Ecija and Aurora. It is ensconced in a valley shrouded by forests and clouds, accessible only on the Pacific coast. That is why it remained obscure for a long time. "There must be some mistake," a Manila-based government official commented. So a survey team was formed.

It is like searching a lost city in the Andes, or in the Himalayas. But it is true. There before the very eyes of the team unfurled a local Shangrila - the former Dakdakel, a remote barangay of San Mariano, Isabela, now transformed into a model community.

The people in that community are peace loving, self-reliant, and respectable. They are farmers, craftsmen, many are professionals. They have children studying in Manila, and relatives working abroad. There is a cooperative and a progressive market. A chapel stands near a cemetery. In the middle of the cemetery rises an immaculate white cross, and no weed grows around it. 

x x x

USTAB Photography (Photo Editing with the Computer)

Dr Abe V Rotor
Faculty of Arts and Letters, UST
Lesson for 3CA1, 2, 3, 4, 
Class Demonstration with Adobe Photoshop 
Basic photo editing
  • Crop
  • Adjust brightness and contrast
  • Edit poor spot or area
  • Balance colors
  • Adjust dimension, level, perspective
Photo 1
Photo 2
Photo 3
Photo 4

Photo 5

Photo 6


Photo 7


Photo 8


Photo 9


Photo 10

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Hibernation and Aestivation - Survival Adaptations of Organisms

All living things take heed of Nature’s call, except humans, 
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
Ant colony on the move to safe ground, sensing the coming of the rainy season.
The lichen is a classical example in the art of dormancy. The lichen shown here belongs to the foliose type. Lichens are made up of algae and a fungi living in symbiosis, which explains their superb ability to withstand extreme environmental conditions - except pollution.
Frangipani or kalachuchi remains leafless in summer, then
bursts with flowers. It regains its foliage come rainy season. 

"Sleep, so called, is a thing which makes man weep,

And yet a third of life is passed in sleep."
- Lord Byron, Don Juan

Who is not fascinated by the first heavy rain in May, the start of the monsoon season or habagat? The fields come alive, transformed from scorched landscape into vast greenery. What brings about this sudden transformation?

Rainwater breaks the dormancy of seeds lying in the ground. It wakes up the sleeping little plant in a poem, The Little Plant, we learned in the elementary.

In the heart of a seed,
Buried deep so deep.
A tiny plant,
Lay fast asleep.
"Wake," said the sunshine,
"And creep to the light."
"Wake," said the voice,
Of the raindrops bright.
The little plant heard
And it rose to see,
What the wonderful,
Outside world might be.

Seeds of many annual plants like saluyot (Corchorus olitorius) and wild Amaranthus wake up to the rain. The same stimulus touches dormant buds like a magic wand, and in a short time become new and fresh crowns of trees that had been in deciduous state. Tubers and corms come alive simultaneously with tillers and stolons and take their first peep above ground. Bulbs send out their first shoots. There is rejuvenation everywhere.

Thunder and lightning accompany rain and send old folks to hunt for mushrooms the day after. There is scientific explanation to this, although much of the mystery remains. Lightning directly fixes atmospheric nitrogen into nitrate (NO3), which being soluble, is brought down by rain. It is then absorbed by plants, protists - and fungi to which mushrooms belong. How is dormancy of fungi explained? Is it the same as in green plants?

Basically, it is. While plants photosynthesize their food in the presence of sunlight, fungi on the other hand are saprophytic, and draw energy from decomposition of organic matter. But the conditions that break dormancy is the same – the supply of nitrates and other nutrients, sufficient water, suitable foothold and substrate, and favorable temperature. The  mycelia of fungi which appear as white, threadlike mass may remain dormant, then springs to life, rapidly spreading all over its growing medium until it is time to produce fruiting bodies, which are the mushrooms.

Dormancy of Seeds

Seeds are masters of the art of dormancy – the temporary stoppage of life processes. Nature has precisely made dormancy as a means of adaptation, and adaptation is a means of survival. Adaptation is the key to fitness defined in Charles Darwin’s law of natural selection. The failure of seeds to grow immediately after maturity – even though conditions of the environment may be favorable – is generally an advantage of many plants.

This phenomenon is demonstrated by plants which are highly sensitive to photoperiodism.  These are classified as short-day and long-day species and varieties. For example, the traditional rice variety, wagwag, produces grains only during the short-day period, usually in the last quarter. If it is planted late and does not have chance to mature within the period, it will remain in its vegetable stage and will flower only in October in the following year.

Many desert plants exhibit superb resistance to punishing heat and dryness. They produce seeds that lay dormant in the hot desert soil for as long as there is no rain. Then, when rain finally comes, these seeds sprout immediately, grow and mature as fast as water in the soil is lost. Before the desert reverts to its arid condition, the plants have completed their life cycle, and their seeds once more lie dormant waiting as long as they could for the next unpredictable rain.

Many seeds of cereals and other annual remain dormant for a few days to some weeks under natural condition. However at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los Baños, the seeds of about 100,000 rice cultivars kept in the institute’s Germplasm Bank can remain viable for 20 years. It is necessary to germinate the seeds before they lose viability to replace the gene collection.


A colony of dormant Drynaria fern clings on an acacia tree.
Tagudin, Ilocos Sur
This epiphyte, relative of the mistletoe, takes advantage 
over  its host in its deciduous state. Lagro Subd., QC

Most farm crop seeds are probably dead after 25 years, even under favorable storage conditions. The alleged germination of seeds after prolonged storage in ancient tombs is known to be a myth. I had a chance to examine some authentic seeds recovered from a pharaoh’s tomb at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. The seeds were highly carbonized and have completely lost their viability. There are however, seeds of some plants in the wild that retain their vitality for 50 years or more. Dry arctic lupine seeds found buried in lemming burrows under 10 to 20 feet of frozen soil in the Yukon Territory in Canada, were able to germinate. Their assumed age is older than that of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Vernalization – Overwintering of Crops
Local yam or singkamas sends out shoots after a long

dormancy, which coincides with the rainy season.

The term vernalization was first introduced by my professor in Plant Physiology in the late fifties. The technology had just began to revolutionize farming in countries where winter is long and harsh. Formerly in these areas, it was almost impossible to grow wheat and other crops because of the very short growing season. Even if planting is done in early spring, by the time the grains start to mature, frost has already set in.

The Russians found out that by pre-germinating wheat seeds and keeping them safe and healthy during the long winter, the young seedlings will resume growth immediately as the snow thaws. Much time is saved for the crop to grow, while its life cycle is significantly shortened. Before the winter sets in, the crop is already harvested.

Thousands of hectares have been placed under cultivation following this procedure. Seeds of wheat, oats and barley are planted in late autumn. They germinate and remain dormant under snow for the whole winter (overwintering), then resume growth in spring and harvested at the end of the short summer. Researches on the application of vernalization have successfully made other crops adapted to this kind of environment. Former wastelands in Siberia and Northern Canada are now productive farmlands.

Breaking the Dormancy of Wildlife Species

Aestivating snails, crustaceans and frogs ensconced in the bottom of rice fields are similarly liberated by the monsoon rains. Together with hito and dalag which aestivate in mud like the lungfish, they stir with the first contact with rain water, wiggling out to freedom in the flooded fields where they resume active life – growing, mating and reproducing – and migrating while the monsoon persists and whole fields are one contiguous lake.

These are biological feats that feed man’s fantasy to live long and postpone death.
1. The African lungfish buries in mud up to two feet deep in order to escape extreme drought and heat in the desert. It curls into a ball and seals its chamber with its own mucus secretion and there it aestivates for as long as four years in the absence of rain.

2. Garter snakes survive the long Canadian winter while remaining in burrows, or in extreme cases, encrust in ice. They are liberated only when the ice thaws in spring, and soon resume their normal activities. They grow, mate and reproduce before they hibernate again come next winter.

3. Snakes and other reptiles easily go for long periods without food. Snakes have been kept alive without food for almost two years. A python in captivity has been observed to go without food for a period of 13 months. Frogs can fast for 16 months and fishes for 20 months; land tortoise for a year and salamander for one and one-half years.

4. The most popular mammals that hibernate is the bear. Sustained by large amounts of stored fat, it sleeps in the entire winter in its den. Its normal body temperature remains the same in spite of its heartbeat reduced from 40 to 10 times per minute. Beware, a sleeping bear may be provoked at the slightest disturbance.

5. Bats in hibernation hang in caves, eat nothing, their hearts feebly beating and their breathing scarcely imperceptible. Through collective body heat the colony survives extreme cold and long winter.

Fasting – Mechanism for Survival
 
Hairy caterpillar prepares for final molting, enters pupal stage, and 
emerges into moth. After its fill, an iguana can fast for several days. 
Fasting is a means of meeting exigencies of life. It is one of nature’s best methods of dealing with physiological problems. Take the hibernating bear, the aestivating crocodile, the sick elephant, the wounded dog – these fast in order to meet the problems before them. Fasting is indeed a very useful means of adaptation.

But how long can animals abstain from food? Let us look into these examples.

1. There were dogs that remained alive for 38 days without food. The longest survival record is 117 days.

2. Rats may survive after 5 to 6 days. Guinea pigs may last for 7 to 8 days without food, while rabbits can live for 15 days under strict fasting.

3. Spiders undergo incredible fasting, spinning webs daily from substances generated by their bodies. Spiders have been observed to exist without food for 17 months.

4. Unicellular organisms such as amoebae and paramecia can exist without food from 4 to 24 days. As a result they undergo diminution in size.

5. The larvae of a beetle, Trogoderma tarsale, that infest cereals can live for as long as five years without food.

6. The condor, like all other vultures, is capable of fasting for days. It gorges itself however, when it finds food.

7. Scorpions are known to have starved for 368 days.

8. A freshwater fish, Amia calva, can fast for 20 months.

9. Ticks can exist in an active state for as long as four years without eating anything.

10. A boa constrictor may remain inactive for months after a full meal. So with the anaconda in the Amazon jungle.

Deeper mystery shrouds our knowledge of Dormancy

It is practice to irradiate potato and onion before they are stored in order to retard sprouting. If radiation does not kill the embryo how does it induce dormancy?

Locusts may suddenly group and coalesce into a swarm. Like birds and other animals, migration is an adaptive mechanism to escape extreme conditions of the environment. Are these organisms not equipped with the gene for dormancy?

Deciduousness (complete shedding of leaves) of certain trees like the narra, occurs periodically but not necessarily jibed with the dormancy period. In fact some trees are even more luxuriant when other plants are dormant. We have little knowledge about the biological clock that dictates dormancy among different species of organisms.

Episodes of the Red Tide phenomenon caused by dinoflagellates, such as Pyrodinium, Peridinium, and Gonyaulax, are unpredictable. What predispose these organisms to bloom? How do they stay dormant in between seasons of occurrence?

This leads us to the epidemic cycles of certain human diseases. How do influenza viruses stay “alive” during off-season? What made H1N1 virus (swine flu) spread into pandemic in so short a time? When will its virulence subside?

How does HIV remain passive in an HIV positive patient? Bubonic plague devastated medieval Europe in three major waves killing one-third of the population. How do we explain alternate virulence and dormancy of the causal organism?

What really induce flowering? How does potassium nitrate induce flowering of mango during off-season? Why is it that old folk cut notches on the trunk of trees that are “lazy” to bloom? Then for whatever reason, the wounded trees come alive with flowers and fruits.

As I was writing this article, some birds came flying by and perched on a nearby talisay tree singing melodious songs that herald a new season - amihan. The Siberian winds have arrived. In the Northern hemisphere it is time for hibernation, in the South hemisphere it is aestivation. For many birds and animals, it is time for migration.

Except for humans, all living things take heed of Nature’s call. ~