Saturday, November 26, 2016

Folk Wisdom - Keeper of Tradition (10 lessons)

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

1. Thunder and lightning spawn mushroom.

In the province, it is a tradition to go hunting for mushrooms in bamboo groves, on anthills, under rice hay and banana stalks during the monsoon season, specifically after a period of heavy thunder and lightning. And what do we know? Old folks are right as they show you the prize - baskets full of Volvariella (rice hay or banana mushroom), Pleurotus (abalone mushroom), Auricularia (tainga ng daga), and a host of other wild species. 
Where did the mushroom come from? When lightning strikes, nitrogen, which comprise 78 percent of the air is combined with oxygen (21 percent of the air) forming nitrate (NO3). 

Scientists call this process, nitrogen fixation or nitrification. Nitrate, which is soluble in water, is washed down by rain. Lightning occurs every second in any place of the earth, keeping the earth sufficient with this life-giving compound. Not only green plants are benefited from this natural fertilizer, but also phytoplankton (microscopic one-celled plants) - and the lowly mushroom whose vegetative stage is but a cottony mass of mycelia enmeshed in decomposing media such as plant residues. With nitrate now available, rain softening the culture medium, and other conditions favorable, the saprophyte transforms into its reproductive phase. This is distinctly the mushroom we commonly see – one with an umbrella atop a single stalk. In all its luxuriance and plenty, one may discover clusters and hills of mushrooms in just a single spot. 

2. Kapok laden with pods means there’s going to be a poor harvest.
Ceiba pentandra, or cotton tree, has large secondary roots to compensate for its lack of primary root that can penetrate the deeper source of water. Nature endowed this plant with fleshy trunk and branches to store large amount of water for the dry season. Insufficient rains or early onset of summer triggers flowering, as it is the case in many species under stress. Thus it is one of the indicators of poor harvest farmers rely on. It has been observed that a bumper crop of kapok fiber occurs during El Niño, a climatic phenomenon characterized by extreme drought.

3. Ethnic music makes a wholesome life; it is therapy.

Have you ever noticed village folks singing or humming as they attend to their chores? They have songs when rowing the boat, songs when planting, songs of praise at sunrise, songs while walking up and down the trail, etc. Seldom is there an activity without music. Even the sounds of nature to them are music.

According to researcher Leonora Nacorda Collantes, of the UST graduate school, music influences the limbic system, called the “seat of emotions” and causes emotional response and mood change. Musical rhythms synchronize body rhythms, mediate within the sphere of the autonomous nervous and endocrine systems, and change the heart and respiratory rate.  Music reduces anxiety and pain, induces relaxation, thus promoting the overall sense of well being of the individual.

Music is closely associated with everyday life among village folks more than it is to us living in the city. The natives find content and relaxation beside a waterfall, on the riverbank, under the trees, in fact there is to them music in silence under the stars, on the meadow, at sunset, at dawn. Breeze, crickets, running water, make a repetitious melody that induces sleep. Humming indicates that one likes his or her work., and can go on for hours without getting tired at it. Boat songs make rowing synchronized. Planting songs make the deities of the field happy, so they believe; and songs at harvest is thanksgiving. The natives are indeed a happy lot.

4. When earthworms crawl out of their holes, a flood is coming.

This subterranean annelid has built-in sensors, a biblical Noah’s sense of a coming flood, so to speak. Its small brain is connected to clusters of nerve cells, called ganglia, running down the whole body length. These in turn are connected to numerous hair-like protrusions on the cuticle, which serve as receptor. When rain saturates the soil, ground water rises and before it reaches their burrows, they crawl out to higher grounds where they seek refuge until the flood or the rainy season is over. The more earthworms abandoning their burrows, the more we should take precaution.

5. To control rhinoceros beetles from destroying coconuts throw some sand into the base of the leaves. 

Male rhino beetle

This insect, Oryctes rhinoceros, is a scourge of coconut, the larva and adult burrow into the bud and destroy the whole top or crown of the tree. There is scientific explanation to this practice of throwing sand into the axis of the leaves. Sand, the raw material in making glass, penetrates into the conjunctiva - the soft skin adjoining the hard body plates, in effect injuring the insect. As the insect moves, the more it gets hurt. As a result the insect dies from wound infection, or by dehydration. Thus we observe that coconut trees growing along the seashore are seldom attacked by this beetle.

6. Don’t play with toads. Toads cause warts.

Old folks may be referring to the Bufo marinus, a poisonous toad that secretes white pasty poison from a pair of glands behind its eyes. Even snakes have learned to avoid this creature described as ugly in children’s fairy tales.

But what do we know! The toad’s defensive fluids have antibiotic properties. Chinese folk healers treat wounds such as sores and dog bites with toad secretions, sometimes obtained by surrounding the toads with mirrors to scare them in order to secrete more fluids.

Similarly certain frogs secrete antibiotic substances. A certain Dr. Michael Zasloff, physician and biochemist, discovered an antibiotic from the skin of frogs he called magainins, derived from the Hebrew word for shield, a previously unknown antibiotic. It all started when researchers performed surgery on frogs and after returning them to murky bacteria-filled water, found out that the frogs almost never got any infection.

What are then the warts the old folks claim? They must be scars of ugly wounds healed by the toad’s secretion.

7. Animals become uneasy before an earthquake occurs. 
It is because they are sensitive to the vibrations preceding an earthquake. They perceive the small numerous crackling of the earth before the final break (tectonic), which is the earthquake. 

Fantail or pandangera bird is usually restless at the onset of bad weather.

As a means of self-preservation they try to escape from stables and pens, seek shelter, run to higher grounds, or simply escape to areas far from the impending earthquake. Snakes come out of their abode, reptiles move away from the water, horses neigh and kick around, elephants seem to defy the command of their masters (like in the case of the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka). We humans can only detect such minute movements on our inventions such as the Richter Scale.

8. Don’t gather all the eggs. Leave some otherwise the laying hen will not return to its nest. 
True. The layer is likely to abandon its nest when it finds it empty. Leave a decoy of say, three eggs. But there are layers that know simple arithmetic, and therefore, cannot be deceived, and so they abandon their nest and find a new one.

9. Raining while the sun is out breeds insects.
Now and then we experience simultaneous rain and sunshine, and may find ourselves walking under an arch of rainbow, a romantic scene reminiscent of the movie and song, Singing in the Rain. Old folks would rather grim with a kind of sadness on their faces, for they believe that such condition breeds caterpillars and other vermin that destroy their crops.

What could be the explanation to this belief? Thunderstorm is likely the kind of rain old folks are referring to. Warmth plus moisture is vital to egg incubation, and activation of aestivating insects, fungi, bacteria and the like. In a few days, they come out in search of food and hosts. Armyworms and cutworms (Spodoptera and Prodina), named after their huge numbers and voracious eating habit, are among these uninvited guests

10. Garlic drives the aswang away.

If aswang (ghost) being referred to are pests and diseases, then there is scientific explanation to offer, because garlic contains a dozen substances that have pesticidal, antimicrobial and antiviral properties such as allicin, from which its generic name of the plant is derived – Allium sativum. Garlic is placed on doorways, in the kitchen and some corners of the house where vermin usually hide, which is also practiced in other countries. It exudes a repellant odor found effective against insects and rodents – and to many people, also to evil spirits, such as the manananggal (half-bodied vampire). ~

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