Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Big Bang - the Origin of Life

Dr Abe V Rotor
Big Bang (19" x 23") painting by the author 2012

Once upon a distant past, a proto mass 
     of converging gases, too huge 
to hold on in space exploded -
     the Big Bang like a centrifuge.  

Born the universe and galaxies
     in countless numbers expanding,
countless more, orphans in space,
     our known world but a sibling.

Were this true - life so little do we know
     today from its very spawn; 
move over Oparin, move over Darwin, 
     theories past and our own  ~

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Wild Pigeon

Dr Abe V Rotor

Marlo, Tikob Lake, Tiaong Quezon

You cannot be free if man is your master,
even if he feeds you and shelters you,
for you belong to a flock and the sky;
be a friend then to a young heart, fill it 
with joy and link your world with his own.

Light in the Woods 1995, Megabooks

Giant Cranefly

Dr Abe V Rotor

Crane Fly (Tipula sp), Family Tipulidae, Order Diptera

This is a rare specimen I caught at home. It is a very curious one, although it a relative of the mosquito. It has the size several times bigger than the ordinary cranefly we often called daddy-long-legs.

The cranefly undergoes four stages - egg, larva called maggot, pupa and adult. The maggot feeds on crops and pasture grass but it inflicts little damage. The adults emerge and swarm in the evening. They have queer body structure and movement. Craneflies are clumsy fliers, mainly because they have only one pair of wings. That is why they are classified Diptera - two wings. The pair of hindwings are reduced into halteres or balancers which look like stubs or knobs.

When at rest, craneflies shake continuously in all directions that they become virtually invisible to their enemies. This unique mechanism has not been fully studied.

If you can detect a cranefly, you must have a third eye.~

How to catch frogs

Dr Abe V Rotor 
Palakang Bukid (Rana vitigera)

It was fun to trap frogs when I was a kid. At harvest time I would dig holes in the ricefield around one and one-half feet deep. The frogs seek shelter in these holes because they need water and a cool place. Insects that fall into the hole attract them and become their prey.

Early in the morning I would make my rounds, harvesting the trapped frogs in each hole. The frog is skinned, its entrails removed, and cooked with tomato, onion, and achuete (Bixa orellana). Frogs make a favorite dish, especially among Ilocanos.

x x x

Traces of Art Movements are Alive in Today's Paintings

Dr Abe V Rotor 
Living with Nature School on Blog []

These representative paintings are the works of amateurs at the University of Santo Tomas. They provide a keyhole view on the trend of painting with reference to certain schools or movements in the midst of computer art and advertisements. They are footprints of Monet's Impressionism, Van Gogh's Expressionism, Salvador Dali's Surrealism, Picasso's Abstractionism, among others, but the question remains, "Quo vbadis?" (Where is the art of painting heading for?)
Impressionistic autumn in the stillness of Monet;
where have all the creatures gone, pray.

Nature and Nurture are but one,
unity and harmony under the sun;
naturalism of Amorsolo,
Seurat and Cezanne

Quartet annonymous, music unknown,
artists incognito in the silence of song. 
impressionism with a touch of surrealism.  


Likeness of Van Gogh,
tortured soul seeking 
escape from the self; 
Oh, art, let go, let go.

Matisse, Chagall, Joya,
masters of abstract art
and countless sworn -
artists and zealots as well.

Paul Cezanne's cubism,
light and shadow
and colors in prism.

Speak of friendship or loneliness,
boredom or eagerness,
captured best with the brush
more than the lens. 

Artists insist in their art and craft,
little for a living, fullest in the heart.

Acknowledgement: The author failed to include the identities of the artists who made these paintings. Sincere gratitude is accorded them for sharing their talents in the readers of this article.

Mimicking Nature by Means of Transforms

Dr Abe V Rotor 
Living with Nature School on Blog 

Anna at the Museum of Natural History, UPLB Mt Makiling, Laguna

If I were given wings, 
I would rather be a butterfly,
and flutter from flower to flower;
sipping the nectar of youth, 
the Pierian Spring,
'til it runs dry.  

When does smoking begin, when does it end?
with the young and the old, and in between,
a lifetime, or a life deserted at the bend,
pleasurable, insatiable it could have been.  

Author at the Museum of Natural History

Anatomy of a tree Joyce Kilmer failed to see,
in his Only God can Make a Tree;
faith we embrace and not probe its mystery
keeps the peace of the world and thee. 

Arthropods - highest in diversity:
if appendages are survival trends,
why did human become a biped
and left his four-legged friends?

Reptiles, descendants of giants, 
annelids lost their appendages;
limbs to fins in fish, wings in birds,
by unseen hand through the ages.

Plate-like structure made of chitin in Arthropods, hence, "joined legs"

Ifugao Rice Terraces Diorama at the Smithsonian

Dr Abe V Rotor 
Photo taken in 1976 at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC. 
No dioramas were shown about contemporary Philippines at that time.

We may be happy to see the image of our ancestors,
the uniqueness of our culture, and pride of our race;
and art for art sake, we may forgive the trespassers,
yet unforgiving we are on the bias of time and grace.
Would we rather remain silent and choose obscurity
if history is hid of its crowning glory and praise? ~

Saturday, June 24, 2017

50 Kinds of Phobia - A Checklist for Self-Analysis

We are Living in Parallel Worlds:  The World of Phobia
Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature - School on Blog

It's a different world you enter into when you are gripped by anxiety, tension and fear, sometimes to the point of panic.  You find yourself surrounded by walls.  You don't only feel as prisoner, you are in a coffin. You must  escape!  You must get out! You are suffering of claustrophobia

The world of phobias is virtually endless. A beautiful place may turn out to be a torture chamber (ecclesiophobia - fear of the church), a beautiful relationship becomes a bondage (gamophobia or fear of marriage).  Persistent phobias may graduate into syndrome.  Imagine yourself in a world where you are in constant fear of anything, everything, without any  known cause (panphobia), and worst, if that constant fear is the fear of death (thanatophobia)  

Imagine yourself being surrounded by different kinds of merchandise like in this sari-sari store, and people milling around plus the typical irritating noise typical in a market . Is this a case of claustrophobia? Or much more? And yet vendors get used to it - and even love their work and make it a lifetime livelihood. So what is phobia?

Everyone of us has phobias, a term that has become very common nowadays. 

The truth is that many of our fears are not actually phobias. Thus a phobia may be regarded as a psychological phenomenonpersonality problem, or simply anxiety, shynessdistraught. It could be the result of discrimination, prejudiceafter-effect of say, a horror movie, and inability to adjust to a new situation.

Actually there are 1001 cause-and-effect cases that are attributed to phobias, and many of them are just invented terms. There is no end to the list which in the first place are not all supported by scientific evidences. 

If our world is full of phobias how come we still can manage to go on with life? And find it beautiful? Psychologists say we have the ability to rise above uncertainties and fears associated with things and events unfamiliar and strange. Our rationality and high intelligence help us in facing and overcoming them - and even forget them afterwards. This is the wonder of human will and determination.

Is there a term for phobia to cats? Cats are second to the dog as man's best friend. It is ironical that these animals are the cause of phobia, something parents and our values have to correct early with our children.

In the scientific aspect a phobia (from the Greek for fear or morbid fear) is an irrational, intense and persistent fear of certain situations, activities, things, animals, or people. The main symptom of this disorder is the excessive and unreasonable desire to avoid the feared stimulus. Phobias are generally caused by an event recorded and labeled in the brain as deadly or dangerous. Thus whenever a specific situation is approached again (and again) the body reacts as if the event were happening repeatedly afterward. In which case there is need of medical, psychiatric, or spiritual advise.

Go over this list and mark those that are applicable to you, and rate them as mild or serious. In this way you will be able to assess your fears and overcome them, on your own effort, or with professional help. There are really many phobias beyond this list. No one knows really, and if alleged phobia is an accepted term and condition. This is the consequence of living in a postmodern world.

  1. acrophobia – heights
  2. agarophobia – open space
  3. agyrophobia or dromophobia – crossing the street
  4. amaxophobia – riding in a car
  5. ambulophobia – walking
  6. aviophobia – fear of flying
  7. androphobia – men
  8. gamophobia – marriage
  9. ecclesiophobia – church
  10. gerascophobia – growing old
  11. thanatophobia – fear of death.
  12. thermophobia – fear of heat.
  13. tokophobia – fear of childbirth.
  14. hagiophobia – saints and holy things
  15. anthophobia - flowers
  16. aviophobia, aviatophobia – fear of flying.
  17. hydrophobia - water (a positive sign of a mad dog)Below are some examples:
  18. chemophobia – prejudice against artificial substances in favor of "natural" substances.
  19. ephebiphobia – fear or dislike of youth or adolescents.
  20. homophobia – fear or dislike of homosexuals or homosexuality.
  21. xenophobia – fear or dislike of strangers or the unknown.
  22. agoraphobia – fear of places or events where escape is impossible
  23. agraphobia – fear of sexual abuse.
  24. algophobia – fear of pain.
  25. agyrophobia – fear of crossing roads.
  26. anthropophobia – fear of people or being in a company, a form of social phobia.
  27. arachnophobia – fear of spiders.
  28. atychiphobia – fear of failure
  29. claustrophobia – fear of having no escape and being closed in.
  30. dentophobia, odontophobia – fear of dentists and dental procedures
  31. disposophobia, better known as "compulsive hoarding" – the fear of getting rid of or losing things.
  32. dysmorphophobia, or body dysmorphic disorder – a phobic obsession with a real or imaginary body defect.
  33. genophobia, coitophobia – fear of sexual intercourse.
  34. gerascophobia – fear of growing old or aging.
  35. gerontophobia – fear of growing old, or a hatred or fear of the elderly
  36. glossophobia – fear of speaking in public or of trying to speak.
  37. gynophobia – fear of women.
  38. hemophobia, haemophobia – fear of blood.
  39. spectrophobia – fear of mirrors and one's own reflections.
  40. nostophobia - fear of returning home
  41. nyctophobia, achluophobia -   fear of darkness.
  42. lygophobia, scotophobia – also fear of darkness.
  43. paraskavedekatriaphobia, paraskevidekatriaphobia, friggatriskaidekaphobia – fear of Friday the 13th.
  44. scolionophobia – fear of school.
  45. phasmophobia – fear of ghosts, spectres or phantasms.
  46. philophobia - fear of love
  47. phobophobia – fear of having a phobia.
  48. pyrophobia – fear of fire.
  49. sociophobia – fear of people or social situations.
  50. Panphobia – fear of everything or constant fear of an unknown cause. ~
After finishing this exercise, proceed to the next post: Anxiety, Phobia and Depression

NOTE: The terms mentioned here are not all recognized scientifically.  Many are not found in the dictionary. Most of these are classified psychological. Other phobias are non-psychological, fictional, jocular, biological, or simply arising from our relationships with the environment, animals and the like. Pause and reflect. Make a list of the phobias you have identified from this list and from other sources. Resolve to overcome them and live a happier and healthier life. You can do it!

References: Time magazine, Wikipedia

Friday, June 23, 2017

A Day at the Museum of Natural History

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog

Skeleton of a tamaraw
Wall. wall, who is the most informed of all? 
History in a glass case
Whale, dead and alive - and threatened.
Kids' world in a natural world through arts 
Teachers on a field trip at the UPLB Museum of Natural History
Author leads group in a field lecture

Museum is...

Museum is where time stands still and the world goes back 
into the realm of the past resurrected by fossil and artifact;

Museum is a capsule of time and space that makes a tour
for the busy soul to break away from daily grind and chore;

Museum is where man's instinct yearning to know his origin 
as a human being comes to terms with unsettled beginning.

Museum is the showcase of biodiversity, past and present 
of the living world - prehistoric, the ancient and the recent;    

Museum is a diorama, fashioned by man's hand, aesthetic
and make-believe, his life in harmony, doubt and conflict;     

Museum is an arena of knowledge, attracting the scholars
to talk about anything on earth, and beyond the stars; 

Museum is a place of reflection where man draws humility 
from revelation, embracing both unknown and reality. 

Museum is a keyhole of a country's wealth and culture, 
a view of awe and beauty, achievements and rapport;

Museum is a center of peace, foreigners and citizens
converging into small United Nations of many friends.    

Museum is a place marked with neither beginning nor end,
it simply takes one into a journey of life down the bend. ~  

Photos were taken at the Museum of Natural History at the University of the Philippines at Los BaƱos, Laguna, 2007

Impressionism and Abstract Nature Paintings of Nature (Article in progress)

Dr Abe V Rotor
Birds (16" 28") 2012

Bugs (11" x 14") 2012

Bullfight (13" 24") 2013

Eyes, Eyes (12" 24") 2013
Autumn Bloom (22" x 22") 2013

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Return of Balloon Frog Symbolizes Nature's Victory

But Nature’s victory does not mean man’s defeat; rather it humbles man to be obedient to Nature’s laws and rules which is the key to his very survival. 

Dr Abe V Rotor

Views of the Balloon Frog - Uperodon globulosus (U. systoma?)

The first time I saw tukak bat’og was when I was a young farmhand. Its name is familiar because bat’og, battog or battobattog, in Ilocano means pot bellied. At that time anyone who exhibited a bulging waistline was associated with this amphibian. But there were very few of this kind then. The war had just ended and people had to work hard.

Hardship tightens the belt automatically, but peacetime and the Good Life opens a new war - the “battle of the bulge.” Today two out of five Americans are obese and Europeans are not far behind. Asians are following the same trend, as more and more people have changed to the Western lifestyle that accompanies overweight condition, whether one is male or female.

But actually Bat’og is all air. It’s like balloon short of taking off. But once it wedges itself in its tight abode not even bird or snake can dislodge it. Not only that. It feigns dead and its attacker would simply walk away to find a live and kicking prey.

Nature’s sweet lies are tools of survival. When it faces danger Bat’og engulfs air and becomes pressurized and distended, reducing the size of its head and appendages to appear like mere rudiments. And with its coloration that blends with the surroundings, and its body spots becoming monstrous eyes, who would dare to attack this master of camouflage.

Not enough to drive away its foe, Bat’og uses another strategy by producing deep booming sounds coming from its hollow body as resonator. I remember the story of Monico and the Giant by Camilo Osias when I was in the grades. The cruel giant got scared and rushed out of his dark hiding when Monico boomed like Bat’og . Actually it was the unique design of the cave’s chamber that created the special sound effect and ventriloquism. The vaults of old churches were similarly designed this way so that the faithful can clearly hear the sermon.

The exhausted Bat’og deflates and returns to its chores, feeding, roaming around and calling for mate – and rain, so old folks say. Well, frogs become noisy when it rains. Biologically, egg laying is induced by rain. Eggs are fertilized in water and hatched into tadpoles that live in water until they become frogs. Bat’og has relatives that live in trees and their tadpoles inhabit trapped water in the axils of bromeliads, bananas and palms. Or it could be a pool inside the hollow of a tree.

After I left the farm for my studies in Manila, I never saw any Tukak Bat’og again. Only a trace of that childhood memory was left of this enigmatic creature.

Then one day, in my disbelief Bat’og resurrected! For a long time it has long been in the requiem list of species, ironically even before it was accorded scientific details of its existence. Well, there are living things that may not even reach the first rung of the research ladder, either they are insignificant or new to science. Who would take a look at Bat’og?

I believe a lot of people now do. People have become environment-conscious after the publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, the emergence of Greenpeace movement, and birth of "heroes for the environment". Who is not aware now of global warming, especially after viewing Al Gore's documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth? Who have not experienced calamities brought about by our changing climate? 

What changed the thinking of the world - a revolution in our concept of survival - is that all livings are interconnected and that the world is one systemic order, that the survival of one spells the survival of all creatures and the preservation of the integrity of the biosphere and therefore of Planet Earth, and that there is no living thing that is too small to be insignificant or useless.

Of all places I found Bat’og one early morning in my residence in Quezon City. I would say it instead found me. There in my backyard, ensconced in a gaping crack in the soil covered with a thick layer of dead leaves lay my long lost friend - very much alive.

Hello! And it looked at me motionless with steady eyes. It was aestivating, a state of turpor, which is a biological phenomenon for survival in dry and hot summer, the counterpart of hibernation when organisms sleep in winter and wait for the coming of spring. My friend was waiting nature's clock to signal the Habagat to bring rain from across the Pacific come June to September, a condition necessary for its amphibious life.

Slowly I lifted my friend and cradled it of sort on my palm. And we rolled time back fifty years ago. And before any question was asked, it was already answered. It is like that when two old friends meet after a long time. I remember when journalist Stanley found the great explorer Dr. David Livingstone in the heart of Africa in the 19th century, Stanley simply greeted, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" and the old man lifted his hat and gave Stanley a firm handshake. This became one of the most famous meetings in the world.

You see an event earns a place in history, or in the heart, when it permeates into the primordial reason of existence, which is Reverence of Life.

Reverence – this is the principal bond between man and nature. It is more than friendship. It is the also the bonds of the trilogies of human society – equality, fraternity and liberty. It is the bridge of all relationships in the complex web and pyramid of life. It towers over equations and formulas in science. It links earth and heaven, in fact the whole universe – and finally, the bridge of understanding between creature and Creator.

Bat’og is back. How easy it is to understand a creature however small it is, if it is your friend. Yet how difficult it is to define the role of a friend. The fox in Antoine de Saint-Exupery’ novel, The Little Prince, warned the little prince, “If you tame me you are responsible to me.” The little prince simply touched the wild beast.

Taming is the ultimate submission to humility. And the greater a person who humbles himself, the truer a friend he is.

How do we relate this principle to our being the only rational creature? The dominant species over millions of species? The God-anointed guardian of the Earth? The custodian of creation?

Allow me to have some time with my long lost friend. Either one of us is the Prodigal Son, but that does not matter now. Let me join Darwin and Linnaeus and Villadolid et al.

That was a long time ago by the pond that had dried in summer. As a kid on the farm I have known the ways of my friend. Bat’og would stake its prey - termites, ants, beetles and other insects. Like all frogs – and toads – the adults and tadpoles are important in controlling pests and diseases.

One of its relatives belonging to genus Kaloula was found to subsist mainly on hoppers and beetles that destroy rice, including leafhoppers that transmit tungro, a viral disease of rice that may lead to total crop failure. Such insectivorous habit though is universal to amphibians, reptiles, birds and other organisms. If only we can protect these Nature’s biological agents we would not be using chemicals on the farm and home, chemicals that pollutes the environment and destroys wildlife.

Bat'og and its kind protect man from hunger and disease. They are an important link in the food chain. No pond or ricefield or forest or grassland is without frogs. There would be no herons and snakes and hawks and eagles. No biological laboratory is without the frog as a blue print of human anatomy. And The Frog and the Princess would certainly vanish in the imagination of children.

Bat’og is a survivor of chemical genocide. It is the timely age of enlightenment of people returning to natural food and the spread of environmental consciousness on all walks of life and ages that came to its rescue in the last minute. So with many threatened species.

Who does not rejoice at finding again native kuhol, martiniko, ulang and gurami in the rice field? Oriole, pandangeratarat and pipit in the trees? Tarsier, mouse deer and pangolin in the wild? And the return of ipil-ipil, kamagong and narra in the forest? And of course, Haribon the symbol of Philippine wildlife and biodiversity.

It is indeed a challenge for us to practice being the Good Shepherd, but this time it is not only a lost lamb that we have to save, it’s the whole flock.

Tukak Bat’og symbolizes the victory of Nature. But Nature’s victory does not mean man’s defeat; rather it is man’s submission and obedience to Nature’s laws and rules and therefore, the restoration of order on Planet Earth - our only spaceship on which we journey into the vastness of the universe and the unknown. x x x

I asked God for more

"I asked God if I can be god, too, all knowing
     with my technology ..."
Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog

Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday
Virgin Forest: only 3 percent is left in the Philippines.

Requiem to a forest, Brooke's Point Palawan

I asked God for food, clothing and shelter
     and He showered me
these necessities I can not live without -
     they are the Earth's bounty;
I settled down on fertile hills and valleys
     and multiplied freely.

I asked God for power to boost my strength,
     and He gave me energy;
I leveled the mountains, dammed the rivers
     and conquered the sea;
raped the forests, prairies, lakes and estuaries,
     a world I wanted to be.

I asked God if I can be god, too, all knowing
     with my technology;
broke the sacred code of life and of matter,
     changed the Great Story;
annihilated life unfit in my own design,
     and set my own destiny.

I asked God if He is but a creation of the mind,
     and rose from my knee;
probed space, rounding up the universe,
     aiming at immortality;
bolder than ever, searching for another home,

     and wanting to be free. ~

Acknowledgment: Photos, Dr Julie Barcelona