Thursday, August 31, 2017

Wonder what the stream sings all day

Dr Abe V Rotor
Acrylic Painting and Verse by Dr. Abe V Rotor (32” x 48”) 2017

Wonder what the stream sings all day, season after season,
     from the mountains down to this peaceful realm;
down the valley among trees of my ancestral generation,
     reminiscent of Eden as it may seem.

Wonder the chirping of birds as they greet the morning sun,
     their nests come alive, usher a new life’s beginning;
crawlers from their abode stir, the winged up into the air;
     prayer not in words, but obedience to Nature’s calling.

Wonder if we too, find reverence in this world of green,
     rainbow above, crystalline stream below,
living pillars make a cathedral beyond glass and steel,
     epitome of worship the arts couldn't show.

Wonder how man was vanished from this beautiful home,
     in exchange of a postmodern creed;
hours of work and pleasure, searching for a meaning
     of life, amassing wealth beyond his need.

Wonder not what the stream sings all day, season after season;
     it is life well lived, a singular gift of a Giver;
here a bridge across yearns for the Prodigal Son to return
     to an Eden thought to have been lost forever.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Puling ken Salugsug (Haiku in Ilocano) (Dust in the Eye and Thorn in the Finger)

Ni Dr. Abe V. Rotor

Ipang-res mo’t mamindua,

(Dust in your eyes? Blow your nose twice to obtain relief.)

Lumlumwag iti banga,
Ittip tungpalna.

(Laughing while pot is boiling may end up into crust.)

Ay, danggayam man
Dagiti lumlumdaang,
‘Toy masakbayam.

(Sympathize with the bereaved to deserve the same in the future. )

Rosario nga balitok,

(Miraculous rosary of gold, glaring to the sight.)

Bato nga arapa-ap
Ay, daksanggasat.

(Air castle - dream in stone - what a sorry state!)

Bullalayaw ta-aw,
Laud ken daya.

(A fishing pole spans the ocean from east to west.)

Iwaksi nga galad,Barbasan, ub-ubanan,
(Bad habit is hard to give up for the bearded and gray haired.)
x x x

Acknowledgement: Internet photos  

Great Ilocano Music Teacher and Composer - Maestro Selmo Pelayre

Great Ilocano Music Teacher and Composer - Maestro Selmo Pelayre
In memory of the late Mr Anselmo Pelayre, foremost Ilocano music composer and arranger, teacher and conductor.
San Vicente, Ilocos Sur, to the World Series
 Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog
Before the break of dawn people of all walks of life - even from the farthest barrio - trek to attend the traditional misa de gallo.*  There on the elevated choir of the old church stands a calmly gentleman, posed before a group of local singers.  Below, the parish priest and a pair of sacristan, visibly await at the altar's entrance. In the muffled air of a old church overflowing with faithful, the clock strikes four. And the angelic celebration begins. 

One can imagine the ambiance of the Sistine chapel in Rome.  Or Sophia in Russia.  Or the Dome in Jerusalem. But in reality it is not.  These places are too far out to deeply feel the essence of Christendom with the birth of Christ. Instead, the setting is in a relatively unknown town - San Vicente, just west of Vigan. 

There is a Bach in the music, in fact a lot of it because of the richness of the organ.  There is Beethoven in it as well, because of the fullness and variety of the music, There is Mozart because of the therapeutic effect on the tired and lonely.  There is Handel, yes, the creator of Hallelujah, the  greatest religious composition of all times. There is a Nicanor Abelardo, for the unmistakable Filipino touch typical in his kundiman. There is Santiago for the neatness of composition combining western and local flavor. 

And finally, there is Maestro Selmo Pelayre, the musical genius, an artisan who could translate auditory perception into skillful performance.  And if an artist can put together ingredients of masterpieces into a faithful yet distinct version of his, albeit the movement or school to which it is attributed, he must be a genius. And he is.

He is to us his pupils, neophytes we were then - and maybe until now - after the maestro is long gone. Yet in the very core of our childhood which surfaces now and then, his music tingles when there is fun, peals when there is lament, pops out to meet the young and restless new generation, lulls among the elderly and infirmed, dirges in times of calamitous events, and resurrects with the universal belief of eternity. 
How I loved to play the violin during the misa de gallo. Maestro Selmo made it so.  

All of a sudden you feel confident.  Because you do not only play the music, you feel the music.  You play in unity and harmony. You are the artist and the audience at the same time, your heart pouring out and theirs receiving. You may miss a note or two, but you don't lose the composition.  You ride with the crescendo and decrescendo, swing with the cantabile, quicken with the allegro.  And rise to the heavens with the Hallelujah.

How many young musicians Maestro Selmo made?  I can only guess, and lose track. For music, the universal language is a language of peace and contentment, of brotherhood and true ecumenism. It is the language of the soul, and of the spirit that humanity commonly shares. Such is the measure of a maestro - in any field for that matter, illumined by the Great Teacher.

17th century church of San Vicente, Ilocos Sur 

One composition can make or shake a nation, like the Star Spangled Banner, or any song that brings the hand close to the heart, and join others' hands. Or one that brings out the spirit of the Yuletide Season. Then there is a signature song for a birthday, a wedding, a graduation -  having established their respective places for such occasions through time and generations, and across continents.  

In Maestro Selmo's time it was a Phoenix bird coming out of the ashes of war, so to speak, a transition of war to peace.  Childhood in my generation was short-lived.  You have to mature fast and eager on behalf of the lost generation. it is responsibility, resolution to take over. And therefore, what we needed most was a guiding hand. 

Maestro Selmo was my teacher in the grade school, as well as my tutor in violin. I would go to his place on a weekend, a couple of blocks away from our house, and there I would enjoy the musical company of his family - Carmen, Cecille, 
Salvador, and other two brothers.  They were invariably members of a choir or a band that played during funeral, parade, procession,  sarzuela (public stage play), comedia (moro-moro), and fiesta, numerous school and church activities, notwithstanding. Music is a signature of our town, together with sculpture, painting and carpentry. To us it is a mark of time and living, from birth to death - and after.  It is important to our values.  

Imagine if there were no lullaby, no dance, no song.  Mother-and-child would just be a symbol, the dance floor empty, poetry prosaic and dull, serenade lacking romance. Listen to the lullaby (Ugoy ng Duyan) of Lucio San Pedro, dance the dallot (Ilk) patterned after the dalliance of eagles for which it is performed in weddings.  Sing Pamulinawen (stone-hearted Lady), Manang Biday (cheerful Ilocana lass), O, Naraniag a Bulan (Oh, Bright Moon), Diay Baybay (Over the Sea), or the hilarious Ti Ayat ti Mays a Lakay (An old man's love for a lass), and enjoy the art of living.  Be part of the element of art's gaily and timeless gifts, be part of the culture that built and preserve it.  What make it truly Ilocano. And what makes a holistic life tuned with the ways of nature.  

If a breeze passing through the leaves is music, so with the lapping of waves on the shore, chirping piping through a bird's nest up in a tree, bleating or mooing on the meadow, the rush of river, raindrops falling - or simply, lilting of children flying kites - you are blessed. If these are perceived as music, and you are aware that the origin of music is Nature, like Beethoven's Pastoral - you are blessed.  Listen to the rowing song, planting song, humming on a lonely path. You may have been among the pupils of Maestro Selmo.  You must have heard his plaintive country songs and happy folk music on tape or CD.  You too, must have been among the faithful attending the misa de gallo in his time.       

The compositions of Maestro Selmo may have lived with the misa de gallo until church music either became impromptu or electronic; it may have lived with the sarzuela until the stage was replaced by cinema, the orchestra by rock band, treasured masterpieces commercialized, live performance abridged and gimmicked, and the harana (serenade) a Shakespearean past. 

And Maestro Selmo himself retired as a teacher and migrated to America.  He was no longer heard by us - until time, sweet time - stilled his genius and loving heart.  All in the name of change-and-progress-and-change, ad infinitum, acculturation

engulfing what is divisive and diverse, and globalization homogenizing cultures, so with art - old and new, classic and abstract, and anything that is perceived as no longer relevant and necessary or useful - and profitable.

And yet he carried his music to America, with his family, and kababayan, their friends and acquaintances, who, like him may not have left their homelands -  were life and living less demanding, more promising, more peaceful, more fulfilling, and brighter for the next and new generations. 

If his music has brought light to life to be shared with one and many, then he shall have earned his place a genius in the art of music. Because he elevated music to the level of philosophy. 

And so the vacuum became ours. Inevitably.  It became a greater challenge indeed.  But this is the whole essence of humanity.  Dissemination.  It is the binhi principle in action.  It is the work of the Sower. And Maestro Selmo did it - through music.

Thomas Gray may have "perfected" his masterpiece Elegy on a Country Churchyard, yet this particular stanza remains unsettling.  It is because life that is well earned, well shared, well devoted to the Creator is never wasted at all.  

Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
     The deep unfathomed caves the ocean bear;
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
    And waste their sweetness in the desert air."

Thomas Gray, Elegy on the Country Churchyard

*Simb├íng Gabi ("Night Mass"), is the Filipino version of the Misa de Aguinaldo.  It  traditionally begins on December 16 and ends on December 24. The celebration is held at around four o’clock in the morning since it was the harvest season, and the farmers needed to be in the fields right after the celebration.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Last Actor-Playwright of Ilocano Zarzuela - Hilarion Riotoc Lazo -

In his memory this article is dedicated. His remains lie in state in his home in San Vicente, Ilocos Sur.
San Vicente IS to the World Series
Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog 

Laring R Lazo and cast in one of the last zarzuela presentations. 

When I started to write about Laring, as he is fondly called on or off the stage, I thought of an all time famous line of Shakespeare.  

“All the world’s a stage, and all the people merely players…” 

It is true, all of us are actors in our own rights, and may I say, playwrights too, because we cannot truly be ourselves without the script we make from our own thoughts and ideas, our imaginations and experiences. And from our interactions with people and society.

But there are those whose talent brings to stage the drama people look up to, drama that makes us laugh and cry, enlightens us of our burden, rekindles hope, encourages us to meet the challenges of life.  Or merely keeps our faith alive and respects our personal values.  But the most important qualification a playwright has, I believe, is his ability to unite us as one humanity. 

Manong Laring (address as courtesy to one who is older) is a natural player on stage - actor, director, musician, setup artist, and all that a play needs on stage, that thinking loud of these many requirements would send an ordinary person to simply be part of the audience.  

He knew well the amphitheater of the Greeks which the Romans modified into public forum, and later simplified as entablado - a plaza stage which was brought to the Philippines during the Spanish conquest. 

Here on the entablado generations of Filipinos witnessed many and varied presentations from official functions of government to public entertainment. Two forms of stage drama became institutions during the 400-year of Spanish rule - extending to post American era.  They remained all-time favorites during fiestas: the zarzuela and the comedia (moro-moro).

I grew up near the entablado, a stone's throw from our house. Adjacent to it is the 17th century church, the municipio the seat of local government, and the palengke (Aztec term for market). The plaza was a wide open space for games like sipa, kite flying, procession and parade..

The entablado was integrated into the system and culture. It was designed for governance, through people's participation. Thus the zarzuela is a drama of, for and by the people. Themes like romance, triumph and tragedy, comical and musical, became part of people's lives so that even those from far flung barrios would come on foot or cart pulled by bullock not only to watch the plays but to celebrate with the occasion. It could be the Cenaculo or Passion of Christ, it could be comedia, a regular presentation on the feast day of San Vicente de Ferrer, the town's patron saint. The comedia reinforces Christianity (though not conducive to ecumenism). The theme of the musical farce revolves on the victory (always) of the Holy Crusade over the Moors during the Dark Ages in Europe. 

Manong Laring and I belong to the generation that still carried the influence of Renaissance Europe in spite of the 50-year American Commonwealth rule that followed, and four years of Japanese Occupation. The Philippines now independent, was as young as our generation. It was fragile. While fledgling as a new nation, the world entered into the so-called Cold War, polarizing nations into two opposing ideologies, we on the American side while China and other Asian neighbors joined communist USSR.  The war was to last until 1989, after nearly 45 years. .   

Whatever happened to the entablado at the crossroad of change?

Rapid change followed, steered by breakthroughs in science and technology with man landing on the moon, the arrival of computer age, and the breaking of the code of life?

We can only imagine what drama would be most appropriate to show on stage. The shrinking of the world, so to speak, became conducive to exodus to cities and migration from underdeveloped to industrialized countries. On the other hand, inequity of wealth distribution has created extreme economic conditions particularly on the grassroots.  

I am presenting these historical events in the light of the rise and fall of the zarzuela and other forms of art - and all fields of human endeavor, for that matter. A social scientist once said that periodicity is a phenomenon humanity has no control of time, space, and events. Change is gaining accelerated momentum. We are now living in postmodernism, literally living tomorrow today.

Manong Laring now lives in New York with his family. In his recent visit I requested for an interview and permission to play on my radio program one of his zarzuela recordings - Perlas II (photo). 

It is nostalgic to reminisce the good old days of the zarzuela, in its entire splendor on the last Tuesday of April, the town fiesta of San Vicente.  Maestro Selmo Pelayre would be conducting the orchestra, with Laring as the principal character on stage. Fredelito Lazo, a classmate of mine and a prominent Ilocano writer, would be on the assist, as well.  So with a host of local talents.  I am reminded of the young playwright Pierre Gringore of Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame, who tried to bring dignity to the art; and Severino Reyes' (Lola Basyang) Walang Sugat  designed to outwit American propaganda during the Commonwealth era.  So with Nick Joaquin's Portrait of the Filipino, with its nationalistic fervor. 

I did some research why the zarzuela is among the most loved and enduring forms of art, we classify today as performing art. All over the world the zarzuela and its variants dominated the stage for centuries.  Europe is the progenitor of the play, it raised it to the highest level of art, developing new movements with the opera, concert, dance and other choreographic presentations. Stage play was used as well in propaganda and campaign. The theater in America gave rise to Hollywood. Rural development through extension, adopts stage play as tool of extension. Laedza Batanini of Botswana is a world model in rural development.       

Singular indeed is the whole cast's greatest hour. There is a bit of Euripides, pioneer playwright of ancient Greco-Roman times' tales and legends, counterpart of Homer's epics - Iliad and the Odessey. There is a bit of Shakespeare the classicist and most influential dramatist, as much a myth as a man. His characters are timeless archetypes that influence us all to this day - Romeo, Juliet, Macbeth, Hamlet, Othello are among his greatest works. His plays have become a part of the world’s collective consciousness.

There is a bit of the Russian Anton Chekhov, who epitomized the stream-of-consciousness style that inspired James Joyce and other modernists in the literary arts like Elia Kazan, and Ernest Hemingway. There is a bit of Eugene O'Neill, whose sense of despair could be likened to that of Edgar Allan Poe. There is a bit of Arthur Miler dubbed the last great practitioner of the American Stage, a carryover of American colonialism. 

And contemporarily, there is a bit of Tennessee Williams dramatizing his life and family, in relating tragic relationships, dysfunctional families, and brought us a world so real that reflects modern society. And there's a bit of Bertolt Brecht. When you see his play or movie, you leave the place wanting to change your life.

The essence of the zarzuela is very much alive. Today it lives on the screen, more than on stage. It has found the home a stage through the television and computer. The essence of traditional drama is preserved in documentaries, and made popular through telenobela, and brought down to young audiences through cartoon characters and animations. 

And with today's social media, “All the world’s a stage, and all the people merely players…” gives everyone the chance and opportunity to play his or her best.  But the world continues to search for an actor-playwright like Manong Laring, whose drama doesn't only make Shakespeare smile, but the whole humanity proud. ~

Stage scenes of zarzuela performed in different places and of different genres. 

Friday, August 25, 2017

Living Prism

Painting and Poem by Dr Abe V Rotor
Living Prism in the Deep in acrylic (24” x 43”) 2017

Sunlight splits into colors, the rainbow,
     through droplets hanging in the sky,
the deep among seaweeds where fishes play,
     letting time and the world go by.

Oh, how the seasons come and go at ease,
     ephemeral in our lifetime,
yet fullest in awe and wonder and joy,
     in the living prism in our prime.

In the golden years as the sun sets down,
     and into the deep its last rays must die,
lingers, flickers the light saved by the day
     into beautiful dreams to live by. ~

A Parthenon of Nature

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog 

 A Walk Among the Trees, in acrylic by th author. (c.2000) 
Sacred Heart Novitiate, Novaliches QC 

I liken these living columns the temple of Nature 
     that make sacred all creatures big and small,
Bestow reverence to life without exception,
     Lo! except to Homo sapiens since his Fall.

The Parthenon, enduring symbol of Ancient Greece, 
     of democracy and western culture and pride - 
"The glory that was Greece" remembered in ruins,
     and "the grandeur that was Rome" in archive.  

   Ruins of the Parthenon of Athens built in 447 BC in honor of goddess Athena, (Wikipedia, photo by Steve Swayne)

Do you have Sleep Problems? Take this quiz.

Paying attention to your sleep cycle can improve your physical and mental health.
Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature - School on Blog

Rip van Winkle slept for twenty long years, a legend by Washington Irving.
Acknowledgment Internet, Wikipedia

Your Sleep Cycle: A Quiz

1. Do you fall asleep easily during the day while reading, watching TV, or doing other sedentary activities?
2. Do you find that you are irritable and short-tempered for no particular reason during the day?
3. Do you need an alarm clock to awaken you in the morning?
4. Do you wake up feeling sluggish and sleepy?
5. Do you need a nap to keep you alert through the afternoon and evening?
6. Do you regularly “sleep in” an hour or more on weekends?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may not be getting enough sleep to meet your individual sleep cycle needs.

1. Do you stay awake in bed long after the lights are out, waiting for sleep to come?
2. Do you awaken in the morning before your alarm clock goes off?
3. Do you spend the last hour or two in bed alternating between sleep and wakefulness?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be trying to get some sleep than your individual sleep cycle demands.

1. Do you smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol or a caffeinated beverage late in the afternoon or evening?
2. Do you fall asleep with the radio, TV, or lights on?
3. Do you take sleeping pills?
4. Do you sleep in a very cold or very hot room?
5. Can outside noises (such as airplanes or street traffic) be heard in your bedroom at night?
6. Are you depressed, anxious, or worried?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be damaging your natural sleep cycle and not be getting the quality of sleep you need to feel and perform at your best,

Tips for Improving your Sleep Cycle

Paying attention to your sleep cycle can improve your physical and mental health. Here is a summary of tips for ensuring that your nighttime rhythms add to your daytime health and happiness.

1. Assess your sleep needs and determine the optimum number of hours you need to sleep.
2. Keep regular sleep hours, even on weekends.
3. If you stay up late, be sure, get up regular time the next morning.
4. Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and caffeine, especially after 6:00 p.m
5. Do not use sleeping pills
6. Use naps judiciously. If you nap, do so regularly.
7. Never nap if you have trouble sleeping tight.
8. Avoid falling asleep with the light on radio on.

Don't worry, an owl can be as happy as a lark, and a lark as vigilant as an owl. Just follow your inner rhythm. ~

The Wonder of Papaya

Papaya contains enzymes that help prevent oxidization of cholesterol which helps to prevent heart attacks and because it is rich in fiber, helps to lower blood cholesterol levels.
Dr Abe V Rotor 

Giant papaya, 3.5 kg,brings joy to the dining table.  At Home, QC 

1. Papaya is rich in fiber and lowers cholesterol levels, it helps prevent prevent heart-attacks.

2. The antioxidants in papaya help in controlling premature ageing.

3. The seeds of papaya expel intestinal worms and parasites.

4. Papaya helps in preventing constipation and aids in digestion.

5. Papain dissolves dead cells, giving fresh and glowing skin as a result.

6. It helps cure skin infections and wounds that don’t heal quickly.

7. Papain is a digestive enzyme that helps in natural digestion.

8. It is a good food for those who want to lose some weight.

9. It helps cure nausea and morning sickness suffered by of pregnant women.

10. Contains anti-inflammatory enzymes relieve pain from arthritis, edema and osteoporosis.

11. It possesses anti-cancerous properties that can help in preventing cancer

12. It is rich in Vitamin A and Vitamin C that boost the body’s immunity

13. It is made into shampoo to control dandruff.

14. Fresh papaya helps in controlling menstrual irregularities, and eases menstrual cramps.

15. Papaya juice helps in curing infections of the colon

16. It has anti-proliferative effects on the liver cancer cells, hence it slows down the growth of cancer cells of liver and helps in its cure.

17. The digestive enzyme in papaya (papain) help in natural digestion thus helps to prevent constipation and aid food digestion.

18. It is high in nutritional value and low in calories making it ideal for those who want to lose weight.

19. Papaya is great for the skin and can be used as a face pack. It helps to open clogged pores, helps to get rid of acne

20. It is a whole fruit as it is loaded with most nutrients required in one’s balanced diet.

The nutritional value of papaya are (per 100 grams) 
  • Energy- 163 kJ
  • Sugars- 5.90 gram
  • Calories- 39 kcal
  • Dietary fiber- 1.8 gram
  • Fat- 0.14 gram
  • Carbohydrates- 9.81 gram
  • Vitamin A- 328 micrograms (41%)
  • Vitamin B1- 0.04 milligram (3%)
  • Vitamin B2- 0.05 milligram (4%)
  • Vitamin B3- 0.338 milligram (2%)
  • Vitamin B6- 0.1 milligram (8%)
  • Vitamin B9- 38 milligram (10%)
  • Vitamin C- 61.8 milligram (74%)
  • Protein- 0.61 gram
  • Iron- 0.10 milligram (1%)
  • Calcium- 24 milligram (2%)
  • Phosphorus- 5 milligram (1%)
  • Potassium- 257 milligram (5%)
  • Magnesium- 10 milligram (3%)
  • Sodium-3 milligram
Acknowledgement: Data from Internet 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Old Lighthouse of a Rocky Cove

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog

Old Lighthouse of a Rocky Cove in acrylic AVR (50" x 47")

You had your days of the sailing ships,
guiding them all away from danger;
and the rocks had grown passive and kind
unyielding though to time and wear.

I used to climb your spiraling staircase,
and gaze the horizon on your deck;
waiting for sunset and glow of your lamp,
or catch your waning light at daybreak.

But that was many, many years ago,
brave sentinel of sea and sky,
bright and wonder to far, far away land,
perhaps even to angels passing by.

I came home one sunset, and you asked,
where in the world I have long been;
standing tall still, oh, my dear old friend,
light beams coming out of your ruin.~

Magical Skyscapes

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature - School on Blog

Lesson: Skyscape watching as a scientific and artistic study, hobby, and therapy.
  • Are you lonesome? Bored?
  • Or full of energy and looking for ways of expression?
  • Go outdoor, by the sea or lake; on the fields and on the hills.
  • Have a canvas and paint and easel. A drawing pad. Camera.
  • And most important, time and leisure.
A stretch of cumulo-nimbus cloud over Tagaytay, Cavite

Heavy clouds over Tagaytay Ridge

City skyscape before sunset, QC

Stormy clouds on the West

Sunset over Quirino Bridge, Santa Ilocos Sur

Fiery clouds before sunset, San Vicente I Sur

Gray sunset, Tagaytay City

Solar eclipse, Lagro QC


Ephemeral as the sampaguita flower,
Ever changing like the chameleon;
Unpredictable as rain at the end of summer,
It mirrors my thoughts and passion.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Flow Gently, Sweet Afton - Memories of War

"Flow gently sweet Afton among thy green braes,
Flow gently I'll sing thee a song in thy praise"

Dr Abe V. Rotor

WWII Memorial beside the St Paul University Museum, QC. The school is remembered as a concentration camp of the Japanese during the War. It was later left in ruins after the liberation.

It was in the last year of the Japanese occupation that memories of World War II became vivid to me. In desperation the enemy killed anyone at sight in exchange for its apparent defeat. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were soon to be erased virtually from the map. I was then four years old. According to psychologists, at this age impressions become lasting memory.

Vigilance was the game. Far ahead of time one should be able to detect the enemy. Fear gripped the neighborhood and the whole town. We hid in a dugout shelter made of solid narra slabs several meters away from our house. Trees and banana plants hid it from view. At one time, I wanted to get fresh air, but my auntie-yaya, Basang prevented me to do so. Japanese soldiers were around the place. I heard them chase our geese and chicken. Then I heard my favorite goose, Purao, pleading - then it fell silent. Instinctively I rushed out of our hideout, but Basang pulled me back just in the nick of time.

Before this incident Japanese soldiers entered and ransacked our house. Two confronted Basang who was then wearing thick shawl and holding me tight in her arms. In trembling voice, she was saying repeatedly, “Malaria, malaria,” and begging the soldiers to take anything they wanted and leave us. One took all our eggs and started eating them raw, pitching the shell at us. One hit me straight on the face and I  squirmed. Basang apologized. The soldier shouted. Then the other came back with a stuffed pillow case and signaled the other to leave, but before leaving he gave me a hard look.

It is a face I still see today, cold as steel, lips pursed into a threat, brows drawn down like curtain over sultry and flashy eyes. How I reacted on the wicked face, I don't remember. I must have just stared coldly. But deep in me grew a resolved never to be afraid of the Japanese or any enemy for that matter.

Images of planes in dogfight are still vivid in my memory. Toward the east is the Cordillera range that looked blue in the distance. The view was clear from our house, and hideout. Even if the old San Vicente church got across our view, we saw now and then warplanes passing above. It was also the first and only time I saw a double body aircraft flying. There was one occasion warplanes fought just overhead, a plane simply burst into flame and dark smoke not far from our place. My dad prodded us to go back to our underground hideout.

When I was in high school I had a teacher in literature, Mrs. Socorro Villamor. She was the widow of war hero, Col. Jesus Villamor, one of the greatest Filipino pilots in WWII. After shooting down a number of Japanese fighter planes, his own plane was hit and he died in the crash. Camp Villamor was named in his honor.

My classmate and I wondered why Mrs. Villamor was always wearing black. At one time she recited in class, Flow Gently Sweet Afton lyrics  by Robert Burns, a famous 18th century English poet. She even sang it, then came to a halt sobbing. We were all very quiet until she recovered. The poem made us weep, too, more in sympathy to our teacher.

The first stanza is the most moving part of the poem, which is repeated in the sixth and last stanza.

Flow gently sweet afton among thy green braes
Flow gently I'll sing thee a song in thy praise
My Mary's asleep by thy murmuring stream
Flow gently sweet afton, disturb not her dream

Thou stock dove whose echo resound through the glen
Ye wild whistling blackbirds in yon thorny den
Thou greencrested lapwing thy screaming forbear
I charge you, disturb not my slumbering fair

How lofty, sweet Afton, thy neighboring hills
Far marked with the courses of clear winding rills
There daily I wander as noon rises high
My flocks and my Mary's sweet cot in my eye

How pleasant thy banks and sweet valleys below
Where wild are the woodlands, the primroses blow
There oft, as mild evening weeps over the lea
The sweet scented birk shades my Mary and me

Thy crystal stream, afton, how lovely it glides
And winds by the cot where my Mary resides
How wanton the waters her snowy feet lave
As gathering sweet flowers, she stems thy clear wave

Flow gently sweet afton among thy green braes
Flow gently sweet river, the theme of my lays
My Mary's asleep by thy murmuring stream
Flow gently sweet Afton, disturb not her dream

"Sweet Afton" lyrics is thoroughly romantic in the use of natural objects as a background for human emotions, which in this case is symbolic of a sad experience that permeates into the heart and soul of a grieving person. The melody has a refrain after each lyric-stanza, slowly rising and falling within the standard octave, so that it can be sang with little effort, and in ones own cadence. It can be sang and recited in an alternate fashion taking liberty to pause now and then.

Sweet Afton is a lyrical poem describing the Afton Water in Ayrshire, Scotland. It was written by Robert Burns in 1791 and set to music by Jonathan E. Spilman in 1837, under the title Flow gently, sweet Afton. Sweet Afton contains a lot of monosyllables, which contribute to a gentle, soothing rhythm. It can be seen as a hymn for peace. The poem is in the metre 11 - 11 - 11- 11, and is often sung to the tune of the popular Christmas carol Away in a Manger called Cradle Song.

I treasure the poem very much. I imagine my mother who died during the war and I was an infant then, lying in a tomb by the shade of an old acacia tree. Both the tomb and tree are now gone, but the breeze like the flow of Afton, takes me to some memories I'll never understand but can only feel as I read the poem or play on the violin its plaintive melody. There too, I see in my mind a great warrior in the sky, and a strong willed teacher telling us in school to go on with life, like a stream, gently flowing, gently flowing. 

NOTE: For his bravery as a pilot and ingenuity as an intelligence officer, President Ramon Magsaysay awarded posthumously Lieutenant Colonel Jesus Antonio Villamor the Medal of Valor on January 21, 1954. As a further tribute to one of the Air Force's greatest heroes, the PAF's principal facility in Metro Manila has been named Col. Jesus Villamor Air Base. x x x

Monday, August 21, 2017

A Lesson on the Parable as a form of short story to convey a moral theme

Dr Abe V Rotor 
Living with Nature School on Blog
 Parable of the Five Trees in Acrylic by AVR

Trees, like humans, also talk. They talk to one another everyday.

Actually the breeze passing through their leaves carry their conversations and even their songs and messages.

Only that we do not understand what they are saying, so we can only make inferences. For example, the rustling of their leaves and their outstretched branches touching one another, or some trees leaning to get close to others undoubtedly vouch this belief to the level of phenomenon.

The communication of trees runs through a network that enhances the unity and harmony of the ecosystem they form. Sometimes this kind of communication is perceived as queer, unintelligible sounds which made our ancestors believe there are spirits guarding the place like the deity Maria Makiling guarding the forest that is named after her.

Old folks advise us trespassers just to utter reverently "Bari-bari... Or tabi-tabi, po." when going through the forest or thicket.

One day five juvenile narra trees were engaged in a conversation.

Said one, "When I grow up and reach my fate to be cut down, I wish that I be made into a beautiful bed fit only for a king or queen."

The four trees began to have their own wishes, too.

Said the second narra, "I would like to be the mast of the tallest ship that travels fast and wide on the ocean."

Said the third, "I will make a fort, a strong fort, no invader can break through."

The fourth narra tree took some time to think, then said, "I'll be a tower to hold a big bell."

The fifth was the last to speak, but not outwitted. "Oh, in my case I would like to give all my wood to make the biggest temple of worship."

Years and years passed, and the trees finally reached full maturity. The woodsmen came and cut them down.

Guess what happened to the trees. Did all their wishes come true?

The first tree did not become a beautiful bed, but only a manger, actually a feeding trough in a secluded barn.

The second tree did not become part of a tall ship; it was made into a simple boat.

The third tree was not made into a strong fort, only a stem of it the size of a pencil and  became a writing tool of sort.

The fourth tree was not made into a belfry, but just one branch of it was made into a fine shepherd's crook.

The fifth tree failed to provide materials to build the largest temple of worship; two limbs were made into a cross.

So when Christ came into this world, he was born on a manger. It was comfortable enough on a wintry night?

When He became a shepherd, He looked for a crook and found a sturdy one to tend His flock of sheep.

As a Preacher He rode on a dinghy on which he delivered his sermons and told parables before the throng along the shores of Galilee.

When people were about to stone a sinner to death, He took a stick and wrote something on the ground, and on rising said, "He who has no sin cast the first stone." No one did.

Alas! When Christ was condemned to die, He carried a wooden cross and on it he was crucified. The cross became the symbol of Christianity.

When I went on a pilgrimage to the part of the forest where the five trees once grew, I found nothing but grass. There was complete silence as a beam of light from the sky shone on the spot where I stood. ~      

                   Reflection on the Parable of the Five Trees 
Lofty are my dreams soaring far and wide,
     In boundless flight to nowhere;
in pursuit of wealth, power and pleasure,
     and confidence of a conqueror.

Blind of history, even as it repeats itself,
     In short-lived fame and fortune,
Yet models it presents to my ambitions
     In glitters, glory and grandeur.

All In youth’s craving, and craving still
     To believe dreams ne’er get old;
But time takes toll in dreams unfulfilled,
     And fate the judgment on earth.

Beyond lies a second kingdom few
     Can grasp – life’s real meaning;
Life’s purpose, stirrings of the soul
     To live in others, beyond the self.

How little do I know of the Fisherman,
     Born simple, preached love,
wrote justice, searched the lost lamb,
    died that humanity may live. ~
                                                                avrotor 2013