Saturday, September 30, 2017

Communion with Nature - Ten Ways

Dr Abe V Rotor

Twin Jaira and Julia on a walk at People's Park, Tagaytay, August 21, 2015

Overlooking nature's majestic caldera*
this twin in a rare experience;
half-sky, half-water, half-land kingdom 
a fairytale of the eighth sense.

A caldera is a cauldron-like volcanic feature usually formed by the collapse of land, following a volcanic eruption. They are sometimes confused with volcanic craters. Tagaytay was formed by this geologic phenomenon.
 Splendor on the Grass, Sky Ranch Park, Tagaytay,
August 21, 2015

Splendor on the grass at twilight
laughing with the stars;
who cares about rain and wind,
time like this is scarce.
 Tagaytay overlooking Taal Volcano,  August 21, 2015

Grand Dad and Marchus the only two in the world,
theirs the time, space and stillness;
let the world go round unceasingly to others,
save this ephemeral togetherness. 

Sunken Pier, Puerto, Sto. Domingo, Ilocos Sur

Behold! a jellyfish as looking glass
unfolds a third world scene:
half terrestrial, half aquatic,
solid and liquid in between,
third matter in colloidal form -
strange the world is ever seen. 

Baby sitting: Fluppy, angora rabbit at home

Here is seeing the world in dreams;
half awake, half asleep,
on two planes -  fantasy and reality,
rather than counting sheep,
to unload life's burden at the end of day -
a heaven sent li'l rabbit.

Tamboili shells, former St. Paul Museum

I'm standing on the world's narrowest isthmus,
among archives and fossils of history,
where I can hold the Pacific and the Atlantic
oceans half the world apart and free;
I cross the time and distance barrier
with these chroniclers singing to me
the unending roars of the tides,
tides on the street, tides of the sea.  

Rare walking stick insects, Museum of Natural History, UPLB Laguna

Dragons in fairy tales and religious fictions -
they are fierce, they're enemies of mankind;
in fossils and movies they scare the children;
little do we think of them friendly and kind,
devouring pests, singing lullaby in dull air;
misjudged, they're harder and harder to find.

Baby orangutan, Avilon Zoo, San Mateo, Rizal

Monkey on my back, that's what people say
when what we say logic we lack;
genes may vary, yet the same to this day,
indeed, a monkey on our back.

Viewing telescope, Mall of Asia, Pasay Metro Manila

Yes, creatures but man, are getting fewer, farther apart;
changing the old game with art of glass and steel;
where you can't get near, when you can't touch and feel,
technology comes to fill, yet empty still. 

Parakeets,  Safari World, Thailand

Lovely, friendly -  kindest words ever be,
whereas their kin are wild and free;
lucky in man's judgment these pair  may be
if only we understand their plea
for freedom to the wild, to their ancestry
and away from the artificial tree.   

Friday, September 29, 2017

GMOs threaten Ecology and Health

We are destroying the balance of our environment, our health and well-being, through genetic pollution (uncontrollable spread) of transgenic or Genetically Modified Organisms (plants, animals and microorganisms).
Dr Abe V Rotor

The planting of BT corn in the country is hotly contested by environmentalists. This is true with many people in their own countries, rejecting genetic modification of plants and animals.The birth of Genetically Modified Organisms resurrected Frankenstein, the monster in Shelly's novel of the same title, who at the end of the story destroyed the peace and order of the world and ultimately killing his creator and master.

BT corn carries genes of the insect-killing bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis. In the US, genetically modified soybean was developed by borrowing genes from Brazil nut in an attempt to increase the amino acid content. The resulting soybean carried higher amino acid all right, but it churned out also chemicals that can trigger allergies to nut-sensitive consumer.
GMO Corn Linked To Organ Failure
A study released by the International Journal of Biological Sciences 

In the conclusion of the IJBS study, researchers wrote: "Effects were mostly concentrated in kidney and liver function, the two major diet detoxification organs, but in detail differed with each GM type. In addition, some effects on heart, adrenal, spleen and blood cells were also frequently noted. As there normally exists sex differences in liver and kidney metabolism, the highly statistically significant disturbances in the function of these organs, seen between male and female rats, cannot be dismissed as biologically insignificant as has been proposed by others. We therefore conclude that our data strongly suggests that these GM maize varieties induce a state of hepatorenal toxicity....These substances have never before been an integral part of the human or animal diet and therefore their health consequences for those who consume them, especially over long time periods are currently unknown. 
Some estimates say as many as 30,000 different products on grocery store shelves are "modified." That's largely because many processed foods contain soy. Half of North America's soy crop is genetically engineered!

Note: Several countries in Europe, such as Germany and France, have already banned GM crops. Mandatory Labeling of Genetically Engineered Food is gaining support of many countries. 

Down with the clown!

“Down with the clown!” protested farmers at McDonalds stores in France against GM beef and potato. Although the European Union has blocked importation of some GM products, it now requires foods that contain engineered DNA be labeled as such. US sale of GM seeds by Monsanto (US) and Novartis (Swiss, producer of Gerber baby foods) made a record high in the last ten years, and GM technology has just started.

A third of US corn land (8 million hectares) is grown from genetically changed seeds, so with US soybean crop was grown from seeds that have been genetically engineered. More than a quarter of US dairy cows are injected with the recombinant bovine growth hormone which boosts the production of milk. The hormone is made with genetically engineered bacteria. And three-fourth of all cheese contains chymosin which is produced with bacteria that have been genetically engineered.

Now consider these: Tomato juice from tomatoes containing enzymes from Arctic flounder – an attempt to help crops withstand low temperature. Pork loins from hogs treated with human-growth hormones to help them get bigger and faster. Squash inoculated with watermelon-virus genes to make the squash virus resistant.

Corn which contains a firefly gene, provides a phosphorescent marker even when mixed with other foods. Or another marker, gene carrying green phosphorescence in jellyfish transferred in mice, so that the mice glow in the dark.

The popularity of BT tomato (“FlavrSavr”), the first genetically altered food crop, ignited a chain of other GM crops from high protein beans and grains, caffeine-less coffee beans, potato that soaks up less fat during frying, to strawberry with more natural sugar. And there are dozens of gene-spliced food crops in laboratories and greenhouses ready to the released. These include squash, melon, carrots, onions, peppers, apples, and the like.

Why does it appear easy for governments to allow the production and distribution of genetic engineered plants and animals? In the US for one the government sees GM components as mere additives. That is why, virtually anyone can load a fruit, vegetable, baby food, or any simple meal with DNA engineered tricks. Arroz caldo from GM rice with borrowed chicken gene, anyone?

If you don’t see butterflies in the garden (reminiscent of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring) blame it to the BT in the corn or rice – the bacterium that is a scourge of insects belonging to Order Lepidoptera which includes one of the world’s best-known and most loved insect, the flamboyant orange-and-black monarch butterflies which can travel an incredible distance of 1,600 miles in their migratory flight.

The message of the monarch butterflies is clear: even the most well-intentioned biotechnologies are without any risk.

Welcome, Dolly. Goodbye, Dolly 

Remember Dolly, the sheep which became famous as the first cloned animal? Her rate of aging was faster than that of her parent. It died ahead of her mother. It is because clones live only the remaining years of their parents’ lives. They grow old before their time. And if any human being might like to get cloned, he should think twice. He will end up with the worst of two worlds, which in the words of Thomas Murray of Hasting Center, NY, “are a combination of inexperience of youth with the biology of the aged.”

Well, this is not new. If you see a standing century old mango tree and is still very much at bearing age, it must have come from a seed. A grafted mango tree (which is a clone), on the other hand, lives only for a few years and does not live as big and as long as seed-grown mango. The grafted mango is like Dolly, its scion came from a fruiting tree which naturally must be many years older. It flowers as early as three years after it was transplanted, while its counterpart grown from seed matures very much longer. During this period it matures slowly but surely, its crown is well-spread to catch the sun and rain, its niche established, its roots firm, strong and balance to brace wind and drought and wind. This is not the case of the grafted mango. Poor Dolly, grafted mango - and cloned human in the future. .
EXCERPT from an article on some harmful effects of GMO (Internet) 

Activists are opposed to genetic engineering as with current recombinant technology there is no way to ensure that genetically modified organisms will remain under control, plus the use of this technology outside secure laboratory environments represents multiple unacceptable risks to both farmed and wild ecosystems.

In 1996, Brazil nut genes were spliced into soybeans by a company called Pioneer Hi-Bred. Some individuals, however, are so allergic to this nut, they go into anaphylactic shock (similar to a severe bee sting reaction) which can cause death.

Many opponents of current genetic engineering realize that the increasing use of GM in crops has caused a power shift in agriculture towards Biotechnology companies, which are gaining more control over the production chain of crops and food, and over the farmers that use their products, as well.

In 1989, dozens of Americans died and several thousands were afflicted and impaired by a genetically altered version of the food supplement - L-tryptophan. A settlement of $2 billion dollars was paid by Showa Denko, Japan's third largest chemical company. (Mayeno and Gleich, 1994).

On August 18, 2006, American exports of rice to Europe were interrupted when much of the U.S. crop was confirmed to be contaminated with unapproved engineered genes, possibly due to accidental cross-pollination with conventional crops.

In 1998, 95-98 percent of about 10 km2 planted with canola by Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser were found to contain Monsanto's patented Roundup Ready gene although Schmeiser had never purchased seed from the Monsanto company. Monsanto then sued Schmeiser for piracy. In the past few years more and more crops have started to cross-pollinate which leaves a problem that is yet to be solved.

In 2005 Environmentalists say Australia faced "the most serious genetic contamination event" in its history, after the West Australian government confirmed low levels of genetically modified canola had been found in non-GM canola. Also in 2005 a decade-long project to develop genetically modified peas with built-in pest-resistance has been abandoned after tests showed they caused allergic lung damage in mice. ~
"History has many records of crimes against humanity, which were also justified by dominant commercial interests and governments of the day. Despite protests from citizens, social justice for the common good was eroded in favor of private profits. Today, patenting of life forms and the genetic engineering which it stimulates, is being justified on the grounds that it will benefit society, especially the poor, by providing better and more food and medicine. But in fact, by monopolizing the 'raw' biological materials, the development of other options is deliberately blocked. Farmers therefore, become totally dependent on the corporations for seeds." 

Professor Wangari Mathai (1940-2011) Internationally renowned Kenyan environmental political activist and Nobel laureate. Recipient of Nobel Peace Prize and Right Livelihood Award. . ~ 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Power of STILLNESS

"Soar into the heavens for peace and quiet,
let imagination rule over reason." 
Dr Abe V Rotor

Living with Nature School on Blog 
Stillness and Angelus. Angelus by Jean Francois Millet

1. Stillness and Meditation
Silence, oh elusive silence,.
take me to your realm divine
where good and evil part,
that I may  find a new start, 
that begins in the heart. 

2. Stillness and the Loving Heart
Throb oh heart, throb the magic of love,
lest desire may turn into lust,
blinding the senses in Freudian ido;
Browning, Ben Jonson, come
with your art of love on hand.   

3. Stillness and the Arts
Soar into the heavens for peace and quiet,
let imagination rule over reason,
creativity reigns supreme in stillness,
spawning the great masterpieces.

4. Stillness and Scholarship 
Fishing not for fish but ideas,
the rod bends, the line quivers -
a big fish bites, pulls, rages,
oh stillness, tool of the sages.

Stillness in fishing as a hobby or pastime.

5. Stillness and the Longing Heart
When the heart throbs for someone far away,
of a place you can't go for the moment or nevermore,
of things lost and can no longer be found,
or wishing the good old days were here,
stillness, stillness must reign, 
in fulness and profound. 

6. Stillness and the Weary Heart  
When doubt clouds the mind and shrouds the view,
which road to take of the two,
take the less trodden, more so the fresh path;
stillness – but never the heart to a halt.

7. Stillness and the Grieving Heart  
In the dark hours of life the night is long,
the dawn comes late or seems it never comes,
grief and pain they are inseparable:
the mind, body and spirit;
stillness brings back the joy and wit.

8. Stillness and the Raging Heart
When rages the heart cascading wild,
chartless in a sea of tempest,
seeing the shore no more,
stillness shall give you rest. 

A raging heart is like a raging sky.  

9. Stillness and Nature
Calm is the sea but a sleeping volcano,
the sky is blue, the river meandering to the sea,
a child of creation I'm from the stillness of the womb, 
to the stillness of hereafter. 

10. Stillness and Angelus
The sun sets with the Angelus,
as creatures go to their lair,
stillness reigns in the night
until the return of light. ~

Quotations on teaching and education 

Mt Makiling - Endangered Geo-Ecosystem

The mountain's profile of a reclining deity, Maria Makiling, to whom the mounatin was named, has lost much of her youthful features.

Dr Abe V Rotor
 Living with Nature School on Blog []
Satelite image of Mt Makiling and southeastern shore of Laguna Bay. Mt Makiling has lost much of its original vegetative cover to encroaching human settlements, swiden (kaingin) farming, commerce and tourism. In fact the mountain's profile of a reclining deity, Maria Makiling for which the mountain is named, has lost much of her youthful 
Statue of Maria Makiling protector of Mt Makiling, UPLB Laguna.
On the trail to the Mudspring with the author's family

Mudspring Crater, author with his children.

A Trek to Mt Makiling's Mystical Crater - Mudspring
It's a long trail if you start at the foot of Mt Makiling,
take the road with a four-wheel drive,
then stop where the road ends and from here starts
a long trek you really have to strive.

Among the huge towering trees you're but a dwarf
among creatures crawling or flying,
searching far beyond of what they are looking for;
theirs for living, yours for meaning.

Incessantly the crater pops scalding mud
and gases that boggle the mind,
a mystic shroud where mist and cloud meet,
a spectacle of a different kind.

Everybody loves this legendary mountain,
though fiery inside to be free;
Lofty is her majestic pose be near or far
reclining in peace and beauty.

Wonder the young mind thinks of this world,
a hybrid of fantasy and reality,
where spirits live and mortals dare to tread,
in a lifetime journey to infinity. ~

NOTE: Mount Makiling, or Mount Maquiling, is a dormant volcano in Laguna province on the island of Luzon, Philippines. The mountain rises to an elevation of 1,090 m (3,580 ft) above mean sea level and is the highest feature of the Laguna Volcanic Field. The volcano has no recorded historic eruption but volcanism is still evident through geothermal features like mud spring and hot springs. South of the mountain is the Makiling-Banahaw Geothermal Plant. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) classify the volcano as potentially active.

Mount Makiling is a state-owned forest reserve administered by the University of the Philippines, Los Baños. Prior its transfer to the university, the mountain was the first national park of the Philippines. Mount Makiling National Park was established on February 23, 1933 by Proc. No. 552. However, it was decommissioned as a national park on June 20, 1963 by Republic Act no. 3523 when it was transferred to the University for use in forestry education and information.

Now known as Mount Makiling Forest Reserve, it was declared an ASEAN Heritage Park in 2013.
 "Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves."
—John Muir, Our National Parks
                            "This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls."
—John Muir, John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir

"There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more."

—Lord Byron "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage"

"Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. ... There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter."
—Rachel Carson, Silent Spring
"If we surrendered
to earth's intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees."

—Rainer Maria Rilke, Rilke's Book of Hours: Love Poems to God

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Dr Romualdo M Del Rosario: Builder of Beautiful Gardens

"The Garden is a microcosm of the Lost Paradise here on earth." AVR 

By Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog

Dr Romualdo R del Rosario left, the country's leading builder of gardens pose with the author, his former student and co-professor at the UST Graduate School. Among Dr Del Rosario's obra maestra  are the internationally known La Union Botanical Garden (Cadaclan, San Fernando,La Union), the UST Botanical Garden (formerly Pharmacy garden), and the De La Salle University garden at Dasmariñas, Cavite. As a scientist and former assistant director of the National Museum he is keen at giving importance to natural history, and aesthetic and functional beauty of parks and gardens as integral part of homes, establishment, offices, in fact, whole communities.   

Think of a living gene bank. 

No, it's not the IRRI's germplasm bank of rice varieties and cultivars.  Or CIMMYT 's similar bank for wheat and corn where seeds are kept under strict controlled conditions away from the natural environment. It's not the commercial plant collection of Manila Seedling Bank either.

Dr Romualdo del Rosario's concept is one that is natural -  plants of different species living together and arranged into a garden.  

Here the plants form a wide range of diversity, and with other organisms, from protist to vertebrate, form a community.  And through time, an ecosystem - a microcosm of a forest, grassland, desert, the upland and lowland, in varying combinations and designs. This garden is indeed a living gene bank.

Visit the La Union Botanical Garden perched on a gentle hillside covering several hectares, with the fringe of Cordillera on the east and a panoramic view of the San Fernando Bay on the west. 

Here you will find a piece of the biblical Garden, where Nature and man in cooperation and harmony try to restore the beautiful scenarios of that garden imagined in the writings of Milton and Emerson, in the paintings of Rousseau and our own Amorsolo, and the scientific pursuits of Darwin and Linnaeus.

As trail blazer, Doc Del as he is fondly called, pioneered with the support of the local government to set up a garden not so many people appreciate.  I am a witness to its tedious step-by-step development until after ten years or so, the garden became a center for field lectures, thesis, hiking, or simply a place of solace and peace.  To the creative, arts; the religious, reflection.  

The garden is an answer to our dwindling bio-diversity. It is a sanctuary where man's respect for Creation, in Dr Albert Schweitzer's term "reverence for life," becomes the neo-gospel of prayer and faith. 

The garden is a workshop with the Creator.  It is one roof that shelters the threatened and endangered. It is a sanctuary for recovery before setting foot outside again.

Here is the living quarter of organisms, countless of them, that miss the eye, yet are discreet vital links to our existence and the biological order. 

A single acacia tree as shown In this painting is a whole world of millions of organisms - from the Rhizobium bacrteria that live on its roots to birds nesting on its branch. And beetles under the bark, goats feeding on ripe pods, people resting in its shade or promenading.  

On-the-spot painting at the La Union Botanical Garden (AVR) 

These make but one small spot in the garden that speaks of the philosophy of  naturalism of Schweitzer, EO Wilson, Attenborough, Tabbada, Cabigan, and the late botanist Co. One aspect of the garden opens to the scholar an adventure of a lifetime: Edwin Tadiosa's research of mushrooms earned for him a doctoral degree. 

One consideration a garden is a living gene bank is its ethnicity. Doc Del is the leading authority on ethnobotany of the country today. It is a less familiar field although it is among the earliest, tracing back to Aristotle's Natural History as the guiding force in keeping the integrity of Nature-Man relationship, even to the present time.   

Ethnobotany is the mother of pharmacology. Medicinal plants are part of Doc Del's formula of a garden. Not that familiarity is his aim, but accessibility - that by being familiar with a particular plant, one can have access to it wherever it may be found growing. Any place then is a potential source of home remedy of common ailments.  

Go to the garden and you will find lagundi, sambong, bayabas, makahiya, okra, pitogo, takip-kuhol, oregano, and 101 other medicinal plants, domesticated or wild. It is nature's pharmacy house. 

It is E Quisumbing's source of materials for his Medicinal Plants of the Philippines. the rich three-volume Useful Plants of the Philipines by WH Brown. It is this field that Dr Juan M Flavier as senator sponsored a law in promoting Alternative Medicine which now benefits millions of Filipinos particularly at the grassroots.       

Go to the garden and you will find flowering and ornamental plants that constitute the main attraction of any garden. Here botany is transformed into the science of flowers, the secret of green thumb, colors and fragrance speak more than words, silence rides on butterflies fluttering, and music is hummed by bees, and fiddled by crickets and cicada.     

Go to the garden and relive life on the countryside. The song Bahay Kubo enumerates some two dozen vegetables, and speaks of simple, happy and healthy lifestyle.
A residence without a garden is akin to city living condition. With almost fifty percent of the population ensconced in big towns and cities. we can only imagine how much they have lost such a pleasant niche.    

Go to the garden with magnifying glass, not with the aim of Sherlock Holmes but with the clinical eye of Leeuwenhoek, father of microscopy. Start with the moss, the lowly earliest plant occupying the lowest rung of the evolutionary ladder. They are living fossils in austere existence on rocks and trunks of tree. Doc Del wrote a whole chapter about the Byrophytes - the moss and its relatives in the Flora and Fauna of the Philippine book series.     

Have you seen a field of moss under the lens? It's a setting of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids movie. See the movie if you haven't.  Everything is so big you are a pygmy in the like of Gulliver in the land of Brobdingnag, a sequel to Gulliver in the Land of  Lilliput. Imagine yourself either in one of Jonathan Swift's novels. 

You may wonder why primitive plants are so small, you may miss them in the garden. If you were on top of Mt Pulog second highest mountain in the Philippines after Mt Apo where Doc Del, my classmates and I, climbed in the late eighties, you'll be amazed at the giant bryophytes forming beards of gnarled trees and curtains hanging on rocks, and spongy layers cushioning your steps.  

Thus, the garden is a representation of much bigger models.  The Sequoia or Redwoods of California for example cannot be duplicated anywhere, but at the UST botanical garden where Doc Del served as supervising scientist and curator, you will find yourself dwarfed by the towering dita (Alstonia scholaris) the same way you would feel under the redwoods, or the emergent trees on Mt Makiling.  

Go to a garden and feel you are part of creation in Eden's finest time. The garden has a humbling effect, it has the touch of TLC -  tender, loving care, it is the womb of Mother Nature, its nursery, in her own life cycle in which each and every thing, living or non-living, undergoes a continuous and unending series of birth and death - and perhaps even re-encarnation.  ~    
Fern Garden, a specialized section of the UST Botanical garden. 
 Weird trees at UST: Acacia strangled by balete; bare deciduous trees with the main building as backdrop. 

 Outdoor life of students among camphor trees, UST. 
 "These people have learned not from books, but in the fields, in the wood, on the river bank. Their teachers have been the birds themselves, when they sang to them, the sun when it left a glow of crimson behind it at setting, the very trees, and wild herbs."
―Anton Chekhov, "A Day in the Country"
On-the-spot painting at the UST Botanical garden by the author, with the tallest tree Alstonia scholaris,  locally known as dita. as principal subject.

Morning at the UST Botanical Garden
-      An On-the-Spot Painting

                   Dr Abe V Rotor 

It is misty, it is foggy, here at the garden,
     or it must be smog in the city air;
and the early rays pierce through like spears,
     yet this is the best place for a lair.

But the artist must be provoked, challenged;
     for peace can't make a masterpiece;
only a troubled soul do rise where others fall,
     where ease and good life often miss.

This lair is where the action is, the battlefield,
     where pure and polluted air meet,
where a garden in a concrete jungle reigns,
     where nature's trail ends in a street.

Art, where is art, when the message is unclear,
     colors, colors, what color is blind faith?
what color is rage, what color is change?
     colors be humble - black is your fate. ~


A spray of red and pink in the tree top,
either it is autumn's onset,
or the season had just passed us in slumber,
yet too early to hibernate

Catch the sun, borrow its colors and shine
that you may be filled with grace divine;
for your life is short and your flowers ephemeral,
that makes you a mythical vine.

There is no such thing as emptiness, for  memories linger;
the bench is warm, whispers hang in the glen;
spirits roam, the past comes around in them to haunt,
to scare a bit to remember them, now and then. 

 Golden Coconut 
 Lobster's claws, ornamental asparagus 
Golden shower
Here lies the Pierian spring  - the secret of long, healthy and happy life. Why don't you build a garden yourself? Better still with your family or community.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

“Farming is a way of living,”

“Farming is a way of living,” 
In Memory of Dean Felix D Maramba, author of Farm Management in the Philippines 
The children who are brought up in close contact with nature develop appreciation of the manifestations of the Creator through living things and their order. 
Dr Abe V Rotor

“Farming is a way of living,” says the dean of farm management in the Philippines, Dean Felix D. Maramba, quoting Eugene Devenport who said that farming is not only a business, but a mode of life. “Sometimes the business is the prominent feature, so successful that life seems to run on one long sweet song. Sometimes the business runs so low that life is a bitter struggle.”

The farm and the family home is intertwined; in fact they are one. Anything that affects the farm as a business also directly affects as a home. The farm operator is the head of the household and the bulk of the farm work is done by the members of the family. The farmer is the farmer 24 hours a days, on weekdays as well as on Sundays and Holidays.

The children are brought up in close contact with nature. They develop an appreciation of the manifestations of the Creator through living things and their order. The farm boy does not have to wait until he is grown up before he can work and share family responsibilities. He is brought up early in the family business. In this way he will learn the value of industry and a sense of proprietorship early in life. The work habits and resourcefulness developed by farm children are kept throughout their lives.

This old school of Dean Maramba may not be the model progressive farmers are looking for today, but definitely the better farmer is the entrepreneur who grew up with farming and pursued training in technology and farm management, and has gain the confidence and skills in transforming the traditional concept of a farm into an agribusiness and therefore, he has a better chance in dealing with the complexities of world of the agriculture and business.

Make the correct decisions in farming.

Farming is no easy task. It is full of decisions - decisions based on socio-economic principles, and guided by rules of conduct and natural laws and of society. These are 10 guidelines in decision making.

1. Surplus labor resources of typically large rural families should be directed to labor-intensive projects, such as integrated farming.

2. Hillside or upland agriculture requires the cultivation of permanent crops, preferably through mixed cropping, such as intercropping of coconuts with orchard trees and annual crops.

3. Coastal and river swamplands should be preserved as wildlife sanctuaries, and should be managed as an ecosystem, rather than an agricultural venture.

4. Wastes can be recycled and converted into raw materials of another enterprise. Farm wastes and byproducts of processing can be processed biologically into methane, organic fertilizer, and biomass for vermiculture.

5. Productivity of small farms can be increased through pyramidal or storey farming. Batangas and Cavite farmers are well known for storied multiple cropping.

6. Poor soils can be rehabilitated through natural farming, such as green manuring, crop rotation and use of organic fertilizers, all integrated in the farming system. Corn-peanut, rice-mungo are popular models of crop rotations.

7. Cottage industries are built on agriculture, guided by profitability and practical technology. It is time to look at the many agro-industries, from food processing to handicrafts.

8. ri-commodity farming maximizes utilization of resources, such as having an orchard, planting field crops, and raising fish and livestock on one farm.

9. Cooperative farming is the solution to economics of scale, these to include multipurpose and marketing cooperatives of farmers and entrepreneurs.

10. Since the number of days devoted to farming is only one-­third of the whole year, livelihood outside of farming should be developed. Like a sari-sari store, a small farm cannot afford to have too many hands. Other opportunities should be tapped outside of farming by other members of the family.

Always go for natural food

The rule of thumb is that, it is always preferred to eat foods grown under natural conditions than those grown with the use of chemicals. These are criteria to know if a food is natural?

·It must be fresh, or freshly packed
·It must be free from pests and diseases
·There are no harmful chemicals and artificial additives, including antibiotics residues.
·Food must not be tainted with radiation
·Natural food excludes the so-called junk food.
·It has been processed by natural means such as blast freezing, sun drying and the like.
·Packaging materials are safe to human health, animals and the environment.
·It meets standard organoloeptic test (taste test) and nutritional value requirements.

There are many kinds of vegetables you can choose for backyard and homelot gardening.


A festival of fruits and vegetables, Lucban, Quezon (Pahiyas May 15)

There are many vegetables to choose from: leafy – malungay, talbos (kalabasa, kamote, sayote), kangkong,; Stem – asparagus, bamboo shoot; flower– katuray, squash flower, cauliflower, broccoli, himbaba-o (alokong); fruit – ampalaya, squash, cucumber, green corn, sayote, tomato, eggplant, green papaya, pepper; root – Gabi, kamote, ube, tugui, ginger, onion, garlic, carrot, radish; seed – patani, sitao, white bean, black bean, cowpea, green pea, chick pea, pigeon pea, peanut, linga (sesame), paminta (black pepper) 

Malunggay is the most popular tree vegetable in the tropic. In the province no home is without this small tree at the backyard or in a vacant lot. The leaves, flowers, juvenile pods and young fruits of Moringa oleifera (Family Moringaceae) go well with fish, meat, shrimp, mushroom, and the like. It is one plant that does not need agronomic attention, not even weeding and fertilization, much less chemical spraying. You simply plant an arms length cutting or two, in some corner or along the fence and there it grows into a tree that can give you a ready supply of vegetables yearound. What nutrients do we get from malunggay?

Pineapple farm, Silang Cavite 

Here is a comparison of the food value of the fresh leaves and young fruits, respectively, in percent. (Marañon and Hermano, Useful Plants of the Philippines)

· Proteins 7.30 7.29
· Carbohydrates 11.04 2.61
· Fats 1.10 0.16
· Crude Fiber 1.75 0.76
· Phosphorus (P2 O 5) 0.24 0.19
· Calcium (CaO) 0.72 0.01
· Iron (Fe2O3) 0.108 0.0005

Owing to these properties and other uses, rural folks regard malunggay a “miracle tree.” Take for other uses. The root has a taste somewhat like that of horse-radish, and in India it is eaten as a substitute to it. Ben oil extracted from the seed is used for salad and culinary purposes, and also as illuminant. Mature seeds have antibacterial and flocculants properties that render drinking water safe and clear.

From these data, it is no wonder malunggay is highly recommended by doctors and nutritionists for both children and adults, particularly to nursing mothers and the convalescents.

Get the best from your favorite fruits

1. Be keen with the appearance, smell, feel – and even sound – of the fruit before harvesting or buying it. There’s no substitute to taste test.though. Develop your skills on these fruits: mango, musk melon, soursop or guyabano and its relative, sugar apple or atis. Also try on caimito, chico, siniguelas, and such rare fruit as sapote.
2. To ripen fruits, rub table salt on the cut stem (peduncle). Salt does not only facilitate ripening, it also protects the fruit from fungi and bacteria that cause it to rot. You can use the rice box-dispenser to ripen chico, caimito, avocado, tomato, and the like. Wrap the fruits loosely with two or three layers of newspaper before placing them inside the box. As the fruits ripen they exude ethylene gas that hastens ripening.

3. Bigger fruits are always generally preferred. Not always. Native chico is sweeter and more aromatic than the ponderosa chico. Big lanzones have large seeds. Bicol or Formosa pineapple, although not juicier, is sweeter than the Hawaiian variety. Of course we always pick up the biggest mango, nangka, caimito, watermelon, cantaloupe, atis, guyabano, and the like.

4. There are vegetables that are eaten as fruit or prepared into juice. Examples are carrot, tomato, green corn, and sweet green pea. Asparagus juice, anyone? Try a variety of ways in serving your favorite fruits. nangka ice cream, fruit cocktail in pineapple boat, avocado cake, guava wine. Enjoy the abundance of your favorite fruits, consult the fruit season calendar.

Engage in cottage industries, such as home made coconut virgin oil.

The price of this “miracle cure” has soared and there is now a proliferation of commercial brands of virgin coconut oil in the market. The old folks show have been doing this for a long time. One such person is Mrs. Gloria Reyes of Candelaria (Quezon) who makes virgin coconut oil. This is the step-by-step process.

1. Get twenty (20) husked, healthy, and mature nuts. They should not show any sign of spoilage or germination. Shake each nut and listen to the distinct sound of its water splashing. If you can hear it, discard the particular nut.

2. Split each nut with a bolo, gathering the water in the process. Discard any nut at the slightest sign of defect, such as those with cracked shell and oily water, discolored meat, presence of a developing endosperm (para). Rely on a keen sense of smell.

3. With the use of an electric-driven grating machine, grate the only the white part of the meat. Do not include the dark outer layer of the meat.

4. Squeeze the grated meat using muslin cloth or linen to separate the milk (gata) from the meal (sapal). Gather the milk in wide-mouth bottles (liter or gallon size).

5. Cover the jars with dry linen and keep them undisturbed for 3 to 5 hours in a dry, dark and cool corner.

6. Carefully remove the floating froth, then harvest the layer of oil and place it in a new glass jar. Discard the water at the bottom. It may be used as feed ingredient for chicken and animals.

7. Repeat the operation three to four times, until the oil obtained is crystal clear. Now this is the final product – home made virgin coconut oil.

Virgin coconut oil is a product of cold process of oil extraction, as compared with the traditional method of using heat. In the latter coconut milk is brought to boiling, evaporating the water content in the process, and obtaining a crusty by-product called latik. The products of both processes have many uses, from ointment and lubrication to cooking and food additive. There is one difference though, virgin coconut oil is richer with vitamins and enzymes - which are otherwise minimized or lost in the traditional method.

Get rid of waste by utilizing them. Agricultural byproducts make good animal feeds, as follows:

· Rice straw, corn stovers and sugarcane tops, the most common crop residues in the tropics, contain high digestible nutrients, and provide 50% of the total ration of cattle and carabaos.

· Rice bran and corn bran are the most abundant general purpose feed that provides 80 percent of nutritional needs of poultry, hogs and livestock, especially when mixed with copra meal which is richer in protein than imported wheat bran (pollard).

· Cane molasses is high in calorie value. Alternative supplemental feeds are kamote vines for hogs and pineapple pulp and leaves for cattle.

Here is a simple feed formula for cattle: Copra meal 56.5 kg; rice bran (kiskisan or second class cono bran) 25kg; molasses 15kg; Urea (commercial fertilizer grade, 45%N) 2.0kg; salt 1.0kg; and bone meal 0.5kg. Weight gain of a two-year old Batangas cattle breed fed with this formulation is 0.56 kg on the average,

These are byproducts which have potential feed value: These are byproducts or wastes in the processing of oil, starch, fish, meat, fruit and vegetables. The abundance of agricultural by-products offers ready and cheap feed substitutes with these advantages.

It cut down on feed costs,
reduces the volume on imported feed materials,
provides cheaper source of animal protein,
provides employment and livelihood, and
keeps the environment clean and in proper balance.

Protect nature through environment-friendly technology.

Organic farming using Farm residues like rice hull. 

One example is the use of rice hull ash to protects mungbeans from bean weevil. Burnt rice hull (ipa) contains silica crystals that are microscopic glass shards capable of penetrating into the conjunctiva of the bean weevil, Callosobruchus maculatus. Once lodged, the crystal causes more damage as the insect moves and struggles, resulting in infection and desiccation, and ultimately death.

This is the finding of Ethel Niña Catahan in her masteral thesis in biology at the University of Santo Tomas. Catahan tested two types of rice hull ash, One is partly carbonized (black ash) and the other oven-burned (white ash). Both were applied independently in very small amount as either mixed with the beans or as protectant placed at the mouth of the container. In both preparations and methods, mungbeans – and other beans and cereals, for that matter – can be stored for as long as six months without being destroyed by this Coleopterous insect.

The bean weevil is a cosmopolitan insect whose grub lives inside the bean, eating the whole content and leaving only the seed cover at the end of its life cycle. When it is about to emerge the female lays eggs for the next generation. Whole stocks of beans may be rendered unfit not only for human consumption, but for animal feeds as well. It is because the insect leaves a characteristic odor that comes from the insect’s droppings and due to fungal growth that accompanies infestation.

Rice is substitute, and a better one, to wheat flour.

Of all alternative flour products to substitute wheat flour, it is rice flour that is acclaimed to be the best for the following reasons:

· Rice has many indigenous uses from suman to bihon (local noodle), aside from its being a staple food of Filipinos and most Asians.
· In making leavened products, rice can be compared with wheat, with today’s leavening agents and techniques.

· Rice is more digestible than wheat. Gluten in wheat is hard to digest and can cause a degenerative disease which is common to Americans and Europeans.

· Rice is affordable and available everywhere, principally on the farm and in households.

Other alternative flour substitutes are those from native crops which are made into various preparations - corn starch (maja), ube (halaya), gabi (binagol), and tugui’ (ginatan), cassava (cassava cake and sago).

Lastly, the local rice industry is the mainstay of our agriculture. Patronizing it is the greatest incentive to production and it saves the country of precious dollar that would otherwise be spent on imported wheat.

Let’s aim at unifying agriculture and ecology into agro-ecology. This is what practical farming is all about. x x x