Friday, May 31, 2019

The Mystery Child: Insights of Life for the Pioneer Graduates of SVIS

Our world today loves the Prodigal Son more than his proud and obedient  brother. The son who found his home again, who filled up the missing link of a family, the gap of the bigger world that he saw and experienced with the small world he was born into and where he grew up, the son who learned repentance as a condition to humility, the son who taught the world “love on bended knees.”

By Dr Abercio V Rotor, Ph.D.
  Guest of Honor and Commencement Speaker
Commencement Address, a re-print
 San Vicente Integrated School, March 27, 2018

Almost one year ago in this very place, I addressed the graduates of Grade 6 in this school. I said then that it is the greatest honor bestowed upon me as an alumnus of this school some 64 years ago. I am doubly honored today to be with you, the first graduates of San Vicente Integrated School under the new curriculum.
Never in our history had there been five generations living under one roof, so to speak, which include, other than my generation, the baby boomers (born 1946-1964, ages 50 to 71), followed by Generation X – those who come from small families (born 1965-1980, ages 35 to 49). Generation Y constitutes those born 1981-1996, ages 14-34, followed by Generation Z or iGeneration, born thereafter, ages from 6-21). Generations Y and Z constitute largely the millennials who have one thing in common:They are highly dependent on technology, and tend to be individualistic and narcissistic.

You are among the millennials and the i gens. By the way, who (what) is your best friend?

It is the cell phone, the smartphone you carry around, put in your pocket, around your neck, backpack, handbag, under your pillow, on the dining table. It is your most intimate friend, as if it is surgically attached to your body. By the way the cellphone and cellsite are the main sources of radiation that causes cancer and psychological disorder. It has spread into a pandemic, affecting mainly the y and Z generations.

How often do you look at your phone? According to a survey, the average user picks up his or her device more than 1,500 times a week, reaches for it at 7:31 in the morning, checks personal emails and Facebook before he gets out of bed, uses his phone at least 3 hours daily. And almost four in ten users admitted to feeling lost without their device. Have you given a name for your smart phone, other than Galaxy? iPod? Lenovo? Nokia?

What is the implication of this revelation? Listen to my story.

“I cannot feel,” Computer

A teacher gave a home assignment to her students: first, what is love, and second, what does it feel to be truly in love.

Promptly the students consulted their computer. Not their parents first because they were not around. They were in their work, or abroad. Not their friends, they’re bias, of course. Not a spiritual adviser, to many, he is too religious. Not an elderly, he is too traditional. Hello? Anyone out there? Everybody seems to be too preoccupied.

So Johnny or Jon-jon, as Juan likes to be called, typed the first question: What is love? Immediately the computer responded with a hundred definitions. And he chose the easiest and shortest one. It’s just an assignment, he thought. His teacher may not have time to read it. She is loaded with school activities other than teaching.

Next, he entered, What does it feel to be in love? The computer printed: WAIT. Johnny was impatient. He had to hurry up, otherwise he’ll miss his favorite TV program. He tried again. The computer finally answered: I CANNOT FEEL.

And here we have our youth with their best friend the computer, who cannot feel, spending hours every day, 365 days a year, and most likely throughout their lives.

We seem to be locked up with a robot, our intelligence is no longer a natural one. We are becoming slaves of the robot. Modern industries are run by robots (automation). War is fought by robots (drones). Robots beat us in Chess. They steal our time, peep into our room, and trace us on the street (CCTV). They rob us of our privacy. We have indeed enslaved ourselves with our inventions, a new kind of slavery.

Computers gather and store huge amounts of information, information we do not really need, mixing up important and trivial, genuine and fake information materials. This is the newest kind of pollution today – information pollution or “inpollution.” We are sinking into a quagmire of information waste alarmingly increasing every day. We lose our sense of judgement and priorities. Computers cannot truly think and feel, they have no capacity for love, and faith. Without love and faith we break our interrelationship as humanity, the interconnection of the human spirit and creation, and our sacred relationship with God.

Before I continue let me tell you another story.

Mystery Child.

In a workshop for village leaders, the instructor asked the participants to draw on the blackboard a beautiful house, a dream house ideal to live in and raise a family. The participants formed a queue before the blackboard to allow everyone to contribute his or her own idea of such a dream house. The first in the queue drew the posts , on which the succeeding members made the roof and floor, followed by the making of the walls and windows. In the second round the participants added garage, porch, veranda, staircase, gate, fence, swimming pool, TV antennae, and even a car and other amenities.

Finally the drawing was completed and the participants returned to their seats. What make a dream house, an ideal house? A lively “sharing session” followed and everyone was happy with the final drawing – indeed a dream house.

Just then a child was passing by and peeped through the open door. He saw the drawing of the house on the blackboard and entered the classroom, and stood there for a long time looking at the drawing. The teacher approached him, the participants turned to see the unexpected visitor. The child pointed at the drawing on the board and exclaimed, “But there are no neighbors!”

In the same village there was a similar workshop exercise, but this time the participants were to draw an aerial view of an ideal community. The participants formed a queue before the blackboard and after an hour of working together, they came up with a beautiful drawing of a community. There are houses, a church, a school, village hall, and plaza. A network of roads and bridges shows the sections of the village. People are busy doing their chores, especially in the market place. Indeed it appeared as an ideal village.

“What constitute a community?” It was a lively discussion and everyone was so delighted with their “masterpiece” that the teacher even wrote at the corner of the blackboard “Save.”

Just then a child was passing by. When he saw the drawing on the backboard through the open door, he entered the classroom. He went close to the drawing and looked at it for a long time. The teacher and participants fell silent looking at their very young guest.

The child exclaimed, “But there are no trees, no birds; there are no mountains, no fields, no river!”

Some days passed since the two workshops. No one ever bothered to find out who the child was or where he lived. Then the whole village began to search for the child, but they never found him – not in the village, not in the neighboring village, not in the capital, not even in the church. Not in any known place.

Who was the child? Everyone who saw him never forgot his kindly beautiful and innocent face, bright eyes, radiant smile, and pondered on his words which became the two greatest lessons in life. ·

  • But there are no neighbors of the beautiful house! 
  • But there are no trees, no birds; there are no mountains, no fields, no river in the ideal community! 
Analyze the story. Who is this Mystery Child? What is the significance of this story to you? To your future career? Meantime I’ll relate another story, this time, about Narcissus in Greek mythology.

Death of Narcissus

Narcissus, a very handsome man in his youth, loved himself so much he spent hours day after day looking at his reflection on a lake, until one day he fell and drowned. The nymph Echo who was deeply in love with Narcissus but was never reciprocated, wept together with other nymphs over the dead Narcissus. So with the animals in the forest, the wind, the trees, and all those who had known him, except, the lake.

“Why aren’t you weeping?” the nymphs asked the lake. The lake answered, “It’s because Narcissus never saw me, he saw only himself. Every day he came to see his beautiful face, but he never saw a bit of beauty in me - I, who gave him the reflection of himself.”

This story tells us of a common weakness of men and women today, a malady doctors call Narcissism or Narcissistic Syndrome. Time magazine featured the millennials in a special issue as Me, Me, Me Generation. The relevance of this story to you is far reaching. Don’t be an “I” specialist. Never adore yourself. Don’t be conceited. Learn to reciprocate, especially in matters of genuine relationships, of true love. Had Narcissus reciprocated the love of the nymph Echo, and remained humble with his beauty the story wouldn’t be a tragic one, but one with an ending, “and they lived happily ever after.”

The lessons that can be derived from these stories, I believe are important in facing 12 major challenges of our ultramodern world, or postmodern world, as may be referred to.

· Threat of Nuclear Armageddon
· Global Terrorism.
· Drugs and Vices
· Territorial Conflicts
· Tragedy of the Commons
· Environmental Degradation.
· Loss of Privacy
· Auto-toxicity.
· Amorality and Neutral Morality
· Institutional Breakdown
· Pandemic Diseases
· Consumerism

Sibyl’s Wish 

I have another story to tell, also from Greek mythology. It’s about Sibyl, a version from the original myth.

Sibyl was a young, beautiful woman of high intelligence; in fact she was regarded as a prophet. One day Apollo, god of music and intelligence, asked Sibyl. “What is your wish in life?” Shy and naive Sibyl simply declined. “Come on Sibyl, every mortal has a wish.” “Well, if you insist, I wish to live forever.” Apollo knew she wanted to be a goddess. “Oh, foolish Sibyl, but your wish will be granted.”

So Sibyl lived on and on. But she was losing her youthfulness and beauty, because she inadvertently missed in her wish the word young. “I wish to live young forever.”

One day, a young man met Sibyl, now long past her youth, a very old woman. “And what do you wish this time Sibyl?” Wryly she said, “I only wish to die.”

How many mortals wish to be immortal? Corpses in cryogenic tanks await science to resurrect them in the future. The pyramids and other ornate tombs were built for the afterlife. People search for the fountain of youth believed to be somewhere in Shangri-La in Tibet.

The message about Sibyl is clear: “We – all of us – pass this way but once.” A missionary once said, “I shall pass this way but once; any good that I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being; let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”

The Fourth Wise Man
I have yet another story. Have you heard of the Fourth Wise Man, a novel written by Henry van Dyke. It is about a fourth “king” who lost his way and got separated from his three friends – the three wise men or three kings who succeeded in seeing the new born Holy Infant, whom they lavishly gave personal gifts. After that they were never heard of again. On the other hand, Artaban, their lost companion, never saw the Holy Infant. All along the way he did not ignore people in need of help, in the process spent all the gifts intended for the Holy Child. He had “wasted” 33 years. 

Unexpectedly news reached him that a holy man was condemned to die on the cross. He gathered his last strength and went to Jerusalem. There he saw the person he was looking for nailed on the cross on top of a hill (Golgotha). Artaban was gravely shocked and suffered a heart attack. As he lay in a corner dying Christ appeared to him. “I am very sorry, my Lord, I lost my way. I have nothing to give You now.”

“You have given me more than your gifts. You have not lost your way or time. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. What you have done to the least of your brethren you have done it to me.”

The fourth wise man took his last breath; his face turned heavenward bearing a divine smile of peace and fulfilment. 

If you can’t be one of the three wise men who paid a visit to the holy Infant, then be that fourth wise man. Be like Albert Schweitzer who became a missionary to fill up what the three wise men failed to do. 

Think and aim high to the point of idealism. Aim at a goal, more than that, aim at a cause. Dedicate your work to that noble cause, live your life for it. Peace, integrity, freedom, have no measure, because they belong to the realm of the human spirit. It is said that great men and women fought not only for their philosophy in life, but for their faith. Our own national hero Jose Rizal fought for freedom and dignity of the Filipinos, Mahatma Gandhi for independence of India, Abraham Lincoln for the abolition of slavery, Mother Teresa, now a saint, for love for the poorest among the poor. 
"Philosophy takes us to the highest plane of reason, whereas theology
takes us to the highest plane of faith." - avr

When Albert Einstein, the greatest mind in modern times, was asked, “What else can you not understand, Dr. Einstein?” The man behind the splitting of the atom, and adjudged Man of the Twentieth Century, answered in all humility, “I understand just a little about the atom; all things in the universe, only God can understand.” It is a manifestation of deep faith in the Higher Principle, over and above that of science.

On the other side of the coin, when Pope Francis was bombarded with questions on ethico-morals confronting our postmodern world, he answered calmly and hushed the audience, “Who am I to be your judge?” And he led the faithful to a prayerful meditation. It is deep wisdom humbling everyone with the biblical lesson, “He who has no sin throws the first stone.” 

And Mahatma Gandhi, Man of the Millennium brought not only man to his knees, but a whole proud nation Great Britain that was once the biggest empire on earth – “The sun never sets on English soil.” Through Asceticism and non-violence – terms that cannot be explained - India was liberated from centuries of human bondage, undoubtedly by the power of the Human Spirit.

Commencement means to start, to begin, and graduation is a planned process, by phase, step-by-step. It is not forging ahead and changing the world. Commencement is also looking back while standing at a crossroad given the choice to go back home like the Prodigal Son. Our world today loves the Prodigal Son more than his proud and obedient brother. The son who found his home again, who filled up the missing link of a family, the gap of the bigger world that he saw and experienced with the small world he was born into and where he grew up, the son who learned repentance as a condition to humility, the son who taught the world “love on bended knees.” 

Change, if only for the sake of “progress” is not the saving grace of our world. In fact, it is its greatest dilemma. After all, the most precious thing every person must have, and it is the greatest of all human rights, of all aspirations and goals in life is happiness. If you are not happy you are a loser, in spite of wealth, fame and honor. Take off all unnecessary load, be practical, go back to basics when you are in doubt, much so if you are lost. Live happily, lovingly, truthfully and freely. 

Listen to that child who guides you when you are lost, comforts you when you are sad, reminds you if you are late for school, jolts you when you feel lazy. The child who keeps you strong to resist temptation, enlightens you when you are in doubt, . 

The child who strengthens you with your conviction, in search for truth, who leads you back to your loved ones in peace and reconciliation; the child who encourages you when you are losing hope, who helps you fight for life when you are gravely ill, who takes you away from danger, who weeps when you have committed a grave error while strengthening you to resolve and rise over it. 

The child who talks to the stars, flies a kite as high as your dream, who writes poetry, sings, and loves life with reverence to all living things, who reminds you to keep the earth clean and orderly. The child that never tires, who never grows old, and who lives on in sweet memories. 

The child who detests Narcissus and Sibyl, and resists their temptations. The child who does not regret for failing to see the infant Child, just to be able to help the least of his brethren while lost on his way. 

This is the mystery child in you, in your life, the child who guides you in your search for a place in the world. ~
Congratulations to you beloved graduates, your parents and teachers, and to all those who contributed to your success, and the success of this occasion. Last but not the least, congratulations to Principal Beatriz Riotoc and staff of San Vicente Integrated School, my alma mater I will always love. ~

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Indefatigable Ka Melly

The Indefatigable Ka Melly  
Ka Melly C Tenorio is a pioneer, and the longest radio program host of a non-conventional approach in education in the Philippines based on “university without walls."  Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid or People’s School-on-Air grew from a local radio broadcast in the eighties to become an Internet-linked broadcast worldwide. The Program ended at the onset of the Duterte Administration.
Dr Abe V Rotor 

Rocky Cliff of Media in acrylic by AVRotor for Ka Melly C Tenorio on her 65th birthday and day of retirement from government service.  December 2, 2017

Atop the Rocky Cliff of Media
You made it Ka Melly, you are now on top, 
though a dot in the vastness of your view ;
if only retirement could silence the mind,
but to write your life is challenge anew, 
for nothing is as fulfilling as your career 
to go on making life lovely and true.

Lessons I Learned from Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (People's-School-on-Air) with Ka Melly C Tenorio

1. Ka Melly is a pioneer of a new kind of education. “University without walls,” Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid or People’s School-on-Air. 

2. I met Ka Melly for the first time in the eighties at the old building of ABS-CBN. I was invited as a resource person in her program. Gradually, through the years we developed a relationship of teacher and moderator which may be likened to a horse-and-carriage relationship.

Ka Melly and Ka Abe - PBH tandem for more than three decades 

3. Were it not for Ka Melly, Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (PBH) could not be what it had become  as the longest continuing school-on-air on radio in the Philippines, which included places outside the country reached by PBS-RB network. 

4. And thanks to the Internet, PBH was able to reach out worldwide. Lessons were not only heard on radio but read on the Internet as organized lessons posted on Website which are easily accessible.  

5. Paaralang Bayan is broad, if fact limitless in potential topics and audience. On my part with Ka Melly, I was able to discuss and post around 4000 lessons. These are accessible in three websites, principally To this time, past lessons even before 2006 can be searched in this website by subject matter at any time.  

6. Topics cover the 8 Realms of Multiple Intelligence (spatial or visual art, logic, intrapersonal, interpersonal, languages, kinesthetics, music and naturalism) which aim at developing the "holistic” person, principally among the young, and practical subjects which supplement formal education, as well as experiential knowledge, social media notwithstanding.

DZRB-PBH staff at DZRB station with Station Manager Allan Allanique 
(left photo, foreground).

7. There are times of excitement, times of caution (we avoid discussing as much as possible  politics and religion), of light moments, and times of serious concern. But there were times, I, in particular, entertained the thought “of what use am I doing this?” particularly because being a resource person is free and voluntary.

8. Until someone called me in the middle of the night and said, “Thank you Ka Abe and Ka Melly for saving my life. ”I couldn’t grasp a thing to relate his statement. I am not a life guard. I donated blood only once in my lifetime and that was a long time ago. I let him continue. "Your program stopped me at the brink of self-destruction." He mentioned a lesson, “Stop before you reach dead end,” and related topics.

9. I felt like a disciple of the Good Shepherd. And here the biblical Lost Lamb got into the picture, opening a new challenge and stronger determination as a journalist. It is indeed a philosophy on the highest humanitarian level. How many lost lambs are there in the world today?

10. And this is a fact. Quite often the lost lamb is not only the marginalized, but one who is learned, ambitious, and those on the fast lane locked up in a race without a name and goal. What would Ka Melly and I tell them. We talk about art, poetry, kind Nature, the lighter side of life, a kind of laughter from the heart. It’s Ka Melly’s signature of smiling-and-laughing, you could readily notice in her voice.

11. “All the world’s a stage.” Yet we can’t always be the principal characters. In media we are merely catalyst for people to act, and they must act rationally in their best. But sometimes we encounter overenthusiastic callers. It’s not unusual and this is where diplomacy comes in. Diplomacy in media is an art.  Ka Melly is a master of that art. Hour after hour and she seems indefatigable. I only know the source of her strength is her loving family, and her dedication to her career.

12. We are students in many ways. Someone called up to tell that eating plapla (hormone induced male tilapia) would cause hair to grow on the face and body. I thought it was all right, but then the caller was not a man but a lady who insisted she was talking based on personal experience. I began imagining the new species. I don’t know how Ka Melly closed the conversation to the caller’s seeming satisfaction, without us accepting her theory. It was hilarious behind screen but it prompted me to do research. Though controversial, the idea led me to do my homework with the premise that tinkering with Nature is very dangerous, and indeed it is.

13. There are difficult moments with media especially when you have little to say, or none at all. What with one straight hour without advertisement, and seldom a break for station ID? Monday to Friday – that’s five hours a week in a heavy traffic hour (air and road).

One time I was driving back to QC from DLSU DasmariƱas after an evening class lecture. PBH was hooked up with my car radio. Then Ka Melly called. I couldn't find a parking place. Finally I found one and of all places I was directed in front of a beer house. And you know, we talked of vices and one of them is smoking. Luckily I had the article “From Cigarette Smoking to Pipe Smoking – then I Stopped: A Personal Saga.” It turned out beautifully with sound effects coming from the beer house. There’s no substitute really to personal experience with on-the spot setting. I even got a free can of beer.

PBH Resource Persons (Top, clockwise) NCBA vice president for academic affairs and director for research with Ka Melly and Ka Abe and wife Cecille; UN-FAO ecologist and veteran journalist with Ka Abe; veteran broadcaster with Ka Abe and Cecille; and professors from SPU-QC;

14. Another experience, this time was in Virac, Catanduanes. I was a speaker on Environmental Conservation. "I’m here in Catanduanes," I called Ka Mely. I summarized the contents of some papers presented in lesson style. And having a few minutes remaining I gave to a seemingly knowledgeable participant a chance to say her piece. It was nearly a disaster. She was very critical and out of topic. I learned another lesson. Don’t just pick anyone to talk on radio. You can’t “unsay” what has been said, not even on his or her behalf.

15. There was a concert in Ateneo de Manila University which Ka Melly emceed. My Daughter Anna accompanied me on the violin. Actually I declined the invitation by a Jesuit brother, a regular PBH guest. But it was a rare opportunity and honor. Ka Melly was very fluent and confident as usual with her introduction, and she didn’t know how nervous I was. I told myself, if Ka Melly isn't nervous, why shouldn’t I, too? Things turned out all right. You can’t be your best unless you are a bit nervous, anxious, and fired with enthusiasm. After our rendition Ka Melly congratulated me and Anna. I was avoiding to extend my cold and sweaty hand. There are trials you must face in media. The term mapapasubo ka is actually mapapasubok ka.

16. Another time, I played the violin in the Radyo ng Bayan station booth, to demonstrate traditional and semi-classical music. This time I was all confident. But I didn’t perform as well as I did in the Ateneo concert. “Bravo!” applauded Ka Melly. If only Ka Melly knew I missed a number of notes and a line! (On second thought, I told myself, "Alam niya, mabait lang siya." But what about our thousands of listeners?)

17. I am always aware of the element of humility in media. I often refer to the Pieta. What makes the Pieta the "perfect" sculptural work of man is the essence of humility it exudes. When this early masterpiece of Michelangelo was struck with a sledge hammer by a madman, and later restored, more pilgrims were attracted to see it. It is now in a bullet-proof glass case in the Vatican, and the Pieta has found a place again in our troubled society. How many people are there in our times with the kind of reasoning of the madman, "When you can't acquire beauty your own alone, better destroy it so no one can truly own it?" How often is media led into this social quagmire!

Lessons in PBH are translated into Ilocano and published in Ka Abe's column Okayka Apong (Our Heritage of Values and Lessons). Bannawag, counterpart of Liwayway (both mean dawn) is a weekly magazine with 50,000 copies per issue, half of which is shipped to Ilocano communities abroad. Okayka Apong will be on its 12th year in 2018. Ka Abe right, with Bannawag Exeutive Editor. 

PBH and the Community Newspaper (Greater Lagro Gazette) which was awarded best barangay newspaper in QC.) The Gazette regularly publishes lessons with Ka Abe as president of LAWIN (Lagro Assn of Writers and Artists Inc). With him is the editor in chief of the Gazette and chairman of LAWIN.
PBH counterpart in Thailand - 
Sokhothai Thammathirat Open University (STOU), the first university in Southeast Asia to use the distance learning system;  Ka Abe in an interview at STOU 2008. With strong government support, PBH can be institutionalized like STOU with the country's present network of schools and universities. STOU has more than 200,000 students enrolled in different courses from vocational to medicine to graduate studies. Another Thai University has one-half million students in its "university-without-walls" program. All over the world, one of the biggest revolutions taking place is in media and education. PBH has greatly contributed to this movement. But we have yet to break the cartel of schools and universities gripping the educational system of our country.
PBH won the Oscar Florendo Award for Developmental Communication, circa 1998; Philippine Award  for Best Blog on Nature and Environment in 2015(PBH lessons are linked with the Internet), Gintong Aklat Award 2003, National Book Award 2008 (2 books in a series which carry PBH lessons; and Father Jose P Burgos Achievement Award, particularly on the aspect of media 2015). It is also for PBH that Ka Abe was awarded Outstanding Alumnus for Journalism by the Lyceum of the Philippine University on the recommendation of Manager Allan Allanigue. These awards and various citations demonstrate the dynamic and professional management of the DZRB-PBH through the years. Former Manager John Manalili also received various awards after his retirement.    
PBH participates in national conventions (left, on allergy), and training of teachers under the K-12 program
PBH is deeply involved in environmental conservation. Top, clockwise: global
warming, widespread poverty, overpopulation, and deforestation.
PBH takes part in children's feeding program, (left), and art workshop.
PBH conducts seminar-workshops with Barangay Greater Lagro QC, for senior citizens;
and works with the academic community (UST Graduate School Students).

PBH is largely responsible in the publication of these books which are being used as references and textbooks (Humanities and Literature for K-12), These are available at National Book Store, C and E Publishing, UST Publishing House, and other outlets. These books earned a number of awards including Gintong Aklat and National Book Award. Twenty book manuscripts carrying PBH lessons are being prepared for publication.

18. What would happen to PBH after Ka Melly?

First of all here is a cursory look into the lessons of PBH, by subject matter: Current Events, Food and nutrition, Ecology and Environment, Agriculture and Food, Practical Tips for Everyday Living, Science and Technology, Disaster Preparedness, Response and Recovery,

Medicine and Healthcare, Education and Training, Lighter Side of Life, Communication and Arts, Humanities and Applied Aesthetics, Morals and Ethics, Economics and Entrepreneurship, Family and Society, Biology and Related Life Sciences, Culture and Tradition, Industry and agribusiness, Personality Development.

The least discussed are Politics and Religion.

With the Website (Living with Nature) (or Dr Abe V Rotor) these topics can still be accessed as short articles accompanied by photos and illustrations, and written in English, in simple style. These topics will remain accessible worldwide, perhaps for years, to visitors of the website. No other conditions are set, aside adhering to the genuine purpose of the lessons. acknowledgement of the source, and that the  Code of Ethics in Journalism, and conditions set by the Web are not violated.  

These lessons shall be phased out as PBH lessons, ultimately becoming independent articles linked to various websites - riding on the principle of Multiplier Effect. And new articles shall be added on regularly under (Living with Nature, with two extended blogs). 

As long as there are visitors to these blogs, PBH lives on.  So does the indefatigable Ka Melly.    
                                    For Ka Melly

The Plus Factors of a Happy and Fulfilled Life,  
and - Yes, you will live long. 
Dr Abe V Rotor  

                           The Pond - A Place of Happy Thoughts, in acrylic AVRotor

When the sun rises, be there and catch its rays, pristine, golden piercing the fog and mist, turning dewdrops into diamonds cascading to the ground, vanishing into the air, birds chirping to herald the day - you will live long;

When the sun sets, it is but the parting of day, no tears no regrets, it goes to its bed on the horizon, and soon, you too shall find rest in comfort and thanksgiving, taking away the rigors of the day - you will live long;

When tired muscles and nerves, before they snag and pull you down, stop and let nature take over, you have a lot of reserve you don't only know - breath deep, relax and dream of the things you love - you will live long;

When in doubt and indecisive, cautious and anxious, these you must respect, they are within your barometer telling you to find the best path to take - and, if ever the risk is well deserved, take the less trodden with pride - you will live long;

When lost in the woods or in the concrete jungle, in eerie shadows among trees or blinding neon lights, stop but briefly for composure, but never stop, your home is just there waiting for you - you will live long;

When feeling sick you are sick, when angry you are angry, when lonely you are lonely; when happy you are happy, you are the master and captain of your life, steer your ship well having set its course - you will live long;

When the seasons are changing fast, you must be in love with your work, your life and family, your friends and organization - they make things easy for you, as you make things easy for them too, rejoice, it's a great life - you will live long;

When your pulse is racing with your heartbeat, temperature sending blood to your head, eyes blurred by tears and anger, your gait and stride now heavy and disturbing, your smiles and laughter leaving dry furrows, take a break, a long break - you will live long;

When sick doctors affirm, don't give up, the good hormones will drive the bad ones away, stem cells in your bone marrow will double up, metabolism slows down, enhance these natural processes, be happy - you will live long;

When you are yourself and not somebody else, when models rise to challenge you, when idealism and reality meet at the hallowed ground of humanity, where goodness prevails, be more than a witness, you have your own role to play - you will live long;

When life advances past your prime, look to the golden years, the best of life yet, believe in wisdom distilled from knowledge, in a diary you wrote as your living epitaph, for having borne children, the meaning of immortality - you will live long;

When the Angelus bell rings and you hear it not a peal but sweet call, when all around you gather your family and friends, those you found joy in helping - the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the imprisoned, the lonely and abandoned - those you served on media as the Good Shepherd. you will live long, and forever live. ~

NOTE: Ka Melly, now retired from government media, continues broadcasting on Eagle Network.  The latest I listened to her program was about synthetic vinegar, and about state education. I closed my eyes and imagined Ka Melly and I in tandem on radio through the years, indeed a beautiful reminiscence.  How amazing she pruned down diplomatically and subtly her guests' assuming posture of their "specializations." In media one should be polite and unassuming. Learned people, especially scientists, must tone down from their pedestal to reach the level of understanding of the audience, and more importantly, they should at all times uphold intellectual honesty.  Kudos to Ka Melly for handling the interviews with wit and superb moderation. avr    Philippine broadcasting building QC

Indigenous sports and games

Dr Abe V Rotor

1. Jack-n-poi – It is an old game, possibly originated from China, which is used to resolve conflicts like head or tail. It is quite an intellectual and witty way. Here two or more persons play the game. Stone (clenched fist) defeats scissor (forefinger and middle finger open) but it loses to paper (palm open). Paper on the other hand submits to scissor. By law of elimination, the one who survives wins – or faces the consequence he may not like. We, kids on the farm, resolved work like taking the goat to graze, or cleaning the pig sty – and such chores we would prefer someone doing it for us.

2. June Beetle Gladiators – Raise the tough outer pair of wings of this seasonal insect (Leucopholis irrorata) in a perpendicular position and clip it together with the split end of a barbecue stick five inches long. Do the same thing on another beetle of the same size so that each one faces the opposite direction. Draw a line between the two gladiators equidistant to each other. The contest begins. The struggle goes on until the stronger beetle pulls its opponent across the line and wins. A second or third round may be necessary to resolve any doubt.

3. Rhinoceros Beetle GladiatorsOryctes rhinoceros is coconut beetle known as u-uang (Tag) or barra-irong (Ilk). The larva (grub) bores and feeds on the growing bud of the coconut. The males have horns which naturally makes fierce looking. The females on the other hand, have no horns and are relatively docile. During the mating season the males ferociously fight over their mates, a ritual that may last for hours, and this is what makes them favorite gladiators especially among the Thais who bet heavily on them like fighting cocks. The game is celebrated on a national scale during the emergence of the beetle usually from April to June. It is a traditional game for all ages and classes, lately the rearing of fighting beetles known as kwang has evolved into business in as much as the game has transformed into big time gambling.

Shielded by a tough armor made of chitin, the male is reminiscent of a medieval knight - clean, shiny, compact, and armed with horns. Normally the horn comes in a pair, vertically positioned, but in some species the horns form a trident with the lateral pair as long and as pointed as the central horn. Horns may reach a third of the body length of the insect, but these are more decorative than functional, except that in the insect world the horns are a deterrent to potential predators, and are used by the insect to bluff its own rival.

4. Spider Gladiators – Spiders are by nature ferocious and they attack even their own kind. Why, we do not find spiders living in group. It is because they will always try to defend their niche and will resort to kill any intruder. Even in mating the male which is smaller may end up instead as a meal. It is for this trait that this sport takes advantage of. Curious kid as we were, we would conceal our spider gladiator in empty individual match boxes. The matchmaker arranges the duel between two similar species of the same size. The contest starts. Actually it is a game of death. Some people even bet to the point of gambling, especially for large spiders like the gagambang hari which measures up to 6 inches from tip of front leg to tip of the hind leg. Tarantulas, other than being rare, are docile and would rather try to scare off their enemies before considering any bloody confrontation. Our folks used to warn us, “Beware of the black widow spider!” We kids would hesitate to capture any unusual kind of a spider. The skull and crossbones insignia embosomed on the back of the black widow is still fresh in my mind. By the way, whatever kind of spider you find, take precaution; there are cases of allergy from spider bite and from inhaling hair dust specially during molting.

5. Beetle “kite” – It’s a game we children on the farm played when the salagubang (L. irrorata) finally emerges at the onset of the rainy season, usually in May or as early as April, although the insect normally comes out of the ground in June, hence its name – June beetle. We would tie the end of a thread like a kite on the pair of hind legs, then make the insect fly into the air. The beetle that flew the highest and the longest won. But we had to repeat the game over and over until the insect is exhausted, and then we replace it with fresh ones – or until we ourselves got tired.

6. Kara Krus – Also called buntayug (Ilk) this is more of a gamble than game. We kids surreptitiously played kara krus without our parents knowledge. And we would bet our meager allowance. The rule is simple. A pair of coins of the same denomination, say 10 cents or 50 cents in our time (recently larger denominations up to 10-peso coin are used), are tossed into the air. On falling to the ground, a pair of heads (tao) makes a winner, while a pair of tails or bird - meaning the eagle symbol - makes a loser. A head and a tail means you have to repeat tossing the coins. It is purely a game of chance but foul play (daya) is not unusual. Be sure the coins face opposite each other before tossing them into the air, and they must be tossed high enough so that they bounce and settle freely on the ground. The game could turn into a bad habit and could breed future gamblers.

7. Spin top (trumpo) – Our town is famous for furniture making, so that the lathe machine (pagturnuan Ilk) makes the best tops in town. Everyone could easily recognize a top made in San Vicente, three kilometers west of Vigan, the capital. There were top tournaments held on certain occasions and we would send our best players to the capital. To be a good player, first you must be accurate at a target. Then there is the real tournament. You should be able to demolish your opponent’s top, by puncturing or chopping it into pieces. This is why the wood used in making tops is molave, better still kamagong, the hardest wood. Exhibitions are part of the game. For example whose top makes the loudest humming sound? How balanced and stable is the spinning of your top? How long will it keep on spinning before it finally dies out? Then there is the skill to “capture” a spinning top and continue it spinning in your palm.

But how do you make a top by hand, that is without a lathe machine? I’ll tell you how. Cut a fresh branch of guava or isis or Ficus, the one that produces sandpaper like leaves, around three inches in diameter. With the use of a bolo shape one end into a round peg, and drive a 3-inch nail through it, leaving half of it to become the shank. Smoothen the surface, and make it even and balanced as you rotate it by hand. Shape and severe the upper part of the top with a saw or sharp knife. An immature wood when it dries up has a tendency to crack. That’s why you have to look for a seasoned branch; the harder it is the better, and the more durable is your top. For the spinning rope, get a pure cotton thread, numero cuartro, that is ¼ of an inch, and a meter long. Sometimes we would twist two thinner threads to make the standard spinning rope.

Image result for Sack race8. Sack race. Open the sack, a 50-kilo jute or plastic sack we used to contain one cavan of rice or corn, put both feet inside it, pull it up and hold the brim tightly with both hands without allowing it to fall as you frog-jump to a designated post, go around it and return. Now it’s your partner’s turn, and then the next’s, similar to a rally race. The group that completes the course first gets the prize. The game is easier to describe than to play it. Try broad jumping in quick succession with both feet ensconced in the sack. I would rather run for a kilometer instead. But surprisingly many people are adept to the game; it really needs practice and honing the skill.

9. Carabao race – I would tell joke in a puzzle, “What is the first car race?” The children of my age then would think of Ford or Chevrolet. Sirit? “It’s car-abao race.” It’s a corny joke, moreso today. But if you haven’t seen one. Go to Paombong, Bulacan during the fiesta of San Isidro Labrador, patron saint of farmers. It is like horse race, with the “jockey” riding without harness. So there’s a lot of skill needed to stir the animal to the finish line, galloping the carabao way.

Carabaos are known to be very docile. They say, you won’t be able to reach your destination on time with a carabao even if you use a horse whip. And don’t ever force the animal cruelly. In Thailand a carabao in the middle of a race broke away and attacked the spectators hurting dozens of them. An animal is still an animal however tame it is. The biological instinct is unpredictable.

10. Catching piglets (bi-ik) in mud. It takes a day or two to prepare the arena or pen, some 5 by 5 meters square, or bigger in area, and secured with interlink wire or wooden fence. To make the game exciting the ground is puddled like a rice field ready for planting. A smaller pen is made next to the big pen. The piglets – some ten are released per batch of contestants. It is a game of two or more contending groups. It could be a one on one contest in the final stage. The rule may be that he who catches the piglet either gets a prize or takes the animal home – like in the movie, Babe, a story of a piglet won from a fair by an elderly farmer who reared it to become a “sheepdog” and earned its place on the farm.

It’s a messy game; it is full of wit and skill. It is in catching the piglets and putting them into the adjoining pen within the prescribed time frame that determine the winner. Imagine the winner standing on stage receiving his prize – or piglet. Can you recognize him?
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11. Palo de sebo (bamboo pole climbing). It is tricky – how can you climb a bamboo pole twenty feet tall covered with animal fat or vegetable oil? Because there was no rule to prevent a participant to devise his own technique, we would coach our contestant to pocket wood ash and applies it as he inched upward until he reaches the top and gets his prize.
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12. Pabitin It is a portable trellis around two square meters tied at the corners to a common string, and is laden with many goodies. The setup is usually attached to the ceiling or a tree branch with a pulley of sort, enabling the game master to pull it up and down. The game is actually for children of the same age and ideally of the same height. The rule of the game is that the one who reaches and grabs the item is his. And he is supposed to leave and give chance to the other participants. It not unusual for a parent to carry a young contestant to reach for the pabitin. Followed by elder children. And if the moderator is not strict, expect something unruly to happen. The game ends up into a free-for-all, and what remains of the pabitin is but a skeleton of bamboo sticks and crepe paper. For fiestas and local parties the pabitin is popular even to this day. It is characteristically Filipino. And why not? Imagine how attractive it is up there hanging even before the tart of the party. Every one would be eyeing which item to get. It’s apple to the eye – and remains so until the game leader declare the start of the game. The string moves and the pabitin slowly goes down, down and meet a pack of contestant shrieking, jumping, their arms instantly doubling in length.

13. Kite dog fight – Gliadator kites fight it out in the sky, but it’s the string that is the target more than the kite itself. This is how we did it in our plaza in San Vicente where we used to play kite come harvest time, in the months of October and November. At that time there was no nylon or monofilament, so it was the good old cotton thread, “numero viente” we used, which is the standard for kite string then. We would pound glass finely and mix it with egg yolk, then coat it on the kite string. When it gets dry the string is like sandpaper (papel de liha). Here we go. The opponent’s kite and our kite are flown simultaneously. And when both kites are sufficiently stable in the air, we bring the two kites at striking distance, until the strings get entangled. Now the fight is whose kite falls – or which string breaks. Most often it is the string that spells victory. You can imagine the loser running after his kite across the fields, over fences and making sure no one gets first and retrieve it. A loose kite is everybody’s. 
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14. Tug-of-war. It may be a parlor game, but wait until the big boys get hold of the rope. Better an outdoor game then, and be sure the rope is strong. It is a game of strength, but one in unison, so that it needs cooperation and skill. Here are some hints to win the game.

Choose the members of the team for strength and stamina. Distribute the members of the team evenly; the right handed and left handed in their proper positions on either side of the rope they feel most efficient. Keep distance to maximize individual strength with the strongest ones up front and at the rear as anchor. Distribute resistance with both feet solidly anchored on the ground. Do not allow the rope to sway; keep it steady. Anticipate surge and counteract spontaneously. Be sure you hands are protected, say with gloves or hand towel. Be wary of sudden release by your opponents, you’ll end up into a pile.
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15. Puto seko eating - Have you tried eating the powdery stuff without water, then whistle to signal you have won? It is a unique game and if you are not careful enough you will surely choke, so that is discouraged among the very young and the sickly. Puto seko is made of rice flour, molded and dried. The contestants line the stage and on signal start eat a prescribed number of pieces. The first to finish all and produce a clear whistle wins. ~
Reference: Living with Folk Wisdom by AV Rotor (UST Publishing House 2010)
Acknowledgement: Internet Photos

Four Genuine Ilocano (GI) Dishes

  Dr Abe V Rotor 
1.  Ngarusangis shell soup, a rare recipe of Ilocanos.  
Because I can’t find ngarusangis in the Internet and in references on Philippine shells, I took it upon myself to call this extremely small marine bivalve, Fairy Shell. (It sounds like Pearly Shell, a Hawaiian folk song.)  In Nagtupacan, San Vicente, Ilocos Sur, I remember as a child fisher folks gathering ngarusangis on the estuarine by the ganta (around one liter, the size of a large pineapple can), as this was the common means of measurement at that time. The shells are as small as rice, so that there is a technique in removing the shell. Basang, my auntie, would first boil water, then immerse the washed shells immediately, stir the pot until the shells which being bivalves easily open, thus exposing their white to grayish flesh which automatically separate from the shell and settle at the bottom of the pot, which is then gathered. This is done repeatedly until the shells are empty.  The soup is very rich in calcium and other minerals. It is served as soup, cooked with vegetables (bulanglang), or made into omelet.

This shell is now being endangered for a number of reasons. 
  • It is gathered in large quantities together with other small shells and fed to ducks. The ballot industry requires tons and tons of live shells which are gathered along shorelines.
  • Pollution has destroyed the natural habitat of this shell as well as other organisms.
  • Beaches and shorelines continue to shrink as a result of tourism and advancing settlements.
  • Conversion of mangroves, beaches and estuaries into fishponds has either destroyed or displaced countless species of marine and terrestrial organisms.  
  • Aquaculture of mussels, oysters, seaweeds and fish does not include the culture of less important organisms such as ngarusangis. 
  • Global warming renders water temperature intolerable to many organisms.  Rising sea level exacerbates this condition.   
      2. Glutinous rice with chicken blood is a rare treat.
The practice of gathering the blood while dressing the chicken is now rare. Well, it is because we get our chicken from the supermarket or grocery already dressed or frozen.  But in the good old days, chicken blood is mixed with glutinous rice (malagkit).  This is done by getting just enough rice, wash it quickly in a small shallow plate, and blood directly coming from the chicken is mixed and allowed to settle, solidifying in a minute or two.  It is easily dislodged from the plate when it is time to cook it with the chicken when cooking tinola (stew). We kids would automatically pick it up even while the stew is still in the pot, but our elders would divide it among ourselves to settle the issue.    

  3.  Padas Bagoong, a rare specialty but ecologically destructive.

Padas is the fry of spinefoot or rabbitfish, locally known as Malaga or samaral.  mainly of the species Siganus canaliculatus and S. concatenates and S corallinus and S. spinus. These species occur in schools in coastal areas around rocky and corals feeding on phytoplankton and browsing on seaweeds and seagrasses.  The grow up to 280 mm.  They tolerate a wide range of salinity that they enter rivers or go down to the open sea.

When passing through Urdaneta and Villasis Pangasinan you find padas bagoong in bottles sold on the shelf or by peddlers.  Sometimes the small fish is beautifully arranged in rows covering the entire bottle.  How skillfully and patiently is the art done considering how small the fry is.  It is preferable to buy  seasoned padas bagoong. Ask the seller; better still check it yourself.  The fish are well settled in the bottle with an appreciable amount of patis appearing as a layer on top. Get a bottle that is sell sealed – and of course, well filled.

Padas is the fry of Malaga or samaral which grows up to a kilo apiece, so that the practice of gathering padas must be strictly discouraged.  Ecologically we are destroying the species every time we patronize padas bagoong.  One kilo of padas probably amounts to several hundreds of individual fish that potentially matures in six months time. It is no wonder the price of samaral in the market is about twice that of ordinary fish.    
 (Ref. Conlu P V 1986 Fishes: Guide to Philippine Flora and Fauna Series) 

4. This is a favorite dish of Ilocanos known as “jumping salad.”  What is it really?
In Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (school-on-the-air) program, five callers phoned to give their  answers.  Except one who said he learned about this rare dish from a friend, the callers apparently Ilocanos, said they have actually tasted jumping salad.  This dish is prepared from newly caught small to medium shrimps from the estuaries and rivers, and while they are still very much alive are served right there and then with calamansi and salt, momentarily agitating the fated creatures.  Pronto! The shrimps, on removing the cover, frantically jump out of the plate, save the dazed one.  You should be skillful in catching them from the table (and even on the floor) deftly picking them by the head, taking caution so as not to get hurt by their sharp rostrum.  You can imagine the danger you face as the creature makes its last attempt to escape.  You must get a firm hold before putting the struggling creature into your mouth, tail first and quickly bite off the head, severing the sharp dagger in your hold. The creature wriggles in the cave of your mouth and you can actually feel its convulsion fading as it undergoes the initial process of digestion. Being an Ilocano myself, eating jumping salad is an adventure and rarely do you experience having one nowadays, unless you are living near the sea, river or lake, or a good friend brings live shrimps to town in banana stalk container to keep them alive. Try it; it’s one for the Book of Guinness. ~