Tuesday, December 12, 2017

WHAT IS THAT? Second of a Series:

Dr Abe V Rotor

1. Pit trap on dry sand and loose soil.
2. Mound on meadow that grows, associated with fairy tale.

3. Either it seals off or becomes a hole for nesting bird. 

4. Fleshy flower rising from the ground - whatever
happened to the stem and leaves.
5. To a city bred, what crop is this?

6. Parasitic plant on agoho and pine, romanticized in a Christmas carol.

7. Living nest on a tree, houses a colony.

8. It's rock, all right, but it does not look one.

1. The ant lion larva lives at the bottom of the pit waiting for its prey, an ant.
2. Termite mound
3. Cut branch undergoing healing. Note cambium layer forming a thick ring around the wound.
4. Flower of pongapong,(Amorphophalus campanolatus)
5. Virginia tobacco, grown in the Ilocos Region
6. Mistletoe
7. Nest of gree tree ant (hantik)
8. Petrified tree skeleton

Living with Nature 3, AVR (All Rights Reserved)

How Safe is the Food you are Eating?

Self-Administered Test (True or False, 30 items)
Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature - School on Blog
Lesson: Safe food is primordial to food security

We have no control on the safety of the food we eat in canteens and restaurants.

1. Food contains natural chemicals that are essential for growth and health which include carbohydrates, sugars, proteins and vitamins. But some foods contain potentially harmful natural toxins.

2. Among the most common crops that yield natural Hydrogen Cyanide is cassava (Manihot utilissima) mainly in the bark of the enlarged roots.

3. Cassava should be harvested after one year in the field. Over mature tubers contain more of the toxin.

4. Remove the entire bark, and wash the tuber thoroughly. Cut into pieces and boil. When the pot starts to boil, remove the cover. This allows the cyanogas to escape.

5. Bamboo shoots (labong) contains a certain amount of hydrogen cyanide, like cassava it should be cooked well with the pot open to allow the gas to escape.

6. Seeds of apples and pears, and the stony pit or kernel of apricot and peaches contain a naturally occurring substance called amygdalin. Amygdalin can turn into hydrogen cyanide in the stomach causing discomfort or illnesses.

7. Nicotine in tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) is among the most poisonous substances in nature. Extract of the poison from a single stick of cigarette can instantaneously kill a person when injected into the bloodstream.

8. Cacao (Theobroma cacao), like coffee contains caffeine, so that moderation is required in its consumption.

9. Ricinin in castor bean (Ricinus communis)is very poisonous, for which reason the use of castor as laxative has been stopped especially among children.

10. Potato (Solanum tuberosum) contains natural toxins called glycoalkaloids. The levels are usually low but higher levels are found in potato sprouts, and the peels of potato.

11. Aflatoxin is a substance produced by a fungus, Aspergillus flavus, that grows on harvested crops like corn, rice and copra that are not properly dried and stored.

12. It is all right to eat cooked potatoes that has a bitter taste because this is just varietal, and not due to the presence of the natural toxin glycoalkaloids.

13. Today most plastics are made from petrochemicals (crude oil and natural gas), although they can also be produced from corn and other biomasses.

14. Plastic is a compound that is indestructible, even when it is melted the compound gas that is given off is very harmful to our health and environment - it weakens the ozone layer.

15. Because most plastic is produced from oil, and the world is gradually running out of oil, scientists are now developing plastics that are made from vegetable oil and other organic matter.

16. Bioplastics are designed to be composted, not recycled.

17. Environmental advocates are calling for bioplastic production based on renewable crops (such as native wild grasses) grown without chemicals. Bioplastics could also be developed from agricultural waste – which is not yet a ripe or proven technology.

18. We are now beginning to be more concerned with polluting our body with the harmful substances from plastic, rather than polluting the environment.

19. Heavy metal toxicity is occurring far more than we would ever expect, and we pick up the toxic metals principally from those that we produce and throw into the environment.

20. All heavy metals are harmful to the body.

Predators such as the squid accumulate toxic metals from their preys.

The three most common toxic metals are lead mercury and cadmium, while the most dangerous and common radioactive element is Uranium.

22. Lead (Pb) is most common of the toxic metals which we pick up from paints, plastics, cosmetics, batteries, gasoline, insecticides, pottery glaze, and soldered metals. It can be picked up also from plants that absorb the element such as kangkong.

23. The use of Cadmium has greatly increased lately. One can pick up this toxin metal from discarded cadmium batteries, soft drinks, cigarette smoke, seafood, rubber, motor oil, pesticides, and plastics. Cd can cause chronic fatigue syndrome, hair loss, high blood pressure, arthritis, kidney stones and impotence.

24. Mercury (Hg) which can be obtained from amalgam tooth filling, the absorption of which into the body is increased with smoking of cigarettes, drinking of hot liquids, gum chewing, acidic saliva or the grinding of teeth at night.

25. Hg affects the brain, heart, kidneys, and endocrine glands, and because it is cumulative in the brain and neurons, causes depression, memory loss, tremors, anemia and heart attacks. It is very difficult to get rid of.

26. Aluminum can be found in old cast aluminum pots and pans, cans and foils. Certain amounts can be picked up from drinking water, antiperspirants, baking powders, feminine hygiene products, milk, and the like, accumulating in the skin, bones, brain, and kidneys - which can lead to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

27. Uranium is a radioactive element that disintegrates eventually into lead. So why worry with the meltdown of the nuclear plants in Chernobyl Russia and three-Mile Island in the Us?

28. Nickel can be picked up from kitchen wares, coins, dental fillings and batteries. But these can accumulate in the bones, kidneys, liver, lungs, immune system and the brain, and may cause genetic damage and cancer.

29. Arsenic is obtained from cigarette smoke, laundry detergents, beer, seafood and drinking water. It can cause headaches, confusion and sleepiness. At large amount Arsenic can damage the kidneys, liver, and lungs. Arsenic is classified semi-metallic, like selenium.

30. Barium, Beryllium and Chromium are not classified as toxic metals, besides they occur in insignicant amountsa in the environment.

There's no substitute to freshly caught fish from a known source.


False: 8,11,17,20,27,30
16, (T) The plant-based material will actually contaminate the recycling process if not separated from conventional plastics such as soda bottles and milk jugs.
30. F. Barium is found in soaps, ceramics, paper, plastics, textiles, dyes, fuel additives, rubber, paint and pesticides; beryllium is alloy metal processing; and Chromium from chromate compounds.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

A Guide in Entrepreneurship

“When we take away from a man his traditional way of life, his customs, his religion, we had better make certain to replace it with SOMETHING OF VALUE” 
 - Robert Chester Ruark, Something Of Value 

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog

 When Ford, Carnegie and Rockefeller et al, began to generate wealth, the questions of ethics arose. To become enormously rich through moneymaking business inevitably raises questions about values. To many, progress means material wealth. The business ideology of a modern free world, man’s material progress is far from a threat, but rather a promise of a new age - “a time of fulfillment when everybody would have enough of everything,” in the words of Charles W. Ferguson who epitomized Dewitt Wallace.

The philosophy of Philanthropy, the legal Neo-Robin Hood of recent times, has saved the face of the rich businessman in the eyes of a critical world. That to continue accumulating wealth is not bad as long as that wealth is “given away” to benefit mankind.

I may have transgressed a little from the topic, but the defense I would like to point out is the essence of not only giving away the wealth one accumulates in business, but more importantly the duty of an entrepreneur to treat well his constituents particularly the employees, as he accumulates wealth. Equitable compensation precedes philanthropic purpose. It is of course the most ideal to blend both values.

Ruark, the author of “Something of Value” said “ If a man does away with what is good custom and tradition, he must first see to it that there is something of value to replace it. But enterprise is also prospective. It envisions a concept that is ahead of anyone’s thinking, and of today’s conventions. It is a laying down for the future a work that can be done today. Henry Ford industrialized America with his vision of a people’s car. John F. Kennedy saw the future of space science to serve mankind. Satellite communications today, a multi-million dollar electronics business, has revolutionized the world, linking the peoples of many nations.

We conceptualize even the ordinary. Like local resources that can be tapped for maximized utilization. Local talents can be at par with the Western’s. it is looking ahead, thinking deeper and organizing well that enable us to arrive at a concept and subsequently putting it to use. For the business administrator, this is priceless tool.

These are rules that guide a prospective entrepreneur so that he is not only successful, but his efforts should be made truly relevant to the community in which he is a part.

1. Build an independent enterprise – Call it “ empire building" but it is better than to be a subservient to a boss. Be the boss like the accountant who became a partner of an auditing firm.

2. Be enterprising, explore the frontiers – Like Dewitt Wallace, he discovered a new piece of journalism, the Reader’s Digest.

3. Innovations have price to be paid. Do not let people pay them for you – If you recommend fertilizer use, be sure that the ones who get the most benefit are the users - farmers - and secondarily the manufacturer and distributor.

4. Preserve tradition that holds values – Do not discard old things for new ones. But if you do, just like what Ruark advised, “ there must be something of value to replace it.”

5. Look ahead but through concepts that are implementable – It is not always true that if you use your imagination, necessarily you must think modern. Be indigenous, if you can.

6. Benevolence and philanthropy are ethical leverages to wealth getting – But if you give part of your wealth, be sure there is absolutely no condition that negates altruism.

These are some concepts as guide to a successful enterprise. Good luck!

Rural Entrepreneurship: Grassroots Economics in Action

Dr Abe V Rotor 
A lecture outline on rural entrepreneurship
UST: Feature a model rural enterprise.  Cite facts and references.  Regular bond, handwritten.

Living with Nature School on Blog

 Farm-to-market enterprise (Manaoag Pangasinan); fishpen tilapia culture 
(Tiaong Quezon); bamboocraft (Bilanonan, Pangasinan)


"Give a man a fish and he will live for a day;(aids, grants, donations, etc)
    Teach a man how to fish, and he will live for many days." (skills development)
if I may add on following the trend of Confucian philosophy-
   “ Guide a man to raise fish, he will live for a lifetime.” (entrepreneurship)
1.    The rationale of rural entrepreneurship finds no reason for debate among those who      believe in such principles of development based on
·         internal growth
·         bottom-up approach
·         grassroots-based
·         people empowerment

2. Rural entrepreneurship focuses attention to the solution of present ills of Philippine society characterized by
·         exodus to cities and other urban areas
·         hemorrhage of human resources attracted by opportunities abroad.
·         mass poverty (around 50 percent living below the poverty line.)
·         poor quality of life, as a consequence.
·         reliance on external-led economic formula

3. Enterprise system provides/strengthens the links of

farm and market
production and processing
research and technology
principal and secondary processing
enhances value-added to products
equitable sharing of the benefits among the various sectors involved, 
optimum utilization of resources, 
reliable delivery/ distribution of goods

 The system leads on to the development of a higher level of enterprise which may involve diversification and integration, export- directed products, and the like, all leading to a common idea that entrepreneurship encompasses a wide range of business opportunities which leads us to two topics: leadership and enterprise models.

4.    Entrepreneurship rests on quality leadership and proven projects models. There are three phases of development, namely: social preparation, technical, and entrepreneurial preparations. 

5. Rural enterprise models of local or indigenous setting are found almost everywhere. To cite

  • Multiple cropping systems of Cavite and Ilocos (high- value crops revolving on rice and corn)
  • Agro-industrial in Bulacan and Laguna (Village- based dairy, food processing, etc)
  • Multipurpose cooperatives (rice milling and trading, market vending, irrigation, etc). There are many advantages of adopting local models, especially if they lend themselves to practical innovations. But this should not close our sight to suitable foreign models.

Typical buko (young coconut) station 

4. On the macro level, rural entrepreneurship must be extended necessary support and protection mainly through government policies like
  • Protectionism to guard against unfair competition particularly from foreign enterprises/ interventions,( A review of the import liberalization policy is deemed necessary.)
  • Removal of unnecessary bureaucratic control/ barrier·  
  • Assurance of peace and order
  • Provision of basic infrastructure
  • Physical (Roads, Bridges, port facilities, etc.)
  • Social (Cooperative structure, “Kalakalan 20” or family based- village type enterprise structure)
  • Education - emphasis should be towards functional literacy (one out of 4 Filipinos are functionally illiterate. Less than 10 percent of agriculture graduates go into farming)

As a rural enterprise grows it strives for viability and self-reliance, working on the principle of cooperation and linkages with other sectors and organizations. Government provides a protective umbrella that is important to enhance the growth and the development of rural enterprises. 

5. Unity of economics and ecology in rural entrepreneurship.

·    The “Unity of Enterprise” must be attuned to the “unity of the environment.”  The environment should be regarded as an ecosystem where all parts harmoniously work together. We help the ecosystem sustain its balance by protecting our forests, rivers, plains, coral reefs, and  other ecosystems.

Entrepreneurship should aim at enhancing the ecosystem’s balance, this being the foundation of sustainable productivity, the most important heritage we can pass on to the next generations.

On the enterprise level (micro), the concept of optimum resource utilization can be translated through vertical and horizontal integration. The Buspan (Bulacan) Multipurpose Cooperative embarked into this kind of integrated enterprise which has the following components: irrigation, rice milling, warehousing, input distribution, credit, waste recycling, grain drying, root crops and vegetable growing, and soon, cattle fattening

I hope that this article has opened up greater awareness on rural entrepreneurship as a vital component of any development formula. In fact, in many instances it is the formula itself. 

Rural entrepreneurship and cooperativism ideally go together. They provide a system for  collective expression, of thinking together, of sharing benefits and well as facing challenges, by working together, and moving forward together towards a common aspiration and goal. ~                            


Saturday, December 9, 2017

12 Books for the Christmas Season Written by Dr AV Rotor

In loving memory of Fr. James B Reuter, SJ, the author's mentor and spiritual adviser.

AV Rotor with the late Fr James Reuter SJ, (May 21, 1916 – December 31, 2012), an American Jesuit Catholic priest who lived in the Philippines since he was 22 and taught at Ateneo de Manila University. He introduced Catholic programming to Philippine television and helped set up Radio Veritas. He received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism in 1989 and was granted honorary Filipino citizenship by the Philippine Congress in 2006.

1. Light in the Woods 
coffee table book, full color, published by Megabooks in 1995. It was dedicated and presented to the Holy Father on his visit to the Philippines by the late Jaime Cardinal Sin, Sister Teresita Bayona SPC, and Fr. James B Reuter, SJ.

" Doctor A.V. Rotor is an extraordinary man - scientist, painter, musician, photographer, poet. With these verses he becomes something more than an artist. He is an apostle - trying, in his own gentle way, to bring man to God. and God to man, through beauty." (Message by Fr James B Reuter, SJ)

2. Philippine Literature Today: A Travelogue Approach

Abercio V Rotor and Kristine Molina-Doria,  C & E Publishing Co.) aims at guiding students, in the light of present day trends, to trace back the foundation of literature’s basic tenets and principles and preserve its integrity and true essence.  Four pillars of Philippine literature stand sentinel to help the students answer the question “Quo vadis?” To where are we heading for? 

Four great Filipinos are acclaimed vanguards of Philippine Literature. The cover of the book, conceptualized and made by artist Leo Carlo R Rotor, depicts the theme of the book - travelogue in literature with these heroes.   Jose Rizal on politico-socio-cultural subjects, including ecological, Rizal being an environmentalist while in exile in Dapitan, Misamis Oriental, Mindanao; Francisco Baltazar or Balagtas on drama and performing arts in general, fiction novels and plays, evolving into stage show and cinema; Severino Reyes or Lola Basyang on mythology, children’s stories, komiks, and a wealth of cartoons and other animations and Leona Florentino, the Philippines’ Elizabeth Browning, Ella Wilcox, Emily Bronte et al, epitomizes the enduring classical literature. 

3.  Humanities Today: An Experiential Approach
"The humanities hold the greatest treasure of mankind."  Co-authored with Dr Kristine Molina-Doria, the book, in summary, makes Humanities, a basic 3-unit subject in college, interesting and attractive to students. The book is distinct from conventional textbooks by being experiential in approach - meaning, on-site, hands-on, and encompassing of the various schools of art - old, new and postmodern.  Learning is further enhanced by viewing an accompanying compact disc (CD), and by having easy access to a wide range of references principally from the authors' works on Facebook and Blog. [avrotor.blogspot.com] It is a publication of C&E, one of the country's biggest publishers and distributors of books. Launched in February this year it is now adapted by several colleges and universities.

" 'Do unto the land as you would the land do unto you. Treat the land with request, if not with reverence.' xxx The tree is taken to represent the environment. Each poem and each painting is like a leaf of a tree each revealing a little of the many marvels of this unique creation. Each poem and each painting is a plea on behalf of this new vision and of this new ethics." (Excerpt from the Message by Dr. Armando F. De Jesus, Ph.D. former Dean, Faculty of Arts and Letters, UST 2010)

4. Don't Cut the Trees, Don't
"What makes this poetry collection specially significant is its ecological slant which gives it an added dimension rarely attributed to other poetry collections.xxx to “get out of the house” and bond with nature. It is a departure from the usual stale air of solitariness and narcissism which permeates most poetry today. Every poem indeed becomes a “flower in disguise” using the poet’s own words.(Excerpt from the Foreword by the late Ophelia A. Dimalanta, Ph.D. Director, Center for Creative Writing and Studies, UST).

The book contains 170 poems and verses with accompanying photographs and images, 190 pp, in easy reading font, Times New Roman, bold type. 
Published by University of Santo Tomas, launched 2008 Manila International Book Fair, SMX Mall of Asia, 220 pp.

5. Living with Folk Wisdom 
"The book is a compendium of indigenous technical knowledge complemented with modern scientific thinking. The narratives offer an exploration into the world of ethno-science covering a wide range of practical interest from climate to agriculture; medicine to food and nutrition..: (Excerpt of Foreword by Dr Lilian J Sison, dean UST Graduate School).

" For the science educator and communicator, here is a handy volume to help you reach the popular consciousness. You will find here more than ample number of examples for making connections between lived experience and scientific information." (Dr Florentino H Hornedo, UNESCO Commissioner)

6. The Living with Nature Handbook 
Winner of the Gintong Aklat Award 2003 by the Book Publishers Association of the Philippines. The book has 30 chapters (189 pp),divided into four parts, a practical guide on how one can get closer to nature, the key to a healthy and happy life. Second printing, 2008.

"Once upon a time, nature was pristine, undefiled, and unspoiled. We used to live in a dreamlike world of tropical virgin forests, and purer hidden springs, calm ponds, and serene lakes with majestic purple mountains, crowned with canopied trees. That was when people took only what they needed, caught only what they ate, and lived only in constant touch with a provident earth." (excerpt from the Introduction by Dr Anselmo Set Cabigan, professor, St Paul University QC and former director of the National Food Authority)

7. Living with Nature in Our Times 
Sequel to the Living with Nature Handbook (312 pp), it was launched at the Philippine International Book Fair. It won the 2006 National Book Award by the National Book Development Board jointly with The Manila Book Circle and the National Commission for the Culture and the Arts. Published by UST Publishing House, the book has 35 chapters divided into four parts. The book can be aptly described in this verse.

"Nature shares her bounty in many ways:
He who works or he who prays,
Who patiently waits or gleefully plays;
He's worthy of the same grace."

8. In His Presence, Praises
The principal author is Dr. Belen L Tangco who wrote the verses and prayers. Each verse or prayer is accompanied by an appropriate painting by AV Rotor. Full color and handy, it is useful as a prayer book and reference in the Humanities.

"Indeed, God speaks to us in the little details of nature - through the trees and the flowers, in the drip of rain, in the blow of the wind. He speaks to us in all of His Creation..." (Excerpt from the Foreword by Fr Tamelane R Lana, UST Rector)

9. Light from the Old Arch 
A compilation of 18 essays about life and living, 216 pages. Published by UST in 2000 with the Preface written by Fr. Jose Antonio Aureada, regent of the Graduate School.

"What is considered a religion of disconnection betrays man's inability to see sensuality through divinity and divinity through sensuality... It was Victor Frankl, a Jewish psychotherapist-philosopher, who popularized logotherapy, a word of Greek origin which literally means healing through meaning. Dr Abe. the poet-musician-painter-scientist rolled into one, reminds us of the Franklian inspired principle: The unheard cry for meaning if only well-heeded in all aspects of life - from the least significant to the extremely necessary, from the most commonplace to the phenomenally sublime - can only restore authenticity back to living life beautifully."

10. Light of Dawn 
The book is in full color, 75 pages, written by a very young student of then St Paul College QC. In the words of Sr Mary Sarah Manapol in the Foreword, "Viva is a youthful poetess who thinks and writes about pain and loss, friendship, joy and love, music and the arts, nature, math and literature, war and piece - these belie her age of 17 summers."

Dr AV Rotor as co-author, provided the photographs and paintings that fits harmoniously with the poems. More than this, he encouraged the young poetess to write her first book which was launched on her debut. Here is a verse from an anonymous admirer.

"After reading Light of Dawn,
How can I live without poetry and art?
From the love that I shall find,
Shall not my heart depart

11. Sunshine on Raindrops 
Poems, poems, poems, 72 pages, a handy book, colored and black and white, published by Megabooks 2000. The late secretary of justice Sedfrey A Ordonez wrote in the Foreword "... it is inescapable that after reading his poetry and after examining his paintings which accompany his verses one is led to the conclusion that the man who created the multi-disciplinary tour de force is a Renaissance man, one who reveals his reverence for nature by means of music, verse, and painting."

12. Nymphaea: Beauty in the Morning 
Giraffe Book, it contains 72 verses, mainly four-liners, each verse accompanied by a photograph or painting. Most of the photos were taken by students in the Humanities at then St Paul College QC. The school president wrote the Foreword, an excerpt of which reads as follows:

"It takes deep reflection to arouse one's inner child to take notice of the undistinguished buds, hyacinth, date palms... and it takes a trusting, affirming, and enlightened teacher-artist to lead and inspire..."

Other Books 
Peacemaking in Asia (350 pp), contains papers presented in the 7th General Assembly of different religions in Asia held at UST in 2008. The proceedings were compiled, edited and published into a book, by AVR, now in circulation among participating religions.  Copies are available at the Interfaith Center, TARC Building, UST. 

Philippine Herbs to Increase Sexual Vitality 
"The authors have embarked on this task of providing people with more information about the many uses of some plants. While herbal plants have long been recognized because of their nutritional and medicinal qualities, their other uses are not fully exploited... May we continue to promote alternative medicine... The prices of medicine and health products remain unaffordable to most of our countrymen and herbal plants are the best alternative as most of these have been proven to be effective." (Excerpt from the message of Dr Juan M Flavier, former senator and secretary of health)

Farm Marketing in Asia and the Pacific
Editor and contributor, Asian Productivity Organization, Tokyo Japan 1986

NOTE: Books may be available at the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, Espana corner P Noval, Manila:The Living with Nature Handbook; Living with Nature in Our Times; Light from the Old Arch, and Living with Folk Wisdom. Please call 406-1611 local 8252/8278). Selected books are also available at National Book Store branches. For Philippine Literature Today and Humanities: An Experiential Approach, contact C & E Publishing 9295088.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

(The Universal Reverend, Part 1) The Essence of the Universal Prayer*

Rev Venusto L Mata
San Vicente ISur to the World Series
"No prayer is as terse and meaningful and sincere as the Universal Prayer." avr
Dr Abe V Rotor

San Vicente Parish Church, Ilocos Sur

Listen to his homily and instantly you don’t feel alone, you are drawn to a holy person, and become accepted into the fold. The tiers that categorically classify us in the grace of God dissolve, so with the boundaries of acceptance and rejection.

Because Reverend Venusto Mata, better known as Fr Ven, is a universal preacher. He openly identifies himself among the faithful in the essence of the Universal Prayer:

Our Father who art in Heaven … Give us this day our daily bread and forgive our sins as we forgive those who sin against us and deliver us from evil.”

In the second part, the refrain of the prayer, we, our and us are said six times, ascendant, thankful and apologetic at the same time in so short a phrase of only twenty-four words.

No prayer I know is as terse and meaningful and sincere as the Universal Prayer.
In fact, when we say it, we and humanity are one.  When said before taking a trip we are also wishing for others; when said before meal, we think of those who have less to eat; when said to console a bereaved, we feel a part of us also dies; And when said in thanksgiving, we exult in the triumph of the human spirit.

Fr Ven virtually starts his homily with we and ends it with us. In the course of his homily, these pronouns freely flow in full narrative like relating an on-site and hands-on experience, or first account event – and even personal thought – preferring the collective “first person,” and very seldom “I”, the sounding board of speeches and orations – and many and endless conversations.

I could only surmise Fr Ven’s imprimatur from the biblical passage, “He who has no sin, casts the first stone.” Christ was writing something on the ground when a rowdy crowd demanded that a sinner be stoned to death. Nobody dared. Slowly the crowd dispersed. On the ground marked a monument of such divine wisdom. Even while reading this article you could perceive the power of this passage, and can you imagine its echo reverberating in those who personally heard Christ say it?

St Francis of Assisi, father of ecology

Who then are “we”?

Saint Francis of Assisi, in his “Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon,” elevated our consciousness on the level of respect and dignity with Creation, that we treat  the sun, moon, stars, waters, as our “brothers and sisters,” – all in loving praise to the Creator. Such fraternal relationship does not make us superior – not even self-anointed guardians - of Nature, for which man often takes license in abusing the earth of her resources and natural beauty. It is most fitting that Saint Francis’ concept of creation has become the guiding principle of ecology, the recent science in trying to understand our environment.   

In The Little Prince, the French author Antoine de Saint-Exupery advanced the concept of we, on a philosophical level. Here a “Little Prince,” the innocent, ideal, and pure child inherent in every grownup comes to the rescue.  It was this little prince who saved the lost pilot in the desert.  In like manner we, anyone of us grownups, when faced with extreme danger find counsel and comfort from that inner resident.

But this little prince is also a fine work of Providence, shaped by our genes, upbringing, environment and training, the same elements that build a “formative conscience,” in the words of Fr .Tamerlane Lana, former rector or UST. WE is the totality of our personhood influenced by society and environment.  

Thanks to the classics and masterpieces, discourses of scholars, wise counsel of the old, legends and tales that awaken the child into adulthood, institutions that are the pillars of our society, festivities that keep the quaintness of living,  And to the enduring lessons from the Holy Book, the living words of God.

Listen to Fr Ven and you will understand more of the limitless application and implication of  WE and US in every facet of our lives, every sector of society, every discipline in knowledge, in the hall of justice, sports arena. in times of want and prosperity, in work and play. In love for the poor of Mother Teresa, now a saint.  In Maximilian Kolbe’s extreme sacrifice so that a family man may be reunited with his family after the war, In the exemplary leadership of Gandhi, Mandela, Lincoln; of the martyrs of the church like Peter, Paul, and Stephen; scholars of the church - Thomas Aquinas, Augustine, et al.  And our very own,  Vincent Ferrer.  

*NOTE: Articles in 3 parts written In observance of the United Nations' theme for 2017 “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All.” (September 21 World Peace Day)

(The Universal Reverend Part 2) The Essence of “We are the World"

Rev Venusto L Mata
San Vicente ISur to the World Series
"There comes a time
When we hear the certain call
When the world must come together as one."

Dr Abe V Rotor 

The latest category of sainthood, that of child-saint, speaks for millions of children all over the world in the power of miracle as Francisco and Jacinta, now declared saints, witnessed in the apparition at Fatima more than a century ago.

This realm of sainthood technically elevates the innocent death of children to that of a cause, cause for which martyrs died for. We now recognize as saints those who died under Herod’s order – death of the first born; the Infant and Child Martyrs of the French Revolution, those in the two world wars, the Holocaust, Korean and Vietnam war, and now the escalating war in Syria. And our war at home in Marawi. 

We become more conscious of the sacredness of the innocence of children, and humanity expects us to stop child abuse, the scourge of postmodern society. WE obliges us to uphold moral responsibility over children and adolescents starting with our own.

WE refers to heroes as well: It is embodied in Rizal’s Mi Ultimo Adios (My Last Farewell), written before his heroic execution becoming a battle cry for Philippine independence from Spain; in Martin Luther King’s valedictory address denouncing racism, “I have a Dream” which created a wave of social unrest that broke the backbone of racism in America – and later, apartheid in South Africa. A century before, WE in Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address that brought the US civil war to an end,  more importantly, the emancipation of slavery.  The preamble of any constitution of a country irrespective of ideology, creed, and status, starts with “WE, the people –“ a pledge of united determination. 

Hear the concert song, “WE are the world, WE are the people,” that raised funds worldwide to save people dying of famine in drought stricken Sahel. The same theme song created worldwide compassion for storm and earthquake ravaged Haiti a decade after. 

We Are the World for Haiti"

There comes a time
When we hear the certain call
When the world must come together as one
There are people dying
And it's time to lend a hand to life
The greatest gift of all
We can't go on
Pretending day by day
That someone, somehow will soon make a change
We are all a part of
God's great big family
And the truth, you know love is all we need

WE in Tacloban,  WE in Marawi, WE in marginal communities, WE in drug rehabilitation centers, WE in countless places of tragedies – WE are there because we are strands of thread woven into the beautiful fabric of humanity

Fr Ven is an optimist and positivist, quite rare to find among today’s leaders, lay and religious alike. North Korea’s flexing its nuclear arm to the world, may be a bluff or real threat.  To Fr Ben, despite frightening scenarios on media, does not see any escalation  into world war, although he shudders at the thought of an Armageddon by a  global nuclear war. His faith is stronger than ours - we, “of little faith,” like Peter to whom Jesus spoke these words on the shore of Galilee. 

Aren’t we the faithful, the church, society as a whole, bothered by the rise of “nones” (people who abandon their religious affiliations and institutions), proliferation of cultism, God-on-Internet worship, the spread of fundamentalism and extremism leading to radicalism, to the extent of terrorism?  Fr Ven holds on to ecumenism as an enduring solution, the pivotal core of understanding, as people by spiritual law, likened to physics, tend to keep in orbit to a central force – the common denominator of major religions, the bedrock of man’s rationality of goodness and truth.
San Vincent Ferrer, patron saint of Fr Ven’s hometown, west
 of Vigan, now Metro Vigan. Photo taken by the author at the University of Santo Tomas chapel, Manila

“Truth is inside,” Fr Ven said. Even as people take things for granted, or choose peace and quiet rather than critical, humble and simple amid material progress.  Truth remains alive, it will never die.  It is the saving grace of our society in times of turmoil and trial. There is a quotation I fondly cite in my writings, “When lies are told, the truth unfolds.” (Anonymous)

This is Fr Ven’s imprimatur, his brand of effective communication with the faithful.  If his homilies were printed, volumes would fill up a library, but homilies are designed to be heard, and imbibed by the faithful, rather than kept in file and  gather dusts as countless books have been relegated to the archives. 

Now retired having celebrated his golden sacerdotal jubilee in 2014, Fr Ven continues on with his spiritual mission, saying mass regularly and giving counsel particularly to the young.  He too, has a green thumb, a garden meets his guests, rare ornamental plants make a beautiful hedgerow like blinds along the borders of his backyard. Variegated croton and Hibiscus stand distinct from ordinary varieties, apparently hybrids or mutants through horticulture. In an interview in his home in San Vicente I took the privilege to ask questions in a manner one does to a spiritual adviser.  Indeed he is.  I’ve known him and his family since I was a child. (The Matas are looked up by town folks as models in family unity, high regard in the pursuit of education, creativity in the arts, scholarship, and for Fr Ven, religiosity.)

Fr Ven entered the seminary after finishing high school - in his time considered a “late vocation” since seminarians usually started in the elementary. (Today late vocation is not unusual, with more and more professionals entering religious life.)   

It was in 1964 that Fr Ven was ordained by the late Very Rev Juan C Sison,  Archbishop of Nueva Segovia in Vigan. Hereon he faithfully followed a pastoral mission serving mainly as parish priest in various parishes in Ilocos Sur, which include his hometown, San Vicente.