Tuesday, May 31, 2011


   When most people think of bats, they associate them with blood sucking vampires. But, bats are gentle animals and in many cultures considered good luck.
   Although bats are mammals they can fly. There about 1,000 species of bats in the world. Bats eat insects, small fruits, fish, meat and yes, even blood. They eat such a large variety because they need eat lots of food.  Bats often consume halftheir body weight a night. Fruit eating bats can eat up to twice their weight in fruit a night.
   Sanguivory bats are the only type of bats that eat blood. They can be found in the southern United States as well as Mexico and other parts of South America. Bats do not suck blood; they lick blood from an open wound. Human blood is not preferred by bats. They will only lick blood from humans if nothing else is available. Cattle and domestic animals are preferred.

   Bats are crucial to the ecosystem as they pollinate flowers and disperse tropical plant seeds. There are many trees that are in existence due to the dispersion from bats including certain kinds of Cacti and the Baobab tree in Africa. Bats also eat nocturnal insects helping to keep the environment healthy.
   In China bats are considered good fortune. Often five bats will be shown together symbolizing long life, wealth, good health, love of virtue and a natural death.
   In Samoa, flying bats are considered heroes that once saved a princess.
   Many people think because bats often fly at night they are blind. In fact, bats have good vision and can see in both the light and the dark. They fly at night in order to get food while avoiding predators.

   Because bats are not "dingbats" as coined by Archie Bunker as stupid; they can be trained. Bats have been trained to fly through mazes and act on command. Certain bats have learned to understand and trust humans. But, would not be  recommended as a house pet.
   Most bats are clean and healthy creatures. They spend many hours cleaning themselves and less than .05 percent have rabies. The only danger is their droppings. Droppings could contain Histoplasmosis, which can cause flue like symptoms
and even death. Do not enter a cave were there are lots of bats because gases from the droppings can be in the air and could cause illness. If you must enter, wear a face mask.
   Bats can be found in most regions accept those that are extremely hot or cold. They prefer areas with nice weather and where food is always available. Many species are found in the southwest United States.

   Bats can often be found in caves or with trees that have lots of leaves. Those spots are chosen in order to keep them cool and hide from predators. Different species hide in crevices and under rocks.
   Most bats hang upside down while resting. This helps to make them blend into their habitat as well as allow them to watch for any predators. They have specials valves in their veins that prevent blood to rush to their head.
   The average life of a bat is 10 years but some have known to live into their 30s. Most bats, however, usually die at a young age. Owls, hawks and falcons are the main predators of bats. Also snakes, raccoons and even house cats can catch a bat napping on a leaf. People often kill bats in a variety of ways including barbed wire fences. Bats tend to fly into towers and other tall structures during a storm as they become disoriented as well.

   If you find a bat in your attic and are alarmed, wait until it leaves at night. Then, hang bird netting over exit points and let it hang about 2 feet. Bats are able to find their way out, if any are still there, but cannot find their way back in. Since they usually hide in holes, close them up within a few days of the bats departure. Avoid poisonous chemicals as they can be dangerous to humans and repellants do not work in getting rid of bats.
   Bats are disappearing at an alarming rate. Over 40 percent of species are on the endangered list. At least four species are now extinct. There are various clubs and organizations across the United States focused on preserving bats. If you are interested in this, you should easily find one on a web search engine. Some groups include Bat Conservation International and the World Wildlife Fund. There are also local groups in various states.


  Flores de Mayo (English: "Flowers of May") is a Catholic festival held in the Philippines in the month of May. Lasting for a month, it is held in honor of the Virgin Mary. The Santacruzan refers to the pageant on the last day of Flores de Mayo, held in honour of Reyna Elena and Constantine finding the True Cross in Jerusalem.
    EtymologyThe name is derived from Flores, the Spanish word for "flowers". Also known as "Flores de Maria" ("Flowers of Mary") or "Álay" (Filipino for "offering"), the term refers to the festival as a whole. It was believed that "Flores" (short term for Flores de Mayo) originated in 1865 from the town of Malolos, Bulacan, when the young girls would make a floral offering to the Virgin Mary in the parish church.

   In the Bicol region, especially in the locality of Barangay Sabang in Naga City, the Flores de Mayo is held every Wednesday and Saturday of May. It is headed by the Legion of Mary, Praesidium Cause of our Joy, with the last day called as "katapusan". The ritual is started with the rosary, with every decade followed by Spanish Marian songs.
   The traditional "MARIA" with its respective meaning is said after the recitation of the Spanish Salve and the litany. After the ceremony, simple snacks are given to the children who attended the devotion. Alabasyon is the term for the prayers sung in honour of the Holy Cross.

    In the Tagalog region, this custom and celebration started after the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854 and after the publication circa 1867 of Mariano Sevilla's translation of the devotional "Flores de Maria"("Flowers of Mary"), also known by its longer title "Mariquit na Bulaclac na sa Pagninilaynilay sa Buong Buan nang Mayo ay Inihahandog nang manga Devoto cay Maria Santisima" ("Beautiful Flowers that in the Meditations in the Whole Month of May are Offered by Devotees to Mary Most Holy").

The Sagala
   A Sagala is a religio-historical beauty pageant held in many cities, towns, and even in small communities throughout the Philippines during the month of May. One of the most colourful aspects of this festival, the pageant depicts the finding of the Holy Cross by Queen Helena, mother of Constantine the Great. Many movie and television personalities participate in the events and are featured in major sagala.  This festival was introduced by the Spaniards and has since become part of Filipino traditions identified with youth, love, and romance.

   Prior to the Santacruzan, a novena is held in honour of the Holy Cross.
   The procession itself commemorates the search of the Holy Cross by Reyna Elena and her son, the newly-converted emperor Constantine. After the Holy Cross was found in Jerusalem and brought back to Constantinople, there was a joyful celebration for thanksgiving.

Order of the processionThe participants of this colourful pageant would follow this typical arrangement:

1. Matusalém (Methuselah)- bearded and bent with age, he is depicted as riding a cart and looking preoccupied with toasting some grains of sand in a pan over a fire. This is a reminder that everything in this world is passing and will end up like the dust which he is toasting.
2. Reyna Banderáda (Queen with a banner)- a young lady dressed in a long red gown carrying a yellow triangular flag. She represents the arrival of Christianity.
3. Aetas - Represents the animist Filipinos who have settled the islands prior to Christianisation by the Spanish.

4. Reyna Móra (Queen Moor) - Represents the Filipinos who converted to Islam, which arrived in the Philippines two centuries before Christianity.
5. Reyna Fe (Queen Faith) - symbolises Faith, the first of the theological virtues. She carries a cross.
6. Reyna Esperanza (Queen Hope) - symbolises Hope, the second theological virtue. She carries an anchor.
7. Reyna Caridád (Queen Charity)- symbolises Charity, the third theological virtue. She carries a red-coloured heart.
8. Reyna Abogáda (Queen Lawyer) - the defender of the poor and the oppressed, she wears a black graduation cap, gown (toga), and carries a large book. She may also be a representation of Mary, Helper (Advocate) of Christians.

9. Reyna Sentenciada (Queen Sentenced/Convicted) - has her hands bound by a rope, she stands for the Early Christians, especially the virgins, who were martyred for the faith. She is accompanied by two Roman soldiers.
10. Reyna Justicía (Queen Justice) - a personification of Mary as the "Mirror of Justice", one of her titles in the Litany of Loreto. Her attributes are a weighing scale and a sword.
11. Reyna Judít (Queen Judith) - represents the biblical widow Judith of Bethulia who saved her city from the Assyrians by slaying the cruel Holofernes. She carries the head of her victim in one hand and a sword in the other. She is also known as Infanta Judith.

12. Reyna ng Sába (Queen of Sheba) - represents the Queen of Sheba, who visited King Solomon and was overwhelmed by his wisdom, power, and riches. She carries a jewelry box.
13. Reyna Éster - the Jewish queen of Persia who spared her people from death at the hands of Haman through her timely intervention with King Xerxes. She carries a scepter.
14. Samaritána (The Female Samaritan) - The woman with whom Christ spoke to at the well. She carries a jug on her shoulder.
15. Veronica - The woman who wiped the face of Jesus; bears a veil with three imprints of the face of Jesus.
16. Tres Marias (The Three Marys)- each Mary holds an attribute associated with her:
       a. Mary of Magdala - a bottle of perfume;
       b. The Virgin Mary - a handkerchief;
      c. Mary, the mother of James - a bottle of oil.

17. Marian - each figure in this group alludes to a title of the Virgin Mary or to a figure associated with her.
       a. "A-V-E--M-A-R-I-A" - eight "angels": girls all wearing long white dresses and holding a letter from  the word "AVE MARIA".
        b. Divina Pastora (Divine Shepherdess) - a shepherd's staff.
        c. Reyna de las Estrellas (Queen of the Stars) - a wand with a star.  
        d.  Rosa Mystica (Mystical Rose)- a bouquet of roses.
        e. Reyna dela Paz (Queen of Peace) - a dove.
        f. Reyna de las Profetas (Queen of the Prophets)- an hourglass.
        g. Reyna del Cielo (Queen of Heaven)- a flower; accompanied by two little "angels".
        h. Reyna de las Virgines (Queen of the Virgins) - a rosary (or a lily); also escorted by two little "angels".
        i. Reyna de las Flores (Queen of the Flowers) - a bouquet of flowers.

18. Reyna Eléna (Queen Helena) - the last member of the procession, she represents Helena of Constantinople who found the True Cross; this is alluded to by her attribute, a small cross or crucifix that she carries in her arms. This considerably prestigious role is usually awarded to the most beautiful girl participating in the pageant. In some communities, the identity of the woman who will portray the Reyna Eléna is kept a secret until the day of the procession.
      a. Constantíno - the escort of Reyna Eléna; traditionally a young boy representing the Emperor Constantine.
   The procession is accompanied by the steady beat of the rondalla, playing and singing the Hail Mary ("Dios Te Salve"). The devotees walking with the procession hold lighted candles in their hands and sing the prayer as they go along.

   After the procession, there is a pabítin that serves as a culminating activity for all the children to enjoy. A Pabítin is a square trellis to which goodies (candies, fruits, small trinkets, etc.) are tied with strings. This trellis in turn is tied to a rope and is suspended on a strong branch or pole. Children then gather under the trellis as the it is slowly lowered. They then jump as high as they can to try to pick the goodies while someone jerks it up and down repeatedly until all the goodies are gone.
   It is customary for males attending the Santacruzan wear,  to the traditional Barong Tagalog and that the females wear any Filipiniana-inspired dress.


   What a year 1978 was!  Jimmy Carter was President to 222.6 million Americans whose life expectancy was 73.5 years. The U.S. Senate approved a treaty to turn over the Panama Canal to Panama by the year 2000. The Dallas Cowboys won Super Bowl XII. Both Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul I died. Jim Jones followers committed mass suicide in Jonestown. The first SPAMARAMA was held. The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Menachim Begin and Anwar el-Sadat following their meetings with President Carter at Camp David. The first spam email was sent. Annie Hall won best picture. Hotel California was Record of the Year.

   You read it correctly, the first SPAMARAMA was held in 1978!  Two bar patrons—David Arnsberger and Dick Terry—and one bar owner— George Majewski—pooled resources, may have consumed some suds and established what has become an annual rite of Spring passage for Austin, Texas. Their thinking? BarBQ cook-offs, too easy. Chile Cook-offs, passé. Show us the brave souls who can present SPAM dishes that the public would consume and that would be a competition worthy of notoriety. And so, it came to pass.

   The event has matured and evolved since 1978. The SPAMALYMPICS Competitions have become a draw for the adoring public. A kid’s area is feeding and nurturing the notion that SPAMARAMA is becoming more of a “family event.”  SPAMARAMA  resembles other public fairs with it’s retail and food alley and the occasional silent auction benefiting a local non-profit agency, Disability Assistance of Central Texas.

Spam sculpture
   Locations have pin balled around south and central Austin from three Soap Creek Saloons to Scholz Garten, Austin Opera House, Green Mesquite, La Zona Rosa, Cedar Door, East 6th Street, Auditorium Shores, Austin Music Hall and Waterloo Park.
   Judges have pin balled their way through the SPAM Cook-0ff tent, caught between the creative delicacies of master chefs in the Professional Division and the only-to-be-avoided entries of the “artistic” entries in the Open Division. The judge’s directory includes a “who’s whom” of Austin open-mindedness: Jim Hightower, Mel & Joyce Pennington, John Kelso, Eddie Wilson, Guich Koock, Max Nofziger, Bryan Beck, Kerry Awn, Linda Wetherby, Gordon Fowler, Molly Ivins, Nick Barbaro, Liz Carpenter, Billy Forrester and Jackie Goodman. Cajun Chef Paul Prudhomme even dropped by one year! Many others have been part of the judging bench, too many to mention.

Poster from 2007

Events at the SPAMARAMA

   The featured event was the SPAM Cook-Off with two divisions: Open and Professional. Both Cook-Off divisions showcase SPAM  recipes from chefs, local restaurants and caterers, as well as self-proclaimed SPAM  gourmets. Celebrity judges awarded points and trophies in the categories of taste and showmanship. In addition to the top three prizes in each Cook-Off Division, most contestants yearned to take home the top prize, the SPAMERICA Cup trophy, a “traveling” trophy with the previous 28 winner’s names emblazoned thereon! At the other extreme, there are always a few entrants going purely for the “Worst of Show” trophy. And we continued a popular new “tradition” for the third year, the “People’s Choice” award!

SPAMALYMPICS   The SPAMALYMPICS  featured time-tested events for the 29th annual competition. One’s imagination is the limit when you compete in events such as the SPAM  Disc Shoot, the SPAM  Call (remotely similar to a hog call), the SPAM  Can Relay and the SPAMBURGER Eating Contest.

SPAM JAM Non-stop Austin-based music, the SPAM JAM, will be on stage for the duration of the event, 12 noon until 6 p.m. Some of the bands that are performing are the Uranium Savages, the SowPremes and the Mother Truckers!