Part of Scenic Hwy 1 slides into Pacific Ocean

It has not been raining heavily this last few weeks…so it was a surprise to hear that a 40 ft.  chunk of the southbound lane of Hwy 1 heading to Big Sur broke off and tumbled towards the pacific ocean yesterday.

Luckily, no one was driving over the road at the time and there were no injuries.

Damaged Section of Hwy 1 towards Big Sur

Picture from Orville Myers/The Herald


It is Spring…Catch the Cherry Blossoms!

My favorite time of the year is officially almost here.  The mustard flowers are in bloom everywhere, and now the cherry blossoms are out.  It is amazing how quickly those blossoms turn into fruit and in a just a few months, fruit stands across California will be selling beautiful, luscious cherries!

In bloom, mustard flowers and cherry tree blossoms in background


This is also the time of the year, when our normally golden hills have been so green, looking like something out of the emerald isles.

Japan Disaster: Radiation Risk in California?

Some nations neighboring Japan including the Philippines, are now inspecting food imported from Japan for radiation.  I did not give this immediate thought locally —-  we are 5,000 miles away after all.

But as usual, we are all connected.  Buried in the back of my newspaper is an article titled “California’s radiation risk small”. It stated that the threat to the public in U.S. territories is very low at this time.

However, the same article also mentions how “under the right conditions, recent research has shown tiny particles can —and regularly do— drift from Asia to the U.S.”  Further, “dust from sandstorms in China’s Gobi Desert has been found in California, and so has mercury burned in coal in Chinese power plants, as tiny particles drifted across the ocean, raining down in small amounts into San Francisco Bay”.

Some Bay Area residents are reportedly buying out potassium iodide tablets, which blocks the uptake of radioactive material to thyroid glands.

Read more of the article by Paul Rogers, San Jose Mercury News. What is also interesting are the comments to the article.  We don’t want to over react of course –but let us hope the state health officials will keep transparent any information we should be aware of.

Langam: Ant or Bird?

The Philippines is an archipelago nation of over 7,000 islands.  All those islands produced many unique languages and dialects.  And at times, a word, spelled exactly the same way, can have completely different meanings.

There are hundreds of dialects spoken in the Philippines.  Tagalog and English are the official languages, though Cebuano is spoken by more Filipinos.

One day at our mother’s house, my sister and I were chatting with her friend, Leo.  I noticed some ants crawling on the floor, and said “hmmmm…langam.”

My sister looked down at the floor and we tried to follow the source of their march into the house.  Leo, however, had his neck tilted back and was looking out the window and up towards the ceiling.

We all laughed when we realized what happened.   Leo was looking for a bird he thought had flown into the house through the window.

Langam in the Tagalog language is an ANT, the kind that likes sugar and lives in a colony.  The langam that Leo was looking for was the feathery flying type, because in Cebuano a langam is a BIRD.  The meaning for the same word cannot be more different.

This langam

Ant on Leaf (source Image: hinnamsaisuy)

or do you mean this langam?

I always enjoyed running into these words.  My dialect world though, is limited to Tagalog and Cebuano.

Let me know if you know of other Filipino words / dialects with different meanings or of English / Tagalog or other languages as well.  I would love to learn about more!

–Lola Jane

And if you like this post and want to see other Philippine related post from, click here to view category, or click on links to popular posts, below.

Lola’s Top 10 Smart Phone Uses

I continue to try out the myriad of features on my smart phone.  For some of you, especially of younger age, you may look at my list and say, yeah, duh!  As for me, 2 years after owning a smart phone (a Blackberry — and essentially a mini computer) I am just now getting around to using these features.  My top 10 favorites:

  • More Communication – Emails/Texts:  Besides the obvious, it is still a PHONE after all, I get my emails forwarded to my phone.  This allows me to respond to emails immediately if needed, or purge spam or unwanted items.  There is less clutter in my In Box when I go on-line.   And of course, texting.  Texting was initially annoying to me —why can’t you just call me(!!!), especially when I got a response from my daughter of “K” — because “OK” was too long.  But most of the time, a text is just perfect, and we now text all the time.
  • Memo Pad: What is better than a paper shopping list (which is easy to misplace)?  Using the memo pad feature on your smart phone of course!  One RARELY leaves the phone at home these days, so your list is always with you and easy to retrieve. Have an idea for a blog topic?  Just use the memo pad on your smart phone, and voila, ideas and key words saved for later.
  • Navigation Aid: I don’t have a GPS in my car, so having a navigation aid as a phone feature is terrific.  No more getting lost—when I remember to use it at least.
  • Yelp App: Apps are like programs for your phone.  My favorite is Yelp. I have the Yelp Blackberry application and with the GPS, we can be in a new, or not often visited town and find out where the best place is to grab a bite to eat in our price range  (after all, life is short and you want to eat well even if in an unfamiliar area!)  I click on my Yelp app and it automatically lists places to eat, proximity ( 1/2 mile, one, two…) from where I am, with the Yelp reviews and all the details you need.  (
  • Coordinating Errands:  We had limited time and we needed to go to a specific store AND get an oil change for the truck.  With Yelp and Google Maps, we found an area where our store AND an oil change place was located within 1 block of each other.   It was very easy to do this.
  • Entertainment: Waiting time in between activities or classes ?  My phone has a standard TV option and every now and then, if the little guys get bored with books or little toys I bring —or forget to bring— they can watch the Disney Channel shows.  I use the earbuds that came with the Blackberry and they can watch in quite and not disturb others.  I can also access the Internet from my phone if needed.
  • Calculator and other handy tools:  How convenient for figuring out exchange rates!  My other phone even has a standard feature of a world clock so you know exactly what time it is in the country you are calling, as well as an easy to use tip calculator.
  • Voice Recorder:  Driving and a brilliant idea pops in your head?  Record it on  your smart phone device! Or record voice reminders that you can transfer to calendars later.
  • Alarms and Calendars: I have a daily alarm that tells me to wrap up what I am working on to get ready to get the boys, and of course, the  calendar for appointments and other reminders.
  • Video Recorder / Camera: The video camera is my absolute favorite feature —what grandparent does not want to capture those special and cute moments?  I have hundreds of pictures and short videos in my camera.  And I can easily send new vids or pics to family and friends,  all direct from my phone.

So the only thing I need to do is back up data on my phone (like NOW and on a regular basis), then I’ll really be in good technology shape.

Let me know other ideas and uses for your smart phone —and making technology work for us.

Lola Jane



Tsunami – 5,000 miles later

Yesterday morning Pacific Standard Time, and 5,000 miles later, the effects of the Tsunami originating in Japan continued to cause havoc.  Picture below from a harbor in California where 60 boats were sunk or damaged.  Had it been high tide, the results could have been much worse.

Photo of sailboats crashing against each other Friday morning from (DAN COYRO/Santa Cruz Sentinel)


Called sister again this morning…. no answer.  More worried, I make another call and spoke to my Brother-in-law’s co-worker.

My brother-in-law was on the way to Sulawesi, and en route got stranded in Japan.  He is safe, and so is my my sister, who it turns out was working in Haiti and going (to Indonesia) next week.  Lesson?  Communicate with your family members more often!  How can I let days go by without knowing where she is….

Ingat everyone….

Lola Jane


I woke up last night and heard about the horrific earthquakes and tsunami in Northern Japan.  The broadcast warned of other neighboring areas at risk, like the Philippines (being an archipelago nation of many islands, millions of people live on the coast) and I specifically heard mention of Sulawesi in Indonesia.    Half asleep, I remembered that my younger sister and her husband were supposed to be going to Sulawesi soon —  oh no, I could not remember when, are they there?  Why didn’t I talk to my sister this week!!!  I remember calling her yesterday and going straight to voice mail…did they leave???

Then the familiar and loud tone of the emergency broadcast system comes on with a Tsunami warning for the U.S. Western coast for the morning — including our county here in California.  Japan is over 5,000 miles away from us, and an earthquake there now affects our coast line.

At around 8:00 AM, the harbor nearest to us went from a quite, glassy stage to what looked like a river when water was pulling away.  The tide was supposed to be moving OUT, yet water was surging in.  This from a disaster 5,000 miles away.


Paragon of Patience

Strybing Arboretum — San Francisco Botanical Garden at Golden Gate Park (a place with many spots to enjoy beauty and calm)

I love my grandsons so much.  They mean the world to me, but oh my they are a handful.  I raised ONE daughter.  One means….no fighting over toys or some bizarre object, not having to play referee, no jealousy over affection or whatever.

So the thing I am forced to face as a grandparent is patience (my lack of) and the endless repetition of correcting behavior and rules to a 4 & 6-year-old.

I am getting better…but a paragon of patience I AM NOT. Patience is not a natural trait for me.

When we were growing up, my sisters and I nicknamed our mother, — who is named Esmeralda but goes by the nickname Mila — ‘Panic Mila’.  Her other nickname? A Filipino-appropriate ‘Typhoon Mila’.  You can imagine that our household was not an ideal breeding ground for learning about patience and calm.

I admire folks with an abundance of patience and a calm demeanor.  This I witnessed in my grandson Jun-Jun’s 1st grade class yesterday during volunteer time (see post Back to 1st Grade).

I was expecting a class full of noisy children.  I imagined if that was me in charge, the kids would figure out immediately that I was afraid of them and have paper ball wars, and I would have all sorts of scary things stuffed in my hair…or worse.  I would not know what to do, and I think I would last 1/2 day at most.

Jun-Jun’s teacher was amazing.  The kids were orderly, they ate their breakfast, moved into their lessons, and she did this so effortlessly.   Hearing her interacting with the children and their voices,  was, well….um, so very calming.

Me and Juns by Gabriel

Photo of me and Jun at Taekwondo studio, taken by his little brother Gabriel. Jun was around 6 years old here.  Both my grandsons love to take photographs, just like their Lola!

Our grandsons take Tae Kwon Do classes, a Korean form of martial arts.

I see the same qualities of patience and control from their teacher,  who is called  Sah Bum Nim (translation: The Master).

I learned recently that Korea’s ancient name is Choson, which translates to ‘Land of Morning Calm’.  Well then!

So for new parents, or grandparents participating in raising the little ones, I highly recommend spending time with folks who have the gift of interacting with children.

No time for intensive child psychology classes –or a grandparent needing refreshers?  Just help out in the classrooms of your grandchildren and stay for their martial arts classes.  It’s amazing what you can learn!

–Lola Jane

Updated February, 2015:

Wherever You Go There You Are Book webI am taking up meditation again, and found this great tip from Jon Kabat-Zinn’s bestselling book Wherever You Go There You Are, on mindfulness meditation in everyday life.

Jon Kabat-Zinn created the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

I’ve had this book for YEARS and recently decided to re-read it.

Sometimes you just read the right books at the right time, or the moment your need it (which is why I can’t imagine going all digital and not having physical books around me, at least not yet!)

Wherever You Go There You Are Book tip grandparents

Definitely worth a read, and posted here as a reminder for me, and if you happen upon this post and looking for resources in your role as a grandparent or about patience in general.

If you have other tips or resources, please do share!  Thank you.

Related post: A library with no books — and its at a university

Back to 1st Grade

Tomorrow I am volunteering time in my grandson Jun-Jun’s first grade class.  This is not because I am spilling over with free time right now — in fact it is quite the opposite.  Like most, I have tons of things to do, and have a busy life.  I am not yet a ‘retired’ Lola (grandmother).

Why volunteer then?

Last week I spoke to Jun-Jun’s teacher and asked how things were going.  She is so terrific and dedicated, and I was concerned, especially in light of all the budget challenges and the general mess our lovely state of California is in.  She mentioned that over the last few years, her classroom size has grown from 20, then 26 and now 32!  When one has 32 kids vs. 20 or 26 in the classroom, it is obvious that the time that you can spend with each kid is greatly affected.

I asked what can I do…and she asked if I could spend an hour a week helping out in the classroom.  How can I not give this time to help, and to do this for my Jun-Jun?  I only wish I would have asked sooner.

So tomorrow it is…and with all the presentations and safety training to adults I have done in the course of my career life, do you think I would be afraid of being around a bunch of first graders (OK, 32 first graders to be exact)?  Of course I am!

Related post: Paragon of Patience

Grandsons on Elkhorn Slough Bridge Hike

Why does the Philippines have to import rice to feed its people?

Articled updated on September 22, 2014 with recent USDA data on world rice trade.

Rice photo by

A big portion of the earth’s population survives on rice.

Years ago, someone told me that the Philippines does not produce enough rice to feed its people.  I wondered if this was still true, did some research, and indeed, this remains true today.

It is interesting that the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is located in the Philippines.  Sixty percent of the rice grown on the planet today come from seeds developed through IRRI.  One would think that as this respected research organization is in the Philippines, the Philippines would eventually produce enough rice to feed its people.

But it is a complex issue, and in fact, the Philippines is currently the largest importer of rice in the world, importing around 1.8 million tons of rice in 2008 (Source: United States Department of Agriculture).

According to the IRRI, there are three main factors which explain why the Philippines imports rice:

  • Land area: The Philippines has around 300,000 square kilometers, of which around 43,000 square kilometers of harvested area are used for rice production.
    As most of the country is very mountainous and consists of many small islands, suitable land is limited to expand rice production into without affecting wetlands, forests, or areas producing other crops. Urban areas also continue to expand rapidly.
  • Population growth: The Philippine population is estimated at 97 million (IRRI Data and UN Data from 2010 lists 93.6 million). Its annual growth rate of around 2% – among the world’s highest – means that just to keep pace with growing demand the country would have to increase rice production and yield at rates rarely seen in history.
  • Infrastructure: Irrigation infrastructure is not used and maintained as efficiently as it could be, thus reducing productivity potential. Transport infrastructure, particularly good-quality roads, is lacking in the Philippines, which affects the transport of rice and hinders the rice trade.

The IRRI continues work to help Filipino farmers raise rice harvest yields, which at this time, is more than Indian or Thailand rice fields, but still under those produced by Chinese and Vietnamese rice farmers.

Almost Ready to Harvest, Rice Field in the Philippines.  Photo

As of 2014, the Philippines still import rice, and it has actually increased as of September, 2014, per chart below from the US Department of Agriculture data (USDA).

Note: 1,600 Thousand Metric Tons — the amount listed for 2014 / 2015 on the table below — equal 3,527,360 lbs.  The average Filipino eats about 271 lbs of rice per year (123 kg), among the highest in the world, according to the IRRI.

World Rice Trade by Thousand Metric Tons

Philippines still import rice as of Sept 2014

More rice related articles are under “Rice, Rice & More Rice” category under the parent topic, The Philippines.

And if you like this post and want to see more Philippine related post from, please subscribe to Lola Jane’s blog (input form on home page) or click here… 

Among’s most popular Philippine related post are about

So… were you surprised that the Philippines imports a lot rice, despite seeing rice fields pretty much WHEREVER you travel in the Philippines?

Please comment…I would like to know what you think.

Where’s the Rice?

So this rice field topic made me think about rice in general.  I don’t know anyone —at least not yet — who does not like rice.

The first time I remember that I actually missed eating rice was during Air Force training boot camp in San Antonio, Texas.  Because of the stress of boot camp, I think it was not until after a week when I thought, wow, I have not eaten rice all week!  Up to that point, and having lived in the Philippines all my life –and even after moving to the U.S., we ate rice EVERYDAY.  Sometimes for breakfast (there is a Filipino simple breakfast staple of Sinangag, leftover rice fried with garlic), and most definitely rice is served during lunch and dinner.

There are probably many hundreds of varieties of rice in the world.  I know there are red varieties, brown, purple, long, short, sticky types for deserts, but at that time, all I wanted was a plate of warm, pure white, fluffy rice.  Somehow meals did not seem complete without rice.

Eventually the chow hall did serve up rice—the parboiled, reconstituted type that we normally do not eat.  But for the moment I was so happy, ahhhh, RICE! And I felt ready to run and do whatever we had to do that day.

Having lived in the US for a long time now, we eat a variety of foods.  But still, I cannot go a week without eating rice —actually make that just a few days without rice.

Not quite sure how to make Filipino style garlic fried rice?  Here is a great website with a step by step recipe for cooking sinangag: Photo below courtesy of

Sinangag – Filipino Breakfast Staple of Garlic Fried Rice

If you are accustomed to regularly eating rice, please comment and tell us about a time and your experience when you did NOT eat rice….

champorado Filipino style

Champorado – chocolate rice porridge

And check out Lola Jane’s Filipino Food posts:

Philippine Rice Fields

Rice fields are beautiful.  Fertile, green for the most part, lush.  No wonder green is one of my favorite colors.

When I go back home to the Philippines I love to take pictures of rice fields.

Rice Fields, background of coconut trees and the mountains

I remember trying to plant rice when I was younger, and stepping into the muddy rice fields.  You have to have strong leg muscles to plant rice the traditional  way —- it is very hard work.   I would go with my aunt who we fondly called Nanay Lucing, when she brought food to feed the crew of rice planters.

I ended up making an early exit and being pulled back on top of a carabao (water buffalo) when  leaches started  to feed on my little legs.

Thankfully, that was my first and last time participating in planting rice.  The mud was fine, but the leaches…not so much.

water buffallo kalabaw or carabao late 1800s

No, this is not me…it is an old photo of a kalabaw or carabao (water buffalo) found in the book “The Philippine Islands” from the Gutenberg website by Ramon Reyes Lala. It was published in 1898 by the Continental Publishing Company.  I would have been about the same size though…

There is a well-known Philippine folk song on planting rice and the lyrics go something like this:

Magtanim ay ‘di biro
Maghapong nakayuko
‘Di man lang makatayo
‘Di man lang makaupo.

The English version:

Planting rice is never fun,
Bending over ’til the set of sun.
Cannot sit, cannot stand,
Plant the seedlings all by hand.

And a literal translation:

Planting rice is not a joke
Just bending all day long
You can’t even stand up
You can’t even sit down.

There are famous rice terraces in the Philippines.  The Banaue rice terraces are over 2,000 years old, created mostly by hand on a mountainside, around 5,000 ft in elevation.  More information on the Banaue Rice terraces can be found on

Banaue Rice Terraces panaorama

Here is a lovely quote about rice fields from another old book about the Philippines, published in 1890…

Rice Field quote by John ForemanAnd I agree!  Rice fields are beautiful…what do you think?

NOTE: More rice related articles can be accessed by visiting the “Rice, Rice & More Rice” category under the parent topic, The Philippines. 

Category includes articles on why the Philippines have to import rice to feed its people, and a rice post popular on Pinterest, with photos of sinangag — the traditional breakfast of garlic fried rice.

Hello World Indeed!


Well, hello to life on the Internet world at least.  It’s a little scary to do this and get on the blogitty blog highway, but here I go anyway!

Memories of growing up in the Philippines, with one foot in that culture and  the other in the United States, and creating a record for my American grandchildren are some of  the reasons why I decided to blog.  I’m sure more—topics and reasons that is—will spill out, and I hope that will be a fun process.

Newly planted blog, so here is a picture of a newly planted rice field.  I think rice fields, in all stages, are beautiful and I will post more on this next time.

Ingat palagi,

Lola Jane