Category: Origin

What’s Bilao in English?

Bilao, photo by JMorton

What’s Bilao in English?

Bilao, bigao in Ilocano, is called winnowing basket.

This basket is very versatile.  Its usefulness was first used in ancient times by agricultural folks to separate the grains from the chaffs at harvest or milling time.

Saint David’s Day

Saint David’s Day


March 1st  is Saint David’s Day.

Did you remember to celebrate it yesterday?

The first day of March was chosen in remembrance of the death of Saint David as traditionally it is believed that he might have died on that day in 569, 588 or even 589; the date is uncertain.

Stainglass picture of St David of Wales

Stainglass depicting St David of Wales

St David (Dewi Sant) was a Celtic monk, abbot and bishop, who lived in the sixth century.  He spread the word of Christianity across Wales.

St David's own flag flown over Churches and some public buildings on St David's Day

St David’s own flag flown over Churches and some public buildings on St David’s Day

A  famous story about Saint David tells how he was preaching to a huge crowd and the ground is said to have risen up, so that he was standing on a hill and everyone had a better chance of hearing and seeing him.

 He was born towards the end of the 5th century. He was of the royal house of Ceredigion, and founded a Celtic monastic community at Glyn Rhosyn (The Vale of Roses) on the western headland of Pembrokeshire (Sir Benfro) where St David’s Cathedral  stands today. David was famous for being a teacher.  His monastery at Glyn Rhosin became an important Christian shrine and important centre in Wales. Before  his death, Saint David is said to have uttered these words: “Brothers be ye constant. The yoke which with single mind ye have taken, bear ye to the end; and whatsoever ye have seen with me and heard, keep and fulfil.”

Welsh ex-pats around the  world celebrate St David’s Day. The  daffodil  & the leek are the national emblem of Wales and badges of which are worn with pride.

Daffodil flower and emblem of Wales

Daffodil flower and emblem of Wales

Why a leek as an emblem?  One theory is that St David advised the Welsh, on the eve of battle with the Saxons, to wear leeks in their caps to distinguish friend from the enemy. Shakespeare mentions in Henry V, that the Welsh archers (fearsome for the power and accuracy of their legendary long bows,)  wore leeks at the battle  with the French at Agincourt in 1415.

The Leek vegetbale an other emblem of Wales

The Leek vegetable an other emblem of Wales

The traditional meal on St David’s Day is cawl. This is a soup that is made of leek and other locally grown produce.

Another symbol of Wales is  the iconic Welsh Dragon  in Welsh- Y Ddraig Goch (“the red dragon”)

Welsh National-Flag

The Welsh National Flag

It  appears on the national flag of Wales. The flag is also called Y Ddraig Goch.

The Historia Brittonum(History of Britons written around 828)  records the first  use of the dragon to  symbolise Wales.

The Dragon was popularly supposed to have been the battle standard of the legendary King Arthur  other ancient Celtic leaders. archaeological  literature, and documentary history suggests that  it evolved from an earlier Romano-British national symbol.  During the reigns of the  Tudor Monarchs, the red dragon was used as a symbol of support  in the English Crown’s coat of arms (one of two supporters, along with the traditional English lion).  The red dragon is often seen as symbolising all things Welsh, and flags are flown  by many public and private institutions in Wales and some in London too.


1 March 2014

To celebrate St David’s Day Google has this special doodle to commemorate the occasion.




Legend of Tabaco City


Tabac, photo by JMorton for

Tabac, photo by JMorton for

Tabac, photo by JMorton for

Tabac, photo by JMorton for

Whilst in the Philippines in February 2016, we travelled a great deal; during our search for the Mayon Volcano, which proved rather elusive at first, took us to various parts of the Bicol region.

Our driver/tour guide kindly gave us a running commentary of the places of interest we passed. One of which was the city of Tabaco. We took a photo of a monument with a sculpture of steel knives and bolos. I briefly imagined that was rather pugnacious but thought nothing more of it. We just assumed that they like their bolos!  We also thought that the city was called Tabaco because tobacco must be the area’s prime product.

Anyway as we climbed to the summit of the viewing centre for the Mayon Volcano, our guide reminded us of the Tabaco City as he pointed to an arsenal of knives and bolos in varying shapes and sizes arranged neatly on the ground, for sale.

Imagine what fun we would have had at Legaspi Airport, had we purchased a few of the bolos and carried them as hand luggage. LOL hahaha 🙂

Our guide said that Tabaco City was named after the bolos, which are called tabak in Bicolano.

The legend goes that  during the time the Spaniards came-a-conquering, a local man from the yet unnamed Tabaco city had a beautiful daughter, which was the muse of the area.  She was revered by the people for her stunning good looks.  Her father became rather neurotic about it, very over-protective. She can be seen from afar but definitely no touching or speaking to her!

One day, he went fishing, but before he sailed farther to the sea, he spied another vessel coming to land.  He immediately thought they might be slave traders and after his beautiful daughter for sure, so without further ado he turned his boat back and started waving, shouting and screaming to his wife, who was watching him sail to sea.

The man shouted excitedly “Tabak ko, tabak ko” (my bolo, my bolo) as he looked from his wife to the coming ‘invaders’, who happened to be Spanish missionaries.

The Spanish named the new conquered land Tabaco as inspired by the raving man from the sea.

Rather a charming piece of hokum that it was adopted officially by Tabaco City council  through Municipal Council Resolution No. 29 on February 23, 1966 as a true legend.

But apparently in truth the Spanish did indeed name the place after the tobacco plant which was a primary product.  We were right after all. 🙂

What happened to the beautiful daughter?  We don’t know!

Second Full Moon of the Month

Yesterday on Friday 31  July there was a rare astronomical event close to home that many might not have noticed, a second full moon of the month.

They sky over London last night was generally clear and where I live in NW London was exceptional with few clouds.

I gazed up and saw a full moon. what was unusual is that it was the second full moon in a calendar month.

 Second Full Moon of the Month

I took this photo of it at around 1 am (Saturday morning) from our back garden.

Second Full moon July AKA a 'blue moon'

Second Full moon July AKA a ‘blue moon’


Normally  there are 29.5 days between full moons and therefore a full moon once a month. Such moons are known as a ‘blue moon’

A blue moon is defined  as the second full moon in a calendar month.  We have a saying that a rare event or happening occurs ‘once in a blue moon.’

The next Blue Moon will be in May 2016.

Even rarer, are have two blue moons in a  calendar year this last  happened in 1999. There were two full moons in January and two full moons in March and no full moon in February. So both January and March had Blue Moons.

The  full moon is given a name for each month of the year it appears.

January: the Wolf Moon, February: the Snow Moon, March: the Worm Moon, April: the Pink Moon, May: the Flower Moon, June: the Strawberry Moon, July: the Buck Moon, August: the Sturgeon Moon, September: the Harvest Moon, October: the Hunter’s Moon, November: the Beaver Moon, December: the Cold Moon.

More well-known here are the Harvest Moon in September as centuries ago, this full moon helped farmers gather their harvest in at night. The Hunter’s Moon appears brighter and larger, which aided hunters at night in fields and forests.

Enjoy gazing at our constant,  closest, changeless, celestial neighbour 🙂

Christmas Decor: Christmas Tree


Artificial trees at John Lewis Photo by JMorton

Christmas Decor: Christmas Tree

It is widely believe that the Christmas tree started in Germany. Early Christians would bring in decorated trees inside their houses.

Apparently it was Martin Luther, credited for Protestant Reformation, who first decorated the Christmas tree with candles.

It is said that one winter evening, Martin Luther was deep in thought about his sermon when he  happen to look up and saw the lights of twinkling stars reflected between branches of trees.

Martin was in absolute awe.

He brought in a tree in his house and wired the branches to hold in the lit candles so his family can see what he saw and so admired.

That was the beginning of Christmas light.

Every year, Oslo in Norway gifts the British people with a huge Christmas tree which is erected at Trafalgar Square. Oslo has been presenting the UK with a Christmas tree since 1947 as a show of their gratitude to the British during World Ward II.

If you happen to be near Trafalgar Square, the decorated tree can be seen from the beginning of December to the 6th of January.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

The name is Fleming, Ian Fleming

Peter and I were at Belgravia last night when we came upon a blue plaque bearing the name of Ian Fleming. He is of course best known for the most suave, debonair, with the chilling killer instinct that is James Bond, Agent 007.

Anyway the plaque commemorate Ian Fleming as resident of 22b Ebury St, Belgravia in the Borough of Westminster.

Sadly 22b Ebury St was not the birth place of Bond, James Bond as Ian Fleming lived in the street between 1934 – 1945. James Bond, a car loving, with a penchant for martinis, shaken not stirred, women, cigars and food, first put an appearance in print in Casino Royale published in 1953.

Once is happenstance; twice is coincidence; three times is enemy action.

– Ian Fleming

Pudding Bowl Haircut

pudding bowl


Pudding Bowl Haircut

Hair Cutting in Russia.

Among the lower classes in Russia, the barber, a primitive artist, claps an earthen pot over the head and ears, and trims off whatever hair protrudes from the pot.


Pudding bowl haircut is very traditional and popular with school boys in the UK.  It is easy to maintain and can be done at home by the mother.


Hydrangea Also Known As Hortensia

I have been reading about Hydrangea and I must say it is a very interesting plant. It is not only a beautiful shrub with verdant leaves but provide a long lasting bouquets of little flowers in a huge flowerhead.

We have got a few in our garden, we have got the pink variety. Apparently the pink variety has a very romantic meaning which I really love, so much so that I think I or we shall only have pink hydrangea in our garden (unless other colours of hydrangeas have equally romantic meaning, 😉 lol). The pink hydrangea means “You are the beat of my heart,”. Awww

Hydrangea Also Known As Hortensia, The Facts:

It belongs to a genus of between 70-75 species

It originated from southern and eastern Asia (China, Japan, Korea, the Himalayas, and Indonesia) and the Americas. 

Hydrangea flowers from early spring to late autumn.

Hydrangea has at least 600 known cultivars, meaning there are 600 plant varieties that have been produced in cultivation by selective breeding. 

Hydrangea usual flowers are coloured white, but the PH of the soil changes their colour.

Hydrangea can be moderately toxic, so be careful with young children and pets.


Despite its mild toxicity, some varieties of teas are made from hydrangea, specifically the hydrangea serrata.  This species produce phyllodulcin, a natural sweetener.  Japan make Ama-Cha, literally means sweet tea from the hydrangea serrata.  Ama-cha is then used in a festival celebrating Buddha’s birth, which is thought in Japan to be  8 April.  The ama-cha is poured over the statue of the Buddha to commemorate his birth, re-enacting the acts of  the 9 dragons pouring amrita over him.  Japan use ama-cha as a substitute for amrita.

Korea also make herbal tea from the hydrangea serrata but a more prosaic version without dragons and bathing buddha.  It is called sugukcha  or ilsulcha.

From our photo above, I noticed that the hydrangea planted directly on the ground flowers first than the one on the pot.  I remember buying an identical cultivar, but the one in the pot has turned lighter in pigmentation compared to the more verdant ground dwelling hydrangea.

Celebrate St George’s Day -23 April

Have a Happy Saint George’s Day for those in England 🙂
St George - British by birth,, English by grace of god
Sadly St George’s Day no longer attracts as much attention in England as does St David’s Day for Wales, St Patrick’s Day for Ireland or St Andrew’s Day for Scotland.  A recent survey found only 40 per cent were able to identify St George’s Day as falling on April 23, compared with 71 who could give July 4 as the American national holiday and 42 per cent who knew that March 17 was the Irish one.

A Think Tank called British Future which looks at identity and integration and carried out the survey, says the results suggest many English people are too “nervous” to celebrate St George’s Day. It cites concerns among many that national symbols like the St George’s Cross flag may be interpreted as racist by others, and that celebration of the national saint’s day could upset ethnic minority groups. It also accused politicians failing to “engage” with the concept of Englishness, to help to promote more pride in it.

Flag of St.George England

Flag of St.George England

Celebrate St George’s Day -23 April

Also I think that the English character is not given to open displays of pride we just carry on. However, many of us will wear a rose flower badge with pride to celebrate the day today :).

The legend is that St George travelled to Libya where he met a poor hermit who told him that a dragon terrorised the country. The dragon demands a beautiful maiden to be sacrificed everyday until daughter of the king remains as the last sacrifice. The king said that if anyone can rescue his daughter her hand will be given in marriage.

Sabra, the princess was being led to the place of “death” when George took her back and persuaded to return to her palace. He then entered the dragon’s valley where the dragon attacked George. George struck the dragon with a spear which broke as the dragon was covered with hard impenetrable scales. The dragon’s venom was going to poison George as he fell from his horse. Luckily he managed to roll under an enchanted orange tree, against which poison would not work. After he regained his strength George struck the beast with his sword to no avail; the dragon poured poison on him and his armour which split in two. George refresh himself again from the magic orange tree. With his sword, he rushed at the dragon and pierced it under its wing where there were no scales. George was able to kill the dragon.

We do not know if he settled down with Sabra.


The possible real George is believed to be born in Turkey, living in the 3rd century AD. His parents were Christians and George became a Roman soldier at the age of 17. He joined the Roman Army and was renowned for his valour and bravery. Although he served under pagan emperor, Diocletian, George did not forget his Christian faith. However the emperor persecuted Christians. St George pleaded with the emperor to save their lives but he was ignored and Diocletian tried to make St George deny his Christian faith by torture. St George showing incredible courage and faith would not renounce his faith and was beheaded in Palestine on 23 April 303 AD.

In 1222, the Council of Oxford replaced St Edmund, the martyr as England’s patron saint. St George is also the patron saint of several countries including part of Spain, Ethiopia, Greece, Palestine and Russia.

Spatial Cherry Blossoms from Japan

Apparently Japanese scientists are flummoxed by the flowering of a cherry blossom, which was grown from seed, few years before it was expected to bloom.

This very special cherry tree is truly spatial. The seed from which it has grown from had been to space and back.

This is big news  to the Japanese people because cherry blossom has a notable place in their hearts.  Afterall Japan is known as the land of the cherry blossoms; the blooming of cherry blossoms are agogly  awaited, watched and celebrated as a festival all over Japan.

The festival is called Hanami, which literally means viewing flowers, but it is not just for any flower. It is predominantly meant for the cherry blossoms.

The traditions started fairly early in the Japanese history. Upper classes and the aristocrats used to picnic under the cherry blossoms which might had been such a wonderful experience as it inspired them to write fulsome poems.

The tradition caught on and everyone started participating and having fun. People would bring food and drinks and eat under these majestic trees. The very intricate tea ceremony is also performed under the trees.

The Hanami festival is not a set date in Japan as a whole. The celebration is determined by location, location, location! The blooming is usually forecasted and may vary from year to year.

Some regions have the flower watching as early as January and some as late as May. The blooming of the cherry blossoms is determined by areas and weather/temperature, of course! 😉

The Hanami festival, although predominantly about the gorgeous cherry blossoms have encompassed and celebrated more of the modern Japanese life.

JPJhermes, on patrol


Cherry b


‘Cherry tree from space’ mystery baffles Japan

AFPBy Shigemi Sato | AFP – Fri, Apr 11, 2014

A cosmic mystery is uniting monks and scientists in Japan after a cherry tree grown from a seed that orbited the Earth for eight months bloomed years earlier than expected — and with very surprising flowers.

The four-year-old sapling — grown from a cherry stone that spent time aboard the International Space Station (ISS) — burst into blossom on April 1, possibly a full six years ahead of Mother Nature’s normal schedule.

Its early blooming baffled Buddhist brothers at the ancient temple in central Japan where the tree is growing.

“We are amazed to see how fast it has grown,” Masahiro Kajita, chief priest at the Ganjoji temple in Gifu, told AFP by telephone.

“A stone from the original tree had never sprouted before. We are very happy because it will succeed the old tree, which is said to be 1,250 years old.”

The wonder pip was among 265 harvested from the celebrated “Chujo-hime-seigan-zakura” tree, selected as part of a project to gather seeds from different kinds of cherry trees at 14 locations across Japan.

The stones were sent to the ISS in November 2008 and came back to Earth in July the following year with Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, after circling the globe 4,100 times.

Some were sent for laboratory tests, but most were ferried back to their places of origin, and a selection were planted at nurseries near the Ganjoji temple.

By April this year, the “space cherry tree” had grown to around four metres (13 feet) tall, and suddenly produced nine flowers — each with just five petals, compared with about 30 on flowers of the parent tree.

It normally takes about 10 years for a cherry tree of the similar variety to bear its first buds.

The Ganjoji temple sapling is not the only early-flowering space cherry tree.

Of the 14 locations in which the pits were replanted, blossoms have been spotted at four places.

Two years ago, a young tree bore 11 flowers in Hokuto, a mountain region 115 kilometres (70 miles) west of Tokyo, around two years after it was planted.

It was of a variety that normally only comes into flower at the age of eight.

Cosmic rays

The seeds were sent to the ISS as part of “an educational and cultural project to let children gather the stones and learn how they grow into trees and live on after returning from space,” said Miho Tomioka, a spokeswoman for the project’s organiser, Japan Manned Space Systems (JAMSS).

“We had expected the (Ganjoji) tree to blossom about 10 years after planting, when the children come of age,” she added.Kaori Tomita-Yokotani, a researcher at the University of Tsukuba who took part in the project, told AFP she was stumped by the extra-terrestrial mystery.

“We still cannot rule out the possibility that it has been somewhat influenced by its exposure to the space environment,” she said.

Tomita-Yokotani, a plant physiologist, said it was difficult to explain why the temple tree has grown so fast because there was no control group to compare its growth with that of other trees.

She said cross-pollination with another species could not be ruled out, but a lack of data was hampering an explanation.

“Of course, there is the possibility that exposure to stronger cosmic rays accelerated the process of sprouting and overall growth,” she said.

“From a scientific point of view, we can only say we don’t know why.”

Wakata is back aboard the ISS, where he is in command of the station.

The astronaut took part in a video link-up on Thursday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy, chatting about his daily life hundreds of kilometres above the Earth.

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