StoryCorps Shorts: Lola's Work

After years of work in the Philippines, Crescenciana Tan came to the U.S. to help raise her grandchildren, who called her Lola. Using StoryCorps Connect, her grandson, Kenneth Tan, told his mother Olivia about the greatest lesson Lola taught him.

AIRED: May 06, 2021 | 0:02:57

Kenneth Tan (KT): Lola was my first roommate when I was a kid.

So we shared a room.

She would keep the light on every night, cause she would be

up praying, and the light would still be on in the morning.

And I just always remember her in the kitchen making hopia:

smoothing out the mung bean, making little pockets with the

dough and stuffing them in pink doughnut boxes.

And she would let me eat the duds.

How did I not have, like, childhood diabetes?

Olivia Tan-Ronquillo (OTR): The kitchen was always greasy,

and the electric bill was going up.

But that was Lola's business, and she never stopped working.

I was told that when she was little, she was the top student.

But my mom did not finish high school,

because my grandfather passed away early.

So she did all kinds of work to support her family.

And when she had her children, she had to provide for us.

There was nobody else.

There was no such thing as vacation.

And then, when Lola got older she lived with us,

bringing up her grandchildren.

KT: It was, I think, 2014, and you called me.

You were caring for Lola at the time, and so I wanted to come

home to help care for Lola, because she'd always been

the one who took care of all of us.

KT: Before she passed, she'd tell me stories about her life.

And that's when Lola and I started painting them.

[You know, I think I learned from Lola that there's

a difference between your job and your work.

Your job is something you leave behind at the end of a day,

but your work is everything you leave behind

at the end of a lifetime.

Lola, she didn't have the most glamorous jobs,

but I think her work was all of us.

OTR: It's her love for us that I remember most.

It was not so much of hugging or saying I love you,

but it was all the things she did.

You're right.

We are...we are her work.