Sunday, December 27, 2009

It doesn't get any better than this!!

This was our first Christmas away from home and family and it was amazing. We are so blessed to have our sons (Elders) and friends here in Naic District. We’ve been to so many Christmas parties we are beginning to feel guilty. We had dinner on the 23rd at the Mission Home with the senior couples and Pres. and Sister Howard. Ham and funeral potatoes, can’t be beat! We even had homemade cherry pie with ice cream for dessert. The traffic was horrendous the days before Christmas. It took us over 6 hours to drive the 50 miles to Manila on the 23rd. We probably should have walked! Going back to Naic on the 24th only took a little over 2 hours so not sure what the problem was the day before. We had Zone Conference on the morning of the 24th. Our choir sang “Angels We Have Heard on High”, “Guard Him Joseph”, “The Mission Song” and the “12 Days of Christmas” (with a twist). It was great! We re-worded the 12 days to go along with missions and the Philippines. “5 letters from home” was quite a hit with the crowd. It was a fun meeting this time with movies, snacks, pizza and singing. We were glad to enjoy and laugh with the missionaries for a while.

Thursday evening, Christmas Eve, was fabulous. All the Elders came over as soon as they got home from the Zone Conference. We had dinner together (freshly baked rolls with egg salad, chicken salad, tuna salad and cheese fillings), chips, drinks, trimmings (lettuce, pickles, olives, onions etc.) and generally made pigs of ourselves. The rolls were a hit. We had ordered them from a bakery that is about a block or so from our apartment. Christy and her family are members of the Naic branch and we get lots of stuff from them. With all the craziness of the holiday she forgot about our order! We stopped as we got back into town to pick them up and she was so upset because she’d forgotten. She sent us on our way (this was at 4:00p.m.) and promised they’d be ready by 6:00 p.m. when we planned to eat. At about 6:02 here came Christy, on the tryke with her hubby, with 2 large trays of warm rolls. The American Elders went nuts with the smell of home! It was great! Everything tasted masarap! We watched the video “Best Two Years” and then had a gift exchange. It was so fun. After that we were still seated in a big circle so we went around and shared what one of our favorite Christmas traditions is. Elder Smith and I almost didn’t make it through. Several of the native Elders commented that this was the first time they had ever had a Christmas. The stories were heartbreaking and made us appreciate all we have so much. One Elder commented that he wanted this (meaning our evening together) to become a tradition for the family he hopes to have someday. We are realizing every day just how blessed we are to be here. How we love the missionaries! After ice cream, cookies and visiting they all trooped next door to the Zone Leaders apartment and went to bed. We told them that IF they had been good, Santa might come! They had been good because he did come. The next morning Santa’s gifts had been handed out, socks opened, breakfast eaten and everyone was out the door and heading to work before 8:30! We collapsed for a bit and then started on the dishes. We met the Taggs and Hussey’s at King Bee (a favorite Chinese restaurant) at 2:00. Had a great dinner and visit then came back to the slightly messy apartment to play games and visit. We all went to the Naic Branch Christmas party that evening and had a good time. They made we three senior couples get up in the middle of the group and play a game. Each sister had a necklace of marshmallows and the Elders had to eat them. First one finished was the winner. Our necks were sticky the rest of the evening!
The lights on our apartment. Best one on the block! Punta Branch party. Kids acting out the nativity We’ve had numerous baptisms during the past few days. 3 on Christmas morning, 5 yesterday and 11 this afternoon.
Trece Martires Branch baptismElder Smith in front of the Trece ChapelCarissa Branch baptismThis was so great! When we went outside for pics in Carissa, a young man from the Branch went back inside and grabbed an umbrella. He walked around and shaded me the entire time we were outside. So thoughtful and kind.We got up early and went to Golden City for their chapel dedication this morning. Left home a bit after 7:00 a.m. We finally got to meet Elder Edwards and his wife. He was raised in Boulder City. He did the dedicatory prayer. We’re thinking things might slow down a little now, but, who knows? Manigong, bagong, taon! (Wishing you a prosperous New Year.)
Yes, we did still miss our family…

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Rush!

We were hoping that things would move at a slower pace in the Philippines around Christmastime. We were so wrong! Wow, it has been busy and fun. Monday night we had our Zone FHE. We went caroling! It was wonderful. We rented a Jeepney and all piled in.

We went to a local orphanage and caroled for the children there. It was so fun to watch the interaction of the kids and our Elders. We aren’t certain who had more fun or were more excited.

After the orphanage we went to the Naic Jail. Yes, that’s right, the jail! We had made arrangements previously for both visits. We were ushered into an open area and the inmates were invited into an enclosed area where there were some benches and chairs. Many were standing and they did seem to enjoy our little concert. As we were leaving they yelled “Thank you Brothers and Sisters!”

We had such a good time at the orphanage that we’re hoping to go back soon and possibly do a service project. There were 50 children at the orphanage and 100+ at the jail. It was our first Jeepney ride and we had a blast. It’s not something we’d want to do every day (like the missionaries) but it was fun. Elder Smith kept bumping his head as they are built for the smaller Filipino folks.

Tuesday was a trip to the Temple with the “going home” missionaries. We had a full session with the senior couples, 13 Elders and 1 Sister who left the next day. That evening we went to the Mission Home for dinner and a testimony meeting. Was a long day (with Manila traffic) but very nice.

Wednesday we went to the Hussey’s and worked on wrapping over 1,000 gifts! They received money from their ward in England to buy presents for some of the children here. With the UK money, some from us and some from the Hussey’s we were able to get a bunch of stuff. Sister Hussey knew that it would be the only gift some of the children would get so she wanted them to have the fun of opening several packages. So, every little item was wrapped individually and put into a gift bag. They were delivered to Bulihan Branch on Friday evening and will be given to the Maragondon Branch children on Wednesday evening.

Friday we were able to go to the setting a part of a new Elder from the Maragondon Branch. Julius is a remarkable young man and will be serving in Mindanao. He was able to save enough money to get a pair of pants, a pair of shoes and a new white shirt for his mission. He is the only member in his family and has a smile that simply makes you feel warm all over. We’ve been blessed to work and visit with him lots in the past few months and we’re so proud of him.

We had three Christmas parties this weekend which is enough to get nearly anyone “partied-out”. So many fun games and good food and even a choir presentation in the Punta Branch.

They started a Branch choir this summer and have worked hard to get ready for Christmas. They really sounded great! They did an unaccompanied arrangement of The Carol of the Bells that was wonderful.

One of the most exciting things I've seen over here! A baseball field! They simply don't have them and then poof! This one crops up in a rice field on the way between Naic and Maragondon. Notice the cow in the outfield. He's a regular Joe D'Moogio. I think he marks the bases. The dug outs are quaint with bamboo and thatched roofs. We're pretty sure the goat plays short stop.

Golly, this is the last post before Christmas! We still have several parties to attend, Zone conference, Mission presidency meeting and our Christmas Eve sleep-over with our Elders. Whew!

Maligayang Pasko at Manigong Bagong Taon to everyone. We love you, and love the Lord and love being missionaries! (Yes, we do miss you too.)

Sunday, December 13, 2009


What a week! Things started normally, then, poof!

Monday we studied Tagalog (and failed).

Tuesday was choir and district meeting.

Wednesday we worked on some projects for needy families in the area.

Thursday we studied Tagalog again (and failed). After tutoring we went to the local orphanage, jail and one of the hospitals. We made arrangements for our Zone to visit next Monday for our FHE caroling activity. Going to be great!

Friday we went to Makati for a planning meeting at the Mission Home. We spent several hours working on 2010 with the other senior couples, TA’s, AP’s and office staff and of course, President and Sister Howard. If you need to know when a transfer day is, just let us know. We had dinner and then got home late that night.

Saturday we went to DasMarinias to the market there to get hot dog buns for the FHE. Didn’t dare get them too early as we don’t have lots of storage areas and things tend to mold pretty fast here. We also attended a baptism that afternoon at the Trece Branch. (We've had 6 total in the Zone this week)

Saturday evening we were scheduled to go with the ZL’s to visit families here in Naic. I was bushed and suggested that Elder Smith should go and I would stay home and protect things. There are no sidewalks here in most areas and so I get nervous about walking in the dark and some of the places we go are very uneven and let’s face it, I’m a klutz!

The ZL’s told us 6:00 and to meet them at the Naic chapel. They texted to say they were running late so to come at 6:15. Elder Smith then texted back to tell them that he would be coming alone. Here comes another text. “Oh, no, Sister Smith needs to come because we told the investigators about her and they can’t wait to meet her. We’ll teach them here at the Chapel so she won’t have to worry about the terrain.” Let’s admit it, I’m a sucker for an investigator and dearly love the people here so I put on my shoes, a smile and we left a few minutes later. We arrived at the chapel and the ZL’s were out in front to meet us. They said to head on in and the family would be right there. There were activities going on in the building so they said we were meeting in the (air conditioned) high council room. Sounded good to me! When we headed down the hallway the lights were off in all the rooms so when we reached the high council room we opened the door while reaching for the switch. Suddenly the lights came on and “our sons” were all there yelling “Surprise!” and “Merry Christmas”.

They had arranged permission from Pres. Howard to have a Christmas party in our honor to thank us for everything they seem to think we have done for them. Yeah, I blubbered! Elder Smith was fighting a suspiciously runny nose too. They had decorated the room and prepared dinner for the group and had even brought us cold cans of diet soda! They know us too well. Hopefully, the pictures with this post will show our amazement and joy.

After a lovely, masarap (delicious) dinner we were all seated in the room and they started the program. The stinkers took turns each expressing their love and appreciation. We’ve never had a more touching or wonderful Christmas gift. We are so proud of the missionaries here and love them all so much and this was such an amazing experience. A few friends from the Branches showed up also to wish us Maligayang Pasko! We are so blessed and thankful for the love that we are receiving. It is hard to be so far from home and family until we look into the faces of the missionaries. They are our family right now and they make every day a blessing for us. Elder Afaga told me today that I said “dang it” and punched someone 30 or 40 times during the evening. I hate that the mission rules don’t allow hugging because that’s what I wanted to do to every one of them. At least Elder Smith was able to get those hugs. For those parents who read this blog, Thank You! We love your sons. Be very proud of them, they are the Stripling Warriors here today. Transfers are on Wednesday and we’ll be having a few changes. We’ll get new sons to love and learn from and others to tell good bye for a time.

Today, Sunday, has been hectic. For some strange reason we didn’t get much sleep last night after the shock! We were able to attend Sacrament meeting in two different branches then attended a baptism in Carissa. This evening we went to the First Presidency Christmas Devotional. Loved it!
Now to get some rest so we’re ready for the coming week. Tons to do! We’ll wait to impress you until next week’s blog. We’re taking President Monson’s counsel to heart. Simplify, relax and enjoy the season. We’ll finish up the projects we have to but no more. Actually, with over 1,000 gifts to wrap this week, 8 Christmas parties to attend, a trip to Manila to the Temple and then dinner and testimony meeting for the going –home Elders and Sisters, preparing a dance routine for the Naic branch party on Christmas day, delivering gifts to all the Branch Presidents, organizing the Christmas Eve party for the Elders, and finishing the Old Testament (Elder Smith) and Aklat ni Mormo
n (for the fourth time this year) for me, we just might get a little frazzled. Nah, we can do it!

Our rice field has been turned, plowed and replanted. Time is passing.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A spiritual high!

It’s quite a deal when one of the highlights of our mission takes place in the Las Vegas Temple! Our daughter Heather and her husband, Nathan and their two boys were sealed on December 1st. We are so thrilled for them! Such a beautiful family and blessing for us all. Many others in our family were there with them to represent us and we certainly appreciate that. Congratulations Kids!

It was Zone FHE again this week and we had a good one. The Tanza Elders were in charge of the games this time and they had some wild ones. We haven’t heard so much laughter in years! We always have lots of fun but this one was almost out-of-control fun. We fixed some Beef Kaldereta and Sister Smith’s chicken ulam for dinner. Beef Kaldereta is just a spicy beef stew that can be eaten alone but is usually served with rice. The chicken ulam is a progressing recipe that we’ve been inventing and the Elders love it. They finally named it “Sister Smith’s Chicken Ulam” at this last dinner. They all say it’s the best whether they are American or Filipino. I’ll be posting the recipe on the family recipe blog site. It is best with calamansi juice in it so will have to substitute for that. The next FHE will be on the 14th and we are going to go caroling. Can’t wait!

Not quite as many baptisms this week but have included a picture of one held at Ternate yesterday. They (Ternate) have 8 baptisms scheduled for Christmas Day and every other Branch has several baptismal dates throughout the month. Our Manila Mission had 200 baptisms for the month of November. Not sure how that compares to other missions around the world but we think it is pretty dang good.

Another month, another fruit. Okay, so this isn’t really a strange or unique fruit but it is different here than in the US. Bananas are our featured delight. We went to the palanke (market) on Friday and bought 5 different, common varieties. The ones in the US, like Cavanagh, are imported here also from South America or wherever so we didn’t count them. These are all native bananas and can be found growing all over the place. A. is saging na saba and is used for cooking in soups etc. B. is saging na berde and is green even when ripe. It is a firm and sort of pithy variety. K. is a saging na senorita and must be yellow before eating. D. is a saging na tundan and is for eating. E. is a saging na lakatan also for eating. We like the tundan and lakatan. Lakatan tastes most like the banana we are used to eating. The tundan has a hint of apple-ish flavor. The berde is nasty (our opinion), senorita is alright and the saba is pretty good too. (F.Y.I. There is not a letter C in the Tagalog alphabet instead they use K. So, A,B,K,D,E is actually correct.)

Just had a group of carolers at the front gate. We’ve been getting “caroled to” since the 3rd week in November. Mostly it is younger kids but the other night we had a group of adults. They had guitar accompaniment and sounded really good. They sang “Whispering Hope” as one of their songs. I hadn’t thought of it as a Christmas carol but it was done beautifully and we enjoyed it. We keep candy on hand to give out after performances. According to the locals this will continue and get more frequent until the holiday.
The local lawn mower:

Cutting grass in the Philippines requires a machete and being able to squat for hours

Piles of waste after the trimming in our front yard. They spent several hours cutting grass for P250.00 (about $5.00).

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Palawan Slideshow!

After sorting through hundreds of photo's we've narrowed our trip down to these...
See our previous post to read all about our adventure!