Sunday, November 29, 2009

Wow! What a fun couple of weeks it’s been..

We left for Palawan on November 20th. Spent the 20th and 21st in Makati at the Mission home and then flew out early Saturday morning. While we were waiting for our flight we saw Manny Pacquiao with his entourage. He had just whooped a guy for his 7th title the weekend before. He is a certified hero over here. (He’s a boxer, for those who aren’t “in the know”.) He’s short and small and I think I could probably take him out if I could just figure how to sit on him without being killed. He was very friendly and smiling and waving at everyone. We think that the fact we’ve seen him makes us important. Hmm, back to the trip. Upon arrival in Puerto Princessa we went to the hotel and checked in and then relaxed for a couple of hours. The meeting house was across the street so we walked over for an afternoon of training sessions and the evening conference session.

The next day, Sunday, was spent at the District Conference and then just kicking back. It’s a good thing we had a “day of rest” as the next days were crazy. We even had time for a game of Uno somewhere in there. The Senior couples are wonderful and it was so nice to spend time with them. The Taggs will be leaving in April, Goldings in June and Husseys in August. Then it will just be us and Pres. and Sister Howard. Sure hope we get some more couples!

Monday, Nov. 23rd we went by van to the Underground River. It was a 2 hour drive through some beautiful country. The Underground River is located under a limestone mountain. It is on the shoreline so that the fresh water from the inland river and the saltwater from the ocean mix in huge caverns. We ferried over

to the entrance via outrigger boat (Elder Smith took a dramamine). The water was a bit rough but great fun. Once there we stomped through some jungle to the docking area for another boat ride. This one went into the mouth of the cave. It was about 1.2 km long. The caves in total are over 8 km but some areas are impassible except with scuba gear. There were tons of bats, albino snakes, strange formations and according to the guide, fish. The folks on Palawan have nominated it to be one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. If it makes it something else will get bumped.

Tuesday was spent on the water again. We went island hopping! We visited 3 or 4 different islands and played in the sand and water and mainly got sunburned! There were lots of seashells, star fish, clean beaches and other sea life. The water was wonderfully blue and clear and warm! Wednesday was spent visiting a crocodile farm, butterfly farm and other island sights. We went to a memorial for 150 American POW’s who were slaughtered by the Japanese in WWII. The memorial lists all the names and gives details of the incident. Only 11 escaped death that day and 2 of those were LDS. I guess they were instrumental in getting the memorial erected. The Japanese ordered the POW’s into underground bomb shelters and then dumped gasoline in and set it aflame. We were all touched by the story. There were children entertaining in the park there. They were playing mandolins, guitars, drums and singing. Actually, we were entertained by several groups of children during our visit. We flew back to Manila that evening after some serious fresh water pearl shopping.

Thursday morning (Thanksgiving Day) we had District interviews so after arriving home the night before after 11, we were at the chapel at 8 am. It was good to see all the Elders after being gone. They had tons of questions about the trip and a few who have served over there already were excited to hear how things were going. We drove back to Manila that afternoon for a masarap (delicious) Thanksgiving dinner at the Mission home. Afterward there was a Mission Presidency meeting and then we once again headed back to Naic arriving a little bit before 11 pm this time.

Friday was spent doing laundry and going grocery shopping and recovering. Our biggest treat that day was visiting with all of our children via Skype. They were at Ginger’s home for Thanksgiving dinner and we were able to see them all.

Other than making us homesick it was the highlight of a busy, eventful week. Dang it, but we love those kids!

Saturday was a District RS activity/bazaar. Each Branch had a table set up with items for sale. Yes, we supported the local economy!When we get home we’re going to all learn how to play “Bring Me”. The sisters here love it. After the bazaar/selling time each Branch had a special number that they presented. Some sang together and others did a dance. It was entertaining and fun. After the RS activity we had an hour or so break and then the District roadshows began. The youth here are fabulous and very talented. The theme was Church History and each Branch was assigned a different area of focus. We had a reenactment of the First Vision, Martyrdom of the Prophet, Mormom Battalion, Building the Nauvoo and SLC Temples,

Willy and Martin Handcart Company and on and on. The whole thing took over 3 hours. It was so exciting to see the youth become better acquainted with what is now their heritage as members of the Church. There was a snowstorm, guns blasting, square dancing and singing. The cultural hall at the NaicChapel was jammed. We were seated by Pres. Pipit and his wife and we all agreed that we’re going to need a larger building when we become a stake! It was humbling to be in attendance at these activities. No big fancy decorations or pricey costuming or members competing to be the most professional. Just lots of fun, love and friendship.

Today was an amazing day. We visited the Trece Martires Branch for services during the mo rning. After that we drove to Carissa Branch for a baptism.

There were 3 families baptized and confirmed this afternoon for a total of 14!

There were several other baptisms this week in some of our other branches also. We had a bit of a dry spell but things are getting back into gear. At the conference last weekend Pres. Howard told us that the largest number of members of the Church is in the USA, next is Mexico then Brazil. The fourth largest number of members in an individual country is in the Philippines! Now, the plan is underway to stomp on Brazil and Mexico. The US may take awhile.
Elder Smith and the ZL's repairing the light in our front yard

How many missionaries does it take to change a light bulb??

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Singing a song is fun to do..

Great experience this week! Our Zone Elders choir sang at the Zone Conference in the Mission Home. They did a great job. We sang “Guard Him Joseph” by Sally DeFord.

Guard Him Joseph

The recording doesn’t do the choir justice. For some reason all the clunkers sound worse when they are recorded up close. From back in the room it sounded wonderful. Then we did our very own newly written version of “The Valiant Song” from the children’s songbook. Sister Howard had asked all the missionaries at the last Zone Conferences to learn it and be ready to begin singing it. We went a step further. Elder Smith wrote a second verse (with a little help from his companion) and it was a smash hit. He recorded it live with our little MP3 and it is included with this posting.

I will be Valiant

The chuckles during the song are because we incorporated our Mission Motto. “Magtrabaho, Magtrabaho, Magtrabaho, Magdasal, Magdasal, Magdasal, Pagsunod!” (Work, work, work, pray, pray, pray, be obedient) Most of our Elders speak English as a second language so I’m always amazed at how clearly the words to the songs are. You can download the music attachments and listen to them. Sure hope it comes through for everyone to hear. We spent Thursday night and all day Friday at the Mission Home.

It was Zone FHE again this last Monday. Was great fun with a breakfast for dinner menu. Elder Smith flipped pancakes for the masses and fixed scrambled eggs with corned beef. It was yummy and the Elders all seemed to enjoy it. The American Elders were thrilled with the pancakes and since I fixed a pot of rice, the native Elders were happy also. We so love the spirit that the Elders bring into our home. We fixed enough extra so that each companionship had leftovers in a bag for breakfast the next morning.

Thursday evening was the second training session for Branch mission leaders. We fixed sopas again and enjoyed the evening. The attendees seemed to enjoy themselves and had lots of good questions. It is going to be fun to see the response to these training sessions. It is helping to make a more effective working relationship between the full time Elders and the branch leaders. We are planning a follow-up training for after the first of the New Year.

We’ll be leaving Thursday of this week for Makati then early Saturday morning we will be flying to Palawan for a conference and fun time. We’ll get back on the evening of the 25th then head back to Makati for a Thanksgiving dinner on the 26th. We won’t be home and settled until after that so no post next Sunday but we’ll have a doozer the following week! Since we won’t be in touch until afterwards, Happy Thanksgiving Everyone! (And happy birthday, Steven! ) 

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Okay, so I ditched Church today! Have had a killer headache and decided to rest this morning. Elder Smith went and took care of things for me. It’s handy to have a wonderful missionary companion. We mainly worked from home this week. We did go into Manila to the temple on Tuesday. We also took our car into the PBO there and left it for some repair work. The temple was wonderful and afterward we went to the Mission Home for dinner and a testimony meeting with this month’s “going home” missionaries. There were 5 sisters leaving this time. They have been amazing missionaries and will be missed. It was also transfer week so we got some changes and new blood. It’s always hard to say goodbye to the Elders who are transferred but the new ones are so terrific it helps the missing pass quickly. Our new Elders are from Washington and Singapore. They are both fresh from the Provo MTC. Two others were from other Zones and have been out for a while.

Thursday was an interesting evening. We had a training meeting for the Branch missionaries from 3 of our 7 branches. We fixed a monster pot of sopas and had dinner, then the training. It went well.

The Zone Leaders did the training (in Tagalog) and we added a comment once in a while. We have a new program here that helps with member re-activation and new convert retention.

DANG! Did you just jump? I sure did! A gecko ran up the wall by the computer and startled the dickens out of me! I hate when that happens because it scares me every time. It isn’t natural to have 6” lizards charging up the wall. Now, back to the meeting… this Thursday we will be having another meeting for the remaining 4 branches. There were 16 branch missionaries here plus the full-time Elders from those branches, Elder and Sister Tagg from the mission office and us, so it was a nice crowd.

The next day we added a bit to the sopas and all of the Zone Elders came over to the apartment for lunch

and that’s where we had a chance to meet and greet the new ones.

Saturday we went to Manila and picked up the repaired car. The Hussey’s rode in with us. After taking care of business we went to the Mall of Asia on the way home. Whoa! Now, that is a MALL!

One of the center areas in the Mall of Asia set up for Santa visits and shows for the kids.

One of Santa's long time helpers relaxing at the Mall

There are 600 stores and 150 different eating establishments. It is the 4th largest mall in the world. It has a cinema complex, bowling alley, Imax, skating rink and a walkway out overlooking Manila Bay. Plus, who knows what else.

One of Santa's long time helpers relaxing at the Mall

We’re glad we can say we’ve been there but, not sure we’ll go back very often. The most ridiculous part of the excursion is that it took us 6 hours to get home. It was only about 45 miles to travel. The traffic in Manila is something to behold and when it is like Saturday night it is a nightmare to behold. A couple of the hours we probably averaged about 10 feet of progress. We were very thankful to get back into the Province where the traffic is only bad, not terrible.

New month, new fruit. This is a Dragon Fruit.
They are quite colorful and certainly strange looking. The little black spots in the fleshy inside are seeds. The seeds are tiny and easily chewed. They are very moist and juicy. Neither of us were terribly impressed with the flavor (a bit bland) but since there are tons of them sold every day most folks must like them

These are a delightful treat we're planning to ship home to everyone for Christmas. I just know that our children will be thrilled. Haven't decided who to give which one to yet. Ginger likes pink so maybe the shrimp for her, Natalie likes green so seaweed it is. Amber used to be grumpy so the crab will be hers. Heather may get a combo box and the boys will get one of each cause we spoil them the most. Right girls?
Starting to put up Christmas decorations (Everyone else is doing it so why can't we?)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Happy Halloween and Day of the Dead

Halloween was yesterday and the Day of the Dead is a National Holiday here on November 1st. It’s been an interesting week. Monday was our Zone FHE Halloween Party. Great fun! Our Elders were all here and Elder and Sister Hussey and Elder and Sister Tagg (office couple). Most of the native missionaries had never seen such a thing before and they loved it. Elder Smith put up his traditional spider web with help from the ZL’s and we decorated the joint.
We played a bunch of games including bobbing for apples, candy toss and team mummy making.
The chili and hot dogs were a hit and many had never tried Rice Krispie treats. The eyeballs had several Elders a bit nervous but they were brave and tried them. Loved them!Lots of work but great fun and several of the Elders thanked us for their first ever Halloween party. They were still in shock at Zone meeting the next morning.
Wednesday we went to Alfonso (about 3 hours away) and participated in an apartment painting project. The DasMarines Zone was there (16 Elders and 4 Sisters). The apartment belongs to 2 of their own and it was in desperate need of a face-lift.
While we were visiting and working some of the Elders asked about our Naic Zone FHE’s. The next thing we knew they were asking if we would do one for them if they can get permission from the Mission President to travel to Naic. I think we’re creating a monster! It will be fun to see if they can arrange it. We’ve got to start working on some more Philippine dishes. I’m experimenting with a chicken noodle sopas today. If it is good will be making and serving it on Thursday for the branch missionary training meeting. Yep, you guessed it, sopas is soup.

Elder Smith went with the Maragondon Elders on Thursday. I stayed home with a tummy ache. They visited several less active families. Transfer s are next week so we’ll be getting some new blood. We were sad this week to lose one of our new ZL’s. Elder Vaka has been called as an AP. He’ll do wonderfully but he was a bit sad about leaving the Zone. So this transfer week is going to bring lots of changes and challenges. Should be fun!

As some of you may have noticed from previous postings I’m fascinated with the funeral customs here. Elder Smith just humors me every time I want to visit another cemetery. We’re posting a bunch of pics from the funeral we attended yesterday. Our wonderful District President Pipit’s mother died last weekend. She was 93 and he and his 9 (total 10) siblings hosted an amazing and traditional memorial. The body is taken to the mortuary and embalmed then placed in the casket and taken to the home of the deceased. It is on display 24/7 for however long the family determines.Folks come and go the entire time and pay their respects and visit. The family is cooking constantly as it is expected that the guests will be fed. Pres. Pipit is the only member in his pre-dominate Catholic family so the services were held at the Catholic church.After the funeral the congregation files out and then follows the herse to the cemetery on foot. The procession is usually led by a band. No jazz music, just slow, sad stuff.
As we were walking home from the cemetary we met another funeral procession on the way to the cemetary.