Sunday, May 25, 2014

In the mission field, every zone has a name.  We are part of the senior zone, and we are "Monson's Warriors".  The seniors who serve in the temple, are a different zone and actually, it is a little bit confusing.  Although they come as part of our mission, President Revillo is not their ecclesiastical leader.  The Temple President is.  They serve at his direction, and we rarely see them, except in the temple, of course.   
Incidentally, if you are considering a senior mission, and if you want to ask for your mission assignment,  you might tell them the temple in Hawaii.  You get to be in HAWAII, but you live in temple housing, so it is affordable!  Our temple missionaries have their own zone, of course,  They are the Adam and Eve Zone.
25 of "Warriors" met bright and early at the PAO (Pacific Area Office) and climbed into vans with drivers.  We then drove for about 2 1/2 hours South, to San Pablo.  That is another mission.  6 others met us there, from the Manila Mission office.  WE got to talk to them a little bit, and hope to learn from them in the future.  

Our goal was Villa Escudero:

Villa Escudero Plantations is 800 hectares (2,000 acres) of working coconut plantation and hacienda located 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) south of the city of San Pablo, Laguna province on the border with Quezon province in the Philippines. Since 1981, the plantation has opened its doors as a resort offering village tours, museum tour, food and accommodations. It has developed a worldwide reputation as a focal point to experience Philippine culture and history in a beautiful rural setting.

Villa Escudero Plantations was founded in 1872 by Don Plácido Escudero and his wife Doña Claudia Marasigan. Originally a sugar cane plantation, the crop was converted to coconut by their son, Don Arsenio Escudero in the early 1900s. A pioneering agriculture industrialist, he built the country’s first working hydroelectric plant - Labasin Dam - to supply his desiccated coconut factory and the Escudero Plantation house, which he and his wife Doña Rosario Adap built in 1929.[

And yes, it is still in the family, but they are capitalizing on the value of the land, also.  We went down to enjoy the 'family friendly" resort.  It is a beautiful, peaceful place, and not usually as busy as it was this last week before school begins.  But several of "Monsons Warriors" are leaving this month, so we wanted one last party!
When we arrived, we met our guide, checked in and got on a Carrabao cart to go out to the river.  

There are statues all over the resort, depicting the various activities that are a part of plantation life.

The Hydroelectric plant is a dammed river with a waterfall.  So, they use the waterfall for water play AND for the restaurant.  

This is about 1/2 of the tables,  As you see, the water flows over the dam, into the resulting lake.  You remove your shoes or wear sandles, roll up your pant legs, or wear short pants, (or swimsuits) and walk into the water.  Then, you go through one of two buffet lines, pick up your lunch on a banana leaf, find a table,  and sit down and eat rice, pancit, fresh fruit, chicken, pork, stew, etc.  with your fingers.  (they provide a washing station at the beginning of the buffet line, so that you can convince yourself that your hands are clean.  Sure they are!)

But just in case that sounds like complaining, it isn't!  We had a wonderful day and a great time.  The only concern was that someone of us would slip and fall.  No one did.  We all arrived home in good shape.  After the lunch, we went to the Cultural Hall.  

Open air, right on the river made of bamboo panels and with a LOT of these huge hardwood chandeliers.  It was day, so we never saw them lighted.  

We were then very entertained by a wonderful cultural show.  The muscisians and the dancers are, honestly, the servers, drivers, maintenance people, door people, etc. They introduced them to us after the show. 
Here is the percussion section of the orchestra.  There was a fabulous "string section" of young people with mandolins and bass and other things we didn't recognize.  Missed that picture. 

After the show, we went back to the plantation house, which is still a private residence.  Beside it, however, is the huge church which was built for the family and the plantation workers.  It is now a museum, full of the most interesting and confusing collection of things. Unfortunately, photographs were not allowed, and professional ones were not available.  

 They store the huge, elaborate floats there, all religious themes, that are used for all the holy days parades. Lots of different depictions of the Savior.
There is a truly remarkable piece of art just stuck on a back room wall.  It looks like a black and white hand drawn picture, about 2/12 feet by 4 feet, of the Savior, surrounded by angels, apostles, etc.  Incredible detail.  Next to it is a magnifying glass.  With the glass, you can see that it is actually the entire New Testament, written in the tiniest of print, with verses numbered, etc.  I REALLY would have liked a picture of that!

We then got back in vans, and drove home. On the way, we did see a very Filipino thing:

Someone had a flat.  So, they stopped in the lane and got out to fix it.  Traffic moves pretty fast on the expressway.  That is  a huge bus right in front of us, giving them as much room as they could!  

Like at home, this has been Memorial Day Weekend. 

Not really a holiday for the Country, but a big deal for the American War Memorial.  They plan for months, and on Saturday they had volunteers come out and put two flags on  every grave; the American flag and the flag of the Philippines.  Remember, 17,000 plus graves!  152 acres.
The area presidency is a large part of it, also.  President Nielson's father was here, and accompanied General McArthur when he came back to the Philippines to reclaim the Islands.

We were invited, of course, and joined about 500 people, at an early ceremony on Sunday Morning.  
I am not a really name dropper, but if I were:
This is just one of those occasions when we recognize that we are enjoying the company of those who are far greater than ourselves.  

All of the area presidency were there, with their wives.  All of the major players in the church offices here, like the general counsel and the public affairs and the local church officers.  We know them all by name, and they know us.  
We also met the woman who is the attache of the American Embassy for Veterans Affairs.  A truly lovely woman, a beautiful representative for our country.  Her picture is not good, Elder Schlager snapped it while I was talking to her and I think she turned away to show me something. Her father is an American, her mother a Filipina.  She thanked us for what we are doing for this country.

It was held in front of the lovely chapel we have visited many times.  There were lots of  floral tributes, including the one from the United States and the one from our offices.  This is the one from our Church.

 All of the branches of the US military were represented.  The colors (both nations) were carried in to begin and retired together by the joint Military. 
The music was provided by the Philippine Army Band. Most of "Monson's Warriors" are also Americans, so most of us attended.  So glad we did.  It was inspiring and sacred.  

The speakers were  Ambassador Philip S. Goldberg, US Ambassador to the Philippines, also General Bautista, the Chief of Staff of the Philippines Armed Forces, and Admiral Samual Locklear, US Navy, Commander of the United States Pacific Command. 

General Bautista said: "We are here, to see that what happened can never happen again.  Peace and freedom are built upon heroism and self-sacrifice."

The Boy Scouts of the Philippines were there, in uniforms, walking around passing out cold water bottles to anyone who would take another one.  It was hot, and they were hot.  When it was over, this young man did not high-tail it to the refreshment tent.  He found the BIGGEST fan they had out there, and rested in front of (on!)  it.

The most touching moment for me was when it was all over.  This man comes every year, I guess.  He is a survivor of the Bataan Death March.  He must be nearly 90, as my father would be.  I can only suppose that this is how he was dressed as a prisoner. (maybe no baseball cap!)  In his hands is a photograph, of the prisoners, with him in it.  Some family members are with him.  

AND a service project too!

Tomorrow night is Senior Zone FHE.  With the spurring of the Johnsons, we are going to supply and assemble simple back to school supplies for the 210 Primary Children in the Morong Zone.   Pictures afterward.  I promise!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

TOMORROW IS EXACTLY 9 MONTHS since we left home to fly to Utah and begin our mission.  Next week will mark our halfway point!    We can hardly believe it.
Here we are, as you can see, still standing!   A little older, a little wiser (we hope), and a lot more experienced than when we left.    
 One thing about our new office job is that we are pretty peaceful companions.  As it turns out, I have my responsibilities  and Elder S has his.  We have at least one thing in common with preschool children.  We "play" better side-by-side, than together!  

WE did have a sort of adventure last week.  When Sister Medina left, she could not take everything on the plane with her. Too heavy.  We promised to ship it.  So, she said to use the bus line.  OK, we can do that.  We took it, went to the depot, parked about 2 blocks away, carried it, and found the "shipping dept".  But, wrong terminal for Isabella, we were at the wrong depot.  Tried to find the other one.  No way to get where we thought we needed to go.  About 2 hours later, we were back at the office, no further ahead.  Elder S. was ready to give it up. An hour and half in this traffic just turns him into a bear.  But I got a taxi, put the stuff in the back, told him where to go.  Well, he took us to a different place, about 15 minutes!, parked and waited for us.  

This is the bus depot, and see all the stuff waiting to be shipped? Now we know why the buses are so tall and so huge---they carry a lot more than people.

Elder S., arranging to send her packages.  But it cost us about $6.oo, we sent it on Sat afternoon, and she had it on Sunday morning.  Everything looks so "rinky-dink" here, but it works!  They get stuff done.  
Then, we got back in the taxi, and about 45 minutes after we left we were back at the office.  That cost us about $5.00.   I am a BIG fan of taxis.  From now on, if we have to go someplace difficult, we are going to let them do the driving. (WE might be good New Yorkers some day!)

This is sort of interesting, I think.  File:Central temple.JPG
This is the INC Temple.  The Iglesia Ni Cristo, or Church of Christ.  
They are our :"Competition".  Although the country is about 95% Catholic, they are third behind Muslim, with about 2.5%.  
They were founded in 1914, by Felix Manalo.
WE were told, by people who know, that he was a catholic, but became disenchanted with it.  So, he studied several other religions, and found the LDS church.  He went to Utah, and told the church leaders, "Make me an apostle, and I will bring the entire Philippines to the LDS church".   Well, of course, that is not how it is done.  So, he came home and started his own church.  The buildings are everywhere.  Every single little neighborhood, has one, and they range from really large to very small.  They are often very near ours.  They are different colors, and I guess the color denotes the level of income of the members, so that you can go with your own "class".
They baptize by immersion, require tithing of their members, (as in, you are billed and they collect it at the door,) They also profess to be the only true church, as in a restoration of the church Jesus founded.  
Felix Manalo professed to be a prophet, his son followed him and his grandson now leads the church.  Of course, he also said he would live forever.  But guess what?  HE'S DEAD!

This is one of the smaller chapels. See, it is blue. 
And a bigger one.  It is pink.  They are also yellow, and green.  They are celebrating their Centennial Birthday this year.   When the floods came in Tacloban, they barred the doors and would not let their (or any) people in.  We sent our members to ours, invited anyone else to come.  Many INC members took refuge in our buildings, and have since decided they have found the "real, true church", and joined ours.   

On the way to church, we go through Angono.  Angono is the "art capitol" of the area.  So, here are some examples of the art you see there.  

And Saturday night we went to a shopping place I have been wanting to try.  Turned out, they were doing an "event", or a special weekend of lots of different craftspeople and designers.  I bought a few things, and this designer wanted to have my picture with her.   So, I got one, too.  Her name is Nicole. I think.  She made the skirt I purchased.  

BTW, did  mention that it is Back To School time, here?  The schools are out from mid'-March until June 1.  So, the stores are full of little uniforms and we are doing a service project.  
The Senior Missionary Couples are going to put together school supply kits for 210 children, the count for the total number of children in the six primaries in the Morong District.  As we know many of those children, OK by us!  It is a burden for the families, as it can be in the states, as well, for many families.  Remember when Public Schools actually supplied paper, pencils, crayons, hand soap, and tissues?  
IF YOU DO, you are OLD, like me!

 I HAVE been reading the conference talks, and enjoying them so much.  My Sister told me, "We are all enrolled in the College of Exaltation, and it is a course of individual study."  Conference makes that so clear to me, as we each listen and read and find the messages that are intended just for us.  Here is the quote from President Uchtdorf that I most especially learned something from:

Why does God command us to be grateful? 
All of His commandments are given to make blessings available to us. 
...those who set aside the bottle of bitterness and lift instead the goblet of gratitude can find a purifying drink of healing, peace, and understanding.

So, as grateful as I am for the blessing of being here, I am trying to grow beyond gratitude for "things" , to an attitude of gratitude that is part of my nature.

Sunday, May 11, 2014


We are so grateful for three fans and three air conditioners in the apartment, one A/C in the car, four in the office, lots of showers, and everything else that makes it bearable for us. I don't know how our missionaries manage, except that they take cold showers and each one has a fan that blows on their faces all night while they sleep.  Our son told us that in Brazil, they did the same.  He said,"if the power went out, we were all up.  There was just no sleeping without the fans".

But, it is still wonderful, even hot.  We did notice that there were a lot fewer people out in the streets on the way home today.  Maybe the heat?  Maybe Mother's Day?  Not sure.

YES, they do celebrate Mother's Day here.  It is interesting to us how many of the American Holidays are also part of their culture.  Valentine's Day, for sure.  I will let you know about Father's Day!
 Here I am with our little Primary, after they went into Relief Society to sing today.

I am not a big fan of Mother's Day. 

   Especially since my own mother is gone.  I don't much like the emotions that get all stirred up for people.  Also, the burden it puts on my children to find some way to express their love for me.  They are all very good at that, anyway, and I enjoy the random things they do that tell me in so many ways.  

So, here are my thoughts on Mother's Day:
1.  I have been in too many meetings where the Ward leaders were trying to find a way to honor the holiday at church.   I have told them, "This is a Lose-Lose situation for you.  No matter WHAT you do, someone is going home in tears."

2.  Every one of Heavenly Father's daughters is already a mother.  He only has two varieties of children:
Sons, who preside, thus  fathers
Daughters, who nurture, thus mothers

3.  Every one of us has a mother to honor on Mother's Day.  None of us has a perfect mother, there aren't any.  Honoring her, however, is a commandment.

With all of that having been said, I admit that I have enjoyed very much the happy surprises that my children have gifted me with on Mother's Day. (And lots of other days, too!)  Also, it tickles me to see the efforts my sons make to please and demonstrate their appreciation to their wives on that special day.  

SO, here is what the Binangonan Branch did for Mother's Day.  
They had a Primary Activity, and the children made small floral pins for the mothers.  
We spent sharing time preparing two songs to sing to them.  We went into  Relief Society, at the beginning, and sang the songs, and the children presented the pins to their mothers, grandmothers, aunts, whoever was there.  Then they made sure we all had one.  Then we went back to Primary.  
I also received a very impressive "cookie on a stick" from the YW, made at their own activity.
Interesting that the talks were not about mothers, and the Guys had no "skin in the game" at all!  
Here they are, all lined up and practicing to go and sing.  we even had a soloist today!

AS usual, the week had some highlights, and some low lights!

Here is your funny story for the week:
When Elder Smith was showing me how to do some of the things I have to do, like letters in Mail Merge, he mentioned that we can also choose to email them, if it is a better choice than mail.  But, he also told me he had never done that.  I was trained in the MTC, but that was a LONG time ago.  So, we did a quick little 'test" to find out how it worked.  But, we did not know that it was just a one-click process, with no warning or checks at all.  We set it up to just try it, with a letter we were using (STL assignment) and the first name on the list.  It happened to be Elder Allen. We looked at each other, and went OOPS!  
Sure enough, on Tuesday, Elder Allen comes in to talk to me.  "Sister, who sends the letters to parents about new assignments.  Is that you?"  
It turns out, we informed his parents that he has just been called as a new Sister Training Leader.  He was, I think, a little bit disappointed to know that I only sent one, not dozens, of the wrong email.  He did say, however, that they had a good laugh about it, and he is saving the letter for his journal.
Needless to say, I may follow Elder Smith's precedence, and use snail mail all the time!!  

Thursday was MLC, or Missionary Leadership Council.  All the zone leaders, and STLs meet at the mission home for the day, with a nice lunch, and plan and train for the next 6 weeks.  Elder Schlager was asked to instruct them on the "proper care and importance of Baptismal Records."  One of our issues here is the loss, or lack of recording, of records of ordinances, ordainings, etc.  The clerks just are so new to all of this.  Well, everyone is!  Elder S has suggested that, like at home, they actually do some training of clerks at the leadership training meetings.  In the meantime, he has asked the Missionaries to scan and send to him every Monday, the BRs for the baptisms they are reporting.  That way, he can check the numbers against the actual forms he is  sent to record. The hard copies are too easy to misplace.

In the middle of that busy day, though, we had to run over to the temple for another sealing!  Vanessa and Dexter Candari went to the temple!  We saw them early in the morning, made sure they had what they needed, and left them to the Johnsons.  Then, we went back in the afternoon to witness the sealing of their family. 
  Here is Yanni, outside the doors with Vanessa, waiting for her Dad to show up.  She was so excited, they could barely hold her down.  And she LOVED her white dress!  

And here they all are, Dexter, Vanessa, and Yanni Candari, another Eternal Family. WE were so blessed to be a part of it.  I LOVE my mission!
On Friday, I got a phone call waking me up.  The two elders who were scheduled to fly back to Mindoro after the training, missed their plane.  There is only one plane per day to, and one plane per day from, Mindoro, the other part of our mission.  So, first job of the day was to get them a flight for Saturday afternoon.
I also got a call this week from the US, from the grandmother of one of our new missionaries.  She was concerned that he is having a hard time adjusting.  And a call from the Training APs, because they didn't have a key to the office.  And a letter about someone's package, and asking if it was received.
 And an email telling us that Elder Christiansen of the Presidency of the Seventy is coming to hold a meeting with our missionaries on the 27th.  But that was the day scheduled for zone conference in Mindoro, so we had to change that, and a lot of plane reservations.  And today, calls about area codes for different countries, so that they can call home for Mother's Day.  
I asked Elder S, "why do they call me with all their problems?"   He said, "because you are their mom away from home".  Guess so.  I got a lot of messages wishing me "Happy Mother's Day."

Friday afternoon, we had an office meeting, and two of the couples were "coding", so they couldn't drive home til seven o'clock.  So, we decided to go to dinner.  I asked Sister Revillo if they wanted to join us, and they could!  We tried a new restaurant they had read about, but had not had time to visit. 
WE are all pretty adventurous, or we wouldn't be here! 
We went to Bawais, a new Vietnamese restaurant near the temple. It was really, really, good.  
WE each ordered different things, and passed it around so we could try it all.  10 of us, appetizers and some drinks, plus our dinner, and it was all about p4000, or about $9.50 per person.  We had a very nice time.  President and Sister Revillo at the back, with the Barlows on his right.  Then Sheffers, and Johnsons are next to me.                                                   Don't we all look great?  
I know why Ponce de Leon never found the "Fountain of Youth".  
He was looking in the wrong country!  



Sunday, May 4, 2014

Life in the office is not boring ........

There is too much that we do not know how to do, and learning it all is taking a toll on us!  But, with lots of help from the patient office elders and the AP's, we ARE learning.  
One of the new responsbilities that Elder S has, is to keep the President's organization boards, in his two offices, up to date with pictures and transfers and new positions that they hold.  (ZL, DL, Trainer, STL, etc.)
He has an entirely new kind of work bench:   

He's gone from power tools to a paper cutter and a laminator, (is THAT a power tool?), and from staple gun to glue gun!   I think none of our children expected Dad to become a "scrapper"!  
Even though we are in the city, mostly, and not in the car much, we still see entertaining sights and learn new things every day.   

Here is one kind of Filipino delivery truck, and he was just a few blocks from our office.
Even here in the city, infrastructure has a completely  different look.  Do you see why the storms are so devastating?  It doesn't take much to take this stuff out!   

And, of course, there is the familiar, as well!
ON SUNDAY, we were at the Johnson's house for dinner.  There had been some problems in the branch out there.  These are the people we love, and it was worrisome for us.  There had been some misunderstandings, and then things were said which shouldn't be, and the hurt feelings, and it was a mess.  So, Johnsons asked them to come for "Family Home Evening", and invited us, too. Also the poor Branch President and his wife, who were dealing with it all.  
Even here, and maybe more so, because their experience and understanding is so shallow, members of the church can be pretty hard on each other.  Why IS that????
 It was pretty sticky at first, and a lot was said in Tagalog that I am sure we are GLAD we didn't understand.  But, in the end, everyone was laughing and happy and ready to try again.  Here they are, ready to go home and try harder.  Juhn and Marivic, Vanessa and Dexter, Sally and Ernesto Andreas, Abba and Lisa, and President and his wife.  Big party.  Sister Johnson is a miracle.  

What I did this week was:  

Take the Barlow's for a drive out to Sampaloc, to show them the country and take some things to our newly endowed family and also to a missionary. ( His mother, in Canada, sent a Huge Box; I was pretty sure she was in it!  But, we had to open it and repack in smaller boxes to get it in the trunk.  No mom, just lots of things for him and the members. He said, "this is just embarrassing")
Learn to use Mail Merge, and create, print, and mail LOTS of letters. 
Print the Missionary Recommendations for all twelve of the missionaries arriving next month, and create their files.
Request shuttles, and air plane tickets, from travel office, for lots of different things.
Order through the Global Visa Management (world-wide church program we use to manage ALL the missionaries) the travel arrangements for those going home this time.
Work on the ever-present and never-to-be-completed immigration forms, etc.  (This is becoming more and more of a problem.)  
Fill the candy bowl on my desk 3 times a day!  They have an endless capacity to come in and enjoy that little treat.
Try to get a little exercise in now and then---not too successful!
Eat far more sugar than is good for me, but I think I may have that under control, now that the stress levels are ebbing.

On Sunday we left very early with Whittakers and drove to Morong to District Conference.  That was great.  We had Elder Perez of the Seventy to speak to us, and saw old friends from all over the district.  Then we drove to Sampaloc and had a picnic, and went out to Aguilars to teach the final Temple Preparation lesson.  His parents and sister and brother were there, also her mother and two missionaries.  They are all going back to the temple this week for a Branch Temple trip, and they are really excited.  What fun this all is!

On the way home, we went to see a "resort" that they are going to take the youth to on Wed.  The Whittakers, the Johnsons, and the Jardines all were given a program, they all having workshops to do!  Nobody was asked or invited, just told.  "It's the Filipino way".  But Sister Whittaker wanted to see if they could go up the night before, and stay.  It is going to be a long way in the dark and very early Wed morning, but, I think they decided not to stay up there.

                                                                                                                                                                                        See the water bottle lantern?
As you can see, the view is spectacular, and the pool looked nice.  There is a zip line down to it!  
But this is the kitchen, seating area.  See the small refrigerator on the counter?  
It actually had a room with a queen sized bed. (And a mural on the wall.)  Or, there was a room with 7 cots.  All three couples could stay there together!  This room, though, is over $100.   Can you believe ?  We couldn't.  

GUESS WHAT?   There is a family in Teresa who needs a house.  Juhn and Dexter are ready to take on the project.  We would like to HELP with that project.  And, we thought some others might like to help, also.  If you would like to contribute to giving three families employment, and another family a home to live in, let us know!