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!

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