Sunday, September 25, 2016

Neighborhood Tour and Zone Conference

We're branching out and exploring our neighborhood.

Such wonderful color!

Too many beautiful flowers to include.  This one just "bloomed."

We can actually walk to the Market.  I love best the booths with the native handmade items.  

Anyone who has seen the movie "Ghost Busters" will "get" the name of the street that leads to our home.

Many homes show their devotion with plaques such as these or small statues of Mary in their gardens.

Since we are out in the morning we encounter people selling their wares.  These are floor mats.  We also saw women with buckets of fish and others carrying bins of vegetables...all on their heads.

We walk by some very large, beautiful homes...

and very humble homes on the same street.  

This is an example of a "Sari Sari" store.  There are one or two on every block.  They are usually in the front of a home and face the street.  They carry snacks, drinks and cigarettes.  Many of them also sell cooked food at dinner time.

There are plenty of animals in the neighborhood.  Chickens (some to eat, others to be fighters), lots of dogs and cats,  Caribou, and an occasional pig or two.

We came upon the scene of a grandfather buying an ice dessert for his granddaughters.  He had taken them out on his tricycle to look for the ice man who carries the ingredients in two different buckets which he carries on each end of a stick across his shoulders.  We weren't able to get a photo of the ice man but we did get these beautiful excited children.

Almost every little town has a shop that makes princess clothing for adults and children.  We pass this one as we walk.

The highlight of last week was our opportunity to attend Zone Conference.  We took the ferry off the island to Lipa.  There were three conferences on three different days in order to accommodate the whole mission.  Ours was on Wednesday and there were two other zones meeting with us.  It was a day long event which included workshops, training, talks and lunch.  President and Sister Mangum are loved and revered by their missionaries.  We comment often about how many hours they spend interviewing, in meetings, traveling, organizing and praying over the mission.  President Mangum is a master story teller and gave some powerful lessons from 1st Samuel in the Old Testament about the story of David and Goliath.  We had some wonderful discussions this week as we visited with the Elders and Sisters and could tell the lessons were well learned and understood.  We love our Elders and Sisters.  Each one has an amazing story of sacrifice and conversion.  They are the future leaders and strength of the church in the Philippines.  They are a great example to us.

Some perks of our trip to Lipa: Hot shower, lunch at the Pancake House, dinner at Burger King, dinner with President and Sister Mangum and the office couple, Elder and Sister Howard.  We shopped at S&R which is owned by Costco and offers many "American" items we've missed.   There was also the excitement of seeing a Seven Eleven which Elder Bellessa entered with great anticipation only to find the slurpee machine not working.

This is the sight that greets us as the ferry docks or departs.  These are families hoping someone on the boat will  through coins.  The young boys dive and retrieve them.  Life can be very hard for these people but there seems to be an underlying happiness that those of us who have so much don't understand.  They are good, loving, kind, and spiritual. you'll enjoy this linkr


Sunday, September 18, 2016

Views From the Road and Teaching English

 Views From the Road: These little piggies went to market.

In Calapan we saw this little girl playing school teacher in front of a side street shop.

We  commented that many of the trucks would not work on the US highways that have over passes.  There are no over passes on our island. This load is at least 18 feet high.

Tricycles are not just for people.  This one is transporting a cow.

Many of the homes are right next to the roadway.  It presents an additional hazard for the driver since there are often children, dogs, goats or walkers on the edge of the road.

We encounter interesting garden ornaments. 

  Another example of a colorful home.  This one even features a political banner.

It is rice harvest time.  Even the rice bags and workers add beauty by their color.

We have added new English classes to our schedule.  Besides teaching the missionaries, we teach at three branches.  One on Friday evening and two on Saturday.  It makes for long, but enjoyable days.  The members are anxious to improve their skills because it is a benefit for better employment and leadership.

District meeting at the Pinamalayan chapel.  Elder Reese is conducting.

We are at the Victoria chapel for zone "P Day"activity.  Elder Labastida is on the right with a member of the Victoria Branch, who cooked lunch, between Elder and Sister Bellessa.

Our activity ended with a wonderful traditional Filipino feast.  It is served on a banana tree leaf and eaten with fingers only.  You can see how excited everyone is.  It was delicious.  We loved seeing how much the missionaries enjoyed their time together.  Basketball, chess, church movies, singing, dancing and just visiting.  Elder Bellessa showed the Elders and Sisters some serious moves on the basketball court!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Christmas Greetings

Last week when we were in Naujan we heard the Primary children singing Christmas carols.  We thought it was strange until we encountered this tree and learned that the season begins in September.

Public Transportation

This was a family history seminar.  We were surprised by the huge turnout.   Elder and Sister Davis came from San Pablo came to do the presentation.  We had an opportunity to talk with them and heard their amazing conversion story.  What great people we are meeting!

The sights and smells of the market

We attended a baptism at the Victoria District building.  Victoria is midway to all of the other branches of the district so they have a beautiful place where all of the other branches can come meet as a group.  The fairly large chapel has pews instead of chairs and it is very impressive.  Again, we are usually the only car in the parking lot but that is okay because the parking lot is actually a full size basketball court.  Basketball is huge in the Philippines.  NBA games are broadcast live.

We walked through the jungle with the elders to visit a less active, part member family.  It was quite an adventure.  The big event of the day was a popular activity called "spider fight".  There was a loud excited group of young men who put two spiders on a stick then bet as to which spider would knock the other off the stick first.  It seemed like a happy place in a small community where they were having a fun day when we were there.

We arrived in Pola around 7PM but by that time most everything was closed while the residents were out talking or playing.  We hadn't eaten and luckily found a kind hearted man who walked us though the town and convinced someone to make us a hotdog.  It is a beautiful spot but not a place that caters to, or sees, tourists so there were no restaurants and only one place to stay.  It is small and everyone seems to know each other.  They claim there has never been any crime there.  We got plenty of stares as we walked along.  A sweet sister from the branch saw us walk by where she worked and was excited to talk to us.  We saw her when we arrived at church the next morning.

The beautiful daughter of the maid at the hotel

Local Market

We arrived after the sun went down.  Since we are on the equator the sun comes up at 6:30 AM and goes down at 6:30 PM.  We had a harrowing drive in the dark where there were people and animals along the side of the road and many vehicles traveling without lights.  There were a few white knuckle moments but Elder Bellessa, the road warrior, got us there safely...but never again will be drive at night on the mountain roads.

There is beautiful color everywhere

Because it is a long drive from Calapan to Pola, we spent the night in the only hotel/resort in the city.  It was right on the ocean so we awakened to a beautiful sunrise.  The fishermen were coming in with their boats and worked on their nets right outside our room.

This is the branch meeting house.  It is literally a home that has been made into a meeting house.  The lower level is the chapel/all purpose room.  There are two small rooms upstairs.  One is for the Primary the other is for the investigator class.  The Young Men and Women meet on the terrace patio area.  It is a humble but sacred place where the members share their love and testimonies.

These are the beautiful children of the Pola branch Primary.  They sang sweetly, with gusto, "I Am a Child of God"  Their leaders do a wonderful job of teaching in their small Primary room.  

It is easy to keep spiritual thoughts during travel time since most of the Jeepneys have quotes, logos, or paintings suggesting good thoughts. This one says "Lord is my Guide." David thought this was a good one to follow but ended up passing it anyway.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Not Missing Swiss Days..But Missing Our Friends and Family

Swiss Miss

Well..we know we've missed the big Swiss Days week-end..but not really.  We received a blow by blow video and lots of photos and FaceTime with our children and grandchildren to give us the highlights without the work.  We have a long standing tradition of Howard Garrard and his girls driving from Las Vegas to join in the festivities.  We are working hard here but not half as hard as working at the "Swiss Hamburger" booth.  

We have a large ceramic of a water buffalo (called Carabou here) sitting on our buffet in Midway.  Little did we ever think we would be coming to this country to be up close and personal with these beautiful, hardworking beasts.

Since it so hot and we travel quite a bit, we eat out often.  This is a restaurant on the coast overlooking the bay just minutes from our home.  We had a delicious meal and took home enough for another meal the next day for just $10.   Since I'm such a thrifty person, I'm thrilled with great haircuts (which includes shoulder massage) for $3.  A full back massage is $2. with tip $3. 

We didn't stay for the complete sunset, which was spectacular but this was such a charming scene.

This is the view as we approach the apartment of the Poli elders.  Poli is a small coastal town with charming homes and a small branch.

Just outside of Poli is a brightly painted house which reminded us of Starr Stratford since orange is her favorite color.  She would be very happy here.  Orange seems to be a favorite color of the country since we see it so often.  It is on cars, motorbikes, houses, clothes and even used in striping the roads.  

While purchasing Gatorade at the store, we encountered this interesting drink...quite descriptive.  We haven't tried it yet but thought it was photograph worthy.  We'll let you know how it tastes.

We were invited by President Asis of  our branch to join with his family and the sisters for Family Home Evening.  We had a great lesson, wonderful dinner and lots of fun playing games.  He and Sister Asis have five children.  Two are on missions.  He is holding Nephi, who reminded us so much of our four year old grandson, Axel.

Saturday afternoon Elder Bellessa baptized this beautiful  eleven year old convert named Aubrey Torrecampo.  The sister missionaries taught Aubrey as well as her older sister, who was baptized two weeks ago.  

We attended church at the Naujan Branch which is about a forty five minute drive from Calapan.  It meets in a beautiful, small building with about fifty members present.  Many of the members were absent working in the rice fields since it is harvest time and were needed.  The lessons and talks were wonderful.  We don't always understand the language but we do feel the spirits and loving kindness of the members.  Relief Society and Priesthood met in these native outbuildings and they were very pleasant and much more cool than being inside the building.  

The lovely sisters of the Naujan Branch, Philippines  (and one little photo bomber).