Sunday, November 27, 2016

Hope Springs Eternal

This is the sad tale of the little dog who loved us (or hoped we would feed it):  It was so skinny and sick it would slip between the bars of the gate and sleep beneath our car or at our front door.  It was so weak it could hardly walk and was covered with fleas and skin disease.  It was the hardest thing ever not to feed it.  We were told not to get close or touch dogs because of the health hazard it posed.  One day it didn't come and we haven't seen it for a whole week so we supposed it died.  What a hard thing it was to see it suffer.  Elder Bellessa knew he could be in trouble when Sister Bellessa started referring to the dog as "our dog".

The Stratford kids will be surprised to see that there is a whole aisle at the store just for different kinds of Mentos.  These candies are what Grandma Stratford gave them during church to keep them quiet.

The Tagalog translation is "Have a good time."

A daytime image of the Capitol Christmas Tree.

This Mindoro South District Meeting photo includes three of our new Elders.  To Elder Bellessa's right is Elder Jalova.  To Sister Bellessa's left Elders Duque and Yagomyom.  It takes us a while to learn how to pronounce the missionary's names.  To the right of Elder Jalova is Elder Fransico.  When Elder Fransico introduced his companion he said they were " the small and terrible elders from Pinamalayan" meaning that while they weren't very tall, they were mighty (and they are).


We had been planning on a very quiet Thanksgiving just the two of us but received an invitation on Tuesday to come to the mission home to share Thanksgiving dinner with the other senior couples.  President and Sister Mangum were in Manila for an area mission presidents training so Sister Spencer volunteered to do the food.  We were so happy at the thought of being with friends we love and admire.  President and Sister Mangum were able to join us as well.  We got to the Calapan pier in plenty of time so Elder Bellessa took a walk and ate some peanuts purchased from a vendor going car to car.

We appreciate the huge statue of the Savior watching over the pier and the usual prayer offered on a video as we depart.  When we arrive we are always met by these greeters.


Here is our group of senior missionary couples as well and President and Sister Mangum.  We feel so blessed to be serving with such wonderful friends.  Sister Spencer (front row on the end to my left) graciously volunteered to cook the meal which was delicious.  We loved visiting and sharing our love and adventures as well as seeing how our transferred elders and sisters were doing in their new areas.  We were served a delicious breakfast on Friday morning then made our way to the Batangas pier for our trip home.  When we got there we were told there would be no ferry that day and  perhaps none the next day because of a typhoon on Mindoro.  We had to go back to Batangas to find a hotel and spent the night (which was a treat).


King size bed, CNN, hot water, internet, very posh.


We got to the pier early Saturday morning...holding our breath, hoping the ferry was running and that we would get on.  This fellow standing next to our car presented a perfect image.  We're not sure where he got that shirt but thought it was appropriate for our circumstance.  Thankfully we got on the boat and made our way home.

Saturday evening we were able to teach our English class in Baco.  On our drive there we saw flood waters and raging rivers.  When we spoke to our class, we asked if anyone had been affected.  One of the girls said her home had been flooded up to their chests.  The water came all of a sudden, probably from a breached dike.  She was very matter of fact about it and said they had known the typhoon was coming so they moved everything to higher ground.  In her case, they had a second story and didn't seem to be worried.   She shrugged her shoulders and just said it would be okay but a lot of work to get their home clean again from the mud that would be left behind (photo from Google Images of a previous flood).  Resilience is one of the great qualities we admire in people we meet and observe in the Philippines.


Monday, November 21, 2016

Thanksgiving



How better to greet the Thanksgiving Holiday than to add a photo of a local turkey.

Don't "pig out" too much.


We are celebrating the 60th anniversary of  Mindoro Oriental.  Instead of floats as we would have in the US, there are about twenty five clever displays honoring different countries from around the world.  At night they are all lit up and quite fantastic.  As you can see, here is the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty (holding a Christmas gift), and the Empire State Building.  

My weekly chronicle of pop bottle creations. This twenty foot high tree is made with Mountain Dew bottles  Check out the musical instruments from a video we took in the city of  Socorro


The crowning decoration at the Mindoro Capital is this beautiful tree.  It is decorated with large stars of different colors that are made from bamboo then covered with various colors of plastic with a light inside.  We wish we could bring some home..but alas they wouldn't fit in our suitcase.

Elder Bellessa had minor surgery to deal with an ingrown toenail.  When he was waiting for the doctor in the operating room he spied this poster and hoped the doctor was going to give him a drug to deaden the pain.  Gratefully the doctor told him it was okay and a local was given.  Some drugs we are thankful for.


There is a neighborhood not far from our house that has intrigued us as we've gone by.  There is just a driveway in but  the number of meters at the entrance, indicated many homes were tucked back in among the vegetation. We hesitated going in since it seemed "guarded" by these rather intimidating men.  We were brave and walked up to them.  When we asked if we could take photos they were totally friendly and wanted to talk.  All the little children ran away since someone like us probably hadn't come before.  The women also disappeared.  

The men all gathered together and had a good time getting their photo taken, especially when we told them how guapo (handsome) they were.


We often see men carrying and petting their special roosters.  Cock fighting is a very big sport here.  We imagine if your rooster was able to earn you some money he would have the right to be strutted around town to show your friends.

A boy with his homing pigeon:  This is a hobby we've become aware of.  While we were there this young man threw the pigeon in the air then clapped his hands for it to come back.


Here is our newest arrival, Sister Masangcay.  She is fresh from the Mission Home and full of enthusiasm.  She is a college graduate and speaks English very well and is adorable.  Six new elders also came off the boat on transfer day.  We'll be able to get acquainted with them starting this week.

 Elder Reyes and Elder Mesias are in the mission van on their way to their next areas.   They have a special place in our hearts.  So hard to see them go.


We have a strong bond with Elder Labastida who was transferred to a new area and is waiting for his visa to the North Denver mission.  He has been on Mindoro ever since we came and there were a few tears as he left.  He is an amazing young man who has endured more hardships in his life than any of us can imagine.  He will still be on his mission when we get home so we plan to see him then.  We won't be seeing most of these missionaries again since they are from far flung areas of the Philippines but we hope we can keep in touch by email or FaceTime.

Elder Acedilla (purple tie) is sitting between his and Elder Pocong's two wonderful converts.  He is home with his family now but reports he is reading his scriptures and offering prayers and looking for the right bride to take to the temple.  We think he gave away most of his clothing to the new converts because both are planning on missions.


A happy ending to our week was seeing the Sosa family at church.  They live a considerable distance from the chapel and find it difficult to attend because of the lack of transportation.  The father works construction in Manila and was home for three days so they came together.  We love the Sosas and enjoy being their home teachers. 








Thanksgiving



How better to greet the Thanksgiving Holiday than to add a photo of a local turkey.

Don't "pig out" too much.


We are celebrating the 60th anniversary of  Mindoro Oriental.  Instead of floats as we would have in the US, there are about twenty five clever displays honoring different countries from around the world.  At night they are all lit up and quite fantastic.  As you can see, here is the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty (holding a Christmas gift), and the Empire State Building.  

My weekly chronicle of pop bottle creations. This twenty foot high tree is made with Mountain Dew bottles  Check out the musical instruments from a video we took in the city of  Socorro


The crowning decoration at the Mindoro Capital is this beautiful tree.  It is decorated with large stars of different colors that are made from bamboo then covered with various colors of plastic with a light inside.  We wish we could bring some home..but alas they wouldn't fit in our suitcase.

Elder Bellessa had minor surgery to deal with an ingrown toenail.  When he was waiting for the doctor in the operating room he spied this poster and hoped the doctor was going to give him a drug to deaden the pain.  Gratefully the doctor told him it was okay and a local was given.  Some drugs we are thankful for.


There is a neighborhood not far from our house that has intrigued us as we've gone by.  There is just a driveway in but  the number of meters at the entrance indicated many homes were tucked back in among the vegetation. We hesitated going in since it seemed "guarded" by these rather intimidating men.  We were brave and walked up to them.  When we asked if we could take photos they were totally friendly and wanted to talk.  All the little children ran away since someone like us probably hadn't come before.  The women also disappeared.  

The men all gathered together and had a good time getting their photo taken, especially when we told them how guapo (handsome) they were.


We often see men carrying and petting their special roosters.  Cock fighting is a very big sport here.  We imagine if your rooster was able to earn you some money he would have the right to be strutted around town to show your friends.

A boy with his homing pigeon:  This is a hobby we've become aware of.  While we were there this young man threw the pigeon in the air then clapped his hands for it to come back.


Here is our newest arrival, Sister Masangcay.  She is fresh from the Mission Home and full of enthusiasm.  She is a college graduate and speaks English very well and is adorable.  Six new elders also came off the boat on transfer day.  We'll be able to get acquainted with them starting this week.

 Elder Reyes and Elder Mesias are in the mission van on their way to their next areas.   They have a special place in our hearts.  So hard to see them go.


We have a strong bond with Elder Labastida who was transferred to a new area and is waiting for his visa to the North Denver mission.  He has been on Mindoro ever since we came and there were a few tears as he left.  He is an amazing young man who has endured more hardships in his life than any of us can imagine.  He will still be on his mission when we get home so we plan to see him then.  We won't be seeing most of these missionaries again since they are from far flung areas of the Philippines but we hope we can keep in touch by email or FaceTime.

Elder Acedilla (purple tie) is sitting between his and Elder Pocong's two wonderful converts.  He is home with his family now but reports he is reading his scriptures and offering prayers and looking for the right bride to take to the temple.  We think he gave away most of his clothing to the new converts because both are planning on missions.


A happy ending to our week was seeing the Sosa family at church.  They live a considerable distance from the chapel and find it difficult to attend because of the lack of transportation.  The father works construction in Manila and was home for three days so they came together.  We love the Sosas and enjoy being their home teachers. 








Monday, November 14, 2016

Trials, Heroe, Answered Prayer







Here is the photo of our hero, Temie Andiho and his wife.  We are very dependent on our computer for keeping contact with our families, the sisters and elders, getting news from home and writing our histories.  When we turned it on Friday the screen was black and nothing we could do would remedy it.  We took it to an IT guy at our branch president's office. We took it to the computer stores at the mall, and several repair shops.  There is no one who owns or knows how to fix Mac computers on Mindoro and there was no possibility of repair.  We were very sad, worried, stressed about losing information and contact with family.  We finally went to a random repair guy who has a small shop in back of his wife's sidewalk restaurant. We had never been to his shop before and feel as if we were guided to his shop.  They live behind a curtain at the back.  He said it had to go to Manila and that he was planning on going there for parts the next morning.  He was our only hope...so we handed him the computer, a sizable amount of money and trusted that he would do all he could to find a way to fix it in Manila.  We prayed and hoped that he would do as he said.  We walked by his shop this morning and saw it was still boarded up so we went home to get ready for the day and went back an hour later.  The shop was open and as we went in, it was one of those time you hold your breath and look into someone's eyes to get a clue as to the answer.  He greeted us then brought the computer from the bag and turned it on and Hallelujah, Hallelujah! It fired right up with the screen working.  We hugged him and thanked him and said we would send anyone we knew to him.  I think we'll do something special for him at Christmas!

Another reason to be happy.  The Cowboys are having a great season.  If we were at home we would be watching each game.  Since we can't do that we can get the score and sometimes highlights..Such joy!

Elder Bellessa is enjoying "GG fish" prepared by a member for Zone training meeting.  


We loved seeing this small sanctuary next to a rice field.  We are supposing the workers or anyone passing by can come in to worship and find rest.

The church interior.  We drove by one evening and saw a priest in his robes at the alter blessing the people.  We think the priest has a route and comes perhaps once a month to this outpost.  It was a sweet sight to see.

Coconuts, coconuts everywhere but no place to buy.  There is no coconut meat for sale in the grocery stores or fruit stands.   We're sure it is because it is so plentiful none of the locals would buy it.  We had to look far and wide before we found a source for it.  The same thing applies to dried mangos.  Costco at home sells yummy dried mango from the Philippines but so far we haven't been able to buy any here.

We hope none of these fall off.


We finally found a vendor on the top floor in the corner of the market. He opened the coconut and put it on a grinder to separate the meat from the shell.  When we ask the price it is always given as the "foreigner"price.  He wanted P80 (about $1.65) but took the P10 we offered (about $.20).  We add sugar then bake it to make sure it is sanitized then put it on almost every fruit we eat...Yum! 

We marvel each day about the beauty of the sky and clouds.  It is ever changing and wonderful to see.

As we stopped by the side of the road to take a cell call, We had to take a photo of this lush, green setting.

 There were three baptisms Saturday.  Since the towns are so far apart we were only able to attend at Pinamalayan.  Elder Reyes (far left) is being transferred this week and we will miss him so much.    It is hard to see them leave.  We hope we can keep in touch.

Newly baptized John Valdez.  Brother Valdez lifted his eyes to the heavens and raised his hand in gratitude as he came out of the water.

Elder Reyes bringing in newly baptized Elizalde Villarba

This week-end was People's Day in Calapan.  There were all kinds of activities, including the Miss Oriental Mindoro beauty pageant.  The biggest event took place on our street.  We were awakened at 6AM to a siren and when I looked out of our upstairs window I saw the street completely full as far as we could see of probably 1000 people in lime green T-shirts walking along having fun, enjoying the morning.  Later we determined it was the way they started the day with "The People's Walk".  

A wonderful greeting awaited us when we left the Elders in Pola.  These little girls see us coming and going each week.  When we came out of the gate each one took turns shaking our hands then bowing and placing our hand on their forehead and saying in Tagolog, "Greetings Po"  This is the way they show honor and respect.  The other day we were in a store and a little two year old boy looked up to see us passing by.  He was surprised to see "foreigners" but as he checked us out he took my hand, bowed and greeted me as "Po".  Their sweetness is beyond words.