Sunday, July 27, 2014

Water protection for Sikad--this is how people get in/out of our subdivision

Sunday, July 27, 2014

It is another cloudy Sunday afternoon in Bacolod.  We have had lots of rain in the last few weeks—after all it is rainy season.  I like the sound rain makes as it hits the tin roof.   I wish I could capture the unique kind of Philippine rain on film.  The rain may be as a soft and quiet as mist that feels good as it touches your skin or it can be a pouring rain that even an umbrella will not protect you from.

People here appear totally unaffected from the rain—they adapt!  Trikes, sikads, and scooters keep on rolling as they splash through the puddles often carrying precious cargo of human lives.   People try to stay dry in interesting ways including plastic sacks as hats tied in creative ways, rain gear and plastic coverings for their paying customers.  The plastic may be an old banner (outside signs are not paper as it disintegrates quickly).  We even saw a threesome on a small scooter and one passenger had a cardboard box on his head with an area cut out so he could see (I’m not sure how long that lasted).

Cleaning gutter after rain--people seem to spontaneously keep the gutters clean
Bride and Groom to be with Mission President Lopez & Sister Lopez
Highlights this week included a wedding, a baptism, and a music fireside.  Our office Sisters invited us to a wedding/baptism.   Couples who are living together must be married before they can be baptized members of the Church.  We were included in all of the festivities including being recognized as special guests, to sitting across from the newlyweds at their wedding dinner (we met them for the first time at their wedding.)  Many local foods were specially made for this joyous occasion.   The newly married couple exchanged simple CTR (Choose the Right) rings (like the children get in Primary with the green shield) for their wedding rings.  Later we witnessed the new bride’s baptism.  In her remarks she said several times “I am so happy”.
Baptism after wedding with Sister missionaries who taught them

We then rushed over to another building across town where we were invited to attend a musical fireside that included members singing Christ centered songs and the sharing of tender testimonies of the truthfulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We sat next to another senior couple when it was unexpectedly announced they were going to sing a song and then share their testimonies.  They later told us they were asked to participate as they walked into the meeting—it was their home ward.  We were spared the exercise ;-).
Our "Neighborhood chicken" outside our gate (it won't last long, in fact we haven't seen it since we took the picture;-)

Today (Sunday), we traveled to a small resort town north of Bacolod called Manapla to attend Church.  There we met another member visitor; a Dr. Williams, from Boise, ID, a retired pediatric plastic surgeon.  His foundation ( organizes several 'missions' a year to poor countries and performs free corrective surgery to children with cleft palates and other facial deformities.  He was here in our mission for 2+ weeks doing surgeries.  What a wonderful blessing to young children.  On his website, he said something like when he told his colleagues he was giving up his practice to donate his time/talents they thought he was crazy; something like 'you can't change the world' to which he replied 'maybe not, but I can help change the world for the individuals I help treat'.  We wish him the best and hope to meet him again.

Some comments we have heard in the Philippines:  “how old are you?”, “your height is impressive”, “you are tall” (I am 5’7”) but usually much taller than our native hosts.  “You have a tall nose”, I am not sure if they think I have a big nose or what?  “Your eyes are like a dolls” (blue eyes are not that common here).  People like to touch my hair (light hair color is also unusual here).  Today I was talking to a young Sister missionary from the U.S. and she said people ask her why her hair isn’t blond and why doesn’t she have blue eyes.  She said they are under the impression that all Americans have blue eyes and blond hair.  Her companion (from Manila) said that Filipinos think all Americans are beautiful.  Elder Mower told her he is not beautiful.  She smiled and said, “You are a child of God”.
Enterprising people selling their wares along a major street
We took this picture along the road of a resort town--very friendly people selling their dried fish
(the smell wasn't too fragrant ;-)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Friendly field worker on his Carabao (notice the baby calf following behind)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The people we have met in the Philippines have been so kind and accepting of a couple of foreigners.  I marvel daily at their gentle and easy going nature.  And a smile given readily elicits a smile in return.

Earlier this week, I met an older Sister who asked if I would be attending her Church on Sunday.  I told her not this time (we try and visit a different ward or branch every Sunday).  As we were holding hands, she said, I wish you could come; I want to bring you something.  She then smiled and said “another time”.

Dr. Deyro’s daughter returned from her mission Thursday evening.  We love Dr. Deyro and her husband. Dr. Deyro helps me greatly with medical concerns of our missionaries; she does this as a free service.  Thursday evening we were invited to their Church for Ina’s welcome home party.  Her flight arrived late and even at 8:00 pm the ward was there to greet Ina.  The ward prepared a program that included a lot of singing.  Dr. Deyro asked me if in America we celebrated the homecoming of missionaries.   I told her the initial celebration was usually a close family event.  She looked out at all the people attending and remarked “this is our family”.  Today we attended Church to hear Ina speak.  Sitting next to Dr. Deyro on one side was a new convert and an investigator.  The Deyro’s are wonderful examples of Christ like service.

The other night we were having trouble finding a location and asked for directions.  (In this area there are very few street signs and addresses aren’t used).  Several helpful people gathered around and gave us directions that eventually took us to our destination.

Sister Vinco and 3/10 children
Saturday we attended the baptism of a sweet Sister and her daughter who came in contact with the Church through the Liahona Foundation children's feeding program.  She is a widow and mother of ten children.  Her youngest child is around three years old.   No welfare or social security available; she supports her growing family by taking in neighborhood wash.   

Sister doing wash
Doing wash using my machine in US would be no big deal (I used to love to wash), here it is a big job.  Many of our young missionaries wash using the same method she does.  A wash pan with a piece of wood and a scrub brush; clothes are usually hung outside on a clothes line, or hung over a fence.  Last night it was raining, I watched a man washing his clothes using the water that was running down the gutter.  But people are clean and wear washed clothes here!

(By the way, calling someone Sister or Brother here is common usage, regardless of faith.)

Beautiful jungle scenery along road
Common dwelling along road

Roadway scenery
Friday we traveled north, way north to remote areas where some of the young missionaries serve.  I thought Bacolod was green, this was even greener.  Is that possible?  Our backs are still sore from some of the unpaved rocky roads we were on; we are thankful for a truck to journey on these rough roads.   
We take turns

Bigger is better--so following a bus through usually helps speed things up 

Addresses are very vague, it helps when the missionaries come out to meet us--especially in the jungle!
Small path in jungle leading up to missionaries Apartment
Yeah--new water containers! (this is a city apartment)

We enjoy visiting with the young missionaries.  They are especially pleased when we bring letters and packages from home, or to a lessor extent--supplies from the office (and gets us out  of the office ;-).

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sunday, July 13, 2014

This week has gone by so quickly.  When we left this morning we were having a “brown out” (no electricity), when we returned many hours later, still a “brown out”.  The weather remains very warm and humid.  We hear the “hot season” is over and we’re now in the “rainy season”, but nothing much has changed, although it rains more.  We went to church in Caduha-an (about an hour north of Bacolod).  This is a branch of about 100 people in attendance today, next Sunday a new ward will be created.  Their building has no air conditioning, no screens on the windows, just fans noisily turning to create a little air movement.   We were actually a few minutes late, due to delays in traffic.  Our first wait was a parade going down the main road in Talisay celebrating, Barangay Day (Barangay is like a precinct, but actual legal town within a town).  Vehicles decorated with colorful balloons, lots of people and flat bed trucks full of people and many drummers banging loudly.  Drums and loud music are very popular here.
Barangay Parade with Rooster booster
Drumming away. . .

And several funeral processions.  They included people walking behind the hearse (or converted mini-van) carrying the casket.  This seems unusual to me, because these processions are on the main highway which is mostly a two way road.  Some people carried umbrellas to protect themselves from the warm sun and others had towels or tee shirts wrapped around their heads.  When we first moved here four months ago, I was a little bit afraid when I saw people with these coverings.  Some even cover most of their faces with only their eyes peeking through; they looked like ninjas!   I realize now this is how they protect themselves from the sun.   An umbrella isn’t always convenient.  As George would rather me not mention, he passed an ambulance on the highway with lights and sirens on.  His excuse was they weren’t going fast enough ;-).  As mentioned, almost anything goes when driving here.

Karen tried this Rambutan fruit outside a missionary apartment--she said it was very sweet and tasty like candy
Some interesting use of words we have seen:  A large arch built across the entire road at the entrance to one of the small towns has a banner across it that reads  “Where life’s sweet and the past is forever”.   A local dentist’s motto, “An ounce of dental prevention is a worth than a pound of cure” (actual words).   When you donate blood here it is called “bloodletting”.  It is touted as a way to reduce risk of “heart disease” and “heart attack”, “reduce cancer risk”, and a way to “diet” and “remain fit”.  Sign me up!

Guitar playing singer trying to earn a few pesos
Women selling shell fish in neighborhood
There are all kinds of entrepreneurs here.  The self reliance couple here said that 95% of people here are self-employed—even if they have a job.  You can see here some examples—these are very creative and hard-working people and go to great lengths to support their families.  Unlike the U.S., if you don’t work here you don’t eat.  Hmmm, maybe America could learn a few lessons from the Philippines.

We had to try sugarcane juice--look at all the benefits! ;-0 It was very sweet

Woman selling fish door to door

Vendor out selling 'necessities' in busy traffic

Trike hauling bamboo
Man harvesting fruit on a vacant lot--literally a few doors down from our apartment
We live in a jungle!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Beautiful insect on the truck ... we see many new varieties ... very interesting
Sunday, July 6, 2014

Today we traveled to EB Magalona; it’s about 40-minutes north of Bacolod.   It’s been raining for the last few days and the foliage is lush and green from all the rain we have been receiving.  The rice fields are thriving and people gather to fill their water buckets at the community water source, pumping by hand.  The blue truck we are traveling in attracts attention as we navigate down the narrow but paved road—where they see very few cars.  Bamboo homes close together dot both sides of the street.  Children play and dogs lay (as they tend to do here) in the road.  Less than a mile away, there are block houses with running water.
Anything goes traffic rules here--bigger usually wins out
We met an investigator with her several young children who walk over an hour to come to church.  We drove them to the end of the paved road, and they journeyed by foot the rest of the way on a dirt path to their home.  The Sisters said it is a difficult path and the high tides make traveling impossible for part of the day.  We were told they could only provide one meal a day for their young family.
Traffic is often too close for comfort--particularly around rush hours; not uncommon
to see 3 lanes formed in a 2 lane road

On Wednesday, we had the opportunity to take an Elder to the airport.  We had met him before while he was serving on a “short term” mission in Bacolod.  During that time he received his mission call to serve in the Manila area.  He has a great spirit.  As a child he lost the use of his right arm related to an infection that the family was not able to have treated.  Life goes on.
Cute new glasses for Karen
Another adventure, I got new glasses.  Examinations, glasses, lenses are very inexpensive here.  Well let me clarify that; when it came time to choose the lenses, they could have been very inexpensive, but I wanted the entire lens to have the prescription, not just in front of me.  In order to see through all of the lens, the cost was more than what I would pay in the US—a lot more.  To give an example, for a recent uncomplicated missionary hospitalization that included three nights - the charge was a bargain at less than $500, including physician fees - my glasses cost more.
Quite a mismatch here--we were in awe and had to do a double take
During Relief Society, a sweet Sister with a wet dress on (from the heavy rain) sat behind me and asked if I understood.  I told her not much.  She moved closer and translated the testimonies that were being given.  I loved hearing the content of these humble messages.  By the end of the meeting, my new friend was sitting really close to me and had her arm around me.

Stay tuned--more adventures coming!