Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sugar cane harvest season is upon us--this sugar can truck appears lopsided

Sunday, September 28, 2014
Setting where we attended a Special Sacrament Meeting
This week has been a blur and I think I will sleep well tonight.  This morning we left early and returned home 10 hours later after going south to La Carlota (about an hour drive traffic permitting).  It is a beautiful drive with ocean views and greenery a desert person can only dream about.  People live along the main road and even with busy traffic, children are playing.  We even saw a mother bathing her little girl next to a neighborhood water pump.  We often see young children without any britches on. 
Area behind where we held the Special Sacrament Meeting
George spoke at three sacrament meetings today; each time with a minute notice and no topic given.  I spoke at one.  We also attended a special sacrament meeting in Bucalah, a jungle area.  There were about 35 humans in attendance and some chickens and dogs.   During the meeting on each side of me sat a young girl on the very uncomfortable bamboo bench which consisted of two pieces of bamboo.  They created a meeting area in the front of their home including a tarp tied to their bamboo house to create a little shade.

The Sister where the meeting was held took us on a walking tour of the river nearby where she was baptized several years ago. Her five children skipped along the dirt trail and swung from hanging vines dropping down from the canopy of trees.  The proud husband took George on a quick tour of their beautiful surroundings; a nearby river for catching fish, washing humans and clothes. They had built a very nice and sturdy dwelling held up by bamboo poles and covered by thin wood siding.  A tin roof was anchored in place by old motorcycle tires that were tied together.  The yard was fenced and was clean and tidy with newly planted banana trees planted for future harvest.  Chickens freely roamed the yard, looking for anything interesting to eat.

Young boy holding a rooster he was previously walking on a leash (interesting to watch ;-)
One of our favorite departing missionaries: Elder Torres
One of our favorite departing missionaries: Elder Lapitan
One of our favorite departing missionaries: Elder Cano
Our newest batch of new missionaries--excited to go to work!
A few days earlier, we helped with transporting 19 missionaries to airport to start their journey home after completing their missions.  There is always change, but it is sometimes hard to say good bye.   Within an hour 28 new missionaries walked out of the airport excited about the opportunity to serve!  We saw two new Sisters Pahulu (from US) and Silos (from Philippines) today and they are doing well!
This is what it's like being married to the mission nurse--in a restaurant with her hot food sitting on the table--helping a missionary with a medical concern (didn't stop me from eating :-)

Merry Christmas--we're seeing more decorations out and hearing Christmas music

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Ocean view less than a mile from our apartment, but not easily accessible

Sunday, September 21, 2014

There is a gentle warm breeze on this cloudy afternoon in Bacolod.  As I look out the front window, it is quiet, the animals must be resting.  The only sound I can hear is the hum of the air-conditioner we have in our bedroom; the only cool place in our apartment and where we spend most of our time when we are here.  The Chungee (small store in front of a house) across the street is closed and an occasional sikad (a petal bike with a side-car) passes after dropping off passengers down the narrow cement street in front of our apartment.  We have new neighbors!  The school aged children are working on their studies on the balcony of their robin egg blue house across the street.

Squatter dwelling next to our apartment

Chickens jump the coop -- a few doors down from our apartment (those are coconuts on the ground)
We enjoyed visiting the Paglaum ward again this week.  We live in North Bacolod and the Paglaum area is in Southeast Bacolod (about 20 miles from where we live).  The Bishop, a kind man with a big friendly smile, came into the mission office and asked George and me to speak at Sacrament meeting today.  We arrived a little early; there was a baptism going on!  During Sacrament meeting, three new members were confirmed.  As they walked to their seats, they were quietly greeted by many members of the congregation who held out their hands and welcomed them to the ward.
Beautiful vegetation outside a Chapel
Yesterday we also attended a baptism.  One of the songs we sang was Joy to the World!  The Filipinos love Christmas and have an early start.  George and I love to be with the missionaries (I know, I say this a lot).  Yesterday we were with four Elders.  Today Sister Smoot (who is going home in about 6 weeks) and Sister Hemi, from New Zealand who is going home in about 12 weeks also spoke.  They told me people call Sister Smoot,” Barbie” and Sister Hemi, the “mother Mary”.  We love the people here who pretty much say what is on their mind, not meaning harm.  Several people have told me that they are sure I was “beautiful” when I was younger. 
Elder Schow and Elder 'Mata-Mata' outside their apartment
Also serving in this area is Elder Pingol (who speaks about 5 dialects; there are 19 dialects spoken in the Philippines) and Elder Cancel, a humble young man who apologized to me for not speaking better English.  I told him he speaks great English, I am the one who speaks only a few words of Ilonggo (Hiligaynon).
A funny cart came in my direction--wasn't sure what it was
A few weeks ago, we travelled to E.B. Magalona to attend a baptism, driving a 2014 Ford Ranger.  As we slowed down, turned on the left turn signal and slowly started turning into the Church parking lot, a scooter, travelling way too fast, tried to pass on the left side and ran into the front fender of the new truck.  The driver appeared dazed, but pretty much intact after the collision.  Some nice local members came out and tenderly picked him up, dusted him off, and treated his small scrapes.

A Traffic Enforcement Officer was nearby and came over to investigate.  We asked him what we should do; did we need to fill out any paperwork?  His response, ‘Go and work it out with the driver’.  The scooter driver admitted he was going too fast and not paying attention.  We later learned he didn’t have a driver’s license.  The officer initially took the scooter key from the driver, but later returned it.  The driver climbed onto his scooter (minus a couple of mirrors) with no helmet and only flip flops to protect his feet and drove off.
It was a groundskeeper hauling his trimmings away--with a very nice smile for the camera! 
(You can see here the damaged truck fender)

A well-intentioned member suggested we pay the scooter driver a few hundred pesos to forget about the whole incident.  He said that if it went to court it would be a big distraction to our work.  I told him that since he was at fault, I had no intention to pay him anything.

There was actually a pretty big dent in the truck.  The next week the truck went in for repair at a local body shop the Mission Office has used in the past.  They repaired the fender and wheel and repainted for 4,000 Pesos or less than $95.  Quite a bargain!

We look forward to a busy week with 20+ new missionaries coming and ~20 missionaries going home.  We’ll be involved in transporting and training. :-)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

In front of Cebu Temple with wonderful Deyro couple

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Happy Christmas! The first of September starts the Christmas season and it lasts until the first week in January.  Colorful Christmas lanterns are starting to be strung in some of the trees. 
Rainy Season
The average rainfall for Bacolod in September is 9 inches; I think we have already passed the “average” up for the month.  The ground is like a big sponge; muddy sponge.  We did enjoy two days of sunshine this week.  Being from the desert, it was so good to see blue skies!
Island Hopping
We were able to slip away for a couple of days (we did have our cell phones to be available to Philippines Bacolod Mission concerns).  We flew to Cebu, a city not far from Bacolod but on a different island.  We visited the Cebu Temple!  We went with the doctor (who helps our missionaries) and her husband.  There are 2.55 million people who live in the metro Cebu area.  I liked Cebu.  The part of the city we were in was more modern than where we live, but they still have those crazy drivers.  We traveled through the city in cabs.  There were no seat belts, the music was turned up loud and we experienced ‘hold on for your life’ rides as we weaved through the traffic.  They speak a different language; Cebuano mixed with a little English and Tagalog.
Pictures after Temple marriage--hot day with umbrellas to shield from sun, not rain
The Temple was on a crowded street and the cab drivers knew where to find the beautiful beacon on a grassy manicured hill.  In close proximity to the Temple was a Chapel, Mission home and office, a small distribution center and a patron house that allows people to stay overnight as they attend the temple.  The cafeteria was popular and even sold Coke!  Our “batch” mate from the Provo MTC serves as a mission nurse in Cebu and she took time to hang out with us.  George spent time with the finance people; he is always looking for ways to improve things.

We stayed in a hotel that had hot water.  I think George and I used all of the hot water for the entire hotel as even our friends said they had no hot water.  It was a wonderful treat!
Sister Lara, Sister Dixon, Sister Tangonan & Ve'ehala (Sister in middle is Reneliza)

Last evening we attended a baptism.  A sweet sister was all excited to see us and asked us if we remembered her.  As she recounted her story we did, in fact, remember her from several months ago when we were introduced to her as an investigator who was coming to Church for the first time (in a different ward).  She was baptized several weeks ago and her 18 year old daughter was baptized last night.  In a couple of weeks her 17 year old son has committed to baptism.  We remembered Reneliza because she is a dialysis patient.  She has dialysis every 5 days.  She looks healthy and recognizes her Heavenly Father as one who is mindful of her and her family needs despite severe financial challenges.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

This man was helping to string a cable through the maize of cables across a busy street

 Sunday, September 07, 2014

Yesterday when the ward mission leader stood to conduct the baptism, he announced that Sister Mower was going to lead the singing.  Well, that was the first I heard about it but I was happy to do it.  This was my first opportunity to lead music here.  I stood up and sang the first line in a key that was comfortable for me (no piano) and then raised my hand to lead and said, “Ready, sing”.  Most often people sing in unison here, but Elder ‘Iloa was there and he has a beautiful tenor voice.  He harmonized every song we sang; it was a great treat.  A father and his children were baptized (his wife is deceased).
Baptism of family by Elders 'Iloa & Farner
When we first arrived in Bacolod in March, there was a squatter area behind the mission office.
Wikipedia:  Squatting consists of occupying an abandoned or unoccupied
area of land and/or a building – usually residential – that the squatter does
not own, rent or otherwise have lawful permission to use.
The children living in this community would often come and play in the parking lot of the mission office; I am sure this was a great refuge from the busy streets.   A few months later, we noticed changes going on.  Brick by brick, bamboo, tin that had once been part of roofs and the personal effects of the people in this community were disassembled and loaded onto trikes and trucks to move elsewhere.  This process took weeks to accomplish and when the people were gone and all their earthy goods removed, a tall block fence was built to block off the passageway to the once bustling community.  We were told that when the owner of the property behind the mission home sold the piece of land, he had to find a place and help to relocate the people.  Since the block fence has been constructed, it now serves as a back wall of a new squatter new dwelling where people live.
'Instant' squatter shack in front of a new block wall--just outside the Chapel/Mission Office compound

Squatters are from rural areas looking for a better life in the city.  Some of these people are second and third generation settlers.  Just outside of the two gates where George and I live are squatter areas.  People are allowed to “settle” on property that is empty and not fenced to use for their needs.

Squatter area outside our subdivision--with makeshift homes turned into simple retail outlets

In Urdaneta on the island Luzan, temple plans were announced in 2010.  After the land was purchased, guards were hired and still protect the area from being settled by squatters.  There is a subset of squatters, termed “professionals” that purposefully settle target areas such as this for the purpose of receiving payment to leave.
A squatter area that has been razed to make way for a new building
When we were at Mission Leadership Training earlier this week, we were told about a recent convert and squatter who lived under a bridge in a pig pen.  He was a paraplegic and was looking for meaning in his life.  Since his baptism, members of his ward have helped build a new place for him to live.
Members assemble for Church in an older 'open' chapel design with no 'aircon' in Silay
Other side of chapel
Every Sunday we attend a different ward or branch.  We have attended 27 different Wards/Branches in the short time we've been here (some have two units, so we attend both sacrament meetings).  I think our favorite thing to do here is to associate with the young Sisters and Elders.  They are truly blessings in our lives.
Senior Couples at "The  Ruins", a local tourist attraction