Sunday, October 26, 2014

Man on carabao pulling a sled with fruit and a child in Colonia Divina

Child in sled totally ignoring us trying to take her picture

Sunday, October 26, 2014
At the end of August we attended a special sacrament meeting along with eighteen investigators in Gawahon at the local elementary school.  This area is near Victorias and north of Bacolod up in the mountains.  Yesterday we were invited to a baptism in the river.  Investigators are now accepting the gospel of Jesus Christ!  We have been to wonderful baptisms in rivers before, but I think if I would have known where we would be hiking (in leather shoes that have grown much too big), I may have reconsidered.  I have a little fear of heights but after climbing a bamboo ladder to get to a narrow cement wall that had a twenty foot drop to rocks and water and then climbing down another bamboo ladder I thought, I can do this.  I expected to find a well worn trail, but instead we trekked through green dense foliage and at time rocks (to avoid water).  Okay I made it, but then the challenge came!  We gingerly walked on rocks and boulders in the river to make our way to the baptismal spot—in the middle of the river!  When I found a rock that I felt was secure, I turned around looking where we had come from to realize. .at some point we will be going back! Hmmmmm.
Baptism in middle of river--everyone sitting or standing on a rock
One of the member’s 14-year old granddaughter was baptized and a 70 plus year old man (who held my hand and helped me get back).  The entire service was held at the river.  Hymn books were brought and we sang, there were talks and after the baptisms, the newest members bore their humble testimonies.  I looked around and could never imagine being so blessed to have this experience.
Baptism setting
Business as usual for everyone else--children playing, people washing clothing in the background
Sister Scadlock waves--you can see the ladder, walk across bridge
We had a long day Friday when we started before 6 am and didn’t return home until night.  We visited areas where missionaries don’t often get visits. .Lopez Jaena, Dian-Ay and then Minapasok. We then continued on to areas where roads are often dirt or should I say mud.  
Crude bridge leading 'up the mountain' to Colonia Divina (you guessed it:  Divine Colony)
Shortly after we arrived in the Philippines we traveled to Colonia Divina with another couple.  At that time there were two missionaries in this area and when we visited Church there were around fifty people attending.  Now there are six missionaries and they are holding meetings in Colonia Divina, Alimatoc and Sewahon.   Colonia Divina now has over 100 people regularly coming to Church on Sunday.  
Condition of the roads for much of the trip (our blue truck is brown!)

Our first stop was Sewahon.  There are no street signs or markers, so we would often stop to ask if we are on the right dirt road and feel relived after saying the name of the place we are heading and the kind person smiles and says Oo (yes in Illongo) and points in the direction we are going in ;-).

 The biggest vehicle wins--in this case we backed up 2-300 yards to a clearing
The next two stops were not so easy.  The rain came and a bus broke down in front of us; it is difficult to maneuver on poured concrete roads—only 8-10 feet wide.  And when you are on a single lane road and you meet a sugar cane truck or bus, the smaller vehicle is obligated to backup to an area where they can safely pull aside to allow passage of the bigger vehicle.  The distance required to backup would be as much as a quarter of a mile or so, on a very narrow road that drops off 2-3 feet on each side.  If one were to accidently drop off one of the edges—it would take significant assistance to get out.

The caraboa wins here too--if you look closely you can see the rope stretched from other side of road
As we were slowly driving up a steep muddy hill with growing streams of water because of the heavy rain and no cell service, a large imposing carabao stretched the rope across the road that was keeping him from wandering, making it impossible for us to pass.  He did casually glance at us, but he was not about to move.  We could either try to drive by—at the risk of pulling the VERY BIG caribou into the truck or go back down the road.  In the end we backed down the road until we were able to turn around.  We found out later, that was the wrong road.  We felt someone very high up was looking out for us that day.
They offered to let us ride, but we settled for a gentle pat

Sunday, October 19, 2014

This video, aptly named "Pure and Simple Faith" exemplifies the people we have met here--we highly recommend that you take a few minutes to view it.

Yes, we couldn't help but taking another close up of a worker/son on their carabao on the highway

Sunday, October 19, 2014

We had a visit in the mission office from four Elders that were in Bacolod for their preparation day from Colonia Divina (~3 hour trip by car or truck).  They planned to start the trip back later in the day and go as far as Sagay.  Since we were going to Sagay the following morning, they graciously accepted our invitation to ride along.  Our day started early and everybody was aboard by 6:00 am.  Our truck was pretty cozy with four Elders smashed together in the backseat of the truck.  They did say it was still more comfortable than riding in a crowed (non air-conditioned) public Ceres bus, and the price was right (free).

Two of these Elders will be returning home in a couple of weeks.  One of the office Elders’ told me that Elder Sablan was a “local” and needed to take the English Proficiency Test.  I told him, I was pretty sure he was from the U.S.  I asked Elder Sablan where he was from; his reply, “Washington State”.  I share this because often by the time the Elders and Sisters return home, they speak like a local.  Many missionaries called here already have beautiful brown skin and eyes (not Filipino features).  And the funny thing, the office Elder who told me he needed the test, is from Manila.

Scene in front of missionary house
Our first stop was in Manta-angan to make a delivery.  The time was 6:30 am: the time for missionaries to rise and shine.  We discussed whether to stop on our way back or do a wakeup call.  It was unanimous that we should stop and make a surprise visit.  The four Elders climbed out of the truck and started singing “As I have loved you”.  It’s not every day you get woken up by a serenade—especially in the jungle!  Soon, out came one Elder in shorts and tee-shirt, then two, three… and when we were ready to go, out came the final Elder with sleepy eyes.

We went to the Sisters apartment in Old Sagay.  It is in an area not accessible by truck.  So we loaded up the treasures from home and stuff to install a CO detector and saw that we would be walking in mud, deep mud.  And just as we were deciding how to best make our path, a weathered young man drove up in his sikad (bicycle with side seats) and offered his services.  He spoke no English, but was willing to take us through the mud for five pesos.  We climbed in; two big Americans with our boxes.  We fit very snugly sitting  on the worn plastic covered seat.  He took us through mud and puddles on a very uneven road.  When we finally arrived I gave him ten pesos for his hard work (about a quarter).  We later found it was well worth the cost—as we walked back through the mud puddles.  I’m afraid it would’ve been an ugly picture.

Elders wait for us outside their house
By the time we had finished most of our scheduled stops in Sagay, Old Sagay, Paraiso, Fabrica and Cadiz, it was early afternoon and we decided to visit Himoga-an.  We have attempted to visit this out of the way place before, but found out, we would have to go by boat.  We came a different way and although I am not sure the Elders were too excited to have us come, they kindly waited for us by the road.

Beach view of ocean setting
I am so thankful we came to this beautiful place.  Following a short path from the Elders apartment we came to a setting that was breathtaking to view.  We live on an island—less than a mile from the ocean and this is the first time we have been in an area that we could walk along the ocean since we have been here.  The sea was blue and inviting.  And unlike any beautiful beach we have been to before, we were the only ones walking in the dark sand.  There were many fishermen placing and gathering their long nets in the shallow warm water.  They smiled and waved as we took their pictures.  Near the ocean were many small bamboo squatter homes with million dollar views.

Fishermen walking along the beach
Workers setting their nets (the closest boat smiling and waving)
Workers laying nets the old fashioned way
Village along beach (beach front property!)
I must say, these trips to see the missionaries are many times the highlight of our week. After being ‘cooped up’ in the office all week, we’re happy to get out and be with the missionaries and the people.  Most people are friendly and helpful—even when George goes down a one-way street in the center of town—and then gets out to ask directions.  They politely give directions, and then have a good laugh as we drive off.
Busy street traffic along our route
Busy traffic by where we live

Street banner in preparation for MassKara festival

Karen poses next to a colorful MassKara mask

Sunday, October 12, 2014

MassKara Dancers at Bacolod Airport -- dancing towards arriving passengers

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Heavy rain as we drive by the ocean

Typhoon Ompong exited the Philippines area early this morning.  Actually this storm was hundreds of miles north of the Philippines, but for four days we had dark cloudy skies and rain; torrents of rain.  The rain came in waves and the water would pour out of the sky and the saturated ground would slowly lap it up.  One Sister missionary said as they listened to conference the rain was so intense, they couldn’t hear the speakers.  Most roofs here are tin—so that really magnifies the sound. Yes, it was general conference weekend in the Philippines; albeit one week delayed, we loved hearing the inspired words and music.  Today we still have grey skies, but the sun has attempted to peak through the lingering clouds.

Dr. Deyro & President Deyro at Liahona Hunger Banquet in Utah
Rob, Susan (George's brother & Sister) and Rob's cute daughter Margaret at Hunger Banquet
Thursday we picked up the Deyros and a returning missionary from the airport.  The Deyros returned from US after speaking at various functions to raise awareness of the Liahona Children’s Foundation to help with nourishing the many young children that are so plentiful here and in need of nutritious food.  Dr. Deyro told me she stayed in homes like she had only seen in picture books and they were able to attend all sessions of conference.  I think they really loved this opportunity to visit the U.S.  The missionary that we picked up served in the same mission that the Deyro’s daughter, Ina did.  We took her to the mission president’s home where she was released.  It must be really hard to remove the nametag we wear indicating our work, she was crying and kept feeling over her heart where she would normally find the badge.  We then drove her to the bus terminal; she had a long day ahead of her traveling to return to her family. 

Sugar cane truck on National Highway sharing the road with a trike with an improvised cover
Girls carrying water along National Highway

Road construction along National Highway
Friday we traveled north on the National Highway delivering a few supplies, mail, treats, to missionaries as George continues to help install carbon monoxide monitors in apartments.   We traveled to Victorias, Manapla and finally up to Cadiz; it was a day trip with the weather.   Friday morning missionaries are doing their planning so it is a time to find them available.  The missionaries welcomed us into their homes and share happenings in their areas.  It is great; we love to hear about missionaries, investigators and the work.   The missionaries labor so diligently in serving our Heavenly Father.  Several of the missionaries we visited have only been in the field a few weeks; big changes in their lives.     

Missionaries waiting to meet us at their apartment
Steep stairs in missionary apartment
And even though it rained, life goes on in the Philippines.  Many people were working in the sugar cane fields and the carabao (my favorite animal here), were lined up to carry out the machete cut cane from the muddy fields.  People were carrying water to their homes in buckets, and people continue to sell their wares along the side of the road.

It is my speculation that building codes are not really used here and if they are, not enforced (at least in the few homes we have been in).  We were in another missionary apartment recently and the steps were very steep and narrow, the steps all being different heights and widths.   When we first moved to our apartment the steps seemed a little higher than what I was used to.  I measured the fourteen steps and they measure in height anywhere from 7 ½ inches to 9 ¼ inches; it is pretty good exercise.  On our steps my size 9 foot fits; their steps not so much, being narrower than I’m used to.
A nice worker let us take a picture of him and his carabao

We enjoyed attending Missionary Leadership Council this last week and hearing our master teacher and Mission President share his insights on Christ rising from the tomb.  He reminded the missionaries that although most Filipinos believe in Christ—they do not know who He is.  As I taught a short segment, I asked a question and I think every hand raised (I bring tootsie rolls); I am going to have to come up with more difficult questions!
Drummers for the MassKara celebration at a local mall let us take their picture