Monday, 16 April 2018

Watermelon at Carbon Market

We always love to see all the melons at the market.   So many red and yellow ones!  One of the blessings of living in paradise-- year-round watermelon!

Friday, 13 April 2018

First trip to Bohol, March 12, 2018

March 12 is our oldest son's birthday, so we celebrated by going on a daytrip.  We just wish he could have been with us!  Bohol is an island just east of Cebu Island.  Elder Hobbs spent a lot of time and energy arranging this trip, which was a birthday celebration for all of us with February and March birthdays. 

The port where we got on the ferry had security like an airport,
but the carved deer heads puzzled me.  Maybe they are hiding the security cameras?
Comfy ferry seats, very cold aircon, crummy movie, but great company!  

I love living in a religious country.  There was a safety video-- like a plane--
then a "Prayer and Safety" video.
I especially liked this line.  I need that help every day! 

The rain started just as we disembarked from the ferry.  

Bohol is an island just southeast of Cebu. Our ferry ride took about two hours.
We were blessed with calm seas, so nobody got seasick. 

View from the van as we drove.  It was so good to get out in the country.
Cebu is such a crowded city that this was a wonderful contrast.

But even in the jungle there is road construction! 

Carabao, domesticated water buffalo, have traditionally been the "workhorses" of Filipino farms.
They are the national animal of the Philippines.

Harvesting rice.  Such hard physical work. 

Sister Siguiente  at the Chocolate Hills in the rain. 

 More tourists in the rain.

View from the top of the staircase.  There are about 1500 small hills, designated as a National Geological Monument.  Here's some of the Wikipedia article :"The Chocolate Hills form a rolling terrain of haycock hills – mounds of a generally conical and almost symmetrical shape. Estimated to be from 1,268 to about 1,776 individual mounds, these cone-shaped or dome-shaped hills are actually made of grass-covered limestone. The domes vary in sizes from 30 to 50 metres (98 to 164 ft) high with the largest being 120 metres (390 ft) in height. Bohol's "main attraction", these unique mound-shaped hills are scattered by the hundreds throughout the towns of CarmenBatuan and Sagbayan in Bohol.
During the dry season, the grass-covered hills dry up and turn chocolate brown. This transforms the area into seemingly endless rows of "chocolate kisses"." They were beautiful in the misty rain, but I'd love to visit again on a sunny day. 

Our van driver, Romie. 

The Hobbs and the Alfornons at the Tarsier Preserve. 

Most of these tiny, nocturnal, fist-size monkeys
that we saw were asleep,
but this one posed for us with his eyes open. 

 Look at these missionary triplets all in blue plaid shirts!

The double swinging bridge.   

The swinging bridges again, and Ron in the foreground with a real smile--
very unusual in a picture of him.

Big Aussie photobomber.
I love Elder Siguiente's surprised look!

Sister and Elder Siguiente
with their new friend.

Elder and Sister Kidd

My birthday presents from the trip-- a woven tray, and a young coconut that was sliced off for me to drink the coconut water.  After that, we took it back to the little stall and they bored out the young, tender coconut meat, called buko.  Filipinos don't eat the old coconut like we do;
instead the meat from the older coconut will be ground finely, covered with water,
and then squeezed out to make fresh coconut milk.

An idyllic scene from the road by the swinging bridges.
The fisherman is using the original version of a bamboo rod-- a piece of bamboo! 

Bohoc River floating restaurant.
We had planned on doing a dinner cruise on a riverboat,
but we ran out of time.  Next time...

We visited a small zoo that had a butterfly enclosure.
Ron takes butterfly pictures like I take flower pictures,
but we will just share one of many.  


WARNING to those with ophiophobia (snake-phobia).  
You might want to stop reading now.  

There were about seven large pythons at this little zoo, along with a few alligators, some chickens (python food), and a hawk that looked like a miniature bald eagle.
This albino python was full and sluggish, so she didn't mind getting some love. Since we couldn't pick this one up, we got another chance with another python.

It was a memorable day.  I can't wait to go back to Bohol.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Why we are here-- really.

Why are we here in Cebu?
Not the tropical weather.
Not the lack of snow.
Not the challenging traffic.
Not to get away from our darling grandkids. (That's the biggest sacrifice.)

This is why: God has blessed us so much in our life.  We are so grateful for our knowledge of Jesus Christ and His love for us and for each person on the earth.  About this time last year, we decided that it was time to start our mission application, time to give back to God by serving him fulltime.  We didn't know then where we would be called, but we requested and hoped for this assignment in the Cebu Temple.  When our call letter came, it was almost surreal-- we had not dared to hope that we would really get to come back to the Philippines.  And coming to this beautiful, sacred temple is a dream come true.
We love all the temples that have been built by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), but it is so rewarding to see the faith of the Church members here, since Ron was a missionary here in 1969-1971.  At that time, there were 6,000 Church members in all of the Philippines; now there are over 700,000.  We have been able to meet many people who have some connection to those people Ron taught and loved here so long ago.  Temple work is such a blessing to all of us, as it prepares us to return to our Father in Heaven.  This video (narrated by Ron's cousin, Bill Walker) explains why we love the temple.

And here are some photos of the inside of the Cebu Temple.  They're copyright by the LDS Church and were published by the Church in 2010 when the temple was dedicated.  Before a temple is dedicated, there is an Open House for the public to tour the temple.  After the dedication, only those LDS members who live the standards of the Church may enter.

Front desk, where the members enter
Foyer, where Ron and I wait for each other at the end of our shift. The staircase is breath-taking!


Bride's room.  Many of the couples who come to get married can only afford their own fare,
so we have dresses, veils, shoes, and silk bouquets for them to use.  More on that in my next post.  

Instruction room.  I love the tropical mural.

This is a sealing room, where marriages are solemnized for time and all eternity.
This is the Celestial Room, a place of contemplation and prayer. 
I love to spend some time here each day talking with Heavenly Father.
We are His children, and I know He loves each one of  us.
He sends me peace and comfort as words and ideas come into my mind
through the warmth and guidance from His Spirit.
I invite you to ask God if He loves you, and feel the warmth of His answer.


Crazy motorbike traffic

What makes Cebu traffic unique and challenging?  Motorbikes and U-turns are part of the story.  Ron has just started to venture out driving in Cebu.  So far, so good!  Here are some videos, but it impossible to capture the reality!

Monday, 26 February 2018

To market, to market...

Our hearts have been full of love and prayers for Ella this week.   She has started chemo and will be having surgery when the tumor has shrunk enough.  Though tears often come to my eyes unexpectedly, we trust our Heavenly Father's care and we are praying hard.  We believe in miracles!

Ryan , Levi, Adam, Renna, and Ella in January at Northern Air, the trampoline place

We were able to go to the market in Carbon both Saturdays.  Last week we had given some food to a woman who was begging, so she followed us, clinging to Ron's arm, for the rest of our shopping.  It made us a little reluctant to go again, but the produce is so fresh and so inexpensive!  On Feb. 17th, Ron mostly stayed inside a building, instead of going out in the crowd, and we got some delicious fruits and veggies.

Ron looking for the best bananas

This driver was sleeping in his truck at 7 AM. 
I wonder if he got up early to bring a load to the market, which is open 24/7..

One of many delivery guys.  What hard work!

The cats love the peanut stall!

Cute baby and her father at the back of the market
Loaded with yummy produce...

...but not as loaded as this customer!

Here is our colorful treasure-- all for $14. The little purple objects to the right of the pineapple are purple avacados.  The tomatoes are small, with a tougher skin than tomatoes at home.  The Filipinos like their tomatoes a little under-ripe, so they will be "crisp".  I have not liked the papaya we have had in Canada, but this papaya changed my mind.  Delicious!
Home again, home again, jiggety jig!

Monday, 19 February 2018

Tuesday February 13th, 2018 continued

In our deep sorrow over Ella's illness, the Lord gave us a joyful reunion.  Mary-Rose had sent a message to her name sake, Mary-Rose Villejo Estrada, over Facebook to say that we would be happy to see them at the Cebu Temple whenever they might be coming.  That message was sent at just the right time because Mary-Rose V. replied and said they would be here the next week, so we had arranged to meet on Thursday.
On Tuesday, the day of her birthday, Mary-Rose was being trained by Sister Jodi Ganir in the baptistry.  Mary-Rose sat at the back of the baptistry chapel, so she could observe as the people were gathering for a baptism.  She asked the sister sitting beside her where she was from and the sister responded “Mindanao” to which Mary-Rose replied “Do you know any of the Villejo family?”  The lady replied with a no, but the lady in front of her turned around and said, “I am a Villejo.”  It was Mary-Rose Villejo Estrada, and so the reunion began – a reunion with people we had never seen but who are like family because we have corresponded with them and their grandma for almost 5 decades.   When Mary-Rose and I came to the Philippines in 2009 while on a work trip to Australia, we were not permitted to travel to Davao due to Canadian government restrictions, so we phoned the Villejo home and the person we got on the phone was Mary-Rose.  Now we got to meet her in person.  So M-R sent a message to me that some of the Villejo family were at the temple and I should come and say Hi to them.  So I tried to find M-R and could not, but finally met her on the sister’s side just before a temple session was to begin.  M-R beckoned to Mary-Rose V. (who was waiting on the front row of the session room) to come out into the hallway and then M-R introduced me to Mary-Rose V.  I asked Mary-Rose V. if I could give her a hug and as I did the emotion swept over me and I cried.  The first cry of the day, not the last.
So not much later, there was to be a sealing session.  I went back toward the initiatory area to help there, but a brother came up to me and said “You’re needed for a sealing session.”  When I entered the room, the couple there were a Brother and Sister Jaca, Junadel Jaca who is another grand-daughter of Sister Sabina Villejo.  When I knelt down to act as their son in the sealing, I broke out in tears again.  I think most people in the room wondered what was going on.  Junadel patted me on the back offering some unspoken comfort.  Once my tears were more in control, the sealing proceeded.  It took a long time for the tears to completely stop.  I experienced a deep feeling of joy, finally seeing some of Sister Villejo’s family, whom we love deeply, 47 years after my leaving the Philippines as a young missionary.
Mary-Rose McMullin and Mary-Rose Villejo Estrada

Tuesday February 13th, 2018

Today brought the lowest and highest points of our mission so far.  Yesterday we received a message that Jaron and Bonnie's 12-year-old daughter Ella has a cancerous mass on her kidney.  It was hard to pretend to have fun at the Valentine's party while we were so concerned with our family back home.  Our thoughts and prayers were with them as Bonnie drove Ella to the Mayo Clinic and she had testing done there.

Thursday Jaron sent this update: "Surgery today went about as well as we could hope. The pediatric surgeon biopsied 3 metastatic tumors from her right lung for diagnosing what kind of kidney cancer this is, and more testing. They also put in an access port for chemotherapy, and did an additional procedure in her abdomen so she's pretty sore. We'll spend 1-2 nights in the hospital. Probably chemo starting next week to shrink the tumor, but pathology - tissue testing - will determine what chemo agents are best and if chemo will precede the big tumor excision surgery (by the pediatric urologist) or vice versa. Chemo may be Fargo but prob not Grand Forks [their home town]. Glad to hear it wouldn't be back at Mayo. She will need radiation for it some point (I think 5 days per week for 4 weeks) at which may be back at Mayo.
It will be a long road. We appreciate all the thoughts, love, and prayers!"
We have cried many tears and prayed fervently.  We are so proud of our children for their support and love for Ella and her family.  It's hard for me not to be able to go help out, so it was a relief when Bethany and Ben arranged their lives so that Bethany could go stay with the kids in Grand Forks.  She was able to stay with Adam, Ryan, Renna, and Levi so Jaron could go be with Bonnie and Ella. We pray that our Heavenly Father will giver them all increased faith and hope, courage and strength.  
Last September (2017) we visited Jaron and Bonnie's family in North Dakota.  We were thrilled to be able to go to the temple in Bismarck with their family.  This was Ella's first opportunity to go to the temple, since her 12th birthday was that week.  There Ella and Adam were baptized on behalf of some of our deceased relatives who did not have temple blessings in their lifetime.  We believe that our loving Heavenly Father wants to give all of His children access to all of the growth and joy possible, which is what the temple is all about.  We believe that God has given  us the opportunity to do temple work for those who have passed on so they can progress in the life hereafter. 
 I cherish this picture of her; she's almost glowing!