Monday, 17 September 2018

Bojo River Trip

 Bojo River Trip by Elder Ron, in a verbose ( he says that he was in a "descriptive") mood.

Clear skies, the first in a week, welcomed us as we climbed into the van with three temple employees and two other mission couples on an adventure to the Bojo River.  Preparation day, at times, allows us to visit new places in the Philippines and when Brother Manning, who had served here once before, offered us a chance to go on an excursion that included snorkeling, we jumped at the chance. 
Cebu is a long thin island in the middle of what are called the Visayan Islands, which collectively are located in the middle of the Philippines.  Along the island’s coast is some relatively flat land sloping steeply up to inactive volcanic mountains, which form the island’s spine.  We headed south of Cebu City for about 1.5 hours, transversed the mountains to the west side of the island, then traveled another hour’s drive to the south just past a small community named Alinguinsan.  Notice, we did not say how many kilometers since that gives illusions of a quick drive when in fact, driving speed in the Philippines rarely goes over 30 km per hour due to heavy traffic and narrow roads.  The first part of our upward climb took place on a road that was partially washed out and the suspension of the van was sorely tested.  By and by the road improved and we drove faster than 10 km per hour.  The road coming down the west side of the island was of fairly new construction, the road being concrete – a relative super-highway where we could travel 50 to 60 km per hour, except for the curve in the road every few hundred metres.  The view of the mountains is beautiful, however, with little development off the main road.  Mountains here are clothed in jungle from head to foot, and the mix of coconut palms and a myriad of plants we don’t recognize is beautiful.  An occasional piece of ground sports a small farm.  Houses along the highway often block the view but the vistas show up once in a while like teasers along the drive.

Dragonfruit plant
 Our first stop was at the bottom of the road before we had reached much development along the west coast.  To my delight, our stop was an agricultural demonstration farm, operated by the local barangay (a small jurisdiction in a community or like a small county in the rural areas).  We were welcomed with cool drinks made of kalamansi and lemon grass, a mild sweet, citrusy beverage with a hint of the lemon-grass taste.  Then we sampled a buffet of sliced saba (cooking bananas that are boiled in their skins but served without the skins), a coleslaw made of banana blossom heart, onion and some other things, sticky rice (a sweet square with carmelized brown sugar on top – great for a low sugar diet we are on), and a relatively flat oval bread without anything on it, and, oh yes, local hot chocolate that has little sugar, no milk and a lot of dark chocolate flavour.  Included was a fish paste as well, with as much salt as fish.  I guess that would kill the taste, but we never found out.  But we did go back for seconds of the other items.  Our hostess was gracious and waited patiently as we dined.  She also shared with us where the CR was, that is the Comfort Room, typically fitted with a toilet and a couple pails of water nearby with a large dipper to flush.  Still appreciated.  And they provided toilet tissue!  We always bring our                                                        own, because you never know…

Close-up of dragonfruit

Next a relatively tall and mid-aged gentleman guided us on a tour of their organic hog production – one sow, and five pigs about 40 pounds each at this stage.  Mary-Rose really enjoyed feeding the pigs some branches cut off of nearby trees.  The leaves on these branches are eaten by people, as well, as a sort of spinach.  We have seen a lady coming out of the temple block carrying a load of them that she had cut in the vacant property here that is awaiting future construction of another chapel.  Bedding for the hogs is woodchips which the hogs incorporate into the ground making the beginning of an organic fertilizer as they blend it with manure in their walking about.  The bedding-manure mix is then put into large, rectangular boxes about 10-feet long and 3-feet wide – although pigs are smart, this is done by the work crew.  The workers that transform the bedding into fertilizer are earthworms, protected from the free-range chickens by a covering of coconut-palm leaves that also serve as a mulch and shade the ground from the intense sun at this latitude near the equator.  The pig poop turned-to-earthworm-poop has no particular smell and can be handled and used as a fertilizer to grow local crops, which included tomatoes, eggplant, dragonfruit, cucumbers, bananas, mangoes and lemon grass.  I don’t recall seeing bananas on this small one-hectare farm, but there must have been some as the workers use what they grow in feeding visitors both here and at our next stop, as much as possible.

Cute, not-stinky piglets 
In his element

Warning: TMI if you're not interested in botany!
FYI, when a banana tree (it is not a tree) is spent and has produced its many hands of bananas (the bunch) on its stem (also called rachis:  read about bananas if you are a pure botanist, at the following URL:, then it sends up new shoots from a corm as the leaves, which form a  stem-like trunk, die off.  Or simply, like a begonia bulb, the banana plant sends up new shoots once the top dies off, and just like an onion, the stem is really a bunch of leaves that grow up together to form the structure that supports the flower on-top.  Any of the banana shoots can be transplanted to grow a new banana plant.

Meanwhile, back on  the farm... 

Elder and Sister Pace and Steve Villanueva in the garden
Mango trees grow really big!

See if you can find the little round passion fruit.
 As we exited, we walked under a bamboo trellis covered in a semi-healthy plant-covering growing about 8 feet above the ground that sported one passion fruit and a number of miniature cucumbers, each 3 inches long.  We were informed these cukes were “wild” cucumbers.  We accepted one as a gift from our guide who stretched his body from his toes upward to grab one of the tiny fruits. 

Fed, educated and contented, we loaded into our van and headed onto a new adventure – navigating the west coastal highway.  The difference between the west side of Cebu from the east side is the degree of westernization.  Near Cebu on the east, the coastal highway is filled with large trucks with the various loads of cartage, along with a mix of relatively new Japanese and Korean and a few Chinese and American vehicles (they are almost all new except the taxis because the ability to buy vehicles is  new for the middle class in the Philippines), flowing along in a matrix of habal-habal (motorcycles for hire) drivers swerving in-and-out amongst the traffic, trying to gain advantage at some risk to self and passenger in order to move quicker than the cars and trucks that are limited in their speed by sheer number of vehicles on the road.  (In the time it took you to read the last sentence you might have been lucky to drive 10 feet).
The west side is different – there a fewer large trucks, though there are some; there are fewer cars, though there are some; and there are fewer habal-habals on the road, though there are some.  Introduce another “species” of traffic regulation, which ensures slower driving speeds – the tricycle.  Not a three-wheeled one you recall from your childhood, but a pedal-drive bicycle or sized-down motorcycle with a sidecar that can hold two to four people somewhat comfortably if you are small, but up to 13 if you stack every square inch with at least one or two bodies.  The smaller number is the norm.  You also see cargo of an occasional hog or two, and I have seen a cow in one. 

Not our photo, but we've seen this!

Again, not our photo, but notice the schoolgirls in uniform top left.

 One blessing of the Philippines is that there are many schools; one mixed-blessing to drivers is that these schools are usually along the busy roads, and many of the children arrive in a tricycle.  With narrow roads filled with all these types of vehicles and their cargo – your vehicle sometimes does not travel very fast.   Where there is a school coming up, a barricade is placed upstream a hundred metres of the school on one side of the highway and downstream on the other side of the school for a hundred metres.  This slows the traffic down, as you can imagine, but keeps kids safer.  How many big trucks and tricycles can you wait for to take your turn before you lose your patience?  As many as needed, since there is nothing you can do about it and it is fun to see all the kids dressed smartly in their school uniforms (with a different set of colours for each school, and the girls in skirts) and generally with bright smiles on their faces.
Now we are out of the school areas and onto the “freeway” reaching speeds regularly of 30 km per hour with bursts up to 50 km per hour when it is safe to swerve toward on-coming traffic because we are bigger than they are and they know to move over, or where there actually is room to pass.  Glimpses of the sea to the right, and the occasional banana stand of a hectare or two (no real plantations along here) add variety to the usual visual fare of small houses with their tin roofs, and small businesses at almost every house.  The famed “Sari-Sari” store that used to be the neighborhood 7-11 run by one of the moms has been replaced by a business in most every dwelling along the busy highways.  You have to make a living and the road traffic provides a continuum of customers.  Everyone has to eat so many of these are food-based businesses, with phone load signs popping up frequently and the occasional money-transfer operation.  Small dry goods are on display, but the main display is snacks.  Bananas and other fruits in season are popular items as well. 

with our leis
We arrive at Alinguinsan, a small community that would have started out as a fishing village.  Mary-Rose and I have been here before to catch a bangka for dolphin-watching and snorkeling.  This time, we drive through the town and continue a bit down the road until we see the second river, the Bojo.  We turn off the highway to drive down a much smaller, narrower road.  We have arrived at our destination.  A member of our reception committee guides Brother Manning as he moves the vehicle onto the left side of the road and parks in the space parallel to the road which is about the size of the van.  We all hop out, glad and thankful to be here.  We stretch our legs and aging bodies to get them going again, and find our bags of snorkeling gear and changes of clothes.  Down the road we go to a path that will lead us to our next adventure.  We are pleasantly surprised as we each bow our heads and receive a home-made lei from one of our new Filipina hostesses.  Each lei is totally covered in various patterns of seeds along the strand of fibre that supports colorful flowers and tiny round, brilliantly colored fruits that adorn each unique creation.   

Steve on the walkway
Nipa palms and other growth along the river

We follow our hostess and senior host to a bamboo walkway that takes us past nipa palms (local shingle making-palms) and other lush growth along this tidal river.  Purposefully, we have arrived at high-tide time.  The water is 9 feet (3 metres) deeper than it was in the night, so a boat can move along the river to the sea and return after an expedition before the water drops too much.  The mangrove forest typical of tidal waters crowds the narrow, spring-fed river, and each unique tree type is labelled with the Latin species name.  The guides are proud of their being able to tell you both the Latin and local names of the trees, since this is a botanical reserve and our day here will help pay for the continuation of a reforestation project in the adjoining mountain area, while providing wages for locals.  

Ron toting our snorkeling gear in our fancy Canadian pillowcase

Again we are greeted warmly, but this time by a chorus of four aging ladies and their aged guitar player.  After our applause we are again given welcome drinks – buko juice.  A young coconut has been trimmed at the top for each of us, a small hole cut into the thin layer of young coconut meat to let a stainless-steel straw enter the refreshing coconut water inside.  A hibiscus flower adorns the top of each coconut, bringing out the deep reds of the large blossoms.  We are seated and then again welcomed in local tradition by the aged man bringing a smoking smudge pot and manoeuvring it around or by each chair to ward off evil and provide safety.  The thick thatched nipa palm roof provides a deep shade as we refresh with coconut water and enjoy conversation with our hosts and hostesses.

Welcome song and dance

Buko (young coconut) welcome drinks

It’s time to get ready to go on the boat and head out to sea.  Mary-Rose and I had seen the connection of this river to the sea on our dolphin-watching expedition – I cannot say the estuary because there is none.  It is as if a large knife cut a narrow passage for the river through the landscape to form two large cliffs on either side at the meeting place of the river and the ocean.  Here at the small boat dock, we saw a relatively flat narrow river valley with a broad ribbon of vegetation on-and-in either side, sloping up the vegetated landscapes at all angles towards hill tops off to the sides.    Our gazes turned to duty – don’t be the one holding up the boat ride.  Get your snorkeling gear together and put on your rash guard.  We climbed laid-stone steps up to the combined CR-dressing room building that had two toilet stalls and four other shower rooms big enough for a person to get into their gear. And amazingly, it also had toilet tissue!  Meanwhile, Elder Manning negotiated our travel in a glass-bottomed boat as part of the deal with no increase in price (amazing in the Philippines, since usually every little extra has an accompanying price tag, often not much extra but annoying).  We are assisted in to the boat by some male helpers.  Our guides are two ladies, mga babaye.  One speaks to us as we travel along the river about the project to preserve this area and to develop sustainable farming practices in the region.  She points out the various species of trees as we travel slowly along the narrow free-water surface of the river between the mangroves on either side and I am sure none of us remember the Latin or local names, but enjoyed the message that came along with those.  Our journey was not long, just 1.4 km until we saw it – no trees, just sheer walls on two sides and the conjunction of an azure blue river with the deep almost black-blue depths of the ocean.  From 3 metres to 90 fathoms in a few feet.  

L to R: Lea, Armi, Steve, Boatman, Elder and Sister Manning, Ron, Sister and Elder Pace, Mary-Rose

Out into the ocean
Calm, sunny, with great company and beautiful surroundings

Our second guide, Rosanna, now took over.  She is a botanist of other sorts, a marine biologist who knows the corals and the fish and the dangers.  We get instructed first.  We paid 250 pesos ($5 US) each extra for this opportunity to snorkel, not always offered on these tours.  Brother Manning had come many times before and so they knew him and knew we would be a cooperative group that would respect their responsibility to maintain the area and follow instructions.  We floated out the passageway onto the ocean.  What a beautiful day!  The last time we passed by here out on the ocean a few hundred metres off-shore, we were fighting 4- to 5-foot waves in a small bangka as we traveled back from our dolphin search and some snorkeling and picnic at Hermit’s Cove, a wonderful little, secluded beach just a couple miles away.  Today the waves were no bigger than those in a swimming pool.  I debated whether to get in the water, as my last snorkeling activity included being in 5- to 6-foot waves off Apo Island where my snorkel did not work well and I had difficulty breathing and panicked a bit.  Another story but the guide hauled me a hundred yards back to boat, and I later got in again but in calm water on the other side of the island.  So I debated, but my life jacket was the right size and I slipped on my snorkeling mask and fins and followed Mary-Rose, merlady, into the water.  The guide reminded me to relax, and I just bobbed to test the life jacket – it worked.  I pulled the mask over my face and breathed to make sure things worked okay this time.  I put my face in the water and breathed a few breaths, and then relaxed and headed out for about 40 minutes within easy stride of the boat.  

Looking and learning about different corals

Photos can't capture the peace and beauty of the underwater world .

 When shallow coral meets deep, deep ocean, life teems.  The fish were as varied as they were beautiful.  My first sight was a school of small, striped fish each with vertical tiger colors as if each was stamped in the same mold.  They swam as if they were ignoring me while basking in the sunbeams that pierced the water like an above-ground sunburst.  Tiny gold fish – not orange like the ones in a glass bowl, but really gold-colored, swam in doubles or triples.  Emily Dickinson would have delighted in the sight and her poem describing a humming bird would have been apropos: “A route of evanescence, …a rush of cochineal”.  Sorry, or maybe not sorry that is all of the poem that I remember from poetry class at the U of L in 1972.  Let it be said that the colors were as a kaleidoscope and the variety of fishes kept me glued to travelling the edge of the undersea precipice where little fish could feed in the shallows of the corals and bigger fish could hide at depth.  Scuba gear next?  Not likely, but I only caught glimpses of the bigger fish that occasionally flashed a silvery side toward the sky above for the depths below.  Nothing really big though.

I had some minor cramping in my foot and so I headed back to the boat to make sure I was okay.  Our guide took Mary-Rose, Brother Pace and Brother Manning over the corals explaining their different names and roles in the coral ecology.  Although they were about 100 metres away, I thought I would swim toward them as I tested my rested legs out again.  One of the male guides was swimming that way with a life ring and so I stayed within 20 or so feet from him as I extended my range and met up with the others.  They had seen some sea horses and I was interested.  At least until I saw one and it looked more like a worm than the seas horse we see in picture books.  But with every 5 to 10 metres covered, new and interesting life added variety to the ocean’s beauty.  We will miss this when we go back to our land-locked Alberta.  In our newly renovated bathroom, our shower curtain is a montage of dolphins and ocean fish in their brilliant colors over an ocean-blue background.  I told Mary-Rose she could put on her snorkeling gear in the shower, but I don’t think she is “biting on that bait.”
All good things must come to an end.  I had regained quite a bit of confidence in snorkeling again and we had seen more of creation that beautifies the earth.  These memories will be locked into our minds – we forgot our underwater camera – but we are glad that Brother Pace and Brother Manning brought their cameras along so we can also put them on to a screen to relive our experiences again.  Should I say, it snowed at home today?

Coco the grasshopper with his creator, Lea

Although the highlight was past, our adventure continued.  With all that energy exerted, it was time to refuel.  We returned, got into dry clothes, and were treated to a Filipino buffet of fried fish, fish soup, rice, pork adobo with saba (cooked bananas), and more buko juice, for those who had ordered it.  We all found something that was delightfully delicious.
Then came the demonstration of how to make the traditional rice cooker – an 8-side container made by weaving one coconut leaflet into a structure about 4 to 5 inches total height and about 2.5 to 3 inches in width.  If you can imagine putting two, four-sided pyramids one on top of the other, that would be the shape.  In brief, the mid-rib of the coconut leaf is stripped out, leaving the two long sides of the coconut leaf.  The strands of leaf are about 2 cm (3/4 inch) wide and are still joined together at the bottom.  These two strands are woven together to form the little, double pointed basket.  When the strands are loosened at the top once the weaving is completed, rice can be inserted into the container which can now be lowered into a pot of boiling water.  Once the rice is cooked, out comes the rice pre-packaged.  You can buy these for 10 pesos each with the rice inside.  Small ones sell for 5 pesos each including rice.  We received 4 of these and I tried to make one with lots of help so we have 5 of these as decorations in our apartment.  Decorating our wall is also a 6-inch long grasshopper, origami-like, made of coconut leaf as well.
Rice pouches

Our send-off came from the same singing group as they expressed their thanks in song and wished us on our way.   Mary-Rose purchased a number of small and larger handbags woven by local folks, before w
e bid a fond farewell.

Off to the van, and a small miracle followed – the traffic heading home was much, much lighter than we expected.  We quote MacArthur “I shall return.”

Thursday, 13 September 2018

You are Loved

Another sweet experience yesterday:  Before the temple patrons entered the Celestial room where I was assigned, I was reading in the Book of Mormon, and came across the phrase in Helaman 3:1 “…there was no contention among the people of Nephi save it were a little pride which was in the church, which did cause some little dissensions among the people”.  Instead of enjoying the beauty and peace of that room, I had been kicking myself for my attitude in Preparation meeting and the mistakes I had made in organizing the sisters’ work.  I had had “a little pride” that had added to “some little dissension” in the temple.  I was feeling repentant and sad, when I had a strong thought that didn’t feel like my own mind, “You are loved even when you are wrong.”  That brought tears to my eyes, as I realized that I am still basing my self-worth on my performance.  I am loved by my Father in Heaven and His Son when I do well and when I make mistakes, when I am humble and teachable, and when I am arrogant and bossy (who, me??).   Nothing can change His love for me, and it does not depend on my performance.  He is Love, and He loves each of us perfectly.  And when I feel His love for me, it makes it easier to humble myself and admit that I am wrong, that I need help, that I need Him.  And then I can forgive myself and learn and grow.  It’s so humbling and so wonderful to be here.  We are so blessed!

Small Miracles

Cebu Temple Celestial room-- and it's even more beautiful in reality.

Yesterday I was assigned to the Celestial room.  There is always an attendant there, even when it is not in use.  It’s beautiful, peaceful, quiet—a little piece of heaven.  As I sat alone and prayed and read scriptures, I started to feel a tickle in my throat.  Finally a cough—and another one, and they got worse, until I was coughing every two or three minutes.  In that silent room, they echoed loudly!   When the patrons enter the Celestial room, they sit quietly, praying silently.  It’s very reverent and I was worried that my coughing would disturb someone’s communion with the Lord.  Quietly I prayed for the gift of relief from my coughing when the patrons entered.  Then I stood at my place by the door to welcome the patrons, and didn’t cough.  For thirty minutes, I didn’t cough once.  Then that small miracle was repeated again today.  I am so grateful for Heavenly Father’s love, shown through those small tender mercies.

Saturday, 25 August 2018

Reunion with the Barrizo family-- after 48 years!

Greeting Sister Epifania Barrizo after 48 years

Back:Russel, Harold, Ron and M-R,;
Front: Wilma, Mama Epifania, Carol, Joy (missing Jean and Roger)

L to R: Wilma, Mama E., Carol, Joy (JetJet), Chad, Russell

We really enjoyed the Baumgartner children.  Here is Logan, who loved to draw. 

From Ron: We recently had a wonderful experience of having a family come to visit us here at the temple.  I had taught the Barrizo family in the City of Davao 48 years ago.  Back in 1970, the parents and older children were baptized five days after I was transferred from Davao to Manila.  18 of our contacts were baptized that Saturday, so I was disappointed to be transferred.  The last thing I did before leaving Davao was to visit the Barrizo family at their home.  A poor-quality photo of Sister Barrizo and a few of the kids in their house, which I took that day, helped me remember them over the years.  Sister Barrizo still has the same bright smile these many years later.  
So how did we get connected? When members from Davao came to the temple last February, we told them about the various families I had taught in Davao.  These folks took word back to the Barrizos that Mary-Rose and I were serving here at the temple in Cebu.  Jacinta, who lives in new York, had also corresponded with us by email -- she received our email address from a Brother Gray who was writing a history of the early "pioneers" of the church in the southern part of the Philippines.  We happened to sit by Brother and Sister Gray at a 50-year anniversary reunion of the Philippines Mission in Utah last October.  So the Barrizo family made it a point to find us here in Cebu as part of their reunion travels.  They came to the Patron House on Thursday evening.  I had tears rolling down my face as I gave them hugs.  They came up to our apartment and we enjoyed visiting for a couple hours, but they had to catch a boat to another island, Bohol a tourist spot, at 5 in the morning so we could not keep talking all night.  On Saturday, a number of the family attended a session at the temple in the morning, the shift that I coordinate.  It was good to see many of them at the temple.  In keeping with Grandma Jane's example, we fed the family in our apartment, 14 people in total.  It was heart-touching to again hug the mother (grandmother).  My eyes filled with tears, but it was a wonderful experience.  They may come again before we leave next year – it costs money to come.  One lives in England and a couple in the USA, as well as those from Davao.  Seven of the ten siblings were here.  It was so good to see them all!
Dinner with everyone on August 12th.  Russell is taking the picture.

Saturday, 18 August 2018


So many taxis!

One of our younger (34-year-old) temple workers, Kim, is on bed rest with a high-risk pregnancy.  She has been a devoted worker and loves to be with people, but is quite isolated socially now and is feeling nauseous and dizzy much of the time.  We have texted but I felt like I needed to go visit her.  Ron was not excited about driving in Cebu traffic to make a “woman-talk” visit, so I decided to take a taxi.  By myself!  Ron and I are always together when we go out, so this was new and scary.  We’ve had some good cab drivers and some that looked a little sketchy, but we got where we were going okay.  But by myself was a new adventure.  I prayed that I would get a taxi driver who would be safe and who would want a copy of the Book of Mormon.  The guards at the gatehouse will flag a taxi for us when we need one, so soon I was getting in one of the 7,000 taxis that crowd the streets here.  Good first sign—the seatbelts work.  Bad second sign—he doesn’t know how to find the address.  I got in front to show him an app called “Mapsme” that is like googlemaps, not as good, but doesn’t need data.  He was very cooperative and we did find the address easily.  But that’s getting ahead of myself.  We started with small talk, and I asked about his family.  He has two children.  Then he asked me what I thought about the end of the world, because his 9- and 12-year-old children ask him every day, “Is the world going to end tomorrow, Pa?”   I pulled up Matthew 24 on my phone and I read it and gave him some ideas and some of my thoughts.  I told him that he could reassure his kids that the world wouldn’t end too soon—still too many prophecies to be fulfilled.  Then I asked him if he would like the copy of the Book of Mormon that I had brought along.  He told me that he already had one, and pointed out a small card on his dash that was a picture of Jesus and children—it was a copy of the Articles of Faith in Cebuano.  A missionary had given it to him once when they were talking on the street.  And he wanted the Book of Mormon for his wife!  I didn’t know where to start, but I started to tell him about the gospel.  He really got an earful since our ride took more than an hour!  

Vilmar, the driver, carries this picture with him as he drives, because, "Christ loves the children."

I told him about temple marriage, being a forever family, baptism, priesthood authority, Apostasy and the Restoration—including the First Vision, tithing, Word of Wisdom, fasting, Joseph Smith receiving and translating the plates so we have the Book of Mormon.  I said several times, “I’m probably telling you so much that you can’t understand it!  The missionaries could explain it so much better!” But he would say, “It’s okay, sister, I like to hear you talk.”  When we got to Kim’s house, she suggested that I could make an appointment with him to come back and pick me up in 1 ½ hours.  I didn’t know that taxis would do that, but he was happy to get another big trip.  After my good visit with Kim that was waaay too short, the taxi came back and beeped for me.  As we were leaving the housing development where Kim lives, we had to stop at the guard house there for the driver to get his driver ID back.  Our temple guards don’t do that, but it’s quite common here.  There were two women, and the guard asked if they could ride with us, since it wouldn’t be out of our way.  They got in, and we started to chat—and they started to ask about why I was in Cebu, and what we believed.  They both had Mormon friends and both already had copies of the Book of Mormon!  So as they got out, we exchanged phone numbers and we will be getting together sometime!  Then I still had ½ hour or more with my captive audience.  Some of our topics this time were infant baptism, and the Holy Ghost, and personal revelation, and how he is shy to talk English and I am shy to talk Cebuano—but NOT shy in English!   I read and explained Moroni 10:3-5 to him and he really enjoyed it.  He told me that he prays and reads scriptures—and he pointed to the Book of Mormon—every day with his family.  So I was thrilled to meet him and got his name and address.  He was so sweet and sincere and I would love to meet his wife and kids.  We will see what happens!

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Brother Guia and his stories

Brother Alfredo Guia

We have been blessed to meet so many good people here.  It’s rewarding to build new friendships, and fascinating to hear their conversion stories, and humbling to know the struggles they endure. 
Brother Fred Guia is a very enthusiastic and friendly 73-year-old brother who works in the temple.  His family lives in a neighboring city, but he stays at the Patron House during the week, since travelling is difficult for him right now.  He has had serious diabetic sores on his feet that has led to partial amputations on both feet.  The sole of his right foot has some deep sores that were being treated by another missionary sister, but when those missionaries got transferred, we volunteered to help with dressing his feet twice a week.  For almost three months, we have been blessed by his faith and humour and friendship, and we have met and adopted all his wonderful family.  We are so impressed by his faith and his dedication to keep working at the temple despite his health problems.  His can-do attitude is inspiring. He has told us fascinating stories of his life, and Ron has typed as Brother Guia talks. Here are some of his stories:

My mother used to wake me up at about 4 in the morning to take the carabao to the meadows.  There were so many mosquitos when we ride on the carabao back.  Sometimes we let it wallow in the mud so that it can protect from the mosquitos.  We do not ride any more because it is muddy.  We only wait until the carabao is full and its stomach is big and then I will go home and eat my breakfast.  After 4:00 in the morning I would take the carabao to eat in the meadow.  Then at about 6 we would plow the field.  Then after that we would rest at noon.  Then we would eat for lunch.  Kamote, dried fish or rice, banana and also sometimes we cook chicken.  During the lunch we rest for a while and then at about 2:00 we would plow again.  We would check that the water is not coming out of the field – check the dikes that the water is not coming out – the grass rots and is a fertilizer for the rice plants.  Then we would plow until 5 o’clock and then we would bring the carabao to the meadows and we would leave it there.  The meadows are in the hills.  After that we would go to sleep in the evening.  And then the same routine.  When I was in the High school I was not able to plow the field because I was going to the school.  We were walking about 6 km one way to the school in Dipolog and 6 km back (barrio Gales). Then I finished high school in 1961. 

Story of one carabao that was part of the family.  My father was 78 when he died.  We called the carabao Tagilon.  He was a very obedient.  He would bring the palay (rice not yet thrashed).  He would take it to the mill (by himself) and then after the rice was milled they put the milled rice on the sledge and he would pull the sledge back home.  (No thieves then). When Tagilon died, my father cried.  The Carabao was very old.  Our neighbor wanted to slaughter it, but my father would not let them.  My father said we could not eat it because he helped us for so long.  We buried it.  My father and mother was a very industrious farmer.  And they were very religious too.  When they had a harvest, every January 1 we would have a thanksgiving for the harvest.  There was a miracle in our life.  We had a field already for harvest.  There were many rats eating rice and the rats did not eat our field.  Our neighbors asked why the rats did not eat our field.  My father said I do not know.  Every January 1 we would have a thanksgiving.  We let our labours come.  We would slaughter 2 pigs, each about 100 kg.  Our workers and neighbours would like pancit and we would make it.  They enjoyed the pancit.  At that time, we only planted one time per year.  Now they plant 2 or three times.  Coming June is planting  season. 

Not Brother Guia, but similar

We feel so blessed to have his example in our life.  
I think the Lord sends extra-strong spirits to the Philippines.  

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Mother's Day 2018

Mother's Day was been really enjoyable here in the Philippines.  Everyone we talked to at all during the day wished me a Happy Mother's Day, and every adult woman was wished "Happy Mother's Day" often.  No standing up in the chapel at the end of Sacrament meeting, though.  No public mother-guilt! 

I had been invited to a Mother's Day luncheon held at noon, after the church meetings were done.  I wanted to go to later church meetings so I could talk with more of my family, but I have been playing the piano for Relief Society for the Busay Ward which meets at 9 AM.  So I went to the Busay Ward Relief Society at 11, played piano, and stayed for the potluck Mothers' Day lunch (cooked by the mothers!).  It was delicious, and our chocolate chip cookies were a hit.  Cookies are a real treat, since few families have an oven; electricity is so expensive here and incomes are so low.  The Primary children came and sang-- just as adorable here in the Philippines as Primary kids at home.   Then we attended Apas Ward in the afternoon, where chocolate bars were handed out at the end of the meetings. 

And of course the highlight of my Mothers' Day was being able to talk with all our children and most of the grandkids.  We are so thankful for technology!

Here are the Primary children singing to the mothers at the luncheon.  Aren't they adorable?  Note the uninflated balloons taped to the stage curtains.  Filipinos like to decorate!