Well, this is week two in the Philippines. It is still hot and humid. But I think that maybe I am beginning to tolerate the heat a bit better. I still carry a sweat cloth around all the time but I think that this is a good time to have come to the Philippines (these are the cold months) and I can get accustomed to this heat before the real hot months come in February, March and April. (He wrote that today it was 102 with 80% humidity). We love the people. For the most
part they love Americans and they always seem to have a smile on their faces.
The little towns seem so dirty and somewhat primitive but the people seem to always wear clean clothes and are happy with so little. I am told that the average worker makes about $6 a day in wages. We have found that rent is pretty inexpensive (we pay $300 a month for our little 2 bedroom dollhouse) but gasoline and food are quite expensive. Milk costs 418 pesos per gallon (that’s $9.45) and gasoline is 41.5 pesos per liter (that’s $4.20 per gallon). We are assigned to a small town (San Gabriel District) about 45 kilometers south of Manila. It is considered a rural area even though there are thousands of people living here. I have yet to find where they all live? There are a lot of ‘squatters’ in this area. These are people that have lost a home in the metro Manila area so they move to the countryside and hope to find work. They build small huts out of cardboard and sticks and anything else they can find on the side of the roads. It breaks my heart. There are a lot of people that don’t have work here. Workers are cheap here so every store has lots and lots of employees that are in the stores to help you. They will gladly take something out of the package for you to see it and feel it. We went into a department store to find a portable CD player so we could listen to our Tagalog CDs – the employee followed us around every turn and as soon as we stopped to look at something he would take it out for us to demonstrate it. When we decided on a particular item he put it together for us and demonstrated how to use it before we purchased it. It is real customer service but sometimes you just want to be left alone to look at things. It is still hot and humid.
We attended our first Sunday meetings yesterday in our Branch. The Branch President does not speak very much English at all. He is currently unemployed. His wife works for a company in Saudia Arabia and she comes back to the Philippines once or twice a month. The members are very friendly. They were excited to have us assigned to the Branch. We arrived at 8:10 am for Priesthood and Relief Society at 8:30. No chairs were set up in the chapel so mom and I set up the chapel. We went to our classes and the 1st counselor in the Branch Presidency taught Priesthood meeting. He said that we would start the class about 9:00. We were warned that things started when they would be ready. The meetings were good. We attended the Gospel Principles class in Sunday School – there were 9 investigators in class and 3 that usually come were not there. They had a good lesson (they speak in Tagalog but their manuals are in English) Mom and I were the only ones that had manuals in Tagalog – they asked me to read a section of the manual but I told them that my manual was in Tagalog – they all had a good laugh about that. Most of the members have English scriptures also – so talks in Sacrament meeting and lessons are in Taglish (combination of Tagalog and English). They asked Mom and I to speak in Sacrament meeting to introduce ourselves and share our testimonies. I made sure to ask them if we could speak in English. They said that was ok. It was a great experience – I testified about how I knew that the Book of Mormon was true and the spirit was strong – I had eye contact with each of the investigators and it was great. Heavenly Father has poured out His Spirit on this land and this people. As I said, the people are very friendly. They have a natural smile on their faces. They are also very shy. When you compliment them they cover their mouth with their hand and look down. The 1st Counselor in the Branch Presidency speaks very good English. It took him 4 years to join the church and he served a mission locally in the Philippines. As we spoke (I asked him a lot and I mean a lot of questions) I told him that he spoke very good English. I was taken back when even he covered his mouth and looked down. They are very shy.
I was rather bold and invited ourselves to the correlation meeting after Sacrament meeting. I wanted to let them know that we are here as a resource to help them. I think that they were happy and are looking forward to having us in the Branch. One of the full-time elders told me that he has been here for 3 transfers and they haven’t given him the lists of members that he requested. We asked for a member list, a recent convert list, a prospective elder list and list of people that they would like us to work with for reactivation. They told us they would have the list for us next Sunday. The Elder was a little upset. As we were waiting for the correlation meeting to begin they asked me to come into the office so that they could give a blessing to a sister in the Branch. They all looked at me and finally asked if I would anoint her. I did so gladly. That was a great experience.
We have some pictures for you. They are some snapshots of the area. The electrical wiring is unheard of – when a new residence needs electricity they just string a new wire to the home so the wiring on the streets looks like spaghetti and looks dangerous. We had a severe lightning storm on Friday evening – the lights flickered 3 or 4 times and I prayed very hard that the power would not go out. I was glad that I threw my flashlight into our luggage at the last minute. I couldn’t imagine sitting through a power outage in this humidity and heat without a fan. It is still hot and humid.
They also have lots of motorcycles and tricycles (motorcycle with a side car) that really mess up traffic – they go wherever they want to on whatever side of the street they want to. They also have jeepneys that are a real thrill on the road. These are modeled after the World War II army jeep but are modified to carry 20 or more people. They pull off the road to pick up passengers anywhere and anytime – the fun thing is when they just stop in traffic and don’t pull over (they don’t want to lose their place in the traffic)- most don’t have working brake lights or headlights for that matter. Some of the personally owned jeepneys are quite fancy. The owner names them and they are highly polished and decked out. They also have a front bumper that sticks out about 2 feet from the front of the vehicle – I think this provides protection for the vehicle and also another place to carry 1 or 2 more passengers. They are wild.
We are doing well. It is still hot and humid and it will be getting hotter. The apartment is small but nice. We have a couple of friendly geckos that are here in the apartment also. They are ok since they eat the other bugs. You just can’t be surprised or frightened when you move something and a gecko runs up the wall to get away from you.
This first week has been a challenge because we are really trying to figure out what we can do. We didn’t have an established program to come into and we didn’t even have a way to contact members until Sunday. So we have just tried to become accustomed to the area and have studied a lot. I know this will change and we will become very busy. I have made some forms to go into an area book that include directions to the apartment, the chapel, the full-time missionaries and then has pictures of the Branch leadership. My plan is to make one of these sheets for each of the branches so whoever replaces us will have some idea of who to contact and what to do. If anything it will help me.
Hope that you are all doing well. We pray many times during each day for you and know that Heavenly Father will take care of you. We still don’t have the internet connection at the apartment. The service people came out and couldn’t establish a signal. It was comical to watch them – they decided that the trees around the apartment were blocking the signal so they were coming back to put a pipe on the wire to lift it 10 feet higher so we could get a signal (yup, that’s what we need – a lightning rod on top of the house leading into the computer). I told you the wiring is unbelievable. We should be up and running Monday morning. Well this letter is getting way too long. We love you all. We are so proud of you and appreciate your prayers and love. Make sure that you give all the babies and kids big big big hugs for us. We will see you soon on Skype. Love, Dad & Mom
Here are the pictures that mom sent yesterday. I am asking for them to send pictures of the wiring, as it does sound crazy, and the Jeeps that are wild! Sounds like they are doing great and loving it! Nothing better than serving our Heavenly Father all day everday!
Here is the mission home. Mom and dad got to stay there for 3 days before they got to move to their 'dollhouse'.
Here is their doll house. The car is theirs to drive, but it doesn't fit into the driveway! (We are thinking that the pink one is their house)