Sunday, March 31, 2013

It's Easter!

Palm Branches To The Priest
Happy Easter!

“Here in the Philippines Easter is a significant religious observance for the Roman Catholic majority and most Protestant groups.

“Beginning Maunday Thursday, businesses in the Philippines either shut down operations until Black Saturday or have later opening and earlier closing times.  Some local terrestrial television and radio stations close down.  Those that do, operate truncated broadcasting hours and feature religious programming, films, and news coverage of religious ceremonies.
The Way Of The Cross
“On Palm Sunday many carry palm fronds to be blessed by the priest.  Many Filipinos bring them home after the Mass and place them above their front doors or windows, in the belief that doing so can ward off evil spirits and avert lighting.

Maundy Thursday is the beginning of the Triduum, and represents the build-up of events for the week.  The main observance of the day is the last Mass before Easter (commonly called the Mass of the Institution of the Lord’s Supper) usually including a re-enactment of the Washing of the Feet of the Apostles.
Re-enactment Of The Crucifixion
“Beginning in the morning, the faithful observe the Church Visit’, which usually involves going to seven churches to meditate on the Way of the Cross.

Good Friday is a public holiday, commemorated with solemn street processions, the Way of the Cross, the commemoration of Jesus’ Seven Last Words, and a traditional Passion play which in some places is a week-long affair.  The highlight of Good Friday activities is the procession of the wooden image of Christ’s corpse lying supine.  In some communities the processions include devotees who self-flagellate and sometimes even have themselves nailed to crosses as expressions of penance.  Some places accord this with proper funeral rites, such as laying the body in state.  The image is interred in the chapel nearest the parish, and remains locked within until the Easter Vigil.  The public sorrow and somber mood attached to this day gave rise to the Tagalog idiom Mukha Kang Biyernes Santo.’ Literally meaning ‘You look like Good Friday,’ as the subject’s sad expression resembles that of the suffering Christ.  Filipinos traditionally avoid noisemaking and, in older times, bathing (unless required for health reasons) after 15:00 PST as a form of sacrifice in accordance with the belief that Christ died at that hour.
Actually Nailed To The Cross
Easter morning is marked with joyous celebration, the first being the dawn ceremony.  Statues of the Resurrected Christ and the Virgin Mary are brought in procession together.  They re-enact the imagined reunion of Christ and his mother Mary after the Resurrection.  The Virgin Mary is clothed or veiled in black to express bereavement.  A girl dressed as an angel, positioned on a specially constructed high platform, or suspended in mid-air, sings and dramatically removes the black veil to signify the end of Mary’s grieving.  This may also be done by other ‘angels’ who pull off the veil, or tie it to balloons or doves and release these into the sky.  The Virgin is then called ‘Our Lady of Joy’ and confetti is showered on the statues.  The moment is marked by pealing bells and fireworks, followed by the Easter Mass.”   Wikipedia

Little Angels
As I have mentioned before the Filipino people are very religious.  They are eager to talk about the things of the Spirit and their feelings are genuine.  You can imagine how much they enjoy and respect the Easter Holy Week.

We have also spent a wonderful week in the Temple.  The Saints use their free time during the holiday week to visit the Temple.  Each day, when we arrived at the Temple at six o’clock, we were greeted by large numbers of people waiting for the seven o’clock session to start.  To accommodate the many people who visit the Temple during Easter week, we scheduled sessions in the four ordinance rooms every half hour.  It is necessary to add four or five extra chairs to the respective ordinance rooms in order to seat those in attendance throughout the day.

Angel Removing The Black Veil
As you can tell, we were busy enough that there was no time to act like a tourist and visit the traditional Filipino celebrations, so you will have to be satisfied with the images we were able to find from news articles and such.  For the most part they are images from this week’s activities throughout the country.

We’ll close for now.

We love you,
Mom and Dad
Easter Of Feeding The Poor
Elder and Sister

Re-enactment Of Carrying The Cross

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Rags to . . . .

Back In The Temple
President And Sister Wong

It was good to get back in the Temple after two weeks of being away.  Again Wednesday proved to be the highlight of working in the Temple.  The new Asian missionaries from the MTC came for their own Endowments.  Five groups of five each from the Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, India, Pakistan, Indonesia and Mongolia, were scattered throughout the ten morning sessions.  I wish everyone could have the opportunity of working with them as they, with their almond skin and black hair, move cautiously around the halls of the Temple, wide-eyed and innocent looking in their crisply pressed white slacks and white barong.  When these countries have strong enough congregations to be sending young men and women on missions, my testimony of the growth of a worldwide church is strengthened.    
An Alley On The Way To Church

During a discussion about family research with President Wong, Counselor in the Temple Presidency, he began talking about his own history.  It was a conversation between he and me.  I was moved by his story, and asked if it was OK to write home about it.  He chuckled a little and said: “I don’t mind.  There’s a lot more if you want it”.  He hasn’t given me the second chapter so there will be more later.

To start with, President Wong is one of those people who has a permanent smile on his face.  You know, they have to work hard to look unkind.  Like all other Filipinos, he looks ten to fifteen years younger than his age.
I've Seen Worse Conditions

At age seven, his father came from China to the Island of Mindanao in the Philippines, with his uncle, years before the Second World War.  There are no found records or knowledge of any other family members in China before his father.  As a refugee with little money, it was an achievement for him to become a cobbler, and be able to almost provide for his family.  They lived in poverty.

President Wong graduated from public school at the age of sixteen with a desire to go to college.  There was no money and his father said there was no chance of college; he should just begin to learn a trade and start working.
A Gated Community?

He left home and got a janitorial job at a college for thirty-five pesos a week (less than a dollar).  This was not enough to live on, but school was free.  Times were very hard.  He went to his stepbrother’s on weekends to get some real food.  He explained where his stepbrother came from by sheepishly smiling and telling of his mothers many boy friends.  On one of the weekend visits to his stepbrother’s he met the missionaries who were teaching the family.  He also joined the church a short time after.

He was studying business in college so he tried to find a job in a bank.  There was a janitorial position available and so he made a step up.  It still didn’t pay any more, but he was closer to his profession.  The Lord was helping him along in his efforts to move out of the poor conditions he had grown up in.  He met a young lady that worked in a restaurant in the same building and his.  They spent some time together.
Gated Community Near The Temple

When he informed the bank that he would be leaving to go on a mission after graduation, they said:  “You can’t go now.  We are just talking about moving you up to a better position.  There will not be a position open to you after two years, you should take it now.”

While he was on his mission in Manila, he sent the missionaries to find the girl from the restaurant and teach her.  They couldn’t find her.  One day the missionaries were in the post office and a girl (a friend of the restaurant girl) was filling out some paperwork to send a package.  They happened to look down at what she was doing and noticed the name of the girl they were looking for.  They asked if she was the girl.  “No” she replied, but she knows her.  The missionaries taught both girls who got baptized a short time after.
Happy Children Playing In The Street

When President Wong returned from his mission he approached the bank about a job.  They said they had a position, and since he had been with them before they would give him the job.  He and Sister Wong got married and have lived happily “ever after”.  (Her girlfriend also married a return missionary and moved to Utah.)

We can see the Lord’s hand in the many lives of this story.  I’m sure we all see it in our own lives also.

I look forward to the continuation 

We’ll close for now.

We love you,
Mom and Dad
Elder and Sister

Sunday, March 17, 2013

It's A Beautiful Land

Subic Bay
Subic Bay
Today we had a Regional Conference, which was broadcast from Salt Lake.  The speakers were one of the Seventies, Sister Cook of the Young Women’s Presidency, Elder Holland and Elder Hales.  The Church is organizing four new missions in the Philippines, so much of what they said had to do with inviting the young men and women to follow the counsel of the Prophet and serve missions.  The increase of missions and hence missionaries, will accomplish the work of the “Rescue”.  The growth of the Church here is significant.  I wish I could have taken a picture of the attendance in the Stake Center this morning.  It is as large as any Stake Center back home.  It was filled to overflow.  In fact during the intermission hymn, all of us in the Cultural Hall picked up our chairs and crowded forward so over a hundred more could come in and see the screen. It looked like at least half were youth but, of course, anyone under the age of thirty-five looks like a teenager. Can you imagine the view from the rear - thousands of black haired Saints, and Mom. There are twenty-four Stakes in Metropolitan Manila.  There were three sessions of the broadcast in each building to accommodate the crowds.
Baatan Road Marker

“Throughout World War II, the Japanese Navy maintained a ship-building facility in Subic Bay.  The area became infamous for the war crimes committed against Allied prisoners of war - especially for the Baatan ‘Death March’. . . the forced march of 67,000 US and Filipino prisoners during which many thousands died or were executed, and the tragedy of the Oryoku Maru ‘Hellship’.  It was the prisoner transport ship on which only 400 out of 1,360 POWs survived the bombing, sinking and the subsequent mistreatment by the Japanese.”  Andy Davis

We made a short trip to Baatan National Park and Subic Bay earlier in the week.  It’s a beautiful place now, but it’s difficult to be there and not visualize it as it was shown in the newsreels and movies of the forties.  We drove to the top of one of the peaks in the park to visit the monument erected by President Marcos in commemoration of the heroes of the war.
Heroes Monument

We were invited to Sister Chavez’ birthday celebration on Wednesday.  They live only a short distance from the Taal volcano.  It is a small volcano, with a side vent inside the crater of a larger volcano.  Now, a long time after the destruction, it is a beautiful and peaceful tourist attraction.  Sometime we might sail over to the volcano and ride horses to the top of the ridge where we will be able to see the Crater Lake within a crater, within a Crater Lake within a crater.  For now you can imagine it.

It’s time to get back to work.  We will be back in the Temple at six on Tuesday morning.
Taal Volcano

We’ll close for now.

Bay at Baatan Peninsula 
Bats Hanging Out In National Park
Bat Lost In The Daylight?
Monkeys Resting By Roadside
Got A Dime?
We Didn't Get Fed To The Lions
They Had Hope
Heroes Monument
Inside The Arm Of The Cross
Afraid Of Heights?
The Shadow Of The Cross
The Birthday Girl
The Party Goers
A Crater In A Crater In A Crater?
Tending The Rice Fields
Flooding The Field For Planting
The Rice Fields
There Is Beauty All Around
We love you,
Mom and Dad
Elder and Sister

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Cool Getaway

View From The Breakfast Patio
Time For Breakfast

This past week has been spent getting better acquainted with some of the Temple missionaries with whom we have the opportunity of associating in the Temple.  Due to the Temple being closed for maintenance many of the Temple missionaries have filled two vans and traveled to Baguio.  The travel time was eight hours each way.  This gave us time to gain a better understanding of each other’s personalities and background.

One of the Sister Missionaries grew up on the island of Mindanao.  She immigrated to the United States when she was in her early twenties.  She married an American man and shortly after they were married, they joined the Church.  After about thirty years of marriage her husband died of a heart attack.  Some time before the death of her husband, she had a dream that she was serving on a mission.  Her husband was not in the dream and she wondered why.  After her husband passed away, she remembered the dream and felt strongly that she was being prompted to serve a mission.  She has been here for nineteen months and is due to return home soon.
Banana Tree

A senior couple from Washington tell an interesting story of conversion.  Neither of them were from religious homes, and yet, after the birth of their first child they felt a need to associate with a church as they raised their children.  Shortly after they had decided to search for a church, the missionaries (coincidently?) knocked on their door.  Her husband was at school and in response to the question of whether she would like to hear their message; she said, “no, I don’t think I would be interested”.  They left a Joseph Smith pamphlet, which she laid on the coffee table.  When her husband came home and saw the back of the brochure with the gold plates, his mind was triggered to a time as a teenager, while driving around town with a friend who had just joined the Church, was told of Joseph Smith and the gold plates.  His curiosity was peaked and he asked if the missionaries were going to come back.  She said she told them she was not interested so she didn’t think they would return.  Within a couple of days the missionaries did return.  The couple heard the discussions and was baptized within weeks.
The New Temple Site

If you want to travel around the Philippines it will be by tricycle, car, van, Jeepney, bus or plane.  There is no luxury train to hop on and avoid the traffic.  You can imagine maneuvering through the country roads and village streets competing with trucks, cars, vans, tricycles, jeepneys, and buses, all wanting the same space and ignoring any traffic lanes.  An eight-hour trip is not eight hours because of the distance alone.  Arriving in Baguio brought with it peace and relaxation.

The city of Baguio is the Summer Retreat for the Filipino government officials.  It has a mile high elevation with cooler temperatures.  Tourists are attracted to the clean cool air and beautiful vistas.  It is densely populated with three to four hundred thousand people.

On our way home we stopped by the Thunderbird beach at San Fernando, La Union.  It was a wonderful break from being in Manila.

That’s all for now.
Enjoy the Gallery

The Road Up To Baguio
We Were Met By The Lions Club
Yes They Have Electricity
Another View
Starting Down A Side Street
Can You Imagine The Vistas?
Close Neighbors
Beautiful Flowers Without A Yard
Even A Papaya Tree
No Running
The President's Summer House
The Suburbs
Mile High View
Some Native Costumes
Some Other Natives
A Rice Harvest
Drying Rice Along The Highway
Recalling Her Children's Childhood
Contemplating The Sunset
The End
We love you all,
Mom and Dad
Elder and Sister