Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Our First Christmas...

The Christmas Eve Gingerbread House
This past week was a busy one but oh so rewarding.  Both of us were a little wary of spending this Christmas week away from family and friends but with the schedule we kept, we didn't have a lot of time to think about it.  However, on Saturday morning and Monday morning [here], we did really enjoy hearing from four of our children and their families.  Everyone seemed to have a great time and all were healthy...all except Randy!  He has been battling an awful cold/upper respiratory infection but seems to be on the mend.

The stage area with the stockings displayed

The tables were set and festive

A friend of Sister Carlos got 175 DARLING stocking, one for each Elder/Sister

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of last week we held our quarterly Zone Conferences.  At Christmas time, we have all of the missionaries come to Cauayan and we bundle the training with a Christmas dinner/ celebration/ gifts/ singing/ skits and a fun party.  We also group the zones together and hold it three days in a row because there is not room for all 160 missionaries in the church building attached to the Mission Office/Home compound.  Tuesday we hosted three zones, Wednesday and Thursday only two.  I was in charge of the dessert and decided my 'famous' Chocolate Pie would just fit the bill.  Randy calculated the ingredients and did my shopping for me [such a sweetie] so I only had to cook.  During the course of the week, I made the equivalent of 36 pies!   The most efficient way to do it was in 9x13 pans however and that worked great.  We have one elder who is allergic to chocolate so on Thursday, I made one vanilla and it was also a hit!  Filipino's are not normally wild about really sweet things but there was not a lot of waste and I saw many coming back for seconds.  
A friend of Brenda's who has a business that takes her on buying trips to China repeatedly during the year worked with her suppliers to get enough darling Christmas stockings for each Elder and Sister to have one of their own.  We had fun matching some to the different personalities of the missionaries and we filled them with handmade gifts, candy, and a special letter from their family or a testimony from a member if the family did not respond with a letter.  They were so cute and it was such fun to watch the eyes of the missionaries as they entered the cultural hall and spotted them on the stage.  One American Elder [who knew about stockings-the Filipino's didn't understand the concept for the most part but caught on quickly once the tradition was explained to them] leaned over to me and whispered..'sister, are those real stockings or just for decoration?'  I assured him they were real and he was so pumped!!

Sister Carlos made a bizillion pans of lasagna, salad, garlic bread and everyone got their fill.  The most popular item I think was the fresh green salad-a luxury here for the missionaries.  Most don't spend the money to buy then prepare salad so it was a huge hit!

Each zone was asked to prepare and present a skit..some were fun, some serious and all very enjoyable.  The senior missionaries and the AP's had our own skit-it was a take-off on The 12 Day's of Christmas, Filipino style...using a lot of things we only find here.  President and Sister Carlos wrote it on a recent road trip and we had such fun getting our 'props' together.  Here is a UTube link if you want to be brave..hahaha!      

This clever group used rice bags to create their costumes

A Christmas song sung by the Tuguegarao Zone

Sister Fort and Sister Martinez sharing their great talents

Immediately after the meetings on Thursday, we piled into the mission van and traveled to Ilagan for our 5th Devotional then on Friday, to Santiago for our final performance of the season.   Even with his horrible virus, Randy did a grand job with his vocal solo [When Joseph Went to Bethlehem] and his violin accompaniments.  The experience has been awesome and one we or most of the members will not forget.  They are all asking for an encore next year and Sister Carlos and I have actually discussed it...

Our Ilagan characters

And Santiago, our final performance
Saturday Randy and I had one of the best experiences we have had since arriving in the Philippines as we invited Elder Rausa and Elder Oliver to join us in 'the orange project'.  As small children both of us remember having a fresh orange in our Christmas stockings.  Over the years, the orange tradition has been passed down to our children and now our grandchildren.  Oranges, to us, represent love, family, warmth, home...all of the fond memories of our Christmas' past and we decided to purchase and bag oranges to deliver to the people who have put their footprints on our hearts this season...mostly our new members, investigators and a few of the branch families we have become close to and love so much.  At the first house, we just briefly explained what oranges mean to us and that we wanted to share with their family [a very short visit, not the usual 20 minutes we spend].  Then we left...well, at our second house, when we had finished our story or our reason for coming, Elder Rausa broke out in 'We Wish you a Merry Christmas' and we all joined it..that became the way we ended all of the visits and everyone was so thrilled.  Fresh oranges are a treat for most of these people.  It was a wonderful day for us and this afternoon, we are teaming with the sister missionaries to do the same thing in the branch where they serve.  Roxas 1st and 2nd Branches are our main focus and by the end of today, those people will all know how they have touched OUR lives..

Bagged and ready..

Elder Oliver, me, Randy and Elder Rausa
Christmas Eve we decided to involve ourselves [and dragged Elder Oliver and Rausa with us!] in the mission home activities.  President Carlos was very sick so he was quarantined to his bedroom but with the help of Elder Katoa and Elder Cajumban, Sister Carlos was very able and capable of pulling off a grand party!  We had BBQ Chicken on skewers from the grill [thanks to Elder Katoa and a few helpers], President's world-famous eggrolls [thanks to Sister Carlos and Elder Cajumban], Raspberry Chipolte Cream Cheese and crackers, veggies, rice, chips, and a variety of desserts including pie, many different homemade cookies and bars and GRAHAM.  Graham is pronounced 'Gray-hem' by the Filipinos and is a favorite of theirs-I am sending the recipe to Stephanie and Kimberly but if any of you want it, email me.  It is made with graham crackers [hence the name], cream, fresh mangos, sweetened condensed milk and NO CALORIES!!!  yeah, right!!  It is wonderful and I will make a couple of pans for New Year's Eve this weekend.

Sister Carlos is a kid at heart and loves to create things, hence the main activity that night-construction of a Gingerbread House.  Most of the Filipinos have never seen or heard of such a thing but they all did a great job.

pretty nifty, huh??
Christmas day we talked in a district by assignment from President Carlos then gathered with the other old folks at the Mission home for our dinner and gift exchange.  President was feeling a little better but as I type this, on Wednesday morning, he is still not up to par.  It was a great evening and solidified the love I have for these other seniors.  We work well together and play well together...what could be any better???

One last thing is the tradition of 'carolers' here in the Philippines.  Starting mid-November, groups will come to your house and sing Christmas songs and when finished, put their hands out expecting to be paid a tip.  The people here are interesting-I think I have mentioned in the past that there is NO middle class-people are very rich or very poor for the most part and that breeds begging.  I am not one to give handouts, never have been and never will be so when people or children approach me on the street, in front of restaurants or other business establishments, in the palenke, etc. with their 'sad' eyes, the moaning and hand out, I normally ignore them.  We were told early on about the poverty and the begging and were told that as missionaries, we cannot give to beggars.  Americans are targeted anyway because, according to the people here, we are all filthy rich and can afford anything...boy, do they have THAT wrong!!!  Anyway, parents tend to exploit their children in the begging and caroling is no exception.  Many groups came and just wanted peso's but this little group actually sang for us a couple of mornings and touched the soft heart of my hubby.

Our cute little carolers
We are hoping each of you had a grand Christmas with lots of goodies, family and fun gatherings.  New Year's is a big celebration here [and a dangerous one-check next week's blog for more update on that] so we will be gearing up for this weekend when we will all welcome in 2012!  Where has the time gone???


  1. My modest wife didn't explain her part in the Christmas Devotionals that we put on. She was the one that played the piano for most of the hymns that were sung and in all but two, sang a duet with Sister Carlos (Mary's Lullaby) and helped all of the young missionaries get into their Costumes - besides being co-author of the devotional with Sister Carlo. She's my behind the scenes person that makes everyone else look good. I love her and thank God for sending her to me.