Sunday, August 5, 2012

Our lives are full of choices...

"Happy Birthday to YOU" are four of the most used English words in this country!  As I have said before, these people are party animals!  If there is a party happening, they are all there.  For the most part, Filipinos are fun-loving, happy, content, industrious people who LOVE to eat and LOVE to be together.  Any excuse for a gathering will do.  

Recently the Russell's returned to their home in Oregon and upon arriving in the states, Sister emailed me to let me know they were safe.  The thing she mentioned that was the strangest being home was there were NO people.  I know that sounds weird but in the Philippines, there are people everywhere!  Because of the heat and humidity, most gather outside year round.  No homes have grass, only dirt so they normally will build a little 'buhay kubo', like a raised, covered gazebo type area in the front, by the road, where they all gather to visit and watch the world go by.  Children play right next to the highway, a sight that scared us to death at first but it is amazing to see these little children, 18 months old on up, just toddling right next to the highway.  Last week we drove to a nearby town to negotiate with a potential landlord.  I think I mentioned that we are now in charge of all of the housing in the mission, young missionaries and us old folks too.  We find [with the help of the local missionaries and members] then we work with the potential landlords on a contract.  It is very time consuming but an interesting diversion.  Anyway, we were in their front porch area which was behind a 6' wall.  From the street, we were not particularly visible but our truck was parked out front.  As we were explaining the contract to the husband and wife who owned the apartment complex, I noticed some movement out of the corner of my eye-I turned my head and there, next to the porch, was an audience of onlookers.  Nobody has boundaries here for privacy.  It is amazing-their curiosity gets the best of them and in they come, standing in the 'wings' observing and listening to the conversation.  My American upbringing was appalled at that in the beginning-'who are they to snoop like that?' was my thought but it doesn't bother the Filipinos.  It is just part of their culture-'if you are curious, just hang around, eavesdrop and your questions will be answered.

Anyway, back to birthdays.  This past week, President Munoz grandson turned one and he invited us to the party.  We bought a small gift and away we went.  The mother and baby live with her parents as her husband [President Munoz' son] is working abroad.  Her parents are quite well-to-do so the party was grand!  They live in a barangy [little city/neighborhood/housing area] and everyone was invited!  They people came and ate and ate and ate.  We enjoyed just watching the people...I have always been a people watcher and that is one of my favorite pastimes here.  Angry Birds was the theme and the food they served was typical.  Lionythuz had a good birthday and so did all who attended.  [his mom says his name is English...personally, I have never heard it before but I didn't want to be the one to tell her that!]

Lionythuz with his mom, Michelle

This is a typical 'treat' dogs and marshmellows on sticks
displayed in piece of the trunk of a banana tree.  YUCK!

Angry Bird balloons for all..

Rice is always the center of attention.  Notice the spaghetti
up in the corner-they LOVE is different
from ours but a common food at parties.

The plastic purses march on!  Last Saturday we had an activity in Roxas for 'branch 2' to learn how to crochet the plastic purses.  These ladies are SO funny-they absolutely LOVE this project and every group that has learned is going nuts making bags.  This is the first branch we attended and although we are no longer participating with them on Sundays, I still visit and will teach occasionally.  There are six units in our District and I will work with each one as needed.  

Cutting the bags..Sister Russell left her 'equipment' so it gives us
two cutting stations and the work goes faster.

Have you ever met a missionary who is full?  Not hungry a bit?  Neither have I and our cute fella's from Roxas 2 smelled the food and crashed the party.  They are beloved by the members and the ladies were thrilled to feed them.

Elder Griffin giving his stamp of approval to the daily fare..

You must admit that Elder Delector looks wonderful modeling his pink purse.  Elder Griffin refused
to join in the modeling...a little shy guy..
When Elder Shaner and I were assigned to Mallig last month, we pondered and prayed about 'where do we start??'  We got the answer 'the youth'.  If we can train the youth and build up their program, we felt sure the parents would follow and return or come to church.  Last Sunday we had the first EVER in the history of the Mallig Branch 'Combined Young Men/Young Women Activity'.  We invited the parents and showed a DVD about the youth program that is outlined in the handbook.  Elder Shaner discussed and explained the Duty to God program for the young men and I focused on the Personal Progress for the Young Women.  The DVD was in Tagalog so all could understand it and by showing the 'ideal' program DVD to the parents, we got them to buy into the program and will in turn, encourage their children to attend and help them with their individual goals in their respective areas.  It is a little like the BSA for those of you not of our faith-they set goals, choose areas to work on, and when they complete their projects, they sign-off with an advisor.  We don't have merit badges but there are nice pieces of jewelry for the young women that they can earn by keeping their focus on their goals, keeping their standards, working on their projects, etc. 

Part of the youth group.  These are great kids!!
Mexican food...what do you think of?  Salsa?  chips?  cheese?  tacos??  There is a real void in our lives for Mexican food here.  A couple of weeks ago, I made a Mexican feast for the senior couples, courtesy of Sharon Russell.  With her house came a plethora of food.  In the cabinet were cans of refried beans, green chilis and salsa.  I made chicken enchiladas and we all ate until we were sick!  One day when Pres Q came over, he told me of the avocado trees on this property.  AVOCADOS????????????  As in Guacamole?????  We love guacamole and I have made it many times in the past month but this past week, we had 12-14 avocados that needed to be used so I made a big bowl of it and froze most for a 'rainy' day.  I do love the produce here-I think I have mentioned that before but the fresh produce is amazing and when I return home next summer, I will definitely miss the availability and the cost of the finest fruits and veggies I have ever eaten.
Making the Guac!

My quality control...
We have come to love Elder Griffin-he is from St George in southern Utah and will be returning to his family this October.  He will be missed by so many people but welcomed home to his great family.  He reminds me a little of our youngest son Rob.  Both are tall, great eaters, soft hearted and such tender men.  When Elder Griffin and Elder Delector had an investigator who wanted to be baptized, they had a dilemma...Sister Helen had a stroke a few years back and as a result, has tremendous pain when she gets cold.  Now in the Philippines, the baptismal fonts are filled with water from the tap and NOBODY has heated water.  Most new converts are told that and are ok with it-it is like their normal lives but Sister Helen was terrified of getting chilled SO....enter Elder Griffin.  I am not sure how he accomplished it but through his prayers and pondering, he came upon the idea to check into portable water heating systems.  He and Elder Delector worked and worked and accomplished it!  The baptism came off without a hitch, Sister Helen was baptized and is now the newest member of the Roxas Branch 2 family.

Sister Helen with the missionaries and her grandson [EJ is behind her-the first one
to become a member in his family] and her new friends from the branch.  Don't you love the
socks?  She is one of the 'pioneers' in this area-almost 90 and one of the first members.
The main agricultural product of this area of the Philippines is rice.  That is a staple in the Filipino diet and is a source of income for probably 90% of the people in our mission.  They either own a farm and raise rice [we know 4 or 5 that do this] or they work the planting and harvesting of the rice [most of the people we know are involved in this part of the rice growing] and some will harvest and help to dry, bag and sell the rice.  A few are lucky enough to have had capital at one time and they actually own or operate buying stations where they purchase the rice and distribute it for sale.  Rice is the core product both in production and consumption.

However, there are other things that are grown...tobacco is second in production and distribution.  When tobacco is being grown, it is beautiful.  The leaves are very large and provide a vibrant green field.  There are sheds that are constructed in the fields where they actually dry the leaves.  It is sad to think that something so gorgeous can be so deadly and addictive.  But isn't that the way it is with most of Satan's tools???  He makes them so tempting and enticing that it is difficult for us to turn our back on them or to deny ourselves.  Life is like that-rice to feed our bodies or tobacco to destroy them.  Our choice.  Life is full of choices and the ones we make today will impact us and our posterity for eternity.  
Tobacco field and drying shed...looks so innocent..
What choices are you making?  What choices are you teaching your children to make and can you live with the consequences of those choices??  I am so grateful I chose to spend two years of my waning years in this marvelous country.  There is NO place on this earth I would rather be for the next ten months.  I know the work we are doing is inspired and I feel so humbled that my Father in Heaven would trust ME, a silly midwestern girl with these precious choice today is to be the best I can be!!  I promise!!


  1. Great post, Cheri. Except for the heat, the Philipines is such a perfect place for you! I can picture you surrounded with people all day, in your element.
    I remember the tobacco fields from when David and I were first married and lived in Kentucky. Many of the members were tobacco farmers. And the rest worked in horse racing.
    Brother Brown lost his translator. The Van Haftens moved, so David will used his computer once more. Brother Brown's health is not improving any, so he doesn't come as often as he used to.
    The big problem in the branch now is bed bugs. They are spreading like wildfire. The Relief Society is sponsoring a meeting later this month on how to get rid of bed bugs, which is not an easy task. The Andersons (who are still hanging on in the branch) have had some bed bug problems in their apartment complex. What they do is crank up the heat as high as it will go and turn on the oven for three hours. This is not fun this summer since temperatures have been hovering around 100 degrees with no rain. One of these days something's going to catch on fire. I think about the plague in old times, and how fire is the thing that ended it.
    How do you make your guacamole? Just smushed up avocados? Do you add anything?

  2. I think I say the same thing every time, but it is always so wonderful to hear from you and about your experiences. We sure love and miss you! I'm glad you've got your quality control. What would you do without him?!

    I keep thinking that something is going to catch on fire around here, too!!:) The yards (especially around where we live) are dead, brown grass. There is some green grass where the shade is or if people water. It hasn't even been really humid this summer. I am thankful for that. I still don't like the heat, but I'm glad to not have the 90% humidity.

    Tonight was actually quite pleasant and beautiful as I left the Stake Center after a fireside with the Osmonds. Reminded me of a late summer night/early fall. I do enjoy those nights. We got to see our wonderful Elder Osmond (and his beautiful wife) at our branch and then again at the fireside.

  3. Our family has truly appreciated and enjoyed your blog. We started following in January when our son received his mission call to Philippines, Cauayan mission! He will be part of the "newbies" (to quote Sister Carlos) arriving this week. He is excited to get to work and we are so happy he will get to serve with and to such wonderful people. Thank you for your faithful service and an awesome blog. Love all the pictures!