Friday, March 29, 2013

Happy Birthday to the Relief Society

I tell my good husband that this is the land of vinyl banners! Everywhere we look, they are strung in trees, across fences, on the eaves of roof lines and on free standing poles. We are living in a land of plastic! They are used for everything and are very reasonable in cost-this past weekend the Roxas District celebrated the birthday of the Relief Society, the women's organization in our church with a great activity at a local 'resort'. I use that word loosely because what I envisioned was far different than reality. 

All Relief Society activities in the Philippines involve three things:
                *Dancing and music [plus Karaoke] 
                *Lots of laughter and fun

Each unit presented a native dance [they were all a little different but had the same theme and usually the same music]. The women spent the weeks before the event creating their costumes, making up their dance and practicing. 

After the dance 'competition' [no winners or losers, just all having fun], they have a lunch. I usually bring my own in a cooler and they are tolerant of me for that. Then they have testimony time where each unit has a representative come forward and share a testimony of Relief Society. This year they announced a 'special testimony' then handed me the microphone! I shared my feelings about this wonderful world wide organization and my love for each of them. This will be my last activity of this kind and it was a little sad for me.

The church is the church. We may all look a little different, have different eyes or skin or language but we are all sisters through and through. That is what counts!

Sister Miguel giving the opening address

Let the dances begin...

Notice that tall blonde? I am taller than all of the women in this country and taller than most of the men-we are in a land of midgets!!

Two sisters who we got to help with their discussions-Sis Ulep on
the left will be attending the temple for the first time in May.

A command performance-Sister Galbandon [in the orange] is 6 months pregnant and a rescue of ours.
Their family will be sealed in May also. She is our new District RS President.
In 10 weeks I will look back and all I will have is memories of this glorious country with these amazing women...what a blessing this past two years have been for me...

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Baguio here we come!!

The Lakers and the Carlos were in Presidents vehicle and we rode with the
Mills in their Toyota.
Early on the morning of March 13th, three vehicles carrying six couples headed west from Cauayan City, off for a few days of R&R in the world famous city, Baguio! We had heard lots about that area but because of mission rules that state we cannot leave our mission boundaries without specific permission from the Area Presidency, we had no hope of ever seeing that glorious city, However, President and Sister Carlos petitioned the authorities in our behalf and received permission to escort us on a wonderful four day training and was it ever grand!!!

The highway took us through the Cordillara Mountain Range and it was a harrowing trip! Endless hairpin turns that had even the strongest of stomachs in knots. I have a propensity for motion sickness so I was a little concerned as we were riding in the back seat of the Mills Toyota but with the help of medication, I seemed to have made it never the worse for wear. I have told you all about the palenke and the fresh produce-most of the produce I buy comes from this area of the Philippines. On the way there, we could see the terraced vegetable gardens along the highway and wondered if we were looking at next weeks salad in the making.

Upon arriving, we ate lunch at PIZZA HUT!!! It was so fun to have a taste from home. The week held many different activities, shopping trips, lots of great food and our workshops which turned out to be absolutely great. Everyone was so well prepared and we all learned so much. 

Our first day we went to see the Easter Weaving School after we checked into the fantastic hotel and rested a bit. This school was established about 100 years ago and its purpose was to teach the art of weaving the way the indigenous mountain people did it years ago in the Igorot style. It was so interesting to watch them as they 'danced' on the looms. Their feet flew so fast as they created the patterns they had memorized to create the beautiful fabrics. There are shuttles and levers that they operate with their hands to bring up the correct color of thread to create the patterns. The following day we went to visit Narda's, another premier weaving company in the area where Randy bought himself a tie and I purchased some keepsakes for myself and 'my girls' that I will treasure.

The weaver working at the Easter School.

Forrest Lodge at Camp John Hay. Our great hotel
All five couples were either assigned or chose a topic for the workshop part our trip. We were all given approximately one hour and the areas of focus were to help each of us improve our service as senior missionaries. The first evening the Laker's and the Mill's presented their workshops. The Lakers talked about the blessings that our families receive back home as we serve the Lord here in the Philippines. The Mills then shared with us their method of teaching others to feel the love of God and using that power, how we, as senior missionaries, can assist the members to make the necessary changes in their lives to bring them closer to the Savior. Their specific focus in their branch has been helping with addiction recovery. That is a serious issue here in the Philippines and can help our members and investigators gain control of their lives. 

Thursday morning began with the Kiholm's presentation of their area of focus for their mission. They are the Service Missionaries of our team-we all give service but their responsibility is more exacting than ours. They are in charge of the Employment Resource Center in the nearby city of Santiago. Six days a week they run the center, providing employment opportunities for many members and non-members alike. Their main focus is matching skills with jobs. Many hours are spent in training and helping other units and possible employers become aware of this great service.

When their workshop ended, we all headed out for a day of fun. The first stop was the woodcarvers shops then on to Asin Hot Springs for some relaxation. The resort we visited had 15 swimming pools and 'hot' springs-they were not as hot as we had anticipated but it was a refreshing stop. Some of the group opted to play a card game but we all had a great time and it was very picturesque.
A little game of Crud..

Elder Shaner enjoying the water slide

Sister Carlos and Sister Mills
That afternoon we all split up and 'did our own thing', ate dinner and met back at the hotel in time for OUR workshop. I had this hair-brained idea [so what else is new!!] that we would focus on how to work with the Young Single Adults. Many seniors are timid when asked to work with the young people so I thought of a fun activity that would pair each couple with one or two youth for a road rally. Sister Carlos made the arrangements for us to invite Sister Jose [a sister missionary from our mission who had returned home and lived in the Baguio area] to bring some friends and join us. 

Sister Jose and her friends
I met with the staff from the Forrest Lodge and Manor hotels and got permission to hide the clues on their grounds. It was a great activity and afterwards, we had a 'round table' discussion, asking them some of their concerns, how we as seniors could be of help then ended the evening with some great desserts. 

Friday morning the Gottfredson's had a great workshop centered on unity in marriage. They shared with us some of the topics that they teach in the Strengthening Marriage classes they present in their district here in the Philippines. It gave me great food for thought and I have actually reflected back many times in the past week about the things I learned at that workshop. After their workshop was over, it was 'shopping' day and we all split up and went our own ways. A light lunch was suggested by our fearless leader, President Carlos, who had arranged for a surprise for our evening meal. We were told to dress up and meet in the lobby of the hotel at 5:30. Before that, however, Randy and I discovered the availability and ease of just getting a taxi for our trips. We went to Mine View Park [where you can see across the valley to the silver mines-this area of the Philippines is famous for their silver and have great jewelry]. We were able to go across town for about $2 per carload. A bargain in any language!! We returned to SM Mall and shopped a while there [I bought some great jewelry for me and my girls] after the park. We were so amazed at the views of this city from just about anywhere. The mall had a great view from their upper decking and we took a video. I guess it really reminded us of what we thought China would look like.

Friday evening was something I will never forget and never experience again I am sure-a phenomenal eight course dinner at the private home of one of the most famous chefs in the Philippines-Chef Vicky. You can google Chef Vicky-Baguio for more pictures and information about her but she is the warmest and most entertaining hostess. Her glorious home is located at the top of a mountain with the most amazing views! Her flower gardens are to die for and her home was spectacular. She was trained in her culinary skills in New York City at the French Culinary School. She invites small groups of people to come to her home and she really 'puts on the dog'!!! 

Flowers in the garden
I will caption the pictures and you can all drool...

This one was so interesting-like a pom pom

We felt like we were on top of the world.

Our group seated a her dining room table.

The backside of her home-marvelous!
The library upstairs off the main great room.

That is ONE gigantic table!
Now here comes the food!! YYYUUUUMMMMMMYYYYY

Chef Vicky is famous for her 'long board' that she uses
 for the appetizers
Course #1

This was Caramelized Onion and Mushroom Custard
baked in an egg shell and served with buttered-cheese fingers.
Course #2
This was heavenly Cream of Mushroom Cappuccino made
with three different types of mushrooms. Never had
the foamy topper was delicious

Course #3

This might have been my favorite course. I was so interesting-it was
a Parmesan Lollipop topped with marshmallow
and fresh rosemary. She called it her Intermezzo Course.
Course #4

This was many peoples favorite-it was Seared Salmon and was served
on top of blanched asparagus with fresh lemon, scallions and pan fried capers. The salmon was topped with fresh alfalfa sprouts.
Course #5
This course was a Pork Ginger Dumpling served
in a soy ginger sauce and topped with fresh cilantro.
Course #6
She called this one her version of Shepherds Pie. A Beef Tenderloin was topped with fresh
corn and mashed potatoes and was served with succulent snow peas, very tender green
beans and seared tomatoes. A wonderful brown sauce topped it off.
Course #7

As is the European style, the salad was the seventh course. I think the Europeans think that the salad helps with digestion. It was a Moroccan salad with oranges, dates, and almonds and also included a variety of mixed greens, found in abundance in the Baguio area. I especially liked the watercress. A light vinaigrette dressing that had a hint of citrus I think topped it off.
Course #8 

Who does not love Creme Brulle??? What a finale to a fantastic meal. She served it with
fresh strawberries and whipped cream. 
We had a fantastic evening made possible by these two wonderful servants of the Lord. Thank you so much President and Sister.
Our host and hostess with the mostess!!!
You know how you look and look for something and finally YOU FIND IT???????????  I finally did and here is the story...

One thing that is popular here in the Philippines is Ebony wood. It is the most glorious wood with such amazing grain patterns. We have been here almost two years and I have been keeping my eye out for just the perfect piece to take home.

I also have been in love with the cranes here in the Philippines. The locals call them 'flamingos' but they are not pink and their legs work correctly so I refer to them as cranes, the secondary name I have heard used. They appear in the greatest abundance mostly at harvest time in the rice fields, swooping so gracefully down to gather bugs or other insects that the workers stir up in their efforts to get the rice harvested. I love to watch them as they scoop and land, occasionally landing on a fence, a mound of rice hulls or like this picture, on the back of a carabao.

The crane and the carabao have such a great symbiotic relationship, are tolerant of and accepting of each other in every respect. I liken that to the relationship we have needed to develop living in this country with such a different culture than ours. We have learned to accept, embrace and even admire the relationship these people have with each other. They are a remarkable people in an absolutely glorious country.

So can you imagine MY thrill when I found just the PERFECT thing to take home made from Ebony wood??? I will have a lifelong memory of the kind of relationship I would like to have with my family, my neighbors and friends. I want to "live together in perfect harmony, side-by-side on the keyboard.." So grateful for our trip to Baguio...what a wonderful week! Thank you President and Sister Carlos!!!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Moving day for Ramon....

One of the things that we really do enjoy as part of our responsibility is the relocating Elders and Sisters. Sometimes, we have a 'great' apartment and for one reason or another, we need to relocate the missionaries. Occasionally, a landlord sees the improvements that occur as we occupy their home and decide they do not want to rent from us but instead, move into their improved home. In the case of the Ramon Elders, the landlord decided to sell the home and just showed up and told us to get out! Because of the lack of laws or at least the enforcement of laws and regulations, we had no leg to stand on and out we go. 

Finding appropriate housing has been another challenge for us and the missionaries. We have guidelines and requirements for a home or apartment to be considered suitable for our Elders and Sisters. Some landlords are unwilling to make the needed renovations necessary and cannot see the upside of making improvements to THEIR property. In the case of the Ramon missionaries, they found a member of the Ramon Branch who was willing to vacate their own home, add a ceiling, screens, remove a wall, install water to the home and move their things out in order to provide the Elders with a suitable place to live. Having members of the Church as landlords is really the best of the best-they understand us, our lingo, our requirements and the reasons behind them, etc. 

After waiting patiently for weeks, last Monday was moving day for Ramon! The Elders 'invited' the Zone Leaders to help, we got the Assistants to the President to bring their truck and lend a hand and within three hours, they were completely moved. The new house is down the street from the old one about 3 blocks so it was a quick transport. Later that afternoon, we went to Mabini to check on their move and install their water filter system. Their branch worked together to get them relocated. Both moves were successful and we are off this week to finish our set-up of the apartments to accommodate the increase in numbers when we receive our new batch in a week or so. 

We do love serving these great missionaries-they are the Lords chosen army for sure.
Elder Rostedt, Elder Amoreda and Elder Colonel

Divine companionship...

Another bed-we moved four into the apartment, no two alike,

Elder Phippen brings a necessity here in the Philippines-
FANS! Elder Proctor [remember we moved him and his
companion Elder Amoreda last month-the day I fell] is also
carrying fans.

One of my traditions is bringing merienda for moving day.
Elder Proctor, Elder Phippen and Elder Aguila  enjoying cinnamon rolls.

Elder Rostedt took the easy ride while Elder Ilagan and Elder
Aguila are ready to unload the bed.

EEEAAAAHHHHHHH...says Elder Ilagan. Cinnamon rolls build

Moving team-Elders Amoreda, Rostedt, Aguilal, Needs, Phippen, Coronel, Ilagan and seated, Elder Proctor.
Moving is so much easier with a little help, that is for sure. A team effort makes the work much lighter and the goal accomplished much quicker. Isn't that the way it is in real life?

Recently I was sitting in a public restroom and on the wall opposite me was a Daddy Long Legs. I watched as he struggled to get a good hold and move himself up the wall to his final goal. The tile was slippery and the only place he could grab that would give him leverage to climb was in the grout. It was rougher and gave him some footholds. [do spiders have feet?] I actually sat there much longer than I needed to, watching him make slow but steady progress.
As I finished my purpose for being there and stood up, I motioned for a cameraman and grabbed one leg, giving him a boost up to the top of the wall by the window...his goal.

As he scooted away, I thought about the many times in my life I have needed a boost or a helping hand. These missionaries could have moved themselves but the team made the task much faster and more enjoyable. As we approach another week, I would hope that each of us would take a minute this week to give a fellowman a boost-find someone who might need a little help with what may seem to you to be a mundane task and offer your hand. Both of you will benefit-they will receive assistance and YOU will have the great feeling that service to our fellowmen gives each of us as we put forth our helping hand...isn't that what He has asked us to do? Are we not following His example as we strive to be more like Him? Was Christ not our perfect role model and is it not His flock we are feeding?