Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day Prayer

On Sunday May 28, the American Embassy in Manila sponsored a Memorial Ceremony at the American Cemetery. Because the Area Presidency, Elder Bowen, Elder Haynie, and Elder Schmutz were gone to other assignments and Vic Taylor was traveling out of town, Jeffrey was asked to say the opening prayer as a representative of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints.

He reported back his assignment to the Area presidency so I asked for the text of his prayer. It was a public prayer so I feel I can publish it here for the 10 or so people who read this blog.

“Our Heavenly Father,

“We are grateful this beautiful morning that the President and Congress of the United States and the leaders of the Republic of the Philippines have jointly declared Memorial Day to be a day of remembrance of the noble sacrifices of those who gave their last measure of devotion in the service of our ideals and in defense of our nations and to be a day of prayer for a lasting peace among all nations.  We now unitedly join in prayer to Thee in grateful remembrance.  We remember and honor these guardians of our inalienable rights.  We honor these courageous and dedicated men and women who sacrificed their lives for our nations.  We honor their final resting places and humbly petition Thee that they and their families will be blessed from on High from eternity to eternity. We pray that family members of these devoted men and women will be granted the comforting and supernal knowledge that these sacred sacrifices have great and lasting significance and are not in vain.  We ask for wisdom and purpose to enjoy and protect the liberties and freedoms [preserved] to us by these great and noble dead.  We also unitedly pray for lasting peace among nations that all may enjoy the divine heritage of fundamental human rights in all of their varieties and beauties.  We pray for the blessings of liberty to rest upon us so long as there be a band dedicated to doing that which is good.  We pray for those lands who provide freedom to their citizens, including the United States of America and the Republic of the Philippines in which we now congregate, that divine favor and blessing may be enjoyed.  

“Now, in memory of our God, our freedom, our peace and our families, we dedicate this memorial service to Thee and to these fallen heroes who have given us the opportunities we now enjoy.  In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”

Jeffrey got the opportunity to meet and sit on the stand with Brigadier General Jansen and Vice Admiral Narciso Vingson as well as Father Peter Chilver and Rabbi Eliyahu Azaria and felt it was a significant privilege to participate with them on the program. Their speeches caused me to reflect deeply, as did the names of fallen heroes on the walls we walked around.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Wake or Viewing

Around 8 pm I got into the car with Sister Nido and others to head over to the Relief Society presidents home because her mother died earlier in the week and we were going to her wake.
It is dark at 6:30 but we still found the place up near an alley. We all jumped out except Sister Nido the driver who went somewhere else to park. It was explained to me as we walked along the alley with concrete on both sides that in a typhoon the water would be over our heads and reach the top floors of the homes. They are built narrow and up to avoid the occasional floods. (Last one happened in 2009) Going up the steep concrete stairs we land in the middle of a bright green kitchen. Turning to my left is a small reception area before you can go up the stairs again to the next floor –and the next? I assume the bedrooms and such are up stairs as I noted suitcases being brought up. I am getting a great appreciation why Filipinos are skinny despite the meat and rice diet they have - its because life is so active to live everyday.  All the stairs were very high and steep. I have long legs and would love to see how all those really short people climb the stairs. Too bad I couldn’t ask someone to demonstrate.
The Relief Society President is in the Aero shirt and has friends and some ward members with her. I did not take this picture but I was behind the lady who did. There were relatives on the other side of me and more up the stars. The white box is the casket

In the reception area – about 8 feet across was a bench and the coffin next to the stairs.  It is too expensive to use a Mortuary to view the body. I was trying to figure out how they got that large coffin up the stairs and parked it next to the stairs. The stairs going up had a curtain veiling them so the curtain backed the coffin. I don’t know if the coffin was sealed or not but we could look into it with a glass plate over the half of that showed her face.  The windows were open air though there were glass planes in the shutters that could be closed on occasion and open iron grill that could be closed too. Nice for us the windows were open and the fan was blowing. Lots and lots of people were there. The tiny kitchen had chairs and people, the benches were lined with people, to the right of the benches there were more chairs (obviously borrowed) lined under the window. Visitors would shuffle past our knees to go up the stair case and children would weave in and out going various places. Sister Sere was very kind and talked to me about the differences between viewings and wakes in America and asked what the differences were from the Philippines.  I didn't find a lot of differences except the size of the home. I have heard stories from my mother-in-law and others of caskets being in the parlor or living room with people coming to visit and the vigil through the night.  
I was told that if the casket can't be brought into the house then they leave it in the alley or by the entrance to the home with a tent over it and the flowers so when visitors come they can view them there. 
Another interesting tidbit - in non-LDS wakes/viewings the family visits and bring out cards to gamble with relatives and friends and the "house" takes the pot and that is how they finance the funerals. Maybe a way to save face?  In the LDS homes people just give the family little envelopes. 
They serve little tidbits of tarts and other treats with drinks and straw every once in awhile and after an hour or more I tried one of the treats. I've found that desserts are not made with sugar. The only sweetness they use are the fruit themselves. Once you get over what you are used to it was good. you don't fill up and feel sluggish like you would in America.
I tried the tarts in the middle that are made with a crust and some fruit I have never heard of - it was interesting and not bad. The little bags have something like crackers and other little treats.
I didn't know that most of the people were planing to stay until midnight or so. I really think the Sere's were being generous and kind when they offered to take me home a little after 10 pm when they were asking about my day and work and I told them I usually get up early to go to work. I don't think I brought anyone comfort but I did give a little envelope so I hope that counts. I think I learned more and gained more than anything I "gave".  I love this place and country!

New Members of the Ward

They call her Aya but the program and cake said Andrea Faith (and her last name)  I made pillowcases for her to choose from and brought a pillow instead of the usual “comforter” blanket. It is just too hot for comfort. The  baptism was a really nice meeting with the Primary children singing and some of the program was in English.  Her birthday celebration was big and held after the baptism in another room.  The room was all decorated and many dishes and treats were set out. After eating some of the tables were taken out and the children played musical chairs and danced to music and froze when the music stopped. I learned that most birthdays are not celebrated with friends. The fact that I have witnessed two in three months is rare I'm told. Being a Primary teacher of eight year olds I guess I've seen more birthday parties that most would. 
Andrea blows out her birthday candles with her family alongside
Jaymee Albos plays musical chairs with the Primary children in ever smaller circle of chairs
Dancing to the music and freezing when it stops
They were all just too adorable!

I didn’t know that the 6:20 baptism following the 4 pm baptism was for a family coming into our ward. The mission president, President Koster, baptized the parents and two boys 8 and 10 years old. Tomorrow they will be confirmed and receive the Holy Ghost. There wasn’t a big decorated room and birthday cake etc. but they did serve Pancit (I have to learn how to make this!) and everyone welcomed them into the ward.  The Primary children sang at both baptisms. The first one they were fresh and adorable at the second baptism they were sweaty and adorable. After dancing and playing at Andrea's birthday party, all these sweaty cute kids got up and sang, “Teach me to Walk” and “I Am a Child of God” for the new family. The mission president speaks Tagalog fluently and his wife speaks it too. Everyone spoke Tagalog at this baptism but I'll bet it was great. The spirit was great. Right after the family was baptized, they are given the opportunity to bear their testimony - kids too. It seems it is a tradition here for newly baptized persons to get up and bear their testimony. The feeling in the room was great.
Singing in two baptisms, one at 4 pm and one at 6:30 pm

and then I left to go to a wake.......

Long Friday

Friday was a long day. I got up a little after 4 am to call different people in the States and then got ready for work at 5 so I could be working at 6 am. When I came in both sets of dentist were already at work. Evidently an emergency was called in on Thursday night. When Sister Stewart sent out a cancellation to the MTC it wasn’t seen and so four missionaries were there at one time. Two of them had come in at 5:30 am and luckily the Stinchfields came early so everybody was seen and two of them got to talk with each other for a time while waiting.
 The Intake (of new missionaries) was just as busy as ever. I helped out in the chest x rays in the MRC (Missionary Recovery Center) this time and have to say the MTC had a really nice orderly flow of missionaries. We were never overwhelmed with large groups. The dental screening was in the MRC too and we decided to do the dental x ray screenings on Monday and Tuesday of next week instead of trying to do almost a hundred on Friday morning. The Stewarts left early because another field missionary was scheduled at noon. Elder Stinchfield did a good job carrying on with the rest of the dental screening.  I always love seeing the Halls from Cavite, they are becoming a favorite feature as I see them every month with their missionaries. They are a Senior couple in charge of missionary health in their mission. They spend many days taking missionaries to and from the hospital and sometimes the dental clinic. After a lunch the MRC provided, I went back to the Clinic to put together a schedule for Monday. This is when the Chantry’s were missed!  Elder Chantry is a computer programmer and his replacement works in computers but without the same skill set. Something went awry and Elder Chantry – well maybe Brother Chantry now – was called very late at night for help in Ogden, Utah – our morning. 
I ended up making a handwritten schedule for Monday. Wow, our dependence on quick calculating computers is huge. I have a new appreciation level. I set up the patient charts but had to leave early at 3 pm so I wouldn’t miss the baptism of one of my students Andrea Faith. 

Continuing Adventure

Waiting for a Jeepney in Cabao
Riding in the open air jeepneys is interesting and facinating
Jonah and I jumped on another jeepney and went to the middle of Quezon City which has a circle with a shrine in the middle and a museum with gardens surrounding it. 
From the busy crowded city we walked down the stairs and crossed underneath a six lane road to a quiet set of gardens
Underneath the roadway

The museum and shrine is for a man named Manuel L. Quezon who was an influential man and second president of the Philippines and first president of the Commonwealth. 
This shrine and museum has three angels at the tippy top and is in the center of the circle with gardens around
At the entrance to the museum

He reminded me of Moroni and his efforts to free his people and urge them to defend their country.  He must have been a very persuasive man because many people could see his vision and as a statesman he came to America visited many states and Senators to get their support for a self-governing country.  Actually I have discovered many Filipinos who wanted self-rule and an end to other nations ruling their country.  After watching, looking and seeing this particular history through the eyes of the Filipino historical lens, I’m realizing it is different than the heroic tale I was given in my history lesson of the American's fighting to help a people be free – besides the fact that I believe there were only 3 paragraphs – maybe pages about the Filipino conflict and resolution in my history class.

Jonah and I walked around in the gardens exploring. We met a horticulturist Margaret ___ who showed us the flowers she was propagating and explained how she was put in charge and found an overrun place without many flowers.
Margaret - horticulture expert in charge of gardens

 Her gardens are really lovely. 

We walked through a ‘succulent’ garden. Did you know there are cactus plants in the Philippines? The moist heat was stewing me in my own sweat while I’m touring cacti – most interesting – I am used to frying in the dry heat when I see cacti. 

Thanks to Laura, Norma and Rosanne I have to explore and notice all the flora and fauna but without anyone to answer questions that come up.
Playing tennis in the heat

We explored the amusement part of the park with swings and tables for families and children. There was a whole circle of interesting exercise stations. Each swinging or rotating ahhh….device…..could maximize efforts in muscle building different ways. I noted the glider was in full use and some of the more difficult ones were not. I wasn’t even tempted by the tennis courts and wondered how anyone could run around hitting a ball in this heat. Of course I did see a lady with a sweater so I know it is my metabolism that is off not theirs. Jonah bought water at one of the shops lining the circle and I made the mistake of giving a little boy twenty pesos for a string of flowers. Wow – all the beggars came out. Jonah was very good at leading me away with a look over her shoulder. On these trips I always give her my wallet and she takes care of all the transactions. I think I have “sucker” written all over my head and back, so it is much easier when she talks and takes care of things.

Another garden
 It looked like a lovers paradise with little arches and white wrought iron benches and bridges over nothing and when we went in sure enough the couples were in little corners everywhere. We took a few shots for fun and left them to their courting.

So the last stop at the Quezon Circle was a home that was a sample of one Miguel L Quezon and his family lived in and had the actual beds and clothing the family wore. It was funny and interesting watching the tour guide strive to give me a really good tour while struggling with English. Two of the other guides followed us and him around sometimes laughing at him and sometimes trying to communicate ideas to me too. Jonah took pictures of a recipe that Mr. Quezon was reported to love and maybe I'll make it up. It looks a little heavy so I'll try it out when the weather is cooler.
The two girls on the sides are guides, Jonah, I and our tour guide in front of the sample house President Quezon lived in.

I had a great day on many levels of emotion fascinating, fun, contemplative, reflective, interesting, exasperating, informative and fun time with Jonah seeing and exploring her country.