Friday, October 14, 2011

The Last Days of Our Mission

Cooley Connection Finale-January 2011
The “Last Days” of our mission

One entry we needed to make to complete 2010 is our New Year’s Eve Dinner with President Dorosan and his family. This is our second time having dinner with them for a holiday. Last year we were with them Christmas eve during the eruptions of Mt. Mayon. This year was less eventful but every bit as enjoyable. Blessica decided she would treat us to one of her favorite dinners-tacos Philippine style. It was wonderful and we enjoyed everything they served.

After Dinner, we were favored with some music from the family. They are a very talented and gifted family. President Dorosan works for Chevron, Sister Dorosan works for a local College, two of the daughters are finishing med-school and veterinary school, one is an engineer and the youngest is in college. Jared the youngest is in high school and is a good dancer. We have enjoyed this wonderful family since we arrived in the Philippines and have been blessed as Sister Cooley was visit teacher to Sister Dorosan and I was home teaching companion with President Dorosan.

On the way home from our evening with the Dorosan family we passed many people who were out to celebrate New Year’s eve. It is a night of celebration and here in the Philippines they love their fireworks. There are so many that it is difficult to go to sleep. We were awakened shortly after midnight with the sound of rockets and firecrackers. As we looked out our back window the sky was filled with fireworks, it looked like our 4th of July celebration.

The Dorosan Family New Year’s Eve 2010

Since New Year’s day was a holiday we decided to make some visits to people that we had made friends with during our stay in the Philippines. We only have a few more days in Legazpi to see so many people whom we count as friends and have grown to love. One of those families was the Adille family. Carlo Adille is our Employment Resource Center Manager and as we got to know him we also got to know his family. Sister Cooley loved to visit with his mother who is a very talented local seamstress. She makes wedding dresses, bridesmaids dresses, school uniforms and the like. Her dress shop is up on the hill behind us. Carlo’s sister is married to a man who was a cook on a cruise ship and now has opened a little Italian restaurant. His name is Richard and his wife Christine is going to have a baby any day. Carlo’s father is very pleasant and is always doing something to help Richard in the Restaurant or planning with his grandchildren.

Adille Family at their Home

Esmie and Bea Carlo’s favorite girls

Later that day we were able to see the DeLumen family. We were so lucky to be able to see them. We usually only see them on Sunday. There were some things that we wanted to leave them before we left and so we met them and shared some things with them. Our experiences with this family were some of the highlights of our mission. We feel they are a special family and that the Lord has a mission for them. Sister DeLumen is especially valiant in her efforts to keep her family together and we look forward to hearing of their first temple experience together.

Sister DeLumen with 5 of her 9 sons

Forever Friends

After visiting several friends in Legazpi/Daraga areas, we had another Sabbath day together with the saints, then left for Cebu City south of Luzon on the island of Cebu. We had requested and received permission from Elder Teh of the Area Presidency to visit there before we went home. We are so excited about our trip since this is the newest temple here and it was dedicated since we arrived.

The temple grounds are really well planned out. In addition to the temple there is a Stake Center, Mission Offices, Patron housing, Family History Center and the Mission Home. We were able to go on an Endowment Session while we were there.

While we visited the Patron House we met a wonderful Filipino couple who are serving as medical missionaries on Cebu. They are from the states and we went to lunch visited some sites (P-day) they had not visited before, like the oldest church in the Philippines and the shrine that houses the cross brought by Magellan when he came.

Cebu Temple

Angel Moroni Cebu Temple

Cebu Temple Windows

Magellan’s Cross

Interior-Oldest Church in Philippines

After seeing a few of the local sites in Cebu we then went to the island of Bohol by “fast craft” which is an air conditioned ferry. There we were met by a young women introduced to us by President Pangan who was a relative. We went by car to visit the sanctuaries where the smallest primate in the world lives-the Tarsier Monkey. Just 6” in height and very shy. In fact they sleep by day and forage by night.

From there we visited the Chocolate Hills of Bohol. These are named because of their shape-like a bunch of Hershey’s kisses. In summer they are also brown, but they were still green during our visit. There are some 1700 of them in this one area.

Tarsier Monkey

Chocolate Hills

One of our last major stops was the beach resort area that has been every popular down here in Bohol. There are many stands for refreshments, boats, fishing and beautiful warm water of the Philippines.

Bohol Beaches

We stayed at a Marriott Hotel but were able to go to a more spectacular hotel one day for their buffet which was wonderful. After our brunch, we were able to see a bride to be and her maids who were there for a wedding reception. In Bicolano we would say Magayon!

After our trip to Cebu, we started to go home to Legazpi, but learned that the floods had returned and could not get back in time for a fireside the Stake had scheduled before we left for home the following week. It was disappointing that we couldn’t be there for the fireside to be held on our honor. But, the Leaders decided it was too late to let everyone know so they went ahead and had a social anyway. We were finally able to get back on Sunday early afternoon and we had the fireside for those who could still make it. They wanted us to talk about our lives, how we met, got married, started career and our families. Most Filipinos assume all Americans are rich from birth, but our story is one that the leadership wanted them to hear because like many young couples in the church we got out of college with a baby on the way and had nothing. We had to start from scratch.

After the fireside we got a surprise. The Stake and ward leadership of Legazpi had prepared two very professional videos that showed their gratitude for our service there. It was amazing what they had done. Somehow they got the pictures off our blog of our mission and put them in story fashion intermingled with their very gracious comments about our service. We were stunned at the very gracious way that they honored our service there. After the viewing we went into the cultural hall and were blessed to hear from many members who in turn stood up and thanked us for specific things we had done. We were also showered with gifts and memento’s that we will cherish forever.

President and Sister Dorosan at our Farewell

Legazpi Stake Farewell-Loving Friends

The next few days we packed and packed and tried to leave as much behind as possible. We then visited friends and gave as much away as week could. But we found that the Filipino people are so generous even if they may have meager means that after we would leave we somehow had more than we came with. It took and extra day or so to leave Legazpi for Manila. Our drive to Manila would be about 12 hours and Sister Cooley had some visits and stops along the way so it took two days. At times we cried as we thought of leaving our friends whom we love and beautiful Bicolandia! We visited a woodcarving village where Sister Cooley ordered some hand-carved nativities. This is not far from San Pablo where we stayed the night at a spectacular villa type hotel arranged by Brother Villanueva and President Fabros of San Pablo Stake and ERC manager.

We arrived in Manila for our last few days of cleaning up odds and ends, and reporting in to Elder Ko of the Area Presidency who wanted to interview us before we left for home. The interview with Elder Ko was special he is a wonderful man from Korea. We talked casually as he asked us questions about our experiences then asked us in a serious tone-what are some of the biggest obstacles to the work moving forward in our area. Our answer was a surprise to him. We said communication. He asked how so, and we confessed that communication between the leaders (Ward, Branch, Stake and District) was often tenuous and many times the leaders were as if on islands. That further communication between the members and the leaders were too often lacking. After we provided some examples he confirmed that he saw some of the same symptoms but didn’t always relate it to communication. Most of this is caused by the newness and inexperience of leaders and the unfamiliarity they have with the tools they have been given.

We took a trip to the famous Taal Volcano with some of the missionaries and staff of the MRC (Missionary Recovery Center) in Manila. It was quite and experience to get there. The volcano rests in the middle of Taal Lake so you take outriggers to get there. Once on land we took horses (Sister Cooley loves horseback riding about as much as our last Ferry ride) to the rim of the volcano and we were able to look down on the huge lake contained within the volcano’s mouth.

Taal Volcano-View of Lake inside the Cone

Our leader from Manila was Brother Jomel Villanueva. He was a great inspiration to us and whenever we needed help he was there to support us even though he was in Manila and we were 12 hours away in Legazpi. The Church is fortunate to have such dedicated, hard working and inspired people to run the ERC’s in Luzon and other parts of the Philippines. We spent some time together visiting a few places we hadn’t seen and of course having some wonderful meals together-the food in Manila is like eating back home and many restaurants we were familiar with are located there.

Brother Jomel Villanueva Inspirational Leader

We said good-bye to Jomel and the people at the Area Presidency offices then went to our hotel for the last night in the Philippines. We arose at 3:30 AM and went to the Manila airport for the last time. We boarded the plane and Sister Cooley looked into the cockpit and was offered a chance to sit in the pilot’s seat. It is apparent that she enjoyed her vicarious role as pilot.

Excited to Head Home

As we sat in the plane it was almost like having an out of body experience as we sat there thinking of going home. It was just not real and were anticipating the feelings of what it would be like to set foot on American soil once again.

An American Newspaper-Yes He is Smiling

Our trip home was 23 hours from the time we left our hotel to arriving at our home. By the time we got to bed it was 31 hours of up time with only about 1 hour of sleep on the plane. The excitement and anticipation of going home after 18 months had finally hit us.

Our family greeted us at the Sacramento Airport and it was quite a re-union, our family probably thought we looked a little dazed. What a sweet experience to see all of our children and grandchildren (except Andrea’s family in Utah) and be able to give them each a hug. After we got all our luggage the kids took us straight to In-N-Out for a real hamburger! What a treat. As we arrived home it looked just like we left it except it was sooooo large. As went to bed that night, we just kept looking at our bedroom thinking that you could fit 3 Filipino families in our bedroom and there would be room to spare. Our abundance became very stark to us and we could only think of how much we learned about gratitude from our second family in the Philippines. We love them, we miss them and we will never forget them!

The experience of being release by President Olsen was bittersweet. We were both very emotional as we described our feelings about our mission to him and answered his questions. As we returned home see our children Elder Cooley told them that the hardest thing he had to do on his mission was to take that badge off after being released. Now we were to enter our life back in the USA and we had no idea how difficult it would be.

Our experience in the Philippines were filled with excitement, love, success, hard work, beauty and spiritual feasts that we cannot describe adequately. We came to appreciate the Filipino people as some of the most loving, spiritual, adaptable, fun-loving people in the world. There is a special spirit about these people that is difficult to describe, we will always cherish our memories in this wonderful place in the Lord’s vineyard, truly the Philippines is the “Pearl of Asia”.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


We are looking forward to a cold winter next year because as of yet we have not felt the temperature under about 85°. This has been a beautiful winter with no typhoons so far. Usually by the end of December we have between 15 to 20. We have however had a few tropical depressions. They are close to a typhoon. We think they could be considered twins in our report of storm warnings. In the past 24 hours we have had a constant rain and everything is water soaked and flooded. Our hard working neighbor (rice farmer) is out trying to save his belongings trudging through hip deep water. We have been watching him all morning striving to get control of his earthly belongings with the pounding rain. He walks into his home which has no door to keep out the rain (not that a door would stop it). He must have at least two feet of water or more in his home. It seems the Filipino people get treated very harshly by Mother Nature!

We have had the opportunity of attending two District conferences within three weeks and after each conference we have had the chance to travel to the neighboring city and seeing a new chapel being dedicated by one of the area authorities. These are historic moments to the locals. First, we saw Gubat and then Tiwi. We were able to witness the excitement and see how proud and thrilled the saints are to have their own chapel to attend church in. These buildings are a true testimony of strength and conviction of the Filipino saints toward the gospel.

On the 5th of December we traveled to Manila to attend a Welfare Conference with all our leaders and associate missionaries from all of the Philippines. We were excited to see and visit with missionaries from several different islands and areas here on the island of Luzon. They had about 50 people in attendance (including but not limited to 16 ERC offices). We had the chance to get reacquainted with some friends that we hadn't seen for a year and also enjoy the company of many new friends. We especially enjoyed the company of Elder and Sister Starks serving as PEF missionaries in Bacolod which is the mission where Brian (our son) served.

We all stayed in the same Hotel/Motel so we had the chance to ride, talk, laugh and learn together. We started each day with a short devotional and breakfast at the church. It was a wonderful experience and helped us see how well organized the church is to deal with Welfare matters. Welfare includes Employment Resources, Humanitarian Services, PEF and Emergency relief. It is a testimony of the divinely inspired organization of the church to help people to become self-reliant. One point was well made by Elder Misalucha and Area President Edwards-"welfare is not the answer; it is a bridge to self-reliance". The ultimate goal would be not to have to have welfare services as each member becomes self-reliant.

We were fortunate enough to get approval to take a day and go to Corregidor just off the coast in Manila Bay. It was an eye opening experience to see how this small island was such a key part of the defense of Manila for hundreds of years-even playing a key role in WWII for both the US and Japanese forces. It was the last area surrendered when the Japanese took over the Philippines. The history is also tied to the infamous Bataan Death March which followed.

When we returned to Legazpi on Friday, we were able to attend the ACE graduation of 33 people who were trained on how to start small businesses here in the Albay area. They have a 60%+ success rate in graduates actually getting a business started within one year of graduation. We were instrumental in getting the ACE organization to come to Legazpi to do this one week training.

We have begun to have our string of last's here in Bicol. We had our last home and visit teaching appointments. It is extremely hard to visit with these sweet people for the last time. It took me several minutes before I could say the words, "This is my last visit to you as your visiting teacher." They have loved the visits almost as much as I did! Elder Cooley's families felt the same way, that of losing a friend and saying good bye to a loved one.

On the 27th and 28th we had our last Career Workshop with the missionaries going home from the Naga mission. We had three Elders and three Sisters who were all returning home to the Philippines except Sister Schaap who was from Orange County. We love these devoted missionaries and wish you could feel of their spirit and strength. They are the future leaders of the church in this country. How happy we are to have known and had the opportunity to spend a couple days with them. We value our time that is spent teaching the representatives of the Lord here in the Naga mission, "best in all the Land".

We also had our last Christmas here with friends and family that we have come to love so dearly. Our Christmas was very busy. We started with a 10 o'clock wedding in the neighboring city of Camalig. We were witnesses and also asked to give a message to the newlyweds-just before the wedding started. Then we were off to lunch with Hermie and Arlene Bartolome (our landlords) and their family. They have treated us like one of the family always including us in their family dinners and celebrations. We have become such wonderful friends even though they are not of our faith. Lucky for us they will be coming to the states often for visits.

Speaking of "lasts", we just got our last report for placements and enrollments for 2010 and we have now over 367 for the year with only 10 months of reporting. As we look back on this experience it is a miracle that so much has happened in just the 16 months we have been working here. The Lord has blessed us and he has blessed the people with programs that help the local leaders help their people become self-reliant.

We are ending the year with another adventure. It has been raining here for a few days, sometimes very heavy rain but it would usually stop before any real damage was done. Today, however, was a little different. It stated raining about 8:30 am and never stopped. It just kept coming faster and harder every hour. We were interested in watching the people behind us trying to rescue all the things floating across their rice fields. They were collecting bottles and buckets and anything else that looked useful. They often would stop and bail the water out of the boat. It seemed like the rain was so heavy that they couldn't keep up. Finally we realized that the water was rising very fast. Lee hurried down and found that he had to wade in 14 inches of water to get to the truck. He drove up the road to check and see if we could get out, by the time he got back, the water was so high that we were afraid that it would get in the engine and we would be stalled out on the road somewhere. The truck would be ruined for sure. We decided to bring the truck up into the driveway and close the gate. This was only temporary because by the time he had it parked and the gate locked, the water was six inches up the tires. It would be minutes before it started into our house. Within just a few minutes we were in a quandary, Lee phoned Jomel (our friend and person responsible for us in Manila) to tell him we couldn't save the truck and we can't get out. I was trying to get food and water upstairs, trying to get the curtains up off the floor, unplugging the electrical cords, moving rugs up the stairs, making sure before Lee waded into the house he picked up some water bottles outside so we can shower and flush the toilets. He then called Hermie (our landlord) and told him we can't keep it out of the house and it is two inches from coming under the door. He just told us to be safe and not to worry about the house, what a relief.

The FM group then sent a man over to try and drive the truck out. He wasn't so sure, but off he drove and we don't know if he made it or not. The water is now almost waist deep on the road. They didn't want us wading in the water. We found out they have poisonous snakes and screw worms, either one could kill you plus the water itself is toxic. Jomel told us do not go into the water, STAY OUT OF THE WATER! This warning came just after Lee had to wade twice in the filthy water over his knees. Jomel then instructed him to go take a shower immediately.

Thank goodness for the neighbors, they kept us entertained for a while. They were paddling around in a boat and rescuing people, but their pig they tried to save was not cooperating at all. They tried but couldn't get him into the boat, then he bolted into the house, but he got stuck half way trying to get in the closed door, you have never heard such squealing and carrying on in your life. Then the men just took the rope and pulled him out into the water and they swam to a safe place. We now know that pigs can swim.

About 4 o'clock the rain slowed and the water began to recede it never came into the house, but left mud all over the drive way and walk. YUCK! We are not over the danger yet as it is suppose to rain for two more days.

Our neighbor was not so lucky. Lee chatted with them as they waded through the thigh high water with clothes in a bag slung over his shoulder. They were on the way to his mothers, she has a two story home, because they had 2 feet of water in their home and couldn't stay with the danger that lurks in the water. Besides who knows if the rain will return tonight while we sleep.

We had a dry morning the next day but can you believe after having thousands of gallons of water cover Legazpi we have no city water today. They are going to flush the system so our home is still in shambles. Yuck, mud from the street to the house and no water to wash it off the cememt so the floor into the house is also mud and wet. We had to cancel the house help because we couldn't wash clothes, bathrooms or floors. It is hard living without the necessities of life, kind of like camping out. Certainly makes us appreciate our life in the US.

We hope the next two days of rain show us more mercy and less action!

We have found that there is never a dull moment here in BICOL. Now we know why it is so lush with grasses and trees everywhere and so, so green-a true Garden of Eden.

We are excited to see all of you our family and friends. Our hearts are torn with so many good-byes to people that we love and are so attached to. They have blessed our lives in ways they will never know; they will be remembered through-out the rest of our lives.

Happy New Year!

We love all of you & will see you in 20 days,

Elder and Sister Cooley

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Picture of the Month

Rick made his own weed eater!

November 2010

November started out with a Surprise Birthday Party that Elder Cooley had planned for me with a few of our friends at our favorite newly opened Italian Restaurant-Saletta owned, operated by head chef Richard. Lee had invited some of the friends that we love and will miss dearly. We had some delicious food: twisted noodle carbonara, spaghetti, garlic bread, vegetarian pizza and pepperoni pizza. Richard had also made me a chocolate cake. It was a wonderful night with good food, friends and entertainment. Lee of course had them laughing so hard with his story of how we met, dated, our engagement and marriage. They sure seemed to enjoy hearing the details of our early beginnings. Elder Cooley got points for this one!

Everyone knows that our time is getting short so we have been inundated with requests for workshops. We had our missionary workshop which is always inspiring. We only had 4 going home this time and how excited they were to be going home in time for the holidays. Our next workshop was in Tabaco where we started with one person, but ended with 26. We are still not used to the Filipino time which they say is up to one hour late. We threaten to start on time, but when there is only one or two people it is hard. So our starting time was 9:00 and by 10:30 we had a room full. It seems like it is the same everywhere we go, just hard getting used to it. The members even joke about it, I say "Where is everyone they are late?" and they say "Sister Cooley Pilipino time!" Late is just a way of life here.

Next we had the sisters from Guinobatan who took the Self Employment Workshop to learn how to start their beauty salon from home.

These sweet sisters treated us to lunch and miranda (afternoone snack).

They were all graduates from the Splash training. Learning how to be a beautician in 5 days and get your certificate, wouldn't we love that in the states? They made us puto, which is a muffin bread made out of rice.

Pancit is a noodle dish that is very popular here.

Last workshop was a Career Workshop and this group wins the prize for being the most persevering. Three of the young adults who attended the workshop came from Bulan which took them four hours by Jeepney to get to the workshop. All three were PEF applicants and they have to have the Career Workshop before they can apply. They all want to go to a University but have no funds. I need to talk to Bill Gates and see if he would like to set up a scholarship fund here in Bicol for those who are capable and have the desire but not the finances. The weird thing about this is they have the mindset that if you are going to the university you cannot work. If they got a part time job they could help pay for the education. It isn't just the students who think this way, but also the parents. If you are studying you cannot work! You ask what job do you have? "Oh, he is studying," comes the reply of the parent. I know a lot of students in the U S who would love this tradition.

Our highlight of the month had to be our ACE (Academy for Creating Enterprise) training. We worked very hard to get this non-profit organization to bring their trainers here to Legazpi to provide their boot camp for entrepreneurial training. We put a group together of 32 people from our province here in Albay and they just graduated last week. The program is one full week of training, then two weeks of field work with their groups to set up businesses. These are very small businesses that require little or no capital. Their motto is "start small, think big"! After the graduation each participant is offered an "internship" where they can go to an ACE alumni's business similar to the one they want to start. Here they learn hands on how to start and run a business similar to the one they want to start. ACE pays for transportation and also living costs for up to two months. This feature leads to about 70% success for participants getting a business going and being successful. We are so blessed to have been able to do this for the people here. It will have a huge impact on the families who want to get a business going, but just didn't know where to start.

We were invited to attend the Sorsogon District Conference after which we drove a few kilometers to Gubat where a member of the area seventy dedicated a new chapel for the saints in this tiny city. They only have a membership of 304 abut only a handful of active members. It was wonderful to see how touched and proud they are to have their own chapel. The saints are kind and loving and I am sure they will fill their building and need it expanded within a few years. They have two faithful and dedicated missionaries to help them (one of which is Elder Nacionale whom we worked with in Daraga) teach and preach the gospel to all their friends.

Some of you have asked us some questions so I will try to answer them.

No, it is not cold here at Christmas time. I am still sweating even thou the weather has cooled off some. The other day the temperature was 89° and is in the 80's most of the time now.

No, they do not have SNOW! Really the only snow they have is in the mountainous region of Bagio, which is about 18 hours north from us by car.

Yes, we have been having lots and lots of rain day and night. Sometimes I am surprised that the ground can absorb all the water but no floods yet in our area, which is a real blessing!

Christmas is celebrated from September 1 through January 8th. I heard my first Christmas song-"We Wish You a Merry Christmas" on September 3rd in McDonald's (McDo's here). They have lots of decorations inside and outside the stores and homes. One thing I love is that they have Nativities everywhere. Each little Barangay has a Nativity out on the street..

The churches, hospitals, stores, restaurants, hotels, etc. are not worried about other religions or people being upset over the religious display, they are Christians and show it proudly.

Here is Christmas at Metro Mall. The U S could learn something from this Christian country. They give gifts, decorate trees and have family over for Christmas dinner.

These are trees we saw along the national highway. Notice one of them has CD's as ornaments. No turkeys, but there are lots of hams for sale in the grocery store. Most of all they all go to church either on Sunday or mass which is several times a day every day. They love Christmas music and everyone here sings so it is beautiful and inspiring to hear the congregation sing Silent Night or other Christmas songs. Not only do they sing Christmas songs but everyone tells you MERRY CHRISTMAS!

The ward will have their Christmas Program on the 18th of December and then they leave for a 4 day trip to the temple-12 hours each way to Manila. This seems to be the highlight of the Christmas holiday. Really how can you beat that tradition!

So far the only Christmas tradition that I don't like is the children who come around and "carol" at the gate. They come banging on pans and making all kind of racket and it ruins the carol (if you could call it that). Then they want you to pay them for disturbing your peace. They don't want treats they just want money.

Yes, they do have Santa deliver presents under the tree here in the Philippines and he looks just like our Santa, dressed in red, the jolly laugh and oh what a smile!

Yes, to my delight there is a real Santa and he made sure his elves had fruit cake made in the Philippines too, I love Santa!

No, they do not celebrate Thanksgiving! The only Pilgrims here are us.

Our Connection is so very late, but only because we have been very busy.

We love and miss all of you especially at this special time of the year. We are thrilled that this country is so pro Christian and we have the opportunity to celebrate the birth of the Savior with the saints here in Legazpi. We want all of you to know that we are happy and proud to be members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and to be serving our Savior in the mission field. What a special time of the year to be among the Elders and Sisters who are every day doing the Lord's work and touching the lives of our Father's children in every corner of the world. They continue to work and bless the lives of those they teach by bring the light of the gospel and love of the Father in to their investigators' lives. I pray that you will all remember these sweet, hard working missionaries and all those they are teaching in your prayers at this special time of the year and every day of the year. They need and deserve your faith and prayers in their behalf-and your referrals! May the Lord keep and bless the missionaries and you our dear Friends and Family throughout this holiday season and always.

Elder Tauta and Sister Dela Rosa
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you our loved ones,

Dad and Mom