Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Extra! Extra! Read All About the Mayon Volcano!

What a difference a week makes in the life of an active volcano. Last week at this time the experts thought we were in for a large eruption. They said it wouldn't be anything like Mt. Saint Helen because it is a different kind of volcano, but it would be large compared to what we have had. Now you look at it and it is so innocent and beautiful. We see hardly any smoke only the canals where the green is completely gone and there is black lava rivers embedded deep in the mountain. It is quiet beautiful whether it is awake or asleep.

They talk about the tons of sulfur dioxide that is emitted each day. Ed, the expert, thought when the eruptions were over it would have sent out 20 to 50,000 tons of the sulfur dioxide. Also when we were at Philvocs they told us it was erupting or have earthquakes two hundred plus a day. We never felt the earth quakes but we did on Christmas Eve hear the moan and the rumble that the mountain was making just before a large eruption would occur.

We also have pictures of jagged edges of years old lava that are all filled now and the cone is more perfect than when it started erupting.

The alert level has been reduced to 3 and the evacuees have been given the green light to go home. So it looks like all is well with Mother Nature once again, but for how long, well that remains to be seen. We are excited though because they may reopen the Mayon Rest house, a tourist area part way up the volcano, and we will be able to visit be fore we come home.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Christmas Time

In the last note we mentioned that our volcano was unusually active and the danger level had been raised to 3. Well it has been at level 4 for a few weeks now and hundreds of eruptions and earthquakes daily. We have taken time to check it out at a place called Lingon Hill. It is a flat topped hill that sits directly in front of the volcano and is just a few kilometers away from the action. Lee found a little building (Phivolcs) on the side of the Lingon Hill that houses the instruments that scientists' use to study and measure the activity of the volcano. This also where Ed the expert, and his crew stay that are studying the volcano and have been for many years. We have made friends there so we go there to check out the news and also look through their telescope, which puts you up close and personal with the action. The work they do is very interesting. We learned that Mt. Mayon is a self healing volcano. The perfect cone it has is even more perfect now than when the eruptions started. There was a huge edge that used to stick out on the right side but is now all filled in.

This is a seismograph showing all the earthquakes and eruptions taking place:
Picture taken at Phivolcs with Mt Mayon in the background:
The E-tilt measures the pressure buit up. The rising blue line shows definate eruption going to take place.

Our best lava show was to come on Christmas Eve. We had the largest Christmas Tree in the world, all eight thousand vertical feet of it was light up and glowing. We spent the evening with some members and they live so close you could see the lava flowing out of the top. We especially enjoyed watching the car sized boulders rolling down the sides and some bursting in a thousand pieces when they hit the lava fence, which the volcano has formed at the bottom. What a light show Mother Nature gave us for our Christmas present!

Eruption at night, small compared to Christmas night. Zoom in to get the full effect:

I had to ask a man if he would put my memory stick in his 35mm camera to get me a night picture. I thought that was a genius idea.

Smoky that day but you can see how far down the mountain the lava is coming:

But not everything is exciting about the volcano. We saw thousand of people evacuated from their homes carrying only a bag with their belongings in it. Most were herded like cattle, in to huge trucks and carried away to spend their days and evenings and even Christmas with hundreds of others in schools and churches located out side the danger zone. They found that some farmers would escape and go back to tend their animals, who would feed and care for them? In some cases this was their food for the family in the future. Also the rice farmers are planting their fields and can't be bothered with something like a volcano they have to get the rice in the ground or it will be late for the harvest. In all about 50,000 people were displaced from their homes and made to live in sad inhuman situation for who knows how long.

We also got a close up of the not so truthful news media. They had head lines of hundreds of thousands of people fleeing for their lives, which was not even close to the truth. Also the destruction was tremendous, and in truth all we ever saw was a few coconut trees that were destroyed with the lava flow. So don't believe what you read in the paper about our Mt. Mayon. The media is out of control here also!

Picture from a TV monitor on top of Linon hill. All the news channels were camped there for weeks.

You can see how bad the ash is getting:

You can see the avenues that the lava took:

This picture was taken on Dec 30. Mt Mayon seems to be settling down.

We were told that our December would be slow but not the case in our area. We had a DEC training and a Prosperity Fireside in Bulan on the 19th which is 2 ½ hours away. So we traveled 5 hours on Saturday and got up on Sunday and traveled another 6 hours round trip to Pamplona district where we did 2 more Prosperity firesides. In Pamplona we did our first fireside in the dark. They had had a brown out for two days and still wanted us to come. The first fireside was over and hour late so by the time we drove to the second one the sun was setting. Only the stake centers have generators so no lights mean you are in the dark. I got through my part but about half way through Lee's you could hardly see him in the front of the room. They lit a few candles and placed them around. I could just see our Bishop dying if someone did that in our church building. We did survive and had a wonderful experience even in the dark.

On the 22nd we had our Christmas Zone Conference with the Naga Mission. All the missionaries look forward to this because they have a native dish, Lechon which is a whole pig roasted over a fire.

The Southern Zone:

We had so many delicious dishes and everyone walked away happy and feeling like the holidays were upon us. We also had a gift exchange where we did the left right story. The best however were the skits that the various zones performed. We had singing, acting, dancing and even a story from President and Sister Smith.

President Smith telling a story about a little boy and his grandfather: The most spiritual part is always when they have their Zone meeting and they invite the missionaries that just arrived and the missionaries that are going home to bare their testimonies. This is a special time looking at these energetic, strong youth and know how they are missed at home, but seeing them happy and ready and willing to spend 2 years serving the people and the Lord.

I thought this would wind up our activities and we could give some thought to Christmas presents, wrong. While we were at the Zone Conference the President received a call from Goa Stake President telling him he was the guest speaker for their youth conference the next day. Since he had the Zone Conference in the North that day he asked Elder Cooley if we could go their and take his place. We all know that Elder wouldn't pass up this opportunity and so off we went on the 23rd to a YSA Conference that is two and a half hours away. (You might be thinking at this time that we have put a few miles on our car. You are right we average about 1700 miles a month so far. In December we did 2402 in just 3 weeks.) We had just left home about 10 o'clock, when we received a call from the Stake President wondering where we were. In stead of 1:00 we were scheduled to talk at 9:00 AM unbeknownst to us. He told us that they would wait and wait they did, two hours later Lee started his presentation. The conference was great, Lee gave a terrific talk and the youth loved it.

Christmas Eve with the first councilor in the Legazpi Stake, President Dorosan was a wonderful experience. We love his family and they seemed to enjoy us. They have a little grandson about Taitum's age so I enjoyed holding him and thinking of our two babies at home. We had some interesting dishes which were all delicious. Spending Christmas Eve with friends, great food and Mt. Mayon made our first Christmas here very special. We miss our loved ones at home and know that they had a great Christmas also. I think Christmas in the Mission field is a special experience.

Christmas day we spent opening a box of goodies our kids sent us and the best gift we received were the testimonies that hung on our tree from our family. It was an emotional time for me, but wonderful at the same time. We love our family and hold them close to our heart every minute of everyday we are away from them. We spent Christmas lunch with our neighbor and landlord, Amy and her family. Our friends are very kind and generous to us in every way. They welcome us into their lives and show us the utmost respect. We had dinner at her aunts' house, with all her family that are here in the area. Her aunt, 93 years old and mother 84 years old, are bed ridden for most of the time but they were dressed in their red outfits and came up to dinner with us. We had quite a feast and again every dish was delicious.

To end our perfect day, we cooked dinner for the six Elders who live next door, Elder Walker, Elder Domagsang, Elder Gless, Elder Spreng, Elder Jensen and Elder Reed. We usually only have four next door, but two of the Elders from Camlig were evacuated so they were here to help make our Christmas complete. Ham dinner, twice baked potatoes, green beans and homemade hot rolls made some very happy Elders have a Merry Christmas. Our friends, the Pangan family, came over caroling and so between them and the Elders we had a very special program to end the night. Merry Christmas every one and Happy New Year.

Our biggest and best present came after we came upstairs from a busy day and read an email from our daughter Jennifer and found that our Brian and Jessica were at the hospital having our 18th grandchild. Charles B. Cooley 7lbs. 8 ounces 19 inches long came into this world on Christmas Day spanning two time zones half a world away. He only had an eight hour window to do this and he nailed it, with Jessica's help of course. It was Christmas night in the Philippines at 10:58 PM and Christmas morning in America at 6:58 AM. This child is a genius already and is the cutest thing ever. Jenn sent us some pictures of him just hours old and he is perfect. Edmond is also happy with his new baby brother. Brian and Jessica are wonderful parents and we are so proud of them and the love and help they bless our lives with daily.

New Year's here was exciting with firecrackers and fireworks going off all day and all night. They have firecrackers that sound like small bombs going off and I think they went off all night long. You can't believe the size of the fireworks, they would never make it to America, bottle rockers two feet tall. Needless to say the mission curfew was at 6:00PM. We served the missionaries a Mexican feast for New Year's Day everyone went home stuffed and happy. We ended the night with the elders singing us some hymns in Tagalag a perfect ending to wonderful year and the perfect beginning to a new year.

May the Lord bless and keep you all safe and healthy. We loved the card and notes from our friends and family. Our sweet daughter-in-law, Jessica scanned in the notes and sent us the addresses of the people who sent them. She is always taking care of us especially when it comes to the communications we receive we from you. Thank you for your interest and loving sentiments we love and appreciate our friends and family.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Christmas Photos

Three trees with lights in motion starting fromthe ground up
The prize winner this year was the tire tree in Naga


Milk bottles:

Reeds of some kind:
Our neighbors. People think Lee is the father of Elder Spreng who is standing next to me.

Our refugees, Elder Reed and Elder Jensen

Missionaries love to have their picture taken and they can pose in a nano second:

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Unusual Nativity

The Barangay. a small village division. have a tradition where they get together and do a nativity. Here are some that we saw.

This one is on top of a hill and human size:

It was interesting that many had black faces.
This one was put up high to protect it from kids.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


We started the month off with a bang and traveled four hours to Daet to give a couple Prosperity Firesides. We love the wards in Daet. They are very active and enjoy having us come and present our workshops so this time we did a fireside in a couple of the areas in that stake. The turn out was great and they all seemed to enjoy the fireside. This fireside tells them about how to be SPIRITUALLY and TEMPERALLY Self-Reliant. We teach them about savings and compound interest, and how their money can grow in the bank. We also give them suggestions of where they can find money to save. We enjoy the couples that come to the fireside and we feel their spirit and their desire to improve their lives. I can feel the strength in the young adults that come and know that this country will be a different place in another 20 years.

The second week of the month we had the opportunity to travel to Manila which is about 10 hours from here. We flew Cebu Airlines and both the planes we were on looked brand new. They only have about 6 flights from here with 3 different airlines so you don't have much of a variety on times the airport is closed at 2:00pm. But not knowing what to expect we were pleasantly surprised, not much security though. Not much baggage screening either. I took a bottle of water on board and they never said a thing. You also have to go outside to board the plane and that is okay unless it is raining hard like when we came home.

We stayed at the Holiday Inn in Queson City, this is sure not like our Holiday Inn's, it was better than the Marriott. The hotel is international and so was the delicious buffet breakfast, food from several different countries and even a good old American breakfast. YUM, YUM

Temple Christmas lights:

Temple at sunset:

Up first on our agenda was our first Philippine wedding. We arrived at the Temple almost an hour early and about one plus hours late the marriage took place. Even in the temple they have Pilipino time. They are late to everything and in starting every meeting.

The bride and groom, Carlo and Esmeralda Adille, were both gorgeous and the dress was so pretty on her. She had two different tops that she wore during the evening. It was very unusual. We were guests of honor and sat at a special table and also listed on the invitation announcement. We were told that if we were listed as honored guests or sponsors then we had to help pay for the wedding. Of course that didn't happen so all went well. The reception was long, these people know how to party and they enjoy it to the last second which is about 4 hours later.
Our next appointment was with our friends up North the Costley's. They also came to Manila to a meeting and training we had on Thursday. This gave a couple of days to spend at the temple, talking, shopping at the Mall of Asia and the pearl market. We also had the chance to go to Chili's for dinner one night and it tasted sooo good. We also went to the American Cemetery which is so beautiful and peaceful. You can tell that the US takes care of it everything is trimmed perfect and immaculate. Another point of interest was the Old Fort Santiago where one of their hero's-Dr. Rizal died. With the men you know we had to see some history sites.

Thursday was our meeting and training and it was great. We have a leader, Jomel that is so loving, caring, funny and so interesting to listen to he has a story for everything. The only sad thing is they are opening a ERC center in the North so we won't have the Costley's with us in Manila any more. We will miss our meeting with them! This however means the employment centers are doing there job and so expansion is taking place.

Our arrival brought bad news for us. Our dear friend and neighbor Andrew was leaving in a couple of days for Russia where he will be working for a few months. He goes overseas to work because the money is so good compared to what he can get here. There are so many people who do that here, families without one spouse some times for years. Children some times have never met their father and they are teenagers. The money is sent home and that makes up for the absences of the spouses. Count your many blessings!

We arrived just in time to go to the first convert baptism here in a long while. We now have four Elders in our city and they are working hard to get the part member and non active families coming to church again. This little girl is nine, her family are members just not coming, but since the baptism I have seen her and her mother every Sunday. I visit teach three sisters that are not coming to church either. They say that our ward has seven hundred members but we only have about a hundred to a hundred fifty coming to church regularly. I think the missionary spirit in the ward is missing, especially the fellowshipping.

Also going on that night at church was a cultural event for the YM & YW. They were to take an event from the Book of Mormon and do a skit and it was truly amazing of what they came up with, costumes and ideas. Our youth at home should try this.

Sunday we actually had an opportunity to attend our home ward and get reacquainted with the members. It is always a spiritual experience to hear and see the strength of our Philippines saints. Especially the youth that will be the second and in some cases the third generation to be members in some families.

On the fourteenth and fifteenth we taught our favorite career workshop which is the workshop we give the missionaries that are going home. This is the most rewarding and spiritual workshop we have. If any of you want to have the best experience of your life you should come to one of these workshops. To stand and teach these strong and valiant Elders and Sisters is a real joy and blessing in our lives. You will know why the Philippines is going to be having a life altering change when these missionaries are the leaders of state and church. There are so many sharp missionaries here from neighboring areas; they come mostly from Northern Luzon. We love this part of our calling and it comes every six weeks! We I must admit have the best missionaries in the world.

Mt. Mayon has been giving a lot of activity and they have raised the warning level to 3 and a possible 4 soon. We are on constant alert and have our emergency kit in our trunk just in case. The eruptions are getting more violent and more often than we have ever seen.

We love you all of you and hope your Holidays are filled with family and the true SPIRIT Christmas