Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Day In The Life - May 2, 2010

Fast Sunday and Exchanges with the Elders

Today was a big day for us. We fasted that our investigators and less active members would come to church today. As it turned out most of them came and we got a few extras that we hadn't counted on seeing. Our friend Jed came to church completely unannounced and stayed for the whole block meeting. We were able to help them get jobs at the Misibis Resort and Venezia Hotel. It was good to see him after a few weeks. The Sister missionaries had dropped by to see him earlier in the week so that may have prompted him to come to church.

I had gone out earlier in the week with Elder Schmitt and Nacionales and we had some awesome visits. One woman in a family we visited had told us about a dream she had. Two men dressed in white came to see them at her home and later three men came dressed in white. After she had the dream, Elder Schmitt and Nacionales tracted into her family and taught them the discussions. Sometime later in the week I joined the two elders and visited her again quite unaware of her dream. When I joined the Elders for the lesson, during the lesson I felt prompted to ask her: "Sister Mapa, will you follow the example of Jesus Christ and be Baptized?" She responded "yes" subject to her husband's approval. I then invited her to church and asked if her husband could take off an hour on Sunday to attend church with the family. The next time the Elders went by to visit her she told them about her dream experience. I was quite excited to see if they would be coming to church so I arranged to attend our Sacrament meeting then leave to go to Daraga to see if she showed up. I was ecstatic to see she was there with her sister and three children. Within a short time her husband joined them. It was awesome. We also saw a couple who were less active that we visited earlier in the week who came with their daughter.

Meantime I went back to Legazpi to see our investigators and less actives. One was Brother Murilla whom we brought to church with us. He stayed for the whole meeting and it was inspiring to see him come two weeks in a row now.

After Fast and Testimony meetings in both wards, I was able to go out with the Zone Leaders in Daraga (we have two sets in Daraga) to visit some families they have been working with. It was the hottest day of the year so far and the Mission President told those of us who were fasting to make sure we take water if we went out tracting that afternoon because several had been getting sick from not enough water.

The ZL's decided to take me to the "mountain" where there was an entire family they had been teaching and they were "golden". This couple lives about as far in the back country as any they had visited, but since it was a referral and they were so receptive they have been teaching them. On our long hike though the jungle and coconut groves they told me that she carried their 5 month old son while she and her other 8 sons walked down the mountain at 5:00 Am in the morning to they could be at Sacrament meeting at 6:00 AM. They all made then made the whole trek back after meetings. I had to meet this woman, she was amazing.

We kept hiking and hiking passing a very small compound of beautifully maintained Nippa huts along the way, then we turned almost straight uphill for the last leg of the climb. Elder Esplen and Dewey assured me we were almost there. I think they were surprised I could climb with them, but once we reached the top of the mountain there was the family bamboo hut. We were drenched in sweat but there was a nice cool breeze at the top so the perspiration acted as a coolant with the air blowing on us. The woman (need to get her name again) was there watching us as we approached and was happy to see us. The large hut had been damaged somehow and was very much off kilter. I thought I was seeing things. She made a funny comment about her crooked house (her husband as taking the afternoon siesta). When we got settled we met all nine boys (the youngest is just 5 months old). The Elders asked if they had read their reading assignment and to my surprise they all had done it. They sat quite reverently as we taught them the lesson. I was so impressed with how well behaved and respectful these little boys 2-15 years old were.

After the lesson, she offered us some "buco", and even though we were still fasting we decided that we shouldn't turn this lady down who had so little but was willing to share. First we got the coconut milk. She showed us that she had washed all the glasses and poured hot water on them to rinse them off ("so you won't get sick"). Then she cut the top off the green coconuts and took a small knife or something to scrape the slimy meat off the inside of the shell leaving it inside. It looked like white noodles when she was done. She added condensed milk to it and served it to us with a spoon. I was not really excited to eat it, but after the first bite I realized this was a real delicacy and ended up loving it.

We thanked her for her generosity and said good-bye to she and the boys and we headed up hill to a point where we could see the entire area around the mountain. It was a truly beautiful site. We saw ocean on one side, coconut trees as far as you could see on one mountain after another, then to the front was majestic Mt. Mayon. I did not have my camera since Elder Dewey said he had his. But he was out of battery so the next visit I will bring my own camera and try to catch the beauty of that wonderful setting.

Our next visit was to a very young lady whose older sister was a member of the church. She is interested in being baptized and were able to teach her mother who joined us in process. Her mother has now joined the daughter to be investigators.

The next visit was with a young woman maybe 18 years old who was living with her less active sister. She seemed to be receptive to the message about the restoration we shared. Her sister was extremely happy we came by to share the message.

We then visited a young couple with a small child that have not been active for awhile. They had a really nice house and he works for the government. Our visit was brief due to the next appointment we had but we were able to share our testimony about the temple and challenge them to think about preparing to go to the temple to be sealed together with their child.

Our last visit was with an active sister in the Daraga Ward who had the nicest home of all we have visited. She has a small canteen and catering business. She lost her husband to a motorcycle accident just 8 months ago. She is raising her family of 4 children who range from elementary school to first year college (16 here in the Philippines). Her two sisters were there and stay with her most of the time. We taught them a lesson about repentance and the importance of following the Spirit if it has directed one to be baptized even if it may not be popular with the family. They both seem to be committed to baptism after shedding a few tears at the prospect of family members being disappointed in their decision.

We got home just after dark and Sister Cooley had prepared a big spaghetti dinner and invited the elders to join us. We didn't have to ask twice since it was fast Sunday and we had a big day, all of us starting at around 5:00 AM. Dinner was wonderful and we relished the experience of working together and having such great meetings.



Sunday, May 23, 2010

Cebu Temple

Want to know more about the Cebu Temple? See here.


With the passing of March and thinking of all the beautiful flowers at home it still amazes me that we are here in the Philippines almost half a world away and yet as we travel I see the beautiful hibiscus, lantana, bougainvillea, and smell the honeysuckle and some of the other flowers that we have at home. Our worlds are so different but Our Heavenly Father gave us enough familiar surroundings that we can fell at home even though we are thousands of miles from Coventry Court. It is hard to explain to someone who has never been on a truly tropical island, but as our daughters, Denise and Andrea kept saying, “This is the most beautiful place I have ever seen.” They have just had the opportunity to see a small area and they fell in love with the country. I wish I could take you all with me every day where we are oohing and awing the whole time we are traveling. It is very difficult to explain, but the beauty here makes your mind drawn to nature more than I can ever remember. It’s not once in a while, but every day that you look around and want to capture the moment forever.

This is how they grow their orchards. They just take a start and tie it to a dead branch or this large root they stick in the ground. They like to fertilize them with crushed egg shells.

(Much to Elder Cooley’s dismay I am always reaching for my camera and I hate it when I miss a picture or it doesn’t turn out because we may never see the same thing in the same way again and I don’t want to miss any of it). I could go on forever, but we have some important events I want you to hear about so enough of NATURE for now!

The month started off crazy and has ended the same way. We were able to finally get together with the remaining Elders who were once our neighbors, but they have been moved to another area close to us. We had an Easter Mexican Feast for them since transfers are coming up and we know that all of them will be moving and also our sweet Elder Domagsang is going home on this transfer.

Our Elders( L) Elder Spring, Elder Domagsang (R) Elder Gless:

We enjoyed the evening with some delicious food, (if I do say so myself), and I fixed all Elder Domagsang’s favorite things, which is anything Mexican, HE LOVES IT! The dinner was a time of learning about the families they are teaching and also talking about each of them and how they are doing on their mission. They are all wonderful missionaries and a great example to each other and the people they serve.

The dinner was a great remembrance because now all of the fabulous four have been transferred to other areas. Elder Walker went first and he is now one of the AP’s.

Then Elder Spreng was moved to Goa, but has now been made the new office finance Elder. Elder Gless has been made a District Leader and is in Tiwi, and our Filipino (“the dark chocolate brother from another mother”), Elder Domagsang has ended his mission and is now home with his family. These Elders will always have a special place in our memories, but now we have 4 new Elders and also 4 new Sisters to take our “fab 4’s” place.

These are the two Sisters who took their place, Sister Torio (L) andSister Medequiso:

It is hard to have favorites because they all have a special spirit about them and they certainly all work long hours. But they love the work they are doing. It is especially wonderful to meet the new arrivals and see how they change within weeks of being in the field. Even the ones we think might have a hard time just blossom and have a spirit about them that is difficult to describe and how they grasp the language is amazing. Even the Filipinos remark on how the “Americana’s” can speak their language so perfectly. Of course that is not the same with us older missionaries, I won’t mention any names!

We always end our month thinking that we won’t be very busy the next month which was the case in March. But it always ends up that we are even busier the next month. So March was busy but April has been even busier. We did however take six days out to enjoy our family from Utah. Andrea, James, Tyeler and Mikenize came to visit us for a few days in April and it was so good to see them. Even though the days are rushing by we still miss our family and enjoy having them come see us. We spent six fabulous days touring the Bicol region in Southern Luzon Island where we are serving. We did most of the same things that we did when Denise was here but added one very fun adventure. We rented some ATV’s with a guide of course and took a ride up to the lava bed which was formed from the last eruption of Mt. Mayon. Every eruption is different from the last and this one was kind to the people who live and farm the land at the foot of the volcano. Just at the base of the volcano the lava formed a wall where the lava would come down and it would run into the wall and stop. There was very little damage to the coconut plantations at the base and none of the homes at the base were damaged. This was a true blessing to these people who have very little to start with. To have it all destroyed is devastating especially since the coconut trees take about five years before they really have a great harvest. Once the trees are really producing it is incredible that the tree can have coconuts mature in just 45 days from a small bud.

Here is a picture of a tree that has several different stages of coconuts on it. You will see the ones that are old and also the very tiny new ones that are just starting. I can see why the trees are so prolific making at least a hundred coconuts a year. They use the old, brown ones like we see in America, to make the hard coconut for copra which is taken out of the husk and pressed for oil. They use this oil for cooking, you will see it used in some candy and they also use it a lot in facial products. They also grind the coconut meat out and they squeeze the milk out and use it to make lots of different dishes. They use it a lot in the vegetable dishes. I of course like to just dig it out and eat it and they all think I am crazy because they only like the young ones where the coconut meat is scraped out with a spoon. The young coconuts are soft and very slimy, but make great Buco salad and many other dishes. They also drink the milk, they say it is very good for the kidney’s and is a diuretic. They have young men walk around in the morning carrying young coconuts tied to a piece of bamboo and slung over their shoulder. Just 12 pesos delivered.

Well I really got off on a different track didn’t I? The ATVs were fun and we got lots of new pictures of the volcano. We had a great young man as a guide and he gave some very interesting new details about Mayon. He was also very helpful getting the older lady (as in me) up the climb on the lava bed to the top of the ridge so I could enjoy the view that Mt. Mayon has. It truly is a magnificent work of Mother Nature and just so beautiful. I had a blast just trying to hang on while Andrea took me through the rivers and the woods to the volcano base we did go. With white knuckles and camera in hand it was truly an adventure to remember.
After a final farewell we boarded a plane to come home from Manila and start work again. The next Sunday we did a Prosperity Fireside in Naga. These are always fun because we have a great script and the saints have fun while learning some very important information to help them learn how to save and about the power of compound interest.

Our Career Workshop for the outgoing Elders was a hard one because our dear friend and great missionary Elder Domagsang was in this batch. This has to be one of my favorite parts of our mission-to be in a workshop with all these strong, humble and loving missionaries. I just want to bring every one of them home with me. What strength, testimonies, knowledge and love of the gospel, I could only think that this might be close to what it is like to be in a room with the Prophet. They have experienced so many things and have grown so much and hope for a better life when they get home. I can only imagine how hard it is for the Mission President to say good bye to such fine young men and women. The church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is going to be in good hands with this next generation as leaders here in the Philippines.

For these fine young men and women it is a very emotional time because for two years or eighteen months the Elders and Sisters have lived in some of the best circumstances they will ever have and had more money than they have ever had also. It must also be very difficult to say good bye to the many companions that they will probably never have the chance to see again. There are usually some of them that show quite a bit of emotion and respect for who they call their “batch mates”.
I know this is getting long but just one story. We had a call from our dear friend Nette Pangang asking us to help her friends’ son get a job. The young man’s name was Rowel, age 27 married and one daughter living in Guinobatan. He is a Jeepney driver but works only on the week end. We met him at the ERC and talked to him about what he wanted to do for a job. Lee helped him with a resume and off we went to take him to some places that we had already discovered as good contacts. We only went to Hi-Tone construction and then LCC ( a chain of small malls in Bicol). We left Rowel at LCC and they gave him all the tests and gave him a job. We thought he was working but found out a week later that he hasn’t been able to start because he doesn’t have 450 pesos for the blood test. You may ask why don’t we just pay for him, well the answer is because most people are in the same way. No money to get the clearances that they need.
The people here are not good at looking ahead (provident) and figuring out what is going to be required of them in the job process even though they know they need these documents in order to get the job. We started out just giving them money but found that they are willing to take and take and take, so now we have to sit back and just watch them and pray that they want the job bad enough to go out and work at anything to get the money for the clearances. So far Rowel after a week and a half still doesn’t have the money for the test. He is going around asking people for it but not trying to work to raise it. We pray that he will not wait until the job has been taken by someone else.

We ended April with ten placements, nine of these were jobs and one enrollment in a university so April ended up a fantastic month for the Legazpi ERC! We can’t wait to see what the other wards do in the Stake.

Our work continues and we find that we as a team with our Father in Heaven (and the local leaders) are making a difference in countless peoples’ lives here in the Bicol region. Thank you for your emails and prayers not just for us but for the people that we are serving, it makes a difference.

Love to all!
Here are some pictures of the Magayon Festival that has been going for the whole month of April.

We especially feel at home being blessed here as well as there to have neighbors and members of our ward that treat us like family. Our extended families here in the Philippines are kind, generous and are definately special gifts to us from our Father.

April Picture of the Month

Where do you hang clothes to dry?

Friday, May 14, 2010


The corn is growing here now and is really the second crop this year. I first saw them plant in November which was very hard to get used to seeing. I always think of fall arriving soon when I eat corn on the cob at home. No fall here, but we are fast approaching summer. In fact I already think summer is here but President Smith (Naga Mission), tells me "you have no idea how hot it gets here in the summer", which is April, May, and June. It was hot in August when we arrived here so I think we are in for at least six months of smoldering heat.

We are going to start another new program. The computer program was such a success and everyone wants to have a class now, but the career workshops needed to come first. The new program is teaching Conversational English. When we were in the MTC we had to stay two extra days to learn and get certified on teaching English as an international language. It seems as though the best jobs go to the people who can speak good English.

The first class will be for a hotel in Naga called the Avenue Plaza Hotel. We made friends with them when we stayed there a couple months ago. Mike the Manager of the front desk talked to us about what we do and when he heard about the English he was excited. He has kept the ball rolling with a final okay from his boss when we had a meeting with them. We will teach when we can, but we are having the AP's come and work with us so they get acquainted with the students and then we will turn the class over to them most of the time. We are hoping that we might get some of the staff interested in the church through this community service. We are expecting great opportunities to come from this program.

We have had so many blessings this month both here in the Philippines and at home. I visit Shirley Lisazo who suffers from what they thought was epilepsy. Once she was saying the closing prayer during our visit and had a seizure and that prompted me to get an appointment with the Bishop and talk to him about what we could do for her. He let us take her to a doctor and found out she doesn't have epilepsy or heart problems and can work so we have her a job washing dishes until we see how she does. The doctor told us that she was slowly starving to death and needed to eat lots more food and drink some milk. We set her up with dried milk and some rice and the Relief Society gave them some other things. She said that she was feeling better and is coming to church every Sunday. She is truly happy and enjoying life instead sitting home thinking she couldn't do anything. So, sweet Shirley was blessing one in March.

On Shirley's street I found a woman using a banana leaf for an umbrella:

Nanette Pangan (wife of Counselor in Stake Presidency) and I were driving home from dropping off Shirley from the doctor one day. Lee and I had passed the construction of the new Convention Center and thought of stopping and finding out what company was building it. Since I had Nanette, she could help me bridge the language barrier so I stopped. Long story short, we hit a gold mine with lots of contacts and job possibilities for both outside and inside once the building is complete. Also we found an opportunity for JR (Shirley's brother) to come to the main construction office and be trained as a mechanic for the huge construction company. We are hoping that many jobs will come from this one contact.

Next, Lee was just getting our water filled at the refilling station and he told them about what we do and they told him about a business just a couple doors down and after talking to that company they have already faxed over several job opportunities from the Embarcadero and other locations where they have job openings.

All in all our job openings board now has about 100+ jobs posted on it and more coming in all the time. We were at the Church one day helping someone and Jun, who works for the FM Group taking care of the church buildings, asked Lee if I could help his wife learn how to cook some international food. He said, "yes" but we didn't know he meant like right now! She was lucky, because we were having the Sister missionaries over and they wanted Mexican food that night. I told Bambie, yes her name is Bambie, to come over at 5:00. We made Mexican rice, tacos, refried beans, salsa and guacamole. She loved it and so did her two brothers, husband, and two sons. I could only give them tastes, but they loved it all. That was on a Wednesday and she went in for the interview for head chief on Thursday. I never thought she would pull it off, but she did and starts training this week.

Our trip to Daet was rewarding as always. This stake has a fantastic Stake President, councilors, and Stake Employment Committee. President Ducay has a coconut plantation and brought us some coconut milk and some fresh coconut to make Buco salad with, (a fruit salad with pieces of fresh green coconut in it). This coconut is slimy, not hard like we are used to. He promised this about four months ago so neither Elder nor I remembered, but President did. What a great man!

While in Daet, had a Career Workshop on Friday and Self Employment on Saturday, which both turned out great. The Saints there are ready and willing to learn so they can become SELF-RELIANT. We love this stake, but just wish it wasn't four hours away. With the two workshops back to back we either had to stay in Daet or drive back to Naga two hours each way, This city is in the mountains so the driving isn't easy, so we opted to stay.

It wouldn't be so bad, but the hotels are not even as good as the Motel 6 was many years ago. Lee ordered the only room with a king bed. It was so wide that when we went to bed Lee couldn't see me with out his glasses. It was W I D E, and the next morning we found out that it was the "Matrimonial Suite". The bed was pretty comfy, but the air con which is a window unit, sounded like a diesel starting up every time it turned on. I guess they figure the newly weds wouldn't be sleeping! What were these two old people doing there?!

Our matrimonial suite:

And then there was just one:

Daet's beautiful countryside:

Our first monkey sighting:

The men in the family coming home from a long day at work:

Children playing with a toy they make. They just walk beside it and guide it wherever they want it to go:

We didn't get done until after 5 PM on Friday so we decided to go eat before we went to the Canalog Hotel. We wanted to go to Biggs (sort of a Philippine version of Mel's Diner), but found that it was not available since it had shut down. We keep telling our Self-employment Workshop students that: Location, Location, Location is the key to success and I guess Biggs didn't know that. They had tried to open off the main street which was instant death. So I ran in Jolly Bee (a Philippine version of McDonald's) and is very successful. They let McDonald's spend the millions doing market research and then they build a Jolly Bee right by them.

Back to dinner, this has become my routine. I go inside and order two, two piece BBQ chicken dinners. They always say, OK then take my money and about five minutes later they come back and say, "sorry not available, only wings". Then I tell them okay, if no breast meat then I want my money back. They looking at me with a blank look they say, "just a minute" and they go talk to the manager and come tell me: "six minutes please, you wait okay"? I am amazed just how fast they can go and find breast meat every time.

These are just some examples of the fantastic blessings that we received this month. Our Heavenly Father is ever present in our work and the blessings that we keep seeing are strong evidence of that.

The Lord has given us a great opportunity to work with, A Special People, in a Special Place. I know I have told you this before, but we truly love and adore these people. We appreciate all the fond memories that we receive from them daily. Each day brings its own beauty as we wake to see the Majestic Mayon standing tall above us all and the palm trees swaying in the ever present gentle breeze from the mighty ocean. The Filipino people working hard in the rice fields or the coconut groves and the sweet spirit of our Heavenly Father spreading across this blessed land is what Elder and I see every day. We pray that our friends will have a desire to also come and join those who are preparing the way for the Lords work. Our Mission needs couples now President Smith said he could use about 60 couples to come serve as Leadership Missionaries and yet he can't even get one couple to come and work in the office. The church has need of willing couples we need your help now. May the Lord try to provide a way for you to be able to serve soon!

Love you,

Elder and Sister Cooley

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Recent Discoveries

One of the many faces of Mt Mayon:

A rice farmer's work is never done:

Road to no where:

Terraced rice fields:

March Picture of the Month

This is a typical Philipino kitchen:

Anyone in the mood to cook?

Pictures For Edmond

Grammy took some pictures for her grandson, Edmond.