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