March 2nd and 3rd, 2012
I will post pictures on another post . . . .
Instead of having our regular couples meeting this month, the senior couples and President and Sister Martino met up in Cabanatuan and headed to the Bongabon Zone to visit some less actives and enjoy one anther's company. We called it a Couples Retreat! Since Patti was here with us, she was invited to join us.
We left the mission home at 6:00am with the mission president and headed to Cabanatuan where the Bowcutts live. They are actually the couple that works with the Bongabon Zone, so they planned the activities and made arrangements for our overnight accommodations. The Roberts had traveled the day before so they wouldn't have to get up so early. (This actually worked well, since Sister Roberts and I were in charge of getting chicken for our Friday evening picnic. Since we left before KFC opened, she was able to get the chicken the evening before and keep it cold in the refrigerator.)
We drove to Dingalan Bay where we were joined by Sister Garcia, who is in the District Relief Society Presidency. We met a few of the members and the headed to the dock where we were taken by boat to visit 3 families who lived in the jungle by the white sand beach. We visited with these families, had a short devotional ending by singing 'Families Can be Together Forever'. We took pictures and then we were treated to Buka Juice (coconut milk). One of the young men climbed a coconut tree to retrieve the green coconuts. They then cut the top off with a machete and we got to drink the milk right from the coconut. These families are members, but it is expensive for them to get to church each week and it is a long walk along the sea shore for them to get to church. But the President gave them a challenge to attend their meetings. We gave them a picture of the temple, asking them to set a date to have their entire family attend the temple.
We went back to the dock and then traveled to another dock close by where Granny Annie had prepared lunch for all us. We ate in the little bamboo huts that we see along the road in Angeles. The food was great even though it was hot outside. We drove to Gabaldon to visit some more less active families who lived out in the jungle. We parked our cars and walked on the path to meet them. We visited one family whose house had been eaten by termites and they had to move out of it. It was sad to see the larger home they had lived in and what they were living in now. The husband was so cute and showed us how he cracks coconuts with a metal spike type thing.
I will mention here that most of the Filipinos eat what we would call a green coconut. After they take the Buka juice out, the use the soft, young coconut in many different dishes and eat it as well. It is good, but it took me a while to enjoy it. They think we are funny because we eat the hard white coconut that comes in the brown shell. We have been told that this is not good . . . I guess it is just a preference of taste.
It was now time to check into our hotel which was nice. (It was actually a Filipino Resort). The room had air conditioning, but there was no hot water . . . hot water is not available in most places here. We had two beds and Patti stayed in our room with us. No television, which was okay since we were all tired and sunburned from our boat trip! We were able to rest for about 30 minutes before we had our picnic dinner. It was fun to visit and talk about the events of the day thus far . . .
Friday evening we held a member devotional and showed the movie "Only a Stone Cutter". The President talked to the members about making a sacrifice, as John Moyle had done in the movie, and asked them to make their own sacrifice to attend their Sunday meetings. So many of these people are so poor and just don't have the extra money to pay for their transportation to get to church. I would guess that there about 30 members who attended. Two of the senior missionaries bore their testimony about their own personal sacrifice to come on a mission. The people are always excited to get to meet the Mission President and his wife and this visit was no exception!
Saturday morning we all enjoyed breakfast at the house where the President stayed at the resort. We enjoyed waffles, ham, eggs, fruit and juice. We were all assigned items to bring for this meal and our picnic the night before. We all brought a batch of cookies so that we could share these with the member families that we visited. We then checked out of out resort and we were off again . . . this time to Bugnon.
Before leaving Gabaldon, we first visited a few more less active members that Sister Garcia had arranged for us to visit. Each of the members welcomed us to their homes. Since there were so many of us, we would visit outside of their homes.
We stopped at a small store where most of the men purchased hats to cover their sunburned heads. Before we left, Sister Garcia ate a Balut - an egg that has been cooked with the embryo of a chicken starting to develop inside. I don't get sick watching things very often, but I had to turn away as Sister Garcia ate the entire thing. It was gross to me!!!
Then we went to visit the saints in Bugnon. We drove to the river where we rode a raft made from bamboo on top of blown up tire inner tubes, across the river. Once on the other side of the river, some walked and some rode trikes from the river to the village, it was about 1/2 mile. We visited several families and invited them to attend the member devotional later that afternoon. Then we went to the home of the Rudy Grospe family. Sister Grospe had prepared lunch for us. We sat around their table and enjoyed another wonderful Filipino meal! This family is still in the process of building/finishing their home. The floors are dirt, they are awaiting money to put a window in and they will eventually put up a ceiling and make a room upstairs. President Puzey, our first mission president, designed this home for them.
After lunch, we all walked to the the town center for another member devotional. It was time to start and we only had a couple of people there. Marivi, the sister who had set this meeting up, said that she had more people who were coming so we waited a little longer for them. I would guess that we had about 50 people in attendance. Again we watched "Only a Stone Cutter" and this time four of the senior missionaries bore their testimony. There was a wonderful spirit with these wonderful people.
After we finished the devotional, we all said good-bye and headed back to the river. These wonderful saints walked back to the river's edge with us to say their good-byes. We took pictures of those standing on the river's edge and they took pictures of us. We all left with memories of the wonderful saints we had met the past two days.
On the way back to Angeles, the President stopped by a baptism in Kalikid where 3 people were being baptized. It is always a wonderful opportunity to attend a baptism here in the Philippines!