Cabarroguis, Diffun, Cagayan Valley, Philippines
We shall begin right after I got off the phone in Detroit.
I sat down with Elder Peterson. He leans over and says "listen behind us". We were waiting for the flight to Manila, so naturally, the family behind us was speaking Tagalog. One of them said "bagsak?" and the other replied "bagsak." and then they both started laughing. That would be equated to someone saying "Fail?" "Fail."
So I lean over and say "Kumusta! Taga saan po kayo?"(Hey! Where you from?) The man responded in English and explained he was a teacher at the University of the Philippines. We talked, he recognized us from the Broadway play he had seen, apologized for the mockery it made of us, and then I gave him a Book of Mormon. So that was cool.
Then we had the extremely long flight to Nagoya. The person in front of me was watching some wacked-up Boliwood movie and then the person next to me decided to watch The Conjuring. That was a great desicion for them because it was just a little SEVERELY EMOTIONALLY SCARRING DUE TO HORRENDOUSLY SATANIC IMAGES but you know. No big deal. I had my head in the game so it didn't get me down.
I can say I've been to Japan now! On our way to the gate, a Japanese officer saw that we were all Americans and started leading us to a creepy gate titled "quarantine" where another Japanese man waiting with a mask and gloves. We told the guard we were going to Manila and his face relaxed. "Oh. Ok, nevermind, just keep going strait." The Japanese don't care if the Philippines gets contaminated with American germs.
We landed in Manilathe 4th, waited at a hotel for a few hours where we got zero sleep, then got into a van to head to the airport again for the flight to Cauayan. Yes, we flew to Cauayan. First of all, the traffic in Manila... HOLY AWESOME. So chaotic, and everyone is on the verge of crashing into the one next to them, yet somehow it all works. Jeepnees look like ghetto war vehicles. They are so gansta it ain't even funny. You don't mess with the Jeepnees. Basically all of the vehicles here are Tricees and occasionally a Japanese car. The Tricees are awesome too, I want to make one of my own when I return to America.
At the Manila airport, we ran into the batch from the Manila MTC going to Cauayan. There were several urgings from us to Elder McCausland to not say anything stupid. It's funny, when the Filipinos see his name, they read the first two letters and then exclaim "Elder MacDo!" (Elder McDonalds!)
On the flight to Cauayan, we began descending through the thick fog into the valley, and I was consumed with love for the place I was. We saw endless rice fields and rolling jungle mountains all around us. I stepped out of the plane and immediately felt "Oh my. I'm home." I haven't felt uncomfortable here. Even though it is so different, I haven't felt one bit of longing for the first-world home of America. We greeted the mission president, had lunch at his house, and then we were assigned to our Tatay (Fathers). Elder Manyabo is his name(Take out the Y and add the N with the little squigley over it). He is about half my size. All of the Filipinos are tiny. He is so awesome, though.
So much has happened the past week here in the Philippines, I don't know where to start. My area is Santiago South, and the district is Cabarugis city. It's a beautiful place. It really is. Our apartment is pretty rough. But there is a shower head. There's a gas stove on the balcony thing and there's some manner of sink with a water filter from the mission. It's all concrete. We have a couch, and mattresses, and lots of cockroaches. But the cockroaches here are kind of... stoned? Or something? They move way slow and fall over and die all by themselves. So they haven't really been much of a problem. Mosquitos have been eating me but I have TerraSheild and Purify. The poverty here hasn't bothered me, strangely enough. The cold showers, the bugs, the lack of hygiene... Really hasn't bothered me. I find it a powerful testimony of me needing to be here right now.
After my first night of sleep that I had had in about three days, I awoke to my first morning in the Philippines. We taught about four lessons that day, and I actually had a large part in it. We also talked to a lot of people on the streets handing out pamphlets about the Restoration and sharing brief testimony. Tagalog is way fun to teach in, and they understand mixed English very well because English is taught in all of the schools here as a required course. It is also the language of pretty much every advertisement here. The second day we taught like six lessons. Everyone here lives in essentially camping conditions. Concrete slabs stuck in the mud with a few wooden benches here and there. There is jungle everywhere, especially my area. All appoinments we have after 6 are done in the dark, as we hike through the jungle with often only a cell phone flashlight. I've used my headlamp the past couple of times, though. It seems like I've been here forever. It's not like I did anything like this in America, yet I find everything so natural. We've had a ton of lessons everyday. My Tagalog comes with the Spirit, so it's a pretty fool-proof method.
Lets see, I've taught a few severely drunk people(one of which showed us some surprisingly good kungfu), we've taught a few breast-feeders, we've taught some naked kids, we've attempted to talk to some farmers who only speak Ilocano(which is WAY different from Tagalog), we've taught a guy walking with him as he rode his Karibau(for you VeggieTales fans... It's a Cebuuuuuu) down the street dragging various sticks... We've had a lot of fun.
I think the most simple testimony I bear here every day is being a random white kid with a name tag trudging through the mud and fields of Cabarugis, smiling and saying "Kumusta!" to everyone. I've never smiled more in my life since I've been here. And not like a fake smile. Truly, genuinely smiling all of the time. That isn't really like me. But it is here. Everyone notices I'm white. Even the goats here look at me like "Wha?" Whenever I tell whoever it is we're talking to that I'm from America, they laugh a little and I know they're thinking "Oh really! I couldn't tell!" (To quote Bugs Life). The popular thing to do here is to call out at the white people and say "Hey Joe! Whatsurname?" So that's pretty fun. All Americans are "Joe" here.
The ward here is way nice. I have been dubbed "Elder Kokokrunch". Kokokrunch is the Filipino brand of Cocoa Puffs. So yeah. That's how it is. We went to a baptismwhich was really awesome. She was ten years old, and began bawling as she bore her testimony about Joseph Smith.
The weird foods I've had include: Fresh whole Squid on rice, grilled whole chicken head, grilled whole chicken feet, grilled whole chicken intestines, grilled cubed chicken blood, sauted whole chicken livers, milk fish(National Filipino fish in vinegar), packaged ulam(rice topping), and various other packaged Filipino snacks. They have all been delicious. Truly, they have. No Balut, yet. Just hasn't been on sale.
So, somebody was a smart Elder this morning and forgot the card reader for the camera at the apartment. I'm about an hour away from it now. So yeah, pictures next week, I guess.
I can skype on Christmas, but details will come later.
NOW SIT DOWN AND LISTEN TO THIS PART BECAUSE THIS IS WHERE IT BECOMES IMPORTANT. THIS CHURCH IS NOT JUST ANY OTHER CHURCH. IT IS THE TRUE AND RESTORED CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST. THROUGH THE PROPHET JOSEPH SMITH, THE PRIESTHOOD HAS BEEN RESTORED TO EARTH, AND WE HAVE IT. DONT YOU FORGET THAT.
THIS CHURCH IS NOT A UTAH CHURCH. AN OVERWHELMING MAJORITY OF ITS MEMBERS RESIDE OUTSIDE UTAH, AND EVEN STILL THE MAJORITY IS OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES. ALL NATIONS, KINDREDS, TONGUES. INCLUDING THE PHILIPPINES. INCLUDING TAGALOG. DONT YOU FORGET THAT. FOR THOSE OF YOU THAT STRUGGLE WITH THE CULTURE HERE IN UTAH VALLEY, STOP. THIS IS THE KINGDOM OF GOD, AND IT IS UPON ALL OF THE EARTH, UPON ALL KINDS OF PEOPLE. NOT JUST MOLLY MORMON AND PETER PRIESTHOOD. THE MEMBERS HERE IN THE PHILIPPINES DON'T HAVE A WHOLE LOT, BUT THEY HAVE THE GOSPEL, AND THEY HAVE THEIR FAMILIES, AND WITHOUT MISSIONARY EFFORTS, MANY PEOPLE HERE WOULD BE ALL BUT LOST IN THE WORLD. THE FILIPINO MISSIONARIES SERVING WITH ME HAVE GIVEN UP EVERYTHING TO BE HERE, BECAUSE THEY KNOW THIS IS THE TRUE WORK OF GOD. THIS IS A GOSPEL OF CHANGE, AND I ADD MY WITNESS THAT THE ATONEMENT IS REAL, AND SAVES THOSE WHO IMPLEMENT IT IN THE WAY IT HAS BEEN INTENDED.
I KNOW THIS MORE THAN EVER BEING HERE IN THE PHILIPPINES, AND I HOPE YOU NEVER FORGET IT.
Ok, phew. Got that out of my system. This is a great work, and I am so glad to be apart of it! My english is already starting to deteriorate, and even now I'm typing with an accent! I have no idea how to send packages, but I want to cuz I have a lot of cool stuff!
This letter is really scattered. Sorry. Just let me know where to fill in next week.
Oh, congrats Kara and Michael, for the whole time and eternity thing. But really, welcome to the family! I'm so excited for you two! Awesomesauce!
Ok. I think I got everything. Ingat po, pamilya ko!