Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Oh Holy Week of Birthdays!

Dear Mom,
I will try to make this email as short and as concise as possible. I have so much to tell you!ell this week has been a week of birthdays! It seemed like every other house we went into, someone was celebrating a birthday! On Monday was Ice Marco's birthday. Sister Marco invited us over that day and we were pretty hesitant to go since it was p-day, but we went anyway and sacrificed grocery shopping to make it. It was me, Elder Iglupas, and a bunch of little kids and their parents. The Marco family was inactive for about two years when I came back into the area and we worked really hard in helping them back to church. They've become really special to us and Sister does her best to feed us every week and does her best to help us with clothes when they rip or buttons fall off. As we went to say bye, Sister Marco got a little teary-eyed and I was kind of confused. She graciously thanked us for coming and explained that it's been a couple years, but before, Ice always had missionaries over on his birthday since he was born. She said she was so happy we could be there again and that she will be happy for the day when Ice becomes the first Elder Marco of their family, ten years from today.

 The next few days we ran into a few more birthdays. One being the youngest daughter of Miljon's family. A quick update on Miljon, he's doing great! If you don't remember him, please reread my other emails. He is probably the most special to me of all my investigators here. He is doing great! Hasn't drank or smoked and has not missed a week of church. He sacrifices work on Sundays now just to come to church and loves it. Whenever we come over, even that day when their youngest daughter had their birthday, he stops everything and says, "It's time to listen to the Elders." Our first lessons he just wanted to Bible bash, now he is doing his best to invite everyone to listen and is inviting all his friends and family to listen to the missionaries because his life has changed so much. Yesterday, he was talking about how someday he's going to be become the Prophet (joking of course) and I made the comment "parang malakas yung hangin dito" which means "it's kind of like the wind is strong in here" which is a Filipino phrase for implying someone is being big-headed. His wife responded, "Hindi siya hangin - baguio 'yan" or "that's not wind, that's a typhoon." Again, probably one of those you had to be there things, but I thought it was hilarious! Maybe I'll stop sharing those experiences haha. It's also been great to have Elder Iglupas here since he is also from the Visayas so they just all go off in Visayan whenever we're there and I understand absolutely nothing.

That same day it was also Ashley Moran's birthday. Another family similar to the Marco family's story: an inactive family that we helped reactivate. She's crazy. That's all I'm going to say. She's only 11 but she is basically 18 and talks to you like she's older than you. Their family is really good at English and they usually feed us when we don't have any money which is awesome.

This week was also, yep you guessed it, Holy Week. It has changed since you've been here mom; it was a lot more reverent when you were here. For the whole week, they had these things called "Pabasa" which I'm still not quite sure what the meaning is. I know "basa" the root word, means "read." Anyway, I wanted to take pictures but I figured it wouldn't be very missionary-like so I'll have to try to describe these experiences to you. Well they had these Pabasa things about every 100ft - a tent, like the ones we use for shade during cross country meets, covered in palms and a karaoke box with a bunch of "Santo Nino" or "baby Jesus"statues which are kind of creepy. And, they just sit there all day and sing these songs. What's ironic is there will be one or two people singing in that tent, and then set up a tent literally right next to it, there will be about 50 people (no seriously) playing cards, gambling, and drinking (sometimes bingo too). You wouldn't believe it.

Funny story, on Palm Sunday, some random guy took a huge banana leaf to church, do you know how big those are?

Processions? Let me tell you. On Friday, Bishop Lamoste was working with us and we were riding a jeepney when it suddenly came to a stop... and didn't start again. So I looked at Bishop and he said that it was probably a procession. Sweet, it should pass in a couple minutes right? Even if its a bigger parish, how big can it be?


This procession was sidewalk to sidewalk on a four-lane-street with people pushed up against buildings for about 45 minutes - thousands, and thousands of people marching with a Mary Magdalene statue and their candles. We ended up walking through it and I was really scared and confused. So when we got to Sister Loida's house (who I'll be skyping you from on Mother's Day), she explained that on Good Friday, there is a procession where Mary Magdalene and Jesus separate and than Easter is the "Araw ng Pagsalubong" or the "Day of Meeting" where the procession ends and the two statues meet each other. I wonder who came up with that. Really interesting, but not really necessary to salvation. She also talked about how there is a statue of Jesus that is laid down like being put in a grave at the church and how people go and touch it and are miraculously healed. She said when she was little, before her family was LDS, they used to go and do that, but they all always just got sick because, well, all the sick people go and touch this statue! It was a crazy site.

Saturday was where all these pictures are from. We had a nation-wide service project where all the members of the church in the Philippines went out and served for two hours. Our ward and some others in the stake went and cleaned up a buckload of garbage. I've included a bunch of pictures with captions so hope you enjoy! It was awesome to be suited in the yellow vests and serving. There was one guy that passed us that I thought was pretty funny, he passed us and said..."Look, its the [insert bad word here] Mormons doing good again." Elder and I just looked at each other and laughed so hard. Hope you enjoy those pictures.

Bishop Lamoste getting ready for work!

The young women with their awesome sombreros.

Bishop's daughter and his son.

Bishop Lamoste and the bishop from Acacia Ward getting down and dirty!

She had my favorite sombrero on.

Can you say garbage? That's a river.

So here in Caloocan, there is no good massive garbage collection, so what do we do with the garbage? We burn it! Great for your lungs and the environment.

Even the older members cam to serve.

This is my favorite picture. Bishop is doing the "Guapo" pose or the "take a picture of me because I'm handsome" pose that's pretty famous here. I was just going around taking pictures and I looked up and Bishop was just waiting and posing for me. I laughed so hard. I feel like if I had the chance to know your dad mom, he would be just like Bishop Lamoste, he's like the grandpa I never had.

Me and Brother Sam, our ward mission leader.

So people were pretty surprised that I knew how to clean. Spoiled American? I think not! My dad taught me how to work!

This is our relief society president in our ward, Sister Grace.

Elder Iglupas and Bishop Lamoste.

Easter was great, they Easter egg hunt here for... REAL eggs! I didn't find any, so the members gave me one. Funny part? After they find them, everyone gets together and just chows down on the hard boiled eggs. I attached a picture of Miljon and his family as well. Enjoy!

This is Miljon, his wife Mona Lisa, and their five daughters.

Bishop's son Kian and his "future missionary" tag.

This is a great story. There is always a lady like this in every ward I've served in. This sister is 93 years old! She converted to the church when it first came to the Philippines. And guess what? She is just like Sister Garcia in my last ward: extremely strong. She climbs the stairs up to the church, still handwashes her clothes, and still cooks her meals. For about an hour on Sunday, she talked to us about how the Philippines was without the church and how if we follow the Word of Wisdom and not drink, smoke, and so forth, we'll be as old her someday too!

 As of now, the holy LDS population here is anxious for the coming weekend, the long-awaited Jubilee celebration! Fifty years in the making! The youth and primary in the church have been working for nearly four years putting together this program together of music and native dances. We'll be privileged to watch on Saturday and then hear from the Prophet on Sunday. What a time to be in the Philippines!

Elder Corpuz

P.S. - You are probably wondering what those other pictures are. (Did I tell you I tried "Mango-Apple" the other day?) (ADD) You'll be happy to know Sister Jen Angoluan still finds a way to feed us although in Quezon City. She cooks a bunch of food and then drops it off at a Toyota Branch here in Caloocan for us to pick up. She says she can stand the thought of me being hungry. Anyway, she gave us these things and we don't have a steamer, so I invented my own! I know, I'm pretty smart right? Yon, malakas yung hangin.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Finally Summer

Dear Mom,
My gulay, what a week. I have never worked this hard in my life. I've slept like a rock and worked myself to death more than ever. It's been AWESOME. The best part, is that summer has finally started! Fortunately it's only supposed to last for a month. I have no idea how you and dad survived here during summer. I can't remember the last time I was not sweating. I was sweating going to sleep, waking up, showering, eating, sitting in church (the air/con in church conveniently broke yesterday)... yeah. Even though there are electric fans on you, it just blows hot air. You sweat so much it's like your crying. Gotta love it.

Since I still owe you my email from last week, just a quick recap!

We watched conference which was awesome. Pretty much every talk just made me either want to get married or join the church's women's organization, the "Relief Society." It was the anniversary of the institution of the Welfare Program of the church... or something like that, so the majority of talks talked about service, which is pretty much what the Relief Society is all about. Pretty much after the weekend I was ready to forfeit the priesthood and be ordained as the first male to the Relief Society. Unfortunately, President DeLaMare has different opinions than I do haha. It was great though. This Saturday is the church's national service day here in the Philippines, so we'll be going around with all the members in the church in the Philippines and cleaning up and providing service. It's going to be epic.

Funny story real quick - or at least I thought it was funny. So I haven't taken too many pictures because I got a really hanous haircut. I meant to say cut a little but they interpreted it as cut off everything I guess. So the other night when our labendera, or lady who washes our clothes, came over to take our clothes; her youngest daughter came with her - she is a riot. She's about 4'8" and 16 years old I think. She is way funny and really sarcastic. When she saw me this is what she said:

"Elder, sino yung nagpagupit sa 'yo?"
"Papatayin natin sila."

I feel like it sounds so much funnier in Tagalog but in English its:

"Elder, who cut your hair?"
"We are going to kill them."

I think that was one of those, you-had-to-be-there kind of things.

I also had the chance last week to work with a boy named John Rex Yap, a Chinese kid raised here in the Philippines and is a recent convert to the church. He has a really sad story and it really opened my eyes. His parents died in a car accident when he was young on his birthday and was raised pretty much by himself. While we were teaching this family, he talked to one of the hard-headed kids and told him he needed to respect his mom, because he would give anything to know how it feels to have the love of a mother in his life. Every time his birthday passes, he is more sad than happy because he just remembers their death. But he is strong. He handles his trials with faith. He likes to share his knowledge about trials in every lesson we have. He always says how there must always be a trial in your life. Always. If there is no trial, life is not worth it. I have respect and love for him. He is now filling out his application to serve a mission. He was supposed to leave last year, but when a flood hit, he lost all the things he had been saving and has had to start from the ground up again. He now has enough money and things. His birthday was this past Saturday.

Anyway, on to this week. Another transfer gone and over and I'm just about one transfer short of my year mark when the mission split will take place. My new companion is Elder Iglupas. Funny story actually. Elder Iglupas and I were housemates when I was companions with Elder Tengelsen back in Quezon City. That morning before transfer meeting, he kept on coming up to me saying that he really, really wanted to be companions. I just responded that he did not want to have that burden haha. And then the announcement came and well, here we are! He is from Iligan in Mindanao - the dangerous part. He's pretty matapang though so he's good. He is also a triathlete! He is way more fit than I am and we exercise like crazy everyday. We try to get up early and run about three miles every morning and he really holds me too it. He's fast in and I'm fast going out so it works out well. He's also really diligent. We had 25 lessons with a member present this week which was a number I thought I'd never see my whole mission. The standard is 18. He is very efficient in his working so it makes things easy to achieve things like that. Also a cool story, my new housemate is Elder Simbala who was my zone leader in Quezon City as well for two transfers, and then my first district leader, Elder Ablog, was also transfered into Caloocan. It's like Quezon all over again! In our house, we're all Ilocano except for Elder Iglupas. The zone went from nearly all Americans to only me and Elder Peterson... and guess what? Twelve out of 14 elders in the zone are also Ilocano! Too bad I don't know how to speak.

At transfer meeting, President also talked about the growth the mission will be seeing in the next four months alone. In this mission along with the new mission that will be created, the net gain of elders in the next four months is 80 elders! Can you believe that? Our mission is at about 180 right now, so in four months, where this mission once was there will be 260 missionaries! It will be a site to see!

This week is "Semana Santa" or "Holy Week" here in the Philippines. It's really different here. The Catholic religion is different here. I've seen people beating their selves with glass shards and crucifying themselves along with processions. It's kind of dangerous for us so we won't be out to much because there is also, ironically, a lot of drinking among them. I'll have to tell you about that next week.

And how could I almost forget, Vince's baptism was this past Saturday. It was great and pretty much run by the youth. His cousin Anthony was also supposed to be baptized, but at the literal very last minute, his parents said no. It is a really hard trial for him and us, but we are not here to break families, so respecting their decision is the best we can do. The baptism was great. We'll be looking at about six baptisms in the next couple of weeks so I'm really excited. It's so great to see the change in these people's lives. Vince's mom said although she is not LDS, she really respects him and all he's done because the change in him has been so tremendous. Stories like that are what we live for.

Although it's hot, it's still definitely worth every minute. Have a good Easter!

Elder Corpuz

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

You Want Me to Do What?

Dear Mom,
Well it's transfer week so... this email is going to be really short because my companion needs to pack. I will not be packing.

So yeah! I'm here for another transfer and I'm really, really happy. I will miss Elder Daly a lot though. He has been an awesome, awesome companion. He is really nice and probably will be one of my very best friends at home. I hope that he will be well in his next area.

Well just a funny experience this week real quick. So I was on exchanges with a good friend and Elder, Elder Peterson, and we went to talk to a family who just had a baby. Before we left, they asked Elder Peterson to lick his finger and touch the baby's stomach. When I first heard this, I was super confused. Of course, it was not in English, so I repeated it to him in English...

"Elder... did she just ask you to lick your finger... and touch the baby's stomach?"
"Is that how you heard it too?"

The lady was seriously getting straight up offended that Elder Peterson wasn't going to do it, so a kid came and grabbed him and forced him to do it... and then as I was laughing, they grabbed my hand, shoved it in my face, and made me do the same as well. Their superstitions are crazy. We texted President after and he just thought it was way funny. Man, gotta love the Philippines.

So here's the deal, I have everything written down that I want to share, but no time left so I will send you a better email next week okay? It's getting late and we have a lot to do. Take care!

Elder Corpuz

Monday, April 4, 2011

Miracles and a forty-day fast.

Dear Mom,
It's crazy to think we're in the last week of our transfer. I feel like somehow, someway each transfer gets shorter. My first transfer definitely felt like an eternity and it doesn't hardly feel like I'll be coming up on a year soon. We'll see where I end up next transfer. I really don't want to leave Caloocan, I've really, really grown to love this place. The work here is great and I have no complaints.

There's actually a lot I have to talk about this week! So brace yourself, this might be a long email but I'll try not to make it too long.

The other day in a lesson, one of the kids brought a snake in the room and was just playing with it like a normal pet. Gotta love the Philippines - a surprise everyday! No, no one urinated on me this week so sorry if I disappointed you there. I do have some great stories to tell though.

This transfer has been pretty hard. I haven't been out a year yet and I'm already starting to slowly slack off I feel. I get some emails forwarded to me by a couple moms from some of my missionary friends and it sounds like everyone is going through the same thing. We may not be completely disobedient, but the little things are really starting to get to us. I'd say that sounds about the same to me too.

I did really learn something from an email I had forwarded to me from a friend Mike Swindle that I was really close to at BYU; if things work out right, we'll probably be rooming together in Provo when we get back. We were in the same ward after I moved into my new hall at Merrill second semester and got pretty close. Anyway, his email was pretty much the same, but he decided to act. Likewise, my non-exact obedience, I felt, wasn't really helping the area. He decided he was going to do something about it and start a "forty day fast" like we used to do during Lent - give up bad habits for forty days and come out a better person; hopefully not to return to bad habits. I thought it was brilliant, so I decided to do the same thing. It's the menial things like waking up at 6:30am. Yeah sure, I wake up, but laying in bed for an hour is hardly productive and doesn't help me make it on time to personal study at 8:00am. So I made a list last Thursday night in my journal and officially started last Friday. I learned a lot from the experience in the past few days.

Lesson One - God blesses the obedient and doesn't wait or hold back.
The next day, we had probably the best day we had all transfer. I held to my end and did everything I could to be up, on time, and obedient to the most minute of rules, and it really effected our work. We were finding solid people to teach left and right through our members, and each of them was really interested. We didn't get punted, and the day just ended so well because I felt like I did it the way that Heavenly Father would have it done. There were many, many great things that happened in that day, so much that one email wouldn't be enough to go over it all.

Lesson Two - Old habits die hard.
This is something that Elder Christensen used to tell me. Yeah, day one was all great, but day two was rough. It really made me realize a lot of things though. The second day I pretty much failed at everything and was back to good old, comfortable and lazy, and well, you could see what effect that had on the work as well. We got stood up at every appointment all day and only taught one lesson.

So this is what I pondered: despite the fact that it is promised that we will be blessed when we choose to obey and not be blessed when we live incorrectly, why do we still choose to live incorrectly?

Lesson Three - Don't show Satan your weaknesses.
I learned in a religion class at BYU that Satan can't read your thoughts and only knows your actions. This made so much sense to me the more I thought about it. He can still tempt you and put thoughts in your mind, but only when he knows where to tempt you. If we don't commit in action, he won't tempt us in that area. Like for mom, your not a heavy smoker or drinker, therefore, you're not tempted to do either of those things to harm your body. For me, I'm not a video gamer, so I'm not tempted to play video games on my mission. But, I am a late person, I can be lazy, and I can be impatient (and so many other things). I thought of a lot of things I'm having trouble with right now and thought about how I never used to have a problem with them, but for some reason now I do. Because I tried to do those things and because I showed him my weaknesses.

Conclusion - If we choose to live correctly in the first place, we will not have problems in the future.

And we all thought God worked off of something complicated. I'm not perfect, but I am working on it.

This past weekend we had temple tour again which was a pretty stressful, rollercoaster-emotional-day. The day started out just crazy because from the get-go, I was sitting on fire because I was in charge of renting the jeep for about 25 people... and we couldn't find the jeep. Eventually things worked out, but there was a lot of drama along the way. We got stuck in traffic on the way to the temple and everyone was complaining because the driver could have taken a better route. I really got a chance to just look around and see how that affects the situation. People love to talk about other people here in the Philippines. They love to gossip. It's disgusting. Absolutely disgusting, in fact that might be the only thing I hate about Filipinos and am embarrassed to say that I am associated with. Something I've really learned is to just look at things like we looked at them in my Economics class at BYU. Me and Nyal's favorite phrase (remember Nyal?) "Sunken costs are irrelevant." The guy made a mistake; it's over. Let's just not stress about the past and work towards a better future. I felt like if the people would have just thought about it that way, the day would have been a whole lot less stressful.

The temple tour was great, and I got to say bye to Sister Salazar and Sister Tating who will be heading to the states today. I'm going to miss them but know they will do well! Sister Salazar was in my district with Elder Tengelsen and said she wanted to give you a call and talk to you mom so hopefully that's okay. She's amazing, you'll love her.
Afterwords, we helped a couple of our good friends and fellow elders in the zone with their baptism which was supposed to be really unattended. Since we've been focusing on baptisms so much in the mission and making them much more spiritual, we decided to help them out and went to help them set up and prepare. Here's a funny story real quick. The piano that we were playing on was an electric and "middle c," of all notes, was broken. So Elder Daly played while I awkwardly reached over his arms and pressed this little button where the middle c key is whenever there was an important c. I felt like a real percussionist. Anyway the baptism came out great and afterwords we got to play some ping pong together which was way fun. I actually got way good, can you imagine? It turned into this game with added volleyball moves and shoes for paddles. I don't know how, but it was awesome. I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard that my face hurt and I got a headache. I also got to talk to Elder Peterson, the red head, really extensively about our missions and some rough times we've been through. Sometimes the mission leaves you without friends, so to be able to just sit down and talk on the friend level and get things out helped a lot for us to be able to let go of the past and focus on the work. After lots of tears we were ready to go back to work.

Sunday we saw miracles (Man this email is getting really long). We were really scared to see who was at church because we didn't really get to invite anyone the previous week with the temple tour and other things that happened. When we walked in we were thrilled to see eight people at church, the highest we've seen all transfer. The prize, being brother Miljon.

I'll close by telling you a little about brother Miljon. Miljon is a father to five daughters, all under the age of 11. He works alone by driving a jeep around close to our house everyday and makes maybe $15 a day to support his family. His wife and his daughters above the age of eight all chose to be baptized almost two years ago, but he chose not to be. When I first got here, he wasn't be actively taught. I had just walked in the area and wasn't really afraid to sour relationships so I asked why and gave him a pretty bold answer. He said that so many missionaries have tried to teach him, but the message is the same and he's not interested. So I responded, "With all due respect, Elder Christensen and I are not all those other missionaries brother. Please sit down and give us a chance." Little by little, we gained his trust and taught him in and out (whenever he wasn't drunk) for about two months. In those two months, he never was able to attend church.

The past week, we were ready to drop him. Last Thursday, I nearly lost it with him. When we went to visit him, no one was home, which is a very rare thing because his family doesn't work and they are always at the house. After checking back nearly three times, we ran into Mona Lisa, his wife, with their five daughters. She told me they've been walking around because she and Miljon had gotten in a fight. She said the previous night, he didn't come home, and when she went to find him, she found him drinking with four other women. I wanted to cry for her. I couldn't believe it. She said she went up to him and told him that her and their daughters have been starving and could not believe that it was because of his addiction to alcohol. There's truly a reason why Heavenly Father has instructed us to abstain completely from alcohol.

On Sunday, we came in and saw their whole family sitting in church. I walked in and couldn't believe it. When I talked to him later he said to me, "It's my work, I need to find different work. I can't change there. I want to change. I want to be a good father." So we promised to help him. We came and visited them later on Sunday afternoon, and when we came by, he was reading from the Book of Mormon and had been that whole afternoon. He couldn't stop talking about the stories he was reading and was almost too excited about it. "And Nephi! And that guy the killed? And then that one guy, and his son?" It was great. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. We committed him to baptism and are doing the best we can to make sure he can enter into that covenant on May 7, 2011.

Well, this email is officially too long, so I'm going to stop here. I hope you are all well. Jason, I'm so proud of you and all you did at all-state. You will change the world with your music. Congratulations on everything and a happy late birthday! I hope you're well. I love you tons and miss you lots!

Elder Corpuz

P.S. The last pictures are of me and Elder Daly in what they call a "side-car" or "pedi-cab." Pretty much a little compartment attached to a bike that is not very big. It's a pretty common way to travel here!

P.P.S. Summer is now officially more than a month late! It's pouring rain still!