Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Things I Treasure the Most

Dear Mom,
Naimbug na pascua! It was so good to see most of you on Christmas. I can't remember the last time I saw Filipinos that speak English as well as you all haha. Nanibago ako talaga.


We had our Christmas Conference this week which was, well, a lot smaller than last year's with about half the people (since you know, our mission was split in half haha) but it was still a lot of fun. Elder Jolley, Elder Hawkins, Elder Posadas, and I were all reunited which was nothing short of a miracle. We had some workshops and I ended up giving two musical numbers thanks to Elder Jolley haha. It was good to see everyone. We played a few games and had the crazy envelope tie-exhange just like last year, then watched a movie and got some small gifts from President and Sister Sperry as well as the Larsons. Afterwards, Elder Posadas and I got to exchange small gifts as well which made the day just that much better. Nothing like having someone who might as well be family with you in the same mission.

Envelope tie exchange!

The East Route!

Biggest meal I've had all year haha.

Presents from the Sperrys and the Larsons.

The Larsons gave us all milk!
Elder Jolley's mystery gift to me.
Christmas itself was great here. Christmas in the Philippines is great. Mind you, Christmas seasons starts on my birthday, the first day of September, every year, and they start a countdown from 100 days, and make sure to make it across on the radio everyday. The country starts to get loud on Christmas Eve as it approaches midnight - just like New Year's Eve almost. Kids are outside caroling asking for money, music is playing, and all the moms are cooking. And then at midnight, everyone gets together for Noche Buena (yes Jason that's Spanish) and has a big meal together as a family to start Christmas. I realized how we kind of did a version of that at home, and didn't realize it was a Filipino tradition. The members spoiled us with food that day, so much that our refrigerator to this day is still packed!

Sister Landingin - first dinner.

The Young Family - take out.
Bishop Tapan and family - dine in.

Signing the Tapan's missionary wall!

 Christmas day couldn't have been any better here on the mission. We woke up and I felt like I was a father in the house with a bunch of little kids. We agreed in the house to buy lots of small gifts for one another to have a small gift exchange on Christmas, and Christmas morning, the other three woke up and were screaming and excited like ten year olds. They eventually forced me out of bed and we exchanged gifts just like at home.

By surprise, the other two had actually gone out and gotten us legit gifts, while we got these small, cheesy, cheap gifts. I felt really bad, but I was really thankful. Funny aside, we made hot chocolate that morning because Elder Shumway's parents sent him some from the states, and while I was drumming on my leg to whatever Christmas music was playing, I knocked over my cup of hot chocolate and it spilled all over me haha.

Afterwards, we attended church which set the tone of the day just right, and came home and made a HUGE brunch of sweets: crepes, pancakes, and french toast with cider and LOTS of fresh fruit! We didn't realize how sweet it all was, and didn't make it past the crepes haha. The feast was great.

Christmas morning!

My gifts to Elder Stoker!

Elder Corpuz special.

Elder Shumway laughed really hard when I found out I wrapped a CD his family gave him  as a Christmas present just like we do at home haha.

Elder Jolley's Christmas present to me.
Gave Elder Betita one of my shirts as a gift. 
Pictures after church.

Some of the Mapayapa Ward!

Us and our brand new matching Baguio Bags!
The Brunch that was never finished.

Our delicious mango, pineapple, and banana crepes.

And then of course, the next morning sealed the season by being able to see my family's faces.

 Elder Posadas opened my eyes a little this Christmas season with his gifts to me on Christmas. He wrote me a very heartfelt and sincere letter and gave me his "Piliin Ang Tama" or "Choose the Right" ring he had orginally made for himself. On the front of the letter, he titled it "Things I Treasure the Most". When I opened it for the first time, tears could only describe how happy I was to see the memories that we had shared together - things he treasured most.
I can remember getting on my knees after all these wonderful days with my heart just being so full. How I hadn't received a new car for Christmas or been with the people I wanted to be, but how I still felt so blessed. I felt like I was blessed too much. I felt like I wasn't deserving of these great gifts that God had given me.

I thought of the things I treasured the most in life, and as every other cliche Christmas song or phrase puts it, it's never anything that money can buy.

It's the sincere thought behind the gifts like the ones Elder Posadas had given me.
It's your mom telling you to face to face that she loves you.
It's your dad giving you advice out of love, and assuring you things will all work out.
It's your little brother dressing up in all the clothes you left behind, just because he knows it would make you smile.
It's your sister, telling you how proud she is of her big brother.
It's your aunt, telling you you're her favorite nephew.
It's the time your best friend's dad takes to write short emails every week out of his busy schedule.
It's the time your best friend's sister (Happy Birthday by the way Airi!) takes to read every email you send out, and comment on every detail about how it's helped her life.
It's your previous companion, thinking hard of all the inside jokes you had, and making the best into a Christmas gift.
It's your friend forgiving you, after you continually make the same stupid mistakes.
It's God's love that you feel, when you think of others.
It's God's love that you feel, when others think of you.

 We are truly all so blessed, and my list could go on forever, unbelievably, composed only of things that money could never buy. As Thomas S. Monson tells us, the things that matter the most to us in our lives are almost always the people we love. For this Christmas season and new year, I'm making it a goal to trust in God, and open my heart to others as Thomas S. Monson has told us. We should never assume that the people we love know, we should let them know. Most importantly, we should never let a problem to be solved, become more important than a person to be loved.

I hope you all had great Christmas, and it's crazy to believe that I will be coming home exactly six months from today. I hope you all have a great New Year. Happy Holidays again to you and those that you treasure the most.

Elder Corpuz