We had some more Christmas carolers come to our home on Christmas Eve. Two groups came to the front gate and started singing.
Afterwards they stood at the gate. It's tradition out here to give some money to carolers, so we did. Later on Christmas day one group came back and stood by our gate again, but we didn't know what they wanted. We gave them some cookies but that must not have been it because they cameback and stood there looking kind of expectant. We didn't know what to do.
For the Senior outing we went to a Giant Lantern Festival at San Fernando. Here we are with some of the other Seniors watching the show.
The disks you see are about 20 feet tall and the light dances around and changes in time to music. Below are some favorites.
We also had a District Leaders Christmas Social, which was very nice.
Here we are with the Rogers and Jones who live near us in Baliwag.
We had a good time at the San Ildefonso Branch Christmas Social this week.
It was a lot of fun and a lot of the Sisters came and tons of children, but not that many of the men. Only about six. Don't know why.
Sister Chiqui was the announcer for the festivities.
Before it started people were sitting in chairs arranged around the perimeter of the Cultural Hall. That's me in the picture. We started an hour late, which is not unusual for events out here.
Two of our missionaries. Elders Uhler, who just arrived less than a week ago from Virginia, and Elder Burgarin his trainer.
One of the games we played was Snowman. Sister Swift was in charge of organizing some games. It was a contest to see who could make the best snowman.
There were four groups and it was very exciting.
This was one of the winning snowman.
We took a break for food. You see here rice wrapped up in banana leaves called pasog, and trays with spaghetti, which is the traditional Filipino dish to have at Christmas time.
Things got even more relaxed as the games and singing continued after the meal. As you can see by the announcer, Sister Marimar, now sitting on the pulpit.
This is a game where they call a number and then you have to get in a group of that many people.
This game was like hot potato. Sister Swift is keeping track of who got got out. We had a good time with our new friends in the San Ildefonso Branch.
Later, on Wednesday we had the Missionary Zone Christmas Conference. As you can see things were a lot more formal and sedate.
We had speakers in the morning, then a dinner, then some games and a talent show and singing. This is a group of Sister missionaries.
Here we are singing a song with our District, the Baliwag District.
I got this picture of a Mom with three children on a motorcycle.
On Sunday we had an incredible day. We had Sacrament, plus a wedding, baptism, and funeral, all in the same day. Here's Brother Jing who got baptised. With Elders Bugarin and Uhler.
We saved the best picture for last. Although we couldn't be there in person, we got to Skpe in and see part of the wedding and also the reception. Here's the happy couple, Jarom and Paige, with Tianna and Jim. What a great looking couple. They seemed very happy. Jarom is a super grandson. Congratulations to Jarom and Paige.
We had to take a picture of this cool gas station we saw in the town next to ours, Bustos. The prices are in pesos per liter. I'm sure they must have the best gas in town!!!
Our missionary zone, the Baliwag Zone, had a Christmas Party on Monday. The missionaries wanted matching shirts to wear. We had an UNO tournament, and played reverse charades.
Some of the missionaries shared their talent.
We had some Filipino food for the main dishes and the senior couples made American desserts.
We made some fruit and treat baskets for the families that we hometeach and took them to their homes on Sunday afternoon.
Elder Dapena got his VISA so he left on Sunday morning- off to a Pacific Island. Monday was transfer announcements and to our surprise Elder Gumban is also going to a new area. He just finished his training and we didn't expect him to transfer so soon.
We will get two new missionaries to our branch on Wednesday. One of them is arriving from the MTC so we don't know who he is and the other one is an American, Elder Heaton transferring in from another area in the mission,
One day we went on a service project to help a sister in the branch plant some vegtables. This is the home where she lives.
First thing we had to do was prepare the ground, which involved clearing out the under growth and putting the brush into piles to burn.
Then we had to dig up the ground in rows to plant the little stalks of vegetables. We planted to tomatoes and eggplants.
It seemed like good soil but the ground was hard packed and had to be broken up with this hoe.
Here we are behind some rows of eggplants.
One of the missionaries and an investigator that was helping us.
Here's the whole work crew. There were four missionaries and an investigator with us.
Fatima, a little girl that lives there. She has downs syndrome but is just adorable. After the project was over they fed us lunch, which featured a chicken that they killed and plucked just to make the ulam.
There was a baby blessing on Sunday and a lunch open house afterward, at their home. The baby's name was
Kinn Yohan, Here is Sister Swift with Sister Maila.
One day we went to a funeral (no pictures). We did not even know the less active sister whose brother had passed away, but the Branch President wanted us there. They had the service at her home where people can come and view the body in the casket for about 5 days. The casket will have a clear plastic cover over the person. Then the next day was the burial and Elder Swift was asked to dedicate the grave. He did this after the open house.
Also last week we had zone interviews with the Mission President. Sister Bertin is in the front. The senior couples cooked pancakes for lunch for everyone. In our area, Baliwag district, we have 6 senior missionaries from America, and 20 junior missionaries, 4 for each branch (3 from America, 1 from a Polynesian island, and 17 from the Philippines).
We went on a hike to Biak na Bato on two different occasions. The first time it was just the two of us and this past week we went with two other missionary couples. Here are several pictures of our time in the national park.
In the picture above this family is washing clothes in the river. Many people still wash their clothes at home this same way.
This women with us is our guide for the day. It was great to talk with her because I could practice my Tagalog since she spoke only a little English.
This friendly dog followed us every step of the way on the entire hike.
Underground river in Bat Cave.
Us with the Jones and Rogers.
Rice fields with mountains in the background.
Caribao love the water. Guess that's why there're called water buffalo.
Next we stopped at this area with several statues of Catholic saints
and the 14 stations of Christ during the crucifixion and resurrection.
Michael fighting the devil.
There was also a little zoo nearby. It was mostly just some cages with birds and a few animals. It was pretty old and not well cared for. I felt sorry for the animals there, but maybe they were rescued animals and being cared for.
Curious looking fellow.
In the picture below we are eating Thanksgiving dinner at the Mission
President's home with the other senior missionaries in our mission.
This picture was taken at our Branch FHE. What we could call a Ward
Social back home. We had a lot of fun playing Family Feud and Reverse