Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Camotes Island Revisited

Sorry, but this has been a crazy week and I'm late with an update. It is now summer in the Philippines. How do we know it is summer? Because the snow has melted. 
Because it just is. That and the children are out of school.

This past Sunday was filled with travel to the island of Camotes and back. Camotes has a strong branch and Sunday was their branch conference. We had a chance to travel with President and Sister Tanner who were going there to attend the conference and couldn't pass it up.

Our plan was to catch an early ferry to make the 9:00 A.M. meeting, eat some sandwiches and then return on the afternoon ferry, arriving home just after dark. That was the plan. It almost worked.

The morning ferry to Camotes is scheduled to leave at 6:30 A.M. We were taking a car which means we would normally need to be at the pier about an hour early to be able to get a ticket. This is summer, however, on a week end and Camotes Island is a very popular destination. So we were up at 3 A.M. to leave the house by 3:30 to be to the ferry terminal by 4:00 because we knew it would be a busy travel day and we needed to be in line early.

This part of the plan worked beautifully even though our wait time for the ferry was about double what it would be at a less busy time. The ride over was very relaxing. We made it to the island by about 8:30 and then drove to the meeting house arriving just after 9:00. 
Camotes Branch meeting house.

It is a very nice meeting place. The main room was packed with chairs even going down the hallway. One of the highlights of the meeting was the choir. They sang two numbers and nearly blew the roof of of the building. As a rule people here love to sing and they really put their heart into it. It was amazing.
After the meeting we had a bit of food that had been prepared by the members and also had some that we had brought along. We had time so there was no rush going back to catch the ferry. Unfortunately, the 5:30 boat was fully booked. Normally there would not be another until 9:00, but because it was a busy week end they had added another to the schedule for 7:30. We couldn't buy a ticket for it right then, but took a number and were told to come back about 6:00 to get tickets.
Come back we did, purchased our tickets, the 7:30 ferry left the dock at 8:30 and we were back home by 11:00 PM. There was quite a bit more that happened in between but time only permits the condensed version for now. The upshot is that we managed to find the location pictured above to relax for about three hours waiting for the later ferry. Almost wished there were no more ferries that day.

One last item of note before we sign off. Look closely at the picture at the top of the page and tell us how many children you see with mom and dad on the motorcycle?  Who needs a mini van?

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Brother of Jared

Jared and The Brother of Jared
Our office phone line was down this week and these two brothers from Facilities Management came to track down the problem. The one on the left is Jared which means that the one on the right is the 'Brother of Jared'. They both laughed when we told them that.  His name is Himni and he is one of a set of triplets with brothers Ammon and Omner. We didn't ask if their Father's name is Mosiah but maybe we will next time we see them. They were able to track down our phone problem to an area outside by the church building where rats had chewed on the wiring, got one of our lines working again and said they would be back to replace the bad wires.
Mandatory missionary group picture
Zone Conferences were this week. We have ten zones in the mission so President and Sister Tanner and the two Assistants met with two zones each day for five days. Considering that four of the zones are on another island about four hours away by ferry and that they also had to prepare for transfers next week, it was a pretty grueling schedule for them. Of course, their schedule gruels every week.

It is unthinkable to have missionaries meet without taking a group picture. The one above is of the Lilo-an and Consolacion Zones with President and Sister Tanner, the Assistants to the President and an unnamed senior couple. 
Sister X, Sister Espanola, Sister Palo
Speaking of pictures and the unnamed couple... One of them doesn't like having their picture taken and the other one takes most of the pictures which creates a little bit of tension from time to time. Sister Espanola and Sister Palo thought it was funny though.  We had the opportunity to take them to the local hospital for a check up and had some time to get to know them. Sister Espanola's brother also served in the Cebu East Mission. He was here when it split off from the Cebu Mission almost three years ago. Sister Palo's brother is currently serving in the Washington Federal Way Mission which includes the area in Washington where the unnamed senior couple grew up. An interesting bit of trivia is that the Federal Way Mission was created at the same time as the Cebu East Mission - in July of 2013.
Pediatrician's Office

Cardiologist's Office
Taking missionaries to the doctor here means either a trip to the emergency room, if it is after hours, or to the doctor's office at the hospital if it is during office hours. They do not make appointments but usually see patients in the order they arrive. An office visit will typically run around 400 pesos (about $9).

Technology is such a blessing and a curse. When it works it allows us to keep in touch with family and friends literally half a world away. When it doesn't it can be a trial of our patience and long suffering. On Wednesday (Thursday morning here) we had plans to watch as our grand daughter, Janica, received a proposal of marriage. We were given a heads-up about the planned time and place of proposal and were hoping to be there by Skype. Unfortunately, the internet service to the mission office has been up and down lately and Thursday morning was mostly down. We were able to connect just long enough to talk briefly with Janica and see the ring. Remember those rats and chewed phone lines that were mentioned earlier. We blame it on them.
Colton and Janica, witnessed by Joseph Smith
Even though we weren't there for the actual proposal we have been able to watch the video of the event and the two people who needed to be there were. We were able to meet Colton and had dinner with him and Janica just before we left in September. Obviously he has good taste in rings and fiances and we are happy and excited for both.

Sunday, April 10, 2016


We were able to watch portions of General Conference in the stake center this past weekend and download and watch other portions on our laptop. The technology which makes it possible to communicate around the world is amazing. One talk in particular that struck a chord with us was President Uchtdorf  telling about the fire bombing of Dresden in World War II and how the city was rebuilt from the ashes.
About a month ago there was a major fire in a poor area of Cebu called Guizo. Hundreds of families who had little to begin with lost everything including their homes. Because the buildings were so tightly packed together and the streets so narrow there was little that the fire department could do to contain the fire once it started.
Area before the fire.
After the fire.
It looks like a war zone.
Across the way from the burned neighborhood is a large building that was supposed to be a convention center but was never finished so shelters have been set up on the grounds as housing for over 2000 families. The city plans to eventually rebuild housing in the burned area but it is hard to say how long that may take. In the mean time there are many hundreds living as refugees.

On Wednesday we were able to visit  the area and participate with the Mandaue Stake as they served food the members had prepared. Working with government officials the local stakes have an arrangement to go twice a week and serve meals to 400+ people. Because there are other groups also providing help it is important that the relief efforts are coordinated. We noticed, for example, others who were passing out small bags of sanitary items.

The meal was a rice porridge that everyone, children included, seemed to find quite tasty. When I say we participated what I really mean is that we stood around talking and taking pictures. There were so many members helping we didn't have much to do.

We both noticed how friendly, clean and orderly the people were. As you can see from the pictures above the grounds are kept pretty clean considering how many people there are. There are opportunities to count our blessings and learn from others every day. This experience was quite humbling.
Serving food
Sister Tanner is talking with the local member who organized
 the church's relief effort (sorry, I didn't get his name).
(The children here just may be the cutest in the world.)

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Lest We Forget

Whitmer home - Fayette, New York

For members of the LDS faith April 6 is remembered as the day in 1830 when Joseph Smith gathered with a few close friends and family members in the tiny log home of Peter Whitmer and officially organized the Church of Christ - later named by revelation as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. We have been to the Whitmer home and seen how humble and isolated it is. Pretty much all of the early church historic sites are like that. Those who claim that Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon by himself, or even with the help of others, have not seen or considered the conditions under which they lived and labored and the time frame involved. The Restoration truly is a marvelous work and a wonder. It is amazing what imperfect people are able to accomplish under very trying conditions with God's help.

Until this past week I didn't realize that April 6 is a historic date for the McNett family for an entirely different reason. My Dad, George McNett (AKA Grandpa George), was in the Philippines 71 years ago this spring. I often think about how different his circumstances were here than ours. He was with the American 129th Infantry whose mission was to reclaim the Philippines from the Japanese during World War II. It is hard to imagine spending night after night in a foreign land (the nights are essentially 12 hours long here all year round) living with constant knowledge that, night or day, there are people within shooting distance trying to kill you.

Like most combat veterans he really didn't like to talk about his wartime experiences, but occasionally we could get him to tell a few war stories. Thankfully we were able to record him telling some of those stories before he passed away. I regret now not asking more questions when he was still with us to answer them.

One of our favorite stories was about 'Whistling Ridge' or Whistling Hill'.
After helping to liberate Manila his unit was part of the drive from Bauang on the coast of the Lingayen Gulf, north of Manila, to Baguio. This is mountainous country and the Japanese were well prepared to defend the area. They had dug into caves and held high ground that was relatively easily defended. On the afternoon of April 6, 1945 Dad's company moved onto a hill about 15 road miles from Baguio in advance of the other companies in the battalion, dug in and prepared to fire in support of the other units. From the 129th Infantry regimental history:
It was called 'Whistling Hill' because of the noise the artillery shells made before they hit, one landing close enough to Dad's fox hole to cover him with dirt and break the stock of his rifle. They were pinned down there for four days isolated from the other units with everything the Japanese had being sent their way. Those four days must have seemed an eternity.

World War II is ancient history to young people today. There are few living WWII veterans left. I hope we can continue to remember what they did to provide and protect that which we enjoy today.
This picture is also from the 129th regimental history. Dad is the third soldier back on the right. He said he could remember when the picture was taken.

One final observation. After all that he had been through during the War and after, living the rest of his life with injuries received during the war, I do not recall that he held any hatred or bitterness toward the Japanese. As far as I could tell he put it behind him and moved on. That is a noble example that we could all emulate.