Sunday, February 26, 2017

Block Party

This week we finally got to see how compressed earth blocks are made. We first heard about these amazing building blocks a year ago when Raymond and Debra Goodson came to tell us about them during a meeting of senior missionary couples in the mission home.  Brother Goodson (as everyone who has followed our blog religiously and has perfect recall will remember) was one of the first four full time missionaries to come to the Philippines in 1961 shortly after President Hinkley dedicated the island nation for missionary work.

Brother and Sister Goodson created a foundation called Rise and Rebuild which is involved in several projects aimed at helping the people in the Philippines to help themselves. Visit the website at to see what kinds of things they are involved with.

When the Goodsons came last year to talk to us they brought with them Reyson and Judith Pua who are a local couple helping drive these projects in the Cebu area. About two weeks ago Brother Goodson and Brother Pua were in the area and stopped in at the mission office. They invited us to come see the block making operation they have set up in an area of Cebu located about half way between the office and the Cebu Temple. On Monday we were able to go and see.
Judith and Reyson Pua
The first few steps of the operation involve sifting rocks and other debris out of dirt delivered by the truck load, bagging the dirt and taking it over to where the blocks are made. The rocks are collected, crushed and used in making concrete for the footings and foundations of the buildings. Nothing is wasted.
Dirt screening area
Final sifting

The finely sifted dirt is the main ingredient in making the blocks. The only other thing necessary is about 5-8% cement - this is about one bag of cement for 70-80 blocks. The dirt and cement is mixed in a big mixer with just enough water added to hold the blocks together when compressed. The mixture is damp but not wet like cement. It is about the right consistency for building sand castles. An interesting side note is that the dirt must be dry when the cement is first added to it or the dirt and cement won't mix properly.  This can be a challenge during a wet season like the one we just had.

These blocks are very inexpensive to make - you might say 'dirt cheap' - but they are very durable and so easy to work with that pretty much anyone could do it. Once the first course is laid on a level, solid foundation the blocks stack and lock together like Legos. No mortar is even necessary.  There is a special shaped block with a channel for rebar that is laid about every four feet of wall height, but that is it.  Even we could do it. Elder McNett is seriously thinking about bringing a block press home with him.
Block press
Compressing blocks
With their current operation they are able to produce about 2,000 blocks a day. This is enough to build a CR (Comfort Room) or other small building. The goal is to eventually employ 50 local people just in the block making operation here in Cebu.

The reason our blog is late coming out this week is because we made a quick trip out to Bohol Saturday and returning to Cebu on Sunday. While there we were able to watch a special Philippine Area broadcast on Saturday evening in which Elder and Sister Bednar sat with Elder and Sister Bowen and answered questions for two hours. It was almost like they were just sitting and chatting with us. It was great.

On Sunday we attended the Calape District Conference and saw many missionaries (probably for the last time 😢). Irwin was there and greeted us as we came in! He is someone who Sister Maughan befriended at the Tubigon McDonalds and came to District Conference in Calape just because she was speaking.
Elder Carillo, Elder Emfield - Calape Zone Leaders

Elder Lang and Elder Bolipata with Irwin

After conference socializing

Headed home

Thought for the Week

To paraphrase Elder Bednar - Remember the church is a laboratory and we practice on each othe