Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Thank the French

So there is a great story that I forgot to share earlier. When we were in Banaue sitting around the table with our new found French friends, we started talking about stereotypes Americans put of French people and vice versa. We even had a discussion about why after people curse they say, "excuse my french". Then Dan (our friend from work) said, "Let's thank the french for the kiss" and then proceeded to giggle uncontrollably. We all lost it and joined him in his giggling. Throughout the day we kept recalling the conversation and laughed some more. Now perhaps this is one of those stories that is only funny if you were there, or one of those things that you think is funny, but you're kind of isolated so you think everything is funny stories (like on the mission); if so, I'm sorry you all had to hear that, but perhaps we should thank the french for the kiss.

Monday, June 25, 2007


This is my great friend, Sister (SPEEDY) Gonzales. Her real name is Kate, even though we called her Speedy on the mission. We met in the mtc years ago and since that day she has been one of my most favorite people. She's full of fun and lots of spunk! I can't help but smile thinking of the fun we had together on the mission. And those smiles all came back since we reunited this weekend. She is from the Philippines and we finally met up with each other. We went and visited the Temple together. The Temple is so pretty here (as if the others aren't). It is set up on a hill just outside of the city. The grounds are covered with beautiful tropical plants and my new favorite Fire Tree. It was so refreshing to walk around and count my many blessings.

Monday, June 18, 2007

I've added pictures from Palawan and Banaue. Just go to "Pictures" on the left of my blog.

Banaue & Batad

We went on yet another amazing trip this weekend. We headed toward the Rice Terraces up North. Some consider the rice terraces in the Banaue area to be the "8th wonder of the world". I might have to concur, it is incredible. We took an overnight bus from Manila to the town of Banaue (not a fun ride). We had great pineapple pancakes as we overlooked the city of Banaue. This city is situated in the middle of mountains. The houses are built on tall stilts, that barely look like they can support anything. The rice terraces are built into the sides of the mountains. It is so interesting and so beautiful. We met some french students at the bus station and decided to share our fun with each other for the weekend. We hired a jeepney and headed to the hills. The jeepney took us off road up high into the mountains. We sat on top of course and saw amazing landscape. When we reached the farthest point that cars can go, we started to hike. We hiked over an hour into the village of Batad. It was the steepest/craziest hike I have ever been on! The only way to get in and out of this village is by hiking in. The townspeople make the trek daily, bringing in goods they have purchased or guiding tourists. They also have to carry up whatever goods they hope to sell in Banaue. I could barely get myself through that hike! I was getting passed by locals carrying bags of coal, boxes of bottles, and bags of rice on top of their heads. Amazing!
The view as we walked into the village is unbelievable. There are miles of rice terraces, covering the sides of several mountains. The terraces are large too, the step looking things look small, but they are at least 6 feet high. These terraces were built hundreds of years ago by these people's ancestors. The terraces have been passed on from generation to generation.
Later that afternoon we thought it would be fun to hike to a nearby waterfall. Remember how I said our last hike was the steepest/craziest I'd ever been on? Yeah, change that, this one definitely wins. We hike up the side of a mountain, through the rice terraces, and then down the other side of a mountain. In many parts the trail is steps, these aren't your ordinary steps, most of them came higher than my knee, and they were one after another. The waterfall was beautiful though! We even went for a swim in the cool water. I floated on my back and looked up at the rushing water and the mountains on every side, and was just in awe.
That night we had fun just hanging out. There were the four of us, our friend from work, and the 5 french students. We ate some local food, made jokes, learned native songs, and STUFF. Our hotel was located just opposite the rice terraces and so we had the most amazing view.

The next morning we headed back to Banaue. It was pretty funny, all of us were so sore from our hikes the day before that we were dying as we hiked out of the village. Oh man! I'm still feeling the pain now. We spent the afternoon visiting other terraces and spending lots of money of souvenirs. Wood carving is very popular there. The men sit in the open shops of the street carving while the women sit outside staining the wood. That's it! That's our amazing trip! Of course there are a million more details, but I can't possibly share everything.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


We took our first big trip this weekend to the island of Palawan. It was absolutely amazing! I must warn you though, this blog that I am about to write will not do justice to the incredible experiences we had or the beauty of the things we saw; with that said, I will try.

Day 1:
We arrived in Puerto Pricessa which is about an hour plane ride from Manila. There was a camera below the nose of the plane and so throughout the flight we could see everything. We traveled over beautiful islands and bright blue waters. In some parts the water was so clear you could see the reef formation underneath.
After arriving we waited for hours at a bus station for our ride to Sabang. We investigated the market and made friends with the locals. The jeepney finally arrived to take us Sabang, which is about 2 hours away. The jeepney was so full that we offered to sit up top with the luggage, rice bags, the buckets of fish and about 10 Filipino men. It was so fun! We saw miles of rolling hills and remote towns scattered along the way. As we dodged the branches, recovered from the flat tire, hid from the rain and drove muddy, unpaved roads we saw the most beautiful giant cliffs made of limestone and marble. Darling beach villages were scattered along the road.

Sabang is a very small, remote beach town. There are only a handful of small places for tourists to stay with a few local restaurants. We stayed in the most darling place, Dab Dabs. Our rooms were little grass hut bungalows with only room for a bed and mosquito net. It was nestled in the beautiful tropical wildlife just yards from the ocean.
We went for the most delightful sunset swim upon arriving. The beaches are covered with beautiful, white sand. The water is calm and clear enough to see your towns. In the distance you can see amazing green hills and the far off fisherman. Oh, man! The scenery and the feeling of amazement I experienced, I cannot even begin to describe.

Day 2:
We woke up early to the delightful sounds of the chickens, cows, birds, and every other animal known to man making a ruckus. We then went for a 2 1/2 hour hike through a tropical rain forest. Yep! We saw a million different types of trees, hanging vines and brilliant flowers. We even saw giant lizards and wild monkeys on our trek. (Let me remind you, this is not a joke!)

We hiked to the famous underground river. The river runs 8 kilometers into the side of the mountain. We took a boat tour of the river and saw huge formations, different cave entrances, and hundreds of bats. In some parts of the cave the ceiling is hundreds of feet high.

We spent the rest of the afternoon swimming, having handstand contests, running through the town in the rain, and making friends. We had a seafood dinner in a darling grass hut restaurant on the beach with some of the townspeople we had met. In this town everyone knows everyone and everyone knows what tourists are in town. It's so great! These people are so kind and so generous. They live a simple, happy, beach life. I just can't even describe how much I love this place and these people.

Day 3:
Now you must understand that what I'm about to describe to you in not from a movie or a dream, it really happened. We left Sabang (atop our favorite Jeepney) and headed to Honda Bay. There we rented a boat and a driver for the day. We went island hoping! Jojo (our driver) took us to three different, beautiful islands with white, sandy beaches. We spent most of our time snorkeling and admiring the scenery. We saw beautiful coral formations of every shape, size and color. We saw swordfish, sea anemones, Nemo, stone fish, and thousands of other fish of every shape, size and color. I was absolutely blown away by the beauty of God's creations.
That night we ate at a famous local restaurant. We had the best seafood I have ever tasted and mango shakes galour! Does life get any better?

Throughout the day I just kept looking around and chuckling to myself thinking, "I can't believe I'm doing this! I can't believe how amazing this is!" I am so, so grateful for this opportunity to be in the Philippines. There is so much to learn and to discover in this life.

Libertad Ave

I just wanted to share the things I saw as I walked down the street the other day while going home. First, I saw something that resembled intestines. Yes, intestines. They must have been from some animal and they were just lying in the middle of the road, in fact, I had to divert my course in order to not step on it. Amidst the trash, spit (it's everywhere), and black fumes that consume the streets, I also saw animal carcases sitting on the sidewalk. There were several skinned heads and body parts of different animals just hanging out in a heap smothered with flies. As I was trying to recover from that image and hoping my stomach would settle down, there was a boy right in front of me throwing up in the middle of the sidewalk. Finally, as things settled and we were almost home, I saw a man walking down the street with a live chicken in his hand. He was just walking as if he were carrying a bag, no big deal.

So to say the least, it was another interesting day in Manila.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Bababa ba? Bababa.

Things just keep getting better! One of my most favorite things since being in the Philippines is the way the men laugh. They giggle! They don't have to be macho or too cool, they just laugh and they laugh alot. Some of the men at work giggle so hard over their own jokes that they turn red and have to cover their faces. I'm not just talking about laughing, I'm talking about out of control 12 year old girl who has a crush giggle. It's so great! Yesterday we were talking to some of our co-workers and explaining how we love that they laugh so much and that you wouldn't necessarily see American men do that. They were so perplexed and couldn't understand why you wouldn't just laugh. One of them even tried to be controlled and macho with his laugh and he couldn't do it, he broke out in giggles.

I learned something else cool yesterday. In Tagalog "bababa" means "going down". "Ba" means "is it?". So when you approach a person next to the elevator and you want to know if it is going down then you ask "Bababa ba?" (Don't worry it gets better) Then to respond the person would say "bababa". Isn't that so great?!

Yesterday was just full of great little treasures. After work we went to a restaurant called "Singing waiters and cooks". It was this really cute native place with native decor, decorations, etc. Our plates were made out of palm leaves and I could not pronounce anything on the menu (nor did I have any idea what it meant). The cooks and the waiters walk around and sing to you the entire time. These people were singing and dancing in between serving us food. There were probably 10 of them just singing and dancing. They were really good. There is nothing like feeling as if you are living in the middle of a musical for a few hours.

Monday, June 4, 2007

The little things I love

It is the small things around me that make this experience:

1. Public restrooms don’t provide toilet paper. That could potentially be a problem or even a
huge problem.

2. I found this little gecko in our apartment complex. It’s so cute! It’s smaller than a lot of the bugs around.
3. American night! Friday we went to TGIFridays and then went
to see the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie. It was so fun.

4. I love the kids in the Philippines; they are so funny and friendly. These two little girls were trying to sell roses on the bay, they walked up dancing and goofing off.
5. This kid calls himself 2-Pac, he did a little dance for us too. They just make me happy.
6. Our cold shower makes life great. In fact, it makes life amazing at the end of the day.

7. The sunset makes life great too.
8. The lady who called me chubby today. Yep! I even asked her what she said just to clarify, and sure enough she called me chubby. Oh joy!

9. I love when people obey the signs.

10. I also love that I have an excuse to wear my hair up
everyday. With the heat, humidity, and the fact that our hair
blow dryers don't work here, I can wear my hair up everyday.
(and my Mom's not here to comment on it either)

Let's Celebrate

Why don’t we celebrate more often? Why don’t I celebrate more often? On Friday we were all gathered together in the office for a pizza party. When we arrived we were told that it was a party in honor of JunJun. JunJun is one of our employees and they had just received word that he had passed his high school equivalency exam. This party was to celebrate this accomplishment of his and to honor him for it. Now some of you may think that it’s not a big deal (since in the U.S. that wouldn’t necessarily be something that is celebrated), but this is a major accomplishment. Many people here do not even complete grade school. He spent months in preparation courses in order to pass this exam. Everyone in the office was ecstatic, we all cheered, there were signs, he gave a speech, our boss sent emails out to all the other offices outside of headquarters, and on and on.

I sat in this party so grateful to be there and so impressed. We should celebrate more in life! There are way too many accomplishments along the way that just get missed. Why is it that we think we should only celebrate the big ones like graduation or 50th wedding anniversaries? We should celebrate so much more! Why not celebrate when we finish an assignment, or when your son makes a good choice, or when someone does something nice for you? How about celebrating when you finish a book or just make it through the week in one piece?

I’ve just decided I want to celebrate more! I want to celebrate the small and great accomplishments of all those around me. Want to help?