"Go Royals! Go forth to serve well. Return with honor!

"Go Royals!  Go forth to serve well.  Return with honor!
This family photo is from August 2003, just before Brad left on his mission to the Philippines, but it remains a personal favorite

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Arrival in Las Vegas (September 20, 2005)

    The trip to Las Vegas was great, as there were very few people on the plane and we could just lay out in the middle aisles.  So, it went quick.  We landed in Las Vegas and Brad said: “It’s beautiful!”  (It really isn’t, especially compared to the Philippines, but we knew what he meant - it is home.)  As we made our way to customs, I got chastised by security for videotaping our trip - so I had to shut it off.  As we made our way, a young Filipino mother with a young child was struggling to get herself, her child and her bags onto the escalator.  She asked for some help, and Brad jumped into action.  He engaged her in Tagalog, and she was very happy for his assistance.  As Brad carried her bag, he spoke with her in Tagalog and her eyes lit up.  She was surprised at how well he spoke the language, and Brad explained what he had been doing for the past two years.  She lives in Las Vegas presently, but also has family and owns a home in San Fernando - Pampanga, where Brad served.  I wanted to get information from her (at least an e-mail - I mean, come on) and invite her to our home this weekend.  But, things were just too hectic.  After standing in several lines, and showing our passports numerous times, we exited the airport terminal to a waiting family.  David, Kelli and Jordan were holding a long banner that said: “Welcome Home Brad!”  Brad was pushing the luggage on a cart, and got a running start, then rode the cart through the banner.  It didn’t break.  He wanted a “redo” but we never got around to it.  Grandma Royal was there taking pictures, and he also got in trouble by security for taking pictures in the airport (like father, like son).  Brad gave a round of hugs to everyone, Mom, Dad, Gladys, Aunt Chris, Lisa, Kimmie, Jason and the rest of the family.  It was very cool.  We let Kelli drive Brad home from the airport.  We could only get two in the van after filling it with all the luggage.  David immediately noted that he is “at least an inch taller than Brad - that’s so cool!”  (Being taller than someone has always been important to David.  When he first entered the hospital room in Carson City after Jordan was born, David said: “Hey, I’m bigger!”  So, we expect this kind of trash talk from David.)  When we got home, I called President Turner and we prepared to take Brad to be released.  Maralea said we needed to dress up, so I hurried to get ready.  Before leaving, we read the scriptures together as a family for the first time in over two years.  Brad read some verses in Tagalog, and David asked: “Does each word require like a whole sentence?”  Brad offered family prayer in Tagalog and then we once again unitedly put our hands in the middle for the Royal cheer: “Go forth to serve well.  Return with honor!”  That cheer never had so much meaning as it did on this evening.  What a great event.  We all accompanied Brad to the church where he was released, and signed the plates of Lehi which he signed over three years ago at Scout camp as part of a promise to serve a mission.  Mission accomplished.
Brad - home at last.  His little brother Jordan (right of the photo) was much shorter then.  Jordan has since grown to 6'2" and entered the MTC to return the Philippines Angeles Mission on September 28, 2011 to pick up where Brad left off.  Kelli is to the left of Brad, and David in the red shirt further left.  (Kelli made this beautiful banner!)
    We’re worn out, but not enough to say no to Taco Bell - Kelli’s treat.  (She feels so independent now.  I said: “All I’ve got in cash is pesos.”  Kelli said: “I’ve got lots of money.  Come on, let’s go.”)  Kelli picked up on some of Brad’s non-verbal communication.  (“Hey, when you do that with your eyebrows, that means yes, right?”)  It was fun having dinner together - even if it was fast food.  We’ll take it.
Brad committed to serving a mission long before 2002; however, it was memorialized here on these plates from the 2002 Young Men's Encampment.  We had him sign/date the plates when he departed and upon his return.

Brad was released by Pres. Mark Turner.  It is a difficult/emotional thing to remove that black name tag.  Best two words to describe this moment: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED
    Well, that brings our family Philippines adventure to an end . . . told from the eyes of Elder Royal’s father.  I know Brad (and we can call him Brad now) will have some things to write later.  I apologize for all the writing, but once I start something I have difficulty stopping until it’s completed.  (I know there must be some kind of mental disorder associated with that.)  Thanks for your indulgence.  I feel like I know each of you so well - having delivered messages to you regularly for the past two years.  Stay in touch.  We love hearing from our friends.

Flight Home (September 20, 2005)

    We arrived at the airport in Manila about four hours early for our flight.  It’s a good thing.  We had to stand in so many lines!  I think I got some radiation poisoning from all the x-rays taken before we could finally board the plane.  (Well, I didn’t actually go through the x-rays, but I stood close by - so that should count for some kind of potential hazardous exposure - without some kind of lead suit, right?)  While we were sitting in the terminal, I started reading through Brad’s mission journal (or at least part of it - - - - yes, with his permission).  He has pictures, writings from former companions, members, investigators, friends, etc.  It is awesome.  He’ll cherish that forever - as he will these past two years - no doubt about that.  I have to admit that I was ready to get home after a day in Manila.  As we prepared for our flight, Maralea leaned her head on my shoulder and said: “I need a vacation.”  This hasn’t been a relaxing week by any means.  But, it has been rewarding.  The only thing that would have made this trip better would have been to add Kelli, David and Jordan to our numbers.  They would have absolutely loved it.  Of course, that would have made it a bit more challenging - trying to keep all those teenagers happy - but what an unforgettable experience!  We took enough pictures and videotape for them to feel like they were right there with us.

    As I read through my daily reports, it is apparent that many of them have a familiar ring.  One thing that is so strikingly similar is the genuine love felt between Brad and these people.  Brad has grown to love the Philippines and the people here.  That kind of love cannot be manufactured.  It has made a big difference in the lives of many people.  He is coming home a new man with a new heart.  I can see that.  I am grateful to the Lord, and His people in the Philippines for that.

    We departed Manila at 5:00 p.m., on September 20, 2005 and arrived in Las Vegas at 6:15 p.m. on the same day.  So, either the flight home will lasted only an hour and 15 minutes (which - unfortunately was not the case) or we are making up for having lost September 11, 2005 by getting two September 20, 2005's.  (Answer: the latter.)  The flight was LONG.  We stopped in Vancouver, B.C., for about 90 minutes - during which time we could finally make use of our cell phones again.  Brad busily typed on the computer while Maralea found a place to sleep.  (The long flight was exhausting.)

The Manila Temple (September 20, 2005)

    We woke up early - again.  (We haven’t slept late yet - and we deserve to do that at least once.)  We did the best we could to pack up before getting downstairs to meet Edward for our temple trip.  He was ready for us.  Edward took us to the Church administration building across from the temple where Brad got his plane ticket, passport, and other good stuff.  I wore the barong Jojo got for me, and Brad wore one, too.  We took some pictures outside the temple, then went inside.  It was nice to meet the temple president, President Nelson from Orem, Utah, and some other temple missionaries from the Salt Lake City area.  They recognized Brad as a departing missionary right away (hard to miss, I suppose).  When we checked out clothes for the temple, I was expecting to get a white shirt and tie.  Not so.  Instead, I was issued a white barong.  That was really cool.  All the men wore them.  Edward went through our session with us.  The endowment room was really small, but it was a cozy group.  It was fun being there with Maralea and Brad during Brad’s first return to the temple since leaving the Mission Training Center.  It was just the perfect culmination of a week that couldn’t have been scripted any better.  The session was wonderful.  I just felt so at peace with life as we sat together - the three of us - in the Celestial Room.  How the Lord has blessed our family through Brad’s missionary service! 
Brad and I sport the Barongs we received from Jojo at the Manila Temple in Quezon City

All for one and one for all!  The Manila Temple is beautiful

Mommy and her missionary son - united again at last
    Edward’s wife made a special trip from Angeles City to accompany him on the way home.  She was waiting for us in the visitors center as we exited the temple, and welcomed us with gifts - that included personalized slippers and cans of “Royal” soda.  That was cool.  As Edward drove us from the temple, I got nosey about how he and his wife met, and events that led to their marriage.  I always have so much fun hearing of great moments like that.  Edward was teaching his wife as a missionary in the Naga Mission and returned to his mission monthly to help the missionaries.  Their courtship started long after his mission, as she moved to Angeles and joined the Church.  She teaches primary, is a teacher also in Relief Society, and serves as a ward missionary.  (They keep the members busy here.)  We very much appreciated Edward’s companionship during our visit here.  He really made it wonderful for us.  Thank goodness we had him to drive us around because, seriously, I am 100 percent certain I would have wrecked numerous times and perhaps maimed or killed no small number of pedestrians.  After a couple aggressive maneuvers on our way to the airport, I told Edward: “You know, if you did that in Las Vegas you’d get shot!”  Everyone around her just kind of expects it, though.  The roads in the Philippines are, based on my experience, survival of the fittest.  There are no rules.  Well, there are rules, but nobody seems to follow them.  Everyone has the right of way.  There were no traffic signals in Manila that we encountered - each intersection presenting like an episode of “Fear Factor.”  Interestingly, however, after a week of this, we were relatively unphased by all the near misses.  (Yes Edward, you were THAT good!)

Breakfast with Mary (September 19, 2005)

    We got up Monday morning and began the task of packing.  Mary was to pick us up at 9:00 a.m. for breakfast.  We got up at 6:00 a.m. (as usual), so time was not a factor.  We’ve got a lot of stuff to pack home.  I love the little travel zip lock bags that Joji provided to us.  They are really cool.  You put the clothes in them, squeeze all the air out, zip them up, and it looks like freeze dried clothes.  It is intended to provide more room for packing.  I don’t know if it actually works or not, but it looks cool.  We discovered over the weekend that not only would the Holiday Inn not cash travelers checks, but we could not find a bank anywhere in Angeles City to cash them.  (Thank you American Express!)  We would eventually cash them at the Holiday Inn in Manila, but I had no idea it would be so hard to cash travelers checks.  Thanks to Joji, we brought cash with us too.  (Joji, what would we do without you?)

    Mary picked us up at the hotel with her personal driver.  She is a very sophisticated Chinese woman who speaks English, Tagalog, Kampampangan, and Chinese.  Mary is married and has three children (two daughters ages 9 and 6, and a newborn son of two months).  She takes her children to China for two months a year to visit family, and is very intent on having them fluently speak Chinese, as well as Tagalog and English.  “Chinese is very important,” she said.  Mary will be sending her oldest daughter to a boarding school in China (near Shanghi) to study Chinese.  We had a nice breakfast at the Oasis with Mary. 
Brad and Mary Chen - Angeles City

Brad, Maralea and I got the breakfast buffet, something we had almost every morning at the restaurant where we were staying.  At our hotel, all the help was incredibly nice, helpful, friendly, and loved talking to Brad.  At the Oasis Hotel buffet on this morning, we met someone akin to the “Soup Nazi” on Seinfeld - only we’ll call him the “Omelet Nazi.”  Whew, he was an angry chef that was only too unhappy to make you an omelet.  Brad spoke to him in Tagalog, and he just glared at him.  I was afraid to ask for anything, expecting I might mess up and have him say: “No omelet for you.  Go sit down.”  He did tell me to “sit down,” after I ordered my omelet.  I obeyed.  Anyway, we enjoyed getting to know Mary.  She is very intelligent, nice and clearly thinks a lot of Brad.  After breakfast, Mary took us to her home to see her newborn son.  She has several Filipinos who look after her home and children.  It was nice to meet everyone, and to see her son.  We got some pictures, and Mary gave us some thoughtful gifts.  She made an offering for us on a kind of altar (Chinese tradition) and had us burn incense and say something like a wish (i.e. wishing for a safe trip home).  It was not until Maralea and I had already finished that Mary told Brad: “You have to whisper [so no one can hear you].”  There were no “do overs,” so I was hoping that Brad wished for the same thing we did.  (We’ll just keep him close to us throughout the trip home.)

With Mary Chen at her home in Angeles City  (Oh I see (I must have fixed the camera date stamp between the point of our arrival at Mary's and our departure - good, timely catch- ha)
    We returned to the hotel with Mary at about 11:00 a.m., leaving us an hour to finish packing.  Mission accomplished.  Edward arrived at about 12:45 p.m. and we were off to Manila.  It was sad driving through Angeles City for the last time.  As we did so, I kept looking around for some of our friends (just in case), hoping for one last wave goodbye - but those moments had already passed and it was not to be.  It rained hard on our trip to Manila, and it was quiet inside the car as we traveled.  Brad said: “I’m going to miss the green country.”  That is for sure - and there are fewer places on earth to make one miss the greenery, the rain, than Las Vegas.  We arrived in Manila and drove by the temple - marking the first time that Brad has seen it.  We drove through Quezon City and got a good look at part of the mission where Brad’s friend Gian Molina will be spending his next two years (leaving the MTC on October 3rd).  It is a very densely populated place, with lots of traffic everywhere.  We arrived at the Holiday Inn at Manila, which is connected to a large shopping mall - where we hung out for the remainder of the day.  We had lunch at . . . “Kenny Rogers Roasters” and followed that up with “Dairy Queen.”  The U.S. dollar, for the most part, goes a long way here.  I got a banana split at Dairy Queen for 64 pesos (or about $1.20).  It’s not the same kind of banana split that you would get at a Dairy Queen in Las Vegas (i.e. no whip cream or nuts, and no pretty clear plastic bowl) - but it was good enough.  The time spent at the mall was good in that it kind of got us all anxious to get home. 
Brad, wishing for good luck for the trip back - Mary's home, Angeles City

    We called home to talk with the kids.  David reported that Jordan had the football game of his life in the absence of Coach Royal (indicating that I may have to be away more often on game days), and that our team bounced back from its second week loss (the day Maralea and I left for the Philippines).  Kelli was not present when we called.  David said: “She’s at Katie Jo’s making posters and signs for the airport on Tuesday.”  Good to know.  David got a report from school about his grades that was very favorable, so he was excited about that.  Everything seems to have gone well in our absence, thanks to a combination of things - no small part of which is the great family we have there who helped out and probably made the lives of our children more exciting and fun than ever before.  (Sorry kids, all the dullness will sadly return when Mom and Dad get home.)

    It was interesting to watch some of the local television stations here - which are mostly in Tagalog.  There are stations with other languages, such as Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and even Arabic, with a few in English.  We got to bed early and prepared for our final day, which would begin with a visit to the temple.

Church in Cabiao (September 18, 2005)

    Edward came by the hotel at 6:30 a.m. to take us to Cabiao, Brad’s first area, for church.  By the way, it is pronounced KA - BE - OU.  I have always wrongly pronounced it as KA-BYE -OH, which means “horse” in Tagalog.  When Brad was serving here and I would talk of this place when hanging out with our Filipino friends in Las Vegas, I would always get a laugh at how I pronounced it.  Remy Ongogan would giggle and say: “Brother Royal, you keep saying Brad’s at a horse.”  Apparently I’m not the only one who has made this mistake in pronunciation.  Brad was in Cabiao when Elder Dallon H. Oaks came to dedicate the new chapel there in the spring of 2004.  He repeatedly referred to the town as KA-BYE-OH, and the translator would translate the word exactly as stated - which Brad said always led to some laughter by the congregation.  So, I feel like I’m in pretty good company.

    The trip to Cabiao was longer than expected, because of the hundreds of trikes on the narrow roads.  Edward drove around each trike with surgical precision.  I am sure we nearly killed four or five pedestrians en route, but . . . no harm no foul.  Edward had hymns playing on the CD, so that helped keep us calm.  Actually, we have grown accustomed to having lots of close calls.  We just ignore all the near death experiences and trust that the Lord is blessing Edward with every kilometer (and listening to hymns en route can only help).

    We arrived at the chapel in Cabiao about 20 minutes before church was to start.  Brad went in ahead of us as we gathered our things together.  As we walked into the chapel, we were surrounded by smiles.  We felt like celebrities as many of the members came to introduce themselves and tell us thing like: “We love your son so much!”  The missionaries in the area are Elders Farr and Kwant, both from the SLC area.  Elder Farr has been out about a year.  He is training Elder Kwant, who was experiencing his first Sunday in the Philippines (fresh from the Mission Training Center).  I asked him how he’s doing with the language?  His response: “I probably understand about as much as you at this point.”  Elder Farr assured his new companion that the language “will come.”  Maralea and I sat near the front of the chapel, which is actually called a “Sacrament Meeting Hall.”  There are no pews fixed to the floor, but plastic chairs set up in rows.  We were not seated for more than 30 seconds before we were approached by the bishop, who asked that we “please come sit with us on the stand to share your testimonies with us.”  Maralea wasn’t real keen on that idea, and was sure that we must have misunderstood the bishop (language barrier, you know).  A second request was made - which left no room for doubt, so we made our way to the front.  Brad joined us on the stand, sitting on the other side of two sisters sitting next to us who were scheduled to speak.  The meeting opened with the choir singing a number, followed by a congregational hymn, “Love One Another.”  All the music was in English, but the prayers and talks were in Tagalog.  The Aaronic Priesthood prepared the sacrament, all dressed in white shirts and ties.  One of the teachers, Mikki Patiag, 14, was part of the family that Brad first taught and baptized while serving in Cabiao.  His sister Danica, age 12, was also present.  The sacrament prayers were both said in Tagalog; otherwise, it was administered just as we would expect in our home wards (very well done).  Sister Bautista, who directed the choir, followed the first speaker, giving a talk on temple marriage in Tagalog.  As she started, she said: “I plan on giving my talk in Tagalog, so at this time I would like Elder Royal to please go sit by his mother and translate.”  The congregation laughed as Brad moved to sit next to Maralea.  Brad spoke in such low tones that I couldn’t get any benefit from his translation work from where I was sitting.  I could pick up enough to know that she spoke on temple marriage, and that the Savior has laid out a plan for families to be together forever.  That great principle is at the heart of all I needed to know.  She spoke with a very tender sweet spirit, which needed no translation.
Brad with Bro. & Sis. Bautista - Cabiao

Brad with Dan and Dhalia Distor - Cabiao

Brad with Danny Patiag - Cabiao

Brad with Nikki and Danica Patiag - Cabiao
    Elder Kwant was asked to share his testimony.  As I watched him approach the podium, with a look of absolute dread, it occurred to me that we were sitting in the same chapel where Brad stood to share his testimony on his first Sunday in Cabiao.  This is where it all started for Brad.  Elder Kwant got through his testimony, although he spoke softly to the point where several of the women in the congregation kept whispering, “Elder, Elder” while motioning to their ears.  He did not get the message, but really did a wonderful job.  When Elder Kwant was finished, Brad said: “They said you’re up now, Dad.”  I was so nervous.  No one had really spoken English prior to me, so I wondered if they would understand anything I would say.  I had asked Brad if he should translate, and all he said was: “Go ahead.  You’re fine.”  It is really hard to describe the feelings of my heart as I looked over the congregation.  These people meant so much to Brad.  He talked so fondly of them in his letters while serving here, and often reflected upon his time in Cabio with great appreciation.  It felt as though there was an army of mothers there looking after our son, caring for his every need, helping him to feel loved in our absence.  I spoke of the most important element of a testimony: a knowledge that Jesus is the Christ, the very Savior of the world.  It was difficult to keep my emotions in check, as the spirit was so strong.  While I was speaking, Brad quietly leaned over to Maralea and asked if she could try to hold herself together a little better.  She followed me, and did great in every respect.  As Maralea spoke, Brad leaned over to me and said: “I’ve never seen everyone pay such close attention to a speaker.”  Brad followed Maralea.  As he has done all week, Brad just jumped right into the language.  He had everyone laughing as he spoke of the first time he had spoken in the Cabiao chapel, feeling lost, alone and without a means to communicate.  He was complementary of Elder Kwant’s grasp of the language at this stage of his mission.  As Brad spoke, I thought of Elder Bednar’s talk in the April General Conference (2005) regarding the Lord’s “tender mercies.”  We have experienced a lot of those this past week, but I was especially aware of them today as the three of us shared in this moment of a lifetime.
Brad with Rhea Sarmiento - Cabiao
Brad with the Salvador Garcia Family - Cabiao
Brad with Sisters Roque and Melosantos - Cabiao
    Following sacrament meeting, Sister Gonzales came up to me and said: “You are so lucky to be that missionary’s father!  We love him and want him to stay.”  She spoke of her husband, who is not a member of the Church.  Sister Gonzales said: “I watch you and your wife on the stand and I dreaming that my husband and I can be like you.”  She asked if I would write a letter to her husband, and include the scripture I quoted in my testimony: 2 Nephi 25:26.  Sister Gonzales gave me her address and asked that I promise to write her husband.  I promised.  She added: “We never will forget Elder Royal.  We’ll think of him every time we drink [Royal] soda.”  The ward mission leader, who was serving in that capacity when Brad was in Cabiao, had an investigator with him and said: “Even though we cannot understand English well, we feel the spirit when you speak.”  I was asked when Maralea and I will be able to serve a full time mission.  When I said in about seven years, a sister said: “Maybe you will come to serve here.”

    It was hard to make our way to Sunday School, as we visited with all the people.  They opened up Gospel Doctrine with a hymn (and also closed with a hymn).  They love to sing here.  The lesson was in Tagalog.  Brad was supposed to interpret, but he was too busy quietly visiting with others around him.  I picked up that the lesson was about the sacrifices made of the early saints, and the need for us to be willing to make sacrifices in our lives for the Lord.  During the lesson, Bishop Bautista (former bishop of the ward) would raise his hand and (according to Brad) would ask random questions directed at us, such as: “How cold is it in the United States where you live?  Does it snow there?”  On a later occasion, he asked how close Las Vegas is to New Orleans, and then wanted to know how the Church members were in the areas afflicted by Hurricane Katrina.  I thought it was interesting that these people would concern themselves with that, considering all the poverty in their area.  But, something I have come to appreciate is that they see themselves as being very rich in family and the gospel.  One question asked of me was: “Do you have a problem with members being inactive in the United States?”  I assured him that we do.  Someone followed up with: “What causes members to become inactive?”  It was a rhetorical question, that was met with the following response in Tagalog by an older gentleman: “Because Elder Royal left.”  That got big laughs.  During the class, Brad leaned over to me and asked: “How would you like to be serving a mission here and feeling totally unable to do anything because you have no idea what they are saying?  That’s what it was like for my first two months here.”  I certainly got an appreciation for that on this trip.
Sister Bautisa, with Sisters Roque and Melosantos - Cabiao
     In priesthood meeting, the instructor asked Elder Farr to tell the story of the Prophet Daniel (and the lions’ den).  Elder Farr obliged, in Tagalog.  (He speaks it very well.)  I asked Brad to translate, but he just leaned over and said: “He’s just telling the story of Daniel and the Lions’ Den.”  Gotcha.  (Not real helpful translation.)  When he was done, the instructor said: “Brother Royal, do you have anything you would like to add to that?”  I said: “I might.  But, seriously, I have no idea what he just said.”  Maralea later related that she was sitting in Relief Society when the instructor said: “Sister Royal, could you please come up and instruct us on how to prepare for the future?”  (Wow, now there’s a broad subject if I ever heard one.)  I think there was an impression that Maralea and I have more knowledge than . . . well . . . than we really have.  Prior to that, Maralea had various members sneaking her gifts during the lesson.  It was just very sweet.

Da Royals with the Cabiao bishopric
    After the meetings, we gathered in the hallway.  I walked into the Relief Society room and the sisters said: “Brother Royal, come, food is prepared for you.”  They led Maralea and me to an air conditioned room (the only one I entered in the church), with place settings for about eight people, which included the three of us, the missionaries, and the bishopric.  We had a private little lunch right there, as the Relief Society sisters waited for us in the hallway.  I am not sure if everyone else was eating in another room, or what they were doing, but I would have to say that most of the ward was still there when we finished eating.  We walked to the front area of the church and I was advised that it was time to take pictures.  We took a lot, and got out the video camera.  Everyone was so kind, animated, happy, and joking with Elder Royal.  The YW President came up to me and said: “The girls all think you look like James Bond.”  One sister said to Maralea: “I have been in this ward for twenty years and I’ve never seen the ward do this for a missionary.  Your son is truly special.”  I heard from another sister that while many missionaries have promised to come back to see them, “Elder Royal is the one who kept his promise.”  They tried to get me to commit to return “next year.”  I could only say that we would “try” (since I could see that they take promises very seriously here).  But I wish I could give a definite “yes!”  We walked to the parking lot with the Bautista family, made another stop at Salvadore’s home to get some pictures of his children, then by the place of Danny Patiag (who, as Brad’s first baptism, has fallen into inactivity - although his beautiful two teenage children still faithfully attend).  Brad was very sad about Danny, but the fact that his children are still going strong speaks volumes for the strength of the Cabiao Ward.
The Cabiao Ward - taken about an hour after the three hour block (they waited for us to finish eating so we could visit)
    We made a couple last stops in Angeles upon our return.  We first visited the home of the Villanueva family who are presently investigating the Church.  The only ones home were Sister Villanueva and her daughter Grace (age 19, studying to be a nurse).  We had a nice visit, took some pictures, and Brad provided his e-mail address (which got the usual laugh, “pasaway_Brad” translated means something like “rebel Brad” - which we were repeatedly told is so funny because Elder Royal is anything but a rebel).  Our final stop was at the home of Olive Ramos, who is scheduled to be baptized on October 1st.  She is scheduled for an interview this Friday and Brad gave her a little pre-interview prep session, which was cool to watch.  Olive had some gospel questions, and it was fun participating in the discussion to help answer them.  For just a few brief moments, I felt like Elder Royal’s missionary companion - which was very special.  Olive is very excited about her baptism, and is looking forward to having the rest of her family (her husband and four children) taught.  She is a sweet, kind, spiritual woman.  We took a few pictures, then she asked Brad to leave with a prayer.  Olive walked us to the gate of her home, and we waved goodbye.  “Ingat,” I said (which means “take care” if you say it right - which I rarely did).  We are looking forward to hearing of Olive’s baptism and the seeing pictures she promised to send (right, Olive?).
Brad with Olive Ramos - about two weeks before her baptism - Angeles City
Brad with Grace and Edna Villanueva - Angeles City
    Speaking of pictures, we have taken more than 120 on this trip.  Digital cameras are GREAT.  [2011 Note: By comparison, we took over 1,000 pictures on our trip to Peru to pick up David (aka Elder Royal II) in August 2010.  I actually thought 120 pictures was a lot at the time.]  Brad will be busy trying to organize everything when he gets home, but what a fun chore that will be.  We got back to our hotel at around 5:00 p.m. - another long, but glorious day.  We went into the room and just kind of talked about all that has happened over the past six days.  Brad laid on the bed and said: “Mom and Dad, thank you so much for all this.”  Really, things could not have gone much better.  We were able to get everywhere we needed to be, see most everyone Brad wanted to see (we missed a few, of course), and do more than we could have hoped.  (I mean, really, we had no plans to do “videoke” in the Philippines when we left Las Vegas, and we got to do it twice with some of the best people on earth.)

    Our plans for tomorrow are to SLEEP LATE (although I’m pretty sure that won’t happen - since a 5:30 a.m. early rise has been the rule), and see Mary (an investigator), who called to confirm that she will be picking us up at 9:00 a.m. for breakfast.  We have to be out of the hotel by noon, and will then be off to Manila with plans to attend the temple Tuesday morning before flying the friendly skies of Philippine Airlines back to Las Vegas.
Olive Ramos sent pictures of her baptism on 10/01/05 to us shortly after our return home to Las Vegas

Olive's baptism, 10/01/05 - Angeles City

Friday, September 23, 2011

Angeles: Edsel’s Baptism (September 17, 2005)

    We got up early to get ready for Edsel’s 9:00 a.m. baptism.  Services are typically held in the afternoon here, according to Brad, but stake conference meetings necessitated a morning service today.  We arrived at the church at 8:30 a.m. to find Edsel, his niece and her friend standing outside.  The doors were locked.  There were no cars in the parking lot, but that’s not unusual here as most people do not own cars.  They rely on public transportation - which appears to be (based on my brief experience) primarily on the jypneys.  People began arriving slowly, a few missionaries, members of the ward, etc.  We took lots of pictures while we waited for the building key to arrive.  It is fun to kind of stand back and watch Brad interact with everyone.  I came to discover today that a chapel filled with Filipino Church members is a very beautiful thing.
Maralea with Edsel on his baptism day!

Waiting for someone to show up with keys to the chapel for Edsel's baptism
    As Brad and Edsel prepared for the baptism, I walked by the room to see that it was all set up beautifully, the font was filled, and everything was ready.  The room filled beyond capacity as members and missionaries arrived.  A few minutes prior to the service, Medel Hernandez, the ward mission leader, asked Maralea and I if we would share our testimonies at the end of the service - which started the nerves going.  (Ha.)  Brad and Edsel sat in front, dressed in white.  Maralea and I sat in the front row on the opposite side of the aisle, next to Medel.  After an opening song, led by Sister Jones, an opening prayer was given in Tagalog by Pat Sales.  Great talks were given by Jojo Briones, Sister Escoto and her husband, Bishop Escoto (former bishop of the ward).  That was followed by a special musical number by Elders Orme and Greene, along with Melvin and Medel Hernandez, and Jojo.  Brad then escorted Edsel to the font (quietly whispering a few instructions along the way), as Elders Greene and Orme stood as witnesses.  The baptism went beautifully.  (Brad had to do it twice when Edsel did not go all the way under the first time, but that only made it twice as good.)  It was such a remarkable thing to be present for this experience - to not only meet someone who Brad helped teach, whose life has been so deeply effected by the Gospel, but to see him enter the waters of baptism.  What a sweet experience that was.  As we sang some hymns while waiting for Brad and Edsel to dress and return, I just continued to marvel at all that has taken place this past week.  I turned to look at all the people sitting behind us - many of whom we have now come to know, and feel a close connection.  They are all so special, sweet, and loving.  It was hard to get through “Come, Come Ye Saints,” frankly, as I thought of these Filipino saints - pioneers in their own right.  I began to feel the pain associated with leaving them, departing this area - and we have only been here six days!  It is a group of people very easy to love (including but not limited to :-) Kenneth, Lorie, Medel, Melvin, Jojo, Olive, Cherry, Mhayet, and Edsel).

A group picture prior to Edsel's baptism
Edsel with his missionaries: Elders Green and Royal

Edsel with his sisters and missionaries
Edsel with his sisters and Brad
    When Edsel and Brad returned, Edsel was confirmed a member of the church by Bishop Villanueva (27 years old).  At that point, Maralea was asked to share her testimony.  She stood and began with: “Wow, I never thought I’d have a chance to speak in the Philippines!”  Maralea spoke of her family’s Mormon pioneer heritage, and how so many generations have benefitted from the sacrifices of those willing to make them so long ago.  She advised Edsel that he has now stepped into the role of pioneer - with the ability to influence thousands in his family and posterity through his faithfulness.  It was very touching to see how moved Edsel was through the entire service.  I could barely speak as I looked at the group of bright, smiling faces present.  I knew that at that moment, we were experiencing the very best of the Philippines: some of the best people, in the Lord’s house, being collectively about His business.  We expressed our love for them, and for Edsel.  Specifically, I advised Edsel that while Maralea comes from “pioneer heritage” in the Church - I do not - that my parents were like him, joining as young adults, being the only members within their respective families.  I expressed gratitude for their perseverance and faithfulness, as Edsel’s children will likewise thank him for having made the decision he made this day.  Edsel then stood, tears in his eyes, and expressed himself in Tagalog.  I could not understand him, but there was a wonderful spirit present which confirmed that he spoke from the heart.

    We lingered as a group at the church for a while.  It was wonderful just hanging out together, taking a few more pictures, with more promises to stay in touch.

This is a group pic taken after Edsel's baptism
     The next thing I knew, about 12 of us began walking towards a jypney, got in, and we were on our way to an early lunch.  This was our first experience on a jypney - and we made the most of it.  As we sat on the jypney, Kenneth started singing Beatle songs - and I was only too happy to join in.  The entire group sang through the whole trip, which continued even after we sat down at the restaurant (“Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, Hey Jude!”).  We had a great time visiting, with a smattering of singing in between - oh, and eating too.  There was some talk of getting together later as a group, nothing definite.  Mhayet said, smiling while shrugging her shoulders: “We just can’t help it.  We want to see the Royals.”  We got into Jojo’s car with two of the missionaries.  (Maralea and I shared the front passenger bucket seat - no, there are no seat belt laws here.  If there are, they are not enforced.)  There was a guard at the restaurant, dressed in a white uniform, who walked out into traffic to give Jojo room to back out.  Brad leaned out the window to tip him.  I later noticed that to be the norm.  Most establishments that we entered had a security man posted at front who handled duties like that.  Oh, that was also when I first noticed some other body language that Brad has picked up here.  As he leaned out the window to give the security guard the tip, he kind of made a kissing/smooching sound with his lips.  I thought he was getting fresh (just kidding).  Anyway, that’s a common way of getting someone’s attention here (apparently).  Brad also puckers his lips and uses them to point in a direction (i.e. turning his head to the right, puckering his lips, and kind of moving his head in the given direction).  When he responds to a question affirmatively, he raises his eyebrows repeatedly instead of nodding his head.  What does nodding your head mean here?  “I don’t know.”  A negative response still gets a side to side turn of the head, by the way.  Jojo took Maralea, Brad and me from the restaurant so Brad could visit some other ward members before the Saturday stake meetings.  We only found Shiena at home, a 16 year old girl baptized in May.  She was the typical smiley, giggling, shy, and sweet young woman we have met here.  We are hoping to return to her complex tomorrow to spend more time with her and some others who were not available.  We met Jojo’s father, visited for only a few minutes, then returned to our hotel to get some rest.  By the way, Brad wrote recently about getting involved in an automobile accident which occurred as he was traveling in Jojo’s car.  Jojo showed us the damage to the left rear quarter panel and bumper from that little mishap.  It’s not huge, but not insignificant, either.  My office could have signed up four new clients from that accident. :-) (Just kidding, of course.)  We’re just glad no one was hurt (bad anyway) and that Jojo’s car is still intact.
Brad with Shiena Equiza - Angeles City
Maralea with Olive Ramos - Angeles City
     I thought that we were done for the evening.  I fell asleep as Brad watched “The RM” so he could prepare himself for the next stage of his life (ha).  We received a call while in our hotel room at around 7:30 p.m. advising that there were some people wanting to see us.  We came down to find such a welcome sight: Edsel, Lorie, Kenneth, Mhayet, Cherry, Melvin, Medel, Jojo, and Lenni.  We went to visit at some outside tables, when Kenneth began breaking into song (including a few from Barry Manilo!).  Even Brad tried his hand at the singing without karaoke.  Lorie reported that her stake conference talk at the Saturday evening session went great.  (Actually, she initially said it was a disaster, but Mhayet set the record straight.)  Lorie said she used Brad’s favorite scripture in her talk, Alma 29:9.  As we talked, I saw Cherry text messaging so fast it was like she had a typewriter on her lap.  Others in the group were doing it, too.  I have noticed that to be the primary means of communication with cell phones here, because it is actually much cheaper to text than to talk on the phone.  And they are all GOOD at it.  Well, it was determined that the singing at the hotel lobby area was just not good enough, so we traveled to a nearby restaurant that had “videoke” (appropriately called “Kelly’s” - Maralea’s maiden name and really close to our singing daughter’s spelling of Kelli).

    We filed in, got a large group of tables together, order some dinner, and settled in for the evening.  It was so much fun to be back together with this group.  It was fun visiting with Mhayet as we would get interrupted every time a Beatle song was selected - at which point I would be automatically given the microphone.  (I somehow became widely known as a Beatles fan.  Not sure how that happened.)  I couldn’t get Mhayet to join me in any of the songs, but I do recall getting her to share in an “Ah!" once or twice.  After I finished singing once, I then announced that the next song would be performed by Maralea.  Oh my goodness, she just panicked and refused to go near the microphone as her fans gave her encouragement.  “Oh no, I don’t sing.  Get that [the microphone] away from me!”  (She’ll sing hymns, but she’s like a cricket.  She’ll chirp, but only if she thinks no one is really paying attention.  Whenever we’re singing at church and I lean over next to her to hear her sing, she suddenly gets very quiet.  I love that about her.  It’s just a funny little yin and yang thing we have going.  I think Maralea feels that Kelli sings enough for the both of them.)  Cherry had to leave early and came by to say goodbye.  It was supposed to be a quick goodbye, but I wouldn’t let her leave.  I was touched as she related her conversion story, having been baptized in March - just before Brad was transferred to the area.   (He taught Cherry some of the new member discussions.)  Cherry is the only member in her family - noting that she is: “a pioneer, like Sister Royal said.”  Cherry talked of how much her life has changed since she joined the Church.  She certainly has a bright smile and warm heart.  As she left us, I knew it would be hard to say goodbye to the entire group.

    Brad was surrounded by Medel, Melvin, Edsel and Kenny who were all only too happy to jump in and sing (especially Kenny - who has a great voice and won a videoke contest over the weekend).  I don’t recall Lorie or Jojo singing, so I guess they joined Maralea and Mhayet in the “Get that microphone away from me!” department.  I enjoyed a private talk with Kenneth, who has plans that include a mission.  He recently received the Aaronic Priesthood and passed the sacrament for the first time last Sunday.  Kenneth said that he plans to bless the sacrament for the first time next Sunday, and that he has been asked to baptize a member’s son in the next couple weeks.  Although he is nervous about doing it, Kenneth said he plans to do it - to exercise his newly given priesthood, to learn and to grow.  Kenneth has plans.  Lorie said there is a slight possibility she may be able to visit us in Las Vegas in November - very slight, but still we are holding out hope for some kind of contact at that time.  I told everyone of our dear Filipino friends in Las Vegas who would love to meet them.  They all have many friends in Las Vegas and perhaps do not yet realize it - but they will. :-)  Medel is waiting to hear about his application to BYU-Hawaii.  As Brad said goodbye to Medel, I heard him say something about being roommates there - I don’t what kind of scheme they are cooking up.  Jojo, the stake executive secretary, spent several years at BYU-Hawaii.  Melvin talked to Maralea about his job working for Earthlink in customer service.  If we have any problems with Earthlink, Melvin said he can personally solve them - all the way from Manila.  (It’s nice to have important friends in key places.)

    We took more pictures (we are collecting a lot of them along with our precious memories), before returning to the hotel and saying goodbye.  (There have been a lot of these goodbyes, but we don’t mind doing them two or three times if we get the chance to see our friends again.)  We were driven to the hotel by Jojo (accompanied by Medel and Melvin), followed by those riding with Lorie in her vehicle (Lenni, Mhayet, Kenneth and Edsel).  As they drove away, Mhayet leaned out the window and said: “We love you!” 
The Angeles Videoke Crew
    I vaguely recall what the angel Clarence wrote in George Bailey’s Tom Sawyer book at the end of the movie: “It’s a Wonderful life”?  To the best of my presently fading recollection, it was: “Every man is rich who has friends.”  Tonight, we felt very, very rich.  In fact, we have felt that way all week long, from the moment we arrived here.  As we walked upstairs to our room, I said to Brad: “It is going to difficult for me to leave after just six days here.  I can only imagine how you are going to feel as we fly away.”  I’m not sure if that reality has hit Brad yet, but he has always been rather careful and reserved with his emotions (very much unlike his blubbering/tell all father). 

    On a lighter note, I wanted to share an example of how fun it is being here with Brad - just in the every day things going on around us.  (We rely on him for everything, and follow his orders.)  As we were riding in the elevator this morning, a group of five Filipino women got onto the elevator.  Several were fairly young.  They began giggling and laughing, speaking in Tagalog.  Brad responded with something in Tagalog just as we arrived at the first floor.  The girls all got the wide eyed surprised looks on their faces, and scurried off the elevator as it opened.  Their mother followed, stopped, turned to us, rolled her eyes and said: “My daughters.”  As we exited, I asked Brad about the exchange.   He said it went something like this:

    Girl 1 (to her sister): “Hey, that guy standing next to you is really cute.”
    Brad (smiling): “Yeah, I am.”

As the girls congregated in the lobby, they continued talking with each other in their language.  Brad picked up that they were discussing how embarrassed they were from that little experience.  Brad said that happens a lot when the missionaries ride the jypneys (locals talking about them in Tagalog thinking the missionaries don’t understand them).  Just more of the fun we have been experiencing here.

Friday in Angeles (September 16, 2005)

    I tried to sleep in this morning, I really did, but try as I might I was up and ready to go at 6:00 a.m., after only five hours sleep.  (What is wrong with me?)  Maralea even gave me those blindfold/eye shield things from the plane to help me rest, but it was no good.  I was just wired and ready to go.  Mike Turek (a friend from Las Vegas), who lived at Clark Field in Angeles City years ago, has been after me to find his old house and take a picture.  So, Mike, you’ll be glad to know that . . . I’m still looking.  I think I’m getting close, but it’s been raining cows and pigs here so my ability to get out and do a photo shoot has been seriously hampered.

Pics of possible Turek home

Turek possible home?

Mike, do you recognize any of this?

We'll try one more, Mike.  (How'd I do?)

    Our planned lunch with Brad’s former investigator, Mary, was rescheduled for Monday.  I hope that happens.  We went to the church for Brad to visit his zone for the last time as they were ending a weekly meeting.  Brad went ahead of us to the room where the zone members were eating lunch, peeked his head into the room, and there was a burst of screaming and applause by the eight sisters present.   I didn’t hear any of the elders yelling/clapping - just the sisters.  They also gave Maralea and me some extra applause as we entered the room.  They are SO FUNNY.  We visited for a while, and I got out my video camera and asked them to sing the mission song.  The elders sang it during the dinner at the mission home on Tuesday night, but I did not get it on tape.  Everyone was only too happy to comply with that.  It was pretty spirited, loud, and fun.  I got everyone to pose for a zone picture, and got chastised by the sisters because the flash went off before I got to “three” in the count.  They demanded a second chance, with a fair count.  They got one.  I discovered that one of the local Filipino sisters has an aunt and grandmother residing in Las Vegas.  So, I asked her to give me some contact information so I could send Brad over to welcome them.  Her eyes opened wide and she promised to oblige.  It was pouring rain as the entire zone left the church.  I stood there and watched as they all filed away in pairs (on “splits”) walking towards the jypneys.  The use of the local transportation system is all second nature to them.  As we drove by, several of the sister missionaries leaned out to wave goodbye.  As we drove off, I couldn’t help but wish I could be on one of those jypneys venturing off to do some missionary work.  They are such a happy group.
Brad attending his last meeting with the Angeles City Zone

    We went to the “SM Mall” to do some shopping, which was an interesting experience.  Something that impressed me is the number of employees working in a given store.  They are everywhere.  I counted 20 employees in just one area of the mens department in a clothing store, standing around doing their best to be helpful.  Brad was looking for a new belt and found himself surrounded by four young female workers all trying to help him out.  Few of the workers spoke English, so I just kept close to Brad to he could step in and help out when I got into a communication bind.  Brad bought some Filipino dress shirts.  He tried to get me to buy one, but I just got a short sleeved Polo shirt.  I tried to buy one of those for Brad, and he declined.  I showed it to Maralea and said: “Doesn’t this look like Brad?”  She responded: “No, but it does look like something you’d wear.”  Even though I didn’t quite know how to take that, I bought the shirt.  We got a few gifts and things, then headed back to the hotel.  We really needed the rest.  It was fun to watch Brad in the mall, going from store to store and marveling at how well he knew his way around.  I did not see any other non-Filipinos in the mall the entire time we were there.  Brad got more than a few stares as he walked along in his white shirt, tie and name tag.  He is clearly very used to that.

    When we returned to the hotel, Brad challenged me to a game of pool.  He claims he was tops in his zone in that little preparation day diversion.  Maralea and I played Brad in two games of cut throat.  Maralea won the first game (and she’s really not very good), and I won the second game.  So, Brad asked Maralea to sit out on a little game of eight ball - so he could focus on deflating my ego.  He lost.  Just as I was celebrating my victory, President and Sister Stringham walked by in the hotel lobby.  We got their attention and had a nice visit with them.  They advised that one of the missionaries from Brad’s group got held up in Hong Kong when authorities there found he had some souvenirs in his checked luggage that were illegal (i.e. samurai swords).  He had to write his family and advise that he would not be arriving because he was arrested and scheduled for a trial the following day (today).  Wow, how would that be?  Things are tough in China.  He faces serious jail time/fines, so everyone is concerned.  President Stringham suggested that Brad be careful about what he takes home with him.  (Yes, I’ll be going through his luggage just to make sure.  We’ll ship home any foreign tools of war - if any are found.)  We are hoping all will be fine with the missionary, and are following up.  (Note: I now understand (as of 2011) that the missionary was detained on house arrest at the Hong Kong mission home for about a week, was cleared and went home.  Whew.)

    We are planning on attending Edsel’s baptism tomorrow.  Brad is very excited about that.  There are some other families in Angeles City we will be visiting after the baptism, which should be very fun.  At the end of the day today, as we relaxed after dinner, Brad commented: “It is so strange, but I feel like we’ve never been apart.  This has all gone by so fast, and it’s like I never left.”  That’s the great thing about close relationships - they can be renewed and refreshed quickly, even after long periods of separation.  It has really been fun spending so much time with Brad not only to get to know him better, but to see the other side of him as he interacts with others with whom he has worked, served and grown to love.

Return to Angeles (September 15, 2005)

    We had a late dinner, having returned to the hotel after 16 hours of traveling and visiting.  As we ate dinner the past couple nights, I have noticed Brad taking every opportunity to leave us and engage one of the waiters or other local Filipinos working at the hotel in conversation.  The moment he would begin speaking their language, they would give him their full attention - being surprised that he could speak it so well.  On one occasion, he returned to the table and said: “I’m really going to miss doing that.”  We are planning to visit one of Brad’s investigators in Angeles - Mary - for lunch tomorrow.  I am looking forward to that.

    Brad and I found a quiet spot outside along side the pool last night after dinner, sitting on a couple of lounge chairs under a large umbrella as a steady rain poured down around us.  It was very peaceful.  We have been running fast here and there, so it was good to just kind of sit back, relax, and talk.  I am much better at talking than listening, but have tried to be quiet during these moments.  (I am still learning this process, mind you, but at least I recognize my problem - which is the first step to successful recovery/resolution. :-)  Throughout his life, Brad has always seemed to understand and accept that: Dad just likes to talk (and talk, and talk).  I love him for that, for being patient with a freakishly fretful parent who insists on making everything his business.  Brad has been blessed with an ability to keep all Dad’s yapping in perspective.  But, it feels so good to be yapping with him again.)

Brad with Ate Mendoza - San Isidro
    In the still of the humid night air last evening, Brad started to talk.  I can see that his heart is just bursting with emotion, with feelings that he can hardly express.  He said: “I can’t believe Salvadore [in Cabiao] was so happy - after all he’s gone through.  He just said: ‘Please, stay here one night. They [Mom/Dad] can pick you up later.’”  I could tell Brad was wishing he could have done just that at each visit - linger a little longer.  He marveled at the thoughtfulness of others like Dan [Cabiao], who gave up his watch for Brad 18 months ago - saving it as a gift to present at the end of his mission, the very thoughtful FHE planned in his honor by his Angeles friends with wonderful gifts and expressions of love.  Tonight I thought of the nanays claiming him as their son - loving him as a son while he was 10,000 miles from home for so long, and the spirit of peace, love and happiness in the humblest of homes, and the incredible journey of the Moquia family - which is leading them in an unwavering course to the temple.  They are committed to that.  These wonderful people have become his forever family and friends.  We are all rather overwhelmed with it all.  I was up at 3:30 a.m. today, my mind racing as I thought about all that we had experienced and continue to experience.  Honestly, I just want to fall to my knees and give thanks for such a wonderful blessing to be here.  You know, when we were at Cabiao yesterday talking with a local “sobriety challenged” gentleman who knew Brad from his days there, the man said that we are “missing the Philippines” because we are not out seeing the sights.  My response to that is simple: we are experiencing the very best of the Philippines in our travels - better than any wonder of the world.  The wonder is how much love we see within the heart of our son, filled by the people here.  It is that love within that is so different about Brad.  He smiles wide, bright, and often.  Later in the evening after the long ride home, Brad said: “I am really going to miss this place.  I am going to miss speaking the language, being with the people - and just being special, because everyone treats us so good here.”  I have a feeling that taking off his missionary badge for the last time will be an emotional experience for Elder Royal - as will leaving this beautiful country.

I love this picture of the Moquia childre - San Isidro
    We will hopefully get some much needed rest tomorrow - Edward, too (who has been an incredible blessing to us - getting us from sacred place to sacred place in safety).  We are looking forward to Edsel’s baptism on Saturday, church at Cabiao on Sunday, and the Manila Temple on Tuesday.  Many great things still lie ahead. 

    (Note: I removed the battery from my camera and charged it, then when I replaced it, I did not manually plug in the right date.  So, most pictures from our trip are incorrectly date stamped.  It was a very old version of digital camera.  D'oh!)

Talavera (September 15, 2005)

    Talavera is located about 30 minutes south of San Isidro.  Upon our arrival there, we first met with Joel, a young man preparing to serve a full-time mission who Brad worked with often.  Joel was very gracious - and even spoke to us in English (in between all the Tagalog chat with Brad) - which was nice.  He said to Maralea and me: “Your son was a very good missionary.  He helped me a lot, gave me lots of advice.”  Joel asked Brad about whether he would be “getting an interview” with some female Filipino television star in Manila, Angel Locsin, (something that was apparently to be scheduled by a member in Angeles - a first discussion, I believe).  Brad said: “Wow, how did you hear about that out here?”  (LDS Filipino rumor mill, perhaps?)  Unfortunately for Brad, it looks like the desired interview won’t be taking place, because we are not all that sure about our schedule and, well let’s face it, Angel is a very busy woman.  Joel talked of changes in the Talavera Ward (splitting it into three branches), and got Brad up to speed on other local news.  Joel and Brad exchanged contact information, after which Joel walked us to the car, put his arm around Brad, and said goodbye - with tears in his eyes.

Brad and Joel Barcelon - Talavera
    Our last visit of the day was at the home of Nanay Ariel and her family.  Sister Ariel came into the room, saw Brad, started immediately crying, opened her arms and said: “My son!”  Sister Ariel said that she was first introduced to the Church about two years before meeting Brad.  She said to us in her best English: “Your son was a great missionary.  He made me want to learn more about the Church.  He speaks the language so well, and is so nice.”  She was baptized after Brad and his companion taught her.  (She also mentioned that the ward has not had a piano player since Brad was transferred from the area, which has given her the desire to learn to play the piano.)  We met Sister Ariel’s son, Arnel, and his daughters Ni Aynrand (age nine), who is getting baptized on October 1st, and younger sister Aneth.  Sister Ariel said that she has been very happy since her baptism.  She said to Maralea: “I thank you for your son.”  We had a very pleasant visit, with Brad going on (and on) in Tagalog.  I made repeated attempts to gives cordial greetings in the language, but Brad says I rarely pronounce anything right.  (He’ll now have the chance to teach me.)  Sister Ariel wanted a picture taken with Maralea and me.  Just as Brad was ready to take the picture, she threw her arms around Maralea.  It made for a great picture.  Aneth asked Sister Ariel why Maralea’s hair “is like that” (blonde, wavy/frizzy).  Seriously, this humidity really makes her hair go crazy.  We said our goodbyes to Sister Ariel and her family, with more hugs and promises to stay in touch.  Sister Ariel stood outside her home waving and watching us until we were out of sight.  She is a sweet, and very good hearted woman, with a beautiful family. 
With Ariel family - Talevera

Brad with Arnel Ariel - Talavera

Brad with Ayrand,Aneth Ariel - Talavera

Brad and his Nanay - Talavera
    One of the families Brad taught and baptized, the Paez family, moved so we were unable to connect with them.  We may still be able to locate them and visit while we are here.  We made our way back to Angeles in the dark of night.  That’s a “good news/bad news” situation here. The good news is there is less traffic.  The bad news is that numerous vehicles travel without headlights, and people walking along side the road are much harder to see (and they don’t really make an effort to get out of the way).  But, Edward is a champ of a driver.  He said he’s never had a citation or an accident - and that’s saying something here (not so much the citation part as the accident part of the equation).  (I should add, however, that if they kept stats for near accidents, including close call head on collisions - of which I was a personal witness on several occasions - Edward’s record probably would be less than stellar.)

    I noticed something about Brad the past couple days.  When he talks with locals in Tagalog, he has all these mannerisms and makes sounds that I’ve never seen him make before.  He doesn’t do it when he speaks English (or at least with us).  I told Brad about this and he had not idea he was doing it (like making clicking noises at certain points during a conversation in Tagalog, animated hand gestures).  I noticed that other locals do it, too.  I have some of these conversations on videotape, so the proof is there in living color.  It was further evidence of how much Brad has become a part of the local culture.  He has clearly thrown himself into the Lord’s work - which is appreciated by those who have worked with him.

San Isidro (September 15, 2005)

    This was actually our third report from the Philippines during our September 2005 trip.  After a two hour journey, we arrived in San Isidro.  It is beautiful green country with surrounding hills.  There is less traffic, but it’s still there - lots of it.  Our first stop was at the home of the Joson family.  Sister Joson was tending to her grandson.  She saw us and said with surprise: “Elder Royal!”  People started filing into the room.  All discussions were in Tagalog.  Brad just dove into the conversation as we sat by quietly observing.  Maralea and I have fallen into the role of just politely smiling and nodding our heads during these moments, trying not to get in the way.  Edward would provide an occasional translation.  (Thank goodness for Edward, who would not only translate, but give us some understanding of customs.)  There was clearly a close bond between Brad and the Joson family.  They spoke very highly of Brad and his service in the area.  Tatay and nanay Joson were both present, along with Joy and her son John Joseph, Apong, and his brother (whose name I do not recall).  There was a lot of laughter, and some tears as we left, as the family asked that Brad come to the Philippines to see them again.  Nanay, who claimed Brad as “my son,” left the room as we prepared to exit, because she was crying.  It was very touching.  She later returned to say goodbye, and asked Brad to try his best to return to the Philippines and visit.  We delivered some precious American candy to the kids, and then went on our way.
Brad and Joson baby - San Isidro

Brad with Joson family - San Isidro

Brad with Joson men - hanging out in San Isidro
Brad with Joy and Epong Joson - San Isidro
Together with the Joson family - San Isidro  (Check out what humidity does to Maralea's hair)
    We next went to visit the Moquia family.  As we drove to their humble home, Brad saw two of their little girls walking home from school on the roadside beneath a single umbrella.  He told Edward to pull over.  Brad jumped out of the car and called out to the girls: Kim, age nine, and Kailae, age six.  Kim’s eyes got big as she put a hand over her mouth, displaying a look of disbelief.  Brad ran to the girls to give them a hug, posed for a quick photo, then walked with them to their home.  We followed along and met Tatay and Nanay Moquia, with their youngest daughter, “Baby” (4), and their son, Kenny, age eight.  Brother Moquia and Brad just went on and on, laughing, slapping each other on the back and leg, as Sister Moquia chimed in from time to time.  They were like long, lost buddies.  Brother Moquia shared his conversion story with us (as translated).  We learned that he was in an intoxicated state when he first met Brad and his companion Elder Peteru.  The elders were going to teach a lesson but the investigator did not show.  Brother Moquia visited with them while they waited.  They had a gospel discussion, and Brother Moquia invited them to come talk with him further.  However, the elders did not follow up because Brother Moquia was drunk and they did not think he was serious or that he would even remember.  They were wrong.  Brother Moquia said that he diligently sought them out.  A few weeks later, Brother Moquia said that he, his wife, and Kim were baptized.  Brother Moquia has since received the Melchizedek Priesthood and is scheduled to baptize his son Kenny this Saturday - all of which led to some high fives between Brad and Brother Moquia.  The Moquia family plans to be sealed in the Manila Temple on or about December 5th.  Maralea asked the children if they knew “I Am a Child of God.”  Sister Moquia, the ward YW President, pulled out a hymn book and got the children started singing as I videotaped.  They finished the first verse, and I thought they were done and began thanking them.  My little interruption went unnoticed, and they continued on with the second and third verses of the song.  Brad delivered his guitar to Brother Moquia as a gift, and American candy for the children (that we brought from home).  Brother Moquia said (in his language): “We are sorry we have no gift for you, because we are poor.  But we give you our love.”  I previously sent a letter to the Moquia family on December 25, 2004, and they still had it.  I asked to see it and wrote a note at the bottom: “Thank you for loving our son, Elder Royal.”  Sister Moquia read it to her children in Tagalog, and began to cry.  Brother Moquia talked to Brad as a close brother.  His eyes watered as he expressed his love to Brad for being an instrument in changing the direction of his life - which began under unusual circumstances.  He said: “Although we are very poor, you have made us spiritually rich.”  Brad asked if we could leave with prayer.  Brother Moquia thanked him, and asked if I would offer it.  We could not kneel, because the floor was hard dirt.  I stood and as I prayed for a blessing on this family and their wonderful, sweet humble home, I felt the spirit and a rush of emotion.  It was hard to get through the prayer, but we were shed tears of joy together (mixed with some sadness at our impending departure).  As we embraced, exchanged thoughts and love, we dried our eyes and went outside for some photographs.  This was the humblest of homes, barely having a roof and walls.  They have no phone, no e-mail, and no address to send a letter directly.  Yet, they are richly blessed.  That is very apparent.  Their smiles are incredibly bright, brimming with happiness.  I was taken by the thought of how, without discrimination, Heavenly Father calls His children to Him when the seeds of the gospel are planted in a well prepared heart.  It was very hard to drive away as the family stood at the roadside, only because the desire to linger was so strong.  The family stood together like a perfect picture, with their home in the background.  We asked for a similar picture, with the Manila Temple in the background, signifying the great sealing of their family for eternity.  What a wonderful experience we had with the Moquia family.
Brad and Ate,Kuya Moquia - San Isidro

Brad with Kyla and Kim Moquia - San Isidro

Brad with the Moquia family - San Isidro  (Brad gave the guitar to Bro. Moquia during our visit.)

These Moquia children were as cute as can be

This was a wonderful moment for us, spending time with these humble, wonderful people - the Moquia family

    After a visit with Sister Dwatin, spouse of the branch president (who was not home), and her father-in-law (who was very happy to see Brad - and went inside the house to put on a Sunday shirt so we could get a couple photographs), we went to the very humble home of Sister Mendoza, where she resides with her husband, small son, and two daughters.  (Brad and his companion taught and baptized Sister Mendoza and her two daughters.  Her husband was already a member of the Church, having just returned to activity.)  As Brad walked into sight of the little boy (about four years old), the boy looked towards the open door of the home and said: “It’s Elder Royal!”  Sister Mendoza was so excited to see Brad.  She brought us in, and - as everyone here does - immediately began rounding up things to serve us.  She was very animated in her discussion with Brad.  She told him (as translated by Edward): “You are going to find a girl now, no?  If you can’t find a girl in American, come back to the Philippines.  We love you here.”  She remembered that Brad’s birthday is September 27th and said that for his birthday she wants him to “come back to the Philippines with your girlfriend.”  Sister Mendoza, her husband, and children are active in the branch.  A neighbor girl from the branch came over and joined us.  It was Sister Mendoza’s birthday, so Brad made sure she got some of our American candy.  Sister Mendoza and Brad exchanged addresses, and she made him promise - repeatedly - that he would write her as soon as he got home.  In fact, the very last thing she said as we got into the car was: “Promise?!” (while waiving her finger with a smile).  He promised.

Brad and Duatin Family - San Isidro

Brad with Sister Duatin - San Isidro

Brad and Maralea with Jem Gonzales - San Isidro

    San Isidro began as one of Brad’s biggest personal challenges.  It is a very small community, the branch was small, with a lot of inactivity, and I recall that Brad was a bit discouraged when he first arrived there in June, 2004.  What a difference a few months made.  By the time Brad was eventually transferred from this area, he said he had a heavy heart - having to leave behind so many wonderful people - forever friends.  It was a joy to meet them personally and thank them for loving our son, to see how they live, and especially at how they find so much happiness in living the gospel - regardless of their circumstances.

    As we drove to Talavera, we passed the Jollibee restaurant where our friends and neighbors, Joji and Ramone DeLeon, met Brad in June 2004 - Joji fulfilling her “assignment” to find Brad and hug him for Maralea, to take his picture, and give him our love (with President Brimhall’s permission - I should add).  There are pictures of that meeting on Brad’s website, one with Brad sitting on a “trike” outside the restaurant.  (Yes Joji and Ramone, we were there!)
Brad and Elder Peteru with Monica & Zack Deleon at Jollibee in June 2004