True Faithfulness

I have shared in other blog posts about the new temple in Urdaneta. There was an open house where the local community, governmental and barangay officials, and non-member friends can tour the temple before its the temple is dedicated. These open house tours last for 3-4 weeks then the temple is closed and cleaned thoroughly before it is dedicated. The Urdaneta temple was dedicated by Elder Dallin H. Oaks the first counselor in the First Presidency of the Church on April 28, 2024. Elder Oaks served as the Area President while an Apostle from 2002-2004. Elder Oaks is 92 years old. It amazes me, since I’ve travel a number of times internationally over the years and know what a toll being on an international flight for 15-18 ours, what a toll this type of travel takes on a body that a person of this age is willing to make this type of trip.

Brother Gutierrez was one of the first people to be baptized a member of the in the Dagupan (a city near the Urdaneta Temple) in the early 1960s. The Church was officially recognized in 1961 by the Philippines government. It took years for the recognition of the Church to work its way through the bureaucracy, perhaps because the largest religious denomination in the Philippines is the Catholic Church. Whatever the reason, official recognition happened in April of 1961 and missionaries arrived on June 1, 1961.

Brother Gutierrez was taught by missionaries and baptized bringing most of his family with him. Since then generations of his family have participated as members of the Church. When Brother Gutierrez learned of the Urdaneta Temple Open House, he wanted to attend. However, since he was 93-years old and in poor health and is bedridden, his family weren’t initially supportive of his going to the open house. However, he insisted that a way be figured out so he could attend. Eventually, his children agreed that because of his faithfulness over the years and his burning desire to go to the open house, they began to work on coordinating a trip to the temple open house which was about an hour away. However, since he was bedridden, this wasn’t going to be an easy task. After a lot of coordination with the temple, a van was rented, a stretcher procured, and over forty of his immediate family invited to all attend the open house together.

After the van arrived at the Urdaneta Temple, family members loaded Brother Gutierrez on to a stretcher and carried him on an entire temple open house tour. Since the elevator wasn’t designed for a stretcher, he had to be carried up flights of stairs in the temple and into each room. The sight of an elderly gentleman being carried through the temple on a stretcher touched a lot of hearts.

The picture below was taken after an oral history interview capturing significant events, recollections, and insights of this pioneer Filipino saint recorded at this home. In future years, as the history of the Church in the Philippines is condensed into book similar to the Saints books the most recent version of the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, this type of information will be as valuable as the journal kept by the pioneers that were driven from their homes in Nauvoo, IL walking fifteen hundred miles across the great plain in the U.S. in 1846-47 to the Salt Lake Valley.

Brother Gutierrez, granddaughter, son-in-law, wife, our manager MeGa Gapiz, and a grandson and granddaughter-in-law in the Brother Gutierrez’s bedroom in their home.

Not Worth to Be in the Same Room

I’ve commented several times about the faithfulness of the Filipino saints. This faith seems to be most pronounced with some of the early pioneer Filipino saints who were amount the first to accept the gospel in the Philippines back in the early 1960s.

While this story may seem like an anomaly, I can assure you it isn’t. We have been privileged to be a part of numerous interviews where different but similar stories have been shared. One such story related to the temple is as follows:

In interviewing a mission leader in a mission in Northern Luzon, the mission leader (mission leaders are responsible for temple recommend interviews for people that live in a district vs. a stake where the stake presidents do temple recommend interviews), was interviewing a couple that were planning on attending the Manila Temple. They lived a long way from the Manila Temple. They were rice farmers and live hand-to-mouth and had very little money for non-farm related expenses. They had ten children and had save for a long time to put aside enough money to pay for transportation to go to the temple and be sealed to their children. As the mission president interviewed the couple he found out how many children they had. He interviewed each of the children as well.

As he concluded the interview, he noted that he had only interviewed eight of the children. He asked the parents where the other two children were. Almost embarrassingly the father said that they didn’t have enough money to take all of their children to the temple to be sealed as an eternal family unit. In future discussions, the mission president learned several interesting facts. One, the journey to the temple would begin at 1:00 am. The family would walk for a half an hour to the road and be picked up by an oxen pulled wagon and taken to a place where they would be able to catch a trike ride to the bus station. They would purchase bus fare which totaled P20 for each ticket (this is ~$0.36 US). From the time they left home until they arrived at the Manila Temple it was a twelve-hour trip.

The mission president shared that he could imagine the strain it would be for these parents to decide which two children they would not take with them to go to the temple to be seal with the rest of the family. Now here is the kicker to this story. These faithful Filipino parents would make this trip as a couple every three months to attend the temple staying three days at the temple doing multiple temple endowment sessions and proxy sealings. They stayed at no cost at the patron housing at the temple site before returning home. Keep in mind that this ritual was related 4-5 times a year. When I hear stories like this, I hang my head in embarrassment when I fail to attend our local Sacramento Temple more frequently when faith people like this sacrifice so much to participate in the blessings of the temple. It is at times like this when we hear similar stories that we don’t feel worthy to be in the same room with these faithful Filipino saints.

Four Apostles Visit the Philippines

There are only twelve apostles in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and four have visited the Philippines in the last fifteen months. In the area where we have lived for the last eleven years after moving from the San Francisco Bay Area, only one apostle has visited during the time. This gives you some perspective how the Philippines is viewed by the leadership of the Church. The most recent visit was Elder Gary A. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve was in the Philippines for ten days. We were fortunate to attend two events where he and his wife were in attendance and spoke in each of these gatherings.

Sister Stevenson Speaks in a Devotional

The Storm’s with Elder and Sister Stevenson

One of the events we attended that were held to coincide with the Stevenson’s visit was a Filipino Cultural Presentation. For those of you that have been to the Oahu, Hawaii and made the trip to Laie and attended the Polynesian Cultural Center presentation of the different cultures in the South Pacific in dance and song, this was a similar type of event but focused on the multiple cultures that exist throughout the Philippines. It was a ninety minutes event and my view – specular, keeping in mind that these are young men and women ages 14 to 17 years of age and not professional performers. Here are a just three clips from the 90-minute presentation:

As mentioned, the youth that performed these dances only practice a couple of times a month before the performance….the Filipino people are natural performers.

Things I continue to learn about the Philippines….

There are no trash container/cans put out at the curb (there are no curbs per se in Philippines neighborhoods). Trash bags are stacked everyday and picked up in an open truck and stacked as high as it can be stacked. Note the electrical and cable grid above.

I’ve seen trash stacked twice as high as this truck is stacked.

Thought of the Day:

Faith is the power to act. Obedience is the price. Love is the motive. Christ is the reason

Scriptural Thought:

Alma 11:43. β€œThe spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form.”