Friday, October 1, 2010

Laguna

As I mentioned in my last post, Ben's Lolo passed away on September 19th. We are lucky that we live here, close enough to be able to attend his funeral. We were able to represent Ben's dad and his family since they are so far away and unable to attend themselves. It was a great chance for me to meet Ben's cousins and aunts and uncles on both the Crisanto and the Bugar side. I was greeted with welcome arms by everyone and treated so well! I don't know if I ever believed I would really meet his Filipino family, never guessing we would be living in the Philippines, but here we are. We will definitely be visiting them again.

Laguna, the area of the Philippines where his family is from, is up in the Northern part of the Philippines. We flew into Manila on Wednesday morning and were greeted by his Uncle Max, who is Tatay's (dad's) oldest brother. Honestly, the similarities between the two of them was almost startling. He walks, talks, stands, acts just like Ben's dad. It was kind of comforting in a way, made us feel closer to home. Ben's other uncle, Carlo, also flew in just a few hours after us along with 4 of his 6 sons. We then drove the 3.5 hours to Laguna to meet the rest of the family. Ben's Lolo and Lola had 11 children and therefore there were a lot of people to meet. The time we were there was also the viewing at Max's house where people come and pay their respects in the days leading up to the funeral, therefore I met more people that I can even remember. Ben met siblings of his Lolo and his Lola. He met aunts, cousins, friends of the family, etc. It was crazy in a good way. I do have to say though, being there reminded me of my trips to China, driving through the countryside, looking at these homes and wondering "I wonder who lives there, what is their life like?". I never, in a million years, thought I would be part of a family that lived just like that, in a place just like that. What a strange, but amazing sensation. The world is a small place.

Laguna is beautiful. We went between the two towns of Pakil (sp?) where Max lives and the funeral "activities" were taking place and Pangil which is where Ben's mom's family lives. The towns are just a few minutes from each other via trike or jeepney so we got to spend plenty of time with both sides of the family. It is very beautiful there with rice fields, a lake, hills and mountains and just a lot of breezy, fresh air. It was a nice change from the city and truly reminded me a lot of parts of my mission. We spent time with the family, but also got to spend time just walking through the town, taking pictures of the landscape and just relaxing. We spent the nights at the home where Ben was actually born (forgot to take a picture of the room where his mom gave birth to him). They have a great room upstairs with air conditioning and I was so grateful for that. The toilet didn't have running water, so we would have to take a bucket and dump water into the toilet to "flush" it. That was fun:). There was also no hot water, so cold showers it was. The funny thing was, with all the sweating I did over those few days, a cold shower felt great. We did see a few critters inside and outside of the house, but for the most part is was very comfortable and we very much enjoyed our stay.

The funeral took place on Friday morning. It was an interesting experience for me since it was all in Tagalog. I have learned a few words here and there, but 2 hours of straining to hear a word here and there that I understood was difficult. Ben's dad actually "attended" the funeral and even shared a few words through skype. What a long way we have come to have someone in Oregon literally watch live a funeral going on in a small provincial town in the Philippines. I did find out that Ben's grandpa had been a huge part of the growth of the church in that area. The church building where the funeral took place was beautiful, up to date, air conditioned and proof of the strength of the church there. After the funeral we left the church and followed the hearse to the cemetary. The "best" part was that the hearse was blaring top 40 music as it drove up to the church. Filipinos like their loud music. Luckily, Ben's uncles were able to convince them that it wasn't really appropriate for the occasion and they turned it off for the walk to the cemetary. It was very hot and the cemetary is on the top of a huge hill, so by the time we got up to his "plot" I thought I was going to pass out. This poor little white girl is just not used to that. The best part was there were old women there (like in the 80's) practically running up the hill ahead of me. There are definitely perks to the hard lifestyle they live here, they are tough and in great shape! Ben was honored to be able to dedicate the grave, a service that both his dad and his brother Cowdery were able to witness via skype. He did a wonderful job. Part of what we know as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is that because of our Savior we will each be resurrected and our spirits will be reunited with our bodies at the resurrection. Because of this, a special part of the funeral and burial process is the dedication of the grave. The purpose of this is to dedicate and consecrate the burial plot as the resting place for the body of the deceased and also to pray that the place may be hallowed and protected until the resurrection. Ben was nervous about this part because in the Philippines you don't necessarily "own" your burial plot, but in a lot of cases you "rent" it so he wasn't sure he really could ask that the place be hallowed and protected. But, when he said his prayer he included everything and afterwards he came over to me and said "He will be protected and his body will be fine". I could tell he felt very strongly when he said those words, that the place would be hollowed and protected that it really would be. If I could explain to you the state of the graves and the cemetary and how they were just not well take care of, stones and rocks overturned, grass growing over everything, people eating their lunch on top of peoples graves, etc I think it was a great comfort to everyone there to feel that comfort that came from his prayer.

On Saturday we left Laguna and drove into Manila. It was a beautiful mountain drive, but the road was way too twisty and turny for me. I am not one to get motion sickness, but I really was so close to being sick by the time we arrived. There was a lot of traffic in Manila and we didn't get to see a lot of the city. But our hotel was close to Manila Bay and most importantly we spent time at the Mall of Asia (haha). It is the BIGGEST mall ever. We even got a lost a couple of times. It was a fun night because we got Wendy's, Dairy Queen, Krispy Kreme and Red Mango and went to see an IMAX movie. We also thoroughly enjoyed the hot shower and flushing toilet in our hotel. We were happy to come home on Sunday but so glad for the experience we had in Laguna and looking forward to our next visit.

I posted all of my pictures on facebook, go check them out here. I really don't want to post more pictures, this post is already VERY long!

3 comments:

Valerie Mom said...

I loved hearing about your visit with Ben's family. Even though funerals are hard, they certainly give us opportunities to see family that we may not take the chance to see otherwise. It was fun hearing about the house you stayed in. You didn't tell me that Ben was born there. Kind of cool. Keep writing. We love to hear all about the Philippines.

Jenny Lynes said...

Carmen! I am so glad you posted that! I loved reading it and picturing you at the funeral and meeting Ben's family! That really must have been amazing. It made me glad for many things - but mostly the gospel! Loved hearing about Ben dedicating the grave too!

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