we're on a boat

  The white, 11 passenger van pulled up in front of the 7-11 at the plaza around 3am.  None of the stores around had opened yet, people were still asleep, but the driver opened the door to find an 84 year old nanay already waiting on the bench nearby.  She had a flashlight in one hand, a sweater on her shoulders, and her temple recommend in the other hand.  She was ready and waiting.

One by one, everyone showed up and piled into each seat in the van.

Right after this picture their bed broke.
Jackie and Rachel woke up to a cell phone ringing, letting them know that they were the last ones the group was waiting for.  With no time to shower or cook rice for their kids to go to school, they pulled on skirts, grabbed their temple recommends from the shelf next to the bed, and ran all the way to the plaza.  

The van finally pulled out of the lot around 4:30am, completely full of still half-asleep Filipinos, but wide-eyed in anticipation for the day.  There was a orange-red sun that filled the entire sky, and was just starting to come up behind them, almost waving goodbye.  Kids were waking up for school, store owners were sweeping their sidewalks, and 11 recent coverts from Guagua started the trip to Quezon City, Manila.

They were off to storm the temple.

It was a 4 hour ride, with no air-conditioning on a day that managed to reach a cool 96 degrees outside.  Because they were the last one to arrive earlier that morning, Jackie and Rachel were stuck in the back, where Tatay Guanlao kept teasing them and telling jokes that made no sense.  The only other loud voice came from all the way in the front.  Sister Abella was naming names and passing back blue and pink temple cards to each person in the van.  The only other thing to really pass the time was think about what was waiting for them, and what they would be doing with those colored cards once they got to the temple.
a windstorm

It was everyone's first time making it to the temple, and when the van finally made it, everyone piled out with mouths open, admiring the size of the big white building in front of them.  They weren't sure what to do, but lots of nice old people soon came out to greet them and showed them inside.  

Each had brought with them a newly signed temple recommend, that they gladly, proudly showed to the man in front.  One by one they went in, names in hand.

Dressed in all white, each member was able to do baptisms for the dead.  Some baptized parents, grandparents, children, and cousins.  Guagua branch was able to complete over 100 colored cards in that day, each one representing a family member receiving the gospel.  

Nanay Espiranza (my favorite 84 year old nanay) went into the water to be baptized for her mother.  When they read the first name (which wasn't her mother) she protested, and proclaimed, even in English, "That's NOT my mother!"  The same with the second and third names, until the fourth where she refused to go on until she heard the name of her mother.  Her mother's name was finally read, and a big, big smile came to nanay's face as she went down in the water and came up crying.  
my favorite grandmas here

She then exclaimed "It's just one more step until I get to heaven!"  All the temple workers were a little surprised at the sudden loud voice from a very small lady:).  

Guagua branch was at the temple all day, but it came to an end as they all piled back into the big white van that would take them back.  Everyone was so sad to leave, all promising to find more names so that they could come back again someday.  

The van was silent the whole trip home, still full of 11 Filipinos, now asleep, that were tired from a long trip.  Sister Abella still sat in the front (our family history consultant) and sorted all the now complete pink and blue name cards that the temple workers had given back to her.  

my grandchild (the trainee of my trainee)
Jackie and Rachel walked home after the trip, tired but happy.  They turned the corner and found the sister missionaries coming from the opposite direction, who got big smiles and ran towards them, asking question after question about the trip.  They asked about every detail, every person that went, until they had asked every question they could think of.  

I'm so grateful to have been put in this branch, and to see the people I love finally make it to the temple.  It was so cool to see them go through each step before getting to this point.  Finding ancestors, visiting cemeteries, figuring out how to work a computer, and becoming worthy to receive a temple recommend.  

The temple is definitely where it's all at!!!!




I always have great stories to tell you, and then the week (or sometimes month) goes by and I still haven't told you it.  But going back to Halloween, we totally had it Filipino style here.  Halloween here is actually on November 1st, and it's called All Saints Day.  As their version of trick-or-treating, the Filipinos spend the whole day in the cemetery sitting next to their dead ancestors and partying.  It's like a big family reunion in the cemetery, how fun does that sound!  People go home to their hometowns, and as you're maybe realizing, no one is home.  No. One.  For the missionary, All Saints Day becomes more like a No Work Day.  We walked, and walked, and walked, and walked, aaaaaand waaaaaalked (there's the reference to the primary song).  When it got dark, we finally got to go home, because everyone starts drinking, and had a cute American style halloween party.  Maybe you saw it in one of the pictures I sent.  I was a gypsy, Sister Bautista was a flamingo, and there was a pumpkin and 80's girl too.  We played stupid games, made videos that have absolutely no point (I've gotten really good at that), and ate no food because it was fast Sunday.  Ha.  

And that was how we spent the week before transfers.  We also called it a transfer party, because everyone made bets I was transferring.  I even made bets that I was transferring!  Transfers came, transfers went.  I'm excited to still be here in Guagua, after I had been here for 6 months I figured an extra month and a half can't make that much of a difference.  I asked president if there was a reason he didn't transfer me.  All he said was "revelation."  But I figured that seemed like a pretty good answer too.  
ice bucket challenge

We went to visit a less-active yesterday who we hadn't been to in a couple months.  She opened the gate and was really surprised when she was us.  I thought she was going to tell us to come back another day, but the first things that came out of her mouth was "I thought you moved Sister Taylor!"  And I wanted to reply, "They said it was revelation....", but instead we just laughed and she fed us spaghetti.

our companionship shirts
But I've gotten unmeasurably close to the branch in the time that I've been here.  We had a service project at the branch president's house last week and pulled all the weeds out of their yard.  It was more like digging in the sand though.  We worked (and got really tan) for a couple hours.  And then ran through rice fields, had a water fight, carried Sister Bautista around in the wheelbarrow, and ate cow tongue that they cooked.  Yummmmmy.  You'll get to meet them when you come, I love their family.  But they won't feed you cow tongue:)

service project
When you come, it will probably still be just as hot as ever here in Guagua.  Some things just never change.  Even in eight months.  We didn't get any rain this season and I think last week we had straight 90's.  Are you ready for that?  Or a better question, am I ready for winter in America?  No.

I slowly am starting to think more about coming home.  Sister Malig in our branch here has a daughter coming home tomorrow from the San Pablo Philippines mission and I was talking to her about it yesterday.  She said she can't sleep anymore from counting down the hours, and just keeps thinking of all the things she'll cook when her daughter gets home.  Her daughter sent a backpack home last week to them and Sister Malig told me the minute she opened she started crying (on the crowded bus) because it smelled like her daughter.  I could relate, and thought it might be a little bit of what you guys are feeling.  




we tried to make our hair curly
 I'm proud to say that I'm (very rushed) in writing my email from the very heart of Metro Manila!!!!!!!  I laughed too when I emailed you guys all last night from the mission home, and figured I would get a good reaction.

FHE before our investigators
(that were going to be baptized)
left to work in manila
And I'm totally joking, I'm still in Guagua.  Transfers came and went, and nothing came or went for Sister Taylor.  I will be finishing out my fifth and final transfer there before I take the first flight home to 'merica.  I've been there seven and a half months now.... But I have become pretty boss in speaking Kampampangan to most people here.  

But... I really am in Manila right now.  We got here around 5am this morning after taking 2 jeepney rides, 3 bus rides, and a van, all of which induced a good kick of car sickness.  Why am I here?  


We got a call Saturday night around 11pm (we were asleep at the apartment) telling me to pack my bags, pick another sister and travel to the mission homeSunday afternoon.  All the missionaries going home this transfer (9 sisters, no elders) were going to take a wild one day trip to the international immigration offices in Manila to get fingerprints and have our passports released.  We got about 3 hours of sleep Saturday night, and haven't had sleep since.  Traveling to Manila was brutal (like, who wants to ride winding roads with crazy bus drivers in the wee hours of the morning?), but we got here and after around 4 hours of lines, interviews, and paperwork, I'm allowed to come home!

I know, what a big relief, right?

And now we may have gotten a little lost trying to find this computer shop in the middle of the biggest city in the Philippines, and might have a really hard time later finding the bus station again.  You'll see next week if we managed to find our way home again.  But in the meantime, I got to eat a real, bean and chicken burrito earlier for the first time in a year and a half:)

travel plans!!!!!
The only other time I've seen Manila was when we got picked up outside the airport to go to our mission the first time.  That was almost a year and a half ago and the place is still as dirty and crowded as ever.  I had really strange flashbacks to when we were all on the bus for the first time in the Philippines, freaking out because we had no idea where we are, where we were going, and nobody could figure out how to use the showers (in our defense, it's pretty much just a pipe sticking out of the wall).  But I love looking now to how far I've come, and realizing that I made it through all this:).

And all the 'lasts' are starting to pile up.  I am now in my last area (which is only the third), with my last companion (still with my lovely Sister Bautista), will go to my last MLC in a couple weeks, and started using my last planner last week in our weekly planning.  I have my departing missionary x-rays to give to the mission office!  It's just becoming more and more sure everyday. 

*secret- I can now count the weeks I have left on ONE HAND.  Wow.

alskpqoweiur;laksjdpoqwieu0u3ekdsjfkalsdruopqweifjal;sdkjmz,nlsdqpwoeirjkal;skdnav;oweirtaskldmfal;sekj <- that seems like a good expression of feelings

what my companion does
at night when she can't sleep
Funny Story: Sister Bautista and I left the apartment to go out to work in the afternoon, I asked her if she had the cell phone.  She said no and smiled, but I thought she was joking (our whole companionship is just a lot of strange and not really funny humor).  She asked me if I had the cell phone, of course I said no.  So I let it go, pretty positive that she really did have the cell phone (she always tells me she doesn't have the cell phone when she really does).  Later that night we went to call our investigator to tell her we were coming to visit and I asked to borrow the phone.  Sister Bautista said she didn't have it.  I was like "ya, that's a good joke, but I read you too well.  Just let me borrow the cell phone."  "No, I know you have the cell phone Sister Taylor.  You're awful at joking."  "I promise I don't have the cell phone..."  And we realized that neither of us really had the cell phone.  We had gotten so used to each other's really bad joking that neither of us had thought the other was serious.  But a day without the cell phone ultimately proved to be a peaceful workday with no one calling:).  

You'll find that my (kind of strange sometimes) sense of humor still hasn't changed too much.