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Monday, September 26, 2011

Week 48: Military choppers and french fries

Posing with a Philippine Blackhawk helicopter.

What a week! This was a pretty legit week. Without further adieu ... here it goes.

On Monday, right after we got done with the computer, we were headed home and then a Blackhawk military helicopter (and another smaller helicopter) landed in the field right in front of our house. I guess there was a storm so they had to land. I am pretty sure a Blackhawk can handle a little storm, but whatever. Anyway, the helicopter pilots were way cool. They let everyone take pictures and stuff. They also said the helicopter belonged to the Philippines because the president of the United States gave it to them as a present back in the 1990's ... So that was cool.

Tuesday was Zone Conference in Santiago. It was very motivational and had lots of good food as always. The theme of all the training lately seems to be about becoming a "Preach My Gospel" missionary and planning and studying and listening to the spirit more. They used a talk by Elder Bednar at the last mission president's seminar at the MTC. The coolest part is every companionship in the entire mission got DVD PLAYERS and the Preach My Gospel DVDs! It's pretty sweet. Seems like it could be a big temptation to some of the, um, less committed missionaries (especially with DVDs at every market for pocket change). Anyway it's pretty cool.

Wednesday and Thursday were pretty normal. We have been focusing on the people that are getting baptized this week, making sure they are ready and excited and all!

Then on Friday everything went awesome. In the morning and afternoon, we worked in a neighborhood we haven't gotten to work in that much. We followed up on this family we taught last week and only the twenty-something-year old girl was there, so we were kinda disappointed because we couldn't teach. So we were just talking to her and she hadn't read either so we were kinda bummed out. But when we were about to leave, she told us she doesn't believe in God because if God was real, her mother wouldn't have died a few years ago. Then we both testified that God does love her and that she will see her mother again. The spirit was so strong and she felt it. We taught her how to pray and committed her try praying later that day.

It was a cool experience and she really seemed touched. I was just thinking right after about how great and joyful the message of the gospel really is. The gospel answers and solves so many problems in life and I know that the gospel of Jesus Christ is truly on the earth today. I know that in my mind and I feel it is true in my heart, too. It is so great to be able to share with the people that God does live, that he does care and that does listen to and answer every child's prayer.

After that, we went and taught this inactive part-member family. I can't really figure out what to do. They know the church is true and what they need to do to become happy. They just don't want to do it. They are super nice though and they made french fries for us. They were definitely the best french fries I've had in the Philippines.

Baptism day!!! From L to R: Lolo Calica (74), Elder Fantony, Lola Calica (70-ish), their friend Sister Bambico (old too), Sister Emma (48), Jenine's brother (baptizer), Sister Jenine (15), Elder Griffin and, in front, the little girl, Nica (9) -- and an unidentified kid.

Later that day we went to the church and got things ready for the baptism. Except for a stubborn printer and not being able to get the programs out right, the baptism went awesome! They all had great feelings after and they all bore great testimonies after.

Lolo Calica might have made the biggest change and had the coolest testimony. I just remember when we first went, he didn't want to hear anything from the Book of Mormon and had almost an argumentative spirit. But we got him to start reading – and the Book of Mormon converted him!

He has now finished the book of Alma and his grandchild said he prefers reading the Book of Mormon more than sleep (reminds me of a church movie, can't remember which one). He bore an awesome testimony about how his whole life he has been looking for the truth and now, at age 74, he finally found it. Unfortunately, I didn't understand most of it though, because it was about 90 percent Ilakano ... But that was the gist of it). It was really cool. And by the way, old people are hard to baptize.

Saturday in the morning they had "District Family Day" in Bambang. They had a service project (planting trees) and lots of food and stuff about eternal marriage and Family Home Evenings and stuff. The Calicas won a Bible and a triple for being the newest converts in attendance!

AJ with Elders (l to r) Fantony, Frythe and Castillo.

Sunday was pretty normal. Earlier today (Monday) we went to a waterfall, about an hour hike away in mountains in Aritao. It was all right. It was pretty hot and then on the way home it rained and we were just soaked from head to toe! Fun, eh?

So yeah, it was a great week! Transfers are coming on Thursday. We will find out on Tuesday if we have them or not so ... I don't know what's gonna happen. But one side note: Our investigator that dreamed that two Americans would come teach her about Jesus Christ said she just had a dream the other day that I would be transferred to Isabella. I guess we'll see if her dream turns about to be prophetic again.

Hiking to the waterfalls on P-day

I love you family! Thanks for the emails and the prayers and for everything you've done for me these 20 years! It been a great 20 years and I am so thankful to have parents that love me and are followers of Jesus Christ.

Fight the Good Fight!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Week 47: Spider wars!

Email conversation between Aj and his dad at about midnight Utah time (about 2 p.m. Monday in the Philippines). If you'd like to email AJ, the address is

AJ: Wazzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz upppppppppppppp!!!!!!!!!!
DAD: Hey Monkey man! How's the tropics?
AJ: Still hot and rainy! How's my beloved St. George? I'll tell you Dad, you don't miss what ya got till its gone! St. George is the Bomb!
DAD: Yeah, although it's still plenty hot here. I've done games in Manti and Cedar the last two weeks and it was nice to cool down.

AJ: Nice! Football! All the people that like football got transferred, so no no one will play. Also, you can tell Brother Balaich that Batud fever has infected the whole zone again.
DAD: Batud? Is that like bad attitude?
AJ: Ha no... Batud is a part of Banaue that is supposed to be really awesome and have like a huge waterfall and stuff. But the problem is, to get to it you have to leave at 3 or 4 a.m. and you don't get back til 9 o'clock at night. When Elder Balaich and I were comps we saw like the whole zone go and then they weren't able to work on Monday and were like wasted all week and had to email on Tuesday and all this stuff. It's just not worth it. And zone activities aren't allowed. So yeah, we didn't go. But almost the whole zone went again today. It would be cool to go, but it's not worth it and definitely not allowed. Yeah, so you can just tell him Batud fever infected the whole zone again.
DAD: Ah, well sounds like a looooong trip. How'd the baptisms turn out?
AJ: Thats still coming up this Saturday. Last Saturday was their interviews and they all passed! There might be a problem with one of the baptisms. It turns she has been married twice and (apparently you can do that in the Philippines). But she lives alone now, so I don't know what that means. If she does get baptized, she can't ever have a boyfriend or get married again. Oh by the way, did I tell you it is nearly impossible to get a divorce in the Philippines?
DAD: So she never got divorced. She is still married twice?
AJ: Yeah, she is legally married to two dudes and has been seperated from one for 30 years and the other for like a year. I talked to the AP's last night. They're supposed to ask President Carlos. She actually passed the interview and then last night we were doing the paperwork and we got to the spouse part and I was like, “Uh-oh. That might be problem.” The APs haven't called back yet so we are waiting.
DAD: I guess every country is different, but that would definitely not fly here in the USA. Maybe they have a statute of limitations and she is somehow civilly divorced. At least from the first one.
AJ: Well supposedly for the Philippines, if you haven't seen the person for a number of years than you can get married again to someone else. That definitely doesn't fly for the church though. I think she can get baptized still, but she definitely can't ever have a husband again. We'll see what President says. Her life was really a mess though. She had 2 other dudes she made kids with and she has 11 total kids scattered across the Philippines. In the Philippines, the family is not usually very intact at all.
DAD: Big spider. Is it poisonous?
AJ: I don't know but Elder Fantony isn't scared of it. I learned a new game. Apparently everyone who ever had a childhood in the Philippines plays it. You catch a spider, put in a match box for like 2 or 3 days. Your buddy gets one too. Then after 3 days you wake them up and then they fight each other. It's sweet. On the stick it's like Spiderman: they get knocked off and then they catch themselves with a web and get back up. If they are hungry enough, the winner will supposedly eat the loser. Anyway that is our spider fight earlier today. My spider got dominated. Mine is the little one. The spider is just about to deliver the final deadly blow.
DAD: Spider wars. huh? I think Michael Vick went to prison for doing that with dogs – HAHA. I guess with no football, you have to find something to entertain. Looks like some good junk food, too.
AJ: The milk and Oreos and peanut butter are from my 10 dollars of mad money at Save More! Thanks Ben and Laura! And I made cheesy potatoes with that cheez mix you gave me!
DAD: Remember Tyler Warhurst? Saw him today. He spoke at church. He went to the Caribbean. He said they are all 5-9 and brown and he is 6-5 and very white. Reminded me of you!
AJ: I don't really remember him. I know his name, but I cant remember the face.
DAD: BTW, Cowboys won today. Beat SF in overtime, Romo played great, even though he broke a rib in the 1st quarter.
AJ: What a stud! Cock fighting is huge in the Philippines, too. Almost every town has a big cockfighting arena. I wish they would just build a grass field instead. Oh, yeah, grass fields are almost impossible to find in the Philippines. They would rather plant rice fields I guess. The church has a really small grass field and that's it. There is nowhere nice to play.
DAD: They don't do parks there at all? What about at the schools?
AJ: No parks. The schools are tiny. I think they just think a grass field is a waste of money. That's why they don't play soccer or football.
DAD: I guess you gotta feed those 12 million people or whatever it is there. How big is Aritao (# of people)?
AJ: I don't know. It seems like a lot. I'll try and find out. I know Tuguegarao was supposed to have 200,000 people and it was probably in a smaller area than Aritao. It was crowded and polluted over in Tuguegarao.
DAD: Too bad you can't stay up there in Aritao in the mountains for the rest of your time. I guess there are others out there you need to find though.
AJ: Yeah, I don't know what the Lord has in mind, but I kind of think I am gonna be transferred soon. Whatever happens though, I am happy! All right, I am headed out!
DAD: OK , be good, love u.

Merry Christmas!!!

Yeah, so the Philippines is starting to get amped for Christmas already. Starting to see Christmas lights and like 6 people have said Merry Christmas to us. And you thought Walmart started early with the Christmas buzz!

So another great week here in the Philippines. The rice fields are almost all harvested and not as pretty anymore, but the harvest of men here is plentiful!

We had 6 investigators get interviewed for baptism this past Saturday and they all passed. So if we don't have any problems, we will have 6 baptisms this Saturday: A husband and wife in their 70s (the husband is a former Barangay Capt. and ex-Jehovah's Witness, too!); Their friend Beth (also in her 70's); then Sister Emma (about 50); Sister Janine (15), and Sister Nika (9). So we are really excited and have a busy week and a lot of work ahead of us!

Tomorrow we have Zone Conference in Santiago and we think the Elder's Quorom president is going to give us a ride because he is going to Isabella tomorrow too. Yeah, a real car! And there is always good food at zone conference, so we are excited!

I was just thinking the other day how awesome my mission has been so far and all the things I have learned so far as well. It's crazy. I've learned a new language, how to be a lot more patient, so much about the gospel and lots of other things. Even how to tie a tie good! I have a ton more to learn and I know that if I wasn't on a mission, I would be missing out on so many blessings, so many experiences and so much happiness. The mission is awesome!

I am thankful to be on a mission and I don't know a lot of things, but I do know that this church and this gospel is
 true. I know that Jesus Christ lives and that he has a living prophet on the earth today. I know that this is the only way to be happy – by living the gospel!

Love You!

Now some Q & A
  1. Is it getting hotter or cooler there now? We are starting to cool down.
    It's been about the same, if not hotter since I have been in Aritao. All the people say that's kind of weird because it's supposed to really be cooling down here in the mountai
    ns of Viscya.
  2. Do you have many return missionaries around?
    There are 2 brand new RMs from Guam in our branch. They have been home for about a month. They are pretty legit and pretty cool. I think they must be really good at English, too, but they are either too humble or shy or something, cuz they always speak Tagalog to me.
  3. You ever get American visitors?I saw quite a few (like once a week) in Tuguegarao. But I haven't seen an American here in a long time.
  4. Tell us a little more about Elder Fontany.
    He is hard-working and pretty funny. He dances a little too much, but I guess everyone has their thing. He is cool.
  5. What is school like there? Do they go to high school and everything?
    High school is ages 12-16. They wear uniforms every day, too. They also have to call their teachers Sir or Madam. It's kind of funny – our branch president is a teacher -- the kids sometimes accidentally call him Sir Marlon. Also, like everyone in Aritao that has graduated in the last 15 years knows Sir Marlon – haha.
  6. Halloween is coming up. Do they celebrate it?
    I don't know. They sure are amped already for Christmas, though.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Week 46: Baptisms and the All American Rejects

Think he cleared that mountain?
AJ: Tao Po!
DAD: Hola Hijo!
AJ: How's life? Did the Cowboys win? BYU?
DAD: You haven't read my letter yet, have you?
AJ: OK, I read it now. I hadn't gotten to it yet. That's too bad. All heartbreakers, it sounds like.
DAD: Cowboys blew it late. BYU lost. Pine View lost. Rough weekend for your brothers around here.
AJ: That's too bad.
DAD: My fantasy team won. So that's something. Still great to be in football season! Losing sucks though. Tony Romo did his usual choke job with a late fumble and interception after playing great game early.
AJ: We didn't have any transfers. Baptism went great here. And all 6 scheduled are looking great for the 24th of September. Oh man, this is torture. The computer shop girl is blasting All American Rejects ... I MISS MUSIC!!!
DAD: Hasn't been much good new music. Lots of Lady Gaga and J-Lo and Pink and that crap that your mom and sisters like. Journey has a new album out with a different singer. Just not the same w/o Steve Perry, but the one single (City of Hope) is pretty good.
AJ: Oh man, sometimes I hear some Journey or Eagles or something. I forget about them most of the time. It's gonna be so awesome rediscovering all that great music again when I go home. Now she is listening to Thriller.
DAD: Sometimes it's hard to believe you are halfway around the world ... and then I see a pic of you and grass huts and stuff. BTW, you didn't let the greenie dunk your baptism?
AJ: Man, that's not my fault. I told him to. He said he didn't want to though. He was like, “Just ask and see who she wants.” And they always pick the American. I am gonna make him do the six on the 24th though.
DAD: All of them? You should share, maybe. Six in one day would be amazing though.
AJ: Yeah, when we were setting up all the dates, I didn't think all of them would make it. But they all are doing pretty awesome. The old grandpa is in Alma already. The old lady has quit coffee and NGA (like red chewing tobacco – only in the Philippines). The little kid's (Nika, 9) family started coming to church with her the past few weeks. Emma (the nanay) is doing awesome, quit coffee and has lots of friends at church. And the teenage girl, Janine (15) finally started going to seminary. She said after her first time going to seminary, “Oh Elder, seminary is actually fun.” I have been telling her to go to seminary for 2 months now. And she wore a skirt to church, which is a big deal because for some reason all the girls here really hate wearing skirts. So yeah, we have been teaching them all for a really long time, so I think there shouldn't be any problem on the interview.
DAD: Great pix, by the way. Wish I had some good ones to send back. Did I tell you we made 12 X 18 posters of your painting and your bridge shot and my Mustang and put them on the wall in the man cave?

Elder Fontany and Elder Griffin in Aritao.

AJ: Yeah, I heard you made posters, but I didn't know that big. You should send me some pics of the man cave. I haven't actually seen it finished yet.
DAD: Just 12 inches by 18 inches, so not too huge. But we are still looking for a good couch for in there that fits around that funny corner. Just have two D.I. Chairs …
AJ: I am getting a sweet picture made of the family made by that same artist dude. I saw it, he is almost done. Its pretty dang legit. He is pretty talented. He is way smart, too. We were talking about 10 tribes of Israel and stuff on some of our first visits. He won't really progress though. I think he thinks the Book of Mormon is just coming from the Bible. We left the story of Alma getting him and the believers out of bondage and then he was reading Mosiah. And he said the Alma story was just like Moses and that Mosiah couldn't have known that much detail about Christ. We were like, “He is prophet though,” and showed him Mosiah 8:16-17. We told him prophets can know pretty much everything. He just needs to read the BofM. I think he is going about it the wrong way, like it kind of seems like he wants to prove it wrong. I don't know...
DAD: Needs more of an open mind and heart. Hey, we are getting rained on for the first time in a couple months – lots of thunder and lightning, too.
AJ: Oh man. Yeah, it gets way hot here and then rains pretty much every day. It's pretty wacky weather. I think someone stole my umbrella at church yesterday. Then a big storm hit and I had this tiny lousy umbrella that I borrowed. Oh well, it was fun. Man, I don't have much to say in my letter this week. You'll have to include those things I wrote earlier. Sorry I don't have too much to say.
DAD: It's OK. Did you remember it is the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Hard to believe it's been 10 years. Everyone was sad, but resolved to be strong today. You out? Love you tons, son!
AJ: Yeah, gotta run. Love ya! Get some sleep, Dad!


Hey family,
No transfers (yey!). But it's going to be just a short 3 week transfer. I think the MTC Philippines (in Manila) is remodeling or something like that.

The Elders with new convert Sis. Maryann Neito.
Anyway, this was a great week that culminated with a great baptism. Sister Maryann Neito is now a member of the true church! It has been awesome to see her change as it took a long time back in the day to get her to come to church. And now she has been the like 30 minutes early to church the past few weeks and her testimony has really grown.

Work is great here in Aritao and things are really looking great for the baptisms on the 24th. Everyone is doing awesome and building testimonies!

Pretty normal week, just finding and teaching and working! Life is pretty awesome! This week we will just be getting people ready for interviews on Saturday!

Oh yeah, and yesterday I did remember Sept. 11. I remember I went to school and the TV was on in the classroom (we never watched TV at school so we were way surprised) and then I remember seeing all that horrible stuff that had happened. That was a sad day. I love America.

Sorry I don't have too much to say, but life is great. I am happy and the work is awesome and Aritao is beautiful. For sure the church is true and Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God! I am so thankful to have been raised with this knowledge and so blessed to have such great parents!

Love ya!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Week 45: Football season here, but it's baptism season in Aritao

AJ: Magandang gabi po!
DAD: Hey, what the crap does that mean?
AJ: Hahahahhahaha ... means good evening.
DAD: Well then magandang gabi po to you too, son. And que paso, mi porqueto hijo?
AJ: Now what the crap does that mean? By the way President Carlos is so cool. Yesterday in church he texts us and says, “Hey, a good number to remember is 1413. And i was like what the crap?! I said, “Umm, ok, what does that mean? He said, “Oh. I just thought you would like the numbers 14 13.” So seriously, sitting in priesthood meeting it took me like 5 minutes to figure out. Then I was like, ah man, Jimmer stats? What? Then I finally figured it out that BYU's first game was probably right now. I couldn't remember who they were playing, though. But he told me. He also told me TCU lost and Notre Dame lost. Cool eh?
DAD: Means "What's happening, my little boy?" Yeah BYU moved the ball a lot, but didn't score much.
AJ: Does Jake Heaps still suck?
DAD: I know you were gone, but he was really good the second half of last season. He was decent, but not superb, Saturday against Mississippi.
AJ: Man, when I left he sucked!
DAD: I wrote the report card story on the Utes game for the Desnews.  Man, Jordan Wynn is the one who sucks. He was terrible.  His longest pass was fifteen yards.
AJ: They played a 1-AA team, didn't they?
DAD: Yeah, Montana State. They won by seventeen. Not impressed.
AJ: That's pretty pathetic. Did you get the pics I emailed just now?
DAD: Yep, just got them (our email is kinda screwy tonight). Looking good, man. You having fun?
AJ: Siympre! For sure! I cant believe I am 10 months now! Pretty soon I'll hit one year.
DAD: Yeah, that's pretty cool. Crystal Turner comes home this week, so we will just have you and Jared Turner out from our ward until Keenan goes in January.
AJ: Cool, well we are headed out! Can you check again about Stephen Anderson. Maybe on Facebook for what mission he is in. (Anyone reading this blog that knows what mission Stephen Anderson is serving in, please email me:
DAD: Cool, love you.
AJ: Oh and tell Sister Buatte I got her Dear Elder and thanks! Also, I got a Dear Elder from Elder Balaich. Tell him thanks as well and that I sent him something that one of our investigators gave him, as well as a letter from me.
DAD: K, Have a good week!


Isn't that supposed to say "Tootsie Roll?"
Hey Family!
Another great week here in Aritao! Things are looking really great with investigators and lots of people came to church this week. We will have a baptism of Nanay Neito (a referral) this weekend. With transfers this week, one of us might not be there. And on the 24th it is looking really promising for 6 baptisms!

If things go right this old couple (referral also) will be baptized. It's been way cool to see their change. At first I thought we would never be able convert them because the wife has a really hard time understanding (not the language, but the gospel) and the husband just wanted to argue the first few times we visited with them. But the husband is already to Alma reading the Book of Mormon. In the past when we would teach he would say "Where is that in the Bible?" Now he says, "Ah, where is that in the Book of Mormon?" Cool eh? And then if we say that Joseph smith said something or Thomas S. Monson said something (for instance: tithing, Word of Wisdom or reading every day) he says, "Oh tama, propeta ng panginoon iyan!" or "Ah, that's right, that is a prophet of the lord!" Also, the wife's friend will be baptized, too. She has always been listening as well. So we have seen a huge change in brother and now for the past few weeks he has been the first one except President Orlanda to church and he sets up chairs.

I have really gained a testimony about how doctrine understood really changes behavior. In my own life and in the lives of our investigators. When we really understand the WHY it makes following the gospel so much easier. I think the same is applicable in the family, in classes we might teach at church, or with any gospel principle. If an investigator really understands that Joseph Smith is a prophet, then they don't worry about why coffee or tea is not allowed.

Another investigator, Emma (the lady me and Elder Balaich met in the palengke, then she went to church immediately) is doing awesome. She is so nice and tries to give us food every time we visit her. Her faith is awesome though. She several times told her boss that she was going to church whether he liked or not and now she quit that job and works at a different place where she can listen to us whenever and go to church. We taught her fasting on Friday and she fasted this Sunday, no questions asked. It reminds me of when the Savior said "No greater faith have I seen in all of Israel." She really has given up everything since we have started teaching her and followed every commandment and teaching! No greater faith have I seen in all the Philippines!

Finally, on the 24th as well will be baptized Jenine Sangil (a 15-year old girl, teenager, that we have been teaching for a really long time) and Nika (a 9-year old girl that we have been teaching her family and trying to get them to come back to church). They finally came to church as a family yesterday, so that was super cool!

Well, running out of time. Love you all. I know the gospel is true and that every sacrifice made is worth it to live the gospel! We are so lucky to know of the truth and know the formula of happiness! The Book of Mormon is awesome! Don't let a day go by without opening it and reading it!

Love you!

1. How are your shoes holding up? Do we need to send more? Pretty ok! Hopefully not!

Looks like he could be in Utah ...

2. What's the scuttlebutt on transfers? Heard any rumors? Haven't really heard anything either way. Hopefully we can stay together at least for the next 3-week long transfer!
3. Something small will fit in the envelope when we send the magazines … what do you want? Probably Chocolate!

4. Ben and Laura wanted to know if you could use an American $10 bill. We told them to put it in your account. So what will you buy with $10 of mad money? Probably food! Oh, I think I need to go to Save More and buy the bratwurst! Thank you Ben and Laura. Also, thank you Grandpa and Grandma Laurito for the birthday money as well! And Grandpa and Grandma Griffin for helping every month!
5, Are the rice fields always flooded? When is harvest? Yeah pretty much always. People said every 3 months is harvest.
6. Grandpa Griffin wants to know if there are any cool geologic formations or if you've seen any fossils. I guess everything is covered in vegetation, so it's hard to tell, eh? Yeah, I forgot all that geology stuff anyway. Sorry!