Monthly Archives: March 2014

Birthdays –March 2, 2014

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Elder and Sister Hall, it is our daughter’s birthday. She is one year old. You will come to the party, okay?

Okay, we will be there.

A birthday requires food and lots of it. A large table was covered with delicacies of all kind.The centerpiece was special lechon, a whole roasted pig. After everyone filled their plates, the family requested a picture.

Before the previous couple missionaries went home, the family had prepared a special meal for them. The daughter had drawn pictures of all the members of the family to send home with the couple. Then she had drawn pictures of the elder and sister. She called the pictures the “flat Dovers,” after the book, “Flat Stanley.” The daughter brought out the “flat Dovers” to be in the picture.

 

March 4, 2014

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Sister Hall, I can’t find my slippers.

We walked out onto the porch and looked around.

Maybe they are under the box.

The young lady who helps in the house tipped the box while I looked underneath. Her “flip-flops” were there.

What is in the boxes?

Clothes and other things that have been donated to the mission. Sister Schmutz had them in her garage. She asked us if we could take them and get them to people need them. We what to sort them and decide what to do with them.

Can I sort them, please?

Of course.

When we returned from District Meeting, the living room floor ws covered with sacks neatly labeled with names. The young lady excitedly told us what she had found and who might need the things.

Can we deliver them now?

Right now?

Yes.

You only have an hour before you need to be at school.

It’s okay. I have time.

 

We drove to a nearby neighborhood and parked. She gave a bag to a young man holding a small child.

These are for your sister and her family. Will you take them to her?

The man smiled broadly.

Yes. Of course. Thank you so much, Elder and Sister Hall.

The things are not from us. They were donated to the mission. We are just the ones to deliver them.

Thank you so much, Elder and Sister Hall

As he walked towards the house, he called out to his sister.

Look what we have!

We walked down a narrow path into a neighborhood across the road.

Aayo!

We were invited into a house and asked to sit down. A young lady and her mother took some baby clothing from the sacks. They talked excitedly and smiled and exclaimed. It was like Christmas morning.

When is your baby coming?

In two months.

The mother-to-be smiled to herself as she smoothed the small shirts and pants and lovingly folded and refolded the clothing into small piles. It was the only clothing she had for the coming baby.

As we walked back up the path, our helper turned to smile at us.

Can we go some more places?

In another neighborhood we were invited back into a small room where a mother sat on the bed with her new baby. Her eyes widened in surprise at the package. She pulled the items out one by one and exclaimed over them. We exclaimed over the beautiful baby.

We stopped by a roadside tinedahan with another bag.

They have three little children.

We went through a neighborhood to the seashore. A bamboo hut perched on stilts over the edge of the seabed. A man repaired a boat at the edge of the water. Several small children eyed us curiously, then ran for their mother when they saw the sack.

Do they own the land where their house is?

No, they are squatters. They only get a little money when they can catch fish to sell.

Do they eat the fish?

No, they need money to buy rice.

When we walked back into our house, our young helper pulled a nice red blouse from the bags that had not yet been delivered.

Could I have this? It will be my birthday present.

When is your birthday?

March 21.

Will you get any other presents?
No.

 

March 7, 2014

The owner of our house had promised to have a water storage tank installed for our house. We made a trip to Cebu City to buy the tank and the fittings. After our errands were completed, we treated ourselves to lunch at McDonalds. We drove home over Manipis Road, the oldest road in Cebu.

When we arrived home, we found a small bouquet of baby red roses on the table, and a card on the refrigerator. Our helper gave me the handmade card and wished me a happy birthday.

You spent your money on a present for me?

Yes.

But you have so little.

It is okay, Sister.

I received many birthday greetings through the internet, but it was nice to have one with a personal touch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Valentines —February 22, 2014

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The first Valentine celebration was a Family Home Evening at our home with a few of the members of the branch. Sister Marz made buko juice and heart-shaped coconut-milk gelatin; and chicken curry with rice.We had a lesson and games and songs. And we had fun.

 

The second Valentines celebration was a “post-Valentines” celebration with the Young Single Adults. The celebration began with a text.

Elder Hall, will you attend our Valentines celebration? And will you give a short talk?

Of course, he agreed.

When arrived at the party, a sister approached us.

Elder Hall, we have changed our program. We will have the program first. Is that alright?

Yes.

We will start with the talks by you and Sister Hall. Is that alright?

Yes.

So she announced the program and both of us gave talks. The talks were followed by musical presentation, and games. The games were followed by food. The food was followed by more music. Then the lights dimmed.

The group looked up in surprise as a young man walked slowly across the floor of the large room.He walked to the young lady that he had been dating for some time, and led her out into the middle of the room. He took a bouquet of roses out from behind his back and presented them to her. He knelt down in front of her, then brought a microphone out from behind his back.

With genuine emotion, he asked her to be his wife. She gasped as he took a ring box from his pocket and opened it. Tears flowed from her eyes, and she could only nod her acceptance. As he stood, she buried her face in his shoulder to hide the tears, and held him for a long time.

We talked about temple marriage. The young couple demonstrated the love and commitment of temple marriage. They will go to the Cebu, Philippines temple in August, just after the one year anniversary of her baptism, and there, in the most beautiful setting imaginable, be sealed together as man and wife for time and for all eternity.

 

 

 

Become –February 15, 2014

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Elder Brent Nielsen of the First Council of th4 Seventy was the keynote speaker for the Cebu East Mission Conference held February 15, 2014.

He spoke about the redeeming and the enabling power of the Atonement. The redeeming power of the Atonement allows the forgiveness of sins, that we may move from bad to good. The enabling power of the Atonement is the grace, after all that we can do, that allows us to move from good to better to best. The enabling power gives us strength beyond our own to do more than we ever knew that we could do. It gives us the power to become.

Elder Nielsen was a busy, successful attorney before being called to be a General Authority of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He told of the first days after he was called to leave his practice and move his family to Salt Lake City, Utah.

He was shown to his office. It was between the offices of two the Twelve Apostles.

Well, at least I am in good company.

He sat at his desk and waited. After several hours, he called his secretary.

Do you know when I supposed to go for training?

No, sir. But I will check.

After a while the secretary returned.

Not yet, sir.

He waited at his desk for the rest of the day. When he returned the next morning, he asked if the secretary had heard anything.

No, sir.

Elder Nielsen again sat at his desk, At the end of the day, he went home, then returned again the next morning. Again he received the answer from the secretary.

Not yet, sir.

He sat alone in his office. Late in the day, he received a call to go for an interview with one of the senior Apostles.

You were an attorney before you came here.

Yes, sir.

You were busy every minute of the day, trying to fit in every important thing that needed to be done.

Yes, sir.

That is not the way we do it here.

The man across the desk paused. With a gentle smiles, he continued.

Your job is to fill your time with the things the Savior would do if He were here.

Your job is to become.

Elder Nielsen paused as he finished the story.

When you start college, you know that your goal is to graduate. What you don’t know is what you will learn, what you will become, along the way.

When you started this school called life, you knew your goal was to return to your Father in Heaven crowned with glory, and honor, and immortality, and eternal life. What you didn’t know was what you would learn, what you would become, along the way.

 

How do you become?

Make the same commitments that the newest investigator of the church makes.

Come to church each week.

Pray throughout each day.

Read and receive revelation through the scriptures.

Yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit.

Accept the redeeming and enabling power of the Atonement into your life.

When we become the person the Lord knows that we can become; when we become a person who will do anything He asks; then miracles will happen. And we will become the miracle that God intended for us to be.

 

What we achieve in this life is never as important as what we become.

 

 

Balwarte Park –February 12, 2014

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We enjoyed the pleasant tropical breeze as we stood on the hillside looking out over the sea.We were in a beautifully landscaped memorial called Balwarte Park. As we walked the tiled trails and enjoyed the tirred fountains, our guide commented on the sites.

 

They say that the bad spirits come to sit in that tree. See how it has roots that start any place on the tree and trail down to the ground?

See the lava cliffs? This would be a good place for rappelling.

This is where canons were mounted during World War II. The big one would have been there, to control the sea. A smaller one on that side could control the river.

The parapet here was built to protect the soldiers defending this hill.

 

The peaceful, pleasant park was not always peaceful or pleasant It seemed that we could imagine the ground stained with the blood of those who died there.

 

The Philippines was a major player in the Pacific Theater of World War II. The country’s strategic location in this part of Asia made the Philippines a ripe plum.

 

Only hours after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the Japanese also struck airbases in the American-held Philippines(around noon on December 8, local time). Caught by surprise, a majority of the military aircraft on the archipelago were destroyed during the Japanese air attack.

 

The Japanese followed their surprise air strike of the Philippines with a ground invasion. As the Japanese ground troops headed toward Manila, the capital, American and Filipino troops retreated. By December 22, 1941 they gathered in the more defensible Bataan Peninsula, located on the western side of the large island of Luzon in the Philippines.

 

Quickly cut off from food and other supplies by a Japanese blockade, the American and Filipino soldiers slowly used up their supplies. First they went on half rations, then third rations, then fourth rations. By April 1942, they had been holding out in the jungles of Bataan for three months and were clearly starving and suffering from diseases.

 

There was nothing left to do but surrender. General McArthur was ordered to Australia, leaving behind his famous promise: “I will return!” On April 9, 1942, U.S. General Edward P. King signed the surrender document, ending the Battle of Bataan. The remaining 72,000 American and Filipino soldiers were taken by the Japanese as prisoners of war (POW). Nearly immediately, the Bataan Death March began. After the 66-mile march, only 54,000 soldiers reached Camp O’Donnell

 

Japanese occupation of the Philippines was opposed by active and successful underground and guerrilla activity that increased over the years, and eventually covered a large portion of the country. The sacrifices and will of the people were a catalyst for the American return.

 

When General MacArthur returned to the Philippines with his army in late 1944, he was well supplied with information from the resistance groups. But the return was not easy. The Japanese Imperial General Staff decided to make the Philippines their final line of defense, and to stop the American advance toward Japan. They sent every available soldier, airplane, and naval vessel into the defense of the Philippines. The Kamikaze corps was created specifically to defend the Philippines.

 

Filipino guerrillas played a large role during the liberation. One guerrilla unit came to substitute for a regularly constituted American division, and other guerrilla forces of battalion and regimental size supplemented the efforts of the U.S. Army units. Moreover, the loyal and willing Filipino population immeasurably eased the problems of supply, construction and civil administration and furthermore eased the task of Allied forces in recapturing the country

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Fighting continued until Japan’s formal surrender on September 2, 1945. The Philippines had suffered great loss of life and tremendous physical destruction by the time the war was over. An estimated 1 million Filipinos had been killed from all causes; of these 131,028 were listed as killed in seventy-two war crime events. U.S. casualties were 10,380 dead and 36,550 wounded; Japanese dead were 255,795.

 

 

Joy in the Journey –February 7, 2014

island of Negros with inactive volcano back of the house (2)

We need to get the contract signed for the elder’s apartment here in Aloguinsan. Do you want to come?

Sure!

 

We had just moved the sisters into their apartment in Aloguinsan. The Zone Leaders had helped us, so now we piled into the pickup for the next item of business. We drove down by the ocean, and up a narrow, but paved, road along the hillside.

 

I think this is it.

 

We stopped in front of a red solid metal gate. The elders walked up to the gate and called. No answer. One of them partially opened the gate, stuck his head inside, and called. No answer. Some people walked by and a woman spoke to the elder. He hastily pulled his head back and shut the gate.

 

She says there are big dogs inside.

 

We waited. Then the elders called again. Still no one came. They called again. Finally a man opened the gate a little ways, and the elders talked to him. They motioned for us to come, and we entered the gate.

 

Passing through the gate was like passing into a different world. A quiet shaded path bordered with well planned tropical landscaping curved into the distance. No buildings were in sight until we rounded a curve, where an elegant white stuccoed two-story multiple-gabled mansion with red tile-like roof appeared.

 

We walked to the porch and called out. A young lady opened the door and motioned us into a dining room off the spacious foyer with parquet flooring of artfully designed  variegated woods.. An older woman stood up from a table in the large kitchen and greeted us.

 

I was just sorting some seeds. They are zinnias. I don’t know if they will grow in this country, but I want to try.

You have a beautiful place here.

Yes, it is beautiful, isn’t it? My daughter wanted me to build this house. She was going to come her to live. But she found someone, and is married now. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is a doctor, a psychiatrist.

 

The woman walked to a framed picture hanging on the wall.

 

My husband did this. It is a line drawing done in very fine ink. It is all faded now, but I keep it here because it reminds me of him. He was an orthopedic surgeon. He’s been gone a long time. He died almost sixteen years ago.

This is picture that I painted. The colors are very bright because it is of our sunset over the ocean. We can see the mountains of the island of Negros from here. See the volcano there? It is the highest one. On a clear day the view is spectacular. I can watch the moon at night over the water from my bedroom window.

Now you must eat with me.

No, no, you have to. It is already cooked.

We sat at the dining room table, and the house help graciously placed multiple plates of artfully prepared food in front of us.

The woman unwrapped sweet sticky rice wrapped in a piece of banana leaf.

You must eat this with chocolate. It is from our own trees here.

We sipped the thick, slightly bitter chocolate. It contrasted delightfully with the sweetened rice. We ate slowly, enjoying the company and the beautiful surroundings.

Would you like to see my place?

She led us down the hall from the the foyer. We saw book shelves with many medical books, and an open office area partially overhung with open intricate woodwork in the  vaulted ceiling.

I had forty men working for sixteen months on my house.

A small bedroom had a screened balcony with a view of the mountains past. We continued down the hall past a large beautifully tiled Comfort Room (bathroom).We stepped out onto the balcony adjoining the master bedroom to enjoy the quiet lapping of the ocean at the foot of the landscaped slope.

I am going to sell this place. It is just too much for me. I am all alone here. I miss my grandchildren. But when I am in Ohio I worry about my house here. I don’t know what to do. I am asking 12 million pesos. Maybe you would want to buy it?

We wish we could.

As we walked down the drive, she showed us some of her trees.

I have fourteen different kinds of mangos. Over here is the chocolate tree.

She asked the caretaker to climb the tree and get us a ripe pod.

You can suck the fruit off the seeds. Then you let the seeds dry in the sun. When they are ready, you can grind them for the chocolate.

Over here is jack fruit. It is very good to eat. Of course we have coconuts and bananas. And limes.

This plant is called bird’s nest. Do you like plants? I will have the caretaker dig one up for you to take to your home.

Thanks you. It has been a very pleasant afternoon.

Come back any time. I enjoy visiting with you.

 

It was a moment of joy in our journey.

 

 

If Ye Have Love February 6, 2014

Toledo District Conference Dec 2013

 

The young elder straightened his shoulders and looked at the missionaries sitting before him.

Commandments are guideposts to a happy, abundant life. Life here on earth is a testing center, with every trial possible.

The commandments guide us and keep us safe. They show us what we should be doing and how to repent to do what we should be doing.

They are the keys that qualify us to receive the keys of the kingdom of God with all exaltation and glory.

Nothing is too much or too hard if we mean to receive the life that God means for us to have.

 

President Heber J. Grant taught:

“What is the gospel? It is the plan of life and salvation. It is that which is of more value than life itself. No wonder we are ready and willing to make sacrifices for the gospel, when we realize what it means if we live it.

We find in the 22nd chapter of St. Matthew the following:

Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

This is the first and great commandment.

And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” [Matthew 22:34–40.]

“The longer I live, the more I study the gospel, the more I come in contact with men, the more forcibly am I impressed with the truth of the sayings of our Savior in the words that I have just read to you. If we did in every deed love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our mind, with all our soul, there would be no need of urging from time to time upon the people the necessity of keeping the commandments of the Lord. It would be a pleasure to them to serve God and keep His commandments. We are told that where a man’s treasure is, there will his heart be also [see Matthew 6:21], and if we loved the Lord with all our heart and mind and soul, serving Him would be the great object of our lives, and the treasure we would work to gain would be His love. If we followed that second commandment, to love our neighbor as ourself, our difficulties would all be settled amicably.”

On Friday we moved some sisters into another apartment. On Saturday we went to a wedding in Lutopan at 8:30 AM, a baptism in Toledo at 1 PM, then visited a member and his family, then went to a dinner and lesson at 7 PM.

Sunday February 9, we went to the Toledo 1 branch conference, where the District Presidency spoke, then to Casoy for a sacrament meeting, and to a fireside for branch presidents and their wives in the evening. The District Presidency wives spoke there.

Monday after District Meeting, the transfer calls came. We thought that since the entire mission was only getting seven new missionaries, and three missionaries were going home, that transfers should be easy. But seventeen missionaries transferred out on Wednesday and new came in to take their places on Thursday , and we closed out one apartment. There is such a thing as a domino effect….and there is such a thing as joy in the journey. But that is another post.

Follow After Father Abraham January 31, 2014

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A while back I talked to a young missionary who said he just didn’t think he would ever be “good enough” to receive all the blessings of exaltation.

 

The mission president was worried about the discouraged young man. He looked into the faces of the forty young missionaries gathered before him.

 

Today I want to teach you what “good enough” means.

 

He began by teaching from the scriptures:

 

By faith, Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.

By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country…” (Heb 11:8-9)

For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

 

Abraham was “called out” from the land of Ur of the Chaldees, from the residence of his father, Terah, from a people who worshiped idols, to a place he should after receive for an inheritance. The land of promise was as a “strange country,” a place where he only sojourned, or lived temporarily. It was not his inheritance. His inheritance was a heavenly inheritance, which he should receive after this life.

 

These all[Abraham and other prophets] died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.

But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

 

Abraham was faithful until his death. He had seen the promises “ afar off “ because the promises of the purpose of our lives are not for this life, but for the life to come. He was persuaded of them because he knew he belonged there; he belonged in the holy city of God. He embraced the promises; he reached out for them, he brought them close, he held them dear. He confessed that he was a pilgrim; because a pilgrim is one searching for a land that has religious meaning. He confessed; meaning he was willing to share his testimony with everyone.

 

The country from which Abraham came out; from which we all came out, is the pre-existence. If we could remember that “country” we would do all that we could do to return. But when we come to understand the glories of exaltation promised to those who successfully pass through the training ground called earth, we desire “a better country.” We desire the exaltation and glory of the holy city of God.

 

John the Revelator described the Holy City of God in great detail. He talks about gates and walls and foundations. He gives specific measurements. He describes its glory using the most precious of jewels as the best examples he can use. In verse 18 of Revelations 21, he described the city as of “pure gold, like unto glass.” He repeats the description in verse 21, saying “the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.” Can you imagine the beauty and glory of gold so highly refined and purified so as to be transparent.?

 

John the Revelator describes the city in great detail with such vivid images because it is real. It is the actual description of an actual real place. It is not a fairy tale.

It is the city where the Lord means for us to live. Its inhabitants are all exalted beings. Eternal life is not a vague hope. It is a specific, real, attainable goal.

 

The Topical Guide to the Scriptures lists some 36 references to exaltation. We learn from the scriptures that Abraham has been exalted. He sits on his throne. He has received the promises. (See D&C 132:29-32)

 

The President stopped and looked carefully at the assembled missionaries. He continued to read the above scripture with emphasis.

 

“This promise is yours also, because ye are of Abraham…

Go ye therefore and do the works of Abraham.”

 

You are “good enough!”

 

Be persuaded that these promises are for you. Accept from the Spirit a deep conviction of the purpose of this life; let the fire of the covenant burn in your heart.

Embrace these promises- reach out for them, bring them close, hold them dear.

Confess that you are pilgrims here on earth. Be willing to be “called to go out” from the things of this world that you might receive a “better country, that is, a heavenly” country. God is speaking of you when He says He “hath prepared for them a city.”

 

“Go ye, therefore, and do the works of Abraham; enter ye into my law and ye shall be saved.”

                             *****

The Mission President’s workshop was inspired and uplifting. It has always been easy for me to see how others might qualify for the blessing of exaltation. But the motes of discouragement and depression often cloud my vision of my own potential.

 

The next afternoon I opened my scripture bag with the thought that I should make another copy of the tattered patriarchal blessing that I keep with my scriptures. I took the copy out, unfolded it, and laid it face down on the copier. Only then did I remember that the electricity was out. There was a planned outage, which had started at 7 AM and would go until 5 PM. I shook my head at my foolishness and picked up the paper. My eyes caught the second paragraph of my blessing.

 

Abraham obtained the love of the Lord and became the Father of Israel. He left the land of his nativity and his people and journeyed to a far off place to obtain the blessings of the priesthood, and you do not err in seeking your blessings and with a desire to know what the future has in store for you.

 

I caught my breath and reread the paragraph. It was as though a quiet voice said with a gentle smile, “Daughter, I do want you to be in my holy city. I atoned for your sins, too, you know.”

 

 

 

Kawasan Falls –January 29, 2014

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Sister Hall, you know it is our Preparation Day tomorrow.

Yes.

Don’t you think it is time that we had an activity?

Well, it has been a while.

 

We picked up pur pathfinder and his brother, and drove to through Pinamungajan, through Aloguinsan, and wound through some mountains that we had never seen before, and through small villages with names that we had never heard before. We saw beautiful valleys, and glimpsed some amazing views of the ocean through the foliage.

 

There will be a better place to see it farther on.

 

We pulled up in front of a building with a sign that said, “Bed and Breakfast.” We peered around the building at the brilliant turquoise sea with white caps glittering in the sunshine.

 

We can get a better view here.

 

We walked through the small restaurant and onto a large deck overlooking the sea. We soaked in the vista. After a while we sat at one of the tables and had ice cold buka juice and some small breads before continuing our drive.

 

Turn in here.

 

We turned into a parking lot in front of a Catholic church. A man guided us into a parking space. A sign thanked us for our parking fee of 100 pesos, which would be used for maintenance of the church. We walked through the parking lot and paid another fee of 40 pesos to enter the path to Kawasan Falls.

 

The path was an entrance to another world. We crossed a bridge over a crystal clear stream, and walked through a steep-sided valley choked with luxurious greenery. Lava rocks overhung the path in one place; an arched rock overpass in another. We walked slowly, drinking in the cool, pleasant beauty, and taking pictures.

 

There is the first of the falls.

 

Pale blue water cascaded down the mountainside into a clear blue lagoon. People were swimming while others poled under the falls on a bamboo raft. We climbed up the trail to view several other smaller falls.

 

Is this the last one?

Yes.

We can’t go any farther?

No, this is the end.

Where does the water come from?

I think there is a spring that comes out of the mountain.

But we can’t go up any higher to see it?

No.

 

We sighed. We wanted to keep traveling the beautiful trail.

 

As we walked down the trail, we heard the echo of church bells. We got back in the pick up and started back the way that we had come.

 

This is the place that is famous for diving. There are many foreigners here.

Let’s go look.

 

We parked. There were were a number of boats and snorkeling in the water. Black, chocolate and yellow labs jumped into through the breakers and swam back. We found a small dive shop. The manager was Japanese. He did not speak Cebuano. But he spoke English well.

 

How much does it cost to rent snorkel equipment?

One hundred pesos for the equipment. One hundred and fifty pesos with a boat.

What about scuba equipment?

Three hundred fifty for one dive. That is for the equipment and the boat.

 

We looked at the ocean. It was a beautiful day to be in the Philippines