We arrived in Cebu on Wednesday. On Thursday we go to get our Philippine driver’s license. The young missionaries picked us up at the mission home at 7:30 AM.
We make our way through four lanes of traffic, approximately half going each way. The few inches between vehicles are filled with motorcycles or bicycles, or people walking between the cars offering things for sale. The edges of the road are filled with people; the sidewalks are used as an extension of the small tindahans, or shops, which line every street and roadway. The streets weave through the city with no discernable pattern. There are many signs, generally in English, but no signs to identify streets.
The elders point to an opening across the street that appears to lead into a small parking lot.
We need to go in there.
We make our way across two lanes of traffic, then edge across the other lane and into the parking lot. There are no available parking spots and the space to drive between the parked cars is minimal. We edge through the parking lot, around a building and enter a narrow one-way alley. The elders point to a gated opening between the buildings.
We’ll go in there when we come back.
We edge back into traffic and go “around the block” to come back to find a parking spot. We drive about two miles. When we get back, we find a parking spot across the street and down from the building where we need to go.
Now we learn how to cross a Cebu street. We watch for a break in traffic, cross one lane, wait for another break, cross to the middle, wait again for a break, cross one lane, wait again, hurry to the sidewalk. We walk sometimes on the sidewalk, sometimes on the edge of the road, enter the narrow alley, pass an armed guard by the gate and enter an area with lots of plastic chairs, most of them occupied.
The young elders go to the door of a building that opens off the waiting area. They follow the instructions of the mission president and talk to the official at the small desk. They explain that they are with some elderly people and can they please go to the front of the line?
They are told that we must go to the doctor in another building to get our blood pressure and other things checked. We go through the alley (which is really a street), cross another street, and go into what looks to us like another alley. We enter a small room with a partition at one side. The room is crowded. Finally one official measures our height and weighs us. He writes the information on a small piece of blue paper and gives it to the woman sitting at the small table.
She writes information on a form, puts the carbon copy in a drawer in the table, and sends us to behind the partition. We wait there until the woman sitting at the small table, who is the doctor, indicates that I should step behind the table. She tells me to take off my glasses, cover one eye, and read the eye chart, starting at the top of the chart. I read until she tells me to stop, then asks me to cover the other eye and read the line after the last one that I read before. I tell her that I cannot read it without my glasses. She waves her hand.
Her eyes are good. Next!
My companion steps up to repeat the process. There is no blood pressure check. We are given several papers stapled together and sent back to the first place. There the young elders again take us to the head of the line of people waiting to go in the door o the building. The young elders explain that they cannot wait with us in the building, but will meet us in the waiting area when we finish.
An official sitting at a small desk takes our papers and asks us to take a seat. We wait. A large number of people are waiting and chatting constantly. The sign says Please observe silence. Another sign says that a license can be obtained through seven easy steps.
People are called by name to go up to a window at the counter running the length of the room. It is very difficult to hear; more difficult to understand the names called.
My companion is called to a window. He steps back in front of a screen to have his picture taken. He signs a form and goes back to sit down. After several other people, I am called to repeat the process.
One at a time, we have our pictures are taken again, we sign forms again, we are called to pay our fees, we wait to receive our driver’s license card. We complete the whole process in about three hours. Because we had our licenses from the US, and because we were given senior citizen priority, the process went very fast.
With licenses in hand (no waiting three weeks for the license to be mailed to us) we go back into the alley/street. The young missionaries suggest that we wait there and they will go get the car. We back up to a concrete wall and wait with the other people. We watch the trucks, cars, jeepneys and motor bikes squeeze by. Then the elder come and we ride back to the mission home. We are so grateful for the young elders who spent the morning helping us through the process.
Sister Schmutz gives us some lunch, and we go back to the mission office. A senior missionary couple has offered to take us shopping. We go to a very large, modern, multi-level shopping mall. The people are very polite, they step back and gesture for us to go first. We find a few things that we need, but our credit card is denied. The couple with us pays for our purchases. We go to the large Citi Bank to use the ATM. Our cards will not work there either. We go back to the mall to exchange our American money for pesos, and reimburse our missionary friends. We had planned to go S & R, a large warehouse imitation of Costco, but since we are short on funds, we go back to the mission home, where I e-mail Alicia. (It is the middle of the night in Idaho.)
Instead of more shopping, we attend a session at the temple. It is a much more peaceful and enjoyable activity. After our session, a sister missionary asks me if I would like to see the bride’s room, where mothers and attendants help brides put on their wedding gowns, fix their hair, and prepare to be married, with family and friends in attendance, in an elegant room called a sealing room. All bride’s rooms in temples are outstanding, but the intricate gold and pink tinged chandelier in this one is totally amazing. In this temple, they also have closets with beautiful wedding gowns, veils, and even flowers for those who cannot afford to buy such things for their wedding. A temple wedding is dream come true beyond all imagination.
When we walked out into the warm evening, a number of couples and families were sitting and walking along the paths of the temple grounds. They seemed reluctant to leave the beauty and peace of that place.