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The Philippines Urdaneta Mission was created on July 1, 2013, when the Philippines Baiguo Mission was split. The Philippines Urdaneta Mission is headquartered in Urdaneta City, Pangasinan, Philippines. The mission is located in the northernmost island of the Philippine archipelago, officially designated as Luzon. The boundaries of the mission coincide with the boundaries of the Pangasinan province.
Philippine culture is influenced by Malay, Spanish, and American cultures. Events such as barrio fiestas (neighborhood festivals) are common events featuring music, food, and dancing. The use of English as an official language has helped make many American trends popular in the Philippines as well, such as fast food, rock and hip hop music, and films. Basketball is the most popular sport in the Philippines, though boxing, soccer, and volleyball are also popular. The Philippine martial art style Arnis is considered the national martial art. Eating out and regular snacks between main meals are popular in the Philippines. Rice is one of the staple foods in the Philippine. Corn, adobo (meat stew using pork or chicken), meat and vegetable rolls, seafood, empanadas, and several varieties of fruit and vegetable are also commonly eaten. Roasted pig is often served as the main course for festivals and special occasions.
The LDS faith was first brought to the Philippines through the presence of US servicemen on the islands after the end of World War II. In 1955, President Joseph Fielding Smith officially dedicated the Philippine Islands (as well as Korea) for the preaching of the gospel. They were designated as part of the Southern Far East Mission of the Church. Unfortunately, the Philippine government still restricted foreign access to the country for six more years. Eventually, with the help of a government official named Ping Bachelor, President Gordon B. Hinckley (who was then an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) was able to travel to the Philippines in 1961 to rededicate them for missionary work.
Since that time, membership has grown immensely. Church membership is near 650,000 in the Philippines, with over a thousand wards and branches. Most of the 2,000 missionaries called to serve in the islands are native Filipinos, so a missionary training center was established in Manila in 1983 to meet their needs.
With Church membership increasing so rapidly not only in the Philippines but in Micronesia and Southeast Asia, it became increasingly necessary to establish a readily accessible temple. The first temple built in the area was the Manila Philippines temple, announced in 1981 and dedicated on September 25, 1984 by President Gordon B. Hinckley, then a counselor to the president of the Church.
As the Church continued to grow in the Visayas and Mindanao regions of the Philippines, leaders responded with the announcement of the building of a temple in the metropolitan are of Cebu City. It was dedicated on June 13, 2010, becoming the 133rd operating temple of the Church. It serves 200,000 members in the southern regions of the Philippines.
A third temple has been announced for the Philippines, in Urdaneta City. President Monson announced its construction in October 2010, but no groundbreaking has yet occurred.
Pangasinan is a coastal province, so expect a lot of seafood and fish paste-flavored dishes. Everything you eat will be salty, too—the root of Pangasinan is asin, meaning “salt.” One of the most famous Pangasinan products you will encounter is bagoong, a fermented fish sauce served on a wide variety of dishes.
Expect to walk a lot! Missionaries also use public transportation in the form of buses and jeepneys, which run on a 24-hour schedule.
Missionaries, especially Americans, are well-liked in the Philippines and are not considered targets for crime. The more you accept local customs and culture, the more respect you will gain.
Be sure to wear mosquito repellent. Mosquitoes can carry dengue fever, an infectious and dangerous tropical disease.
The Pangasinese generally practice home industry, and are usually moderately successful because of the popularity of products like salt and bagoong. When the time comes for a special family or cultural event, they love throwing big parties.
Respect of elders is culturally important. It is also a sign of respect to take someone’s hand and touch the back of it to your forehead. It is considered rude or impolite to point with your finger. Instead, pucker up and point with your lips.
Most equipment can be found cheaper and more fitting to your needs in the Philippines. Filipino dress pants are much more suited to the climate than slacks from the US. There’s no need to bring a fanny pack: there are custom bags available that work better for missionaries.
Packages can take up to six weeks to arrive at the mission home. If valuables are being sent, pack them in with food and don’t put them on the “items listed”.
The work is going so well in the Philippines that the Church recently created the Philippines Urdaneta mission! Check back in a year to hear what the first missionaries assigned to serve here have to say.