It was Sunday morning, October 3, 2010. My companion and I were sitting at our desks for personal study when we got a text from our mission president that said: President Monson just announced a new temple to be built in Urdaneta! I have called and verified this. Congratulations Elders and Sisters! Go Baguio!
For a second we were both stunned. We looked at each other for a second, then jumped up and down, squealing with excitement. A temple was going to be built in the Baguio mission, which is something I never would have dreamed of happening so soon, let alone that I’d be serving in the exact area where it was announced to be built! It was the neatest experience.
I thought about all the sweet, humble Filipinos I had taught up to that point on my mission. They didn’t have much. Many of them lived in little one-room bamboo houses. At the present time, the closest temple was in Manila, hours away. Bus fare was hard to come by, especially for an entire family who wants to travel together. For many, gathering the means for their entire family to be sealed in the temple anytime soon seemed like an unrealistic dream. I thought about the eternal blessings of the temple and how wonderful it was that those blessings would soon become much more readily available to these Urdaneta saints. To think that now we could tell people that in a few years they’ll have a temple right next door was so exciting!
That afternoon, fast and testimony meeting went overtime 30 minutes because everyone in the Urdaneta 1st ward was so excited about the temple and wanted to express joy and gratitude. A warm feeling was in the room. One sister got up and clasped her hands together and smiled gleefully like it was Christmas morning. “When I heard President Monson say that a temple would be built in our city, I was so happy,” she said. President Orpiano got up and said, through tears, “I’m so grateful that we will have a temple, here, in Urdaneta.” He saidUrdaneta with a smile of reverent fondness, and it made me think about what a special, choice place Urdaneta really is. President Orpiano was one of the humblest, most devoted Latter-day Saints I’d ever met. Despite not having much at all, he sacrificed his all for the gospel; he insisted on giving the missionaries rides home at night in his tricycle, and he was always the last person at the chapel late Saturday night to clean. He took his calling seriously and consecrated his whole life and means to the building up of the kingdom of God. I thought about how his righteousness and that of members like him was probably a major reason why there was going to be a temple here.
Why Urdaneta, everyone was wondering? There were much bigger cities nearby, where there were more members and where church was more established. Urdaneta seemed like just a dot on the map. That’s how I felt when I was first transferred there – It was just one of those in-land, less exotic cities in the mission (I liked being closer to the ocean). But all that changed. Heavenly Father thought Urdaneta was significant enough to put a temple here.
No one had been expecting another temple so soon. The second temple in the Philippines, the Cebu temple, had been dedicated in the Visayan Islands just four months before, and so we all thought it would be years before another temple would be announced in the Philippine islands. Through this experience, my testimony was strengthened that Heavenly Father knew the needs of the people and had answered their prayers. I came to know He was aware of us in that tiny city. Urdaneta took on a whole new meaning for me that point on. The work picked up and we got excited. It felt like we had angels on our side.
(Contributed by Rebecca, Philippines Baguio Mission, 2009-2011)