Seminary and Institute Students Press Forward Despite Challenges
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Philippines Area  | January 2010 | In a makeshift classroom inside a small nipa hut, a group of seminary students eagerly listen to their teacher. Their feet are tired and weary from the long three-kilometer walk under the scorching heat of the sun over dusty, sometimes muddy, rice fields but their faces are all aglow with smiles.

They are the seminary students of Marabulig 1 and 2 Wards from Cauayan Philippines District, Isabela with Sister Vilma Tuliao as their teacher.

While most seminary students living in the city hold their seminary classes in comfortable chapels near their homes, the youth of Marabulig 1 and 2 hold theirs in a nipa hut without walls and just a few plastic chairs. They all live very far away from the meetinghouse. Their families are struggling to make ends meet, not having enough to spare for a tricycle ride – their only means of transportation – so they walk for hours, most of the time alone, just to reach their destination.

Despite these circumstances, these students never failed to faithfully and cheerfully attend seminary every Saturday. When asked why she loves attending seminary, Olive Gomez said she was deeply touched by a lesson in seminary on sacrifice. She learned that the Lord requires sacrifice on her part so she can go back to His presence someday, and that is why she continues to attend seminary classes despite her challenges and adversities. On the other hand, Mylene Andres said that she is always happy and excited when Saturday comes because she looks forward to attending seminary.

Other students like Realyn Buadilla and Maricel de Leon shared how seminary has helped them maintain their standards and become good examples to their families and nonmember friends. One of the seminary students, March Paul Barrientos, had been attending seminary even before he became a member of the Church. He was invited by a friend and he became interested in the lessons. He was baptized last October 18, 2008. Since then he actively attends and participates in the seminary program.

In Davao, another makeshift classroom serves as a meeting place for a group of seminary students. This classroom can be found behind a small sari-sari store near Tagum City National High School. With only tarpaulin material shielding their heads from the heat of the sun, the seminary students of Apokan Branch still found it convenient, since it is just across the street from their high school. During their lunch break, all they have to do is cross the street to attend their daily seminary classes. It saves them money and time. They can go home early and still have time for homework and household chores. This initiative has not only benefited the members of Apokan Branch but has reached non-members as well. Non-member classmates of these active seminary students are also starting to attend seminary classes and are learning more about the gospel through the “Lunch Time Seminary Classes.”

In Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya, a loud helicopter-like sound could be heard down the streets. It doesn’t come from an aircraft, but from a “kuliglig” or hand tractor that has been converted into a mini-truck. This contraption, fondly called “Mercedez Bench” by the Saints in Solano District, belongs to President Romulo Pacis, president of Bayombong Branch. Every Thursday evening, he uses his “Mercedez Bench” to bring home the institute students from their weekly institute classes. Because of President Pacis’ creativity, innovation, and desire to help, these students are reaping the blessings of attending institute. They have gained deeper testimonies of the Savior, an increased love for the scriptures, and new friends who share the same gospel standards.

Even their institute teacher, Sister Daisy Villar, makes small sacrifices to teach institute classes every week. Sister Villar said, “Teaching institute is fulfilling, especially when I see my students go on missions. Every meeting is edifying. As a working mother with five children, institute is like my spiritual charger.”

Throughout the Philippines, seminary and institute teachers and Church leaders are finding creative means to bring the program to their students. Their efforts are being multiplied by the students themselves, who not only actively attend and participate in the classes, but also bring their nonmember friends with them. Challenges such as distance, time, and place are no obstacle for these faithful Saints who continually show their dedication and commitment to the seminary and institute program.