Thursday, January 19, 2017

Two Much to Say Too Little Patience with the Internet

Well friends, family, and strangers

It has been a good long while since the last time I posted a blog and since then I have had many, many, many adventures.  So I suppose it's time for me to stop being so selfish and share some of my new experiences with all of you. 

One of the more memorable experiences thus far has been when I forced everyone to celebrate Thanksgiving the American way.  Ok, I didn't force anyone to do anything (and actually the folks of the Episcopal Diocese of the North Philippines love any excuse to have fellowship) but I told everyone to free up their schedules on Thursday November 24th to have a late lunch of roast turkey, mashed potatoes, and pie.  I also reached out to Kellan and a guy named Tristan (not me), who are also Young Adult Service Corps members serving in the other dioceses of Episcopal Church of the Philippines, and I invited them to join us in beautiful Bontoc.  So the date was set, the guests were invited, but there was one problem left, the turkey.  Actually,  I should say turkeys because I had invited so many people that it became evident that there needed to more than one turkey.  I should also add that turkeys are not indigenous to the Philippines so there is hardly an abundance of those ridiculous birds here.  Anyway, I needed to get turkeys, I kept asking around to see if I could get the hook up.  I wanted to see if anyone could get me a good deal, but I already had my heart set on some good looking birds that were from a farm in a nearby village called Tocucan.  I knew about the birds because I had seen them during my many trips to Tocucan to teach choir, guitar, and piano.  So after I picked my birds, I knew that I need to figure out how to prepare them.  I researched all about butchering Turkeys until I was confident about the process and the materials I needed.  I still had no idea how to cook them because I had never done that before either.  So I decided to reach out to my mom and ask for some tricks of the trade.  She turned me on to the idea of brining, so I knew that would be the next step after the birds were butchered.  

Finally the big day had come.  I bought the turkeys on the Wednesday morning before Thanksgiving day, and we took them back to Bontoc in sacks. As soon as we arrived Bontoc I tied up the turkeys and got to work on all the preparations.  I made the brines first.  The brines contained just over a liter of water, a bunch of salt, quite a bit of organic cane sugar, one whole orange Barlig orange grated up, and rosemary.  After the brines boiled I let them cool.  Meanwhile, I went to get the biggest pots they had at All Saints Mission School's cafeteria to scald the birds in order to remove the feathers more easily.  I filled them with water and began boiling them.  Once they were boiling hot and the brines cooled, we set out to butcher the turkeys.  I will spare you all the gory details, but once the feathers were removed and they had been fully processed, I dropped them into bags and added the brine.  Then it was straight to a refrigerator with them.  Later on, a woman from Portland named Nancy, who is a priest's wife arrived and she started making pumpkin pies from this Japanese variety of pumpkin.  Then Kellan arrived and she had a pie that was ready to be baked too.  On Thanksgiving Day it was time to cook the Turkeys.  I decided to cover one with Butter and the other with bacon greese.  The most daunting aspect of roasting the turkeys was the fact that oven had no way to gage the temperature.  It was this big old industrial over that was heated by two gas burners.  So I just looked at the flames, said a little prayer, and popped the tin foil covered birds into the belly of the beast.  While the turkeys were roasting other preparations were being made.  I got everything I needed to make sure it would be a nice party.  Plates, silverware, cups, tablecloths, serving trays, etc.  Nancy and Kellan were preparing their other dishes.  After a couple of hours we decided to check on the turkeys and they smelled divine. It seemed they were making progress in order to be finished in another couple of hours.  I was so excited!  I had decided that I wanted to put my own little flourish and style to the roast turkeys so at 3.5 hours I took them out and to the turkey that was painted with butter I added a glaze of honey and orange rind, and to the turkey that was painted with bacon greese I sprinkled organic cane sugar in hopes that it would carmalize.  They went back in to the belly of the beast for another thirty minutes and then they were done.  I took them out to cool and they looked so delicious and  smelled even better. 

We had the feast at my place in the common area.  Everyone started showing up and eying the food. I was pleased that quite a few people brought their own dishes to the party, so there was a ton of food.  People arrived in waves but the first wave included about 25 of my new friends, many of whom are priests but others included the All Saints Mission School Headmaster, the All Saints Cathedral Choir director, Kellan, and Nancy.  I made that first wave say grace by joining hands and having each person thank god for what they were thankful for which is a Tucker household tradition.  It was mbeautiful man, you could feel the love in the room and it was connecting all of us. Finally we all
chowed down!  It was a great meal.  The first wave pretty much picked the turkeys dry... so they w


terrible.  No, they were pretty delicious.  However, one was better than the other but all in was

proud of my work.  Afterwards a wonderful party ensued.  People talked, ate, drank, laughed, and eventually we all started singing.  It really felt fulfilling to bring people together like that.  It just warmed my heart strings to watch my new friends having so much fun and fellowship and, I love that I had instigated it all.  That is what I was most proud of.  We drank and laughed into the night and then we decided to hit the town.  It was by far my most memorable thanksgiving yet. It was great! 

I thank God for that fact because I was really afraid that I was going to get very homesick.  Instead I kept myself so busy getting everything prepared and then I was so busy having a good time I was able to keep myself in the moment and have a great time.  You know, the true history of Thanksgiving is awful, in that the Thanksgiving feasts that the white settlers of New England engaged in were actually celebrations of raids and successful attacks on Native American villages and the decimation of indigenous culture.  However, the new narrative that we have created for Thanksgiving day, that it was a feast that bridged gaps and brought cultures together is a great concept to sell to kids.  I am proud to say that I did my best to accomplish that goal with the Thanksgiving feast I hosted in Bontoc.  

Christmas time was really a whirlwind here.  I had so many presentations and performances that I was either incharge of, directing, or performing in.  I had to prep the All Saints Cathedral's Youth Group (aka Skep) for a Christmas pageant that was expected to be different and meaningful and to include a lot of music. I was also preparing the All Saints Mission School marching band and Choir for Christmas performances that I basically invented for them. Meanwhile we had clergy choir rehearsals, my private instrumental students were preparing for their first recitation l and the All Saints Cathedral Choir was preparing some really advanced repertoire for Christmas Day.  Right after
Christmas my girlfriend Jenna was planning and we had a great vacation planned so I knew I just needed to get through it, do my best and try to have fun.  

The ASMIS (All Saints Mission School) groups could not have been more different from one another.  The marching band is full of kids who are super hungry to learn.  The boys love drumming and the girls really enjoy playing their bell lyres.  I taught them two new songs for their Christmas Day parade, "Hark the Herald" and "Joy to the World".  Teaching bell lyre is pretty straight forward.  It's pretty much by ear and not names (they can't read music at this time).  However the percussionists really struggled with learning their new parts.  For weeks, it wasn't coming together, and then all the kids started trying my patience until I lost it one day.  I told them all,  "The next person who plays is going home!" No sooner than I  had said that, I heard a tap tap tap from a snare drum. I told the student, "that's it go home!", and then there was another, and another.  I felt bad for those kids but I had to be assertive and let them know I meant business.  After that the kids were a lot more well behaved.  They love making music so much and being with their friends that they really don't want to miss out on it because of bad behavior.  The following Saturday I asked them all to come for an extra rehearsal, and man those kids are so great many of them came an hour early!  Afterward the rehearsal I took the kids out for pizza and I think that meal together brought us all closer together because after that day the kids have been fantastic and I can always reign them in when I feel I am losing them.  Their Christmas parade was really nice and I could they were proud of the performance too.  Meanwhile the choir was a more difficult group to work with.  You know, i am not the best piano player, so I struggle with directing and playing the piano at the same time.  While I was struggling to do both I lost the kids attention and eventually they just stopped coming to rehearsals.  They would continue to evade me even when I would ask them individually to come to practice.  So I had an idea, I decided I would make them perform even if they weren't ready and then we would discuss the fact that the performances would have been better and more fun have if they came to rehearsals.  So that is what I decided to do.  We did a little prep before a performance for the school, and I had to drag them all out of class and basically escort them to the rehearsal space.  The performance was not great, and then I made them go Christmas caroling that same day.  Now these are all middle school girls, who hate being embarrassed so I knew that either my ploy would work, OR they would HATE me.  After it all was over I took them out for tea and we a bonded and they promised they would start coming to rehearsals because they knew that whether they are prepared or not I would make them perform.  I really think my trial by fire scheme for them worked because I am planning all contemporary music for them and they are super excited to start working on it!

The recital of my private students was really cute! There were begging violinists, pianists, and even a saxophone beginner!  However, none of them had ever performed before so they all got pretty nervous.  There were so many memory slips and mistakes that I had never heard them commit before in lessons, but I guess that is just want nerves can do to people.  Tthey can make or break youdepending on how you experience them.  But it was still a really special event and the first of its kind at All Saints Cathedral.  Everybody played simple Christmas melodies and the audience was extremely appreciative and supportive.

The SKEP Christmas pageant was another event that I was incharge of preparing for a successful 
performance during this whirlwind time. The SKEP is a great bunch of high school aged kids but they can also be difficult to work with because they have a very hard time with timeliness.  It took a lot of
patience but once we picked out a script and started rehearsing and doing the blocking for the play it was evident that the group had the potential to put on a very meaningful and entertaining
performance.  The script was full of silly jokes that were perfect for the group.  Once it was time for the performance, everyone was very nervous, but those kids rose to the occasion and the pageant really impressed a lot of people.  There were a handful of musical numbers, and we did our best to make costumes out of used bed sheets, and we even had a giant star that was hoisted up by a pulley system to guide the wisemen to Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus.  I really had a fun time directing that pageant, and I enjoyed helping the SKEP achieve their goal of having it be contemporary and fun.  There was only one issue and that was attendance of the congregation to our first performance.  Only very few people showed up to the first presentation so we all felt kind of defeated looking out in the audience and only seeing like 30 people. The first performance was held before the Christmas Eve
midnight mass, so it did not start until 8:30 pm, and I guess that was just to late to to get people in the door.  However the second presentation was held on the morning of  New Year's Day, and there were
tons of people out in the audience.  We were so happy that we got to share the play with more people,
 and I think they higher numbers in the audience helped motivate the group to perform even better
than the first time.

All the other presentations were equally fantastic, but I really feel like the work that I do with the kids here brings real meaning to my YASC experience.  I sometimes wonder if the work I am doing is
actually helpful, or if I have just been given an opportunity to galavant around the Philippines for a year.  However, when I think about the work I do with the kids of the SKEP, ASMIS, and my private students I know that the Lord called me here to help them achieve their goals but also help them achieve things that they might not have dreamed of.  While my work is not saving lives, it is touching lives in very important and meaningful ways.  I can see now in many of the groups that I am working with that I am helping to engender leaders and helping some of these kids find their strengths in addition to their weaknesses. Of course it is all work that I could do at home, but these kids need someone whose soul focus is helping them succeed.  I certainly don't believe that I am some sort of white savior, but rather a curious outsider who in his own sort of way is doing his best to help, learn, and teach.

Since Christmastime my girlfriend Jenna has come and gone.  We had a very nice vacation here that included short stays in Manila, Mountain Province, and a trip to the Island of Palawan. Palawan is one of the most gorgeous and picturesque places I have ever been on the planet.  The water is clear and clean and as you look out the ocean offers a beautiful and seamless transition from turquoise to a deep and dark blue.  Jungle covered mountains loom above the pristine beaches and the hot climate is cut by ocean breezes.  I highly recommend it as a vacation destination.

Since the vacation I have been doing my best to slip back into the swing of things.  I have a marching band performance next Friday morning, and the next day I will traveling to Ifugao for my martial arts systems anniversary event.  For those of you who don't know, I have been studying Filipino martial arts since I arrived in Bontoc.  Filipino Fighting Art is an indigenous stick fighting martial art, and my system of Arnis is called Salaknib.  Salaknib combines the stick fighting of Arnis with the unarmed combat art of Pencak Silat.  Pencak Silat is a martial art that is indigenous to Indonesia.  However, many people believe that something similar was practiced in the Philippines but it was lost durbing the Spanish Colonial times.  Anyway, during the event next week I hope to be promoted from the rank of yellow belt to the rank of blue belt.  My goal is to become a black belt before the end of the year so that I can teach the martial arts system when I return home.

Well this concludes this check in. I will posting pictures soon in a second blog, because the internet is atrocious.

Thanks for reading!
God Bless


  1. So cool you are doing Arnis!! Good luck with the black belt!

  2. Glad to read the update. Can't wait to see some photos.

  3. Your music ministry is invaluable and important for those teens. Each of us brings our own talents and passions to the table of Christ. Through fostering a love and knowledge of music you are supporting their positive development and opportunity for success later in life. Thank you for all you do. Peace and prayers from Jerusalem.